I was told she was actually 1,100 years old and that was her in the corner. It turns out I was just in time as well - as she was set to move to her new home in Cascais the following week.
Who would have thought of a tree moving? After all, they are the ultimate hermits. They like to lay down roots and bloom where they are planted. It’s like they know intuitively what George Harrison tries to tell us in his song ‘The Inner Light’ - ‘The further one travels the less one really knows’.
I rushed over to look at her, she was a giant and very beautiful. I was delighted to see the face of an old lady in her trunk. Can you see it too? Or is it just me? I do tend to see ‘faces in places’, but if you look carefully you can see her eyes, nose and even see that she is smiling but hasn’t got very
many teeth left
‘Olivia’ (as I like to call her) must be quite wise by now as she’s a millennium and a bit years old. She must have seen a thing or two as, quite unusually for a tree, she’s not only been around a long time - she’s also ‘been around’.
She used to live in the Alentejo until, owner of Natura Jean-Claude Defrance, rescued her, as he does with so many others, as when olive trees get passed a certain age they become less productive and instead of being allowed to retire in peace they are quite often cut down for firewood so that they can make way for the youngsters that they put in a line and that can be easily driven over with a machine that shakes off all their olives. The problem with this is that lots of animals make their homes in trees and get shaken off as well. Jean-Claude recalls that 10 years ago when he picked up our old lady Olivia (buying her for the same price that the land owners would get for firewood - so as not to encourage people to remove them) she had a mongoose and a rabbit living in her. A curious combo. I mean, don’t mongoose eat rabbits? Talk about living in the dragons lair.
So saved from becoming firewood she’s been living happily at Natura for a decade and even though this must seem just a hair’s breadth in her time. In our time, she’s been there quite a while and the staff have become quite attached to her. Alas, she was sold three years ago, and her time to move was coming up fast.
But how on earth do you move a tree? The answer is not on earth - she has to take to the sky. Jean-Claude very kindly let me know when she was set to leave and I went back the next week and watched the very impressive operation where they used a crane to remove some youngsters (just 600 year old) first. After they had been carefully dug up around them, they were hoisted out of the ground and levitated until they made a gentle landing on the truck set to escort them to their new home on somebody’s private land up near Lisbon.
Then came the moment everybody was waiting for, the staff of Natura all stopped what they were doing and came to bid farewell to Olivia. After a few false starts, she is 11 centuries old after all, we can cut her some slack - which is what they did. They rearranged the ropes so they weren’t too tight in any one place. Then 3, 2, 1, and this magnificent, majestic and massive tree lifted off and was carefully placed on the back of the truck to be taken, let’s hope, to her final resting place.
I hope she made it to her new home alright as it’s not nice to have to uproot and start again at such an age. I hope that she’s settling in nicely and since it’s possible for olive trees to live up to 3,000 years, or more - I hope she will outlive us all.