Last month we spent some time in the pretty little Wairarapa settlement of Greytown. From the time it was bypassed by the railway line, "development" left Greytown behind. As a result, it's well-endowed with Victorian buildings, both commercial and residential, and is now a popular spot for weekend visitors.
But what I specially wanted to see was the lime tree avenue in the Soldiers' Memorial Park.
Every town in New Zealand, small or large, has a war memorial of some sort, put up after World War I. Most often it's a tall monument known as a cenotaph. In Greytown the townsfolk did something different: they planted an avenue of lime trees. One tree for every soldier from the district who died in the war. One hundred and seventeen trees.
A town that before the war had a population of 1,123 lost 117 men in that war. There cannot have been a family left unscathed. Not a household that didn't lose a husband, a brother, a son. Girls who lost their sweethearts; women who never did meet the men who might have become their husbands. Farms "let go" because the strong young men who would have worked it never came home. As we walked along that long avenue, speaking in the hush that such a place evokes, it was a more powerful illustration of loss than any page of figures could be.