Up here on the ridge, Top of the World as it is called, we've suffered a loss. It was a mercy killing.
There's a camaraderie up here, sharing the highest elevation between California Highway 1 and the expanding Pacific ocean. We've all kept an eye on this long time resident, worrying. Death has been stalking the slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Drought, exacerbated by climate change, is killing our trees including our rare culture of Monterey Pine.
Comparing the recent shot above to the 6 year old photo in the header of this post, you can see the deterioration in the regal crown of the hill, a participant in so many of the photos I've shared from up here.
I asked how old is this tree? The warden of death told me 80.
The old double trunk Pine stands in the corner of a field, a couple of lots north our home. Someone told the property owner she was a risk, sick and dying and "trouble waiting to happen." So the warden and his crew came back to the ridge.
Crows have launched from and rested on these branches for decades. I've see young hawks give flight from them. California Quail have sped around its trunk. Wild turkeys have taken refuge or conducted their warfare in its underbrush. Woodpeckers have been frequent residents. Countless other species of bird have paused there. It is a tower on the ridge.
She's been an icon of our western vista and one of the elders of the ridge. She and her aviary were here long before us, or the homes that dot the summit, a crown of rock and sandstone.
Lana and our neighbor Lois, a birder extraordinaire, were talking about how sad it is, how that something that is supposed to be, is gone. I'm ahead of the story.
What I can do now is show you the end of this long time Cambria dweller.
The wardens of it's final day were careful and professional. Their's was to remove a hazard. Ours was to pay respect, to watch to the end.
Reader alert: what follows is a detailed look at the killing of a tree.The manpower was augmented.
They cut and trimmed higher into the old friend who must have sensed her time was running out as she created a prolific crop of cones.
The next three frames catch the fall.
The machine, the final resolution of this life, is beastfully disrespectful.
Branches that took decades to reach the sky, to offer up new generations of offspring in cones, are now merely brush to be moved.
Carefully the denuded co-joined trunks were topped, the lines were set and final cuts were made.
Even in death, the icon of the hill was formidable.
And then there was only this.
I'm sorry for the birds and, bobcats, coyote, deer, skunk and raccoons who shared this proud old lady in seeking cover, shade or perhaps enjoying its prominent pose. Even in her decline she was lovely.
There is a whole in the sky and an emptiness in our hearts.
There is no shortage of life to lament these days, so perhaps our sadness at the end of this tree is silly, but I think not.
She was part our daily life, a presence, since our arrival in California. I worry she is gone before her time.
See you down the trail.