I often wonder how this iconic tree took root. For those who don’t immediately recognize the scene, this is the “Lone Cypress” off the coast of Monterey, California. This photograph was taken during the height of the Soberanes Fire southwest of here in the valleys just off the coast of Carmel and Big Sur. Although likely surpassed by the recent Woolsey Fire, the Soberanes was the costliest wildfire in the history of California. It coated everything in a thin layer of ash, and the smoke that hung thickly, almost unctuously in the air made shots of the coastline nigh impossible. This photograph was taken towards the tail end of the trip, as the fire was winding down, and still the haze bled the details from the shot.
When the sun managed to pour through the thick air, the sky took on a burnt, sepia tone, which made every picture I took look like I had applied a strong filter to it. The tree is at least 250 years old, and for the last 65 or so has been held in place by strong metal cables. When I saw the cables in person, I thought that it was a supremely arrogant act by man to forestall the inevitable cycle of nature for the sake of Japanese tourists (and me) making a pilgrimage to gaze through chain-linked fence to snap an awkward photograph of the icon sitting on its outcropping, engirded as it is by a brick and mortar parapet. But still, we come en masse, ogling the tree with a misplaced reverence. When this one dies, as it will, it will be replaced with a fellow that I am certain is already being grown for its stead, like a Cardinal waiting in quiet for the Pope to abdicate.
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