Fallen Giant—the Last Days of Our Monterey Pine

Sad day for our house and neighborhood, watching our huge Monterey pine cut down. With a diameter of over three feet, the old tree was already a giant when we moved into its yard in 1994.

We had it trimmed and topped several times to reduce its weight, but age and drought finally won, along with the attacks of beetles and fungus. This spring the new fronds at the ends of its branches began to brown and drop, beginning its death march.

For several days this week, the loud staccato wails and grinding drones of chainsaws and chippers seemed to come from inside my head like a trip to the dentist. Even in its final state the old tree is hard to bring down, resisting and only giving itself up chunk by chunk.

We always thought the yard belonged to the pine. Everywhere we dig we find a tangle of roots, some thicker than utility pipes, pushing through native slate and skimming the surface before diving again. If the tree ever fell it would take the yard and house with it, which is why we had to remove it once it died. We are its tenants, but for once in history the tenants are evicting the landlord.

Our sky will seem so bare. I find myself apologizing to the tree the way I always apologize when I cut down a Christmas tree, but this giant requires deeper remorse. I won’t take all the blame for the drought, but scientists tell us our cars, furnace, and power plants are much to blame, and I own some of the polluters.

We have plans to replace it with a redwood, natural to our dry hillside and our dripping Bay Area fog, assuming we can find a space in our yard relatively free of resistant pine roots. Although it will take several decades for the redwood sapling to fill the ecological void left by the Monterey pine, it feels like penance. Not enough but a start.

The Disasters of War Poetry Anthology is now available from Moonstone Press


I was honored to join a reading by the contributors to The Disasters of War, new poetry anthology honoring veterans and those touched by veterans from Moonstone Press. I find the poems haunting, uplifting, and stoked with universal themes that always resonate.

Here is a description of the anthology:

Regardless of one’s feelings about the various wars or one’s politics, I think we can all agree that our veterans have been treated poorly. Some veterans suffer combat-related injuries; mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, traumatic brain injury as well as other medical issues including extreme fatigue, neurological issues, insomnia, migraines, joint pain, persistent coughing, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems. These issues can lead to homelessness as well as addictions. 

The real disaster of war is what it does to human beings.  

Whether you are a veteran, are related to a veteran, or a person who has had contact with veterans, poetry can allow us to express our deepest feelings. Join us as some of the 55 contributors to this anthology read their poetry.

The anthology includes my poem, “Shaky Charlie Talks About His Youth,” which recalls my great uncle who suffered shell shock from his service in WWI.

Although the anthology is already out of stock, the eminent publisher Larry Robin will likely print more copies.