Tree 9, we have your number.

They cut the branches off Tree 9 right up to the twenty-foot mark. Above that, this piece of the forest on the campus at the University of California Santa Cruz is still spiking the sky with hundreds of thin arms branching upward over a hundred feet to a spectacular view of Monterey Bay.

A girl fell.

Tree9_UCSCthumbNot from Tree 9, but from an imposter. Tree 4 or 5 perhaps. Still, Tree 9 took the rap. We’ve got to make an example after all. Can’t have trees killing people, however awesome they may be. And notwithstanding the fact that the poor tree was just standing there as it has for several hundred years and long before there was a university in its back yard or students attending it. Soon after the failed climber crawled from the wreckage, the potential number of lawsuits threatened to top the number of injuries.

Tree 9 had to be “fixed.”

The deed was done under the dark of night. A carpenter told me so at Christmas. The pruning was unauthorized and illegal, of course, but delayed justice can no more bring back T9’s branches than return a child who has been kidnapped and killed. And compared to a child, what does a tree matter anyway?

I think it matters a lot.

We realize when we’ve grown up that our lives have been nurtured and defined largely by experiences including some that made no sense and were not safe. It’s cause to think about weighing the consequence of risk against the result of never embracing it at all.

For my part, I am going to throw a rope around the lowest branch on Tree 9, secure it to an adjacent limb and try to reach the first of the remaining branches. From there it will be a relatively easy climb to the top.

If I fall in the first twenty feet, my friends will point out to everyone including a good lawyer that with a full complement of branches, Tree 9 has gently lifted many to a stellar view of the Pacific and with a few low branches to lean on, I might have become one of them.

In the end, it will come down to Tree 9 that never hurt anyone vs. The Tree With No Name that trashed a young adventurer entirely on her own terms; trying to provide her with a story for her friends at the bar.

What the Hell:

If God didn’t mean us to climb, he wouldn’t have given us trees.

13 years ago


  1. I heard about this when I was in Santa Cruz with Cale. What a shame. But I’d like to think the tree’s presence will be felt for a long time to come.

    In a book called *For the Time Being*, Annie Dillard speaks about a place in Africa where monarch butterflies migrate from the north to the south every year. Mysteriously, every time they reach a specific region, they veer sharply to the west and around the entire area, until they finally turn south again and continue on their course. Year after year they do this, and it had confused scientists for the longest time. Nothing about this particular area is unique. No change of wind patterns, no marked change in the land, no strange weather phenomena, nothing. Finally, a group of geologists discovered that long, long ago, there had been a large mountain range in that very region. The monarch butterflies, each year, were changing direction so as to fly around the great mountain range, even though that mountain range had not existed since long before civilization as we know it. The “memory” or presence of that mountain range lives on, and is passed down from one generation of butterfly to the next.

    1. You know that they migrate to Monterey as well. There’s a strange place … the Monarch Motel, I think, that backs onto woods and as soon as the sun hits, millions of the suckers take flight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *