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ONLY GOD CAN MAKE A TREE
12 January 2006
It was a front page obituary.
The tree was dead.
It was a huge Valley Oak tree which stood out in the middle of what used to be a tomato field, but which lately has either been dirt or waving grain or whatever.
I loved driving down Pole Line Road and looking at the tree silhouetted against the sky.
It always looked different, whether the sky was blue, dotted with fluffy white clouds, when the tree seemed to be reaching up and inviting the birds to come and nest in its bare branches.
Against a grey, ominous sky, it looked spooky. Some called it "the witch tree" and the description was appropriate.
Against a brilliant red-gold sunset it stood as a stark black image that made me want to get my camera and take a photo.
"When you looked at it, especially from south to north, it looked like two dancers with curly hair in the dip of the tango," said Eileen Keane, a sixth-grade teacher at Birch Lane School in Davis.
We've been in Davis for more than 30 years and I never drive past the field without looking at the tree and thinking that some day I'd make a year-long photo study of it, photographing it against all sorts of skies, in all seasons.
Wrote Claire St. John, Davis Enterprise staff writer.
During our recent election, the developers trying to win approval for building a huge housing development adopted the tree as its symbol.
Aware of the affection people in town had for The Tree, the plans for the development promised to make it a prominent feature of the development It must be saved at all costs.
Davis Enterprise columnist, Bob Dunning, took a less romantic view of the use of The Tree for the development's logo, criticizing the developers...
Well, he was correct. It was a "bombed-out, snaggletooth" but it was our bombed-out snaggletooth and in a world where we are daily becoming more and more homogenized, with all houses looking like all other houses, where Christmas trees are all trimmed so they have the requisite pyramid shape and no character, where all celebrity teeny boppers look like each other, a bombed-out snaggletooth was a welcome relief. It was the Spencer Tracy of trees. Magnificent and one of a kind.
Nobody who lived for long in this city would ever see a picture of The Tree and mistake it for a photo taken elsewhere.
It was "our tree."
People love that old tree out there, kind of craggy, sitting out there in the field, said TREE Davis Director, Ruth Williams. We connect with that tree because its hanging on and its struggled and its still there."
Until God stepped in and took care of it.
He sent the rain and the winds. The tree stood there, as it has stood there for decades and held on as long as it could, but eventually it gave up trying.
On Friday morning, after the rains subsided, the tree was found lying on the ground.
The death of The Jagged Tree not only made front page news here in Davis, but a feature article in The Sacramento Bee as well.
"Trees are not immortal," said Rob Cain, the city of Davis urban forest manager.
Maybe not, but this one seemed like it. Perhaps now we all have to face our own immortality.
I will now never have the opportunity to take a series of photographs of my own, documenting a year in the life of The Jagged Tree.
What else have I put off that I need to think about doing before it's too late?
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Good bye, Old Friend!