The Last Pine

I am saying farewell to an old tree.

I discovered Saratoga more than fifty years ago. But the tree and its two companions had already been here for more than half a century. To get to the quaint village from where I was teaching, I drove down two-lane Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road toward the mountains I loved, through orchards with apricots, prunes and plums on either side. They are long gone.

The village itself consisted of a Main Street about five or six blocks long. Turning right from Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road into the village, there were three huge pine trees on the left that marked the entrance to the village and marched on to the left down Saratoga-Los Gatos Road shading the historic route to another small foothill town. These pines were, and have continued to be, a source of pride and a symbol of the history of this still small town.

I moved to Saratoga in 1970, living in a small rental house along Saratoga Creek just a block from Main Street and the trees. Two years later we moved to the top of the mountain behind Saratoga. I have passed these pines almost every day since.

The pines have endured and sheltered Saratoga as it has grown from a small foothill town to an upscale suburb. Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road is now four lanes with freeway access and has changed its name to DeAnza Boulevard. In Cupertino where once there was only a grain elevator and a few small businesses, there now is a gigantic Apple campus. Main Street in Saratoga has changed but still maintains a small town feel–in spite of the Starbucks on the corner.

It is right next to this Starbucks where they just took down the last of the iconic pines. Italian Stone Pines do not last as long as redwoods and these have endured many changes. The first to go happened a decade or two ago. That tree was hardly missed because the other two had grown so large. Then a few years ago during a very wet winter the second one started leaning dangerously and had to be taken out before it fell on nearby businesses. But this last tree remained, propped up with huge timbers, shading tables and a Wednesday farmers market.

But at last it has succumbed to drought or perhaps old age. It turned from green to brown. It will return to the earth from which it sprung leaving a hole in the sky and leaving us with a lingering knowledge of the changes that we must embrace both in our world and our selves.

Saratoga tree from CApoppy on Vimeo.

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