Friday, December 26, 2008

Tree Questionnaire 1: Kate Holt

Influenced by "The Proust Questionnaire"- confessional questionnaires completed by Marcel Proust in 1886 and 1890-1891- I am sending out Tree Questionnaires to people in different walks of life who share with me a love of trees. My first victim, Kate Holt, is a writer from England- who this year became a US Citizen- and a fellow Santa Monica Treesaver. Here are her comments:

Q: What is your first memory of a tree?
K: Sitting under the almond blossom tree in our garden (England), soft scent, petals falling like snow.

Q: Which is your favorite tree of all?

K: Blossoming lime (linden) tree.

Q: Could you name or describe an artistic depiction of a tree that is special to you?
K: From childhood, the illustration of a tree house in my cherished Tall Book of Tales.

Q: Was there a particular person who introduced you to the importance of trees?

K: Mother and father, who continue to plant many varieties of trees on their property in England.

Q: What is the most useful quality a tree can provide?
K: Protection - as shelter for wildlife and shade for the rest of us.

Q: If you were a tree which would you be and why?

K: Coast redwood - breathes California's cool ocean air, lives longer than most and enjoys superlative views.

Q: Which is the happiest tree?

K: Apple tree - what could be happier than a tree bearing sweet red fruit?

Q: Are there any trees that are a part of your life now?
K: The kapok tree outside our bedroom window with its cycle of glorious pink flowers, green leafiness, plump seeds, and bare branches that cast exquisite shadows on the wall.

Q: What would you do, or like to do to help trees?

K: Nurture our urban forests and cherish trees everywhere.

Q: What would you say to future generations about the importance of trees?

K: Only connect - marvel at their complexity, beauty, and utility. Trees mysteriously commune with the earth and the sky, above and beneath which we would cease to exist without them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Carob Trees

Last night I was back at City Hall for a City Council meeting which included an Item on the fate of Santa Monica’s Carob trees.

In May (very shortly after the culling of the Ficus trees) Walt Warriner- Community Forest and Landscape Superintendent- raised a panic about the Cities’ Carob trees. Apparently, it was suddenly evident that most of the trees were riddled with rot and fungi and due for potential failure. At least 98 trees have now been removed. At a City Council meeting on May 22nd, it was recommended that further assessments should be made on 202 trees, the object being to see if they could be phased out gradually.

Last night Walt Warriner presented his report. Two independent arborists designated 189 of the trees with a high risk potential, saying they should be removed as soon as possible. This left only 13 that- although in poor condition- might survive longer with careful pruning.

No one doubts that the Carob trees have problems but is it really necessary to destroy a large section of the Cities’ canopy in one fell swoop? These mature, large canopied trees are doing an invaluable environmental job, and it would be harmful to the community to lose them all before replacement trees had a chance to mature. I fear that because one of the independent arborists- Cy Carlburg- was, on her own admission, involved with a tree that caused a fatality, the conclusions she reached were naturally colored by this very emotional incident. Yes, all trees have the potential of causing damage to pedestrians or property- and the Carob trees certainly have a possible risk factor but this factor has to be re-evaluated.

Fortunately, the Councilmembers are taking this very seriously- perhaps having learned a lesson from the slaying of the healthy Ficus trees? Councilmembers Genser, Shriver and McKeown put some very pertinent questions to Mr Warriner. The “point” system used to evaluate risk was questioned. It was shown that if a large, healthy Redwood was standing by a school playground, it would actually have the same risk factor number of 8 as a tree riddled with rot and due for removal!

Another query regards the replacement trees: it is planned that once street residents have agreed upon a particular suggested tree, those who wished could request a more costly one in front of their house. Apart from being very undemocratic, we would thus lose the wonderful, almost architectural unity of the avenues of same-species trees that make Santa Monica so special. The Councilmembers were also concerned about this.

The whole issue has been deferred.

Many of these endangered/ dangerous (?) carob trees are on 12th Street, where I stayed for some months in 2004, walking my daughter’s dog Bella along these avenues. As I have no immediate carob photos- and it is, unusually, raining today- I will instead show an image of Bella disguised as a Zebra……or a White Tiger?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Boutique

Since I started this blog, friends and fellow tree/nature addicts keep telling me how they would like to have my photos as cards. I have finally taken their advice and for the last few weeks have been enjoying myself converting many images int0 both cards and large-format photos. I will shortly be reconstructing my website - - and will up-load them onto it.

More immediately, this weekend I am taking a collection of my cards and photos to a local Craft Fair- the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club- SMWYC - Holiday Boutique. This takes place on both Saturday and Sunday, from 9am-4pm, at the Yacht Club: 13589 Mindanao Way, Marina Del Rey. So that's where you can find me and my photos, together with my friend Treesaver Louise who will be selling her jewelry.

And here are some of the images that are in various formats, large and small:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Dream Come True....

August 28th 1963: Martin Luther King,Jr had his Dream, a dream that moved me far off in London and became doubly moving when he was assassinated on April 4th 1968:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.

And so that dream was realized on November 4th 2008, as Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States of America. As he walked onto the platform with his wife and two young daughters- all four glowing and beautiful, a breath of fresh air- Martin Luther King’s words rang in my ears.

I kept thinking we had come a full circle. Back in the 60’s those of us who had grown up during the First World War had all felt the greyness of the 40’s and 50’s dispel and we believed a new world of peace and understanding was dawning. Then everything went backwards and we were disillusioned. Now at least there is the POSSIBILITY of a change; there is hope.

The different motives people have had to vote for Obama are irrelevant: it is enough that they have voted for him.

Viewing the ecstatic crowd scenes in Chicago on the television, I was struck by how the rapturous facial expressions reminded me of those of the awed acolytes in the film Close Encounters as they watched the landing of the spacecraft. The same joyous “glow” was evident.

To turn to local politics: also on November 4th, my good friend Susan Hartley stood for Santa Monica City Council but was not elected. An attorney and committed environmentalist (and co-founder of Treesavers), with clear ideas of the City's needs, she would have been a great asset. If she can be persuaded to stand at the next elections, perhaps then those dreams will come true.

Susan Hartley-photo by Scott Smith

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Memorials to the Missing:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, Egypt

Memorials to the Missing is a BBC radio play by Stephen Wyatt which has won both a Silver for Drama Sony Radio Academy Award 2008 and the Tinniswood Award for best original radio script broadcast in 2007.

It was repeated on Radio 4 today which prompted me to write about it, the subject of the play being how my Grandfather, Fabian Ware, founded the Imperial War Graves Commission- now, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Being too old to join the Services in the First World War, he joined the Red Cross in France. Here he was deeply disturbed by the fact that the bodies of so many soldiers were just discarded without identification or burial and he determined to rectify this.

And so forests of Tombstones evolved. His work in France was helped by the fact that he had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.

My Grandfather was meticulous about details. Having many contacts from his time as Editor of The Morning Post, he was able to get the design services of architects such as Edwin Lutyens and cartographer MacDonald Gill (brother of Eric), plus the inscription services of writer Rudyard Kipling.

He consulted Kew Gardens regarding the planting of national plants from native stocks in the cemeteries, to symbolize links to the gardens of home countries. I am pleased to read on the Commission’s website that they have maintained a strong tree policy, totally realizing their importance (see Ficus trees in above photo of Egyptian Cemetery).

Unusually for the time: he insisted that all the headstones were identical, regardless of rank, race or creed.

Over one million casualties are now commemorated in some 150 countries. Relatives were thus comforted and the dead respected- and for that I respect him.

My memories of him are of a gentle, warm man who made me feel special and who loved birds, flowers and his garden in the Cotswolds. The signet ring he always wore was inscribed with the word "Pax"- and this was way before the hippie 60's!

Friday, October 24, 2008

And back to Trees....

Yet again I must write about the overwhelming happiness I get walking the Santa Monica streets with my camera. The same walk changes each time, according to the light, your position or your awareness. This afternoon, returning to my apartment from the Ocean, it was stimulating seeing the patterns of the Palm trees changing when viewed from a fractionally different angle; to see the Eucalyptus tree touched by the late afternoon sun; to re-see the Ficus trees- having confirmation of their beauty and the importance of the Santa Monica Treesavers' battle to attempt saving them.

It is commendable that six Treesavers are standing for election to the City Council on November 4th. At present there is only one Councilmember who pays more than lip-service to environmental concerns. As in the Presidential election, change is essential.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pelican's Gullets!

All my life I seem to have had one obsession or another- from Collie Dogs and Conker Trees to a Scottish Mountain, Suilven- and my current obsession is Pelican Gullets.....

I have been spending many wonderful hours at my favorite Malibu Lagoon watching the both exquisite and extraordinary movement the Pelicans make as they exercise their gullets. The movement is a cross between a dance and the opening of an exotic flower and I never tire of observing it.

So here are some images:

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Santa Monica: Walk 2

And here is another recent walk: