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Friday, 20 April 2012



Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey Cypress), Pebble Beach, California: photo by rickpawl, 19 April 2005

Once in another lifetime we lived by the ocean on an exposed point of land with a stand of Monterey Cypress as shelter against the incoming weather, often fierce in storms. Over the years the cypresses had bent together away from the dominant prevailing westerlies, and this had affected their pattern of growth; but unlike the taller trees that did not bend with the strongest gusts, they never fell. And so with time the whole stand had taken on an inclined configuration, as if stooping. Sometimes nature finds it wiser to give way for a while, so as to go on. Better bent than broken.

Old Cypress trees (Cupressus macrocarpa) on Cypress Point, Monterey, California: photographer unknown, Pillsbury Picture Company, c. 1907; image by trialsanderrors, 2010 (Panoramic Photograph Collection, Library of Congress)


Nin Andrews said...

I always think of them as fairy tale trees. I used to try to draw the trees in the antique books my mom had,
and the first time I went to California, I recognize them.

You can almost see the fairies in them--and the little Tolkien types of characters.

TC said...


Legend has it the best place to find a fairy is at the foot of a cypress tree. As these trees sometimes live as long as 2000 years, and of course fairies can never be counted on to hold still for long, there could be a bit of a wait. But one supposes even the most fleeting glimpse would be well worth the wait.

Some have been known to abbreviate the vigil by building Cypress Fairy Houses to entice the little visitors. But one imagines them to be a bit picky, so that the architecture and decor would have to be just right.

ACravan said...

I've just returned from driving Jane to school in Bryn Mawr, where our route takes us past some spreading cow pastures and other pretty sights. All along the way, I was thinking of this -- the writing, the pictures and the beautifully broad visual format of BTP that lets the words and images assume their correct perspective. Funny and true about bending without breaking. I used to joke (the joke based on reality because I'm fairly clumsy and prone to tripping, falling down, etc.) that I was lucky that I bruise, but don't break. Over the past few years, though, I'm conscious of the bending process you've described so well and hoping that it's been a reasonable (and eventually happy) adaptation to life's circumstances. Certainly, I wouldn't mind being as beautiful as those cypresses. Curtis

TC said...


I am currently proving once again (getting bit redundant this, after several bad falls in recent years) the frailty of the mortal coil, by having mine slowly turn into a poster specimen for contusions in all colours of the rainbow (blunt force trauma impact working its slow bad magic); and have in thus wise learned that human soft tissue is definitely no match for tons of metal moving at speed.

But of course I had already known that, in the general, vague common-sense sort of way. Still there's no teacher quite like Experience. For the past fifteen days I've been going back and forth on the question of whether a bent frame is really better than a broken one. Maybe in a few more weeks I will be able to form a conclusion... if, that is, I have not by that time involuntarily come to one.



"Better bent than broken."

Or as Campion once said --
"The tender graft is easely Broke,
But who shall shake the sturdie Oke?"


light coming into sky above still black
plane of ridge, robin calling on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

being part of it, one there
was as much as it was

sometimes both figures, two
states, person become

tree-lined green of ridge above channel,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon

TC said...


I thought of you when putting this together, both because you have that fortunate family background in native Monterey Cypress country; and because the (locally introduced) specimens of which I speak in this text stood (and doubtless still stand) on Nymph Road, a mere echo's distance from where you are fortunate (not to mention wise) enough to be dwelling, e'en as we speak.

(And for saying the magic words "Thomas" and Campion", were there any justice in the blogosphere, you would be rewarded as were the contestants on the Groucho Marx show, way back when, for saying whatever magic word had been stipulated for the occasion... it was hard not to suspect, at times, that clues had been surreptitiously provided... but in any case, when the word was said, a stuffed duck dropped down from above, and the happy contestant/s got $50.)



Thanks for this, your saying of "the magic words" here has prompted this other small offering from Campion, regarding such "native . . . specimens" among other things --

"The Sypres curten of the night is spread,
And over all a silent dewe is cast,
The weaker cares by sleep are conquered;
But I alone, with hidious grief agast,
In spite of Morpheus charmes a watch doe keepe
Over mine eies, to banish careless sleepe."

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

A pleasure seeing this again, this time sandwiched between these wonderful photographs but then again, you already know how I stand on cypresses and Seferis on wind-swept pines!

aditya said...

bent better than broken ..

Reminds me of the childhood lessons and a haiku made out sometime back while half remembering them (though on a slightly different plane if not the same)--

be humble ..
only twigs with flowers

Jonathan Chant said...

'...wiser to give way for a while, so as to go on.'

Good to be reminded of this. Great post, thanks Tom.

TC said...

Thanks to everyone, and to that excellent poet-physician, Dr. Thomas Campion, as well.

Ah Morpheus, where art thy charmes, now that they are needed so?

Robb said...

As beautiful as the trees.