The World’s Largest Torrey Pine

There is a tree in Carpinteria I love. It’s a torrey Pine. This particular Torrey Pine is the world’s largest Torrey Pine. It’s also a city landmark. It’s also big, which is what you would expect from the largest in the world. It’s so big that it stands on one side of the street, and, if they didn’t keep it trimmed, it would stretch to the other. It’s 75 ft long branches stick out from the road like a pilgrim, or a billboard saying “Come on under. 0.4 miles.” This lonely tree is like a voice in the wilderness crying out. All are welcome. Here is home: to squirrels, storks, and Phoebes. Underneath is a field of grass, tall and mostly untouched, if at all, only by skate-punks with hungry eyes, or crows, which graze in packs and move on. In the middle of the field is a smaller tree, long dead, where black phoebes sit and catch flies. There is a gravel road the leads to a gravel parking lot for customers to the bike shop and the cafe that sits under the tree, the Wardholme Torrey Pine.

This tree is an alien, according to legend, planted by the mayor during an exotic plant competition during 1880. There is a group of these trees in La Jolla, and again on the Santa Rosa Island. 200 miles from all the others, this one sits alone, taller than all the rest. This pilgrim tree. If any tree had a right to be an existentialist, it’s this one. What is one Torrey Pine among all the pine, oak, and palm? And to be the biggest, this Abraham tree? As the Lord told Abraham, “and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing,” So this tree, this wanderer, this little king. And God has made him great. What is one palm? But one palm under the Torrey Pine, now that is a palm. Nobody notices the thirty other trees under the Wardholme, but to be simply taken care of, to rule with, is enough. The owner’s daughter took care of the Wardholme after he planted it and then suggested one day that the city make it a landmark so that it would be protected. The land is city run, kept up, and clean.

As it umbrellas down, it offers it’s own protection to those underneath, and it’s own shade. During the hot summer days, a local fries sitting at the beach and freezes sitting at Lucky LLama under the tree. Bring a jacket. The tree makes a sunny day feel cloudy, blotting out a third of the sun. Lucky Llama, a coffee shop known for its acai-bowls, thrives under the tree. People come from all over LA and Santa Barbara to get a coffee and a Moon-Bowl, acai blended with peanut butter. The indoor seating consists of those doing homework or eating a Lyra-bowl, on top of tin chairs or wooden chairs. To make the seating more comfortable, on every one is a pillow, and on the design, a Llama. Outside is a porch, with wooden chairs and umbrellas. The atmosphere consists of the ocean breeze, mixed with the fresh smell of the trees. Right next to Lucky Llama, is the Rincon Bike Shop. Certainly they get less business than Lucky Llama, but they offer different services and they don’t compete, and besides, whether they know it or not, customers of both are only there for the tree.

It’s hard to not notice the tree at least once while there. Whether it’s the large wooden sign by the entrance, the many species of birds that fly and nest on the tree, or simply the large shadow keeping everyone cool, the tree will get the attention it needs. As Jonah was grateful when God made the branch to sprout, so are all who sit underneath the Wardholme. If God sent a worm to kill this tree, everyone would be equally as mad as Jonah. The storks fly from over Lucky Llama, a branch in their leg or mouth, screaming as they circle around the tree, landing at their nest, greeted by their children, 110 ft up. Imagine the view. Imagine being a crow, or a phoebe, fed by the tree, their own Lucky Llama. “You will be a blessing.” Who knows this more than the squirrels?

Even when they are away they are conscious of the tree, their home. The storks when flying down to the shore to find wood always come back. The bugs never step off, the phoebes hang around because of this. The people have the option of getting their acai-bowls to go. This is nice, because a person can park at Lucky Llama, grab lunch, walk down Linden Avenue, sit at the beach littered with drift-wood and tar, toss a football around, stare at the oil dregs in front of Catalina Island, go to The Spot, walk back to their car where the tree, dutifully, stands, knowing that they will be back soon.

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