These trees are victims of the blight that has decimated some areas in California. Big Sur is one of those areas but the incidence of trees that can be killed by it is less than places like Sacramento, where I live. Nevertheless, the damage is obvious once you see these trees up close; from a distance they looked so starkly beautiful that I was reminding myself to capture a pile of them in photographs for use later, especially in black and white. But once I knew what it was that I was seeing, a lot of the charm dropped away immediately: Sacramento has Dutch Elm Disease wiping out thousands of years of massive elm trees. We are all too familiar with the ravages of a scourge removing the beauty, shade and history of our city.
As of yet, there’s no way to really know how to control Big Sur’s blight. But with fire toasting infected trees easiest, should we be more happy nature is fighting back against a disease or more scared that the very smoke we’re all breathing may contain spores of the disease, spreading it more effectively than even the wildlife running from the flames? Sure makes you pause to wonder, doesn’t it?