First Person: Ode to the last tall tree in our Berkeley neighborhood

The 100-foot-high Monterey pine stood in her Central Berkeley neighborhood — until it was taken down.

We Lost Our Last Tall Tree

I awoke to the loud piercing sound of buzz saws.
Moving quickly towards the noise,
I was shocked to see a large truck
and 6 men with long poles and ropes
All poised to begin cutting down the biggest tree in this part of the city.

Several women came running down the street.
One screaming to the men with their powerful machines:
“Stop! Stop! There is a nest up there!”
“We didn’t find no nest lady.”
As though they looked.
As though they cared.
As though someone asked them to care.
“It’s private property — you can cut down any tree you want.”
We frantically called everyone we could think of calling,
But it was all too late.
I threw my arms to the sky and said,
‘I am sorry. I have loved you dearly, but this is out of my control.’

Well over 100 feet tall and maybe over 100 years old
This Monterey Pine was not just a beautiful tree
It was a magnificent tree!
Stately, strong, powerful
Statuesque from every angle

Monterey pine tree
The Monterey Pine tree before it was taken down. Credit: Mickey Duxbury

For many of the last 30 years, neighbors have been blessed to watch
generations of white-tailed Kites make the top of the tree their home.
Every spring we would watch and wonder if the kites would return.
Some years they did not, and we thought they might be gone forever.
But then another spring would come, and we would hear their plaintive
cries and see them circle to the highest point of their majestic home.


Their piercing calls were a foreign sound for an urban environment.
They did not just remind us of wildness — they were wildness.
Where did they spend their winters?

How far from the tree did they go to find food for their young?
What in their mysterious internal map brings them back to this tree?
How did they pass that memory from one generation of kites to another?

Our block lost a tree.
Berkeley lost a tree.
The East Bay lost a tree.
And generations of white-tailed Kites have lost a home.

I’m sorry dear white-tailed Kites.
I am sorry that when you arrive next spring,
There will be momentary confusion
Where is the tree?
Where is our nest?
Where is our home?

They will surely find another one, but will we?
We have made quite a mess of our planet.
It’s a wonder wildness remains at all.

My dear beautiful Kites
May you find another strong and tall tree to be your home.
Your wildness and beauty have nourished our souls.
Watching your flight has helped us be free for a moment or two.

Goodbye to our neighborhood Kites.
Goodbye, big strong beautiful tree.
Goodbye.

Micky Duxbury has lived in Berkeley for 34 years. She is a criminal justice activist with the Interfaith Coalition for Justice in our Jails.