The Lone Cypress of Pebble Beach is the singular landmark of the Monterey Peninsula. It is arguably the most photographed tree in North America, and undoubtedly symbolic on so many levels. (Do I even have to list them?)
This Monterey cypress has perched upon this narrow crag for at least 250 years, one of only a handful of Monterey cypresses, limited in all the world to Pebble Beach and Point Lobos Reserve. It does not have a lot of peers. In fact, all it can do is look out over the ocean.
The symbolism itself is pretty obvious, but it’s the way people have reacted to this symbolism that I personally find fascinating. From first report in the Monterey Cypress newspaper, circa 1889, the tree was described as having defied “the battle of the elements that rage about it during the storms of winter.”
When I visited this weekend, two additions were immediately visible: the brick wall surrounding the base of the tree and the steel cables holding the branches together. Both were installed during the 40s when the United States battled the storms of World War II and simmered into the Cold War. Hold back the elements. Protect our individuality.
In 1984, the year George Orwell predicted our identity would come under the direction of Big Brother, an unknown arsonist attempted to burn the Lone Cypress. It was the year of Indira Gandhi and Soviet Olympic boycotts and famine in Ethiopia. But it was also the year the US recovered from recession, the year the mask was pulled from the AIDS virus, and the year of the first Mac, first commercial CD player, and first use of forensic DNA testing. The tree lived on.
Today, as thousands of tourists come by to photograph their individual faces in front of this individual tree, the Lone Cypress continues its vigil. It has greater things to ponder than the idle mutterings and shutter snaps of tourists, more to consider than the well-being of the company that claims it. It has endured storms, fires, and even outlasted a young sprout that threatened to displace it. The tree stands and looks to the horizon, strong, confident, and resilient.