Reflection: Where have all the Pine trees gone?
February 28, 2013 | Ed Foster Jr.
I labored in the skin-burning Florida sun during the summer of 1964 to save enough money to purchase my first professional camera. I was preparing to start my junior year of high school making photographs for the Teen Section of the St. Petersburg Evening Independent. The part-time job would pay $15.00 a month plus all of the film I could shoot. I was enthused.
With one of my first rolls of film I made the short jaunt south from our home to Pass-A-Grille, at the southern end of St. Pete Beach. It was a simple time and there was always a beauty or two who would be flattered to model for some test shots.
Sure enough I located a couple of willing subjects and cranked off more than half of a 36-frame roll of film. As I walked back to my car, a warm breeze started blowing and for the first time I discovered the symphony of the wind streaming through hundreds of tall and sinewy Australian Pine trees that lined both sides of the narrow road.
Afterward, I sat beneath one particularly tall tree. It was soothing and peaceful. Despite a few warts, the world seemed to be a gentle place – especially in the company of the Pines.
I like to return there at times for solace. But, at some point I can’t really recall, the trees began to disappear. One-by-one they were lost to nature and man. There are now about one-half dozen.
I sat near a couple of the survivors the other day and heard barely a whisper. Yet, it was calming and so, I reached for my latest camera lest this one disappear before I return. I made a portrait in the waning light of the day.
As I drove home – a stone’s throw from where I was raised – I lamented the diminishing Pines as I wrangled through traffic. The radio was tuned to current events on NPR. With the crazy traffic and the news of the day, it kind of felt as though the world has become less civil – less gentle.
When a small red car changed lanes rapidly in front of me without even a signal, I wondered, “where have all the Pine trees gone?”