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Beach Flag at Poche
See the newer Poche Beach Flag II below.
Beach Flag at Poche
Art, Life, and a Beach Flag
El Nino's winter storms of 1998 brought a huge partially burned tree down the rain-swollen San Juan Creek. Like a large migratory animal, it came to rest in the creek's Doheny Beach estuary where it was immediately recognizable and somehow "adopted" by all who saw it.
This tree, which appears to have died in a fire, once lived upstream, in some canyon by some tributary of this river. During every rainy season the flooding waters would erode the river's banks that crept ever closer to tree. Finally over many years, or perhaps in seconds during the 1998 floods, the last earth and rock of this tree's foundation was washed away, and this once anonymous tree embarked on its new life.
The following years, storms and the river again touched this tree's life — and ours. After standing guard in the alluvium, this beautiful natural sculpture was swept out to sea and we all watched anxiously as our friend made its way down the coast to its new home, new life, and new family of admirers.
Those of us who knew it at Doheny were relieved to see that it had again survived and was still part of our lives. Those who now saw it for the first time had a new special friend.
Then came the storm of September 11, 2001. A violent cloudburst suddenly struck, creating a raging flash flood that immediately engulfed many of our lives' foundations into this dangerous and uncertain torrential river of life that washed away its familiar banks and swept many of us out to sea. Most of us were overwhelmed and nearly drowned. Some were never to be seen again.
We survivors drifted, wondering what would become of our lives. We floated in still uncertain seas, wondering how the world had changed, until the tides of time brought most of us back to shore where we reassessed and reestablished our lives, finding our families and friends anew. This flood ended our old lives and gave us new ones. It has changed all of us forever.
This event has also given this tree a new life with a new meaning. Someone has placed a flag on it, and this beautiful and random "confluence of influences" continues to unite many of us as we share in its story and journey.
Evening Colors: Poche Beach Flag II
Evening Colors: Poche Beach Flag II
A New Life - With a Little Help from Friends
During El Nino's storms fifteen years the San Juan Creek peaked in a torrent. A deluge of water, earth, rocks and debris headed to the sea, including the entire huge burned hulk of a once tall and certainly beautiful sycamore tree.
Most such logs usually break down into smaller pieces of driftwood that move with the tide along the shore until it crumbles and disappears in the sand or falls to the bottom of the ocean. But for this tree it would be different - very different.
The pounding surf lifted this large wooden sculpture onto the beach upright and with its twin trunks visible at the storm's unusually high tide line, the root mass was buried in the sand as if it were still growing, still alive.
For a year it stood. Beautiful and unique, it was something more than just a dead tree. It was a living creature - one of a kind. It was captivating, inspiring many imagined narratives of its origins as the tide continuing to pile sand around it.
Then on September 12, 2001, along came a young man, his nephew, and a flag.
It's destiny now apparent, the Poche Beach flag was a stunning evocative sight and ever since that day this sentinel has meant so much to so many. It is a beloved friend standing day and night through the wind, rain and the cold.
For ten years it sustained natural wear and tear and sadly, the insult of human vandalism, all the while being maintained and repaired by a small and dedicated group of volunteers continually replacing the flags, keeping them flying.
Then in 2011 the ocean came calling. The surf began slowly reclaiming the meaningful and much loved tree. But the caretakers and friends could not bear that to happen, not yet. Still intact, her presence is still desired, still needed.
So later that year a large group of volunteers led by the San Clemente Lacrosse* Team attempted to move the monument to higher ground. To their surprise the massive buried root system proved a challenge requiring a mechanized assist, a subtle reminder of the ocean's power. The surf had no problem moving that tree.
But they succeeded, and the tree lives on and the flag still flies at least for a while longer, thanks to a (not so) little "help" from friends*.
The tradition continues.
"Evening Colors" refers of course to the painting's actual sunset coloring but also refers to the dally flag lowering ceremony done at all military installations and, along those lines, that this flag monument is slowly fading away or coming down over time.
*A lacrosse footnote. "Help" is lacrosse tradition. Always part of the game. "Here's your help"; "need a little help." In fact it was once "de rigueur" at old school lacrosse festivities where teams locked arms and sang whole heartedly — and beautifully of course — a lacrosse anthem: "With a Little Help from My Friends" from the Beatle's Sgt. Pepper album.
Explore more Gavin Arts
Just south of Poche is San Clemente, California, site of much of Paul and Kimberleigh's work. • For example, see San Clemente's beautiful T Street Beach. • Additional scenes along various Pacific beaches are shown in Paul's Premier Coastal Series, including San Onofre: Surfer's Paradise.