Written September 28, 2023, At Kansas City, Missouri.
I learned today of the murder of a friend in Northumberland, England. The coward took her life late last night, a senseless act of premeditated violence that has left the region, the country, and those of us over the world who knew her, in shock.
I met her earlier this year on March 31st as I was hiking the trail along Hadrian’s Wall. It was the day before my birthday.
It was also a difficult day. Long, and punctuated by steep climbs and treacherous descents on rain slicked rocks and muddy cutback paths. My spirits had been brought low by the bone chilling drizzle and dense fog which frequently denied me the full vistas that my eyes yearned to see.
She stood waiting for me at the bottom of a steep vale. I was breathing hard, and my legs trembled from the fight against gravity that had threatened to bring me crashing down the cliff face.
She was famous; indeed, a star having appeared in countless photographs, paintings and even with Kevin Costner in the movie, “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves”. Yet she was humbly a servant dedicated to all of us, rich and poor, young and old, every day of the year.
Upon sight of her my emotions were immediately lifted. I beheld a family gazing upon her in awe. I approached, and after a moment’s hesitation I embraced her. Strong, tall, almost eternal, she was unyielding to my arms yet soft to my soul. My spirits soared! She was glorious in the pictures that I took of her, but I knew that the images would not convey to Christine her majesty.
Last night she died, murdered. What I know is that a 16-year-old male has been arrested, allegedly having cut her down in her prime. His weapon, a chain saw.
Along Hadrian’s Wall, her home has long been known as “Sycamore Gap”. It is where she put down roots. It is where she now lies in death.
Birds once sang in her arms. No more.
Lovers once laughed at her feet. No more.
Children once danced around her. No more.
… and aging hikers found encouragement to continue, no matter how difficult. No more.
Today the Earth cried a tear and so did I.
Peace Everyone. Pete
PS. There was another tree. I caught a glimpse of her in February of 2017 as I drove past. It was near Carpinteria, California. She was so stunningly beautiful that I risked an accident to stop and take her picture. She died later that year in the Thomas wildfire that tore through the region.