BY MARGARET MAGNUS
Below is a map of the meadow that leads to Baba's Tree, Baba's Tree, and Avatar's Point where Baba's Tree grows.
The white portion of the map indicates the meadow and pathway area to Baba's Tree from the Visitor Center. At the edges of this white area, the property slopes sharply downward toward the Pacific Ocean and city of Ventura (on the left) and toward the city of Santa Paula (on the right).
At Baba's Tree, in the center marked "primary ash deposits" is where much of Baba's Tree trunk burned. There is also a small oak under the canopy - that is an offshoot of Baba's Tree - that is still standing and appears intact.
The above photo is of Baba's Tree after the 2017 Thomas Fire. To the left are major limbs that are burned, broken and fallen to the ground. The heart-shaped stone in the center surrounded by flowers marks the spot where Avatar Meher Baba sat when He visited Meher Mount in 1956.
Behind the heart stone is the part of Baba's Tree trunk that is still standing. To the right in back of the trunk are limbs that are showing signs of life.
One reaction to hearing that the Thomas Fire burned Baba’s Tree was posted on Facebook: “I can't look at this without crying. My heart hurts.”
DROUGHT, FIRE & BABA'S TREE
California is still suffering from a multi-year drought. This drought has compromised the natural ability of more fire-tolerant plants and trees, such as the Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) to resist and recover from a fire. Baba’s Tree has been hit two-fold: first from a long-term lack of water and now by a second fire.
On October 14, 1985, in what Meher Mount calls the New Life Fire, Baba’s Tree was severely burned. Fire fighters were still pouring water on the smoldering and burning tree five days after the main fire had burned all the structures and vehicles at Meher Mount. (See the article “Fire Burns Baba’s Tree – Twice”)
Although Baba’s Tree recovered in general from the 1985 fire, a portion of the interior main trunk did not. It had been inhabited by a bee colony, and the 1985 New Life Fire burned the colony and left a major open hole in the trunk. The 2017 Thomas Fire further burned the main trunk of Baba’s Tree and shattered the tree’s crown.
SIGNS OF LIFE IN BABA’S TREE
A sign of life for Baba’s Tree is foliage – both old and new. For those limbs connected to Baba’s Tree trunk and root system, there are still green leaves, even a month-and-a-half after the fire.
By way of comparison, the leaves on downed and separated limbs are brown and many have fallen to the ground.
In addition, on at least one limb there are new, small buds growing about every 12 inches. This is an indication that Baba’s Tree is trying to grow new foliage as part of the regeneration process, including protecting itself from sunburn.
Another sign of life for a Coast Live Oak is the hydration of the tree. The hydration of an oak will affect its temperature.
Cooler limbs are more hydrated, an indication that a limb is alive. Living bark is cooler than air. Dead bark is closer to air temperature, thus warmer limbs are probably dead.
BABY BABA’S TREE
There is an offspring of Baba’s Tree under the canopy that seems to be alive and well. This “Baby Baba’s Tree” grew either from an acorn or a limb from Baba's Tree taking root.
The roots between Baba’s Tree and this offshoot are intertwined and communicate with each other. The survival plan will protect and nurture Baba’s Tree and Baba Baba’s Tree.
ARE THERE ACORNS?
The severity of the multi-year, California drought has greatly reduced acorn production from Coast Live Oaks.
In addition, any acorns that would have been produced by Baba's Tree probably burned in the Thomas Fire. At this time, there are no acorns from Baba’s Tree that could be used as a source for a new tree.
NOTHING WILL EVER DESTROY MY PRESENCE
Upon learning about the Thomas Fire burning Baba’s Tree, Bill Le Page of Avatar’s Abode near Brisbane, Australia, wrote to Meher Mount. Bill, who has been a guest speaker many times at Meher Mount, shared this story about Meher House in Sydney, Australia:
“In the ‘60s some years after Meher Baba’s last visit 1958, I became concerned with needed maintenance and changes and was hesitating to do so. I wrote to Francis Brabazon [a close Australian disciple of Meher Baba] in India not expecting Baba to be involved, but the letter was read to Him and He replied: