Notes to Poem:
The Three Graces on Montebello Ave

Peter Y. Chou

Preface: Each day I run down Montebello Ave & Montecito Ave to catch Bus #40 on Rengstorff Ave to Foothill College Krause Center Computer Lab in Los Altos Hills. I've honored the trees with a poem "Four Friends on Montebello Ave"
(7-13-2014). The giant Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) at the southern end has three huge trunks. I've called it "The Three Graces" recalling Botticelli's portrayal of them on the left side of his painting Primavera (1478) at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Wrote a poem "Entering the Primavera" (11-22-1992) and the symbolism of the painting (3-21-1996). I also stop at the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), touch its trunk, and ask for blessings. On Dec. 20, 2017, I noticed two more redwoods further back that are ten paces away from each other. These three giant sequoias are my new "Three Graces". Recalling my visit to Yosemite Mariposa Grove's "Bachelor & Three Graces", I've assembled photos of these trees, and wrote the poem "The Three Graces on Montebello Ave" (2-11-2018).

Commentary on Poem: "The Three Graces on Montebello Ave"

The "Bachelor and Three Graces" redwoods
at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite made me
ponder on these 1000-year-old trees—

"Bachelor & Three Graces", Yosemite
My Columbia college friend Peter Seng called me out of the blue (circa 1994) to visit Yosemite to see the giant trees. We stayed at
a motel in Marisposa & went first to Mariposa Grove. These giants soaring to the skies simply overwhelmed me. I felt as if walking among ancient cathedrals. After seeing The Grizzly Giant (29 feet diameter, 209 feet high, 2400 years old) and The Telescope Tree,
I lingered before "The Bachelor and the Three Graces", a group of four trees, three of them growing very close together, with a fourth
a little more distant. Their roots are so intertwined that if one of
them were to fall, it would likely bring the others along with it.
I identified with Bachelor Sequoia for there is a small goosepen
at its base, large enough for chickens & ducklings, shaped like the Platonic Lambda Λ— "Soul of the Universe" (Plato's (Timaeus 35b).
Photo Sources: "Bachelor and Three Graces" (

Sequoia sempervirens— everlasting giant
whose rings date beyond the Magna Carta
shown in Hitchcock's Vertigo at Big Basin.

Sequoia sempervirens
Coast Redwood

Alfred Hitchcock's
Vertigo Poster

Kim Novak walking in
Big Basin redwoods in Vertigo

Kim Novak counting sequoia rings dating beyond
Magna Carta (1215) & Battle of Hastings (1066)
Sequoia sempervirens or Coast Redwood is an evergreen living 1200-1800 years of more, among the oldest living things on Earth. The coast redwood can reach 377 ft tall with a trunk diameter of 30 ft. It has a conical crown, with horizontal to slightly drooping branches. Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) is one of my favorite films. One of the scenes show Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak visiting the giant redwoods at Big Basin. They stop by a cross-section of Sequoia rings dating past the Magna Carta (1215) and Battle of Hastings (1066). Photo Sources: Sequoia sempervirens (; Vertigo Poster (;
Kim Novak at Big Basin (; Sequoia Rings at Big Basin (

The Three Graces depict Beauty, Love, Pleasure
painted at left in Botticelli's Primavera
daughters of Venus, their dress sheerer than silk,

Botticelli's Primavera (1478), Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Botticelli's "The Three Graces" is at the left side of his painting Primavera (1478). Lemprière's Classical Dictionary (3rd Ed., 1994) has the best source on Charites or Gratiae (p. 143)— daughters of Venus by Jupiter or Bacchus, are three in number— Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne. They were constant attendants of Venus, and represented as three young, beautiful, and modest virgins, all holding one another by the hand. They presided over kindness, and their worship was the same as that of the nine Muses, with whom they had a temple in common. They were represented naked, because kindness ought to be a perpetual and never-ceasing intercourse of kindness and benevolence among friends. Their virgin purity and innocence teach us that acts of benevolence ought to be done without any expectation of restoration, and that we ought never to suffer others or ourselves to be guilty of base or impure favours. Photo Source: Primavera (

hand entwined, their steps so light they do not
bend the grass as they dance— nearby is Mercury
whose caduceus is probing the clouds for rain.

U.S. #895 "The Three Graces"
(issued April 14, 1940)

Monaco #1986 "Springtime"
(issued October 24, 1985)

Mercury in
Love is in the air in Botticelli's Primavera.
It's springtime— Zephyr, Greek God of the
West Wind is seducing the nymph Chloris
who transforms to Flora to be his bride.
Cupid is above center, shooting his love
arrow at Chastity's breast, who has her
gaze on Mercury. But he is not attentive
to the Three Graces dancing nearby to
entice him. Mercury is more focused on
probing the clouds with his caduceus
to bring down the rain. I imagine myself
to be Mercury, "the Bachelor", not enticed
by earthly pleasure, but in quest of spiritual enlightenment (symbolized by rainfall).
Photo Sources: U.S. #895 (;
Monaco #1986 "Springtime" (;
Mercury in Primavera (

There is a giant Eucalyptus I pass by
on Montebello Ave with three huge trunks
soaring to the skies, I've called "The Three Graces".

Eucalyptus sideroxylon

Eucalyptus Peeling Bark

Eucalyptus on Montebello Ave

"Three Graces" Eucalyptus
Eucalyptus sideroxylon or Red Ironbark is a small to medium-sized or occasionally tall tree that is found throughout
eastern Australia. There is an Eucalyptus Grove at Stanford University (Galvez and Campus Drives). The Native
American Powwow is held there annually. There is also an Eucalyptus Grave at Berkeley (Hilgard Way). There are
lots of Eucalyptus trees on the Meadow Trail of Wunderlich Park (Hike: 10-18-2013). Whenever I pass by the giant Eucalyptus at Montebello Avenue on my way home, I ask "The Three Graces" to bless me with beauty and civility.
Also pray to the Trinity to unfold the mysteries of life & the universe so I may share them with others in my poems.

Photo Sources: Eucalyptus sideroxylon (; Eucalyptus Peeling Bark (; Eucalyptus on Montebello Ave (; "Three Graces" Eucalyptus (

Close by is a Sequoia, "sentinel of the block"
whose arrowhead Λ-top is aimed skyward
whom I touch for longevity, strength, & wisdom.

Redwood Sprouting Twig

Redwood to Sky

Arrowhead Λ Redwood Treetop
The giant sequoia, some twenty paces north of the Eucalyptus, I've anointed as "Sentinel of the block".
On my way home, I'd touch its bark, ask for blessing for durability, longevity, strength, and wisdom.
In his essay "Hunting Big Redwoods", John Muir writes "No description can give any adequate idea
of their singular majesty, much less of their beauty." He notes their "heavenly yearning" and its
"arrowhead in form" (p. 89 of Peter Johnston's Giants in the Earth). This article first appeared in
Atlantic Monthly, V, 88 (Sept. 1901) and reprinted in Our National Parks (1981). See Chapter IX.
Photo Sources: Redwood Sprouting Twig (; Redwood to Sky (;
Arrowhead Λ Redwood Treetop (

Now I notice two more redwoods ten paces apart—
these three giants are close enough for their roots
to be entwined below, their leaves touching above

Three Redwoods on Montebello Ave
Because the two redwoods were further back of the sidewalk,
I didn't notice their proximity to the "Sentinel of the Block".
I counted ten paces between these giant redwoods. Their
roots are entwined below, their leaves touching above,
as if kissing. John Muir's description of the redwoods
"The root system forms a flat, far-reaching spongy
network two hundred feet or more in width." (p. 90
of Peter Johnston's Giants in the Earth). Recent studies
show these Coast Redwoods "have shallow root systems
that extend over 100 feet from the base, intertwining with
the roots of other redwoods. This increases their stability
during strong winds and floods." (California Dept. of Parks)
Photo Source:Three Redwoods on Montebello Ave (

as if doing the Greek line dance Syrtos
or perhaps Morris dancing if you hear bells
or Native American chanting with drumming.

Greek Line-Dance Syrtos

Morris Dancing

Native American Drumming
Since the Three Graces are always shown dancing, and seeing these three Sequoias with their leaves touching in gentle embrace, I imagined that these redwoods are doing the Greek line dance Syrtos. I learned this line-dance at the Cornell Folkdance Club (circa 1966) from Ken Wilson, who usually lead the dance. Ken won the Physics Nobel Prize in 1982. Morris Dancing is an English folk dance. The dancers wear bell pads on their shins, wave handkerchiefs, sticks, and
swords while dancing. I learned about them from the Bay Area Country Dance Society (circa 1986). Surprised to see Berkeley Morris Dancers at Stanford Bookshop (May 9, 2010) & took photos (1, 2, 3). Charlie Thom (Redhawk),
Medicine Man of Mt. Shasta, did power drumming when we went there for a Medicine Walk (July 24-30, 1989).
Photo Sources: Greek Line-Dance Syrtos (; Morris Dancing (; Native American Drumming (

I'm the Bachelor on this Beautiful Mountain
overjoyed in finding another "Three Graces"
blessing me with beauty, love, and civility.

Montebello Ave Signpost

"Three Graces" on Montebello
Montebello means "Beautiful Mountain"
in Spanish. It is a popular name with Montebello Islands in Australia, and six cities named in Italy. There is Montebello, Norway, Montebello Lakes, Mexico, Montebello, Colombia, and Montebello, Quebec, Canada. Seven cities in the U.S.
are named Montebello. There is even
a 1313 Montebello Castle in Switzerland. However as I walk on Montebello Ave, Mountain View, I feel the trees on this
block have become good friends. Finding these new "Three Graces" redwoods, I
recall "Bachelor and Three Graces" at
Yosemite. With Mercury & Three Graces
in Primavera, I feel I'm the Bachelor
blessed with beauty, love, and civility.
Photo Source: Montebello Ave (; "Three Graces" on Montebello (

— Peter Y. Chou
    Mountain View, 2-14-2018

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