Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The redwood forest

If you've never seen the redwoods of the Pacific Northwest, I would highly recommend the experience.  It's dimly lit, overgrown with a variety of greenery at every level, and it is an excellent place to contemplate the cycle of life, which is rather perfect as Samhain approaches. My husband told me Saturday that he wanted to get out of town. A few hours later, we were in a cheap hotel room in Ukiah.  Sunday morning we had breakfast at a small diner, then drove even farther north to Legget. After that we explored a small road that led us to an unused campground.  It was parked by a sign and a bunch of old logging equipment rusting and overgrown with blackberries. This weekend was beautifully clear, and the air had a definite autumn chill.  The aspens, ash and oaks are dressed in shades of gold and red; they stand out beautifully against the green tones of the evergreen trees. The smell of fallen and decomposing leaves was everywhere, and the wind was gentle.


While my husband and sons examined the machinery, me and my camera took off into the trees.  Well used and well marked trails crisscrossed through the undergrowth, going hither and yon, but at times, those paths took you someplace magical.  There was were places where dark hollows peaked out from beneath enormous fallen trunks.  Little trefoils cheerfully carpeted the ground, and the sword ferns, in all their ancient and feathery beauty, clustered together at the base of the giants. Redwood needles, fallen leaves, and redwood bark form a soft, thick carpet to walk on.  While seemingly densely populated by plants, there is also a lot of space between redwood trees.  You will see clusters of them, growing like a living wall (also called nesting boxes), but then, you will see areas where they seem to be respectfully giving each other some space.

I forget just how noisy life in a city of any size is.  I generally feel pretty content with the low hum of Walnut Creek.  San Francisco, when I visit, is always a bit like being in a movie with the soundtrack up too loud.  After I walked just a few yards into the trees, I was struck by how quiet forests are.  In the high desert of Nevada, where I grew up, the wind and shift of sand are constant, if changeable  companions   At home, here in a small city of a larger metro area, traffic, birds (especially those that are drawn to the messes humans tend to bring, like crows, blue jays, and seagulls), and electricity provide the background noise.  At the shore, the wind and waves are a steady reminder of the sheer power that nature has.  Here, it was different.  I could hear a faint, occasional rustle of leaves and the faint tinkle of a stream, but otherwise, it was nearly silent.  When a car drove past, I could hear the hum of engines and tires, but mostly I could the noise I made.     It was a bit humbling to feel like a noisy trespasser.  After a few minutes, a startling myself by stepping on the end of a stick that popped up and smacked me in the face, I had a laugh at myself and then could feel more at home. After that, I didn't notice the sound of my footsteps as acutely, and I stopped jumping at every little sound (One thing that parenthood has made me suspicious of is silence- when you hear it as a parent, it usually means the kids are up to something.).


For me, the most important part of my time spent in this place was the reminder that death is never truly an ending.  When something as big and as old as redwood tree dies, it creates space for many new lives to start.  Here, in this picture, you can see vines, blackberries, trefoils, moss, and even small trees are changing the death of the old one into the energy by which they will live. Life goes on.  Life always goes on.  the dead may be gone from one form, but any way you believe, the dead are still part of this world in one form or another. That's a thought that I find comforting, especially at this time of year.  This was the message that I have been needing to hear for weeks.

I didn't realize how much I needed to get away from home until we left.  The farther we drove from the Bay Area, the more everyone relaxed.  The kids ran around, played, climbed on things.  My husband drove a challenging, windy road and put the car and his driving skills to the test, and I got to touch and smell and hear and see nature.  It put lightness and wonder back in the forefront of my mind, and it provided me with the answers I needed about how to celebrate Samhain this year.  All I have to do, is to remember that the cycles of life touch us all from the tiniest single celled organism to the oldest and biggest beings on the planet.  We live, we die, and we return to where we came from.  We are all connected, and that is the only thing that matters in the end.

If you'd like to see the area- here's a link to Google maps.  When we left the Chandelier Tree (one of the drive through trees), we turned left and ended up on a steep winding section of road called Little Dan Creek Road.  If you go, be warned it is very winding, and bit challenging to drive.  It also has no cell phone reception, so bring a map. map and satellite view of the area

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