I was conceived and raised under their watchful bows and I am ever grateful for their tutelage. For it is hard (or at lead should be) to be surrounded by such ancient beings and not learn from them.
I grew up in the old growth forest where the trees are thousands of years old and the dirt beneath your feet has had more experience in this world than all of recorded human history.
My first kindergarden field trip was to Big Basin State Park six miles from school (less than that from my house) Where our class of 31 students, and a handful a chaperoning adults attempted to hold hands around the truck of the Father of the forest, and could barley manage.
Entering those forest paths surrounded by ferns and trees who’s bottom canopy is still more than a hundred feet overhead is magical.
The only time I have gone into a human structure that evoked even a slightly similar feeling was when I walked into St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican in Rome and I understood how people could truly feel belief in the man’s construction of god and the institution of the church.
I believe that it is in these places untouched by human hands and sustained by systems that only the devine set in motion, where we can find the model for our actions in this world.
I have always felt that there is no passage in any holy text that illustrates ‘god’s will’ better than observation of self-sustaining natural ecosystems.
In fact, the practice of constructing huge buildings that blocked out nature and filling them with images of humans with wings seemed to be perhaps the worst way to understand the world around us and our god given place in it.
It separates humans from the systems we rely on for our own substance and allows us to think of ourselves as god like. While justifying the destruction of the world around us with fairytale stories, pretty pictures and shinny things.
But I digress.
Jr. high and high school were tough years for me and I believe that one of the only things that kept me together was the fact that the campus abutted Henry Cowell Redwood State Park.
Within two minutes of the bell I could be entering my safe place along a well worn sun dappled path, breathing the farmiliar smells.
Returning to my source. It often gave me the strength to finish the day.
My connection to the forest and those giant trees is something I always took for granted. My hair is the red brown of their trunks and my eyes the green brown of their crowns.
They are not a part of me, I am a part of them.
Until the last four years I had never left the forest of my birth.
Even when I went to college at UCSC the campus was encompasses by the same unbroken belt of trees that climbed the valley walls and ran along the ridge down into Santa Cruz.
In class when people asked where I was from I would say “this forest 16 miles that way” people looked at me funny. They didn’t understand how proud I was of that simple fact and I didn’t care.
There was much they didn’t understand.
When rain decended on campus and the bus stops were crowded with coeds, I would make for the back trails that run under the canopy from college to college. It is called a canopy for a reason after all.
It always seemed the trees provided me with everything I could need. A place to play, love, laugh, explore…
get lost, cry, hide- their uses and support was endless.
Even though I now reside on the opposite end of the continent where most people I encounter have only seen a redwood on TV or in pictures; they are still with me.
Long ago I made a place for them to grow inside of me.
When I close my eyes; I see lime light filtering down to fern laden ground. I smell dirt and duff, the sharp but not quite piney scents of the earth. I can feel polished gnarled roots- cradling my weight making light of all my worries and fears.
It is not some trite “happy place.” It is simply my source. A place made of all that came before me and all that I will become.
The origin of my soul.
It was my choice to leave. I knew that they had given me the peace I would need to be without them.
I am eternally grateful for the simple gift of growing up beneath the redwoods.