I was curled up in a ball dreaming of amber hills and the endless blur of passing telephone poles. My head rested awkwardly on the passenger side door as I listened to the hum of our engine cruising up the 101. I slowly came to when Ronald patted me on the knee and said “Hey babe, your’re not gonna wanna miss this.” My sight adjusted to the white light of overcast skies as I sat up and cracked my neck. The windshield wipers worked at full speed to clear each dancing raindrop as we drove through a low-lying cloud. In the distance I saw a massive bridge whose end was concealed by the mouth of a looming forest. “The Giants,” I whispered.
The air seemed darker here. Towering canopies blocked out most of the daylight. Colors weren’t really colors, but rather impersonations of color. Subtle hues blended together in muted harmony, making it hard to tell where shapes ended and color began. The borders of the road curved and warped around the roots of old growth. I saw a wooden sign staked in the dirt that read, “Welcome to God’s Country.” Hmmm…“More like bear country,” I thought.
The first moment was timid as I pressed my feet on the ground. The soil was damp, cold and full of life. My feet sank inches deep into pockets of moss, leaving footprints along the way. ‘What tiny feet,’ the trees must have thought. Decaying matter caved beneath the weight of each step, dredging up the smell of Earth and freshly sprinkled rain.
The Redwoods are sentient beings, the anchors of a complex web that is more felt than seen. Their roots flow beneath the forest floor, feeding into the veins of rivers and streams. Their branches stretch across the sky, giving shelter to little beings. Their bark is cracked like well-callused hands and their bodies grow in clusters, like sisters telling secrets. As a species that is always seeking, searching, questioning…we often forget that we already contain the innate intelligence to feel this interconnectedness.
Even the fallen trees seemed important, like the bones of a slayed dragon. I scurried across them on all fours until I found the perfect spot to rest. Dirty, wet, happy…I sat there watching Jurassic millipedes conquer mushroom kingdoms until Ronald told me it was time to come down.
Somewhere along the drive, I saw a clearing for Eel River. My heart skipped a beat. “Pull over! Right over there! I need to find a pebble for my mom!” The tires rolled from asphalt to the rumble of loose gravel as we pulled up under the shade of a twisted Douglas fir. Next to us was a man in his late 60’s parked in a rusted out purple Dodge Caravan. He wore a faded denim jacket with a Grateful Dead patch on the arm and showcased a wiry grey braid of impressive length. He looked over and grinned at us. A half lit joint perched perfectly in the black gap of his missing tooth. “Heyyyy man. The Astrooooos man.” Clearly referring to Ronald’s Astros cap, we replied with a “Ya, man.” The wild eyed stranger shrugged and confessed, “I’m a Mets fan, maaaan. Or at least I used to be, when I was young.” We smiled a ‘no worries’ smile as he put his van in reverse and burned out in a cloud of dust. The back of his van read “Turn On. Tune in. Drop out.” Legend. We clasped hands and headed to the water.
My mom always told me that her soul was from this river. Once I saw it for myself, I knew it was true because my soul told me so. I jumped into the icy cold water, frightened a river snake and warmed myself on the pebbly river bend. I took my time in selecting the perfect rock for my mom, doing my best not to disturb whatever river souls were wandering, waiting for their bodies. My ears hurt from the cold and my mouth hurt from smiling. What an odd and satisfying place, I thought.
Below are a couple of rolls of film taken by Ronald of me losing my fucking mind in da Redwoods.