Toad in the Hole

May 20, 2006

Low-Key Redwoods Frolic

This week was one of those weeks we just had to reserve a day to escape from. (Don't try to parse that; call it a symptom.) So we reserved Thursday and all I personally wanted was to be in the salad somewhere neither blazingly hot nor freezingly foggy. "Armstrong Redwoods?" said Joe, after a short shuffle through his records. "All right!" said I. It's a state park up by Guerneville on the Russian River, a pleasant drive, and I'm fond of Sonoma County anyway.

I'm not sure why this shot uploaded funny, with the gray bit. Flickr has been making ~improvements~. Uh-oh. Have I mentioned the concept of Schlimmbesserung here before? I probably have.

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Go look at the large version; most of the detail is lost in the small one.

One thing I like about redwood forests is the whole renewal, life-out-of-death bit, and the nice juxtaposition of great gnarly age with delicate leafy youth. Also that on a sunny day -- which it was, up there, once we'd come out of the fogblankets -- it's cool with the moist exhalations of all those relaxed, generous lifeforms.

We were late, no surprise, for the calypso orchids that we know are there, but there were posies in pleasing ones and twos and severals. One lovely violet, white with a golden throat and deep-purple feathering, was sparking the forest floor here and there and my sore knees allowed only a bad photo or two of it.

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What was fun was being in time for the clintonia bloom. It's hard to find this plant in a situation where the deer haven't eaten off the blossoms. These look better in the large versions too:

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Here it's in the company of trilliums, who are setting seed, and redwood sorrel.

Closer, the bloom, which exhibited a color range from deep rose to pink-verging-on-white:

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The dusting of rust in the background is bits of redwood duff; a park worker was forking up cartloads from a pile of it in the parking lot and mulching the trail. I picked up a handful to sniff appreciatively, and he said, "Gorilla hair!" I laughed; yes, that's what we call it in the landscape trade. I've always thought it should be "orangutan hair" but who listens to me? I like it, in the right context. It doesn't blow away, but it can also make a mulch that's practically impermeable to rain, so you have to be careful where you put it and how you treat the spot afterwards. Makes great path mulch, though. Also smells nice.

Looking at wood and bark and the habits of trees, you can see recorded the flow of their lives. It looks like a stream -- moving in standing waves, purling over obstacles we can't see, eddying in diverted moments of calmness, tracing the slower- or faster-moving things and events that influence it -- because it is a stream. Trees, rocks, earthforms, water all display the movement we sense but whose shape we can know only indirectly in our animal lives.

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And sometimes, animal lives are part of those influences on trees' lives. Here's another of those natural grafitti, a meme that Rurality seems to have infected me with. This one is beetle galleries, the paths that beetle larvae eat through a tree just under its bark:

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In this case, the map is also the territory, as the galleries trace the courses of their inhabitants'/makers' lives until fledging and breakout as adults.

Speaking of fledging: this year's single eyas in the peregrine nest above Mission Street in San Francisco has, seemingly overnight, changed from a clawed ball of fluff to a falcon, sleek as the incarnation of singleminded intention. He's got just a few wisps of white down poking through his feathers, and yesterday almost made it to the ledge above his natal nest in a planter box on the thirtieth floor of some building. I don't have the URL on this machine but Google should tell you where the "San Francisco peregrine nest" camera is, or try the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group, who run the cam. Or come back when I've had access to the laptop and remember to add the URL here. He'll be there for maybe another week, I suppose, as his parents continue to feed him and dangle the car keys by way of incentive to graduate to the sky.

Posted at May 20, 2006 05:33 PM

Comments

"One thing I like about redwood forests is the whole renewal, life-out-of-death bit, and the nice juxtaposition of great gnarly age with delicate leafy youth. Also that on a sunny day -- which it was, up there, once we'd come out of the fogblankets -- it's cool with the moist exhalations of all those relaxed, generous lifeforms."

Yes, exactly. The life-out-of-death bit is amazing, as is the sense of community in those old stands. And yes, I always felt the trees were generous.

When I last lived in California, I called a particular redwood forest there my church. I miss it viscerally. I don't have a sense of ordered consciousness guiding the universe, but those trees really anchored me in the most embracing way while I lived among them.

I don't know if that makes sense. I'm only up because my cat demanded it, and coffee is still hours away. Nice post, though. Thanks.

Posted by: Sara at May 21, 2006 11:41 AM


Makes sense to me, Sara. I don't believe in that ordered (and/or ordering, let alone giving orders) consciousness myself, but there are beings and places that remind me of what I'm part of in a very direct way. Community, yes, and one where I don't have to think about fitting in.

Posted by: Ron at May 21, 2006 04:13 PM