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Watercolor pencil sketch at Big Tree Wayside

Watercolor pencil sketch at Big Tree Wayside by Peg

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The Fog and the Redwood Forests

October 8, 2012


The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

  -Carl Sandburg

The Fog and the Redwood Forests

Here along the Pacific Coast of Northern California, fog does not creep in on little cat’s feet. It lurks off shore, like it is hiding the edge of the world... Early mornings I watch it sweep across the horizon and roll towards land...suddenly I cannot see the edge of the cliff just off to my left. It comes and comes, thinning at times with the sun breaking through and turning the air around me gold.  Walking above the ocean, Sully and I see thick ropes of it crawling along the bays and estuaries below as it moves into the redwood forests.

The Fog and the Redwood Forests Fog and more fog... every morning: socked in. From Pt Reyes, north into Oregon there have been banks of rolling fog. Later in the day, as it dissipates, we still see wisps of it cross the path in front of us. Other times we are again engulfed in its great, gray wetness.

It is heading into the Redwood forests to continue its eternal job of nurturing the Giant Coast Redwoods of Northern California.

Not many left. Most of what can be seen driving up Highway 1 and then 101 is second growth redwoods, but a walk into one of the State or National Redwood parks reveals the textured and complex world of old growth trees - some more than 2000 years old. Short on resin they are fire resistant. Long on tannins, insects, fungus and mold do not bother them. Sadly, being fire and insect resistant makes redwood lumber a desirable, ever-lasting building material. Once cut, the boards will not rot in water or damp soil, and termites shun them.

The Fog and the Redwood Forests

Aggressive Steller’s Jays bounce around the edge of the woods and our camper looking for crumbs as we head into the forest. It’s a mile and a half walk to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in the southern section of the Park System. 

In the beginning, it was the tallness and breadth of some of the trees that kept us enthralled. Up, up we looked, hundreds of feet into the filtered light spreading down through the crowns.

The Fog and the Redwood Forests

It is a walk amongst survivors, a walk into history, into love and into community. The most serene of cathedrals.

The upper branches of these giant “old growth redwoods” live in another climate...it’s sunny and dry up there. Near the top live many species of birds, including the threatened Northern Spotted Owl and the endangered Marbled Murrelet. From their holes and nests they overlook the Pacific Ocean.

As we walk, all around us the trees are creaking and groaning... as if talking to each other. We feel enveloped by Another, a singular, sensual entity is surrounding us. 

It is the forest primeval, the Urwald.

The Fog and the Redwood Forests

When a redwood falls, whether by the hand of man or nature, it does not rot away. It lies on the forest floor for thousands of years until it disappears under layer upon layer of sediment. From its burls, branches and roots, new giant redwoods grow under the soft protection of the Pacific fog.

The Fog and the Redwood Forests

As time passes, some exceed the height of the tree from which they began. All the while their roots are surrounding and enfolding the trunk of the fallen, red giant.

The Fog and the Redwood Forests

It is a twisted, tangled embrace the giant redwoods form, as they give life and nurture to there own species,  as well as many other large and small organisms that flourish in the sediment that collects around their fallen mass. Life thrives in the roots and the dead arms of fallen limbs.

The Fog and the Redwood Forests

Traveling beneath the trees, I am struck with what a small creature I am. Small and with a very short life span. Towering above me are gigantic beings who will live, if left unmolested, for 2000 years.

Left unmolested, I might last close to a hundred years.

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