Sunday, February 11, 2007

A forest of elders... and alders...

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

~ William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 1599

Early on in my stay at Jawbone I had plenty of time to get into the forest. And I had no fear of getting lost, no fear of injury, no fear of assault by bear or mountain lion or by some wayward thug...

Nope. Here I can wander as I see fit. Lots of folks like hiking the trails, going along the path, getting to the outlooks with vistas. I like the groves, away from the trails, the voices... in that cathedral-like space there is some room between the trees and the duff is thick and cool, soft underfoot.

To wander through the forest at Opal Creek is challenging in that the groves come and go as the landscape's terrain creates seperations via gully and rock outcrop. But even these "obstacles" provide another dimension. The gullies play host to small streams which in these steep sided hills provide ribbons of waterfalls... from 2-3 foot mini-falls to long 50 foot drops where moss and fern attach to the rock and huckleberries grow ripe into the late summer.

I've spent a fair bit of time perusing the notions of heaven and hell and have come to discard them as inconsequential. To me. I make no claims of expertise on philosophy or religion and have no qualm with most of those who believe in the duality of that place we may go upon our deaths, whether we're rotten or blessed individuals.

I do know that of the places I have been a quiet glade within an ancient forest is as idyllic as any I have found. I know Ed Abby loved his desert. As do I. The absolute dimensional overpowering of the desert landscape is awe inspiring. I've seen desert night skies so clear that the Milky Way's 3 dimensionality staggers the mind. And it is perhaps that vastness that makes the confines of forested glade so compelling. If I were to meet god - in the guise of an individual - I would think these places are where he/she/it would want to meet me. The same occurrence in the desert and I'd be asking, "Coyote Old Man... what are you up to? Whats up those trickster sleeves?"

And when I wandered through those woods it was exercise like no other. Stooping, stretching, knee lifts and pulls with arms and shoulders... balancing while crossing a log nearly 200' long as it stretches an abyss. But really? The trees themselves are why I'm there. Why we all go there. The trees are our closest relatives. We cannot avoid familial relationships but the trees are closest because as they exhale, we inhale. And vice versa, as our exhalations become their inhalations. We breathe together, tied together in this sharing of breath.

There was a school for the deaf that visited us often at Jawbone. In the Hewitt grove there are a pair of talking trees. A huge pair of trees that lean together. And I think it was here that I saw Paul shine brightest. We would stop at the "talking trees" and these kids would go and wrap their arms around the base of the tree (they were huge) and the wind blowing high in the canopy would rock those trees and they'd creak, loudly. But the kids couldn't hear that.

But they could feel it... and the delight and joy expressed by these young folks was a reward incomparable to any other. And Paul... if ever there was an instance of his getting misty-eyed... this was it. He knew why he had come to Opal Creek.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

~ John Muir
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