You leave your car to the lot and start walking. Other tourists have spread into patched groups and couples, that scatter aimlessly into the trees. Their voices tune out, as if absorbed by the bark. You diverge from the pack, and make your way down the flat sawdust paths alone, until there are no reminders of the persistent presence of people.
The forest seems empty at first. Here sound has become a void and the smallest shuffle is multiplied, creating an avalanche of noise. Slowly, you can pick abruptions in the air. They rise and disappear fast. Crack. A dangling branch falls and reaps down a handful of twigs. They clump on the mattress of pine needles, that season the ground. Swoosh. A breeze ruffles through the young leaves. Critter. A thrush, or a squirrel, keeping you invisible company. Crackling. Crackling. Shoof.
You look up. The rusty trunks stretch higher and higher as you tilt your neck. The branches form spiraled staircases, too far up to climb. They take up the bright sky and relish, sieving leftover rays for the hungry scrubs, and turning the dark emerald leaves into zesty lime. Moisture rises from the fresh soil. Condensed drops dangle from the needles and diffract light.
There is a tiny stream there, that leads to a murky puddle of water. Small stick figures, gliders, break the peace of the surface and form circular geometric music. Water flows into the veins of the trunks and mixes with carbon from the air, creating food reserves for the cells, which sunlight triggers into life. A mechanism so conserved and ingenious it has changed the color of our planet from sediment rock to green. So energy-rich it has built living pillars into nature’s cathedrals. The further you walk, the faster you are forgotten in the expanding salons. Although it has never been dusted, this house is refreshed and filled to its seams with oozing oxygen that tastes sweet and brisk.
The unknown is often forgotten – like the innumerable bacteria in the soil and the shy mammals in the shadows. Everything here radiates life – young life in the sprouting ferns, that curl and spiral onto themselves, and old life in the spider webs on the immovable, gargantuan roots. They are so akin with the soil that they blend into the crust, seemingly reaching the heart of the earth. These trees have existed before you were born. Before any member of your species was born.
A single word is not enough to describe such a complex arrangement of life – like trying to fit the millions of thoughts and movements and lives into ‘city’. ‘Forest’ oversimplifies a roaming entity, ever tumbling and changing in its stillness. Breathing in and out like you, eating and willing to leave an impact, a permanent souvenir, a reminder of its existence – just like you – but for 240 million years.
Nothing in here is perfectly straight, swept, or round. Nothing to give shelter and comfort than an idea – an idea of being a part of the determined randomness. You are a product of cumulating trials and errors, aided by every past living creature, each a step closer to what you have become. And this wave of connection doesn’t pass through you but delves deep into your consciousness, and gives you force – as if one of the redwood trees had taken root in your veins. The filtered air makes its way to our lungs, its intricate bronchioles, to your blood, to your every cell – the electrons pump through your mitochondrial membranes and grant you energy and make you breathe out again. An exchange of essential particles – a business deal based on mutual interest. Though they care not much about us, the trees keep us alive.
And so you walk silently, listening in tranquility, not daring to wake these sleeping giants.