big basin, part one.

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I am the most at home among trees.

I grew up around a lot of land. My father builds houses and we moved frequently but always to a new home with lots and lots of space around us. We’ve lived on wetlands and we’ve lived on the border of state forests and we’ve lived in houses set so far back the road disappears around a bend in the driveway.

I never had many friends growing up, which was fine. I didn’t like many people at school; they had different priorities than I did. They wanted to do different things. They wanted to talk about different things. They wanted to wear different things than me and they always made it seem like varying from their interests made you somehow less. They were what to strive for. They were the ideal. I couldn’t keep up.

I spent a lot of time outside. I was a tomboy back then and I refused to wear anything other than dirty jeans and oversized flannel shirts my mother bought from Costco. My hair was always unwashed. My knees were always skinned. There was always dirt underneath my fingernails.

I’ve never known comfort like the quiet of a forest. The sounds of the world fade away around you and you’re left with branches cracking or creaking and leaves blowing and small animals in the underbrush. Most of my memories under the age of fourteen are me, alone, in trees.

After Big Sur we stopped in Santa Cruz at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The road to get there was eight miles of no cellphone service and twisting, skinny pavement. We saw a coyote darting among the trees. We got carsick. We drove slowly.

The trees grew bigger and bigger the further away from town we got. Finally they were almost big enough to drive through, big enough to stand inside, big enough to lay down in. I thought of a forest of tree-dwellers and an amiable black bear. The park ranger told us not to worry; there hadn’t been a bear sighting in a hundred years.

We passed a handful of people as we hiked into the forest. The light grew patchy and green. The air smelled like soil and something almost bitter. I took too many photographs of trees where the day before it had been rocks.

I felt at home among that wilderness. I felt peaceful among those impossibly large trees, those monoliths of wood.

Do you know about that Russian family that lived in the forest for years and years? S asked.

I wanted to do that. I wanted to set up camp. I wanted to never leave. There were plenty of places to hide. We’d never be found.

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photographs taken in Big Basin Redwoods State Park in California.

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