No, I haven’t uncovered any new revelation about my direction in life. I’m still flailing. But I am in Eureka, Northern California, close to the Avenue of the Giants, where Nerah and I spent two glorious days wandering through the soft, spongy floor of the redwood forest groves, the scent of moist wood permeating the air, while thrushes and jays made their presence known. The Eel River rambled by on one side as I tried to absorb the magnificence of these spectacular woods. This is another world, secluded from the intrusive clatter that is constant in ours. Here you can’t help but gaze upwards, marvelling at the sheer size of these beings while being soothed by the sound of swiftly flowing water. Benches are dotted here and there for weary travellers, or just as a place of respite.
Did I mention that Nerah hates having her picture taken? If she sees me pointing my camera at her, she immediately gets up and hides or runs away, all the while giving me a telling off. She must get that from me!
I am always in awe of the native American way of life. Long before we (Europeans) came along, these people lived off the earth, but keeping nature in balance was intrinsic to their survival. They used fallen redwoods to build their homes, but believed the house to be a living being. Isn’t that beautiful? To be so connected to the land and everything in it, to cherish what you take because it is a privilege not to be wasted. The planks used in the construction of these homes were regarded as the bodies of Spirit Beings, a divine race who existed before man, and who taught man how to care for the earth. No wonder walking in these woods feels like a holy experience.
I have discovered that the Eel River was incorrectly named after the Pacific Lamprey by Josiah Gregg, naturalist and explorer, and his party in 1849, while they were travelling through the area. They shared a meal of lampreys with the indigenous people who had provided them. Lampreys are parasitic and have suction type mouths which they use to attach themselves to larger fish and mammals, unlike eels, who have covered gill slits, teeth and are not parasitic. Lampreys have cartilage while eels have bones.
Prior to my arrival in Humboldt County, I spent a few days in Los Altos in the San Francisco Bay area, visiting a couple I had met in Paris last year while at a photography workshop. It was wonderful to have people to talk to. I’m a bit starved of human contact at present. Wes and Kathy offered me a parking spot outside their home while I visited. They fed me, took me out walking in a park to practice photography. They are both fairly experienced photographers. Wes has some photos that will be part of an upcoming exhibition. And then there is me……
They both were so enthusiastic in helping me understand the settings on my camera, speaking in some foreign photography language. And I think I’m a photographer. Oh, I have such a long way to go. We went out for a Mexican meal, complete with margaritas. Needless to say, I needed a nap after that, and they needed a break from me pouring my soul out onto the table. I’m sure they were scratching their heads after I left. When I say I’m flailing, I don’t think anyone really knows how much unless they spend a few hours talking to me. As John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. (Okay, okay, so it was really a comic strip writer by the name of Allen Saunders, but I didn’t hear it until John said it.) So, I’m not going to feel too bad about having no definite plans if life is gonna happen regardless. Ha!
This leg of the journey has been bitter-sweet, but I have long wanted to return here. My late husband brought me to this area several times during our first years together. I was wondering if I had romanticized Northern California over the years, or would it truly be as I had remembered it. I haven’t been back here for over thirty years and, while some things have changed, the redwoods have not lost any of their magic. Imagine visiting when the moon is full. Would you witness the trees moving ever so slowly and hear the moaning of the wind, which is perhaps only the giants having a chat? Would you feel someone brush your arm as he slipped past on his way to meet others in the glade? Did you catch a flicker of light from beneath the vegetation covering the entrance to a hollowed out tree? The imagination doesn’t need to be stretched to suspect there are hobbits in these woods.
These are old haunts, but necessary for my healing. When not filled with wonder at my surroundings I remember happier times, and also difficult ones. I realize that looking back isn’t always a healthy way to spend time, but sometimes a person has to go backwards in order to lay things to rest and begin to move on. I honestly don’t think a person ever fully recovers from certain traumas. Everything we experience in life leaves some kind of a mark on us. Some are beneficial and some are scars, but they continuously shape us into who we are and will be in the future. Although we sometimes have been profoundly hurt by others, the key is to take a long look at the person who caused such pain and know that it wasn’t really directed at us, but an expression of the pain they held within. We just happened to be close enough to suffer from it. I doubt I will ever be able to think of Greg without that pain resurrecting. My life will forever be separated by that moment when he chose to leave us. Before his death and after his death. And so, in the midst of this “after” period, I will stumble along with my hand reaching towards heaven and trust that God is guiding me. What else can I do?
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the colour which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”
― John Steinbeck,