A friend of a friend holds an annual Celebration of Summer Party at the picnic grounds around Lake Lagunitas and this is the second year we’ve attended. This year we had my friend’s granddaughter along, a vivacious 9-year-old who didn’t actually want to be on the trip since everyone else was grandma’s age and anyway, she didn’t like the outdoors that much.
The day was beautiful under the redwoods. The food ranged from really good to outstandingly superior and the conversations flowed around the picnic tables. The guests had been asked to make a name tag for themselves and include “something they really cared about” on the tag. The somethings included a wide range from “love” to “the future of humanity” and gave rise to numerous ice-breaking openings.
An interesting group of people, good food, plenty of beverages of all kinds including wine and beer … so why did I so eagerly jump to my feet when the 9-year-old wanted to climb the steps and see the lake? With no disrespect meant or intended the prospect of a walk in the woods was more appealing than breaking the ice.
A steep climb of perhaps 200 yards brought us to the platform overlooking the lake and only a couple of phrases was enough to start us down the path that circled the water.
The redwoods make such a special environment, their majestic boles dominating the forest, the coolness their shade provides and the incredible freshness of the air coming straight out of the photosynthesis laboratories. My companion turned out to be a sturdy walker with a keen appreciation of the place. “Were these trees here when the Native Americans were?”
We discussed the ages of trees and which ones may or may not have been present to be greeted by the natives. We talked about deep time and the feelings of sacredness that the woods inspired. Nine-year-olds think about these things and discuss them in serious fashion, which delights me more than any talk about the price of housing or gasoline, or the relative merits of one location over another, ever does.
We saw newts and ducks and cormorants and turtles and birds of all types flitting through the branches and tweeting merrily away. We felt the cathedral-like atmosphere of the redwood forest and the pleasant tiredness of exertion. When we returned to the party it was with a feeling of having accomplished something so worthwhile that the entire day glowed.
In the woods one could easily imagine living in the time before we and our technology exploded over the face of the earth and changed the experience of living for human beings from within the web of life to domination and exploitation from outside (we think) its boundaries.
Gratitude is in order for the conservation of the remaining wild places for the opportunity they give us to regain the sensation of being part of life on earth. Gratitude is also in order for the young people whose open experience of beauty and nature renews our own appreciation of it.