Monday, January 19, 2009

Living With Wood

I live in a redwood forest. Here's my house plus the trunks of about a half dozen redwoods. Some of those trunks are 6 feet in diameter. They're about 200 feet tall, heading eventually for 300 if we humans don't screw the place up.

For a better idea of the scale of these trees in proportion to our houses, here's a photo of my neighbor Limey Kay's house:

When I was 7 years old growing up in Maryland, my best friend moved to Palo Alto, California. His family piled into their 1954 Ford sedan and drove away. He sent me postcards as he crossed the country: a buffalo, an Indian chief. And then when he arrived, he sent one final card: a redwood tree that you could drive a car through. From that day on, I ached to see California. They have trees big enough to drive a car through!

It took another 13 years for me to get there - to San Francisco - and it was the Summer of Love. Life was amazing. It took another 11 years for me to find La Honda. In the redwoods. On my quarter acre of land, I have 20 redwood trees ranging from 50 to 150 years old. Expected life span: 1000 to 2000 years.

I don't own these trees. They will still be standing 40 generations after I'm gone. After my house is gone. After all memory of my existence on this planet is gone.

Their patience calms me. Their spirit uplifts me. They are my cathedral and my home. Like the squirrels leaping in their branches, like the chickadees pecking at their cones, like the hawks perched at their crowns, these trees sustain me in my brief passage through life.

Wow. I just realized: After 40 years in California, I still haven't seen a tree you could drive through. Why would anybody want to do that?


  1. Your refuge is stunning! It must smell wonderful where you live.

  2. Among the redwoods, we have bay trees - with, of course, bay leaves. When it rains, it smells like spicy soup.

    Summers, there's the scent of sun-baked needles.

    I guess every place has its signature scents.

  3. What a wonderful place! I am trying to imagine the lovely scent of those beautiful trees...

  4. Glad your dream came true. Mine did too, two years ago. Now I live right next to the Jerusalem Forest. Your penultimate paragraph is so right!

  5. Well, hi Dina! It's a pleasure to meet you.