Weirdos in the woods…gotta love ’em.
What is it about redwood trees? “Tree hugger” used to be a term of mockery, perhaps still is in certain misguided areas, but anyone who spends enough time around redwood trees will see nothing silly in the idea of grabbing one for a good hug. I didn’t feel an urge to grab one at the moment, but was definitely feeling the love as I walked in among them on Saturday, the air almost as warm as my lady’s hand held in mine.
When I had told her I was going to be in Venezuela for my birthday, she’d scowled at me, then said “Fine, but I reserve the weekend before you leave!” So here we were, heading out for a picnic for two among the redwoods.
I didn’t appreciate the character of a redwood forest until I spent time in tropical rainforests. In the latter, you have to hack every footstep through biting ants and slicing vines. It’s a different form of beauty, still stunning, but the dense undergrowth pushes in on you as aggressively as the traffic of the city, Bangkok, Bhaktapur, Bogota, and every breath pushes in and out of you with the urgency of competition.
But in a redwood forest? The ground between the trees is shaded by the benevolent canopy above, and the earth is soft with duff and dust, clover and moss. Nothing in the undergrowth wants to bite you or bleed you. You can see the swells of the landscape, the architectural foundation for the cathedral of trees rising above, and the air is amiable and easy. You’ve found a sanctuary, everything is happy you came, and the greens soak rejuvenation into your soul.
We meandered into the trees, avoided a cluster of tables decorated with princess party paraphernalia, then swung again around a cluster of trees where a family seemed to be ducking down among the sprouts. People are weird. But I assumed they had a reason, probably letting some kid pee or something, so I nodded vaguely without looking closely in a polite gesture to say “I see you there, being weird, but that’s okay, carry on.”
Then we came around the tree and the people stood up and approached us. Was this going to be a problem? Hadn’t they seen my nod of live-and-let-weirdos-live?
Then I noticed something else: I knew these people. All of them. Childhood friends and new ones, a brother a sister a newly-met cousin, my parents for god’s sake. All smiling, all wearing goofy glasses and tiara’s saying “Happy Birthday!” with silver sparkles.
Surprise party? For me? In the redwoods?
I confessed in a previous blog that I’m not always comfortable with accepting love, but here was a group of people from various avenues of my life, making sure I knew they’d come for me. It… I…
I appreciate it. I felt it. I accepted it.
“Happy birthday!” they said, and meant it. “Were you really surprised? But you looked right at me….and nodded!”
“I thought you were peeing!”
Veggie burgers and tri-tip on the grill, delicious homebrew beer, card games, football flying, dogs wagging their tails, humans telling their tales, and family, friends, and loved ones all spent a few hours among the trees.
Wherever I am in Venezuela on the formal date of my birthday, I’ll be able to smile at the gift I was already given, a little pocket of redwood tree time of love and friendship that weighs nothing, but anchors me anyway.