Redwood Fog: A First Dip into Phenomenology

The sun’s warmth calls in the fog. The air feels heavy, the world enclosed around me. I can see the droplets of fog moving toward me; I breathe them in, swallow them; the drops cling to my hair, my eyelashes. The sky feels close. The sky does not exist.

As I step off the hard concrete of the sidewalk and onto the soft, leaf-strewn path, the world shifts. The density of the trees now surrounding me begin to block out the reality that I am in the heart of a thriving city. With each step I enter further into a quieter world. My footsteps are muffled and the ground has a certain give, almost an elasticity beneath my feet. Before me, on either side of the path, redwood after redwood stands in silent vigil. Their dark trunks seem quiet, but the further I walk the more I hear new sounds. A slight creaking in the upper, slimmer branches. The softest splattering of water drops on leaves, as the fog condenses on twig and leaf, descending in widening pearls of water. The smallest drops of water can nourish these trees as they drink in through both their roots and branches. The fog lies so heavily upon this city grove that it obscures the uppermost branches of the redwoods, making the height of the trees seem nearly infinite; they disappear long before they end.

As I move toward the heart of this small yet encompassing forest the landscape becomes darker, the few glimpses of light beyond the woods standing out more starkly than the tree trunks themselves. Walking up to one of the redwoods I lay my hand upon its bark. At first sight it seems to be so rough, split open with massive chasms as the tree has grown ever larger over the decades. Yet under my fingers I realize this bark is soft, the fibers feeling like unwoven fabric to my touch. The faintest trace of moss grows upon the outer surface of the bark, fading imperceptibly to the reddish-brown of the tree’s natural hue. Beneath my hand the tree feels so richly alive, yet so still, existing at a pace almost, but not quite, slower than I am capable of imagining.

Redwoods in Fog

As I turn my back to the tree and lean against it in full repose, I see a single leaf fall into my line of sight before settling anonymously upon the forest floor. The ground is everywhere strewn with brown leaves, a full covering that lets off a rich, fragrant scent; yet watching this single leaf fall I recognize that each of these leaves has made the journey from branch to floor in its own time and in its own way. Each one has a story, although perhaps few have a witness other than the tree that released it to the ground.

At last I separate myself from the tree on which I am leaning and continue through the woods to its edge. The pathway opens out; the pathway ends in rose blossoms.

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2 Comments

  1. earthling3

     /  September 10, 2013

    Lovely, Becca. Thank you. I revere redwoods. I made a pilgrimage to the Jedediah Smith Redwood State and National Park in June. It had been at least 20 years since I had been in the presence of these beings. I alway feel I’m in the presence of the sacred in a redwood grove.

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