04 February 2009

Cathedral Hush

Perhaps I spent too many years under the spacious skies of the southwest, but I am more often drawn to the wide panorama of the sea or the grassy vistas of high prairies than the secluded depths of the forest. When I dare to enter its lush green underworld, the redwood forest overwhelms me with silence and timelessness. A recent wander along Lost Man Creek roused a vision, yet left me searching for words. Just as an amateur photographer can never capture the majesty of the redwoods, an aspiring scribbler such as I, is hopelessly, shamelessly lost in painting with pen the verdant blanket enveloping the lone traveler. In my wordless stead, I substitute the words of the more accomplished Mr Steinbeck:

"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 color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time."

"There's a cathedral hush here. Perhaps the thick soft bark absorbs sound and creates a silence. The trees rise straight up to zenith; there is no horizon. The dawn comes early and remains dawn until the sun is high. Then the green fernlike foliage so far up strains the sunlight to a green gold and distributes it in shafts or rather in stripes of light and shade. After the sun passes zenith it is afternoon and very quickly evening with a whispering dusk as long as was the morning.
"Birds move in the dim light or flash like sparks through the stripes of sun, but they make little sound. Underfoot is a mattress of needles deposited for over two thousand years. No sound of footsteps can be heard on this thick blanket. To me there's a remote and cloistered feeling here. One holds back speech for fear of disturbing something - what? From my earliest childhood I've felt that something was going on in the groves, something of which I was not a part."

"And only these few are left - a stunning memory of what the world was like once long ago. Can it be that we do not love to be reminded that we are very young and callow in a world that was old when we came into it? And could there be a strong resistance to the certainty that a living world will continue its stately way when we no longer inhabit it?"


Jack said...

Good choice with Steinbeck!

Kym said...

The hush in a redwood forest feels as if something is watching and it doesn't always feel benevolent! No wonder after what we've done to the Redwoods.