Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Walk through the Woods

The week before last, we wanted to take a walk through the woods. It was not an easy wish to be satisfied, considering the nearest woods were an hour’s drive away from home and cost $5 per person. But even flimsy excuses never work with it’s a holiday and there are four people in the house milling about aimlessly. Surprisingly, I was even willing to sacrifice a nice sleeping-in-on-a- holiday session for this trip, and that happens only on extremely rare occasions. So we packed our lunch before I had time to change my mind to snuggle back into bed. A previous trip to Muir Woods was too long ago to be conveniently forgotten, and I didn’t waste my energies to try and remember. My energies had been solely reserved for the greater adventures of the day, and I didn’t want to waste them on daydreams.

An hour later, this felt too good to be true. It was incredible that I had escaped the drab old concrete of the city and the discomforts of congestion, in a matter of less than an hour! It was also hard to believe that true paradise existed so close to home and that I had been so blind to it. The Muir woods stood beckoningly before me. I took in grateful lungfuls of air, enjoying the smell of Californian redwoods, and the rejuvenating freshness of the air. There was a surreal perfectness to these woods, and they were exactly the way I had pictured them be. Something about the way the light came down in dim, magical streaks to the world alive in silent seclusion enchanted me. Surrounding me was a colourful little world full of pleasant smells, moisture which clung to my body, and incredibly tall trees. They reminded me of countless fantasies—everything from the Forbidden Forest of Hogwarts to the forests of the Land of Narnia to the recent fantasy movie A Bridge to Terabethia.

I remembered that the redwoods were one of the tallest tree species in the world. The fact looked undisputable as I stared up to the skies, trying to gauge the lengths to which they extended. There was an air of permanence about the place, like these mighty trees had lived for all of eternity. It was hard to believe that they would fall one day, when I observed how clearly rooted they were to the ground, and how they clung to the earth with a solid force. I took time to read those little information boards all along the way. Apart from describing plant anatomies, they told me stories, making me want to attribute character to each tree. They were the voice of these ancient gaints, echoing the many years of growth, experience, and struggle of the trees. They told me of trees charred to death by forest fired, yet miraculously produced shoots next spring, of weather-beaten trees too old to live who had bravely continued to stand against all odds. “This tree is Wise,” I felt like saying, “And the other one over there is a grouchy fellow….” I learnt of the way the redwoods guarded the tender world below them by diffisuing sunlight. And by doing that, they were painting the world below with splendid colours. Everything from moss to ferns thrived in the gracious shade of the redwoods. We hiked through a forest trail (although a not a very challenging one), reveling in pleasant talk and clicking pictures. We did spot a little deer (it definitely looked like one), feeding on some leaves by the side of the little creek. That had me all excited. I definitely felt refreshed, and couldn’t believe I had actually considered sleeping-in to this heavenly experience.

I was also reminded of one of those episodes on Discovery Channel. It is about ‘Forest Therapy’, and also about the way in which some civilizations worshipped the forest. Some civilizations actually believed that the woods had some untapped healing power…..a way of gently cleansing you of respiratory problems, curing you of mental sickness and reviving you. A walk through the woods was supposed to be the answer to your sickness, a gate key to heaven. As we rushed back home through the crowded streets of San Francisco, it seemed like someone had wispered this timeless secret in my ear. I knew, without quite knowing how I knew it, that there must be some hidden wisdom in that belief after all.

(The credit for all the pictures goes to my little brother, who was adamant to capture as much of the experience as possible.)