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.)


narendra shenoy said...

There is a book by the same name (A Walk through the woods) by Bill Bryson, which you must read.

Very nicely written, as usual. Hope you're enjoying San Fransisco.

CHeers, and keep writing

manasa sm said...

Hello Lakshmi,that was a wonderful post.How long did you stayed there.I think you might saw some birds too.Recently I gone throw your posts,they are simply nice.A GOOD WORK By locking through it I even gone back to my college days with you.We all(your friends)miss you.But we all are happy that you had taken your interested subject.All the Best.Keep on posting.We all are waiting for you,hoping that day will come soon

praneshachar said...

wow!!! what a great visit amidst nature and nature and missing one holiday sleep is nothing.The way u have narrated is superb and it was as of we were there along with you.

nice pictures taken by arjun and it has added icing to cake.

keep exploring and I will be part of this enjoyment.


Praveen G K said...

Nice, so you got a chance to go to the woods!! How lucky to have a place like that close to where you stay!! I would have loved to do such things!!

Take care and have fun, and as always, pleasure to read your blog

Anil P said...

Tall trees do add a sense of permanence to the place. And shadows rarely move where tall trees live.

Indrani said...

Thanks for the walk through the woods. Great shots, Lakshmi.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Mr. Shenoy: Really? I should soo try it out! Will check with the librarian! :-)
MANASAAA!!! How r u? How is ur life? Omg, i have tried to contact u a million times!! pl. mail me ur gmail id at I soo wanna stay in touch with you. Miss you sooo much gal, and all the fun times we had together! Remain connected, n don't forget to mail me!
Mr. Pranesh: Thanks. Yes, arjun is great with photography. He plans to make it his hobby. I hope to take you on more adventures in the days to come! :-)
Mr. Praveen: I know u would love to have gone to the woods too! You could spin out some great posts after it (not that u aren't great now):-)
Mr. Anil: Thanks for the comment. Yes, trees do add a sense of permanance to the place. Keep dropping in!
Mrs. Indrani: The credit to the photos goes to my brother! I'll tell him! Thanks for the comment!

Gardenia said...

Thanks for this nice read, Lakshmi. Forests as a place of healing - that is a nice thought.I like the observations you've made!

Swarna said...

Lakshmi - make a hobby of it! You are right - it does feel like therapy.
I get to walk though concrete jungles - :(

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

gardenia: U know, i'm envious of u. You can get that forest therapy every single day at the place u live! :D
Swarna:, the thought is exciting me already! Planning on escaping to yosomite national park this weekend! :-)

Pradip Biswas said...

Spent a major part of my life in deep forests of India which was a part of my profession of geology. Your writtings are very similar to my feelings when in 1976 I was posted in Deep jungles of Bastar(Chhatisgarh stste in India.) I have some short stories which may come up in Blogger. Hope you may enjoy them.

Pradip Biswas said...

Thank you Sayani for visiting my blog and your comments are very relevant. This is the field season for us, the geologists. And seniors like us have to from one place to another which involves lot of walking through forests,climbing on the hills, resting in the night on hanging nets under the starry sky. All of these shall be coming very soon in a series of blogs " from the diary of a fielld geologist" Just wait for few weeks. Good day.