Friday, July 20, 2012

Thinking about redwoods on the road to Ashland

Smith River, California
I had another idea about the sequoias on the way out of California.  The Redwood Highway took us by Jedediah Smith State Park and we glimpsed a few more of them.  Sequoia sempervirens, the Coast Redwood, has existed as a species on the coasts of northern California and southern Oregon for 20 million years.

Indulge me, just for a moment, and imagine that the great trees possess some vague sentience --some retained memory passed on through sequoia generations. 

"Pacific Madrona" in America; in Canada "Arbutis"
I love that smooth red-orange skin!
(It's not all that much of a stretch, actually.  As the park ranger informed me, the DNA of a single tree can continue for tens of thousands of years.  You see, often, when one of the great trees falls, one or more shoots may sprout up out of the fallen corpse and become trees in their own right.  These sprouts are actually extensions of the original tree.  It is one of several ways in which the sequoias perpetuate.  And it raises interesting questions about the nature of mortality, does it not?)

At a cat park near Cave Junction.  I didn't dig the place.  Bad vibes for the cats and from the hosts. 
Anyway, if we entertain this idea about a collective memory, or a sentience of some kind that exists within the eerie-holy groves overlooking Pacifica, the sequoias remember a time when giant sloths and saber-toothed tigers and three-toed horses ambled and prowled and scampered at their feet.  They remember a time when whale spout was very rare and when the world was slightly warmer.

Restuarante mexicano en Jacksonville
Lentitud del servicio, pero comida deliciosa

The arrival of the bipedal apes, which occurred in the last twenty thousand year blink of a geologic eye, has been a catastrophe.  Even as the spew and roar of the great mountains to the north changed the landscape, the apes suddenly and savagely took to preying on the solemn giants.  They leveled 95% of the great groves. 
This is the life
To have survived these millions of years and to find themselves on the verge of extinction --talk about being confronted with mortality!  Were the trees making their peace with whatever deity they might conceive as they awaited the bite of the apes' contrived teeth?  Are they yet?

But now, for a time anyway, the apes have halted their slaughter.  Rather than reaping the trees, they've taken to wandering among the giant roots.  They putter around in their noisy, stinky contraptions or lope on their hind legs, swinging their arms harmlessly.  And they peer up toward the tops of the great trees or place their hands on the vast boles and grow solemn and quiet.

It all happened so fast.  Where does it go from here?  Will the apes finish off the last of the great sequoias before they follow the giant sloths and the saber-toothed tigers and the three-toed horses into oblivion?  Or will they become nurturers and protectors?

Crazy, eh?  No answers for those questions.  Trees and apes must each look to their respective deities.

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