Archive for December, 2008

return to the redwoods – part 1   15 comments

Posted at 11:43 am in california,memory,rivers,trees

After quite some absence, I’m back – writing, that is. It seems that I want to mull over things for awhile before putting together words to describe what I’ve seen or felt. Meanwhile, life goes on here in southeast Arizona, where I’ve chosen to spend this winter. I may jump ahead and write about some of that soon — there’s no real need to be concerned about chronology as this isn’t so much an account of a trip that runs from point A to point B, but of a different kind of journey that exists outside of time and place.

In the last post I wrote about spending two or so weeks along some favourite rivers in Oregon. From there, I had hoped to move on down to the northern California coast for a few days before continuing on to Arizona. However, the weather turned bad, resulting in some changes to my plans. Still, I did return to some of the places where Don and I had camped, hiked, or visited while in Oregon and California in autumn 2006. One of my first stops was at a wayside trail where California Pitcher Plants (Darlingtonia californica) grow, and which I had taken Don to see on our way down to California. I’ve been to this site several times over the years, so there are many memories attached to this place. The plants, also commonly known as Cobra Lilies grow in a swarm that always makes me think of a densely-packed flock of geese.

In one of those quirky moments that you gradually must become accustomed to, I could almost see, or at least imagine, Don leaning on the railing of one of the viewing platforms as he surveyed the flock of plants. The light and air temperature were similar, so it was easy to imagine this moment not far removed from another two years before. This was to happen countless times as I traveled through Oregon, California and Arizona. But then, that was part of the purpose for this journey – to reconnect with the “better memories” from before illness invaded our lives. Sabrina hadn’t been along with us on that trip, so I took time to explain the significance of these places in our personal mythologies.

From the Pitcher Plants, we continued down along the Smith River to camp at Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. On our last trip together, Don had chosen a campsite next to a redwood tree as he had never seen one until that day. This time, I chose a site just below the previous one, along the shore where I could hear the river. Occasionally, a drift boat would pass by, but otherwise, all was quiet and peaceful.

We arrived fairly late in the afternoon, so I ended up cooking our dinner in the dark. One thing I soon discovered was that it takes a bit longer to get things together when you’re traveling alone with your dog. In the past, one of us would have taken Sabrina for a walk, then helped to get things unpacked and set up. Alone, everything took that much longer, but eventually, dinner was made and Sabrina was settled down on a piece of carpet next to my camp chair. We sat next to our fire, listening to the crackling flames and the flow of the nearby river until late into the night. I’ve spent enough time next to rivers to know that each place has its own sound, and that of the Smith is etched into my mind, alongside those of so many others…

Written by bev on December 20th, 2008