Bark closeup Julia Hubbel

A return to the redwood forests becomes a watershed moment for this wanderer

The light drip of rain in this part of the forest ends up a fat plop. Far above your head the fine needles collect the moisture. It gathers and then falls to splatter on your upturned face.

Redwoods. I was back. I had no idea it would be so emotional.

I can't recall exactly when I was here. It was some forty years ago, the first time I had driven north in California. Back then I had a dream, like many, to live there. I was living in Colorado, traveling back and forth to Australia. I was taking the time it took to get new visas to drive West and see the countryside.

Arizona, Nevada, Utah. A key and a heater, they said, when I  had bought my little truck. Summer was brutal as I drove with the windows open across the desert. Not sure which was worse; sweltering inside without moving air, or trying to exist in a convection oven with the windows open.

My little truck with a camper shell. The truck had a name, Martha. That Ford afforded me many a safe night in turnouts and quiet spots all over this big state.

These days I'd likely be arrested, or considered homeless. Back then I was just exploring. Still am, but at a very different level.

I drove the 101 up the coast. Fell in love with the wild, rocky beaches, the wind-swept bushes, the dizzying cliffs. Then I came to the redwoods.

There was something about the sky scraping trees and the waist-high ferns which felt like home in a way that I couldn't possibly explain. I was deeply drawn to the great stands, the stunning silence within the protected spaces. I wanted to stay close to those trees, to the cold Pacific, the windswept sands.

I dreamed of a high-peaked house, a big fireplace, surrounded by such trees, delicate ferns everywhere, the cold surf on the beach not far away. Oh my god, to have such a dream come true.

I left transformed. I never moved to California, but instead remained in Colorado for the most part for nearly fifty years.

At some elemental level, I never forgot about the trees, the ferns, the rocky shoreline. A child of Florida, I am drawn to water, but not those hot, sweaty, flat beaches. Here, where the bald eagles soar in search of fish and the roads cup the curves of the coastline, I was more at home than any other place on earth.

Natural Bridges
Photo by Karsten Winegeart / Unsplash

In December of 1990 my then-husband and I had driven the 101 south from Astoria to Gold Beach, then up the I-5 back to Portland. Once again I was entranced by the forests, the beaches and the cold, rocky shoreline.

I wanted that so badly....but then got swept up in life, loss and legging it through a corporate career.  My dreams slipped into the mists of time.

Finally in 2020, I left Denver and bought a house in Eugene. It's been rocky economically. I've been consumed by surgeries and injuries and house setup and Covid. We all have been distracted. My company failed, and I panicked.

However when I announced my intention to shed the house that I had just purchased, having stripped it of all my goods, having been spooked by that failed company, my dear friend Dr. Rosenna Bakari said that at that moment, she had thought this:

That house isn't through with you yet.

The For Sale sign is still up.  For now. However, Rosenna was right. The home didn't sell, and I am still in it.

Yesterday I found out why.

I sat on the bench in the cold, my breath pluming in front of me. My newly-repaired foot full of metal and gears, angry. My hands, full of newly-repaired metal tightropes, angry. A good long hike would have to wait. However from where I sat I could see.

Really see.

It was like looking out into my own yard, only the trees aren't quite as big. They aren't redwoods. But the waist-high ferns, the soft humidity. The trails which looked so much like one of my favorite Eugene hikes at Spencer Butte.

My house, which perches prettily surrounded by tall firs in Eugene, is precisely what I have always dreamed about.

I had done it. I was so damned busy being so damned busy I nearly missed it entirely.

From my deck I can reach out and touch the great stout firs which are inches away. Listen to the sussuration of the breezes, feel the same plop of gathered water on my face as right here, right now, in the redwood stands.

I had a  high-peaked house with a fireplace in the deep woods in the Pacific Northwest, barely an hour from the beaches I so love.

How many times have we already arrived in Heaven, as defined by us, and can't see it?

How many times have we landed in Perfection, as defined by ourselves, and can't touch it, smell it?

I almost walked away without realizing what I had.

Forty years in the making, I had finally carved out the house and the hill and the forests and proximity to the wild coasts in a smallish town where people help you with your groceries when all you had were forearms, because your two hands were in casts.

Truth, economics being what they are, I have no clue how long I will be there. But economics have already prevented me from selling it, and for now, it's time for me to buy another bed.

I'm sticking around.

Not making that mistake again.

When my aching hands and feet got to the point where I couldn't just sit and stare at the Paradise which I also had waiting for me when I got back home, I stood up, tears rolling down my cheeks.

All I could think was

Thank you.

Somewhere, in the stillness of that magnificent forest, in the soft waving of the branches and the plop of the rain on my ball cap, I am sure I heard....

You're welcome.

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