Tag Archives: California

I Am Sequoia

A ray of sunlight finds its way to the forest floor where I was patiently waiting to bathe in its life giving glory. Day after day I would wait for that brief few minutes of nourishing light and with all my strength I would reach upward trying to grasp it. The light was not abundant on the forest floor but as I grew taller my daily sun bath grew longer. For a while I was afraid that some animal was going to eat me during the night, but the taller I grew the more confident I was that nothing could harm me. I am a mighty Sequoia Redwood. I have been standing tall on the north western coastline of North America for over half a millennium and this is my story.04-lone-tree-714

I was fortunate, as a seed falling from my mother tree, to land in an ideal spot to germinate where the sunlight was able to penetrate the dense canopy above that was the needled branches of my relatives. The soil was rich, the air clean and fresh so I was able to grow tall and strong but I seemed to slow down well before I reached the heights of the others. And as the years passed and I took my place among the other trees I struggled to draw up enough water to nourish my highest branches. . But then I found a new source of replenishing water. Fog. The fog rolled in off the ocean most every day which I was able to absorb through my leaves and reach even further for the life giving sun.

We lived in harmony with the earth for hundreds of years, some for thousands. But then came a creature that did not know peace or harmony. These creatures murdered thousands of us. A once flourishing forest dwindled as they fell one tree after another and hauled the massive dying bodies away from where they stood for so long. These creatures made a terrible buzzing sound and before long another of my family slowly crashed to the ground making an equally terrible wood splitting sound and sometimes taking with them a smaller neighbor unluckily in the wrong place. The attack by the buzzing creatures seemed to be on the largest of us. This genocide lasted for decades upon decades.  Massive holes in the canopy blotched the landscape with brown earth. Dignified lives literally cut short.

We had been accustomed to the occasional falling of a brother at the hands of humans but these humans were different. The humans of the past took only what they needed from the forest be it deer, raccoon, or tree and we all lived in a symbiotic balance with one another and they rarely if ever took one of the giants. Falling a few trees here and there does no harm to the forest, in fact it allows the suns light to reach the next generation and sprout new life. But if too many are taken from any species, plant or animal, in a short time span, that species may be lost to the world forever. In my life I have been witness to some forest creatures that are no longer here. Some were lost because they were unable to cope with the ever changing conditions of nature. Some were lost to man.

Just when we thought we were going to be the next species to be eradicated from the face of the earth we got and unlikely ally. Man. Not exactly like the ones from the past who respected us but it was obvious that they cared. These men did not dwell in the forest like the tribes of past times. They only came to our aid when the other men came to cut us down. They would stand between the cutters and the trees sometimes enduring great physical abuse to save us. They would climb high in our branches and stay for weeks or months because the other men would not cut down a tree if it meant killing another man. The cutters would occasionally beat our helpers but not kill them. The only things they killed were forest creatures and trees. Soon came the watchers. These were men who came to watch the battles between the cutters and the helpers. The watchers brought even more watchers, some sided with the cutters and some with the helpers. I think most of them wanted the cutters to stop and let us live as we have for so long. By the time the watchers and the helpers pushed back the cutters, though, the forest was in a state of devastation. The landscape was bare and ugly. With so many trees removed from the forest there were thousands of animals without homes. Some of the misplaced creatures would not survive for long without shelter because fewer trees also means less shade on the ground to protect the sensitive ones.

Fortunately for all of us that the men who are the cutters changed their ways. They still cut down trees but not as many as often. And now they also plant baby trees in place of the ones they cut down. The bare brown earth began to be replaced by green. So I find now that I am an elder in a very old forest filled with an abundance of young trees. I am the tallest and the oldest for miles. I watch over the forest and every year I drop my seeds to the ground and hope that they find a ray of life giving sunlight as I once did. In my youth I thought that I was invincible and nothing could harm me. I was a mighty Sequoia Redwood. Now I am a mighty, but humble, Redwood. I always knew that we are all vulnerable to Mother Nature but now I know that something as tiny a human being can devastate the whole planet. I only hope that the cutters of the world are balanced by the helpers.

Natural Disasters

Tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, and earthquakes all can seem like the wrath of God to those who witness their destruction from a far. Pure evil to those who survive them and must deal with the devastation left in their wake. I don’t claim to have lived through a natural disaster or even witnessed one from a far, except on TV, but having lived in California my entire life I have danced with the occasional earthquake. But when I see the destruction that wind can unleash I can’t help but feel a little lucky. Not just lucky to not have been there, but lucky that I have not had to endure the aftermath of it all. Grief for the fallen, the displaced, the injured, and the alone. Lucky not to know what it is like to have your whole world literally in ruins.

I imagined: Waking up to roaring thunder and flashes of lightening that illuminates my bedroom. A storm is coming. I turn on the local news for details only to find that my life may be changing soon. A twister has touched down two counties away and is hop-scotching its way here.Screenshot_2013-05-24-22-57-13

I hurry outside to secure the storm shutters. The rain is heavy and the thunder is loud. I didn’t realize just how many windows there were until now. Back inside, my wife and I warm ourselves with coffee and flip between the local news and the national weather channels. This is real! An F-4 and expected to grow. We decide to head down into the basement, the safest place in the house to be if the worst should happen.

Even in the basement we could hear the rain pounding harder and harder and the wind howling as it grew closer. The speckling of debris against the house was a terrifying gage to judge the storm’s proximity. Not just the house but the earth began to tremble as if a freight train was running through my house. We huddle in a corner and plead with God for our lives and our home and for the wellbeing of the whole community but we are interrupted by what I can only describe as our house exploding around us. This is that serene moment when you except your fate and prepare to die. Time crawls and what is in reality only a few seconds, seems to never end. The tremendous noise and destruction around you seem to fade into oblivion as you await the inevitable.

I wake up this time to silence. I cannot move or see anything except a small blotch of sun light that must be coming from above. The tornado has moved on to destroy lives in another town. It’s cold. I’m wet. I can taste blood in my mouth. Where is my wife? Pain is the last sense to come online. I think my arm is broken. Where is my wife? I muster up the strength to call her name. Nothing. Have I lost my beautiful wife along with our home to this monster? Why could it not have been me instead? Will someone come and rescue me or will I slowly starve to death buried in what used to be my basement? Am I even still in my basement? I have heard stories of people being carried away by the fierce winds of a tornado. Is this punishment for my sins? I can do nothing but sit helpless and evaluate my life and hope and pray that this is not as bad as it seems to me now but I know that in all likelihood it’s much worse.

I hear something moving nearby. I call her name again. My wife moans and answer. She’s alive! No matter what else the storm has taken from me it did not take my wife. No matter the devastation to ourselves, our home, or our town, we are alive and will get through this disaster. I call for her to come to me but she cannot. We are trapped not five feet apart but I cannot see her. We take comfort in that we are together and we know it’s only a matter of time until someone comes looking for survivors.

Almost forty-eight hours had passed, pinned in the most awkward position possible, before we could hear the rescue party in the distance. We held each other emotionally and cried because we knew that the two day long nightmare was coming to an end. We gathered strength from somewhere we could not fathom and called for help until a rescue dog heard us. I was never so pleased to hear a barking dog in all my life. Freed from a brief stint in our own personal purgatory, the devastation that was left in the wake of the storm incomprehensible. Not a house, nor tree, was left standing. We were among the fortunate to have only lost things. Corpses being dragged from beneath rubble made that very clear. Neighbors were sifting through trash heaps that used to be their homes while clinging to bits of their former lives.

Some would clean up, rebuild, and move on while others would relocate to where the windy monster does not feed. But there are few places on earth without some form of natural disaster. We live in Tornado Alley, atop seismic faults, and at the bases of volcanoes. We are aware of the pending danger and do our best to prepare and prevent but in the end we are all subject to her wrath. We take what Mother Nature throws at us. We learn from it and we get stronger. Most of us will never know her wrath first hand but those who live through it will forever be changed by it. The rest of us lucky enough to miss the destructive power of Mother Nature should be ready to lend a hand, or a dollar, at a moment’s notice when she strikes the less fortunate. It could be you or someone you love.