“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir
“The concept of California as unspoiled, raw, uninhabited nature–as wilderness–erased the indigenous cultures and their histories from the land and dispossessed them of their enduring legacy of tremendous biological wealth.” M. Kat Anderson, Tending the Wild
The California coast redwood forests of the East Bay were home to the many native peoples who tended and lived in and with them for tens of thousands of years.
*tkei-Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to settle, dwell, be home.”
Our family roots go back to England, Germany, and France. But I’ve always been susceptible to the landscape where I am. So, for a new year, a new walk at Rheinhart Redwood Regional Park to break the spell of screen light, to dwell where we are, to be home.
Sequoia sempervirens love the morning fog off of the Pacific and don’t do well when planted too far inland, so we drove thirty minutes west into the Oakland hills above the bay.
“Fog has been declared and shown by satellite to be in decline.” C.D. Wright Casting Deep Shade
Range is a noun and a verb with 15 meanings:
range (iv.): 1. a. to roam at large or freely
“the tallest trees on earth (up to 369 feet, [coast redwoods] occur in a narrow belt 5-30 miles wide along the coast from the Oregon border to the southern border of Monterey County” -M. Kat Anderson
range (n.) : 3. c. the region throughout which a kind of organism or ecological community naturally lives or occurs
“Redwoods have durable decay resistant wood and…in the face…of fire…they are protected by an insulating layer of bark and are able to sprout back. If the entire crown of the tree is fatally injured by fire, clones sprout from the base, forming ‘a family circle'” M. Kat Anderson
range (n.): 1. b. an aggregate of individuals in one order
In the East Bay the first growth trees, some of which were likely older than Jesus, were all cut down by 1860. Their peoples were similarly hunted and killed by European settlers (English, German, French, among others). Their people are still here, but in small numbers and scattered. What’s left of the forests is the second generation. These are baby trees.
range (v.): 1. b. to place among others in a position or situation
c. to assign to a category
It was only a few generations back that “[s]cores of local organizations and thousands of activists spread the gospel of green to people around the bay…The majority of these activists were [white] women.” (Richard Walker, Great Women and Green Spaces, from Infinite City)
“I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.”
So, white women protected the second generation of redwoods in the form of shared open spaces and parks which are also the graveyards of their first people.
range (n.): 7.b. the distance or extent between possible extremes
However sparse, these remaining belts of baby coast redwoods are still home to a wide variety other tiny beings who, just like us, eat, drink, sleep, and wake to sing their songs to the dawn. (see aubade)
range (n.): 6. of an organism : to live or occur in or be native to a region
Trying to see to the top of canopy, my kids bend their necks until it looks like they might snap. I feel sick and a little dizzy looking up, up, up.
How to make amends to the living and the dead? Perhaps begin with song.
range (n.): 6. b. the extent of pitch covered by a melody or lying within the capacity of a voice or instrument
“Aubade with Redwood” by Tess Taylor, from Rift Zone