Communing With Redwoods on the California Coast

Summer brings with it a sure set of rites and rituals — and everybody’s are private and distinctive. For our weeklong ode to the season, T has invited writers to share their very own. Here, the poet Barbara Jane Reyes describes a street journey taken yearly down the California coast.

My summers for a minimum of the previous decade have discovered me and my husband fleeing the unlawful firework spectacles and screeching sideshows in Oakland, Calif., and heading into the Santa Cruz mountains, right down to the Monterey Peninsula and throughout the iconic Bixby Bridge into Big Sur. In coastal redwood groves I eavesdrop on kids marveling at the oldest of the timber. “It’s so tall, it’s as tall as the moon,” one says to the different. I believe, “That line will end up in a poem I’ll write soon.” I can’t assist however hug these big timber and are available away with my hair and arms lined in spider webs; I thank them for sharing their area and whisper, “Excuse us, we’re just passing through.”

Loggers reduce down lots of the eldest redwoods over a century in the past, however the timber’ daughters develop in circles, or fairy rings, surrounding the stumps, and fallen trunks are lined with moss and mushrooms — turkey tail, pink-edge bonnet. We marvel what creatures or spirits reside in the hollowed-out trunks. Along the nearly dried-out creeks, the blackberry bramble is thick and painful, nevertheless it provides the good place to be nonetheless and spy on swallowtail butterflies. We climb uphill, the terrain beneath the redwood canopies smooth and funky, lined with branches and needles. Their root techniques sprawl and push up earth into staircases. Still additional uphill, we clear the tree line, and the terrain is now fantastic white sand, what stays of an historical ocean. Redwoods have given method to aromatic sagebrush, to twisted, easy crimson bark manzanitas, to ponderosa pine, and we watch the woodpeckers wage turf warfare upon each other.

On the Monterey Peninsula, we discover sea otters floating on their backs in the kelp — off the coast of Pacific Grove and Point Lobos, and at the entrance to Moss Landing Harbor, the place they roll their our bodies round in the water, huffing and scrubbing their fur. We sit on the rocks and watch them, not more than two meters away from us, unbothered by our presence. On the different facet of the breakwater, an otter dives into the surf and emerges with shellfish to crack open on its furry stomach. The harbor seals at the moment are pupping on the shores, and the salt air is crammed with their barking. In the scrub of the Salinas River Beach dunes, we rely the tiny brush rabbits darting into their burrows.

Dennis Stock’s “Big Sur, California” (1972).Credit…© Dennis Stock/Magnum Photos

All of this stuff inform me one thing about poetry — observing life sprouting from fallen, burnt, lifeless issues; the stillness and silence required to observe a single hummingbird ingesting the nectar of monkey flowers; our smallness below the 200-foot-tall, thousand-year-old timber; recognizing a kestrel or a Cooper’s hawk hovering above us at the peak of a mountain. I consider that Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, “The Windhover” — “the hurl and gliding / Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding / Stirred for a bird … ” As a lapsed (failed) Catholic — eight years at Holy Spirit School in Fremont, 4 years at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward — I believe, “My church is here, on the mountain, under the redwoods, by the sea.”

WHEN I WAS rising up in suburban Fremont, not too removed from all this magnificence, shade and texture, I didn’t know the names of timber, or flowers, or creatures. I’m positive I requested my dad and mom, and I’m positive that they purchased me and my sisters books, and took us to the public library as their approach of telling us to look it up ourselves. The pure world was a faraway place, past what we may see from the automobile window on household street journeys — to Cannery Row, to Hearst Castle, to Solvang and, finally, to Disneyland. Finding the trails main up into the mountains, away from protected and tame vacationer sights, memento retailers and public restrooms, was not one thing we did (I didn’t know we may). How many painstakingly composed household images do I’ve, of my three sisters, my dad and mom, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, carrying clear white sneakers and clear bluejeans, cameras slung round our necks, American place names printed throughout our newly bought T-shirts? I discovered so many of those images in my grandfather’s house in the small Philippine city of Gattaran, a harrowing 12-hour bus trip northeast of Manila. These have been the keepsakes we despatched “home,” to point out our massive prolonged household what our “American” lives have been like, our summers filled with consolation, leisure and security.

I wish to assume my grandfather would acknowledge me now, not as the pristinely clothed teenager safely distanced from buzzing, crawling, skittering issues however as his 50-year-old American granddaughter, rising from the brush lined in sweat, burrs, bug bites, scratches and cuts from a lot bramble, rocks in my socks and sneakers, my legs coated with mud and dirt, smelling like the solar, with a head filled with poems ready to be written down.

Barbara Jane Reyes is the writer of “Letters to a Young Brown Girl” (BOA Editions, 2020), “Invocation to Daughters” (City Lights, 2017) and others. She is an adjunct professor in the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program at the University of San Francisco.