REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK

The road north to Orick is surrounded by deep green
forests thriving on the frequent rain.  Occasionally the road will swoop
down to reveal open meadows on one side and driftwood-strewn grey-black
beaches on the other.  The further north one goes, the thicker become the
forests and the thicker the trees that grow in them.  Just past Orick is
Rolf's restaurant, a meaty Germanic kind of place that specializes in elk
steaks, presumably made from the very elk who congregate in the meadow
outside the restaurant's big windows.  The turn-off to the restaurant is
Davison Road, which leads west a few miles through foggy green forests of
massive redwoods to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.  A little way past
the gate to the State Park, the road dead-ends.  Stacey and I parked and
walked about a tenth of a mile along a path until we came to a brook and the
entrance to Fern Canyon.  It had been raining off and on all day, and there
were many fewer people around than when Cec and I visited the canyon back in
2000.

Cec had called Fern Canyon
the most beautiful place she had ever seen in her life, and I know she would
have been incredibly happy to have her sister see it.  It was never enough
for Cec to have a good experience.  She always wanted to find a way for
those she loved to share in it.  (Which is why I'm being so detailed in
describing how to get there.)

We hiked up the canyon, which seems as though it has been cut with a knife.
The walls are virtually vertical, shimmering with dripping water, and
covered on both sides with a rich moist carpet of ferns.  I use the term
carpet deliberately.  Reaching out a hand to touch the walls, one feels
nothing so much as a cold, wet shag carpet attached to the fifty-foot walls.
The depth of the green in these ferns is impossible to describe adequately.
It is all the green you've ever seen concentrated in a rich and vibrant
texture.  Far above, redwood giants of a lighter shade of green tower over
the canyon.  From abundant evidence, every so often one of them tumbles into
the canyon.  Hiking the canyon is fairly simple, as the stony bottom is
basically level.  But fallen trees and occasional shin-deep pools block the
way here and there, and either a willingness to get wet or good balance and
good scampering skills are necessary.

A quarter mile or less up the canyon, we came to a spot between two trees,
each fallen and leaning cocked against the canyon walls, creating between
them a space which, while not exactly private, delineated a recognizable and
discrete area.  In the center of this space was a patch of ferns and
flowers.  Somehow Stace and I both seemed to sense that this was the spot.
We opened the package we had brought with us and there, in the center of the
canyon, in the center of the gathering of ferns and flowers, we spread Cec's
ashes.  The white-grey dust coated the moist leaves of the flowering plants
and sprinkled down among the roots of this island of life in the middle of a
rocky stream bed.  Neither Stace nor I felt compelled, or perhaps able, to
say anything out loud, though I did reflexively quote Stevenson:  "Home is
the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill."  I'm not
sure why I felt this was apropos, other than the sense I had that we were
bringing Cec back home--not to a home of family and friends, but to her
deeper home, the place where she felt at one with the earth and nature, the
kind of place where her spirit most fearlessly and hopefully blossomed, the
place where, she said, she most knew there was God.

A month or two before Cec and I visited Fern Canyon, she had had a
miscarriage.  She was tormented by losing this life within her and wanted to
go someplace where nature was at its ripest and most fertile.  Her need to
be in the midst of the deep green cauldron of life seemed to me to be met by
visiting this lush gash in the hilly forest of redwoods.  It seemed ever so
fitting to bring her back here, where she asked to be, and where the body
she left behind can become part of the tapestry of life at its richest.

from Jim's nightly e-mail, April 19, 2004

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