Part of the Whole

“From the redwood forests to the gulf stream waters…” This lyric weaves through my head as we stand surrounded by stately giants. Imagine living 1500 years. The “Big Tree” we’ve hiked to inside Prairie Creek Park has. But it is far from alone.

Richard Powers’ Pulitzer prize winning novel Overstory talks about the intimate communication between trees, their roots forming a sustaining connection deep beneath our often oblivious feet.

Before we chose which of the wilderness trails to explore, we stopped at the Visitor Center across from Jedediah Smith State Park. Google is fine for an overview and provides interesting backstory about Smith, but the two people who greet us offer something we’re cherishing much more these days: human contact, granted we’re all masked and regulation distanced, but still…

They tell us that people have been visiting in a steady stream, though in reduced numbers, but assure us that we’ll have some company wherever we go. And we do encounter others, families, and lone hikers, bird and photo enthusiasts, but oh, it’s quiet in this cathedral of trees. This silence is a presence. I ponder Mark Strand’s poem, “Keeping Things Whole,” as fellow wanderers eddy around us.

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in   
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

To be still and sentient demands a discipline I often lack, but here among these ancients who pulse with life, their stillness and movement a mystery to me, I feel whole and part of it all.

5 thoughts on “Part of the Whole”

  1. I have never stood beside one of these, but I can just imagine how awe inspiring it must be. Just think if those trees could talk. What stories they would have to share.

  2. Your last line left me thinking about how still and sentient I am. For someone who has pretty much stayed home since March, I think I have room for improvement.

    My hold on Overstory just came in today. How serendipitous that you mention it.

  3. Wow, Patricia, your words are so beautiful. I love the closing lines of Strand’s poem:
    “We all have reasons
    for moving.
    I move
    to keep things whole.”
    And your beautiful concluding reflection on being with the redwoods has so many beautiful words and phrases. Here are my favorites:
    “To be still and sentient” “these ancients who pulse with life” and “I feel whole and part of it all”

    I’m so glad you got to enjoy being there!

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