Wednesday, July 21, 2010

If a Tree Falls in the Forest...

As I’ve mentioned, we recently moved, and are now living surrounded by redwoods. I am in love with the redwoods. One of my favorite things to do these days is to walk my lab, Stuart, up the steep road that zigzags through the trees.

The air smells delicious. Along with the redwoods, the fir, oak, and bay trees all mingle with a little wood smoke, sometimes a tinge of salty seaweed if there’s fog heading in from the Pacific. Walking through the dappled light, I get why fairy tales take place in forests, why the word enchanted often precedes the word forest. There’s magic in the air, sometimes even the feeling I’m stepping on sacred ground.

About ten years ago, a landslide ravaged the lot next to us. I’ve been told that redwoods fell like a line of dominos, one knocking down the other, pounding the earth below into muddy oblivion. A road collapsed. An old empty cabin and a couple of storage sheds ended up at different addresses altogether.

This, apparently, was not the result of an act of nature, but of some type of malfunction concerning a water tank cap. Despite the big screw up, the hill has healed, sans redwoods, into a stretch of sun-drenched acreage, full of brush too dense to walk through – mostly blackberry bushes, ferns, cattails, and young bays.

But hanging on, literally, for dear life, stood – or leaned is more accurate – a circle of seven redwoods at the edge, nearest the road. The landslide had moved them, but it hadn’t brought them down.

The writer in me saw them as a metaphor: a redwood family that had gone through some hard times when the earth got pulled out from under them ten years ago, but had hung on and managed to thrive, albeit at a somewhat disconcerting angle. An against-all-odds bravado type of lean. I could almost hear them say, "Yo Adrian. We did it!"

Recently, the road above their root system began buckling. When we sat out on our sunny deck, the trees creaked and swayed and leaned – a bit more, it seemed, every day.

Someone called the county. Men came out with their hardhats and clipboards and assessed the situation: Those trees had become as loose as a six-year-old’s front teeth. They had to come down. By the next morning I heard trucks. I heard saws. I heard a helluva lot of swearing.

Cutting down towering redwoods is not, evidently, a walk in the park.

A man knocked on my door. He told they would be cutting down the trees.

“That’s too bad,” I said.

He nodded. “Yeah. But they gotta come down. A storm. Wind. Someone could get killed.”

Craning my neck, I asked, “Which way will they fall?”

“The same way they’re leaning. Up the hill that-a-way.”

“Not this way?”


It was a still, foggy summer morning. “So,” I said. “If something goes wrong, say, a storm suddenly kicks in and the wind blows this way, you’ll, you know, yell ‘timber’?”

He smiled patiently. “Yeah. But don’t worry. Those trees aren’t coming anywhere near this place unless there’s a hurricane.”

I stood at the window and took pictures. There was no wind, but still, I worried. I worried about the birds that might be nesting in the branches. I worried about the deer and raccoons that might have dens on the hill. And I worried that I was trusting a complete stranger that the trees would not fall down on our roof. A complete stranger, who could have, for all I knew, just that morning begun his career in tree-cutting.

One guy went up and up and up in a cherry-picker basket, as far as the crane would go. The redwood still loomed high above him. Cherry trees barely graze a redwood’s knees. He took his buzzing saw to the tree. Leaning way out of the basket, he cut a wedge into the trunk. Then he sawed a bit more on the other side, and jumped back. There was a lot more yelling from below. The tree fell straight over, just like the man told me it would. Our whole house shook. Stuart barked and ran in from the other room and sat on my feet.

One by one, the trees came down while I watched. I understood that cutting them down was a safety measure, that even I would feel more comfortable sitting on our deck without their creaking and swaying that could one day give way to a huge SNAP. But I felt melancholy. Those redwoods had been a symbol of resilience for me. Of never, never, never, never giving up, as my friend Ellen has taught me. It has been one of those times in life when I can use those kinds of reminders. I know that a lot of us can these days.

But what was I supposed to make of this? Never, never, never, never give up? Withstand life’s landslides? Live and learn and learn how to lean? But don’t be surprised if someone comes along after all that and cuts you off at the knees?

See what I mean? Depressing stuff. So I decided that this was one of those times when, as a writer, I was simply here to bear witness. I didn’t need to apply a bunch of metaphors about tenacity. I didn’t need to interpret or plant my own symbols into this story. I just needed to tell it:

A tree fell in the forest. And I was there. I saw it. I heard it. Then six more fell. They did not go quietly. Each and every one made a thunderous sound.

End of story.

Until the other day, when Stuart and I were on our walk, and I saw something in the concrete. Now I'm letting this redwood have the last word:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Facing My Virtual Shyness

Seré has joined facebook.

Seré is apparently the last person on the planet -- or at least in her high school class -- to join facebook.

Seré is now friends with you and ten other people.

Seré is now friends with twenty, thirty, forty other people.

Seré has a lot of cousins.

Seré was tagged in the photo albums Really Bad Hair Days, What Were They Thinking?, and Oh My.

Seré considered changing her profile. But after all these years, she has pretty much come to accept her nose.

Seré commented on her sister's comment on her friend's friend-of-a-friend's video.

Twelve other people shared this.

Seré is now learning about privacy settings. This is a lot like first learning to lock the bathroom door. A lesson learned quickly -- for everyone's sake.

Seré thinks the facebook directions explaining that you can "Quietly Ignore" a friend are impossible. To quietly ignore someone is an oxymoron. In fact, the word ignore should always be set in capital letters, as in quietly IGNORE.

Seré was poked by her husband this morning.

She did not choose to quietly IGNORE him.

Five people like this.

Seré has joined the group People Who Shopped At Safeway Last Wednesday Evening.

Seré just says no thanks, y'all, to FarmVille. She eats only organic produce and free-range animals raised without pesticides, hormones, or the addicted frenzy of tapping computer keys.

Seré added the application Positive Affirmations. Every day she clicks on "I am good enough, I am smart enough, and dog-gone-it, people on facebook friend me."

Seré added Constantly Checking My Facebook Page to her activities.

Seré is getting over her virtual shyness. Way over. In fact, she is now in danger of earning a reputation as a facebook -- well, let's just say she's confirming like caraazzzzy. *grins and raises eyebrows while fanning hat*

Seré is considering joining Facebook Anonymous. But alas, she realizes this, too, is an oxymoron.

Seré is drawing the line at blogging and facebook. She will not tweet. She will not. She will no...

Seré is afraid the writing's on her wall.