There are a handful of places I think of often: the Redwoods, Mojave Desert, Escalante, northern Norway, Spain, and Vancouver Island. I’ve been to each of these places, absorbed its essence,and pondered and understood my kinship with its landscape.
Vancouver Island is neighbor to one of my favorite camping sites. The big island Vancouver is also home to some dear friends. Their home is often just a brief stop on our way to elsewhere. Yet, the day or two there fills my heart with a year’s worth of gratitude. Warm, loving, enlightened adults; bright, curious, playful and loving children, and oaks to lounge under in the afternoon, make their home a refuge. I think of our short visits often.
The Mojave Desert owns Death Valley, but also many unnamed and equally captivating places. Trips solo or with partner prove prosperous for those seeking big spaces and room to think, hike, sit, or even bicycle. The red rocks of Utah have been similarly generous in giving me lessons and memories. I dream of hikes through narrow sandstone canyons; creosote bush, cactus, and cholla rimmed campsites; and nights filled with owl calls that echo off of boulders. Somewhere within my soul is a desert rat, but I am one that rues the heat of summer so, in the north I stay.
And to the north I go in my dreams. I started dreaming of Norway as a kid. Remember those geography reports we did in grade school? Given a choice, my subject was always Norway. I think I saw a photo of a fjord in National Geographic while still in diapers because from the time I can remember I wanted to go there. Sure enough, it felt like home when I arrived in Oslo. Visiting for a month, only whet my appetite for things and places of Nordic ilk.
Spain. It’s a fascinating place. Diverse, rich in culture, and now after a few weeks on its Camino de Santiago, it is forever etched into my psyche. It was scribbled onto my menu of homes away from home by a childhood spent in California. Spain brought their conquering armies and priests to the new world, but also their architecture. Too the climate in California is similar. So, Spain with its temperate climate, oak trees, and tile roofed adobe homes offers many of the hallmarks I miss from my home state.
But then, there are the redwoods. The Coastal Redwoods speak to me often. I imagine myself there frequently. I dream of sojourns to the soft, cool, trails that meander around house-sized trunks. My Spain-like northern California home, was within easy travel distance to the Redwood Empire – a term derived from biogeography and not political boundaries – so I’ve a childhood full of redwood memories.
The truth though, is that my affection for the trees was inherited. My dad spent part of his youthful summers in the redwood groves. My mom was of the same Sequoia-loving ilk so, once hitched, there was a honeymoon and child rearing among the giants of the Redwood Empire. So you see, I too was born to adore them. Family trips and stories just reinforced what my genes dealt; an enduring appreciation for the plants, terrain, and climate of the Redwood Empire.
No other place features in my imagined wanderings as often or as prominently. I have no children, so have not passed this gene to any offspring. Yet, soon, my heart, my soul, my clay, will be further bound to the soil of one particular redwood grove. My parents wished to rest among these trees in their final sleep, and so they will. With their ashes mingling with the redwood’s mycorrhizae I’m certain to have difficulty staying away from these towering trees. And, I will never be able to look upon another redwood without thinking of my parents, but then, that is the case already.
So, in a few weeks, I’ve a home-coming. I go to the redwoods in flesh to put my parents to rest and perhaps give my wandering soul a respite: for they are peaceful trees and their groves have a great chance of appeasing my constant restlessness. Let’s hope.