Week Thirty-Eight: In California

a-pat-rppc-of-a-1930-s-car-driving-through-the-redwood-shrine-tree-myers-ca-9eadf30373f093d6302cbe3309c0c62dI remember the road trip where I drove through a tree. Sounds like a joke. But there was something to it.

I had never seen the redwoods. I love trees. I am the kind of person that has a picture on my Facebook actually hugging a tree. But, I had never been to see trees like this.

It was out of control. Like a fairy tale or a video game or drugs or giddy road trip with the person you love during which time nothing is quite real.

There was a winding road and some places you could pull off on the loamy side and park and walk past a huge tower of firewood and then a row of carvings.  These were mostly bears it seemed, but some were gnomes, too.  The carvings made a path to a little wood shed where a man with a beard sold wood carvings, firewood, small wood keychains, and bottled water for two dollars.  He was sitting in a rocking chair.  He had a cooler next to him and there was some jazz music coming from the house.  Above, wood smoke wafted off into these unreal tree branches. Curling, pointing, fading out; nearing the top of a limb, but then again not even close. Not the top of anything, not here.I’d have to crane my neck to see blue.

We bought a keychain.  Where would we possibly put a huge carved sculpture? It hadn’t been practical to stop. But the air smelt so good. And there can’t be that much traffic on a road like this.  Next we went to the admission station and paid to enter the attraction. Can you call it a park when you are paying money to drive through a natural living object that has been hollowed out?  How obscene it was.

And yet, magical. I couldn’t stop looking. I was taking pictures.  I think I was most enchanted by feeling small. Yes, I could have walked through a forest without my car and probably felt this in a purer, more pagan sense.  But, instead I was in a line of vehicles and we each slowly pulled up, waited patiently as we caught the moment on our devices. Moved forward to take our turn.  I couldn’t stop smiling. I was not immune to the commercial appeal. I wish I could say I hated it.

After I drove through the tree and took my pictures and had my fun, I felt hungry enough to consider the gift shop.  The shop smelled like apple cider, though it was not fall. There were a lot more gnomes.  There was a rack of chips and candy. A nice woman greeted us and told us where the sale items were. The bottled water was three dollars.  I didn’t want to buy anything here, but it was a long drive back to the highway and at least two hours to the town we were staying in.

I ate my pretzels gazing at the tree.  More cars were coming through. Children were screaming and parents struggled to wrangle them to get a well-composed picture.  The light started to fail a bit. It went from dappled to dim.

We got in our car and drove out.  You passed the drive-thru tree with fences around it, but could only go through it one direction. The admission only paid for one entry.

I felt cold as we drove the shaded curves of the road. We passed the carving man’s turn off.  He was bringing in his sign but the carvings stayed. I wondered if he had ever been robbed.

It was twenty minutes to the main road and I had offered to drive once we got there.  But until then, I just needed to rest my eyes for a minute.  The music was soft. Was this that violin solo I liked?

Just a minute. Life on the road is tiring. The build up. The let down. The need to keep moving. I could still pick out a murmur of the campfire smell. I rested driving away as the trees burned and the people kept wanting more, more, more.

This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it.







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