“You are a light and I am here to remind you that there is more to your past than the things you’ve left behind you. There’s more to the future than the choices we have made, so don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid.”–Danny Dolinger, Walking in Power
20 years. It’s mind-boggling to think of it, and even more so to grapple with the facts and realities of all my life previous to the point where I somehow found my way to Humboldt County, California two decades ago. Of course, 20 years, or my accumulated total of 47 years are not even a blip on the radar screen of universal or geologic time on this planet; my hope has been, and still remains that despite the brevity of my cameo appearance upon this stage of life, that the longest-lived terrestrial beings of them all, the Sequoia Sempervirens, the old-growth coast redwoods, might notice, and appreciated my having been here.
All life, human life included, necessitates growth to ensure any measure of what anyone might consider to be success. This year, 2017, the Headwaters Forest Reserve turned eighteen-years-old. For the last couple years I have had the honor of making myself a part of Headwaters and its present and future, serving as a volunteer docent and tour-guide, and working to establish the community support interface group, Friends of Headwaters.
Headwaters, and the struggle to protect it, of which I was but a small part, and my early years of forest advocacy work following the consummation of the Headwaters Forest Agreement in 1999 has defined and solidified for me the path of life I continue to follow to this day. But, growth means branching out, reaching tall for the sky, and digging deep my roots to anchor myself to the earth and community that surround me.
On Saturday, October 28, 2017, I found my way to the Headwaters Forest Reserve at the South Fork Elk River Trail early, determined to hike the 11-mile round-trip loop-trail prior to the second annual Halloween at Headwaters educational event, of which I was an organizer and a part. I hit the trail that morning feeling like a negligent parent, having only been to either end of Headwaters only three times during the summer.
Hiking the first mile of the trail on the flat pavement through the site of the old lumber ghost-town of Falk always evokes images, impressions and visions; not of the ghost-town era, but of the 1990’s when this route was taken only under cover of darkness while dodging loggers, cops and security, making our way stealthily as we could. As I always now do, I stopped at the Visionaries Grove site, dedicated with a tree-planting in June of 2015 to all the activists who had dedicated their lives and time to the cause of saving Headwaters Forest. There, I simply stopped, palm flat-down on the dedication plaque, took a deep breath, and continued along my way.
A few hundred yards up the trail along the first mile I came once again upon the familiar old logging skid trail junction, still carved into the earth and sparsely vegetated, even all these years later, the hardened and compact ground defying any but the most hearty of plants from penetrating its surface. 200 redwood seedlings were planted at this old scar on the land in February as part of a Friends of Headwaters tree-planting day I helped coordinate. Here, nine months later, my heart was warmed beyond expression to find many of our seedlings had survived and were growing strong. What is nine months to a tree that may live 2,000 years? It is a beginning, and maybe, a sign of different and better things to come. I take great comfort in knowing most of these seedlings will grow to outlive my puny lifespan several orders of magnitude over and over again.
Living means growth, growth means change, and change necessitates adaptation if we are to flourish. When I came here 20 years ago, I’d never seen a redwood tree before, knew nothing about science, ecology, forestry, law, policies, and all the multiplicity of complex ways in which the world created by men intersects with these. I could never have imagined growing, evolving, becoming, the person I find myself as today. The redwood forest captivated me and clearly has called upon me to live, to love, and grow where I am planted.