Among the Redwoods

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Sequoia sempervirens

Spending time among the Northern California coastal redwoods can be equally inspiring and disquieting. The trees have a presence that exceeds their scale in both time and space. The forests are supremely silent, supporting little habitat for creatures that produce sound. The redwoods exude a boundless patience and wisdom; they are perfectly adapted to their surroundings, taking most of their sustenance from the sea fogs that breathe in and out off the Pacific and shape the contours of the forest edge.

Few things compare to being in a redwood forest during a heavy fog, when the trees come to life and break the silence after a silent day of uneasy stillness. Just before dusk, the temperature drops as a Gaussian smudge of silver grey floats down through the branches, depositing shiny pearls of water droplets on the needles. The trees’ downward-sloping branches curl upwards slightly at the tips, seeming to fan their needles to catch more of the sweet condensation. Within minutes, the droplets fall around the trunks, raining a cascade of cool spray into the thick duff underfoot. The earth offers a musty note to the dry needle’s resinous odor as the ground soaks up the water harvested by the web of glistening branches overhead.

As dark sets in, the rain-fog gets louder, with larger drops punctuating the white noise in a panorama of muffled drumbeats. The saturated ground completes the circuit of moisture; the atmosphere cools into a Northern humidor. Soon is heard a slow, low hissing as the tree trunks audibly suck up the new groundwater.

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