In the grand scheme of things, it was just a forest. They were just trees. It was just another state park, another place where tourists go so they can pose with the giant redwoods, like they had entertainment value.
The reality of the situation was that, as I stood and gazed up in absolute wonder, one hand shielding my eyes, the other holding the hand of my nephew, I felt like everything I had ever done and every moment I had experienced all led up to that instant. It was as if my past and my future had collided with each other with equal force, and all that was left was stillness. The air hummed with it, this divine sense of nothing and everything, and I had never seen things more clearly, as if everything was connected.
I held my breath. It was like I was in a church, the trees a natural cathedral, the dappled sunlight falling through the leaves like they were made of stained glass. The wind was hushed–a murmured prayer, the sound damped out by the weight of the air.
I touched the rippled bark of one tree; it was both hard and soft beneath my fingers. I realized, as I inhaled, I was breathing in oxygen released by the redwoods, and from the fields of clovers underfoot, and the ornately-veined ferns.
I realized everything I was seeing was a compilation of hundreds of thousands of years of growth and decay, living matter sprouting from dead. And I had never felt so connected with anything than I did in that moment.
And then it was time to go. My parents were calling for me from the parking lot, and everyone was climbing back into the minivan. My dad had the map open against the hood of the car and, as everyone else settled into their seats, I walked up next to him.
He pointed at a dot on the map, “So, here’s where we are…Stout Grove…” and traced our route with a finger, “And we’re going here.” He tapped another spot. “Gold Beach, on the Oregon coast.” As he traced, “Then Eugene…then Hood River.” He looked at me. “You ready, scout?”
I gave him the biggest smile. “You know I am!”
As I climbed back into the minivan, my family shifting and talking and laughing with one another, Rubik’s cubes and crinkled chip bags and picture books with thick, cardboard pages scattered across the floor, I knew that it was all worth it just to have that one perfect moment of understanding.
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