Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Here we're about halfway up the tree.  Who knew the view from inside a cedar tree was so beautiful?  Lainey Piland photo
"...then it occurred to me that it would be a fine thing to climb one of the trees to obtain a wider outlook and get my ear close to the Aeolian music of its topmost needles."
~John Muir, A Wind-Storm in the Forests, 1878
Naturalist and writer John Muir was infamous for going to extreme lengths to observe and experience nature. He walked across the continent, climbed any number of mountains, explored his beloved Yosemite from valley bottom to mountaintop, and, as in the essay quoted above, climbed fearlessly into the treetops during a wintertime windstorm.

I recently had a "John Muir-esque" nature experience of my own. I went zip-lining.

The zip-lining itself was fun and exhilarating, but separate from those few adrenaline-filled seconds of flying suspended above the forest floor was a quieter, peaceful, and reflective experience that I hadn't at all expected.  While waiting for my turn to zip at each line, I probably spent over the course of the afternoon well over an hour simply standing on gently swaying platforms 50 feet above the forest floor. These wooden platforms tightly hugged the pliable trunks of Doug fir and sturdy western red cedar, and offered an amazing "tree's eye" view of the surrounding forest. 

The trees didn't seem to mind our artificially-supported presence, although Muir would have hated the platforms for the fact that their required supports were drilled into, wrapped around, and propped into the trees. I couldn't help but feel a little bit of his adventurous spirit as I stood there in the treetops and thought of his long-ago account of riding out a windstorm in the forest. On that wild, wind-whipped winter's day, he had likely free-climbed to the same towering height at which I currently stood, securely tethered, on a calm sunny afternoon. 

The tree's eye view from the second-to-last zip-line platform. Lainey Piland photo
We all know what it's like to stand at the foot of a tree and squint upward into its towering branches from our comparatively puny human stance. Not often, if ever, are we granted the ability to look outward from between those branches - to stand elevated at a height where we enter the rare society of those Doug firs and cedars, stealing for a moment the mysterious and silent knowledge that trees alone can hold. An exclusive experience, breathlessly accepted and reverently remembered.

I can relate well to Muir's parting impression as he left the forest that day:
"...I dismounted and sauntered down through the calming woods... I beheld the countless hosts of the forests hushed and tranquil, towering above one another on the slopes of the hills like a devout audience.  The setting sun filled them with amber light, and seemed to say, while they listened, "My peace I give unto you".
Another view from the second-to-last platform, looking through high-up branches of Douglas fir and bigleaf maple. Lainey Piland photo

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