Trees of Life

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Trees, trees, trees.

This has been a theme these first few days of our trip.  Both figuratively (the family tree) and literally (the California Redwood National Park)

The first stop along our journey was San Jose, to visit with family for a couple of days.  A journey through the branches of our own family tree can barely be done in two days, being that my husband is one of 11 kids.

Upon our arrival at Aunt Nancy’s and Uncle Mike’s house, a homemade sign my niece Leah made was hanging on the front door:  “Welcome Fales ‘we are family’ “

Our kids are immediately engulfed into the fold of their cousins.  Over the years, they have developed a sort of self-regulating colony and only surface to eat.

We were spoiled over the weekend. From my sister-in-law’s famous homemade cookies that poured out of the oven by the dozen, to waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking, the fresh pickled beets and cucumbers from my sister-in-law Marlene’s garden, no detail passes by me unnoticed. I am grateful for the fruits of everyone’s labor to make us feel welcome and loved, down to the good-byes on the driveway at Paul’s and Marlene’s house.

From San Jose, we headed north. The landscape of rolling hills dotted with trees gave way to larger hills blanketed with huge evergreens. Douglass firs, hemlocks, and redwoods.

We arrived at the Redwood National Park ready to stretch our legs. We took the kids on an easy 1-mile loop, carving through some of the most majestic old growth forests in California.  Trees upwards of 600 years old towered over us.

The kids were just happy to be out of the car running, climbing on huge fallen logs, and standing inside of hollowed out trees, while Matt and I read aloud from the trail guide. There were 13 designated stops, each signified by a wood post with a painted white number.  Each number explained another aspect of the lifecycle of an old growth forest – the oldest living things on the planet.

Elements that can harm or destroy – wind, rain, fire – are the same elements that are crucial to the survival of the trees and forests.  We explained to the kids that when a redwood tree breaks or falls, it creates space for sun to come in through the forest’s canopy and give seedlings a chance to grow and feel the warmth of the sun.

It was impossible not to be struck by the significance of the trees.  Twenty generations of humans have stood and gazed at the mystery and splendor of the redwoods.  They are tall and mighty, yet fragile.  In a forest, you can see fallen trees – they are everywhere – branches, broken and moss-covered logs, old roots.  Their role is paramount to the success of the future of the forest.

I thought a lot about our family on our hikes.  How fires have raged, how winds of change have blown.  How unexpected events cause growth.  I stepped over hundreds of roots sticking up out of the ground like embedded branches jutting from the earth and thought of our roots, our kids’ roots. What nourishes them.  I thought of the family members who are connected to those roots. The mighty fallen members of our family who have given a new generation of saplings the opportunity to thrive.

We have many miles to go yet, and many landscapes and experiences to be had along our road trip. But I will not soon forget the joy of gazing skyward to see the tops of the trees through branches, glints of sun and diced blue sky, the sound of my children’s voices yelling, “Look at this one!” – and the feeling of hugging our family and trees goodbye.


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