It is the cool of winter in Northern California, and tucked in a dark forest of second growth redwoods is where my toddler daughter and I have found refuge. We have only come from a few miles away, yet it seems that we have gone a great distance to another land. This is a place of ocean, fog and rain, the kind of rain that breaks records. It was also once famous for the towering redwood trees that were felled to build San Fransisco. We live among the descendants of those once-grand trees.
These trees are impressive but have yet to achieve the grandeur of those that came before them. Some day, a day I don’t expect to see, these trees will reach the towering heights of their ancestors. I only know the beauty of this current generation and am awed by the fact that this is only the beginning of their life. They are small children who have yet to realize their full potential.
At the foot of this steep slope we now call home the damp and cold are constant even in the summer. This is a temperate rainforest. The temperatures year round are mild, never moving into extremes, and the canopy of these adolescent redwoods conceals the forest floor from the sun as it jealously holds the moisture taken from the fog and rain. The trees find the sun in its upper reaches but do not share it with the those of us who reside below on the forest floor. We are among the creatures that live in the cool and dark under this protective canopy.
Down below our house and across the narrow two lane road is a creek that flows into the river meandering its way to the ocean. It is here is where the sun reaches. The creek is home to herons, fish, birds, frogs, and is filled with the noises of abundant life. Depending on the time of year the creek is either a tranquil green, showing off a sandy bottom under the dappled sun, or it is a wild torrent fueled by rain saturated waters.
These trees and cool shadows create an atmosphere of a calm haven where I can believe we have found sanctuary and a better life. I feel we are safe here in this oddly designed house that is burrowed into the side of the mountain. It is a house of gabled windows with steep pitched roofs that narrow the space we can live in. This building would have been a familiar sight in the Swiss Alps. I sometimes imagine that Heidi and her grandfather will stop by with the goats to greet us.
The main house is a duplex and there is a converted carriage house on the property near the road. I live on the second floor of the duplex. A young couple lives below me and Mike and his yappy dog live in the carriage house. Mike and I exchange pleasantries, the couple and I rarely meet. Mike, who I think is gay, but talks about his girlfriends, is charming and interested in everything. I don’t need to share too much about myself and he is more that happy to fill me in on all the juicy details of his life. We gossip like girlfriends about life in this small town. Other than my chats with Mike my neighbors are quiet and sometimes I feel that I am out here with only my daughter and the deer that come down the mountain trails to my deck. The does carefully make their way down the mountain on barely perceptible trails bringing their delicate fawns, peering expectantly through my sunless windows as they search for the vegetable scraps I toss to them.