We depart sunny Miranda early on this July morning. 40 parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles and cousins squeezing into a parade of wagons, hybrids and SUVs. As we enter the Avenue, a canopy slowly begins to grow over us. The sunlight dims and our car instantly becomes neighbors with the towering trees hugging the road. Past Rockefeller Grove, the Founder’s Tree, and the beauty of the Eel River, we travel deeper along route 254 into the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. One after another, the massive posts from times before swish by as we creep towards our destination. The line of cars, carrying generations of family, pull off the highway and we spill out into the forest.
The Winifred Brown Bell Grove, along the Avenue of the Giants, is a turnoff like many others along the road. Noted by the standard California State Park brown and gold lettered sign, we park and douse ourselves with bug spray to guard off the mosquitoes bound to exist along the way. The 40 descendents of the Brown family gather for the required photo to document our journey to this magical space. Children and dogs pose with anticipation, eager to scamper along the path, destination unknown and really unimportant. It’s the journey amongst the trees that they look forward to.
As we move deeper into the grove, lush emerald green ferns replace the dirt corridor of the entrance. Their verdant carpet encroaches on the foot space, cautioning us to tread lightly-poison oak adding another element of excitement. The air cools, making me glad to have my warm sweatshirt. We pause, photographing a huge tree or a massive, upturned root hosting a bevy of fern and new growth. We caution the children again, hoping that they stay focused and on the path. Stellar Jays announce their presence, golden butterflies dart through my line of sight. The group spreads out, some going left on the longer loop, hoping to extend the sensory delight just a bit longer. I can’t see my son or daughter, but I sense that they’re moving forward along the path. Someone will be watching them.
I pause, absolutely mesmerized by the sight before me. Where did this glory come from? How could I not have known this existed? How can this image remain untouched, unchanged, for centuries? Such splendor, such lushness, such beauty, such…bigness. Freedom. Growth. Awesomeness. I am so undersized, honored to be in their presence.
I look up, and only a sliver of blue sky is visible between the towering trees. I am small, almost insignificant in this landscape. My children and husband catch up to me, and we pose amid the ferns, part of a larger family group yet perfectly isolated at this moment. Like the seedlings that once began this landscape, I realize again that my offspring have immense potential. Nothing limits them; nothing keeps them from achieving their dreams. Their growth, nurtured by their guardian hosts, stretches before us, soaring with possibility.
What I learned at Winnie’s Grove is that growth happens. Hosted and nurtured by our families, cautiously curious as we dash along the path of life, we all contribute to the development of our children. Time inches along, slowly and subtly raising them to heights we may never know. Hidden groves and untapped potential lie before them, their existence eager for exploration.
What I’m still learning is how to let go and let them wander among the giants. They will turn left or right as they choose, hopefully remembering the path leading back to their hosts, their strong family tree.