Linnie Aikens Arts and Letters • HeART Haven Studios

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Big Trees State Park, Calaveras, CA

Today I took a day trip to Big Trees State Park, which is near Arnold, CA.  Now I’ve been to Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon, and even Big Sur a number of times, but I’d never been here.  What’s great about Big Trees is that a lot of work has been done to provide education about the redwoods and their history.  Sort of an outdoor museum, there’s a walking tour with an attendant guide book for each numbered stopping point on either “The South Trail” or  “The North Trail”.   I was both enthralled and horrified to read the stories for each tree.



After the first visitors (as opposed to native peoples living in the area) “discovered” these big trees, like Zion, explorers, adventurers and artists were drawn to the area.  It was in the mid 1800‘s, however that a circus company heard about them and came a chopped down a tree 30ft in diameter--The “Discovery Tree”.  They took slices of it on tour!  The stump that was left was large enough to hold dances on it when a hotel was later built nearby.



Other trees were similarly cut down, large chunks taken out of the middle and rest left as a testament of man’s greed and shortsightedness for centuries to come.  Additionally, the avarice of man again prompting the slicing and stripping off the entire bark of another tree called “Mother of the Forest,” and then they later in NY and England’s “Crystal Palace” reassembled the bark to portray the tree!!  The tree still stands, now scarred and black from fire burns, for without its protective bark, it wasn’t able to completely withstand the rage of fires through the area over the centuries like the trees surrounding it.  I look at this tree and I just want to cry.


For a little perspective, this is how large these trees are!!  I have to comment here, and it’s MY blog, so I’m allowed to stand upon my don’t have to read it!  As horrified as I was by the centuries old thoughtlessness of man, I was equally appalled by treatment of these natural living and non-living artifacts by the visitors, young and old even now.  


Great pains had been taken to define a trail with borders, signs posted asking viewers to stay on the trail, and not only kids, but their parents were climbing all over the trees!  Some weren’t even paying attention as they were ripping bark of the trees and pulling tiny saplings up from the ground in a careless arm swing and hand grab!!!!  At first I asked myself, “Where are their parents?”  (I know, ever the obnoxious teacher!)  Still, where were they?  They were tromping all over the understory with their kids, all over the delicate ferns and wild ginger, the only plants that seem able to grow under redwoods.  I was shocked to see a few people carve their names into these trees as countless others appeared to have done.


At the risk of sounding like my parents, or worse, my great grandparents, I kept thinking, “When I was a kid, parents spent time teaching us values, including how to respect nature and when entering a wild area to ‘take only photographs and leave only footprints.’  I know I worked hard to teach my own daughters the same...hence the absurd amount of Junior Ranger programs in which I ‘encouraged’ her to participate in our travels.  When I was a kid, kids were OUTSIDE.  We were forced to interact with the environment and respect it.  Now, students have so much more environmental science than we ever did, but they have no opportunity for application.  They somehow don’t realize that what they learn in school translates to real life out here in the wild.”   So while my sisters bemoan all the camping, hiking, backpacking we “had to do” when we were kids, and while my own girls often bemoan the same, ALL of them have a healthy appreciation and active respect for nature.  Again, I truly don’t mean to sound self-righteous, although I know I do here....I’m just sad is all.  I wish we all cared more for others and nature.  We have so much that we take for much glorious beauty and creativity in our world!    ‘Nuff said!


Now some trees were felled due to natural events, wind, storms, lightening, etc.  There’s something that happens in nature that always reminds me that while God may allow the natural order of things, including the consequences of man’s sometimes careless havoc in life,  he must also step in to soften the blow by revealing something of beauty from that event.  Like when a loved one passes, a new loved one is born, or after a destructive storm there’s a rainbow, or after a wildfire blooms a glorious field of bright magenta fireweed, or when a torrential river carves out a canyon, intricate alcoves and layers of rock are revealed, or hoodoos in the desert, or caves in the sea cliffs, fossils, sand and seaglass on the shore......  


This is where my artist’s eye took over!  If you look at the underside of an uprooted redwood, weathered to a shine with time, it resembles a beautiful abstract explosion.  It’s very much like the effect of  lightning hitting sand, which creates beautiful glass abstract sculptures that look just like these tree bases!



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