There is a bit of a mystical quality to the pop culture expectation of the college ~*spring break*~: the almost constant near-nudity, the booze and drugs, the shucking off of the completely and totally demanding school life (jokes). But this spring break, a group of friends and I went to the redwood forests of NorCal to interview and film people who have lived amongst these ominously tall trees their entire life, and while yes, we are indeed making a film, I am also finding myself tapping into nature in a way that I really don’t have the chance to in Los Angeles, and I have the added benefit of talking to other people about this place, about the spirits and shadows that live in the forests.
The idea of natural spirits is something I’ve written about before, but not within the rarefied, supernaturally-charged space of the American Northwest. Here, people talk about Sasquatch in an offhand way, like “Oh yeah, that guy.” But much more importantly than that, we are living amongst the trees, and weirdly enough, there’s something… there. Not a “spirit of the forest!!!” way (shoutout to Miyazaki) but more like a general feeling of shaking off the settling, of dusting off a long-dormant calling and actually answering it.
There are tree figures in pop culture: the Ents from “Lord of the Rings,” Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But the redwoods are starkly gorgeous sentinels of the Pacific coast, reminders of a land and a landscape that is quickly fading from memory. Many of the locals here theorize (not seriously… except sometimes) that there are spaces between the trees that could lead into the underworld, and being here actually does solidify that idea.
The idea of these liminal spaces in real life is something that can be terrifying – think of all those urban legends of strange creatures and weird phenomena, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster and the Bermuda Triangle and Area 51. But when you actually reach out and touch the edge of our understandings of the now as we describe it, and when you can see physical evidence of a world before, and perhaps beyond, our own, then it places everything in perspective… but from what and within in still remains to be found out…