Monday, January 25, 2010

The Redwoods

When you first see them you are in total shock, at least I was. These trees are gigantic. Many of them are over 300 ft tall. 300 feet is about like having 45 times standing straight up stacked against one on top of the other. They don’t have very deep roots. Due to the wet and nutrient ground they don’t need them. Instead their roots spread out and lock in to each other. Then when a big storm or something comes they have a large mutual support network to hold each other up. Their bark is super thick and isn’t alive, this allows them to withstand fire. To some degree they thrive on the fire, they need it to kill off competition that will surely steal all the water and good nutrients if allowed to survive.

And then I’m not in shock anymore, not surprised at all. I’ve looked them over, figured out what they are, categorized them, learned a little about what makes them work . . . in short, I’ve gotten used to them. Pretty soon they were cool but not that exciting and anyways it hurts to look up like that for so long. Seriously, you’re neck is not made to stare up 300 ft all day (and neither are your eyes, they need to look at the ground or else you start tripping all over the trail . . . trust me on that one . . . ).

In some ways the cultural anthropology fieldwork model developed by Malinowski. The idea is that you go to a new place, get totally shocked, get used to it in some piercian process of semiosis, then go back home, get shocked again, get used to it again, and then finally have a new way of reflecting on your experiences and bridging everything together. But what happens when you already have a pretty good idea of where you’re headed. I’ve seen pictures of the redwoods and so my shock didn’t last that long, I was surprised at something I knew was coming (like kids at Christmas) but that surprise doesn’t last long enough to have some lasting impact. I wonder if the same problem is occurring in anthropology – as things like video and globalization become more and more prevalent.

On a separate note I’m glad that the state of California saved so many areas of redwood forests. A lot are gone but a lot are still there. There are tons of good groves and quite a few great parks. I spent some time in Jeddediah and in the Prairie Creek Reedwoods State Park (the avenue of giants drive there is phenomenal). Really I think the whole country has done a pretty good job of saving off sacred pieces of land, we’re probably as good at it as anyone else in the world (the areas that aren’t named as sacred I’m not so sure about).

ave of giants

Unfortunately my run of good luck with the weather ran out in the redwoods and the forecast is 90 – 100% chance of rain for the rest of the week. Because of this I only really spent one day in them. I’m in San Francisco now, and tomorrow night I’ll head to Mariposa and then into Yosemite the next day.


  1. Haley in San Fran! Can't wait to read that post. Is the weather getting better for you? Good thing you're already tall, or the Redwoods would have been REALLY hard to look at.

  2. The weather was a little rough in San Francisco, but its really clear in Yosemite which is where I am now. Just put up my San Francisco post, the blog takes a bit of a literary twist there, assuming (wrongly) that any of this remotely resembles something you can call literature.