Friday, February 3, 2017

How I Discovered the Fountain of Youth

Damn I'm getting old....

Turning 30 was the beginning of the end. I saw it coming like Nell Fenwick tied by Snidely Whiplash to the railroad tracks as a roaring locomotive bore down at breakneck speed. Ha! Even that reference makes me feel old.

Me in the california redwoods, fountain of youth
A walk among the old giants
These days, my back crackles like sap on a campfire every time I stand up. My cheeks are starting to show the many sunny days sans sunscreen in the thin mountain air. My morning ritual has become a painful reanimation of my body, one stubborn limb at a time. I know I'm too young to complain about these things, as my parents (who just recently hit their sixties) constantly point out. "You think the aches and pains and wrinkles are bad now...." But I just can't help but believe my seven-year-old niece when she happily proclaims that both 30 and 60 are decidedly ancient.

So...the Fountain of Youth. The lingering myth is that Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce De Leon voyaged to the new world in search of vitality-restoring waters that could reverse the ailments of aging. This myth, like so many others, is of course false. There is no Fountain. As a matter of fact, the very idea that Ponce De Leon was searching for such waters is now widely believed to have been retrofitted to his agenda well after he was dead.

Even ole Ponce didn't buy such nonsense.

But I love myths. They capture my imagination with notions of a world more magical and lovely than the one I see. I want to believe in that world. Instead, I see a place utterly divided, where warring factions draw invisible lines around themselves based on religion, race and politics. A world where hatred spews from the omnipresent cyberspace and the dreaded doomsday war feared so acutely during the 1960's seems somehow closer than ever.

I'm seduced by the possibility of a place instead where the toil of age magically melts away. A place where one ladle of holy water banishes all aches, pains and worries. This is where I want to be.

And perhaps, in a sense, I found it....

When Legolas, Aragorn and Gimili step into Fangorn forest in The Two Towers, Legolas comments that the trees are "old, very old. And full of memory. So old that I almost feel young again...." This is precisely the feeling I've discovered here in Northern California's Redwood Forest.

Redwoods in northern california
Feeling small (and young) next to a Giant Redwood
The Coastal Redwood is the tallest tree in the world. Growing up to 380 feet (115 meters) tall and 70 feet (21 meters) in circumference, these giants tower over all other living things. But it isn't just their size but their vast age that dwarfs me. The Giant Redwood can live up to 2,000 years. This means that some of these magnificent beings, full of age and memory, have stood in place since long before the castles of Medieval Europe were even a dream. Before the Mayans stacked their great pyramids in the jungles of Central America. They stood rooted to the earth since the time of Christ. Great civilizations have come and vanished in less than a quarter their lifespan.

Oh I wonder, great trees, what many things you have seen?

Walking through these trees is like walking through a fantasy novel. The setting is unearthly. Redwoods have been treeherded through the world for so long, their old-growth groves feel like misplaced pockets of a different era when megaflora and fauna still flourished. When dragonflies had six-foot wingspans and brachiosaurus stretched its enormous neck for leaves eighty feet off the ground.

Sadly, my back still aches. And these crows feet around my eyes sink a little deeper every month. The forest that is my beard is a little more frosted and the memories of my youth fade into the increasingly foggy bank of my memory. But age is a perception and walking through this amazing, ancient forest, has made me feel young again.

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  1. I love ancient forests, and after reading this I really want a dragonfly with a six-foot wingspan. Thanks for the uplifting post. :)

    1. Haha! Might be a little terrifying! Imagine the sound of those wings! Thanks for reading!