In her “Wars of Light and Shadow” series, Janny Wurts talks about the “free wilds”, areas protected from human encroachment where the mysteries of the planet run wild. I am a fervent believer, perhaps to a self-ascribed theory, that once the wilds disappear from the world that humanity will be irrevocably lost.
While out camping/hiking this weekend, this message once again struck home. Hiking up part of western Mount Tam provides gorgeous vistas of the ocean while hiking over open hills, through chaparral, and even more impressive, coastal redwood forests. Of the many forests I have been through, to take a word from Elizabeth Moon’s “The Deed of Paksenarrion” this time, there have been different senses of “taig” or oneness with living things. In the cold forests of the north, there is a sense of not caring about humanity. There one is alone with nothing but themselves and a sense of endless time where seasons have marched past with impunity long before the coming of man. In central and coastal California, the forests are much more warm feeling. There the tread of man seems something more readily accepted, even if not entirely welcome.
This in turn leads to a second observation. In the forests farther south, Monterey on down, a fair number of people seem bothered when greeted, whereas the farther north traveled, I feel that the more welcome a quick hello becomes. Perhaps this is because collectively we feel more in need of a human presence when the taig of the forest is cooler toward human encroachment that we seek comfort from passing individuals, whereas when the forest is more welcoming individuals become cooler.
Perhaps farther south the forests are closer to civilization and our “civilized” sides come out. But when one is farther from “civilization” the old rules that kept humanity alive through the dark winters restores itself. More a passing thought on the human condition and the forest. But I have been there and sensed the uniqueness of these forests, which provides the imperative that they are individual and should be protected.