8 June 2016
Several years ago, our friend Garth took Chris for a day out among the enormous Redwoods in Mendocino County, north of San Francisco. She loved them, of course. Today Garth and I retraced their journey looking for a suitable spot to receive some of her ashes.
We left the city early and stopped for breakfast in the community of Boonville before making our way to Hendy Woods State Park. By mid-morning, the sun had burned off the overhanging cloud and the sky was clear and bright blue. We parked the car and followed a footpath into the woods.
The giant trees gathered us into their thousand-year-old domain. The air was still and silent apart from the caw of a solitary raven. As we walked, we were both drawn to one particular dead tree. It’s vast bole lay straight and true, undisturbed since the day it had come away at the roots and crashed to the ground. Now it rested gracefully amongst its living companions, lightly covered in a shroud of fallen leaves, returning to the earth.
I clambered up onto the trunk and very slowly walked along its whole length, 89 paces, from top to bottom. I lay down on my back for a few minutes, supported by the tree, gazed up at the sky through the leaf canopy far above and thought of Chris and her passionate concern for the planet. Here, in the words of Wendell Berry’s poem The Peace of Wild Things she could truly rest in the grace of the world.
Garth and I explored the ground near the base of the tree and found a deep den-like hollow. At the far end, tucked right under the bole there was a hidden chamber lit by a single shaft of sunlight. It was obvious to us both that this was the place.
We crumbled some earth into my hat (the only container we had) and I mixed in several handfuls of the ashes I had brought with me. Then I tipped the contents gently into the sunlit chamber. We pinned a photograph of Chris near the entrance, decorated it with a sprig of leaves, and said farewell to our mighty, darling girl.