Stories in the Trees

Sunday, the day after Christmas, we went outside to find stories in the trees. North a ways, past Santa Cruz, is Henry Cowell State Park. The park is known for a stand of coastal redwood trees. Massive, towering specimens brood together along the river. The day was cold and rainy, the ground muddy. We bundled up in jackets and sweaters (except for the smallest rebel, who seems to have an internal core temperature similar to a young star).

A Tree Slab Like a Wheel

Near the ranger station, a slab from an old tree stands on end like a wheel. Probably six feet in diameter. Across the different growth rings, little identification placards mark various historical events: the Magna Carta, birth of Christ, invention of the printing press, etc. Contemplating the span of years is humbling. I imagine there is a galactic equivalent somewhere–an enormous slab of strange, interstellar alloy rotating slowly in the darkness between the stars. The birth of the universe is marked on it at the middle. The birth of galaxies and stars and planets are noted at different spots. The marker for homo sapiens is on the slab, but it is so tiny that you can’t see it unless you’re an eagle looking through an electron microscope. Or, of course, if you have the eyesight of God.

Our lives are quick. Like wildflowers.

Speaking of stories, we later went to a restaurant in Capitola, close to the beach. I won’t name the restaurant because, after all was said and done, they were apologetic and nice to us. The meal started out promising but then fell apart, once a server accidentally dumped a bottle of beer on small rebel number two. The staff apologized. Oddly, they said they would only comp small rebel number two’s drinks. Which was not enough, of course.

What Should Not Have Been in My Meal

Then, I found a large piece of well-cooked plastic in my tacos. I first thought it was extremely well-done carne asada, but it proved unchewable. The wait staff by that time became profusely apologetic. A succession of assistant managers, and then the manager herself, approached our table like pilgrims tiptoeing into the shrine of a dangerous god. More apologies, the meal was completely comped, free desserts for everyone, unspoken pleas to not write a review on Yelp, etc etc.

The smallest rebel and I left the scene at that point, our appetites (even for desserts) gone. We walked down the esplanade to the beach and found that the winter storms had deposited vast piles of driftwood everywhere. People had built huts and teepees and small fall-out shelters from the driftwood. He and I spent an agreeable while building some sort of soldier shelter out of the wood, as, lately, he’s been reading books about World War II. Then, we went to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant and bought churros. Made on the spot. That definitely pulled the afternoon out of its culinary nose-dive.

There are stories everywhere.