Light Breaking Through the Redwood Canopy


Your environment has incredible power over your experience of life. A place can set you at ease, or it can fill you with excitement or anxiety. Step into your office or job site and you’ll likely be influenced to think about your work life and responsibilities. Walk in your front door and you’ll be sucked into your family, your bills, or that leaky faucet that needs to be fixed. Visit the downtown heart of a city and feel your pulse race along with the rush hour traffic.

On this day, I walked into a little slice of heaven there in the shadows of the redwood trees. I was home.

Redwoods and I have always shared a good relationship. We planted a few of them in my backyard growing up, and I watched in wonder as they grew along with me. For every inch taller I grew, they grew about five feet. They seemed invincible and hearty, for they endured the great heat of Sacramento summertime despite standing far from the misty, coastal regions in which they thrive. I imagined that I might one day build a treehouse somewhere high above the ground in one of these redwood trees.

I wasn’t the first with that idea though. The Ewoks of Return of the Jedi had an entire tree city built into a redwood forest. As I reflect now, my love of Star Wars and those cuddly Ewoks is probably where my fondness for these redwoods first developed. Heck, I had an Ewok-themed birthday party at age 4 complete with a multi-tiered forest city cake (thanks Mom!). And indeed, those forest scenes in Return of the Jedi were filmed in a few different redwood groves along the Northern California’s Smith River. Stoked doesn’t begin to describe my excitement when my family camped in one of those forests.

“They filmed Return of the Jedi there! But you couldn’t ride any speeder bikes,” I explained to friends on the grade school playground a few hundred times. Not that any of the props from the movie were left there anyway.

And so it was a salve to my soul to visit the Armstrong Redwoods State Park this summer. I had that same sense of peace and joy flood back into me as I stepped under that canopy and smelled the redwood bark again. The cool of the shade cut like a knife (or light saber) through the summer heat even in the middle of the day. It was all somehow familiar even though I hadn’t been to these woods before. My mind churned with good memories of other skyscraping redwood trees and delighted at my family getting the chance to explore their own redwood forest.

We only spent a couple of hours exploring those woods (and snapping photos like this), and it was enough. A heart needs a journey like that from time to time — a journey into a wholly new place that takes us into the past and sets our hearts at ease. At least, my heart does.

Perhaps my backyard could use a redwood or two…

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What environments take you back in time? Tell us in the comments below!


  • Steve Hadeen 08-13-2015

    Where is Armstrong Redwoods State Park? Never heard of it

    • P.J. Oswald 08-13-2015

      Hey Steve! It is near Guerneville, near Bodega Bay on the Northern California coast. Most of the rest of the foliage looked nothing like this, so it was surprising to see a redwood grove here.

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