Well, we have made it to San Francisco – 5866 miles from Washington – at least that’s the route we took. The final stretch of our journey down the Pacific coasts of Oregon and northern California took us the through the forests of giant Redwoods. We have seen so many wonderful things on this trip that we ran out of adjectives long ago but these trees aren’t just beautiful – they are humbling. Driving along a narrow road through lines of trees that seem to touch the sky is rather like driving along the nave of a cathedral.
When we stopped the car and got out the silence was deafening. The forest was all around you, trees, moss, ferns, lichen and these beautiful trees, some with a circumference of 25 feet, towering above you. Suddenly all the stories about woods and trees seemed very real. Think of the children’s stories: Babes In The Wood, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wild Wood in Wind In The Willows, Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest. Moving up an age range you have the Old Forest and Fanghorn from Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings, John Buchan’s Witchwood, many of the Inspector Morse stories have scenes in Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire, there’s Burnham Wood in Macbeth and the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and so on. And speaking of Midsomer, anyone who watches Midsomer Murders knows that to go alone into any of the Midsomer woods after dark means you won’t come out alive.
Perhaps the magic of trees is that the best of them make our life span seem insignificant. Some of these redwoods were saplings when William of Normandy was invading England in 1066. That’s what I call endurance. Endurance is what we all need. One definition of a professional writer is an amateur who refused to give up. They say that everyone has a novel in them, well that may be true but not everyone has the ability to see that story nor the skill to express it and structure it and present it in a way that will appeal to others.
The word “classic” like so many others in the English language is used with gay abandon. The true classics are those which stand the test of time, those stories which still speak to us 50 or a 100 or 400 years after they were first written. These are the real classics – like the giant redwoods of California – they are eternal.