This is where I developed a deep connection to nature and a sense of reponsibility to care for Earth; a visceral experience of the scale of the world, through cascades of towering redwoods and the seemingly semi-infinite sea with undulations smaller than I can see and larger than I can perceive; an embodied sensation in my human form of the steady outward growth from a seedling core that leads to the redwood's pulled-texture bark, a mind-accelerated manifestation of the bursting forth as ever richer striations emerge in the 4-year-old-growth pillar forests of my mind; an unwavering conviction that the ferns and we are unfurling toward majesty.
What I've gained since I left is a concept better than the consciousness modem, one unfettered by the mechanisms of flesh; a framework for evolution where life isn't dubiously assumed a fluke, and the physically natural emergence of specific technologies is comfortably situated; and a wife and son like soil that keep my insides full.
What I've lost is the mindset that we have centuries to grow our trunks. Redwoods are patient. I am not. The ocean is going nowhere. I rush like a like a river beyond its banks. Was I once as light as a raven in the canopy? Having loved so deeply all we might lose, urgency now weighs on me.
I still have my pencil. I still have my hiking boots. I gave up my guitar and my charcoals.
Now I know that as tall and wide as my branches span, they still pull nutrients directly through my roots, and that higher branches reaching wide take sun from those that grew below.
On a fair-weather spring evening with calm air and a sun approaching the horizon over the ocean I am reminded that whatever tumult our warming atmosphere pounds into the coast, the ocean will keep lapping away, day after day, for a great duration into the future. We are not poised to break that great liquid heart of nature.
Checking in with these cherished North Coast landscapes on the dot of middle age I notice of my life's ambitions that I have come perhaps farther than I hoped for myself, but my current goals are so much farther still. I've renormalized to expect more.
I left this land 20 years ago. Where will my mind be 20 years from now? Superconductors and light for advanced AI? My son a grown man? My wife my deep love? Surely nothing unexpected will sneak in there.
This is where I learned that it matters what we do. Some tried to log every standing sequoia earned by the earth over milennia, and some made sure that did not occur.
Twenty years has shown me that money doesn't move me anywhere near as much as beauty. I want my senior self and my son to feel the inspiration that only comes from a thriving ecosystem. That's fine as far as motivation, but it's not a map. It's not a protocol for what to do when you get to your desk in the morning. It's easy to succumb to lesser motivations. Few contemplate the next thousand years of growth in our shared forest. In a thousand years this breathing orb will still be here, but the shape of our next kin is less obvious. Is it inevitable or our decision?
I have tried to anticipate with the ages of forests as a timescale, and I have envisioned superconducting optoelectronic minds thriving amongst the asteroids. Could be off the mark. Either way, doesn't determine what happens to us in the next few decades.
At 40 all I have are hypotheses. By 60 I must test both soens and selection for technology. Whether the evidence confirms or denies it will be a useful life in science.
The next time I come here will be with Katie and Owen, I hope. It's an equally important goal to raise a human that is receptive to what the Earth has to offer.