It was the day before the third of November 2020 that was the hardest for me. I was ready for the end of the four-year nightmare of the Trump presidency, and I was terrified that end might not arrive with this election.
I decided to drive up to Redwood National Park for the afternoon to clear my head. The ups and downs of the days leading up to this moment made me realize I needed a change of scenery. The pandemic had put a sudden end to all my travels of recent years. I had been in the Humboldt Bay area for almost 10 months, mostly home and alone. I needed to go somewhere.
As I drove north into the park on Highway 101, I decided to wander down several of the turnoffs I had driven past many times but had never taken.
There was solace in the initial stillness of the forest as I slowly drove down these newly discovered, mostly dirt roads. Pulling over and getting out of my car now and then, I realized the forest was not still or quiet. A cool November breeze created a chorus of gentle sounds as their deciduous leaves glided slowly to the ground. The sound was soft, but alive. It was a welcome moment of serenity hidden in an otherwise troubled world.
Turning toward the ocean as I traveled north, a heavy mist hovered over the edge of the coast. There was only the sound of waves, but no blue-green sea or sandy beaches to be seen on this trip. The fog that hovered over lagoons and creeks that empty in the ocean matched the uncertainty of my vision and of what would be beyond this day. There was no horizon. Whiteness blocked my view. I needed clarity. Yet, at the same time, the softness somehow quieted my anxious heart.
I walked among the giants, humbled by their stature and resilience, thankful for their ability to thrive through the test of time and the invasion of modern civilization. These are the few that have been spared from the jagged blades of human greed. I could hear an occasional groan from high in the canopy of the forest. It may have been the breeze tugging at branches and rubbing their wood against one another, but it was a voice that spoke from a place out of sight and from above, simultaneously haunting and inspiring. Maybe it was the exhale of oxygen that the earth needs so much from trees. I stood there alone and breathed it all in.
When I reached the mouth of the Klamath River, I turned around to return home and saw that the setting sun was about to be consumed by the roiling fog that was creeping over the hills where this magical forest meets the sea. Driving south, passing all the avenues of my afternoon adventures, I arrived home in Arcata, refreshed and hopefully ready to face the future of America.
For several anxious days and nights, I sat in front of the unfamiliar television screen. (I have not had access to these airwaves for 10 years.) I waded through the painfully slow election returns along with the rest of the world, feeling dread at first, but also a fraction of hope in my heart.
It wasn’t until Friday morning around six in the morning when Joe Biden took the lead in vote counts in Pennsylvania. I released a long, smooth exhale after four years of holding my breath. Things slowly got better with every passing hour. Tears of joy finally arrived at around eight-thirty Saturday morning. The wait, and the weight, had finally diminished from all of us who know how important it is to see the world beyond ourselves.
I hope to breathe, and exhale, more freely as we step into this next chapter.