I’m not a big fan of the wilderness. My father was a forester, and as a child I was hauled along on enough unpleasant and uncomfortable trips to develop a distaste for jolting pickup truck rides and boring conversations about varieties of trees. The Boy Scouts didn’t improve things—I mainly remember the long nights of slow dripping torment in tents that never, ever, kept the rain out, no matter what you did.
I don’t quite like the deep green, the wet and rotting world of the Pacific rainforest along the west coast. People who haven’t spent much time in it never get the picture right. It can be a hellish world. One of my uncles used to cruise timber spending months in the coastal forests. He would come back slug white and drained by months without seeing the sun. People’s skin would rot. The deep green is a dark world, one where the sun never shines, where fallen trees rot quietly, infested with a world of bugs and grubs – white and black swarming over their repast and home. It rains more days than not, but no matter how strong the rain what you experience below is a slow and absolutely endless and relentless drip, drip, drip till the memory of dryness is faint and the lust for it is your steady companion.
Even as neither day nor night is as beautiful as dawn or dusk—sunrise or sunset—the deep green is most beautiful where it fades into something else—shore or creek or glade. The glades offer blessed sun and relief from the eternal damp and in the right season a profusion of wildflowers. Most creeks don’t offer much sun—the canopy arcs over them, but the bubble and swirl of water over and around smooth round stones and the flash of silver fish languid and quick in the water are some of my favorite sights.
For me, however, it’s as the rainforest thins towards the shore that its true beauty shines. Mostly it’s the combination of water and sun that brings out the beauty. The eternal drip, drip, drip that makes the deep green a rotting hell throws up endless beauty as the canopy thins. I remember a huge fern, taller than a small child, with drops of water that shimmered with the blurred hues of a rainbow, more beautiful than any diamond. Likewise the sun shining through the forest’s roof leaves the forest suffused with a light green glow that is enchanting. It’s a beauty that shows only in the pauses amongst the interminable rain, a few brief shining hours, but it is perhaps more enchanting for its brevity and rarity.
When I moved out East, I traveled through the forest and thought it scrub. Compared to the rain forest of the west coast, normal forests can never compare. They are never green enough, alive enough or thick enough.
To me, forest will always mean the deep green and natural beauty will always be where it sweeps down to shore and thins out on the edge of the sand or rock and the sweet rotting scent of humus is joined to the salt tang of wind off the sea.