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A woodsy Eden

People often speak of having had good times, bad times, sad times, so-so times. Seldom in my eavesdropping have I heard them speak of having had quiet times. Therefore I would speak up, if I may, for quiet times. I had one once high up in northern California.

I drove to a state park in the mountains, paid two world-wrinkled dollars of admission into a smiling hand, and headed out, barefoot for earth-closeness, on a long loop-trail through a redwood grove. Somehow I knew that I wouldn't see or hear any other person. I wouldn't even sense the lingering presence of hikers who'd gone before me. I was entering a singular and unused-seeming place, as right for soul as for body. A sort of woodsy Eden.

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Never have I seen so many varieties of green. Not even when I've swum underwater in the ocean and seen everything through frogman's goggles. I saw bright greens, like the way-high leaves of the redwood trees; dim greens, like the little wild ginger leaves growing on tiny stems near the roots of those trees; even wishy-washy greens, neither bright nor dim.

To the dim greens I whispered, ''Make me dimmer where I'm too bright.'' To the bright greens, ''Make me brighter where I'm too dim.'' And to the wishy-washies, ''Balance the whole dim-bright mixture nicely.''

Besides the sound of me whispering to the greens, there were only two others. The wind running on its blithe tiptoes over the treetops, and a bird alerting fellow birds that a human was below - tu-whit, tu-whoo, guess who.

During this hike I saved my nose. It had been suffering so much from the indignities inflicted on it by the amalgamated air of the city that I'd had the outlandish fear it would just up and desert me. Run away from my face, go to the country and start up a sort of nose-commune for noses that felt likewise. But when it got a whiff of the grove's sweet oxygen, it forgave me everything.

Near the end of my hike, my taste buds were reveling in the oozy sap I'd licked off the bark of trees. My fingers were tingling from touching those sometimes hair-soft, sometimes marble-hard, barks. All around me, like sheets draped over furniture in a shut-up house, whole gobs of cobwebs covered entire bushes. I scooped some up and put them on my head, making a gauzy crown.

At the last redwood (the tallest in the grove), having experienced quiet in all five senses, I decided to try for a sixth.

Imitating the tree, with fallen leaves stuck in my hair, shirt, belt, and even between my toes, I spread my arms like branches and made-believe I too was a member of the grove, a child, like all, of the universe.

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Then the quiet sang in me like a secret promise.

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