Redwoods of
Baja California

Those of us came of age in the 60s have a fondness for Visions. We often look back on them with great pleasure (and, too, sometimes a bit of terror).

They make great conversation pieces, and --- on days when the world seems tedious and careful --- we hark back to the times when we lay there on the sofa, bent out of shape by what were then quite legal mind-expander brain medicines, where we could, for instance (I swear this actually happened) watch an army of Chinese course through the house. There were many of them, although --- being Chinese and all --- they were quite circumspect, even considering the fact that they were marching though my living room without my permission.

They were moving through four abreast. I figured out that they were there to prove something I had read years before in "Ripley's Believe It Or Not." It had to do with the fact that if all the Chinese in the world marched four abreast past a certain point, they would never stop passing, for, as they were ageing and dying, they would be having their babies, which too, would eventually join the march up the patio, through the living room, and out the back door. The march would never end, because there were and would continue to be so many of them. (As far as I know, they are still marching through there. It's just that I can no longer see them.)

Now you can see why some of us look back, with such fondness, on the sixties.

Those of us who went through such experiences never quite lost that ability to have a vision or two every now and again. I have a couple that come to visit me quite regularly as I drive. One comes to me early on a foggy morning; the other, late at night. Promise me you won't tell the people at the DMV.

The daytime visitations are in the form of stray pieces of the Eiffel Tower that appear on the horizon. It's morning, and my companions and I have risen up much too early in order to make good time to, say, the town of Rosario. If it is early enough, just after sunrise, and with just the right amount of fog (not too much to blind us, but not little enough to let the sun through) if you'll look over there to the far horizon, you'll see various pieces of the Eiffel Tower rising up at various angles out of the ground, going heavenward.

There is no Eiffel Tower per se --- just a leg over here, a strut over there, a support to the left, a cross bar to the right. They all have that characteristic late-19th-century industrial look: the dark supports with the rivets and the cross bars and the heavy lugs.

That's the morning vision, which I always enjoy (and will be glad to point out to you the next time you and I are travelling together just outside of El Dorado.) Then there are the redwoods, which come only late at night --- when we are well outside the lights of the cities, when, perhaps, we shouldn't be driving at all.

When it's quite dark thousands of them appear, towering up on both sides of the road. If another car appears, with its bright headlights, they will disappear. Once we are alone on the road again, however, they reappear, hovering up into infinity in the dark sky above.

The first time the Redwoods appeared to me was several years ago when we were heading north from Múlege. It was ten or so in the evening, and we had been driving for fourteen hours, and suddenly when we passed into a forest, I thought, "This is great. They've finally figured out to grow Redwoods in one of the most barren pieces of land on earth." No water, no soil to speak of --- and here they have thousands, perhaps millions of board feet of pure forest, towering over us, on both sides of the road.

"Fantastic," I said out loud.

"What's fantastic," said my companion, someone I had known for years.

"The redwoods," I said.

"The redwoods," he said.

"How do you think they get them to grow here in the middle of one of the most barren pieces of real estate in the world?"

"Right. Redwoods. In Baja. How do they do it?"

"There must be a million dollars worth of them, right here in the middle of nowhere. Wow."

Well, fortunately, my companion had journeyed with me on several of those 60s flights. We had travelled together to the center of the earth. We had flown, several times, out to Saturn, to observe the rings first-hand. We had once actually journeyed together into his brain (what a zoo!) Then we got up and went to a supermarket (an epic journey it was, too) to admire the canned pickles and dried chickpeas.

So when my companion heard me muttering about the redwoods, he wasn't tempted call in the thought police at all. He just thought of it as a pleasant reminder of pleasant eons we had spent, some years ago, admiring the black holes of space and the Del Monte Party Pickles. And soon enough he had fallen back to sleep, leaving me alone in my wet, shady, forest of the night, passing by, rapidly, on both sides of us, stretching way into the future.

--- Carlos Amantea

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