Growing up in the Eastern United States I was lucky to live a life in the forest. The chirring of fussy mockingbirds, the perky call of chickadees and the haunting call of mourning doves are implanted in my mind forever. I know the damp tannic aroma of old leaves transforming into soil, the gurgle of streams finding their way through fallen trees and soggy riverbanks, the oxygen-rich lushness of a deciduous forest in full spring bloom.
Then I moved to Southern California. The environment here is totally different and while chaparral and dusty rocks are scenery du jour, forests are something special. I was reminded of this when I went to the Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas this weekend. While my wife picked out tomato plants from hundreds of heirloom varieties, Toddler Harbat and I explored the rainforest. (The mood was enhanced by actual rain that was falling from the sky, something that vexes local drivers and causes them to spin off highway on-ramps and into fields of ice plant.)
There’s a huge waterfall, lush vegetation, and hidden paths meandering through dense clumps of leafy greens—an ideal place for kids to explore. TH was beside herself, darting down paths like a squirrel. Even when we stopped for a snack she found a way to climb around the base of an octopus-shaped tree trunk while clutching her bag of bunny crackers.
When we found our way through the forest she stopped in front of a tentacled agave to, naturally, squat down and inspect some tiny thing on the ground. Being short does have its advantages.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the magic of treehouses and one of the best examples I’ve ever come across.