It is with considerable ambivalence that we hereby announce the reopening of Muir Woods National Monument to the public this coming spring. Once again, this marvelous, ancient range of coastal redwoods and giant sequoias will welcome arboreal enthusiasts from around the globe. However, these visitors will now enjoy significant enhancements to the area, developed specifically according to the suggestions of previous guests.
The most immediate of these costly renovations is a second, larger gift shop situated just beyond the perimeter of the site. Tourists in a hurry or disinclined to part with seven dollars on the matter of admission can now enjoy the convenience of purchasing a souvenir on the very edge of our parking lot. It may go without saying that this new facility is sure to alleviate some of the congestion within the inner, original gift shop.
Despite the strident legal efforts of the Bureau for the Protection of Conspicuous Consumption, we have been granted the right to disable all mobile devices upon park entry with a harmless electromagnetic pulse. This is not an attempt to preserve an atmosphere of tech-less tranquillity, for the record: If you cannot resist the urge to “selfie,” use one of our designated tinted kiosks, where mirrors, lip gloss, and blowouts are provided for an additional fee.
Those who venture on into the famous groves are sure to also notice at least one loudly weeping individual. Don’t be alarmed. These are professional actors, selected over many months of grueling auditions, whose job it is to emotionally heighten your experience of nature. We have hired consultants who believe that when seeing others overcome by the majesty of your surroundings, you, too, will appreciate them more acutely.
Bark and leaves are not enough, the brand mercenaries insist. A millennium’s growth against pests and droughts, fires, floods, and chainsaws — this is hardly cause for wonder. Each day I parry proposals for John Muir holograms, a zipline and electric gondolas. A team of Finnish happiness architects has suggested an adult playpen where the psychedelically inclined might frolic unhindered by sober people or drug legislation.
On the rare occasions I leave the park I am assaulted with information, all of it bad or disturbing. Tragedies accrue with sinister momentum. In redwood time, of course, this shall pass. A shadow grown long then short again. I think of first laying eyes on this place, at seven. How the pronoun “I” wafted up among the branches like a mote of golden dust. Sun shone coldly, splashing no more than the highest needles with light. My mother let go of my hand. They found me hours later, crouched in a hollow trunk, half-feral.
Few of you notice the ravens; they cannot help but notice you. You are a storm they weather with their plumage tucked. But there are cruel complaints on the winged wildlife. The people who bother to leave feedback for my team of rangers — well, sub-minimum-wage-earning immigrants in movie character costumes I don’t begin to recognize — are put off by the faintest of trilling above, too intelligent and conversational. They crave “dumber” birds who are “less stuck-up.” The solution is, regrettably, forthcoming.
What I’m most ashamed of, though, is the trunk cross-section display, the concentric rings accumulated over four thousand seasons (some wet, many dry, the single strand fussed by lightning) that marked a formative Aztec year, the name Columbus, our own break from the British crown… all the great American angst. I’ve been ordered to unscrew these historical placards. We cannot allow ourselves to shatter your fragile sense of relevance.
Finally, you’ll want to know about the subterranean expansion, a change that easily eclipses any of these quibbling adjustments. The state-of-the-art indoor resort complex below the forest’s irrelevant root system is the size of ten football stadiums, earthquake-proof, with twenty miles of boardwalks, arcades, shopping plazas, roller coasters, theme bars, nightclubs, and sparkling HD vistas. We feed the trees intravenously, in case you’re curious.
I had not thought of myself as the sort of man who would tell you that you’re appreciating something incorrectly. Yet I find myself believing these changes will slake your fickle thirsts, even so recalling how you whined that the lacy lower canopies blocked your view of the ocean (we trimmed them). If I have done my job whatsoever, perhaps you will come to an understanding of this silent forest, the lone example of its kind on earth. Perhaps you will see its mystery as a luxury, even a convenience.
This letter must also serve as my resignation from my post as Chief Ranger. I leave this oasis to those who copyrighted the redwood’s genome, who gather cones on cherry pickers and keep them locked in fireproof safes (to which I recently held the key) and later plant them in arrangements decided by algorithm. Completely pointless, as I mentioned rather often. Saplings can also sprout from a parent’s root, or burl, or stump. Only five percent of the tree’s six million annual seeds are viable in soil.
Anyone seeking to grow a new forest from seeds must be diligent. He must not fear fire. He must have nowhere else to be. Saplings grown from seeds take nearly ten years to register noticeable growth. Anyone searching for them will surely have moved on to more pressing endeavors. Short of the immortality that silicon billionaires are after, none of us would endure to be dwarfed by transplants, though research has shown that a warmer climate could accelerate their maturity. I told you they were survivors.
Soon satellites may be able to spot my duplicate forest from space, tell you the exact coordinates of my reckless ecoterror. I can’t see it’ll make much difference. By that time, the languages and governments that rule your fortunes and mine won’t matter. Their successors may well have left the solar system behind. I would. What do we want with this dead moon, the infernal sun? Mars is boring and red; the asteroid belt is dirty. We’ll find somewhere better and fix that up, too. You won’t even recognize it.
With misplaced fondness, etc,
Chief Ranger Otis McFate
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, California