It seemed fitting to welcome the longest night of the year in a place full of fern-filled shadows, where the redwoods block much of the sun even on a summer day.
Luminarias lit the trails.
The ground was soaked, the air filled with the damp, fecund smells of wet wood, crushed redwood needles, and muddy earth. It didn't rain, but drops of water sometimes found their way through the redwood canopy to land on an unsuspecting baby's head. He didn't notice though, snuggled up in the Ergo baby carrier, lulled by his Mama's warmth and motion, and of course, since he does have responsible parents, wearing a hat.
And a solstice crown. Apparently that's what they call a wreath of greenery worn on one's head. Elan wanted nothing to do with the crown I made for him. It was deemed too prickly on his head. We informed him that's cause you're supposed to wear a hat when you're in the redwood forest on a rainy night in the middle of December, but in his world, hats and hoods are only to be worn for about 1.5 seconds, long enough to snap a photo and then look at himself in playback mode and laugh.
It was a festive night. There were bonfires and shadow-puppet shows, songs and story-telling, and hot chocolate sipped from travel mugs brought along specifically for that purpose. Being in the big redwoods it's easy to forget how close you are to cars and roads, not to mention the entire lit-up sprawl of urban life that is the Bay Area. And yet, the diversity of the people walking along the trails reminded me. And the flashlights. And the kids... kids everywhere.
Elan was pretty wide-eyed about the whole excursion, and in the car on the way home, he fell fast asleep. We took off his raincoat and his muddy pants and deposited him in his bed still wearing his redwood-scented fleece pullover. In the morning, he woke up talking about the "fluffed" owl he had seen ("you mean stuffed?" my mother-in-law clarified).
"Did you like the woods?" I asked him.
"I liked it so much that I even want to go back there," he informed me.
"You want to camp there sometime?"
His enthusiastic response was no surprise. Elan wants to have a sleep-over wherever he goes these days. On the way home from playdates lately, both Mikhail and I have had to endure major meltdowns and long-winded tirades about why we are bad parents because we don't let him have a sleep-over at (insert given friend's name)'s house.
I've told him that right now, we're only doing sleep-overs with family members. When he's older, he can have sleep-overs with friends. Somehow it seems that when they're older, there might be more of a chance of some sleeping happening at the sleep-over, but maybe I'm just naive. Or unadventurous.
But a sleep-over in the redwoods this summer with my boys... that's an adventure I can get excited about.