Tag Archives: rain forest

I remember the Hoh.

“Where the trees thicken into a wood, the fragrance of the wet earth and rotting leaves kicked up by the horses’ hoofs fills my soul with delight. I particularly love that smell, — it brings before me the entire benevolence of Nature, for ever working death and decay, so piteous in themselves, into the means of fresh life and glory, and sending up sweet odours as she works.”

―Elizabeth von Arnim, Elizabeth and Her German Garden

It was in the fall that my late husband and I once visited the Hoh Forest, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. That is where I took this picture, and where I obsessed about how to describe the fragrance that was of the same sort as what von Arnim loves. The climate is very different, between the Hoh and Germany, and no doubt every locale’s casserole of rotting things, combined with the humidity and who knows what else, makes for a sensory experience unique to each place. If a dog or a horse is alongside you or under you, kicking up the stuff, its scent would be included in the recipe. Though I typically have only my two feet to walk with through woodsy places, these thoughts and memories are making me look forward to some autumn outings.

Washington – The Rain Forest

The rain forest surprised me. It wasn’t chilly, even though it was cool; perhaps the humidity served as a blanket. The towering complexity wasn’t too overwhelming, because my camera helped me to isolate and literally focus on various particulars.

My favorite plants were the exotic fungi, because they stood out from the multitude of mostly green colors.

They say there are several thousand plant species in there, and I imagined it would be a trial to take a day hike through all that jumble and jungle of green sameness. Instead, it was strangely invigorating. Is there more oxygen than average in a rain forest, what with all those plants exhaling? It was as exciting as the beach.

We had the slightest drizzle as we entered, but not enough to warrant covering my head. Even that amount of moisture waned and my hair didn’t get wet — only pleasantly fluffy, a welcome relief from the usual flat.

Autumn was beginning to give some color accents, especially in the form of the big leaf maples that arch throughout the canopy and drop their leaves over everything.

Hoh….the very name of this forest is like a mother’s calming hush, or a version of the meditative Ohm. I got to thinking of the shape of the letters themselves as the circumference of a Sitka Spruce trunk with branches on the sides.

It seems that the word Hoh by itself has endless possibilities, but in any case it seems to be the only name possible for this place, so quiet and deep. The Hoh River runs through it.

Wherever a stump stands, several plants will use it for a seedbed, so that a conifer, a fern and a deciduous tree will often make a bouquet on the stump. But a log lying horizontal becomes a pasture of low and thick lichens and moss.

Below: Gray leaf lichens were in abundance, lying around everywhere, and also growing on trees. If there were a contest for the brightest fungi, the yellow one would get my vote.

This area of the world boasts the tallest (Sitka) spruce tree and the tallest (Red) cedar tree in the world. I couldn’t guess what most of the evergreens were, their lowest branches were so high up, and everything blanketed with spongy green lace. But I think this one is a Douglas-fir (it’s written like that because it’s not a true fir.)

 Leafy lichens abound. I guess this is one?

I was surprised when Mr. Glad said we should turn around and go back out. We’d been hiking two hours and it didn’t seem to have been more than about 40 minutes. By that time I wasn’t living in the moment, though. Time was flying because I had caught a whiff of the moist rain forest scents. Funny I didn’t notice right away. But when I did, I couldn’t just enjoy the mystery and deliciousness of these smells, but I had to start thinking about how I would describe them, if only to myself, so I could remember them.

I will probably never come back here! was my thought, and I will never smell this again. So why did I waste time thinking about it, I now wonder. Why not just drink of the thrilling sensory Now? And why were the disciples not content to just be in Christ’s presence at His transfiguration?

They were trying to make provision for the future, and prolong the experience, as I was hoping to provide myself with some words to take with me. I couldn’t hope to make the moment last, as we were walking fairly briskly by then, getting closer and closer to the outside where the opportunity would be gone.  I was lagging behind and noticing that the mix of wild aromas changed with the changing terrain, but they were always bewitching. Do people get addicted to smells? It could happen here.

Time was running out, and it did run out, ten days ago now. I kept thinking about the words for several days, but as expected, there was no way to improve on whatever poor metaphors I came up with while my senses were being bombarded.

The smell of the rain forest was something like eating a cookie fresh from the oven, a cookie made of fermented wild mushrooms and hazelnuts, with one’s head in a bucket of vanilla ice cream.

This was a new smell for me, with no links to my grandmother or anything in my past. There was no way to focus on it the way a camera helps one to focus visually — and no way to deliberately preserve it, though my mind has no doubt filed this input in a purer form than the silly image I worked so hard to invent. Perhaps elements of that exotic forest atmosphere exist elsewhere, and if so, they might someday come to me on a moist breeze and I’ll be taken back to the Hoh.