The Poem of a Colloque--Bar Harbor
Cultural Identity in French America:  Legacy, Evolution and the Challenges of Renewal

By Rhea Côté Robbins

May 17, 1996--Friday
 I'm looking for a different voice from the one I have.  It seems.  Stretching the expressions.  People all have their signature talk.  I find my remarks to be something other than what I meant.
                              ing down
 Writing is a slow^  process--a reflecting surface--reflecting surfaces slow life down to a pace of stop and look.  Writing is a mirror held up to living and reflecting back the surfaces.  Studying a reflection takes time.  To create a reflection takes time.  Time is of the essence.  The essence of living.  We are made up of time not bone, blood or flesh--Our spirits are time travelers. 
 Writing is like childrening--reflecting the self and the world beyond the self.  The lack of reflecting surfaces dulls a world.  The lack of reflecting time dulls the person.  Prayer is a mirror held up to heaven.  The dualities, two-by-two, in life are previous.

May 19, 1996--Sunday
 I guess living is a state of mind.  Do I live less when I'm poorer and the resources are not what I would like?  I feel my life is at odds with my surroundings.  Unhappy with the outcome.  Dissatisfied.  But that is me not seeing what can be seen. 
 Nervous.  Taking the French woman, Yvonne Buchmann, on a tour of the coast.  She talks about her lost opportunities in life.  Her gains.  Her sons.  Her house.  The compression factor--the diamond formed under glass--the creativity plus she manages besides.

 I think the trip is OK.  There's too much to show.  The Farnsworth Museum.  I don't exactly know how I feel about museums anymore.  Or, art shows.  Because of the comfort of formulas-in-behavior.  Writing is a matter of words following a trial of clothes up the stairs.  He took her dancing.  Friends, divorced, now dating, called.  After the coastal tour, she, I, were tired and thinking too hard about the things undone, or undoable and she thought she might die.  Right there or soon.  She, I, think about her own mother dead--and what that feels like.  She'd hate to leave the kids.  She went to the church lobster salad supper.  Translating for the French and English husband--she relates the day--Searsport, Camden, lunch, Peyton Place, Rockland, Farnsworth...The women across from us exclaim!  They were in Peyton children.  I'm flabbergasted.  In the parade as extras the mother/aunt tells me.  My breast is sore.  Too sore.  Something feels like it's gone haywire again.  At the church supper I'm highly satisfied--the surroundings are that we belong.  Easy enough.  Those moments feel so rare in my life at present.  I would describe most days as gout dérangé--tastebuds are off.  Nothing fits.  I don't fit and it don't fit.  I try to weigh what of my life that goes the distance and satisfies--hits center--and what of my life that leaves me hungry. 
 I went dancing with him.  I want to dance in a sea of anonymous.  My thoughts.  Yes.  I think my thoughts and not in relation of subjugation to another's standards.  Maybe that's what bothers me about being watched on the dance floor--my thoughts are being recalibrated to another set of standards.  I resent the assessment.  I don't want to know what anyone thinks so I don't have to think back.  I dance the electric slide and someone is too close.  It's hard to concentrate on being free of encumbrance so I can be anonymous.  Home.

May 21, 1996
 Are we embarrassed.  Well.  I'm not sure.  The air is warm and holds you like the cold throws you away.  They've got a grill going next door.  In Presque Isle we used to share charcoals with Ron and Mary until they divorced.  Then nobody shared anything.  I'm searching out the quiet.  There are birds out here that no one would expect.  If you are screaming through life at a billion miles an hour who's to know the difference between the swoosh and the swish!  Sitting in the grasses and the dandelions, I feel unchallenged.  There are strange disparities in my life.  At the beck and call of odd events.  Something to the tune of a funeral and its unraveling.  Except this is Spring--time of opening time of renewal.  I'm cooking spare ribs and fiddleheads.  My husband has become a private banker.  I see him for less hours in a day.  We are both tired by the day's end.  No wonder I stopped dusting.  If enough raindrops fall I suppose everything is wet eventually.  Or gets wet. 
 I guess the biggest mystery to me is spending time with people or being in places that resemble sandpaper.  When I think about a friend's son's suicide--I wonder about meanings.  Or depths of what matters.  After awhile you don't even register the rejections.  Except my dream--nightmare--the other night was about the base of terrorizing elements.  The house on Water St. and the terror the place embodies for me and goes back and forth between glimpses of deathly uncomfortableness.  Hold that disrespect.  I'm amazed at how it's done.  A small drop of a phrase and all of a sudden--it's not comfortable to be someone.  What commits the crime of impersonal?

May 23, 1996, Thursday
 Sitting by the Atlantic makes it easy.  I had dreamed of this only I was on a lawn in an Adirondack chair, but a patio facing a bay--Frenchman's Bay--does not hurt.  Bar Harbor, land of riches--houses of clean lines and careful nailing.  The hills are bluer than the water--They compete and win--blue or green.  Green can be as blue as it likes.  The sun is reflecting on the water the water is not less water as a result.  The water's properties are easy to believe or to see.  The sun so remote needs something to help it shine its lights.  Or, the sun helps the water expose its qualities.  The sizes of universes and the difference it makes.  The quality of the reflection is almost mutual introspection.  One not so light-giving and the other without shadow.  Echo and light.  A sound of light--weight replayed of dark--heaviness.  I wonder how Water St. shines here or is reflected or echoed back?  The mutuality of give and take.  Same geography modernly called a State.  Easily I could sit here for hours to ease the tiredness of my body and to elevate my mind beyond the Easter of my heart.  Raising from the dead is not good enough.  Not if you plan on dying better the second time around.  The storyteller of that has to have the market on metaphors.  Contemplating coffee and my being mingling such as water and land attending.  A way to awaken the easy-led senses off shore.
 What do we do about the great silent parts of living or what we assume are silent parts.  In the gaps are said what imperfect manner of things.  In the senses are there any imperfect bodies?  Only body soul & difference between life and death.  Reflecting must be a solitary duty.  Something of the way candles burn.  Singularly.  The handicaps.  ah. yes. the handicaps.  Where do we fit in the world of non-reflecting surfaces.  How are we to know ourselves without community to reflect us back?  The community-at-large in a movement of engagement of deciding myself.  I guess I had a gift--a grey hummingbird.

First Encounters and the Invention of History
Kim Campbell
Jacques Cartier kept jrnls. of measurements of his voyages
safe harbor
Two realities separated by space & time
 other place
different prose strategy needed
France, the yardstick against which the new world is measured
plant life--même comme France
the new world a variant of France
comme en France
comparison defines the new world
--Thing "seen" given epistemic/lexiconic reality by giving it a name
--A discursive space where real and unreal meet and create a new discourse
Cartier = Storyteller
Consumers of his journal:  map measurements/exploration patrons in the light of their agendas
Old world models not adequate to define the new world
"bond" created between signifier and signified and breaking down the spaces between?

Maureen O'Meara
Fôret infini
forest seemed outside God's rule
(me:  rather reflects God's wildness)
misplaced sense of order
visual still criterion of the real
cannot get the Micmac to see things through his Jesuit eyes
Jesuit Relations

Why did they see it necessary to wipe out one system to institute another?
Micmac wanted their own culture.
criteria of civilization:
Not kinship (like Micmacs) to show relationship
but ordered like "towns" that reflected urban values
Jesuits were looking for signs of authority and order
Shamans were the ones allowed to speak
Micmacs lived kinship with responsibilities
Kinship world:  Kin or stranger
Kinship webs
hierarchy not recognized
extension of social responsibilities
alliances = political kinfolk
objects embodied spirit for Micmacs
Animals had a role in kinship
wide web to be woven
wove in Christian figures
baptism:  sign of alliance rather than radical change

Lisa Gasborrone
Entering History ...and the Story of Québec
Lord Durham--proclamation
québécois had no real history
Should Québec:
enter or exit history?
if you don't have a history, how do you get a history?
what do you do when you get one?

who has a history and who doesn't?
astonished with the familiarity
unexpected Frenchness of the place
canadien unplagued by revolutions, etc.
Tocqueville viewed them as a conquered people
inability to enter history through inability to self-govern

If you don't have a history, do you have a future?
Garneau, French Canadian identity separating from France--fight with the English, but also are distant from the French of France
Disappearance of France 1759 in narratives
l'homme de metropole =  antagonistic
l'homme de colonie = unstated conflict
misplaced identity

Lewiston Songbook Tradition
shed our identity as we progress
Keepers of the Song/Culture
Inheritances which have been guarded
songs about life
a^  worker that Somebody bothered to ask what they were doing
Two-pronged exhibit
contemporising the archives
not just 
an exercise in nostalgia
moving out from the family toward the community
regional songs
regional stories
family songs--exclusive
family story and work
share my songs
my own handwriting of her songs
handwriting, nuns, and women
bringing out local culture
bringing in others from outside the culture
is reflecting
rencontage = retelling
It took someone to ask her for her songs
Sings thousands of songs and does not read music.
every song has a story--not only the text, but also the memories attached to it
notes cannot tell the story
a performance of a song is a transcription
I wonder why some families sing or sang
question of alive or dead.

Antonine Maillet


Antonine Maillet spoke--about the words
 the words of the reflection of question and réponse.  As she expresses it.  In French.  Not an easy question or a ready answer.  My life as it seems must look not what it seems.  I feel the challenge of dusting to come and fix--the need for attending to the basics.  The tying down of my life to the known or the way of being myself.  Just the easy self.  But it seems my focus of promoting women has made it to the mainstream.  That is an odd thought.  Claire Quintal made a remark--not to publish a book which Rhéa would not approve--she included a section on women.  Everybody laughed.  In agreement.  I guess that says a few things about the women and their situation. 

 Sitting by the water is a luxury of riches beyond compare.  Sitting by the ocean is as close to the riches of nature that expresses life.
 Very strange to be in places where you are blamed.  Or divined. 
 If you try to imagine this bay when the "explorers" came--you'd know them by their wardrobe.  I would envision you have to be satisfied somewhere in your existence to stay home.  Or somewhere you have to be content.  Contented.  In French the word is so much nicer.  Content.  The frustrations are not something you don't know anything about.  Maillet said yesterday the search was the thing, but what do you do about the strangeness of the new lands you are exploring?  In yourself and around you?  As the day dawns; I am also dawning.  I can see the wind move across the water.  We talk a long time about the other woman's husband showing up. 
 I had planned on doing an artistic, creative response to these presentations.  I'm satisfied in my sense of searching for the spiritual.  I wonder about me.  OR others who are (not) hurting or who are hurting out loud.  After talking to Kristin, I don't feel like such a whimp.  I also told myself before I came here this place had a beginning and an end.  For some reason I knew it was going to be a challenge.  But it is easier.  Small craft advisory.  For me and the weather.  I can say I miss my familiar surroundings.  Without shame.  Now.  I feel crazy because it is like a menu of too much human emotion on a scale of seriousness.  Nothing realizing.  I write amiss.

Lanette Landry Petrie
Her Mother's Walls
prayer prompter
black Maxwells

Cynthia Malmood
as mother/presenter
merges academic and community
list of traits
trait lists
huge amounts of variability

myth:  firmly held belief
collision course with academy
dialogue with community/academy
frame a conversational terrain
between the community
and the academy
leave your "weapons at the door"
"communities in resistance"
Baggage and all
arrogant assertions

Cynthia Fox
issues of ownership
what profit to be made?
speech in social behavior
speaking between familiars
minimum attention being paid to what is being said
most systematic [speech]
most natural [speech]
spoken written permission?
public vs. private space
stated purpose
access to the materials?
gatekeeper aspect
giving back to the community
don't help in the way it doesn't appreciate it
abandoning the language
because they want to

Louise Charbonneau
linguistic consequence with contact
I work "at the border" between Vermont and Québec
candid recordings
*long term relationship
language an important part of self image
Kristin Langellier
mobilized in resistances
give voice to someone who already has voice
responsible dialogue
think in terms of relationships between people
feminist community based research
how to get in the Kitchen?
Into Lanette's Kitchen?
health communication
Informed consent

Janet Shideler
do not have the right to do this
[but she does].

Vermont Franco Network
began with conversation between
Martha Pellerin Drury and her husband
husband felt his identity crushed.
Where/When does my Franco-American identity have that value.
Needs to be that kind of space for "his" kind of identity
"Pat on the Head" keep trying, you'll be a better Franco
Birth of Vermont Franco Network.
very encouraging very affirming
There comes a time when that mental thing does not satisfy.

met in the bakery
French teachers only French speakers in their community
boite aux lettres

Martha heart of the group
twenty years of silence
which destiny made me play
Simon of Vermont was a liaison between the Americans and the French Underground during WWII
families came to the dance
we don't have any money
major transition
I think I'm the only Franco-American female in town

Claire--(claims senior member)
communication style
If I lost my language I would lose my identity
Bought music
despite the odds
children who learn the language are a cause of pride for the parents
a happiness for the parents
My mother speaks a sophisticated patois
*Anything that had French in it I was going to investigate
Ad in the paper
Martha the driving force 
Without her none of this would of happened.

Franco-American organization
Union de Franco-Américain de CT.
information sharing
Evelyn made friends with Connie Magnan Albrizio
because of Le FORUM
1899 Union started
umbrella organization
bringing people together
entire month of October 
something Franco going on
even a bake sale
making it visible
increase the awareness
Bristol, Ct--large Franco-American population
a "skipped" generation
video the clubs
french bingo
french masses
french spaghetti supper
spotlight events from FRANCE
include anything Francophone
1885 St. Anne's parish in Hartford/Park St.
making a video (30 minutes)
reclaiming the inner city
photo exhibit of school/church 100 years

Exchange between Connecticut and the St. John Valley
Towns where the Francos are
The French of Connection
Wedding gowns on display 
everyone borrows everyone's wedding dress
[mine was borrowed three times]
Francos skirting violence
of the 
inner city

Charles Martel
How I came to be a Franco-American
grandmother died in childbirth (9th)
as a son, he tells his parents' story
extrahexagonal--US Franco-American
frustrated by the lack of opportunity 
to build my Franco-American identity
France as being the Center
Fringe everywhere else

May 25, 1996 Saturday
Retaining the Core:  The Voice of the Community
To corrupt Churchill's phrase
museum: temple of the muses
17th century was the beginning of museums
sheik/chic = other [academic]
Maine: from away
Ludger- remake
establishment of canon
local Franco museum
museum causes a fracture 
between the artifacts & community
museum objects from an orthodox canon
paradigmatic examples
don't speak to the community
cease to exist as objects of the community
[according to his definition your mother's walls
are more in context with the community]
understand rather than experience
reducible meaning assumed by the museum
change become the hubris
reminds us:
challenging the museum model
what do museums accomplish?
controlling the critical language
call for a rich web of histories
historical narratives
manipulate and subvert
The Prison House of Language
while promoting also closing down
no authoritative code
must not isolate it from change

Amy Morin/home art(s)
what happens to it when taken out of the context of "home"
but what is the relationship 
of women's decorating/art
for consumption by the family
sculpting roses
felt like silk (soft)
The art makes the body
"It took about a month of evenings"
altar clothes/church art

Don Cyr
Influence on the furniture of St. John Valley
furniture still on the shore
from the deportation
spirit of the material culture
Compare St. John Valley and Louisiana
hand forged nails before 1840
dental molding
Egyptians invented the screw
similar to LA--red paint
grosse rouge
sans beu
"eat the paint off the wall"
more of the cabinet style traditions
wood joiners
medieval tradition of cabinet makers
mortise and tendon
St. John Valley:  All in pine
LA: cypress
Lizotte armoire from Québec
made for specific place in the house
built for accommodating the floor
light the smoking pipe on the cupboard door
Carmen Lizotte, before 1840, 17 years old wrote in the cupboard:
"Where will I be in one year?"

Stepback Cupboard
Some women made furniture
do genealogy of family to find
out where the piece came from
lunette table
champered edges
male part, dry wood would go into female, green wood

Lisa Ornstein/Florence Rose Martin
song support group meeting
"song swap"
17 years old interested in folk music
je mange le misière
Accidental Student
ethics of research aspect of removing the artifacts 
Who is doing the removal
What are the vulnerabilities
Lisa Ornstein
accidental archivist
Florence Rose Martin
In Ste-Agathe, everybody sang
the singing town
my granddaughter
if she's awake, we can hear her
never learned to print
7-8-9-10 years-old copied her own songbook
I don't know how many acres you'd call that

At night, we'd swing and sing
neighbors bring chairs to the
road to listen to them
no street lights
everybody sitting in the dark
song/chanson à responds
[reflecting by singing back or listening]
who owns the information
long song--sad
eulogizing song
la compleinte
belle mère
mocqué un curé

Old Town History Project
Identity issues of language/culture
focus of the lens
aperture setting
film speed
of existence
Skin Island = Natives drying pelts
flowergirl for a lot of people
all of us have our war stories

we actually have voices
France discovered them [Franco-Americans] here
In [highschool] America you are allowed only one identity crisis
Maine is racist
Talking circle is broken
learning Penobscot and that will probably take us the rest of our lives
Calling across the sea
White people taking the way away
To do the appropriation is dangerous
Culture Clash because of this misunderstanding of what a talking circle is
(Sarah draws)

Street names
people's names
recording everything in journals
all the common elements recorded.
followed the postman for 1/2 hour

shame about the language
mixed marriages
Denis Ledoux
Go back to the Quebec
have the encounter between
the old or young
can't go back to the fields
time problem

Stop French
conveniently located to assimilate us.
New family values
discovery of self through the other
a bridge connects and separates
Where have we heard the voices 
of the mothers/mamans?
Identity as mother
mother's voice
take a piece
common thread
what does that mean
learn old and new all at the same time
frame it
She can afford to say that
material wealth
a long time ago
Women who Read:
Yvonne Ross
men who take over in poetry reading over done son

May 26, 1996 Sunday
 I can still sit in view of the ocean.  For a short while--une escousse. 
 It's like excavating literature in a culture.  Funny how I am questioned for authenticity.  What price a cultural value would I bring on the open market of belonging.  I would be misinterpreted by the too soon scrutiny.  Better to know myself in the open waters.  Today I am 43.  I was supposed to have a book written by now.  Publishing feels like it's for the beauty queens.  I've read the writing books.  I know about the desperations.  I also know about the self-possessions and the centeredness. 
 Freedoms are those around you--knowing those around you are the freedoms.  Them sharing.  Settled in yourself.  Writing besides the water...sometimes off-base, outfield, pitching. 
 Wanting growth spurts.
 Employing the tensions of Moses.
 Moses the deliberator in deliverance.
 The reflecting back to ourselves ourself leading ourselves out of bondage.  Parting the Red Sea of Servitude.  I'm looking at you looking back at me.  Making love is a reflective surface.  Shining a light against the mirror of God.  Depravation is shadow making.  The darkness of no light of response. 
 The judgments of june will be on us soon.  I'm not sure of my summer self.  I start a new year amongst the debris of possibilities.  Dust and winter's cobwebs in my being.  La poussière.  My future eternal companion.
 We live in the company of our judges.  Those who would shape us--"our small stone rubbed by many cut by a few rubbed many others and cut some too."
 Land and Sea reflect to each other.  My sand is too fine and too sifted.  Some men are looking for other shores to moor their bateaus.  My rocky shore.  My sheltered cove.  My cry to the waters for use.  Use my shores.  Make me a reflection of your love ocean.  Lap. lap. lap. up against the shoals of land cunt. 
 The land undulates its shivers.
 Responds, recalls, resounding.
How can you miss the particular references of memory.  Cataloging the air currents change in velocity, the spirit world's acknowledgment of temporal body travel across its paths.  You keep track.  Family behaviors.  Signatures of existence.  You hope someone will be there to receive you.
 On the eve of my forgotten birthday--I forgot it was my birthday--earth bound for 43 years, I read from my book and the crowd roared.  Well, they clapped at least.
 Reading what I read there's a certain verve or nerve I need to do that.  A je ne sais pas of shy or stupid or sad or anything of destruction.  I am building an image of the mind.  My life reconstituted in print.  Mind pictures released, flung on the open air between the mind and the mind--magic weavings.  Contact!  Publishing is also a reflection.
 The boat to Nova Scotia is leaving without me this time--the Bluenose Ferry.  I would like to go on it sometimes.

5/26/96 Sunday
 I'm going to show you French Island
How can he tell me I can't teach anymore?  This is my university.
babies and babies and babies
Burt Hatlen: Going to Norway understood himself
Intensely a closed world
Before Madeleine
Tina Passman
a classist in order to have all of history
Meditations = writing
worlds call Nouvelle
Margo Lukens
focus of franco-american
cultural intersections
English overlay-something preceding
claiming and reclaiming
subsumed into preexisting Academic form
She wants to be careful what she does with those hands
left Philadelphia
Scottish cousins we visit
plain people
congenial in their worship
mennonites became quakers
coming home to roost
Cynthia Malmood
hesitation and leaping
keeping the dialogue going between 
community and academy
Have enough voice in pluralism
competition between ethnicities on campus
Michael Alpert
not used to the silence
some parts of the academy affirming the human spirit
Interest of the community with itself
Tony Brinkley
in judaism:
notion of limitation
process of freedom
reciprocal if respected
willing to be marginal to a process
ways we in the academy are 
willing to be marginal
Practicing and recovering myself
tensions on campus
by working in communities 
A moment that has been a privilege
cross the tensions
significant "health" in the communities

Michael Grillo
Québec Riviera
Catering to the French
discovering one's past
Most of us had not had the luxury 
of losing it in order to find it
cultural trajectory
blocks of culture
that you can fall or plug into
rewriting narratives
reshaping story
what comprises Franconess

--That far along to
try to question who we are
This question of rediscovering ourself
What one does with this history?

Françoise Bourdon: Develop new ways to approach scientific world
less hung up on objectivity
by observing the world you change it

way culture is observed between the academy and community
the bad heirlooms
used vs. not used things
Grégoire Chabot:
In 1971 not thinkable to have a colloque
took a sabbatical (10 years) from my culture
a whole gang of us writers are out there
reflected very well on the university

Marisue Pickering:
Forge a relationship with more traditional aspects of the university

feel good units should feel good
what is the real cultural intersection
traditions filled with deadheads
dept. gone through a revolution
by associating with feel good units
not only a relevance and intelligence
afraid of our being too academic
demand respect
values questions
food, clothing, shelter
question:  what do we do with those aspects of the culture which traditional aspects of the university ignores
1860.  Secular history of the university.
feel good units
community/academy interacted
create new models
in a process that is very
process to bring woman into sacred academic spaces
The question is what are intelligences or smarts.
Intellectually rigorous
Take the objects out or away 
from the culture
respectful of one another
What about the gap?
doesn't always feel good
not engaging the truth
as academics reinforce ourselves
men as leadership? for women
just feeling good
attract student
pick a strength
publicize the hell out of it
Maine and France are integral
field day for the francos
What about community?
How to integrate?
Interdisciplinary models
"both/and" models
ground in traditional to provide 
comprehensive university
Value of Voice
How to discover
dialogues valuing
ends in divisiveness
language of dialogue
asks the question

May 27--Monday
 Still coming "off" the conference.  I asked everyone to sign my birthday card Lanette gave me.  All the women at breakfast.  Yvon asks to sign it too.  There are 12 women on the face of the card.  I say well...the men are the trees he tells me--okay, you justify it to me.  Walking through the forest of the male, I say. 
 We hug Yvonne Buchmann goodbye.  She is leaving today.  Amy to follow soon to go to France.
 The journaling helped me to get through the conference. 
 Clark Blaise is at the conference and remembers me from meeting him in Portland.  He comes over to talk to me.  I'm so fucking thrilled.
 Steven Riel and I get along.  We talk at breakfast.  He is a gay man.  Brave.  He leaves and he says:  "kisses."  Just like in the movies.  I'm thrilled again.
 Yvonne Ross is a force.
 Lanette and Alicia, roommates and pleasant dreams.  Thanks for the song.
 Don Cyr does a presentation that evokes art class.
 Président Jallet is present.
 Kristin Langellier presents on the breast cancer work.  It makes some people uncomfortable, but it works out.
 Janet Shideler, Claire Quintal and Elizabeth Aubé are the connection.
 Grégoire Chabot an (okay!) guy, from Waterville.
 Ludger Duplessis a charmer.  Waterville, too.
 Evelyn Sirois, OKAY!
 Colette Fournier, music, music, music.  Plus earrings.
 Françoise Bourdon an underground river--that cries.
 Barbara Ouellette--elegant.
 Ethel Hill--Good!
 Yvonne Buchmann--no longer virginal, a joy.
 Severin--always appreciative, on the count of three.
 Connie Albrizio is the real pretty lady and bravest.
 Florence Rose Martin, songs and friendship.
 Other.  Forces.  Belonging.
 I seem to make sense in places at times.
 I curse life's limitations, but praise my life's avenues of opportunity. 

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Photo by Rhea Côté Robbins, Redwood Forest