I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but apparently, I have turned into a Matriarch. I went from having a couple of adorable grandchildren to suddenly having SIX! (Daughter #2 was a late bloomer). With the restraints of lockdown lifted, my daughters and I celebrated a week together with all six grands, ages 6 months to 13 years, in Northern California. The highlight of the visit was a trip to the Big Trees near Arnold, CA.
Though Native Americans, bears, deer and other creatures surely knew of the majestic sequoia (aka redwood) groves, the first European descendants discovered them in 1850 and the trees soon became a tourist attraction. Of course with typical marauder disregard for the sanctity for natural life, the largest tree was felled in 1853. Over 1,200 years of life was displayed as a traveling trophy; the stump turned into a dance floor. I danced on it with my grand kids last week, 168 years since its demise.
Fortunately for the trees and future generations of humans, naturalists like John Muir, Senator John Conness and others, banded together to protect the groves from lumber companies. In 1931, 6,498 acres were designated as Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Easy walking trails meander among the mixed conifers and stands of ancient sequoias. Rising to heights over 300 feet tall and living over 3,000 years, the giant redwoods inspire speechless awe in the beholder. Literally, no words can adequately describe and express their splendor or emotional impact. Many of the trees have been given names–Palace Hotel Tree, Empire State (so tall), Pioneer Cabin, and Mother of the Forest, which sadly stands today as a testament to man’s destruction of nature. In 1854 it was skinned alive of its bark so it could be shipped East and reconstructed to show people a Big Tree. It subsequently died, losing its canopy in 1861. Today it stands as a fire scarred snag. The Mother of the Forest induces feelings of grief and loss. Yet, it is also a symbol of resilience. For despite the worst man could do to her, she still stands.
The sequoias are indeed resilient against drought and fire. Their reproduction is actually reliant on cycles of fire to release seed from pine cones. After the flames have died and the spring rains return, new generations of trees will sprout.
Walking among the Big Trees, the wind stirs the high branches, creating a symphony of swishing crescendos and pianissimos. The community of trees seem to form family groups, whispering over the human visitors roaming their domain. Hopefully, they’ve come to appreciate us, feeling our sense of wonder as we gaze upon them. My crew loved wandering the paths, exploring tree tunnels, and absorbing the sights of nature’s unending creativity.
The trip inspired me to create a new meditation, Wisdom of the Big Trees. Join me for a spiritual, healing journey into the heart of the ancient sequoias.