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Words to guide, inspire and entertain
Friday, February 01, 2013
A couple of years ago, we took a vacation to California. This sort of started as a species of mild revenge; we had tried on a previous trip, to stay in a lovely little town called Cambria, which is on the coast between LA and San Francisco, and were foiled (drat!) because there was some huge classic car show there and there was no room at the inn, as they say. This time around we did stay there, and it is so indescribably beautiful that I’ll just post a few pictures and let it go.
We were cruising, happily and aimlessly, and decided to take a hike and go to the Sequoia National Forest. You have to go across Death Valley to get there, and let me tell you, the name is spot on. It was 140º on the flats, and with the AC full on in our tawdry little rental car we managed to keep the interior at about 90º. Better than nothing, by a bit.
We came out of Golgotha and started to climb into the Sierra Mountains, and climbed, and climbed. We went past Three Sisters, a confluence of 3 very strong rivers
(these are rivers that you would not dream of putting a foot in) and shortly after got to the entrance to the park. We thought we’d climbed before, but we were ignorant of what ‘mountain’ really means. I live on a sandbar, ok? Not in my lexicon.
Anyway, we wound around and around, switch-backing up one of the stonier landscapes I’ve ever seen, and all granite. These are young mountains, craggy and sharp and stunning, with little trees and bushes that can’t possibly have found anything remotely like dirt to live in. They found something I guess, or maybe they were just air plants masquerading as trees. Mountain bromeliads?
We did get up to the crest after an hour or so,
and we started to see sequoias here and there. If you’ve never seen a sequoia, they are not like the redwoods down south. They are not like any other species of tree, because the geologic period that this plant is from is 60 million years gone. These are not numbers I can think about. Whatever, it was a very long time ago.
They don’t have bark, not as I know it. They have orange sponge. It’s soft and very deep and thick. The foliage doesn’t begin until about 75’ up; I craned my neck back till it hit my neck to see it, and got dizzy. The surface roots are immense, and the deep structure isn’t known. Want to guess why?
No sequoia has ever died of natural causes. They’ve never cut one down (gods, what a task that’d be!) and other than lightning strikes, which only partially damage the tree, they are all as they have always been. As they have always been.
Nobody knows how old they are. They’ve stood there alone on the top of those mountains since the mountains were born. They are still and silent, and they’ve witnessed everything. They don’t move. It’s eerie to be in the presence of something like that, to touch something so mysterious and ancient and deeply, I’m not sure how to write what I mean… immune to time.
Maybe the most belittling thing about being there was that you couldn’t actually look at a whole tree. They are just too big. Even from a distance, they fill fields of vision… my periphery was full of plant. We took a picture of one of the smaller, younger trees, standing outside the visitor’s center.
The photo looks like an enormous tree with a doll’s house next to it. The building is three stories high. It’s not reconcilable to one’s brain.
I cry when I am in places that give me perspective on my real size, brief breath, and complete unimportance. It’s not a sad or frightening thing; there’s majesty, and a kind of music.
If you get a chance, go there, and put your hands on some permanence.
photo: Amanda Bennett, www.bennettmassage.com