Over the summer, Kim and I visited Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, a place that had been on my short list of places to visit for a long time. I was excited to visit, thrilled even. But excited and thrilled only begin to capture how it felt for me to visit. Right is the word that comes closest. It felt right for me to go there.
One of the trails we hiked was the Muir Grove Trail. The trail took us through a beautiful forest, crossed multiple streams, and provided us with stunning mountain views. The trail ended at the Muir Grove of Giant Sequoia trees. This grove is just as impressive as the presidential grove, which has the famous General Sherman tree, but is much less crowded. You can spend as much time as you want admiring the trees and not worry about whose picture you are photo bombing.
When we arrived at the grove, there was no one there. We explored the grove, staring open mouthed at the immensity of the trees that surrounded us. After a little while, I decided to lay down and use the base of one of the giant trees as a pillow as Kim continued to explore. I normally don’t do anything like this when Kim and I hike. When we reach the viewpoint or the turnaround point of a hike, we normally eat our lunch, hang out for 20 minutes or so, then head back.
But in the Muir Grove, a sense of contentment washed over me, and I felt no desire to follow our normal hiking routine. I could have spent the entire day in the grove. I laid on the ground, staring up at the trees with their still branches, wandering how old these trees were and what they had seen in their lifetime. I thought about how the 3 decades I have spent on this planet are not even a drop in the bucket compared to the 3,000 or more years these trees have seen. Me and my thoughts seemed tiny and insignificant next to these ancient trees. It’s amazing how your problems, worries, and concerns seem to melt away when put in the proper perspective.
As I lay in the grove, with the trees arranged in a rough circle like old friends sitting around having a timeless conversation, I drifted off to sleep. It was a sleep of complete relaxation and one vivid dream even though I slept less than 20 minutes. In my dream, I was surrounded by friends, old friends from past lives. We were sitting around a campfire, talking, and catching up with each other with an easy conversation, as old friends often have. During this dream, I had a distinct sense of déjà vu, and I knew I had been here before. I had been in this grove with these people, and being in this grove with these people felt right. It was where I belonged. I felt a sense of bliss and belonging so strong it almost hurt. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before.
After this dream, I awoke. I looked around at the grove, still sensing my old friends sitting there. I turned my eyes upward and saw that the branches were now swaying in the breeze, as if to say “sit down and stay a while.” As I continued waking up, I could feel my friends slowly fading back into the ether we can’t perceive with our conscience minds. They were returning to where they belong after dropping in and seeing how I was doing. They were leaving, yet I knew part of them, and a part of me, would remain in the grove. It was our meeting place.
I stood up to stretch and dust the pine needles off my clothes and saw Kim coming back down the trail. It was getting late and was time to go. As we headed down the trail on our way back to camp, I turned back to the grove where just a few moments before I was catching up with friends from lives past, and noticed the tree branches still moving in the breeze. I couldn’t tell if they were waving goodbye or beckoning me back, to return to their ancient circle.
Grudgingly, I said my goodbyes to my friends and my trees, but not for good. In our parting, there was a promise to return. I don’t know when I will return, if it will be in 10 years or 100 years, but I know I will be back and I will catch up with friends, and the trees will welcome us into their circle to overhear our stories and stand as sentinels, protecting a timeless bond of friendship that connects us all.