One reason I love to travel is for being close to nature, which often makes me realize how small my pain is. It’s only a drop of the water in the ocean. Last week I went to San Francisco for a business trip, and I extended it as a mini vacation for myself. I visited Muir Woods National Monument, having the most magical and powerful experiences.
When I stepped on the tour bus, it was full already. There was an empty seat right behind the driver. I asked the woman who was to the left of the open seat if I could take it, and she said, “Yes, please!” We started talking on the way to the Muir Woods National Monument. When we stopped to have a quick peek of the Golden Gate Bridge, we were already feeling quite comfortable with each other. My new friend was working very hard to help me with the photos below.
She is a first-generation immigrant, like me, and she was on a business trip as well. We were both so impressed with the stories about the Muir Woods National Monument that our bus driver told us. When we arrived, we decided to continue hanging out together and taking the hike together too.
I’ve never seen a tree so tall and wide in my entire life. The tallest tree in the monument stands 258 feet tall. Which is insane, considering the seeds for these trees roughly equal the size of a tomato seed. The oldest tree is 1,200 years old (most are between 500 and 800 years old). As well as tall, trees at Muir Woods are exceptionally wide, reaching over 14 feet (you cannot hug one, they are too big!).
My new friend and I were like little kids, so connected with the woods. We were both touched by the stories about the family circles. Hundreds of years ago a single large redwood grew here. Then, disaster struck. The trunk of the large redwood died, perhaps by repeated and severe wildfires. From here you can see the original tree trunk still standing upright, now a dead and blackened snag. Despite such terrible damage, the tree did not die. Below the ground, its massive root system was full of vitality. Before long, hundreds of young, bright green burl sprouts began to come up around the circle formed by the root crown of the original tree. Some of those sprouts have grown into the full-sized trees that today stand in a circle around the original trunk.
It’s like life. I went through hard times in my life, from fighting hunger to family abuse, and domestic violence. Then I finally found my true love and married him, and last year he passed away. I have enough reasons to hate life, but the longing for life keeps me alive and make me reborn over and over again… like those thousand-year-old trees. They’ve been through everything. Yet, they’re still there, calm and loving.
The night I came home, I received a message from my new friend. I was tearing up when I read it. “Hi, Grace! It’s your friend from the Muir Woods forest 🌳. Just read some of your blogs… I’m sorry about your husband. Thank you for giving me perspective… You see, I’ve got cancer almost three years ago, had a surgery, then chemo. My hair grew back but not my eyebrows. But I gained a tremendous appreciation for life and meetings like ours. Your blog showed me how a family suffers when cancer hits one of its members. What can I do to ease their pain? Anyways, I’m going home tonight and will hug them warmly. And you, my random friend, be strong and know that you are not alone. Hugs 🤗” By the way, the woman in the photo below is her.
Those trees and my new friend made me appreciate so much again for being alive. There are no bigger reasons to celebrate life than just simply being alive! Always choose to face the sun. If it’s cloudy, I’ll be my own sun.
Photo credit: Grace Liang/Bogna
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