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    Zen of The Sequoia

            Of all the places I’ve been to, The Giant Forest may be my favorite. I say “may” because declaring a favorite place is not something I like doing. Any more than I like declaring a favorite color or a favorite word or a favorite person. In our culture, ranking everything from “best” to “worst” borders on a societal obsession. And nothing is usually “the best” or “my favorite” in every context for anybody. For example, I love the color electric metallic fuchsia. A set of drums in that color would be outstanding, but I wouldn’t want to paint my car like that. Well, actually, maybe I would. But you get the point.
            The Giant Forest is located in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in eastern California. I’ve been there twice, both in the summer. My goal is to visit the park at least once during each season within the next five years. I would love to wake up there one January morning during a snow storm. Cross country skiing, or simply snowshoeing, amongst the gigantic Sequoias and other massive conifers during a snow storm is my idea of bliss.
            Being in The Giant Forest is like being inside a lucid dream. It’s at once surreal and unreal. You’re humbled by these enormous giants, but at the same time you feel special, because you’re connected to a special place. You float while staying grounded. You’re peaceful and at the same time jacked with excitement. For me to say it’s zen, I suppose I’d have to find the mundane in the sacred and the sacred in the mundane, but I’d have a hard time finding anything mundane about the place. I’ll leave that to those of you who understand zen a little better than I do.
            How this place achieves all this is because of the Sequoias. The Sequoias are trees, and in that, very familiar to us. But the Sequoias are unlike any other tree you’ll ever see. They’re so much more massive than any other tree that we have a hard time accepting that these things are really...trees.
            These are living specimens. They grow. Just like we do. Just like every other living thing on the planet. But they grow so big that they defy our conception of what being alive means. They shatter the mind’s limited ability to grasp reality. Like music, the Giant Sequoias reach our hearts and souls directly. Not so much bypassing the mind as blowing it. While our mind struggles with their enormity, flabbergasted and in complete awe, our hearts are filled. Our souls connect. These are astonishingly beautiful living organisms. And like all true beauty, it touches something deep within our hearts. And like all living things, they have the potential to connect us to what’s alive in us. Just like playing with a puppy does.
            The experience of being surrounded by the Giant Sequoias is as spiritually and emotionally glorious as it is mentally stimulating. From a purely scientific, intellectual perspective, these trees are marvels of nature. Even the Ebenezer Scrooges of the world would have a hard time saying “Bah! Humbug!” to them. But it’s way more than just an expansion of the mind. It’s an expansion of the heart. Of the soul. It’s an expansion of our connection to the earth, of our connection to ourselves, and of our connection to our god, if we believe in such. What comes over me is a sense of belonging. I belong to this forest. To this earth. To humankind. To myself. To my life. If that isn’t a spiritual experience, nothing is.
            Being there for four days was not just a vacation from the outside world, but a vacation from my inside world as well. The usual chatter of my mind was much quieter. The silence of the trees was what I heard. It was deafening. And the deafening silence filled every crevice of my being until I was so full I could burst. Just being there was like being in joy itself.
            I’m going back. Soon. Any takers?.....


    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and a Giant Forest full of Wrongs) Reserved.

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