After a busy few days of exploring everything San Francisco had to offer, our friends who moved to Oakland around 25 years ago, took us on a trip to a very special place.
Muir Woods National Monument is around 12 miles north of San Francisco, on Mount Tamalpais State Park. A forest of giant Sequoia Redwoods, some of the largest in the world, with a lush green carpet of Redwood Sorrel and Fern.
You find yourself whispering as you enter, taking care with every step, and craning your neck to see the treetops. Feeling as small as an insect next to the sky scraping Redwoods. You are in an ancient cathedral.
There’s a profound sense of the cycle of life. Of all the ancient Native American tribes who lived their lives amongst these trees. Of everything we know that has happened in the world (and everything we don’t know), over the last 1200 years. All the wars, the natural disasters, modern medicine, the industrial revolution, technology, the pollution of our oceans, global warming… These Redwoods have been standing here, throughout it all. And they will still be standing here, long after we’re gone.
The Japanese have practiced ‘Forest Bathing’ for centuries, which is essentially the act of being in the presence of trees. Not hiking or trying to accomplish anything, there is no effort required. They believe (and studies have shown) Forest Bathing to have many health benefits, and to be a form of therapy. The connection with nature is said to calm the nervous system and soothe the soul. Muir Woods must be one of the best places in the world to practice ‘Forest Bathing’. You can feel your body responding as your mind takes in the enormity of the tree trunks. I had goosebumps the whole time we were there.
Visiting Muir Woods feels a lot like taking a pilgrimage. I’m not a religious person, but being in the presence of these ancient trees, ‘Forest Bathing’ under the canopy, I felt spiritual.
Being with our family friends, who looked after us so well and who I have this history with through my parents (they’ve known me since I was in my mum’s tum), it felt very special that we shared this experience with them (or rather, they shared it with us). As a family, I don’t think they’d mind me saying that they’re going through a turbulent time, and so to see them reminisce about the happy times they’ve visited Muir Woods over the years, was a joy. It’s a very special place indeed.
Life is complicated and messy, we take our good health for granted every day. Most of us are struggling to strike a balance between wanting to squeeze more out of life, and being contentedly happy with our lot. In Muir Woods, I saw a reflection of what I believe to be true. All we really have is the here and now, and that is actually, pretty magical.