A trip to The Big Trees
Well the demo is out and about (http://franbetlyon.bandcamp). The party is over(watch it here) . And this singer/songwriter is breathing a breath of fresh air. Literally. After a lot of hard work and a huge pay-off (blog to come later on the demo release) I retreated into the Sierra Nevada mountains with a dear friend to relax, breathe the mountain air and look at what I call, The Big Trees.
This is a trip that has been on my California bucket list since I moved out here. I’ve always been drawn to the forest - a canopy of trees makes me feel safe and loved, and looking up through the light shining between the branches, I’ve always thought I was glimpsing something from the beyond. I have been looking at the website for the Sequoia National park for two years now, saying “Hopefully soon, I’ll have the money, or I’ll have a travel partner, etc.” As it goes with life, my ‘best intentions and plans’ always fell through. So often my will and my desires don’t really work out the way I had hoped or planned. I’m just sort of sucky at life sometimes - especially when I'm running the show. But the cool thing about surrendering your hopes and dreams to a power greater than yourself is that they come true somehow. And usually in a way that was way cooler than you ever could have imagined.
So it went with this trip to the park. I don’t have the money. And I didn’t have the time. And I didn’t plan on taking this trip. I was just coming down from the demo release and needing to take a break. And it just sort of happened. My friend Emma was in town from England, I had let her stay with me for a week here and there in the past year, she wanted to go away for the weekend and wanted to thank me and there is no longer a train running to San Francisco. And Voila! A day later, we are packing the car and on the way to see the the Big Trees. The minute you stop planning and maneuvering your life to suit your needs, you get what you’ve always wanted.
I got a gift this past weekend from Emma, from the trees, and from God. It was unexpected and wonderful. I always imagined the trees being green and huge - I would be sitting in the dirt, looking up, meditating, and having some sort of spiritual zen moment. Well as we climbed the 5,000 feet up to the park in my Scion and stopped to put chains on the tires, it became very clear that my imagination was shite. The park was covered in over 15 feet of perfectly white snow and more was coming. This was the most snow the park has seen in 50 years. It was a magical wonderland - equal parts frightening and staggeringly beautiful. All we could do was just hope for the best and keep making our way up the hill. I’m so glad we did. This was not what we bargained for.
Despite the similarities to the Shining (so many), our room at Wuksachi Lodge was warm and cozy, the staff was friendly and accommodating, and there was absolutely NOTHING to do. The TV, Internet and cell phones didn’t work, the shuttles and tours weren’t running, the museums and gift shops were closed. I wanted rest, this is what I would get. Thanks, God! We sat around, and ate food, and went to bed early. All we could do was keep looking around going, “I can’t freaking believe this!”
Saturday, we decided to brave the weather and take advantage of the park -- in Snow shoes! I’ve never attempted anything like this, but I’m so glad we faced our fears and went for it. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done -- and again -- completely different from my imagined, fantasy experience.
I wrote this after our time traipsing through the woods:
The world is so fucking beautiful! It’s awe inspiring. We are so small. We live a measly 80 years if we’re lucky. A sequoia tree can live up to 3,000 years. General Sherman is 2, 500. He was around when Jesus walked the earth. These trees just stand there and observe while the world around them changes. They could have so much to say about us. We don’t really grow much, I’m sure. Not like them. Humans just walk around the earth - looking up. Looking up at the branches. Looking up at the sky. Looking up for God, for guidance. Feeling this presence. Knowing how small we are. So small. Just little specs.
Walking through the rugged, snow-covered forest today, I felt like I was a complete, significant part of the surroundings, however small. I was a part of the forest today. It’s almost as if I had a part to play. Like the trees needed something to watch over, and I was it.
I touched the bark of one of the Redwoods and could feel the vibrating energy bouncing off of it. This is an OLD living thing. The bark is almost hollow and if you beat on it, it is like a natural drum in the woods. I beat a little rhythm on the side, as if to say to the tree, “Wake up! I love you!” It was a happy sound. I know the tree heard me.
As we left the park, I felt this sadness come over me. I guess I was ready to go back to LA and my life, back to the internet and phone service, back to friends and work and distractions and traffic. But what I was not ready for was to go back under the open sky. It felt so safe under the protection of the Big Trees. I started calling them the Ancient Watchmen. Because that is what they are. They have been around for longer than any of us. They stand watch and protect us from the harshness of the world, the sun, the elements. They keep us safe. We rest by their trunks, and take shelter under their branches. When I’m under a canopy of trees, I feel as if God is watching over me. It’s a physical reminder of that universal truth that we are loved, protected, and cared for. I’m so grateful to the Big Trees for making it so clear to me. For almost banging me over the head with this truth. I am loved. I am cared for. God is protecting me. When anything happens - whether I perceive it to be good or bad - God is protecting and loving me. Here is a picture of me resting by one of the Ancient Watchmen - a huge pile of snow just fell on my head. It was like getting a noogie.
I really never leave the protection of the woods, no matter where I am. And I can learn from the Big Trees and stand my ground, stand tall, and be there for others when they are in need. If I surrender in the protection of their branches, I'm sure more and more dreams will come true, just as they did this past weekend.
If you get a chance to spend some time with some trees this week. Do it. Those are some wise mutha-effers.