This is my tribute to Earth Day. It was written in 2001 and has been polished up a little. At the time, I read an article about Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) and had known very little about these trees until then.

The majesty and uniqueness of Giant Sequoias immediately grabbed my imagination and heart. I was transported to a hypersensitive state of feeling for and communicating with this species, especially the specific tree mentioned. At the time I had no previous interaction with any variety of redwood at all.

It wasn’t until some time later that I was graced with the physical presence of these trees at Muir Woods in Marin County, California (there are some Giant Sequoias there although most are coast redwood, Sequoia sempervirens.)

When I finished reading the article, I immediately sat at my computer and wrote the following. It wasn’t the first or last time that I experienced interspecies communication.

Make sure you read the end part as it has a message for all humanity.

Sunlight through Sequoias
Photo by Kevin Grahame

In 1852, during the California gold rush, a lone hunter was chasing a wounded grizzly bear into the forest, when he stumbled upon the Giant Sequoia redwood trees. That he was chasing a wounded grizzly was not a good start. The sacredness with which Native Americans regard Giant Sequoias, to the point of not even touching them was about to be shattered.

These awesome trees have a lifespan of up to 2000 years, the most ancient being 3300 years old. They have continuously existed since 100 million years ago, outlasting the dinosaurs. The largest stand over 300 feet tall, and their trunk at the base can measure as much as 32 feet in diameter. Their physical presence is undeniable, pointing to a presence of another variety altogether.

The hunter will remain nameless, although his and those of other misguided souls are known. Let’s call him Mr. Hunter. The boss of the gold mine camp can be Mr. Greed.

Mr. Greed seized opportunity at a time when the land was obviously exposing its riches. The land is abundant and provides for humanity’s needs. It was created for us to stand on and to live. Gold. Trees. What a miracle! The land gives freely, but humans aren’t free. Mr. Greed is a profiteer, but we’ll get back to him in a moment.

It’s saddening that Mr. Hunter couldn’t even use the input of his senses to be deeply moved by these trees, let alone have a spiritual perception about their true value. He could’ve gone down in history as one who discovered a natural marvel, an expression of Nature’s creativity. Instead he’s merely prey for my writer’s indignation and horror.

Take a breath! Take a moment and bask in the wonder of such a sight. Take your hat off, sit and experience such majesty. Mr. Hunter, could you have been given a greater opportunity to understand Life?

Can you imagine the moment he stumbled on these ancient ones? Can you feel the silence of these trees and the environment they dominate?

Feel the pristine quality of this place.

The height of this arbor cathedral.

That he was able to find his legs to get back to camp is a small miracle of its own. Not one such tree, but acres and acres, with all other life forms contained and thriving.

Divinity in bark.

Was Mr. Hunter scared? Was he excited? What did he feel? How long did he stay before returning to camp?

Did it ever change him in some fundamental way?

All that’s certain is that camp boss Mr. Greed and everyone else were duly informed and rushed they did to gaze with their own eyes. Of course that would be the only choice.

What words did Mr. Hunter use to describe his discovery?

At the time, no one knew that Giant Sequoias are almost indestructible. Their bark is fire-resistant, strange as that is for wood, and because their root systems spread over nearly an acre of soil, they’re able to survive the most terrible of droughts.

Mr. Greed, unlike Mr. Hunter, was a man of deeper thought, and clearly saw a way to riches by making the site of the discovery a tourist attraction.

Discovery Tree, so aptly named but mistreated, was to be the mascot of these ancient ones at the hands, mercy and intelligence of this band of men. Not having TV or any other technology, Mr. Greed brilliantly decided to take a massive slab of Discovery Tree with him on a traveling freak show as a way to advertise the site.

We have progressed since then, because these majestic trees can now be toppled down in whole acres and the land forced to comply to a profit agenda by something called clear-cutting, but that’s another story.

In Mr. Greed’s time, who lives on in many disguises, there wasn’t any tool strong or long enough to make a dent in Discovery Tree’s fireproof bark.

Think about this: Nature made a tree, a form of wood that has a fire-resistant outermost layer!

Brains were doing overtime and the solution was to hire miners to drill holes with long metal augers as wide as a man’s fist, a workingman’s fist.

After twenty days of drilling, there was a circumference of holes around the tree. Such is humanity’s indomitable spirit, that it just won’t give up!

Remember: 20 days of drilling. Fist size holes. Fireproof bark.

When Mr. Greed’s affluent invited guests came for the crowing victory, Discovery Tree still refused to fall.

It remained standing for another two days.

It chose to make its exit with a dignity befitting Its species and broke the grove’s profound silence one lunchtime when the idly curious were away.

The thunderous shudder of Its fall reverberated across the Earth and millennia, both as a warning and as an announcement of the first Sequoia Saint to ever grace our memory.

Trees, creatures, plants and knowledgeable peoples all over heard it and shared in the silence following such a mighty crash. It was and is a sad moment whose lesson is still haunting modern society.

This story is very much alive today and sadder than ever. Mr. Hunter and Mr. Greed have been replaced by the gaping mouth and endless stomach of consumerism. The Machine has replaced augers.

However, that’s not why I wrote this. I’d like to dwell on Discovery Tree. Who was It? What did It feel? How is It doing now?

Thank you for asking! I’m quite well. We all appreciate the voice you and many like you have given us.

 

The most important realization is that no created thing is a random mutation, following a string of events after the Big Bang.

 

We are all creations of the Great Original and science will soon understand that.

 

The thought that led you to write this is a true thought: There has to be purpose and design behind the creation of our exceptional form. We are honored to express the diversity of Divinity in such magnificence. Our story is strong.

 

This is evident in that you haven’t even visited us physically. You’ve seen some photographs, but not even a documentary. Yet, our story reached across time to touch you. This again is with purpose.

 

We are all souls. The creations of Nature also have souls. The form we embody is specifically designed to make this fact visible. It forces Reason to falter so truth can take hold. Our lifespan points to eternity. We were placed here to witness time. Our cousins on land, the Elephants and our cousins in the ocean, the Whales have a similar purpose.

 

Like many, I felt sad. It was extremely painful too. I endured it because I was created to endure, as we all are. I stood and could have stood longer.

 

My species bled and cried with me, not for me but for the future. I chose when to call it a day. Without my choice, I’d still be up.

 

I bled and cried also because not one of those men had an opening of heart and mind. Their bark was thicker than mine. The boundary of their perception never once shifted or expanded.

 

At night I’d get relief and many creatures comforted me. The Great Original gave me many ways to lick my wounds. I forgave in the honored tree tradition, for most tree species have suffered at the hands of humanity.

 

The answers of Life are out in the open. There are really no secrets. All life forms contain these answers. Digging and searching are only to make the truth last and not be forgotten. After struggle and heartache, truth becomes permanent. Otherwise it loses to a multitude of distractions.

 

Not all species are supposed to last through all time. What’s devastating is premature extinction from unnatural causes. This is not in the interest of humanity or this Earth.

 

At the time I ceased to be, at least in that particular form, humanity was thinking a certain way, a way that has continued and has borne the results you live with today.

 

We have witnessed much in our time and we tell all of you now: Live in a way that honors Life for you partake in it. It gives you everything and you must also give it your everything.

 

It takes 20 adults with arms at full length to encircle one Giant Sequoia.

Praise be!

Credit goes to Mark Hertsgaard for the background on Discovery Tree, and for fascinating Giant Sequoia facts click here.


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The Sainthood Of Sequoias