Isn't it strange how we are drawn to some places in our lives over and over? Does that happen to you?
Sometimes it is a block, or a part of a city. Sometimes it is a stretch of beach, or a trail. Sometimes it is a restaurant. Sometimes the time between visits is so long I no longer remember where it is or how to get there, and then I arrive there again, and the memories come flooding back. These places are like magnets, my energy poles on earth. I have them in Tokyo, in Los Angeles and in Connecticut and California.
This past weekend we went camping in Sequoia National Park. I had been before. I knew that. I had seen the big trees and dipped in the glacier lakes. I went there with Natalie, probably about ten years ago. My memory of our trip was vivid. We had stayed in a campground alone. Ranger vehicles had swung through the park at night, their lights shining through our tent wall. She had cooked me campfire gado gado, gourmet wilderness cuisine, learned on her outward bound summer.
The campground was so deserted we scared ourselves, convincing ourselves that Cary Stayner, the then notorious National Park killer, could come upon us and stab us in the tent. We were more scared of him than bears.
We hiked into the back country singing Sweet Honey and the Rock songs and talking about love and life, and camped on the front porch of a ranger cabin under the stars. It was before she had cancer. She said she wanted to be a one hit wonder. Like Milly Vanilly I asked? Yes, she said. I want one beautiful song that everybody sings, that changes people's lives. One song that no one ever ever forgets. I think about that now, because that is sort of what she was--the song you cannot get out of your head. She was one tune. But she was unforgettable.
The second day we hiked high high into the mountains, and skinny dipped in a glacier lake. Then we lay naked on the rocks to dry. I, of course, carried my journal, and wrote a letter of love to myself that changed my life--a pledge that I would take care of my soul. I still have it in a box in my closet. The only part of the house that is truly, 100 percent all mine--piles of old sweaters, pictures, art and pieces of my past life. It is the clutter of my soul.
Anyway, there we were in Sequoia last weekend. We were with the Markos, our very favorite camping adventure friends. We tried to do everything you could with four children under the age of 7. We hiked to see the General Sherman tree and looked for bears. We went to see the Crystal Cave and climbed inside the Sequoias to feel their ancient primal energy. We clambered up rocks and dipped our feet in streams that Theo declared "colder than snow."
We were trying not to overschedule, but I demanded that we go to Crescent Meadow. The camp map said it was the most beautiful meadow in the park, and a sign by the meadow had a quote from John Muir calling it the "gem of the Sierra." And it was. To me it looks like heaven.
But here was the strangest thing. As soon as we drove up I knew that was where I had been with Natalie. I saw where we camped, and where the High Sierra trail split off from the meadow. I remembered the hollow tree and the beauty of that place. I had forgotten its name or where it was, but here I was again. And once again it felt life-changing.
This time we saw a bear cub try to eat a red-checked table cloth, and then four more bears out in the meadow. We walked out on the immense trunk of a fallen Sequoia into the middle of the meadow and stood in that sea of green, looking at the purple wild flowers, the towering Sequoias and the lumbering bears. We picnicked with our children and savored the perfect, magical beauty of the place. If there is a heaven, I think it looks like the Crescent Meadow.
And there, once again, I felt Natalie. I remembered her words, and felt her pulling me up the less travelled dirt trail to the High Sierra path. I heard her laughing and congratulating me for getting my boys out into the wilderness. I felt her shooting pictures and singing with me.
And there I was again. I suppose it is one of my important spiritual pilgrimage spots. Who knows why. I will put it on my list. I got back and began methodically planning my summer (so hard for me!). I turned to July in my Sierra Club calendar and there was Crescent meadow--again! Theo had drawn himself in the middle of it. So strange.
2 years ago