Monday, April 18, 2011

Sequoias & Love

      This past weekend I went on a journey.  I was joined by a group of friends, some closer than others, but a genuinely fantastic group of people.  It's not easy to put into words what happened and why it was so special, but the trip was one of the greatest experiences in recent memory.
      We hit the road and about four hours later we found ourselves in what seemed like heaven, a living postcard.  Sequoia National Park is a place I could never have found while living in New York.  This was something that kept hitting me all weekend.  My heart often drifts back to what I may be missing back East and things like this are constant reminders that my move out West was a good one.  The park is enormous. The trees, all different shades of greens and purples, are never-ending, draped with sporadic patches of mountains, open meadows and stunning rock formations.  We surrounded the campfire at night, passing a bottle of whiskey around and taking turns complimenting everyone in the group.  It was a perfect way to bring the group closer and prepare us for the following day's experience.
       I was lucky to be a well-travelled kid.  My parents made sure my Sister and I got to see some amazing places.  However, we were never much of an outdoorsy bunch.  We saw the Grand Canyon and natural geysers and redwoods and sat in hot springs in Canada, but never camped and always seemed to see nature from more of a distance.  Not since I backpacked through the Cascade Mountains in WA when I was 18 had I seen the natural beauty of SNP.  It was beyond amazing.
      Our first full day began with one of our hodgepodge meals (tortillas, beans, eggs, cheese, TAPATIO, pop tarts).  We hopped in our cars and headed to Giant Forest and saw some of the most incredible trees I'd ever seen.  Sequoias are not only mammoth, but also a beautiful darkish red, with almost sponge-like bark.  I kept a branch that had fallen, which was so colorful you'd think someone could have painted it.  AND THERE WAS SNOW!!!  I almost cried at the sight.  I wasn't able to get back home this year so it's been a long time since I was able to touch real snow.  There was a huge rock overlooking a field of snow and we all decided to dive off of it.  When I was younger I would have been so scared and probably wouldn't have gone through with it.  This was an awesome reminder about how much I've grown.
     We said our goodbyes to our tree friends and headed back to camp.  Next up was magical journey time.  We brewed some tea and added some "special stuff."  I won't say what because this is a public blog, but we proceeded to let this "stuff" work it's magic.  We then embarked on a mini-hike from gorgeous spot to more gorgeous spot.  The setting felt like a dream, a background for us to laugh and cry and reflect and bond.  Mayer Hawthorne's "Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'" dropped on us like a bomb of Soul and life just felt right.  It will always remind me of this trip.  I thought to myself that Mayer makes the music I want to eventually make one day.  I must continue to grow as a songwriter.  I must also find my kindred bandmates.  They're out there somewhere.
     The views from our various cliffs were breathtaking, the sun was hitting everything so perfectly.  Then we headed through the woods, only to find a series of waterfalls.  "Enchanted" was the only word I could think of.  Then we moved into the river where my friend and organizer of this trip Lauren baptized me in the water (don't tell the Jew-Gods).  I proceeded to kneel down and run my hands through the cool, running water and thought to myself that nothing mattered in that moment, but my touching of the water.  I felt really tall and strong, remembering that I am a powerful being if I believe I am.  My heart was almost at the point of exploding from joy, humbled by the magnitude of our surroundings.  I sat down on a rock and stared up at a huge rock formation on top of a mountain, pinkish-orange from the sunset.  Then I closed my eyes and reflected on my life up until this point.  How I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.  How proud I am to be me.  How lucky I am to be alive.  How only your present moment matters when you let your ego go.
    We found a red salamander and I immediately connected with him.  I braved the possibility that he may be poisonous and picked the little guy up.  He was beautiful, almost gummy-like, the way he moved over the rock and stretched out.  We spent a good two minutes simply staring into each others' eyes.  I know this sounds like "druggy talk," but we really shared a moment.  My friend Miguel told me that lizards are cold-blooded night creatures and they're always looking for light, a symbol of the search for knowledge.  I now feel a deep connection to lizards.
    The sun went down, we sat around the fire, everyone fairly silent, and I reflected on the day as we all ate gobs of junk food for dinner.  We truly lived out a child's dream (hugging huge trees, jumping off a rock into snow, playing in the woods, coloring with stencils and eating chips/candy for dinner all without parental supervision).  The next day we went on a hike, bathing in various waterfalls, before we hit our car and went back to the real world.
    I am thankful.  For all the loved ones in my life, for the opportunity to keep following my dream career, for the blessings of nature and mostly for the security that continues to grow in myself.  This trip was one of those reminders of how amazing life can be.  The goal now is to try and evoke these same feelings more often in my day-to-day experience.  I know I can do it.  I'm blessed.  Also, I can now spell the word "Sequoia" with that's pretty cool.