On our first day in San Francisco, Sherry, Heather and I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the coastal towns to Muir Woods.

We walked slowly into the forest as one walks into a cathedral – quiet and astounded. Tipping back our heads, we gazed up into the canopy of the trees. They towered up into the mist, some over 200 feet.

I noticed the air. It was sweeter, denser, moister. My body, my very cells, seemed to quiver with every breath. Clean, cool oxygen filled our lungs. It smelled of loam, evergreen, sweet decay, and the distant ocean.

The bark of the trees was the color of an old red New England barn. On our fingertips it felt rutted, furrowed, fibrous.

A ranger told us that the roots under these giant trees go down only six feet beneath the surface. They withstand the mighty wind by holding hands with the other trees. Underground lie knots of intertwined limbs, balancing each other. The trees grow in circles, or families, with the mother tree in the middle and the offspring standing in a circle around.

Soaking in moisture through their roots and needles, the trees drink 800 gallons of water every day. When the mist rolls in from the ocean, it disappears into the evergreens.

This place has been the stage of life and death, growth and decay, for ages. It is good to be in the presence of something ancient, something that goes silently and steadily on and on, while the world races by.

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