August 18, 2016
One of the main reasons why I chose the Pacific Coast route as my next ride with the Bike The US For MS organization is that it gave me the opportunity to ride my bike through the redwoods in Northern California.
I first encountered these great beings when I was a teenager, and large trees have had a talismanic effect on me ever since. A week after the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, my wife, Elizabeth, and I visited the Grove of the Patriarchs in Mt. Rainier National Park.
There are no redwoods in the grove, but there are ancient Douglas fir, western red cedar, and hemlock. They stand on a small island in the Ohanapecosh River. At the center of the grove stand two Douglas firs, each 20 feet across and a thousand years old.
Elizabeth and I sat in front of these two sentries, unshakably at their post for a millennia, and were overwhelmed by their power and presence. It was a moment of profound healing at a time of great sorrow.
Yesterday, on my last day riding with BTUSFMS, I got to ride among forest giants that make the Rainier trees seem like children. Some of these redwoods are 2,000 years old. After a last long climb, we descended through the ancient grove.
There is no place on Earth where I have seen the continuity and beauty of the circle of life and death more clearly than in an old growth forest. Every element, from the newest sprig to the most rotted nurse log, is devoted to preserving the whole.
As we descended, I thought to myself, “This is holy ground.”
The forest is so alive, I found myself opening my heart to each tree, then to the forest as a whole, then to the devas and nature spirits who live there. Tears started streaming down my face.
It isn’t often that we let the natural world intrude so deeply into our lives and awareness. Usually we’re moving too fast or focused too far ahead of us to see what’s right in front of us. This 12-day bike ride, and this 12-minute glide through old growth redwoods in particular, reminded me to pay more attention.
It doesn’t require a redwood forest. They were just my teachers for a day. As I drive home to Seattle with Elizabeth, my heart is open and overflowing with a grateful realization:
This, too, is sacred ground.