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Sensing Spirit Among the Redwoods

“The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
 There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.”

– Psalm 19: 1-4


Last week I stood among a grove of coastal redwoods in San Mateo County, California, south of San Francisco. I was in California visiting my parents and, as I try to do whenever I come to California, I took the better part of a day off to be among these magnificent trees.

“There is no speech.” These trees stand silently. Yet there is an air of nobility and majesty surrounding them. Dare I call it a sacred presence? Whatever you call it, their presence is palpable and almost immediately restored an inner peace and groundedness that I’d lost in the flurry of family activities.

Their size is impressive to the eye. We live in a country in which most of our forests were cut down for timber one hundred or so years ago, making it rare for us to experience old growth forests of any kind. These redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet and can be up to 30 feet in diameter. When driving in the Santa Cruz mountains where they live, the redwoods stand out. They demand your attention by their size.

Size alone fails to capture the redwood experience. When I am among redwoods, if I am able to still myself and open heart and mind, there is a silent transmission of a quality of being that I receive. It is as if they are transmitting a quality of pure being and presence. When I am quiet and receptive, I am invited into this experience with them. The feeling is one of silence and stillness, but also of tremendous power, and deep time. These trees can easily live for hundreds of years and the oldest are over 2000 years old.

When my time among the redwoods was over, I said goodbye with a deep bow, then drove quietly home. I am grateful for their healing presence in my life these many years. In a world full of noise and newness, it is important to have a refuge for silence and stillness. Back in Chicago now, I like to imagine the presence of these trees. I imagine I am leaning up against one while I meditate, becoming one with the essence of the tree while I send my spiritual roots down deep. It’s not the same but it helps me stay rooted in suchness here, among the countless activities of daily life. And every once in a while, if only for a moment, I can feel their presence here, now.

How about you? Can you hear the silent transmission of the redwoods? Take a moment. Drop in. Relax. Breathe. Listen with your whole body. Can you feel them?


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