In the Land of Giants

The trees are so big that it would be cowardly not to deal with their bigness head on. They are very, very big. You already knew this — they’re called “giant sequoias” — and I knew it, too. But in person, their bigness still feels unexpected, revelatory. And the delirium of their size is enhanced by their age, by the knowledge that some of the oldest sequoias predate our best tools for processing and communicating phenomena like sequoias, that the trees are older than the English language and most of the world’s major religions — older by centuries, easily, even millenniums. The physical appearance of a tree cannot be deafening, and yet with these trees, it is. Facing down a sequoia, the most grammatically scrambled thoughts wind up feeling right. Really, there’s only so much a person can do or say. Often I found myself expelling a quivering, involuntary Whoa.

The first time that happened, I was driving into Sequoia National Park from the foothills of central California’s Sierra Nevada, south of Yosemite. Suddenly, the Four Guardsmen came into view: a tight quartet of elephantine sequoia trunks through which the road passes. The trees have tops, too — those trunks lead to crowns — but that’s immaterial; the trunks are all you have a hope of registering from inside your car. They fill the windows and function as a gateway. They were like living infrastructure, rising out of the snow.

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Chris Alexakisparks