I had never been to Yosemite before. Have you? No? Go before you die. I’m serious. I have actually never said that to anyone before: “. . . go there/do this/read that before you die.” It’s presumptuous, behaving as though MY life is somehow vastly more stimulating, action-packed and brimming with profundity than anyone else’s. It ain’t, unless you count eating Nutella off your index finger an electrifying life-changer in the extreme.
But Yosemite. The first day on my first visit, I hiked into Mariposa Grove with my kids and their Pop-Pop and, standing there amid the giant sequoias, wowed and gasped oh my Godded and holy shitted before enormous living things that sprang into being sometime before the birth of Christ. Standing there with them, I felt tiny and young and transient but not insignificant, not worthless, not pointless, simply awed in the presence of something so much greater and older than myself. They seemed wise. They seemed to know all, or at any rate more, reaching into a sky that felt suddenly vaster despite the thickening mist that shrouded their topmost branches.
At a tiny stand of sequoia seedlings, a sign explained that they were due to mature around the year 4,000. Again I wowed and gasped and oh my Godded and holy shitted, understanding my own lifetime as something far less than a moment. And again I felt not diminished but swollen with awe — at the weight of time, the breadth of the cosmos, the miracle of creation and the gift we’re given in simply being able to appreciate it. What if God and the universe had given us beauty but denied us the capacity to see it? What if we were blind to the sublime? If we stood at the foot of a giant sequoia and saw nothing to merit a wow? I couldn’t imagine it. I was already struck with wonder, filled with gratitude and oh my Godding like a prayer book.
And I hadn’t even seen the mountains yet.