Muir Woods is the gem of the San Francisco area. It is sure to bring a sheer sense of wonder when visited and offers a glimpse into “what was”.
One would start their day in a concrete jungle. Trees would be all but absent. The smog generated by millions of vehicles clouds the air, invading their lungs with every breath. Any large body of water close enough to be visited seems astoundingly beautiful from a distance but upon arrival the muggy, green sheen that lies over the surface tells the true story, one of human led destruction and pollution.
Not an hour north, they would be greeted by a forest of coastal redwoods sure to take their breath away. Towering buildings are replaced with trees equal in scale. Suddenly, a blatant reminder of how small we are fills every centimeter in view. There is no way to ignore the feeling of humility that takes over as they traverse the trails that push through the seemingly endless woodlands. All thoughts of the city are lost immediately, leaving only wonder behind.
I don’t want to make this entry into an entire diatribe against the grossness of San Francisco, but the change of scenery really made the discrepancy between the two quite apparent. To think that at one point the entirety of San Francisco was covered in these vast forests brings about a very somber feeling throughout my being. It was all lost to deforestation, and we as humans welcomed it, not thinking about the long term consequences of our actions.
In fact, we welcome the destruction and prop it up on a pedestal as the evolution of man. We protect a few areas, put them close enough to cites to make visitors feel welcome, and keep just enough of the wonder to make nature seem like the anomaly opposed to the norm. This in turn keeps us feeling like as long as we can reach an area that seems “big”, it is enough to keep us satisfied that we are protecting nature for generations to come.
Nothing could be further from the truth though. Our arrogance as the prime movers of the earth continually suggests that what conventional wisdom of the time thinks is the best for the earth, is best for the earth. Every new “age” brings on a revolution on what we can do as humans and the biggest sufferer is always the earth. Humans claim that these advancements are good for society, and as a result the earth. A couple decades later, long term effects appear and the new generation looks at the old in distain and uses new technologies to “fix” the problems that the others created.
Rinse repeat/rinse repeat for the last 300 years, if not longer.
When will we ever learn? It seems like by now we would acknowledge our fallibility and admit that in a system as complex as the only known planet to sustain life, a single group of organisms will always be harming more than they will be helping.
It is the fact of living. We are a destructive species and we will continue to be destructive. Expanding without thought of consequences will continuously create more and more consequences that we are not prepared for. At the same time, the quality of life (for Americans at least) has continually improved yet we think it is still not enough. We are constantly trying to have as much as the other, refusing to even think about how finite our resources (including human labor) are.
Nothing lasts forever and until we can mine astroids we are depleting and destroying the only home we have.
I’ve gotten a bit side tracked from writing about the wonder this park instilled in me. It truly is spectacular and I AM thankful that it is there. Reminiscing on the day though, all I can think about is how we have destroyed so much and given ourselves this illusion. John Muir Park should be San Francisco. The polluted concrete jungle should not exist. Our cities are not wondrous. We need to stop lying to ourselves and saying that they are.
Enough malthusian drivel though. One aspect of this day that I am extremely thankful for, is being able to share it with my cousin Frank. He had come to town to do some sailboat shopping and hopped along with me for the next two weeks and moving from my solitary existence to sharing close quarters with someone was an eye opening experience that truly made me appreciate the companionship.
Seeing the sheer amount of wonder the giant forests can induce was a magical experience and almost better than seeing them for myself the first time. Seeing his amazement compounded mine. I was able to be living in three places at once, reliving my initial joy, simultaneously seeing his joy and in effect creating a new sense of wonder as well as a reminder of the meaning of awe.
Later that afternoon, we drove down to Stinson Beach to watch the day end. A short twenty minute drive further north and you have all but forgotten that a city is nearby. Soft, sandy beaches are met by towering hills and crashing waves. Sea gulls play a game with each other, apparently competing for some sort of food each wave brings onto shore.
Then colors start to dance across the horizon and reflections mirror off of the soft sand. The sound of gulls and waves mixes with wind and chatter. For one moment, the entire atmosphere is one of appreciation as all living creatures seem to take a moment to rest and enjoy the sunset.
This may have been a rant, but the day was still beautiful. Muir Woods, thank you for reminding me how amazing nature can be.
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