Last week I drove 300 miles to buy a bookmark, one I had seen at the ranger station gift shop in Prairie Creek State Park. I could probably have purchased it in the National Park store here in the city, but the trip north was well worth the effort. When you are 300 miles away from home standing among the redwoods, there’s no going back until at least the next day or even the day after that.
Walking from the campground into the grove of tall trees that surrounds Prairie Creek Park you encounter redwoods that tower hundreds of feet above you. During the summer of 2006, a team of scientists came upon three new trees in and around the park that shatter the previous record for the world’s tallest tree. The tallest of the new trees, dubbed Hyperion, is in an undisclosed location in Humboldt County near the original Tall Tree that was discovered in the 60’s. It rises to 379.1 feet, nearly six stories taller than the Statue of Liberty!
While I was admiring the top of the trees which were being tickled by incoming fog I eavesdropped on the conversation between a mother and her two little girls. The girls were about 4 and 6 years old. The mother was intent on teaching them about the redwood forest. I listened carefully just in case she might turn to quiz me as well. It was amazing. When she asked the girls questions about the trees, they answered like this: “She is very tall; she is old, she is awesome.”
Then, while snuggling up to the base of a huge redwood, the older girl proclaimed, “She is persistent.” The look of wonder on my face evoked a response from the mother. Smiling, she said that “persistent” was one of the words on her daughter’s spelling list the previous week. I don’t think that word made it onto any of my spellings lists until I was at least 10 years old!
The girl’s statement would have fit in nicely with the content of the bookmark I had come to buy. It lists “Advice from a Redwood:” “Stand tall and proud. Sink your roots into the earth. Be content with your natural beauty. Drink plenty of water. Enjoy the view.” (Advice from a Redwood ©Ilan Shmir. YourTrueNature.com).
I had come to see the redwoods, stand beneath their grandeur, smell the essence of their age, kiss their soft bark, and, of course, take a few photos. But, above all, I came to buy those bookmarks to take home for our Croning Ceremony in the Liturgy of the Divine Feminine this past Sunday. It was time and miles well spent because the advice about and by the redwood tree, especially the words of the girl, “She is persistent,” are fitting descriptions of what it means for a woman to claim her Crone wisdom and the honor due her.
I guessed that the little girl’s school teacher might just have read her class Chelsea Clinton’s new book, She Persisted. It contains the story of 13 American women who changed the world. Ruby Bridges and all the children who so courageously integrated our schools are featured in the book as well as Helen Keller who changed the way that we think about disabilities, and Nellie Bly who exposed the horrors in our mental institutions. These women and so many others stood tall in the face of traditions that placed restrictive expectations upon them. Nevertheless, they rose above those restrictions to persevere in what they believed.
Along with the towering redwoods standing tall in Humboldt and Del Norte counties are the lupine on the sides of Bald Mountain, reeds in Stone Lagoon, and the upward-pointed noses of young Roosevelt Elk. All are inspirations helping us to be mindful of our human responsibility to be persistent in making changes to better our world and honor its natural sources of wisdom.