Thursday, February 18, 2010


This time last year I was in Michigan, driving through blizzards, ice, snow and slush. My mom was in a rehab facility after her strokes. I would spend about 5 hours a day with her there, helping her get through her physical and occupational therapies (known as PT and OT) by counting her reps for her. It was a hard uphill climb from which she never recovered.

Going through these months this year has not been nearly as hard, but I find myself reliving those days and the memories are not much better than the experience itself. It does no good to think about cliches about mortality. It is true that getting on with life is the only real antidote for loss. It is untrue that time heals all wounds. Then again, I don't particularly want to forget my mother. For that, I am grateful.

This past Monday, my husband and I set out for Sequoia National Park. It is an easy 250 mile drive from Los Angeles and we marveled that we had never gone before. We had a cabin by a river for two nights. Realization: the only way to really have a cabin by a river is probably to own one. We could hear the river from our little patio but could not exactly see it. Then again, if the river in question carries much of the snow melt from the High Sierras in the spring, you wouldn't want your cabin too close.

We spent a few hours in the foothills on Monday afternoon. I forgot that I have some trouble adjusting to high altitudes and thought that I was having heart failure as I walked up a slightly inclining path to view the river. But wow, the size of the rocks was enough to take my breath away. Tuesday we drove up to the high elevations where the sequoia forests are. We saw the famous General Sherman tree which is the biggest in mass but not height. Our favorite thing was the clusters of three or four trees growing together.

So I know that the Earth and other planets of the Solar System are old, that mountains and rocks are old, but there was something about a living tree that is over 2000 years old that made a big impression on me. In the most recent book I read, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (an excellent novel which was published in January), there is a character who starts an Immortality Foundation, dedicated to research on how to live as long as 500 years. Actually, it just might be possible to get something done in a 500 year life. Human life is so brief. Just when you start to get a grip, your joints and organs begin their decline, no matter how healthful one has been.

So these trees, which have grown through all manner of weather, events, changing air quality, logging companies; they have seen so much. I got that Lord of the Rings feeling where the trees "talk" and decide things soooo slowly. It was cool. It was also cold with four to six feet of snow around the trees. So even though I did not like having to walk around feeling like an emphysema patient, I want to go back in a few months when all the snow is gone, the flowers are blooming in the meadows and I can just sit around with those trees for as long as I want.

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