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Banbury Cross

a pillow for lost thoughts...

Post details: Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove

How do we know that history actually happened?

Well, we don't, of course, but its plausibility is greatly enhanced if we run into contemporaries.

My grandfather lived to be 90 years old, so he told me a fair share of authentic stories going all the way back to 1930s and even earlier. He made history of the twentieth century appear very real and very personal although he did not participate in any major event. But he was flesh and bone proof that the past had indeed happened. The atrocities of the World War II, for instance, would seem like a mere source for Hollywood war scripts without the contemporaries still living among us.

California is known for many things: cool surfers, cantankerous movie stars, cute burger joints, cozy vineyards, crisp coastline - there is something for everyone. My favorite signature item is its Giant Sequoia tree - of which there are numerous groves scattered throughout the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

You can't overlook them. They are titans in every sense of the word. Their boughs and limbs are vaguely reminiscent of Beethoven's hairdo, while their furrowed bark is as rugged and unpolished as some of his harmonies. With diameters of 15-20 meters at the base, they lead you straight into a tree hugger's paradise. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the voluminous Greenpeace handbooks boasted that one fully grown specimen of this extraordinary tree can single-branchedly satisfy all the hugging needs of a busload of single environmental activists.

But Sequoias are also doyens of the arboreal realm. The breathing memory of the Earth's biosphere. Viewed from a distance, their arched tree tops look like woolen parachutes descending on a geological battlefield. With some veterans over 3500 years old, they have been contemporaries of Alexander the Great, Caesar, Genghiz Khan and all the warriors of the modern era.

We are supposed to show respect for our elders. In case of Sequoias, it goes way beyond respect. It is humbling to stand face to bark with a fellow carbon based life-form that grew up during founding years of the Roman empire, saw it reach its apex few centuries later and while still in early stages of its development, witnessed the sprawling Empire fall into inevitable ruins. Somewhere in its tree rings, there may still be traces of the ashes of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii some 2000 years ago. That is something that makes you take your hat down.

And bow your head.

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