And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. —John Muir
The car engine revved, climbing the steep mountain. On one side were hefty granite boulders and shrubs, and on the other, a river rushing through a sprawling valley. I reached 5,000 feet (over 1,500 meters) in altitude; the air was crisp. When I exhaled, my breath appeared in tiny puffs of smoke.
The drive sometimes slowed to a crawl due to traffic. Because of the sharp turns, passing vehicles was nearly impossible. But slow-moving traffic didn’t deter me. I was on a mission—in some ways, a calling—directed by an invisible force. My intuition was reuniting me with the sequoias in the Land of the Giants.
I continued to ascend, and as my car rounded the next corner, the stunning sequoias came into view.
Their reddish-brown bark gleamed in the morning sunlight. I gasped; it had been decades since I last saw these majestic trees.
I parked, climbed onto the trail, and hiked through the hills and valleys of the woods. To my delight, I was the one and only person on the path. I had the trees to myself—an extraordinary gift.
An hour into my hike, I stopped, sat at the base of a sequoia, and leaned against its sturdy trunk. The warmth of the sun shone on my face, and I felt the tree’s soft, feathery bark against my back.
Birds chirped throughout the forest. I closed my eyes and inhaled a deep breath. Soon, relief washed over me. I realized why my intuition led me here: the trees were encouraging me to surrender, to let go of the past so I could embrace the new.
But who are these magnificent giants, and in what ways do trees (such as these) improve our well-being? Let’s look at the sequoias and where they live.
The sequoias are in California, along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This 404,000-acre (163,493-hectare) of land became a national park on September 25, 1890, and is the second oldest park in the country.
One of the largest trees in the park is General Sherman. This tree is 275 feet tall (83.8 meters), and its base is over 36 feet wide, or roughly 11 meters.
Sequoias can also live for thousands of years. It’s estimated that General Sherman is between 2,200-2,700 years old.
But it’s not the oldest tree in the park. That title belongs to the President (named after President Warren G. Harding) and is nearly 3,300 years old.
However, there’s more to the sequoias than their size and beauty. They also have an “invisible” underground network where they communicate with each other within their ecosystem.
The “Invisible” Network
Sequoias have a communication system known as the mycorrhizal network, where trees, plants, and fungi share nutrients. The fungi’s filaments attach to the trees’ roots, forming a connection between them. The trees use this complex network to alert each other about potential threats in their surroundings.
As I sat beneath the giant tree, I wondered if perhaps my invisible communication—also known as intuition—had led me back to the sequoias to heal and restore my body.
Listening to the Invisible
For the past several months, I’ve worked nearly every day each week. When I arrived at the park and saw the giant trees, it occurred to me that I was suffering from exhaustion—physical, mental, and emotional. My work life had become so all-consuming that it was beginning to compromise my health.
Originally, the trip was going to be a working vacation, where I intended to have a quiet writing retreat. But the need for rest took over.
Embracing Self-Care and Afternoon Naps
After my early morning hikes in Sequoia National Park, I’d arrive back at my place, make lunch, and often take afternoon naps.
Initially, naps were not on my agenda. But the body knows what it needs, and once I listened to that nudge, I allowed myself to rest.
It turns out that naps are beneficial to us. They can boost our memory, help in our job performance, ease anxiety, and uplift our mood.
With this realization, my self-care became a priority. I embraced my naps, took bubble baths, read books, prepared candlelight dinners, and enjoyed the tranquility of nature. By taking the time to rest and nurture myself, it helped me confront old wounds that needed healing.
For many of us, the past few years have been tough. During the pandemic, I had to release certain relationships and environments that I had outgrown.
Yet fragments from those experiences still lurked in my subconscious. The sequoias created a sense of safety, allowing me to face my old wounds when they arose. Once exposed, those past hurts no longer had power over me. From there, healing ensued.
Trees and Wellness
Research has shown trees have a positive impact on our physical and mental well-being. They can lower our blood pressure, reduce stress, free up our creativity, and help our cardiovascular health.
My daily walks among the giant trees allowed me to acknowledge and let go of these wounds in order to transform. And on the other side of transformation came grace and clarity.
The clarity I gained from this shift also affected my writing sessions. I was more centered and connected. When I wrote, I had more energy, jubilance, and clarity.
For my happiness, it’s essential to take breaks and connect with nature; it feeds my creativity and nourishes my soul. Spending time with the sequoias was a reminder of this and the importance of staying balanced in all areas of my life.
Letting Go to Welcome the New
With the sequoias’ steadfast presence, I was able to surrender and heal. Their support helped me shed my old life so I could embrace the new chapter that’s now unfolding.
It was a remarkable gift, one I didn’t expect to receive, and yet, I’m grateful for what the sequoias offered and gave freely.
Thank you, my beloved giants. Until we meet again.