In December I had the good fortune to travel along northern California’s Avenue of the Giants, a 31-mile scenic drive that runs through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The “giants” in the name refers to the coastal redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, that towered above me in silence.
This photograph may give you a glimpse of how magnificent the trees are. The tallest now living is 379 feet, comparable to a 30-story building, possibly the tallest living organism on earth. Redwoods can grow to 26 feet in diameter, large enough for a car to drive through their trunk. The most ancient known redwood is thought to be 2,200 years old – a mature tree before Christ’s birth.
You have to admire the trees for surviving so long despite fires, floods, and loggers. The redwoods have earned their botanical name’s sempervirens, meaning “evergreen” or “everlasting.” Imagine what they’ve witnessed, standing there for centuries. Think how the world has changed around them. Picture people who have passed by: Native Americans, trappers, pioneers, lumbermen, and now drivers whizzing along in cars.
Standing under those trees, I felt like a gnat on an elephant’s foot. The redwoods put my life into perspective: How important were my paltry worries compared to the trees’ enormity and age? To me, they were more like creatures than greenery. I would even call them honorable as they soothe spirits and provide shelter.
Though redwoods are far too dignified to shout, they did seem to whisper to me. And what they whispered was about patience and endurance and peace. They made me think that I want to be a redwood of a person. I want to be willing to wait while I slowly grow into what I am meant to be. I want to stand tall when “fires” sweep through my life and scare me. I want to be tranquil in a chaotic world. Redwoods have a lot to teach.