A pair of athletic girls in their late teens came running from behind and easily surpassed the old woman as she walked up the sandy hill. For the girls, there was no struggle. They raced each other as they sprinted up the hill, reveling in, yet blissfully unaware of their youth. Meanwhile, the old woman had to pause often to take deep breaths and work up the strength for few more steps. Slowly, steadily, she reached the top of the hill.
Both journeys up the short hill held their own beauty. One innocent and ephemeral, the other labored and paced, both beautiful, strong, and determined.
When we arrived, it seemed as though the whole park was sleeping. It wasn’t just that it was nighttime; in the layer of winter snow that diverted the bulk of the crowds elsewhere, the often busy national park had settled into a rare peacefulness and quietness. A few days later as we drove out, fresh snow fell like stormy lullaby, replenishing the frosty blanket and lulling the park into a deeper, colder sleep.
As a cargo ship passes underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, its orange red hue temporarily blends in with International Orange. A sailboat decorated with America’s Cup paraphernalia heeds to the ship, carefully avoiding the larger vehicle’s path as it steers toward the wider ocean. Alcatraz and the city skyline are distinct against the clear sky and azure waves tumble in and crash against the rocks that lead to the sea wall.
It’s a luscious day for sure, but not exactly a scene from a stereotypical surfing dream. Still, the water is full of surfers braving the chilly Pacific and the rocky shore to ride the waves. Shivering tourists walk up and gape in awe at them. They’ve probably found that this part of California is colder than they imagined, but the sight of surfers surely lives up to California dreams.
I watch too. Although I’ve seen surfers numerous times, I’ve never seem them this close to shore. I notice how the surfers communicate with each other and with the water. When a wave is coming, they call out to people who can catch it. And when it’s their turn, they ride with grace for as long as possible, turning and sinking back into the water before they reach the rocks. From the shore, it looks like an admirable way to be completely in tune with what’s around you and a perfect balance of power and harmony.
“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”
- John Burroughs
In every walk with nature, one receives far more than [one] seeks.
These words of John Muir greet us as we begin to explore the Muir Woods National Monument. As we are surrounded by stately redwoods that dwarf us and let just enough light through to illuminate us, those words float away from the sign and into our souls and perform their duty as a self-fulfilling prophecy.