A quiet moment on a sun-dappled path in Muir Woods National Monument to start the week.
The sequoia trees of Muir Woods stand straight and proud (just like that Neil Young song), but not every tree is so cooperative. Leaning at a jaunty angle and encrusted with moss and wee ferns, this nonconformist of a tree doesn’t have time for any of the “straight up” nonsense.
Muir Woods astonishes and tempers with its beauty, but I had trouble avoiding the feeling that it was all a bit manicured and controlled by man. At first, that disappointed me. When I thought back to some of the gorgeous Zen gardens I’ve visited, however, I realized that curated natural beauty can be just as spectacular and authentic as true wilderness. The gentle drizzle between sequoias and down into the creek is the American version of the Zen garden.
Not far from Muir Woods, the Pacific coast cliffs of California are a starker, steeper, and foggier place than I expected. The nearly sheer cliff face, the scraggly trees hanging on for dear life, and the weather- (and person-) beaten railings make the whole place feel mythical. The fog density hit just the right soupiness on this particular day; we could just barely see and hear the waves crashing on the rocks below.
Early in the morning, before another human has arisen, in the fog and rain and the sound of crashing California surf, the cliffs of Marin are strange and alien and haunting. They stagger out of the fog, all stunted shrubs and jagged rocks and decaying 20th century gun emplacements. I’ve always rather fancied the idea that America kept expanding until they reached the end of the continent, where the cliffs and the alien landscape drove us all a bit mad.