I’m always pondering the whys and wherefores of our human sense of aesthetics. I’m convinced it is another one of our senses, giving us seven rather than the traditional five and six. I’ve just returned from a week long road trip with my husband in which we spent most of our days criss-crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains over every pass we could find. Immersed in beauty for mile after mile, hour after hour, gratitude brimmed and overflowed filling our hearts spilling over into every cell, until beauty and gratitude became one.
That’s when I had an epiphany – a new theory for why we’ve been blessed to be able to recognize and appreciate beauty. I think it’s an antidote to the curse of consciousness, evolved alongside it to keep us sane in the face of the terrible illusion of separation with which consciousness afflicts us. Beauty in effect restores us to Eden. I’m immensely grateful for this insight and for my beloved, and for this amazing trip, one tiny moment of which makes up the haibun below.
In Which Beauty Awe and Gratitude Become One
This late in November, we find most of King Canyon’s National Park closed in honor of an incipient and very welcome snowfall, but General Grant’s grove, enveloped in cloud, remains open. Some might lament the lack of sunshine, but standing inside a free floating cloud 6,000 odd feet above sea level feels magical to me. The mist moves and breathes around and through us, damping sound, quieting thought. We walk slowly, mindfully, along the winding trail traversing sacred space, language reduced to an occasional whisper, hand squeeze or halted footstep. The tree named General Grant takes our breaths away.
No misnomer has ever felt more inapt to me. Grandmother/Grandfather seems the only appropriate title for a living being 3,000 years older than we. Yet even that traditional term of respect displays a woeful lack of appreciation for the nature of trees, insisting as it does on assigning human gender definitions to a different race of beings.
Myth and folklore from every culture offer us stories explicating the implications of naming and warning us to be careful of its power. But until now, I never completely groked the absurdity of trying to put a name to the ineffable. I can describe height and breadth, delineate the scars and color of bark, the shape and length of needles, but words cannot convey the power of this humbling vast Presence. To understand, you too must sit at its feet, head thrown back to gaze and gaze upon a venerable ancestor.