It is so cliché to say “I left my heart in San Francisco.” But it is true. The City by the Bay was my home for a major part of my life and I will always love it, passionately. The history of a pioneering people and their indomitable spirit, the amazing buildings, the cable cars, the streets (seriously –the streets in SF have personality), the neighborhoods, the vistas. It is a vibrant place, full of fun, rowdy people, each with a distinct quirky personality, and yet all joined together by the idea of The City.

But there is another place, my go-to place when I craved a retreat. My sanctuary, my quiet restoration: Muir Woods. On cold, rainy days when I needed solitude I would get into the small brown Pinto and drive across the Golden Gate Bridge north to Marin to Muir Woods National Monument. The drive itself would put me into a reflective mood. As I left civilization and all its noise and confusion, slowly I would unwind and enter a world of silent wonder.

The park would be empty because of the weather. I’d pull the hood of my anorak over my head, climb out of the car and step back into time, into a grove of redwoods older than recorded history. Over 550 acres of rich royal redwood forest, Muir Woods is a natural cathedral. Even when there were other visitors in the park, they were awed into reverent silence as they entered the grove. These incredible trees grow to over 250 feet high and are between 500 and 800 years old. (The oldest tree in the park is over 1 200!) I liked to lean with my back against a tree and gaze up along its strong trunk into the heavens where the tip of the tree was stirring the clouds.

Very little sun reaches the forest floor which is covered in lush greenery. The air in the sanctuary is dense and full of earthy richness. There aren’t very many birds to call out in the park, although once I heard an owl’s lament. My favorite place in the park is a small bridge built over Redwood Creek. Here I could sit or stand for hours listening to the water gurgle its way through the woods. The songs it sings and the stories it tells are secrets of the redwoods whispered for thousands and thousands of years. And if I closed my eyes and stilled my breathing I could almost understand the tune.

Although I now live over ten-thousand miles away from my beloved San Francisco and the enchanted Muir Woods, sometimes, when I need some peace and stillness in my life, I close my eyes and imagine the hallowed sanctum of giant redwoods and the murmuring prayers of the little stream.

 

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Day Two of Writing 101:  ASSIGNMENT:

Choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

 

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