Tag Archives: Sequoia

[Wedding Wisdom] Do You While Saying ‘I Do’

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Marriage.  It’s the magical union of two twin flames, the serendipitous soul chaining of emotional counterparts, an emotive, extrasensory adventure that tugs on your heartstrings – but for most millennials, it’s just another institution to avoid.  Almost exactly three years ago, my fiance proposed to me – it wasn’t planned, there wasn’t anyone to capture it on candid camera – or even just candidly, hell – he didn’t even have a ring, but we had each other, we had the moment.  The minimalists, pragmatists, and the hopeless romantics will all echo the sentiment that those things are far more than enough. But one thing I’ve learned by simply entertaining a wedding, is that everyone’s got their something about them: traditions, advice, warnings, must-dos, and the like – so while you’re busy saying ‘I Do’, don’t forget the most important tradition of all: doing you.

Traditions, by in large, are important familial and social constructs with a bevvy of history, and from what it sounds like: wedding traditions, doubly so.  Unfortunately, every time I see the word tradition, my mind instantly jumps to the opening scene of Fiddler on the Roof and nothing that’s actually useful for my big day.   With the big day inching closer and closer, I’ve found myself reaching out to family and friends to find out what the hell one is actually supposed to do at their wedding, and what traditions people threw to the wind in lieu of making their own.  And I’ve discovered this: weddings aren’t where you’re forced to embrace past traditions, but where you can forge new rituals – with your new family.  I’m not saying don’t listen to your parents, siblings, grandparents, best friends, Starbucks barista, gas station attendant or bartender – but what I’m saying is that what they want, for their special day, should have no reflection on what you choose to do.

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Three years ago when Danny proposed to me, he had no ring, and no pomp – just serendipitous circumstance in the Canadian forest.  It was our first trip out of the country together.  After a thousand miles in the car, a sketchy border crossing and being inducted into Shamb-fam – deciding to spend forever together seemed as natural as breathing. Merely hours later, as we danced under the full moonlight with new friends – a carpenter named Bruce reached into his pocket, toying around with a string.  A twinkle flashed in his eyes as he explained he only made five, was down to his last one and was hoping it would fit me.  Giddy to be receiving anything at all, I didn’t bother asking what, instead I put out my hand like a seven year old trick-or-treating through their first Halloween. It was a ring; a wooden ring that only fit my ring finger; a wooden ring that then became my engagement ring, which got me to thinking: why are there engagement rings and wedding rings?  The answer: De Beers.

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It used to be customary to only have one ring, the wedding ring, that is – at least, until De Beers came into the picture. From the early 19th Century, De Beers has a monopolized control over the diamond mines of South Africa – creating illusions of scarcity to drive sales.  Once our Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s hit, De Beers believed it had a genius marketing plan to get our consumer nation back on spending track: telling us that diamonds are forever; marketing the idea of love, not a brand – not a product – but the idea. Fast forward to now, and engagement rings are a booming industry, accounting for almost 20% of total diamond sales in the US, and bringing in a whopping $7 billion annually. Roughly a quarter of all purchases at Tiffany’s + Co are derived from wedding bands and engagement rings, while almost half the sales at Sterling Jewlers’ retailers like Jared and Kay are derived from engagement rings.  Overall, engagement rings actually represent about 20% of US diamond sales. All in all, those statistics speak more to a corporate level greed and an ostentatious, ego-maniacal society than they do a forever type of love, but that’s just my opinion.

The wedding registry happens to be another  trend that I’m all too ready to put to rest.  Yes, everyone loves presents – but, weddings are about presence, not presents.  As opposed to only 35% 15 years ago, almost half of all married couples in 2017 have previously cohabitated for an average of 22 months, or almost two years. Let me put it bluntly: you can accumulate a lot of shit in two years.  What was once just “my shit” and “your shit” has now collectively become “our shit”, and “our shit” comes with a lot of redundancy, and no one needs redundant redundancy.  Though wedding dowries have been of historical cultural significance for centuries, a registry and a dowry are two horses of completely different colors.  Much like the De Beers Diamond plot of the 1920’s, up until the Great Depression there was no such thing as a wedding registry – until Macy‘s came along, and other department stores were all too eager to jump on board.

Now, how about the wedding party? Though some people elope, and many do keep it small – it also feels like some people invite everyone to the West of the Mississippi to their big day.  Obviously, the more the merrier and who doesn’t love love, but at a certain level it becomes all sorts of impersonal and not meaningful; almost like you’re getting married for show, not for yourself.  A large party, now sure – count me the fuck in; but a wedding, the bonding of two souls and binding of two lives is such an intimate idea that to me, it begets an intimate ceremony. In my seemingly biased opinion, large weddings more than force you into employing a bridal party – of elevating those closest to you, and imposing stratified levels of closeness.  On the other hand, at a small wedding – you can flip the script.  Our wedding, a destination wedding of sorts, will be small, the kind of small where I have to use small as an adjective to emphasize an adjective – but that’s just the way I like it.  One of my favorite perks to having a small ceremony, is that everyone at the wedding is part of the bridal party; everyone is a groomsman or a bridesmaid, because everyone there is equally important to us.  But, do you know the history of bridesmaids and groomsmen? Confarreatio, a form of wedding from the Ancient Romans, required 10 witnesses for the ceremony to legally binding; these witnesses evolved into the modern bridal party.  The groomsmen and bridal party were also tasked with warding off evil spirits.  Back in antiquity, the maid of honor and bridesmaids wore identical outfits to trick the spirits out of targeting the bride, while the best man was a literal wingman – warding off other potential suitors while the groom whisked away the bride-to-be.

Last, but certainly not least: the wedding dress.   Growing up, I was taught that the white in a wedding dress was a symbol of purity – but as it turns out,  because of the (a) lack of soap and (b) levels of general filth, up until the 18th century there weren’t many white wedding gowns.  In fact, the white aspect of the wedding dress is primarily associated with well to do Western culture, where many Eastern traditions actually involve a red dress in lieu of the white.  In all honesty, the white wedding dress is one of the few wedding traditions I’ll keep, though it’s definitely not for the sake of my purity.  However, what I find do find ridiculous are people that think a wedding dress is anything other than just a white dress, worn on the wedding. Some dresses range into the thousands, others into the tens of thousands…and to wear…once?  Dios mio! I would rather get a down payment on a house or a car. After spending a day at the mall struggling with the idea of a “wedding” dress, I found the perfect white dress in under ten minutes once I got out of the mindset that it had to come from a “bridal” store. So, now you might be asking – are there any other traditions that you’re keeping?  Yes, duh.  We’re getting married, exchanging vows and rings – and that’s as much of a tradition as I need.

Love isn’t just an idea, it’s an action – it’s a verb, it’s something you do.  Despite what Department Stores want you to believe, your love isn’t a commodity and your marriage doesn’t need to be monitized. Your wedding is a collection of beautiful moments rolled into one glorious day, celebrating with those you hold nearest and dearest to your heart – don’t sell yourself short, and don’t do anything you don’t want to do because fingers crossed, this is the only one you get.  So enjoy, indulge, drink champagne and get excited; say Yes, say I do but most importantly – do you. 

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[Traveling Tales] Spring has Sprung in the Sequoias

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“You are yourself a Sequoia; stop and get acquainted with your big brethren.”
[John Muir to Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Once in a blue moon the stars  shift into alignment by night while the sun showers down on by day, sharing their ominously beautiful light and dancing around us to and fro; beautiful butterflies bounce by in bountiful numbers, eagerly awaiting the lush vegetation sprouting up and around each nook and cranny of the land as a reminder that Summer is just around the corner.   It might not be magic, but it certainly feels like it; it’s simply another Spring day in Sequoia, gleefully taking in all the wonder the grounds have to offer.

Just about three hours north of Los Angeles, the Sequoias provide both a literal and figurative breath of fresh air for this city kitty turned nature nymph. After a wonderful Winter adventure up to Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks, I’ve been itching to go back and Danny’s birthday this past weekend gave me the perfect excuse.  On Saturday morning, we packed our bags, added a friend to the mix and were off, off and away on another nature fueled adventure to the land where there might not be internet, but I promise you will find a better connection.

Even though we just visited this past February, the landscape had magically manifested from a pristine snow covered wonderland into an effervescently lush landscape of a menagerie of eager greens ebbing to and fro throughout forests while bold pops of wildflowers were perfectly scattered throughout the park and around the cabin where we frolicked for the weekend.  The icing on Danny’s birthday cake – his birthday (4/17) falls during National Park Week, which lasts from April 16-24, 2016; and now that we know, for every birthday going forward we’re going to add another National Park to our epic “To See” list – but more on that later!

We kicked off the trip on Saturday afternoon with another adventure into the North side of the park to visit King’s Canyon and Grant’s Grove.  With how frequently I’d been updating my weather app, I was absolutely astonished and beyond happy that the weather in the park for the weekend was a delightful 70, and it was definitely at least 80 back in Three Rivers.  An awe-inspiring tree, to be in the presence of the great Sequoia is incredibly humbling – not to mention, an incredible dose of perspective.   By the time we reached our cabin that night, the sun had begun to set and the creatures had begun to creep out and enjoy themselves in the dashing dusk. 

The next morning, the sun greeted us with an awe inspiring sunrise as the weather took a turn for the beautiful, butterflies and sunshowers greeted us around every corner while the Kaweah River calmly rolled through Three Rivers.  Each and every moment felt right out of a dream, or better yet a perfect moment of space preserved in time.  We spent the day frolicking around the river, dipping our feet in to cool down as we took in the wonderful wildlife around us.  I’ve never felt so humbled and awestruck by the world we live in as I do in Sequoia, and I’m already itching to go back.

What National Parks are on your Must See list??


  

[Traveling Tales] Serenity in the Sequoias

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With the sporadic influx of pseudo-Winter weather in Southern California over the last few weeks, a fresh blanket of snow had dusted over the local mountain ranges and springtime blossoms were peeking out with pastel colors against fifty shades of green.  Once I caught wind of the awe inspiring pictures of Yosemite’s fabled February Firefall, the itch for wanderlust had flooded back through my veins.  Twenty minutes and an excited conversation with Danny later, and we were scheming about what shenanigans we could get up to for the weekend.  Since the weekend before was a beautiful three day Valentine’s Day and President’s Day twofer, we realized that there would be very few people on the roads traveling about – which made it perfect timing for a quick weekend adventure.

A self professed ‘city kitty’ of sorts, I can easily count the number of times I’ve played in the snow on one hand.  So, the genuine prospect of an outdoors adventure prancing around a crystalline cloud makes me giddy, like a school girl crush on the first day of Summer. After consulting the map, we realized a 36 hour trip to Yosemite was a bit lofty – but the good news was that we could cut our travel time in half and finally enjoy the stunning scenery that Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have to offer.

After some quick research of the area, we devised what I thought was a genius game plan. First, we jotted up to Project Survival Cat Haven for a quick stop and a Caturday inspired tour of the big cat sanctuary and conservation center.  Between the gorgeous Lions, Bengal Tigers, Lynx, Leopards and more – the feline fanatic inside me was absolutely satiated. Then, we headed off to King’s Canyon to frolic in the snow and gallivant around Grant’s Grove.

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A full day of snow filled adventure later, and we were ready to turn down for a delicious meal overlooking the Kaweah River in the sleepy town of Three Rivers, right outside of the southern entrance of the park.  Once we found our cabin for the night, we nestled in and reflected on our incredible day, while memories intermingled with the rich aroma of a Winter night’s fire and laughter. The next morning as the sun slowly soared over the mountains, we found ourselves enraptured by beauty at each and every angle, from geometric reflections in the pool to the warm aroma of rosemary and lavender. After some hearty conversation with some of the locals, we were off, off and away – but this time, into Sequoia National Park and the Giant Forest.

Founded back in 1890, Sequoia National Park stretches to over 400,000 acres of land with topographies that range from 1,000′ to 12,000′ – including the highest point within the Great 48, Mount Whitney. The park contains 34 separately stunning groves of Giant Sequoia Trees, accounting for nearly half of the Sequoia groves in the world. A member of the Redwood family, Sequoias are considered to be one of the oldest living entities on Earth with it’s  oldest members dated at an awe inspiring 3,266 years old; for some perspective, the oldest living tree is an astonishing 9,550 years old.  Featuring fibrous, fire resistant bark – the Giant Sequoias rank in as the world’s largest single trees, and largest living thing by volume.  The world’s largest tree by volume, the General Sherman clocks in at over 52,000 cubic feet, stands over 280′ tall and is aged between 2,200 and 2,700 years old. The park also contains the next four largest trees in the world – including three additional Sequoias that lie within the Giant Forest.

Sequoia-44One of my favorite things (and there were a lot of favorite things) about the park is the varieties in the terrain, yielding a complex menagerie of landscapes within a small area. In addition to the incredible Sequoia themselves, the flowing Kaweah River was roaring with delight while wildflowers sprang out sporadically from behind bushes and gold dusted rocks. Waterfalls peeked from around each and every bend, with small off the beaten path hikes and trails, while incredible granite monoliths like Moro Rock and Hospital Rock towered above us like a watchdog.

Heading up the mountain one more time, we ascended in direct proportion to our excitement – with changes in elevation causing me to constantly bundle up in more warmth around each and every turn. Eventually, we arrived at Big Trees Trail – the home of the General Sherman, and you better believe there was a whole lot of tree hugging going around.  Their warm rich color paired with vibrant evergreen needles against the pristine white snow made for a nearly spiritual moment seeped in serenity.  Ravens and red tailed hawks flew to and fro while the trees beckoned to us gently in their stillness; standing in their shadow, a wave of humbling calmness washed over me as I finally felt like I understood the true gravity of the world.  Stuck within a moment of lucid beauty,  I found I’d lost track of time and couldn’t tell if we’d been standing there silent for moments, minutes or hours. I left the forest feeling transformed, transfixed on what felt like a life changing experience underneath the stunning Sequoia.

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Hands down, the National Park Systems is one of the best gifts that the United States Government could give back to the people and slowly but surely, the country mouse is coming out of me and I’m truly enjoying submersing and submerging myself within its ubiquitous beauty.  If last year I could find the time to work and play at a new music festival every month, this year I can certainly commit to a new national park every month.  And now, with this past trip under my belt, I have to admit that Sequoia now has a special place in heart and is my favorite park that I’ve visited so far, with Zion and Red Rocks coming in as close seconds.  If you have grandiose plans of traversing the park soon, be aware that Generals Highway is closed between Lodgepole and Grant Grove – and the depending on your proposed route, your detour can be an incredibly narrow and windy road (trust).  The closure will be reopening in Mid March.

What’s your favorite National Park and which ones are on your bucket list?

 

 
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