A sanctuary of sequoias — Sequoia National Park, California

This tree was a tiny seedling 1700 years ago when the Mayan empire was at its height. She has weathered countless forest fires and a changing climate, yet here she stands, strong and scarred and beautiful.

General Grant sequoia (c) 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

(c) 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

Despite being named after a general, I know she is an ancient mother of us all. Tilting my head as far back as possible to see her uppermost branches, my neck begins to ache, and my equilibrium wobbles. This discomfort reveals how much of my life is spent looking down. Around me, people hunch over, frowning at their screens. For once, I’m not like them. Look up!

General Grant Grove (c) 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

(c) 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

In the presence of this graceful giant, I’m awed and fall silent. A heaviness squeezes my chest as my vision blurs with tears. Before her, I am nothing. The span of my life is nothing. The little collection of cells that makes up my body is dwarfed by a magnitude I cannot calculate or comprehend. Feeling this small can be a powerful spiritual practice. All I feel is awe and gratitude and wonder.

ancient sequoia (c) 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

(c) 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

One tree’s interior has been hollowed out by fire. As approach, I touch her bark with reverence and step into the dark space within, large enough for four people. Within, all sound is absorbed and utterly silent. I close my eyes and become deeply aware of her acre of roots beneath me, holding two millions pounds upright. Holy ground. Sanctuary. Trust. How much humanity might be changed if every temple felt like this.

Sequoia National Park - c 2013 Jennifer Hofmann

(c) 2015 Jennifer Hofmann

Where do you (or have you) experienced awe?