As those of you who have been to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks know, there are no words worthy enough to describe the overwhelming awe that the Giant Sequoias, those towering Kings overlooking their Canyon, elicit from the human soul. Standing before one, it is easy to feel compelled to bow down as it is to look up.
I believe there is only room for humility when you look at the size of the seed from which all of that potential sprouts. An example, I believe, to humankind, that no contribution is too small… for that seed is the size of a single, tiny, fragile piece of oatmeal!
And therein lies the genius of the Sequoia’s example to humankind: their strength is made of their fragility, their ability to exist where the air is thin is their vulnerability: if felled, they fall so far they simply shatter – poetic justice to the world of man, useless to capitalism - they do not serve that human vanity. Instead their fall returns them to a form that serves the Earth - that serves to nourish their invisible blanket of deep-rooted connection you can feel in their company.
The Sequoias are social trees, on the surface they appear individual, independent, egocentric giants competing with each other for light, not unlike mankind. Below: their roots network together, a blanket of history connecting them as one. Their roots not only touch, but graft, so the light each one absorbs is not for them alone, but for the whole – they feed each other for the greater good of their grove. This blanket is their strength - their connection is essential to overcoming the adversity of living. The Sequoias are a TRIBE – indigenous, long-standing witnesses to the human condition, connecting us to the past, these towering examples of antiquity and perspective show us how to stand tall and create a seed of potential that will serve the next generation all that of that out of ‘thin air!’
And therein lies the perfect backdrop for the magic of Montecito-Sequoia, where Dr. Virginia C Barnes (Pony to a select few) touched the lives of countless generations, her visionary work unfolding among those Giants, creating leaders whose job was to shine a light on the seeds of potential they could see in the children that passed through; nurture seeds of self-discovery til they blossomed into confidence that has the power to change a moment; a person; a path. Over the years I’ve witnessed those fragile tiny seeds transform those who received them – their effects far-reaching.
As an aside, I’m privileged to say that I’ve also known some of our family-folk felled to the ground by life, by death, shattering them into a form that returns them to the earth; their loss, striking us like a bolt of lightning that scars the rings our lives so tangibly you could probably date it if we were cross sectioned! Touchstones of our time there, with each loss, we reabsorb them into our blanket and their memory reminds us that we are connected and that we can exist where the air is thin. And it is within that blanket, the idea to create a commemorative symbol of that seed, to raise money for the foundation started to grow.
There used to be a tradition at Montecito-Sequoia: to make someone you cared for a Challenge Bead – to carve it out and gift it as a touchstone to help them achieve a personal goal or challenge. Having been inspired and transformed by my time in Sequoia National Park I’ve designed Sequoia Seed Pendants – Challenge Seeds of sorts – as a symbol of the potential for growth in all of us.
Whenever I finished a piece of jewelry, I test it. I wore the Sequoia Seed to see how it would feel, and function and then something amazing happened. Though simple and honestly imperfect, it caught peoples’ eye, there was something in ‘how it caught the light!’ People started asking me about it - was it a leaf? An oatmeal? A coffee bean? It was pretty but its identity was not apparent and so I get to tell them part of our story, of the Sequoias, of Montecito-Sequoia, of Pony’s work, of the effect it had, of the community it represents and the formation of the Foundation. They wanted to be a part of it and want to donate to the cause.
For those who received a gift of a seed that day, I ask that you to wear it as a reminder of your heritage - you are a member of the tribe MONTECITO-SEQUOIA who once lived among the great Kings of the Sequoias.
Once you have claimed your seed remember those seeds are not exclusive to us, they are to be shared. You might wish to order them for others, have your own tribe wear them – gift them as inspiration and share the story of what you have learnt having come from the tribe where the air is thin. Most of all tell people about them when they ask – refer them to the website so they can order them.
My wish is that you wear it with pride and appreciate just how a single seed of potential catches the light and that each seed will:
1. remind you that you are interrelated and dependent on others
2. connect you to that blanket - and as a member of our tribe, when it is your turn to shatter, your fall will seem all the greater as a result of the heights you’ve reached but rest assured there’s a blanket to cushion your landing.
Consider too, you might have skills that you can convert to help the Pony Barnes Foundation, just as I have attempted with this project. Help be part of the building the very foundation that takes the work forward… for the Marvel fans out there, this is like an ‘Asgardian’ moment – with camp no longer in Pony’s hands, Montecito-Sequoia are a people not a place. Help our people find a new home by creating a solid platform to continue the work born of Montecito Sequoia Girls’/Family Camp, the work we all took part in during our time there.