Muir Woods

By Mary Bilderback, RSM, Professor of Biology & Assistant Director of the Arboretum

I visited Muir Woods last summer in the pouring rain. I had never seen the giant  redwoods before and was intent on seeing every inch of the woody majesties. So I walked around with my head back looking up, and up till my ears pooled with rain water.

I came to a spot along one trail called “Cathedral Grove.” A bronze plaque memorialized an historic visit by the first delegates from 48 countries to the inaugural session of the United Nations– they had come to sign the founding Charter in San Francisco. The date was May 19, 1945. Hitler had been dead for three weeks and Nazi Germany was the nightmare from which the world was trying to awaken.

As the story goes, it was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wish that the infant United Nations meet “among the giant redwoods in Muir Woods”  to bring attention to the “nation’s interest in preserving these mighty trees for posterity, and in such a ‘temple of peace’ to give the delegates a perspective and sense of time that could be obtained nowhere better than in such a forest.”

I have often wondered if we rehearsed our missions, set our goals, made our big decisions and created our curricula outside in our beautiful arboretum/campus, say under the shade of the old White Oak or in the non-usual landscape of the Japanese Garden, would they be different in any way?

At the San Francisco airport on my way home, I saw this piece of art (photo below) by Linda Raynsford– giant redwoods carved into the polished blades of antique handsaws and remembered the feeling of rain pooling in my ears.

Photo credit: Mary Bilderback

Photo credit: Mary Bilderback

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