It was absolute peace and serenity . . . and then the people came.
I had scoped out this picnic area the day before. Right in the Heart of Sequoia National Park.
And absolutely no one was there.
It was a weekday and COVID restrictions had limited the number of people being allowed into the park, which probably accounted for it being vacant. Plus, it was not in one of the most popular areas of the park where the Giant Sequoias thrived. Those spots still remained crowded.
So, as I parked the car and made my way down to one of some fourteen empty picnic tables, I figured on having at least an hour of uninterrupted solitude. To have lunch and contemplate the beauty that surrounded me.
But it was not to be . . .
I had settled myself dead center amongst a grove of trees in this mixed Montane Forest. Ponderosa Pine, Incense-Cedar, White Fir, Red Fir, Sugar Pines and Lodgepole Pines surrounded me. Their protective branches forming what seemed like an impenetrable living fortress.
The massive Sequoias were scattered about a little to the North and West of my location. And to the East, just outside the boundary of trees where I rested, lay an open meadow with a stream snaking its way through the plentiful and rich foliage. While the majority of the meadow was covered in Canyon Prince Wild Rye, Autumn Moor Grass, Cleveland and Purple Sage, and Blue Oat Grass, on the water’s edge were patches of Chocolate Daisies, Island Bush Mallow, and Pink Yarrow.
I was staring intently. It was the kind of place where I thought I’d like to be if I were a bear. 😊
There were no noises at all. Dead silent. But as I turned my graze to my left, I was astonished. Not more than 15 feet away from me stood a Mule Deer. A beautiful Doe. Showing absolutely no fear. So, we just stayed in our respective spots and contemplated one another for a while. Her total display of gentleness, an innocence and freshness about to be awakened . . .
Something made her jump. And she bounded off through the meadow.
It was the slamming of a car door. It seems I would be having company. And while there was plenty of room to spread out, that is not how the Mother, Father, and six-year-old boy were going to play it.
Nope, they wanted my spot. Out of all of the open tables there. They honed in on where I was sitting. It was weird.
What made them want to possess what I had, even though it was only momentarily, was a bit eerie.
At first, they went to a nearby table. Then before unpacking their own lunch, they got up and walked to my table. They were cordial enough. They asked if they could sit at my table, and not wanting to be rude, I said sure, figuring they would take the other side, and perhaps sit cattycorner to myself.
No, they didn’t do that either. They crowed around me, not following COVID precautions at all. Not wearing masks, not respecting social distancing in any manner.
We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then I excused myself. Not wanting to become contaminated. And not caring to have my solitude that drastically disrupted. They laughed when I told them I was heading out for a trail to hike. They seemed content with their conquest.
Now what just happened?
I’m not one hundred percent sure.
Did myself and that family have some special unseen attraction to that particular spot? Something palpable, but not necessarily observable? Was it the fact that one sliver of a ray of light from Grandfather Sun fell in that spot as opposed to the table they originally selected? Was there something just plain magical about this particular spot? There were, after all, another dozen picnic tables to choose from. Or was it just some social instinct to gather in groups. An ancient vestige wired into a nucleotide on a random strand of DNA?
So, what gives? Impulsive envious desire?
Or is it some subconscious hunger to attack, take away, acquire, out number and dominate? An overpowering inclination to take what someone else has? Just what is the motivation here?
And this was not the only time this happened in my travels this summer.
Later, while at the Merced River in Yosemite, I had staked out a claim to a tiny spot where I thoroughly enjoyed the privacy and had a relaxing bath in the River. An hour later, a family appeared. Mother, Father, and two children under the age of five.
Despite all of the open spots around me, and the same across the river, which was only knee deep here and easy to cross, they decided to take the space immediately next to me. Ok, not a terrible intrusion, but then it was almost like a timed command, the children were sent to play in the water right in front of me. Not to either side of me that, again, was totally open. And not even in front of the parents’ position.
The Dad apologized to me several times for the kids, but never altered their direction. So, I decided to test this theory out, and I held my ground. Their intrusions became more pronounced, as did the fake apologies. But as the children became louder, and their splashing in the water built up to its crescendo, I just told the Father that I was happy to see his children having so much fun.
He had quite the puzzled look on his face at that point.
It took about forty-five minutes, but they finally left. And when I got up to leave my little spot a short time later, a young couple in their twenties made a beeline for it. Scooping up that precious speck of River Rock before I could even get fully packed up.
My human experiments weren’t finished. At Tahoe, I grabbed up what was apparently a priceless picnic table at Emerald Bay after making a five mile hike to get there. Suddenly a family of eight descended upon me taking the opposite end and back bench of the table. They spoke not a word, not even a hello.
So once again I sat just to see how long this awkward situation would last.
For thirty-five minutes I sat and enjoyed my lunch and the view, and when I finally got up, I just nodded my head to the attacking Tribe’s leader and he nodded back, as they swarmed the entire table, engulfing the tiny space I had occupied just moments before. Like Vultures descending upon some poor roadkill. A dead Opossum perhaps. Or maybe a Raccoon.
This same behavior repeated itself at Pope Beach, where the Mother of three children set up her chair and umbrella immediately behind me and then sent her children into the water in front of me. And this would happen yet again when I was in Washington State at Ruby Beach.
I started becoming even more and more attuned of these deportments of what I guess you could call Pathological Possessive Syndrome. And I noticed something else. When people acted this way, they seemed totally unaware of, or else just didn’t care about, their spatial relationship to the other planets orbiting about in these tiny Universes. Their stares were blank, their eyes glazed over. Brains frozen. Glacial reflexes.
I swear I’m not wearing an invisibility cloak.
You can see the same behavior in innumerable situations as people would hop out of their cars to take pictures on a scenic drive, leaving their parked car with doors open to fully block your side of the road. They didn’t care or even seem aware that they obstructed traffic.
Again, at the grocery store. People would gather in groups and block entire aisles seemingly unaware that others needed to get through to shop. Their untamed children would scurry about resembling pinballs bouncing off people as though they were the bumpers, and then shooting across the aisle as if struck by the banana flippers. Their parents serving as the “Magic Post” blocking the middle drain so they could slingshot off again to a “up-kicker” in hopes of hitting “Wizard Mode.”
You would think, at this particular moment in time, with six-foot social distancing being advocated everywhere, that people would have some sense of the bubble around themselves and the boundaries that should be in place when approaching others in their bubbles.
But NO! No sense of spatial awareness at all !
In my childhood days, if we ventured, even slightly, away from our parents reach, we were slapped back into subordinated line, and silenced as though our vocal cords had been cut with a straight razor. We learned to respect other’s space and boundaries.
So please excuse my sentence enhancer, but WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE??????
Photos: A Small taste of Sequoia. I’ll be back with another, more uplifting, post on this National Park. Till then, Merry Christmas !!!! 🙂