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This is Us: Brenda Bernal Negley

Many people know me as the “tree-keeper” of Nelder Grove. I have a long family history with that particular grove and it’s really become a part of me.

My grandfather worked at what’s now Westfall Ranger Station up by Sugar Pine when my grandparents met. My grandmother worked at the hotel around the corner. They dated for two weeks, got engaged and got married two weeks later. Their first date was a local eatery where the Mountain House was located.

My grandpa had two brothers. He was the Sequoia guy, my Uncle Joe was the cactus guy, and my Uncle Frank was a mistletoe guy. Hawksworthii is the scientific name added to the mistletoe Uncle Frank discovered, after his last name, Hawksworth. The three boys all got into something that had to do with outdoors and things that grow.

My grandparents loved the mountains, and they spent all their leisure time up here. They had been coming up for years, camping in Nelder during the summer. So in 1970, when my grandfather retired, they moved here full-time. My grandfather loved the forest so he’d go out and play, and grandma would stay at the camp to greet visitors. People would come in and my grandparents would help them find trails, or they’d go hiking with them, or just be there to answer questions.

Then in 1975 the Forest Service started their first volunteer camp host program. My grandparents were already informally “hosting” and performing those types of functions, so when the forest service asked my grandparents to be a part of the new official program, they were like, “Yeah, of course we’d love to!” My grandmother was actually the first in the nation to sign up for that program.

They stayed in Nelder Grove as official campground hosts for twenty more years, and I would join them for a portion of my summers. That’s how my love of the area began. When my grandparents passed, I was the person in the family who was actively involved and so I inherited many of their research papers. I knew then, especially after my grandfather passed, that I wanted to use all my knowledge and the research to write a book. I talked about it for years, and finally finished it in 2016. Like my grandparents, I also served many years as an official volunteer host.

I feel connected to the trees. I feel strength from them, it may sound odd but I feel connected to how rooted they are to the earth. This new venture that I’m doing with my sound therapy will connect with the forest, but also when working with individuals in my studio. I am a certified sound therapy practitioner, in which I use brass bowls that vibrate at certain levels to aid healing in the body.

Not only will I be working with people in-studio individually and in small groups, but I also will be doing forest baths. I plan to take groups out into the trees and start with one of my loud aluminum singing bowls in the forest. With these forest baths I want to help people to take the time to listen, to smell, to breathe. It’s meditative and healing to smell the aerosols that the trees release, to take that breath, to take that walk and appreciate what you’re looking at and experiencing. Not seeing how fast you can do it. To smell, to hear the wind in the trees, to hear the birds singing and then end in a meditative spot where I can then do a sound bath with my zen vibration bowls, to finish the whole experience.

Brenda Bernal Negley is 5th generation in the Yosemite area, a U.S. Army veteran, former 16-year teacher, author of Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias, a Granddaughter’s Stories, currently working on a trail guide, and just recently started her newest venture in sound therapy.

This is Us is a series of local profiles with first-person stories, written in a way we can get to know the people in our community on a little deeper level. Click here for more information about this series.

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