After a slow first five months, I'm back to blogging in earnest. In the forthcoming few months I plan to keep on tracking the blooming of wildflowers, the activities of bugs and reptiles and any other critters I'm quick enough or lucky enough to photograph, and to comment on ecological relationships. Since there is an increasing sense of ecological crisis among many people and more vigorous denial of such on the part of others, I will inevitably comment on the social and political dimensions of survival as I see them.
I am still an adjunct instructor in the English Department at Feather River College, but time permitting, I am available for hire as a nature guide in the region in and around Plumas County. A brochure describing my usual kinds of natural history adventures is in development. Email me c/o email@example.com with your mailing address and a statement of interests, and I'll send you a rough draft.
I have been teaching since 1965 and have recently joined the English Department as an Associate Faculty member at Feather River College. Recently taught Nature Literature in America and am currently teaching Interpersonal Communication and Basic Reading and Writing.
This is the back cover of the most amazing book I've come across this year - maybe this decade. It provoked (or should I say legitimized?) a kind of stream of consciousness experience that will most certainly affect this blog, and will likely affect a book I'm trying to put together (while badly afflicted with procrastination and distraction) but which I cannot write about further until after dinner. Hmmm, procrastination again? There: I've had a bowl of granola with a banana, and now I can carry this story a little further. I discovered this book during my end-of-May drive to Pittsburgh, PA, to see my daughter, the art professor. This book, backside up, was on a table full of books and papers in her living room. The words "writing the unthinkable" caught my eye. I turned it over and saw the title: WHAT IT IS: The formless thing which gives things form. Some sort of paradox? It would have been easy to ignore this book because it looked so unconventional (euphemism for quirky?), but I already had a copy of Lynda Barry's Syllabus, so I was hooked. Since my mind is frequently racing all over the place, I am often told by others watching my work, my office, etc., that I need to get organized. Then I claim that I am organized, despite appearances. So, after another break - maybe even a good night's sleep - I will try to give form to the formless messages I got from this book. As I write this, my mind frequently flashes on another interesting book I found this past week: Kerri Majors' This Is Not a Writing Manual, which definitely is a writing manual. So, I do think I need some sleep before I can give form to it all. For one thing, a blog in this format is inherently linear, but the processes of thinking and writing I am alluding to definitely are not. Will I be able to fit a round peg into a square hole?
I've undoubtedly used this title or a similar one at least once each year for the past five - ever since I first discovered the Red Milkweed Beetle - Tetraopes basalis. So far the summer of 2017 has been very dry and hot, and I've only seen one of these beetles at a time in just a few places. But a few days ago I stopped by one of my favorite spots on Chandler Road, just in case. As I said in an earlier post, most of the Milkweeds here had already succumbed to the Road Department's weed eater attacks. But on this day, there were three on one plant, and one each on three other plants. I took lots of photos. My favorite is the last one in this series. For some reason the inclusion of part of the fence appealed to me even though that's what I usually avoid. I also like number 5 in the series because of the way the beetle folded her antennae back in response to my close approach. It reminded me of cat behavior.
Currently, my blog has become a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I'm still trying to catch up on posting photos and thoughts from last weekend's trip to the coast. Meanwhile, a whole week has gone by back in Quincy and I've done some wandering and photographing and thinking here. As I said earlier, the destination following our drive down the Mendocino and Sonoma County coasts was "bookstore heaven" from Pt. Reyes Station to Corte Madera and San Rafael. Always one to enjoy the simpler things, I appreciated hearing a Spanish speaker pronounce "reyes" as a two-syllable word as it should be. AS we were preparing for this trip, I fantasized about bringing home a box full of books. It turns out I only bought two (pictured here) and regret passing up one other. The two I bought and the one I passed up were greatly influenced by the authors' experiences of nature. I love the feel of a book in my hands - much more than the "feel" of the laptop I am now using. I wonder if books are more natural than computers. One can approach this question superficially or deeply. Either way, "nature" and "natural" are human constructs. When I get home where the Internet speed is pathetically slow, I will add some narrative about what influenced me to buy these two books and why I regret passing up the third. For now, I am sitting outside a cafe with very high speed Internet where I could add each photo to my blog in 15 - 20 seconds, a process that can take as long as 5 minutes at home. So, until then....
I still need to go back a post or two to finish my narrative about last weekend's trip to the coast. But today, I just had to escape the heat and go somewhere, like high altitude, where I wouldn't run into a crowd with the same goal. I made a lucky choice, and these two photos of Monkshood made the drive worthwhile, and I got lots more good photos which I'll post soon. The drive began at the road that leads up to Argentine Peak from the spot on Highway 70 across the road from Williams Loop. The first few miles were pretty dusty and bumpy and I was nervous about abusing my truck. I was looking forward to the first major stream crossing which has always been a good spot for wildflowers and the butterflies and moths that pollinate them. Several hopes were fulfilled, and others were exceeded. I saw blooming Washington Lilies, Leopard Lilies, and Corn Lilies, Pennyroyal and other members of the mint family, and some orchids and onions. But, the highlight was the Monkshood shown here. They belong to my favorite wildflower family, Ranunculaceae, to which the Crimson Columbine and Buttercups also belong.
The road was in rough shape and I wondered which damage was done by a hard winter and which was the result of aggressive logging. I wondered about a lot of things, but had time limits as usual, so some things I'll just have to keep on wondering about. I thought of Thoreau and what must have been on his mind when he wrote "Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in." I titled this post "Spring is Back!" because going up in elevation feels like going back in time. The foothills are bone dry and most species of flowers have gone to seed long ago, but from 5,000 to 6,500' feet elevation where I explored today, lots of those same species are at their peak of blooming. Feels like spring again.
While we continued to converse, off and on, cognizant of the other's main interests, we also meandered separately, each focused on our own main interest - Bib on the rocks with "finger" holes in them, and me on anything alive besides humans. When I wandered a little bit south from our entry to the beach, I found huge accumulations of seaweed and poked through quite a bit of it looking for amphipods, flies, and crabs. The wind was probably making me impatient because I didn't find much, and I wasn't as persistent as I usually am in such situations.
Turning north again, wondering where the large bowling balls had gone, I recognized the furthest cliffs (left-hand edge of the above photo) as the ones immediately behind the bowling balls we had seen on our last trip here. That area appeared to be around a mile away, so we decided not to walk that far.
Back to looking for signs of life, I was intrigued by the glow of sunlight emanating from this bunch of grass. Stealing a phrase from an iconic Ansel Adams photo, I love the "early morning light."
This lone specimen of Bull Kelp seemed particularly photogenic to me. The wavy pattern of mini-sand dunes brought forth images of desert and other places of isolation, but the kelp was a reminder of the tenacity of life found in such places - such as Ed Abbey wrote about after exploring Death Valley.
Considering how the waves bash everything against the rocks, I felt privileged to find an intact crab shell.
Then, on the trail back up to our parking space, I found a great specimen of Harvest Brodiaea that I overlooked on the way down. Again, the early morning light made this one especially beautiful. Onward to points south - coffee, chile relleno, and bookstores.
Our long-awaited return to Bowling Ball Beach was a different experience this time. In fact, one of the exciting aspects of the seashore is that it is different every time. But this time, I was reminded of an old Disney documentary, "Four Artists Paint a Tree." My wife and I hike the trails and wander the beach together, and we talk, and we look around, but we see different things - or, we see the same things in different ways. For instance, the approach to the trail descending to the beach is a long, flat area covered with dried out grass. It was very windy, and I suspect most people walk quickly through this section just to get out of the wind. Or, they decide it's too windy and return to their cars. We never turn back due to wind, but my wife walked quickly while I was stopped in my tracks by this one flower (above). I haven't yet identified it, but it was the only one I saw, and I will consult the field guides later. Meanwhile, I tried to be patient as the wind moved the flower back and forth like a pendulum, until I could catch it at the end of its swing where it was still enough, for a split second, for a clear shot.
When we descended the steep trail to the beach, including the last slippery ten feet or so, our separate missions became apparent. Here's Bib looking for miniatures of the rocks that give the beach its name.
Here she is again in an area covered with these kinds of rocks.
These two examples now adorn our front deck and a few places inside the house.
Meanwhile, I was looking for more biological rather than geological items. I'll feature my findings in my next post. At this point (below), I realized that the really large "bowling balls" we saw on our 2012 trip to this area were yet a mile or so ahead. We retreated because there was more coast to explore and limited time.