Highpoint @ Limantour Beach Road – Point Reyes National Seashore
We take the road to the sea for our weekly sunset beach picnic, stopping in at the Inverness Park Deli for the Sunday fried chicken special. Ghostly gray patches of fog ripple through creases of mountainside along Vision Peak as we wind our way along the road to ocean upon the rippling back of seismic plates. Milky white of clouds obscure the profile of the Farralon Islands that usually punctuate the horizon at the peak. Reminiscent of the descent in a plane, waves of clouds sheer then disperse, sweeping around us teasing with panoramic views, then around the next turn a wall of white. We park and walk the sandy path across Limantour Estuary, crest the dunes to the beach where sand and fog become one, the sound of crashing waves muffled in troposphere tight around us. We sit on a log and enjoy the strange obfuscation of this massive beach, foreshortened and swathed in fog. It is a short stay as we lick our fingers and gather our dinner remnants. As we mount the summit, we pull over in awe bursting from lowland obscurity into elevated clarity. The fog line blankets the ocean and estuary below while clouds and sun replay the grand finale above. It illustrates the warp and weft of our limited vision, the clouded clutch of depression and sadness nestled just beneath the illuminating light of enjoyment and ease at the next rise and turn of the road. We frame the spectral show along roadside paths, walking in opposite directions. Greg descends along a narrowing trail and I trace the edge of the peak road for a wider view of sky. We meet and descend once again into thick fog, water droplets suspended in atmosphere tight upon the surface of our world. We are graced to live beneath an atmospheric river.
Contrail Arcs Above Black Mountain – Nicasio Valley Road
Saturday morning fog rises slowly all along the Bay Area. At 55mph I notice in passing the radiant swathe of fog at left drifting off Nicasio Reservoir. I breath in the beauty, conflicted. Reaching the end of the road, I turn around. I am compelled to turn back. I must go back and frame this splendor. The dichotomy of land, suddenly green from the first winter rains, against brilliant azure sky awash with a calligraphy of clouds. The serpentine form of fog almost passed across the water’s surface. This mirror marks the memory, paints a portrait of elements: earth and air. The first panel of Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Deights comes to mind with its complementary blue-green creation scene. Artists and writers ponder on the surreal images of Bosch. In her book LEAP, Terry Tempest Williams raises the possibility that we are actually still in the Garden of Eden, that the story of Adam and Eve, the final panel of Bosch’s triptych, those are the cautionary tales. I would agree. Every effort that we make to frame the beauty, to appreciate the gift, is one step toward averting the tragedy of the loss of this Eden. National Geographic and Leonardo Dicaprio frame the importance of turning back for beauty in the documentary Before The Flood. Turn back for beauty,…as often as possible. It may very well be our saving grace.
Second Valley Osprey Nest: A Garden of Earthly Delights – July 2016
On the hillside parallel to Second Valley a breeding pair of osprey return each year to nest atop a towering dead fir capped by a nest the size of a bathtub. In past years 1-2 chicks hatch and sometimes do, sometimes don’t, make it to maturity. This year at the end of July we are amazed by 3 hulking chicks crowding the nest and filling the valley with their long raucous cries of hunger. The parents land with a fish in claws, the same size as their full grown offspring clamoring for food. Osprey are the only raptors that survive solely on fish so they build a nest adjacent to water for their concentrated buffet. Through observation we learn some interesting avian parenting tips. Camera poised as a parent approaches, she hovers with a large fish in her grip then turns abruptly away as the chicks, quieted and poised at her approach erupt in hysteria as she flies off with their anticipated dinner. We erupt in laughter at the clever “fish fake” maneuver to entice them to fly. Hiking up each day to enjoy the show, 2 chicks fledge, while the last lingers for another two weeks in the nest screeching mournfully. The siblings return to the nest for the next 2 months as parents teach them to fish and to keep the last chick company. One sibling brings fish to the nest and the other sits on the lower branches. The scenario reminds me of the advantages of growing up in a larger family, learning lessons from those fledged before us, and enjoying the benefits of spoils left behind while having older siblings close at hand. Fledged chicks stay in the nest as parents roost nearby imparting hunting lessons and learning the lay of land and water. In late autumn they will begin the 2700 mile flight to South America to their wintering grounds where chicks will mature for another 2-3 years before they make the flight back for mating in their birthplace on this National Seashore. I realize how essential it is for humans to preserve habitat for wildlife to share this range of life. Finally the last chick, the last egg laid, fledges and she hovers over the valley for weeks screeching it seems with sheer joy to the world, “I can fly! I can fly!” We are privileged to be her witness.