overlapping faults

1_Duxbury Fault Line_GregFault Lines @ Duxbury Reef

One of the fascinating things we learned on our tidepool walk along the Duxbury Reef is that it rests atop three overlapping fault lines: the San Andreas (of 1906 fame), the Golden Gate, and the San Gregorio. Interesting intersections. Shale is a fragile, easily split rock formed from mud sediments made up of silt and clay. This type of rock crowning massive, shifting, tectonic plates is something akin to stacking fine china atop a table with three wobbly legs. The other odd pairing with shale is that it often stores repositories of natural gas and oil. Fortunately for us, in 2009, the California Department of Fish and Game listed the Duxbury Reef as a protected marine area. I’m always grateful to live in a state that holds stewardship of natural places in high regard. Last weekend as Greg and I weathered a stressful work schedule we had to reexamine the state of our own fault lines. We spent both days grading our hillside after installing two levels of retaining walls, and planting in nearly 50 native species. Often we spend our entire weekend repairing and renovating the almost 100-year-old boathouse that is the cabin we call home. Such a pace often wears us down and leads to tensions chafing along our exhausted personality lines. On Sunday afternoon a frustrating disagreement made us realize that we overwork until we’re like two cranky kids. We made a pledge to work only one day on any given weekend and take the other day to hike, rest and take our inner kids out for some fun. Stewardship of the resources that nurture our relationship, conservation of our energies for both work and play, allow us to savor this life. Tide pool walks, nature hikes, and beach days are now on the regular weekend agenda.

tide walk weekend

1_duxburyGregDuxbury Shale Reef @ Negative Tide

In February, a text message from my friend Erika reminds me to reserve tickets for a hike scheduled for the Birding Festival Weekend at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. We double down and get tickets for the Tide Walk on Saturday and the Secret Caves hike on Sunday. An easy morning drive to Bolinas takes us to Agate Beach to join the PRNSA (Point Reyes National Seashore Association) naturalists awaiting us with release forms and field guides for tidepools. We stop at the park information signs and learn that the Duxbury Reef is the largest shale reef on the planet. Impressed, we proceed down the sandy path to scamper along the textured brown rock in search of sea-life. The rugged shale expands as far as the eye can see north to south and the flat surface makes it easy work to dash from pool to pool pointing out green anemones both open and closed, various types of seaweed and grasses, and boring clams – named not from lack of interesting features but because they literally bore holes in roles for shelter. I am especially fascinated by the hole-strewn rocks left by boring clams as they outgrow their hole and move on to drill larger rocks. I am grateful to friends who find amazing things in my neighborhood that add to our growing collection of adventures on the Point Reyes National Seashore.

my life in birds

BirdsLifeCollageNight Herons frame, Murmuration of Swallows, Grebe in Flight, Plovers in Morning

One of the biggest surprises for me in this marine life was actually loving my new hours. My workday commute from Oakland to Palo Alto requires that I be on the road before sunrise. I always thought I was definitely not a morning person but I found out otherwise. I walk off the boat each morning at 5am into the velvet predawn of a new day. This ritual is suddenly, surprisingly, a spiritual experience for me. The high priestesses are birds. Last week a great egret, as tall as my shoulder, was posed at the end of our dock, her feathers rippling in white grace as she fled my approach. Most mornings I pass black-crowned night herons. All but one bursts into flight and kwaks at me, except the bold, clever heron that anticipates my approach and runs down the side dock and waits until I pass to return to the prime fishing spot. Each evening green herons (I think misnamed because they are actually a lovely cinnamon color) jostle for fishing spots. This morning a large Brandt’s cormorant looked up at me as I crossed the bridge to land, then dove powerfully, leaving massive concentric ripples expanding silently across the water. Last week I decided to make a U-turn in these early hours before work and I drove to the vista point beneath the western side of the Dumbarton Bridge – my magic portal of appreciation of the present moment. I framed this pano sunset then went looking for birds. A pair of American avocets walked slowly through the mudflats fishing for breakfast. A bustle of common terns (possibly elegant terns – I have to bring along binoculars) flitted among small islands raucously with their kip-kip-kip. I had to pull out my cellphone and download the Audubon app for California Birds to identify a pair of black-necked stilts. Song sparrows perched on the fence in front of my car to investigate me. I am grateful for my life in birds that helps me frame stopping to notice and appreciate beauty. Coming home last night I pulled off at the vista point as storm clouds were moving out of the area, expecting a dramatic sunset. Altocumulus clouds overlapped, dim and moody in variegated grays. Suddenly a flock of swallows swept overhead and banked around in elegant murmuration. I stood and watched until they flew out of sight and simply breathed in the gift. No colors of sunset in the dense clouds, but I would gladly trade birds for clouds some days as my gift of the day.

harbor gate

1_MarinaHarbor_4_17Gathering Rain Clouds Alameda Winter

After 18 months living on a boat, our transition plan has shifted into residency mode. We stay a few weeknights on the boat and long weekends at the cabin, driving in from West Marin to Palo Alto on Monday mornings. I didn’t think that I could handle a long-term living situation in such close quarters. The lovely part about making someone else’s dream come true is the amount of giveback that occurs. I come home on Greg’s flex-day (his every-other-Friday off) and he is coming to the end of hours of scrubbing and cleaning the boat – inside an out. It literally sparkles in the sunlight. He’s invited guests to sail next week and his day was dedicated to a literally stern to bow spring-cleaning. When I was gone to NY for a week he installed a closet rod and moved the jackets from hanging over the couch to hidden away in the stern stateroom. Sometimes walking to the boat, driving to the cabin, I’m amazed that this is my lifestyle. Such a radical and fun idea that would never have occurred to me under ordinary circumstances. Possibly that is the role of stress and change – to take us out of the ordinary – to show us the perspective of the periphery adventure that we had never noticed. I’m so grateful to get a key to pass through the gate into this rare and intriguing life.