Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Train Wreck

We've been talking with each other lately more about “place” than “plastic.” Plastic pollution, the trash we pick up, one piece at a time gets us to the beach to add to our collection, but foremost among our desires is the lean we have to be in a place that is intact—unspoiled by the industrial global market place. Where the plants and animals are shaped by the forces of natural selection, where the terrain of the landscape is shaped by forces of plate tectonics - this place feels absolutely right.

The mood at the beach depends on the light and weather but it always feels authentic which in turn gets us talking about existentialism. Before the psychedelic roller coaster in the later 60's when reality gained mutability, it was the simple fact of pure being that moved us. Artists like Alberto Giacometti and Jackson Pollock were the heroes trying to show in paint and bronze what it feels like to accept existence as it is and to live a life navigating by your own lights.

On the trail to the beach where the ground has been continually disturbed, you do walk through a slough of invasive species: European Mustard and Hemlock and Italian Thistle, but once at the beach it feels intact, like out of a book on natural history.

In spring the marsh thick with native Cattail and Tule is whirring with the calls of Redwing Blackbirds. Last summer we saw a pair of Tundra Swans flying back and forth over the marsh. Long necks like arrows. As you approach the beach, European Beach Grass was planted to stop the motion of the dunes. That has done more harm than good. Now a pilot program has started to remove the invasive grass.... it’s a great experiment to see if a place can be put back right. Despite the flaws, all in all, this National Seashore is the most "right" one can feel. It'd be pretty close to perfect place were it not for the plastic.

On the beach we meet a pair of women who volunteer for Beach Watch a project of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. They've got clipboards and sheets of numbers–they are counting live birds and dead ones as well as mammals. We tell them that the Peregrine nesting site high on the cliff last spring had four chicks. Today it had a pair of young adult Peregrines calling chirrup-chirrup not the insistent baby hungry squawk they made when we last saw them. This sounded like love.

Kehoe Beach wasn't always here-some of the geology matches the granite rocks of the Tehachapi slip fault 300 miles south. Some from the Monterey Formation is from sediments deposited underwater, the earlier ones are bedded like pages in a book and the soft sandstone of the Laird Formation was laid down probably in riverbeds. Bands of pebbles from fossilized riverbeds are visible. It’s all been tumbled together as illustrated in this animation from UC Santa Barbara. http://emvc.geol.ucsb.edu/downloads.php There are lots of enlightening animations, this one used with gracious permission of Tanya Atwater, director of The Educational Multimedia Visualization Center.

What we think of as a fixed place in our visual world is always in motion. Where is here? Today the most spectacular sight is the cliff where the Laird Formation smacked into the granite. It looks like a train wreck with the cars piled up onto an immovable object—the light sandstone heaved up onto the granite.

Those cliffs lit by slanting light accompanied by the sound of booming surf – we are witness to big drama when the imperceptible motions of the Earth are made visible.
And to the plastic. Judith was supreme. A pink Dolphin—pretty easy to spot, but that tiny alien? How'd she ever pick him out of the strew?

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