Tuesday, January 25, 2011

45 days

Just because it is made from non-GMO corn, it is still single-use. 
At Trader Joes’ sample bar - after that small tasty bite of Fettucini Alfredo - the fork goes into the garbage can. We planted one of these forks in our backyard landfill aka garden and will revisit this fork in 45 days to see if it is still cutlery or what?

Mark your calendar- March 11 is the day.

The term “bioplastics”  adds to the confusion about recycling- some of the new plastics  are compostable, some are biodegradable, some are recyclable. Each kind has different requirements (water, heat) for it to degrade- and then there is the question of no toxic residue. Worldcentric has a good explanation of the differences.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


At the end of the beach is a spill of granite boulders all bread loaf size. Rubbed soft round. White-grey speckled with black. The eye is caught by another round rock, very dark and sparkling in the late slant of sundown. Football size. It’s a 14-pound lump of coal. Rubbed with another piece of rock, and sure enough, it makes a black dust. It’s coal. Now how did that wind up on the beach? Coal doesn't float. How'd it get here?

One way it got here is from the Carboniferous Era 350 million years ago. It wasn't laid up here but from a time when high oxygen levels (almost 40% opposed to the 21% now) gave rise to giant insects and oozy fern swamps. Birds and flowers hadn't been invented yet. Anyway we haul it back home, wash the sand off, and weigh it. We lit a piece and it burned leaving a cinder and a gassy peaty smell evoking nostalgia of the winter coal smell—how we heated schools in the Midwest.  In the 50's coal cinders paved every alleyway and the running tracks circling every football field. This piece probably fell off a cargo ship on its way to China, where coal burning is unrestricted. Its high-grade anthracite, shiny and burns with a characteristic short blue flame.

The space of Kehoe Beach feels like home ground, like our backyard. The cliff going into the water marks the end boundary of our walk. Here alluvial fans of debris from washouts have eroded to a shelf where pioneer plants have stabilized the sand. It’s a good place to find plastic washed in on the semi-annual super high tides. A lot of older and bigger chunks. Rising out of the skimpy dirt are three kinds of mushrooms. Two kinds of Inky Caps; one with a long pale cap, a smooth furled umbrella; the other already curling back to release spores. These disintegrate soon after they're picked digesting themselves into a black goo. We're told they're good to eat, but if eaten with alcohol they create a substance like antabuse, the pharmaceutical used to deter alcoholics. They make you quite ill, but aren't deadly. Hmmmmm who wants to try one?

Sandpipers, a flock of more than 100, scuttle on furious legs, a moving unison smooth and rhythmic as the wavelets they follow. The sheets of ocean glaze the sand like mercury and the pip-squeak birds double in reflection as they skitter as if one creature racing the wave-line. A wave too big and they launch in a fluttering chorus, float up on the breeze and double back to work the sand. White Dungeness Crab larvae litter the wrack line. We'd had a crab feast a couple of nights before.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Plate Tectonics

Kehoe Beach is a textbook illustration for geology classes. The Point Reyes Peninsula is as "an island in time".  The whole of the National Park is part of the Pacific Plate and is moving northwest, grinding past the North American Plate. We see lots of evidence at Kehoe. The layered rock of the Monterey Formation, the bleached pages of a book you see when you drop down to the beach at the trail end, match up with rocks 120 miles to the south. This chunk of land is on the move. Further north is the smooth wall of Laird Sandstone laid up on top of the Monterey Formation. The Monterey stone was deposited slowly with lots of microscopic critters lending their shells to the mix. You can see barnacle fossils too. The Laird Sandstone was deposited quickly and is so soft it can be scraped to write graffiti. Which depending on the season when hearts and pluses match up initials. Spring blooms lots of lover pairs scratched into the Laird Sandstone. All of this was laid on top of granite that appears to be similar to what has made the Sierra Nevada range.

The thing is, this mash up of rocks really happened and is backdrop of our recurrent trips to Kehoe. During one lifetime the cliffs seem solid, monumental and permanent but we've seen the slow crumble and slide as alluvial fans of granitic rocky debris slide onto the beach from the far end of the beach. Every year the beach slides toward differentiation. The Monterey Formation is the most solid though it is folded by years of pressure, as though it were rubber bands caught on a treadmill. The perpendicular Laird Formation peals off in slabs and dangerous chunks that have killed picnickers.

All of this tells the languorous and relentless story of change at the margins. Driving out to the beach you cross the famous San Andreas fault, here a valley filled in with waters of Tomales Bay. Change on a geologic scale may indeed be languorous, but periododically a lurch occurs as it did in 1906. The epicenter of that lurch was right here in Point Reyes where you can see a fence displaced by sixteen feet, left as a monument very near park headquarters.

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Affair to Remember- New Year's Eve 2010

It feels like that. An affair, a little naughty and mischievous. But on the last day of 2010 we head to Drake's Beach instead of Kehoe. Seven miles as the crow flies. We'd heard from Richard James,another beachcomber friend, that because of the strong southerly winds this year the beach facing into the wind had a lot of plastic. Oh! Kehoe, we still love you, but today we want to go on vacation.

The dilemma— do we tell anyone? do we mix our finds?

It's cold but not much wind, just above 40°. The damp of the ocean plus all the rain we've had sinks the chill right into the bones. Off we go and as promised there is lots of plastic in the wrack-line and the geology is very different from Kehoe. Lots of silty mudstone from the same age as the rock at Kehoe but smooth and crumbly. The Park Service warns to stay away from the cliff base—there is lots of evidence of rockslides and we know just a few years ago a falling boulder killed a kid. But, that's where the plastic has landed so we walk through boulders balancing like a couple of drunks—arms out, shaky small steps. Teetering like the codgers we are becoming. A few lighters, red cheese spreaders (thank you, Kraft Foods), super balls the usual stuff to add to the collection. But the best are a Barbie® arm and a green hand with the #3 becoming a post-modern adaptation of the Sistine Chapel's creation.

Rain starts in again so we hurry back to the car with a three-bag load. But then a break in the clouds and on the way home, we stop at North Beach at the southern end of "Ten Mile Beach." We've gone around the lighthouse point, which is Point Reyes. From here we can see all the way up the beach to Kehoe and beyond. Miles. Past the inlet of Tomales Bay, the rift valley of the San Andreas fault. All the way to the houses perched on the edge of Bodega Bay.

There are lots of people here weather notwithstanding, families for the New Years celebration. Being in nature sets a tone for the coming year. Tables are arranged in the sand, a crowded jumble of food dishes, beer six packs, coolers. Two big groups of 40 or 50, all ages, kids out in the cold surfing, shirtless boys playing football, most are bundled with puffy coats, scarves and hats. Guys tending campfires. A big pot of Texas Chili is cooking trail-style with a cast iron lid for coals put on top. Faces are bent to paper bowls digging into the eats with plastic spoons. One guy carefully slides brats down the tines of an eight-prong pitchfork.

One of the shirtless footballers sits on a Styrofoam cooler to get his warm clothes back on, crashing through. Crack! Heads whip around then the space is filled with laughter. A group of serious young girls, all stork-y legs and big suede Uggs on the feet, are away from the group with eyes cast back, making Talmudic commentary on the behavior of adults. They are gathered around a 50-gallon plastic barrel, wave crushed but with the top still on. It’s from a chemical company with the designation, S.A. Sociedad AnĂ³nima, the corporate designation for Spanish speaking countries.

Rain in the distance and the sun cracks through lighting Kehoe six miles down the beach, like a spotlight. A rainbow starts up shining right to our beach. Then when it doubles - shouts all up and down the beach start a chorus of "Oh my god, oh my god, double rainbow, oh my god."

"Oh my god, the rainbow” terminates at our strange pot of gold. Kehoe Beach.

If you are not one of the 30,000,000 million people who are in on the "double rainbow" phenomena - Please click here: Double Rainbow.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

An Auspicious Beginning

Thanks to Susan Cohn of the San Mateo Daily Journal for her report Museum gotta see 'um about our exhibition in the SFMOMA windows.