Environment

A Very Big Fish Story

A mile offshore from Bodega Head in 120 feet of water, the captain cuts the engine. The 65-foot chartered research vessel pitches from side to side in steep swells. Ten men, one young woman, and I take our stations at the railing.

“Lines down!” a voice booms.

Not until this moment do I realize that I probably should have considered my gender, age, size, and complete lack of fishing experience before volunteering as an angler for the California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program. My life goals immediately winnow down to three:  Do not fall off the lurching boat.  Do not join the miserable retchers chumming the waves with their breakfasts.  And prove to be of some scientific value by catching at least one fish.

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The Tao of Tracking

To me, Jim Sullivan seems a combination of Davy Crockett and David Attenborough: A scientist by training. A landscape designer, newspaper columnist, and college instructor by various career twists. An environmental activist, pleine-aire painter, philosopher, author, and drummer by personal passion.  A living legend among the hundreds of tracking students he’s trained. 

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The Wantonness of Wildflowers

On a wildflowers hike at the Jenner Headlands Preserve in Northern California, Ranger Jill Adams of the Wildlands Conservancy asks what we expect to find.

“Sex,” a voice calls out. Giggling like school kids, we turn to a small woman in a tan bucket hat and sensible boots. “My father was a botanist,” she explains. “He taught us that when you go into the woods to look for wildflowers in Spring, you’re going to see lots and lots of sex.”

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Seasons of the Sea

During my Pennsylvania childhood, the seasons paraded through the years in lockstep formation: Spring’s promises and petals. Summer’s lush ripeness. Autumn’s harlequin leaves. Winter’s icy grip. Here on the Northern California coast, the indomitable wind and waves have created seasons of their own: Upwelling (March through July), Relaxation (late summer through October), and Storm (November through February).

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Growing A New Brain

When you learn a language, a linguist once told me, you see with new eyes, listen with new ears, speak with a new tongue. In essence, you grow a new brain. As I began my coastal wonderings, waves of words—some entirely new, others familiar but with different meanings—washed over me.  I quickly realized that I would need a new vocabulary as well as a new brain.

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The Edge of Edges

California’s Route One surfs the rim of the Pacific— swerving, curving, diving into gorges, curling around coves, spiraling up cliffs.  Sixty-five miles north of San Francisco  the rambling road skids into my town, the incorrigibly funky fishing port of Bodega Bay, immortalized in Hitchcocks’s The Birds.

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