Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I've been reading a book called The Four Ages of Tsurai, which is a compilation of the European accounts (including one by botanist Archibald Menzies) of the small Yurok village of Tsurai, which was just below the modern town of Trinidad, where I go for internet and library books.

"Olega’ “where they come.” A place near the end of the present wharf which got its name because objects continually drift ashore there."

Trinidad Head is a great place to see plant diversity.

Ribes sanguineum.

The flowers, as you can see, are very beautiful. They're one of the most popular CA natives in cultivation.

I don't know what this litte plant is. Shame.

This is the old lighthouse (but it still lights the way).

Equally exciting is what I can't see.

"Ko’ixkulole’gwo m, “perforated stone where it is covered.” The spot is a cave just below the lighthouse. People took aromatic angelica root (wo’lpei) into the cave and put it into a pool of water in a recess of the cavern. The water would whirl when this was done. If this root (used in many religious and ceremonial connections) was employed by the person in some undertaking,
it would turn out well."

And here's where you get the root, Angelica (lucida?). I wanted to introduce this plant to our property because it's flowers attract pollinators. I had no idea it also attracted luck.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon) is a common plant along the coast. The berries are good in muffins, and have an interesting crunch to them.

This is the silk tassel shrub (Garrya eliptica). The catkins are very showy this time of year and give the whole plant a "mossy bayou" look.

Trinidad Head may be the best place to find Mimulus aurantiacus in this area. I saw it in gardens before I noticed it in the wild. Here's a tiny plant growing on a rock.

Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora) is a common ground cover in the shade, yet we don't have any in Bayside. (Even stranger is our very sparse amount of Oxalis oreganum, the most common redwood forest plant anywhere else.)

There are many beautiful old Ceanothus thyrsiflorus trees here. (They really should be called trees, in Trinidad at least.) They remind me of African accacia trees because of their form and the many little thorn-like branches.

Much of the head is covered in deciduous thickets. Thimbleberry, Twinberry, Blackberry, Gooseberry, and...poison oak.

It seems the Tsurai had a name and story for every rock along the coast. I wonder if today's fishermen have named all the rocks (I bet they have).

Joseph Cambell says, "People claim the land by creating sacred sites, by mythologizing the animals and plants—they invest the land with spiritual powers. It becomes like a temple, place for meditation."

History, hikes, and gardening are great ways to build your temple.

Through intermarriage with whites, disease, and migration to reservations, Tsurai faded away and was completely abandoned by 1914. California has a violent history, especially in respects to the orginal inhabitants. (The Wiyots, the Yuroks southern neighbors who inhabitted Bayside, were massacred nearly to extinction.) But the town of Tsurai faded quietly away.

I haven't confirmed this, but according to the book, the site of Tsurai is grown over, but is marked by a great pepperwood tree (Umbellularia californica).

"If aromatic angelica root was burned beneath its branches and a person prayed for rain, the rain would come in two days...Children were warned to stay away from this tree lest bad luck befall them. If an infant died, the mother...hung the cradle in its branches."

The world is composed of sacred sites.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Buds in the Forest

Buds and flowers are appearing in the forest. Male catkins are emerging on the california hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica), above. And, more excitingly, so are the bright red styles of female slowers.

Yep, hazel is monoecious (separate male and female flowers on the same individual plant). Last fall I blogged about hazelnut here.
Western coltsfoot (Petasites palmatus) is also emerging. The inflorescences look like little wrapped bouquets, don't they? Each of these rosy buds will stretch away from the stalk forming an umbel-like spike. Then they'll each open as a white "daisy."

Western coltsfoot next to my foot, for scale. The leaves can grow at least twice as large as the leaf shown.

Ribes sangineum is nearly flowering. I never noticed that there were floral bracts just as pink as the flowers.
And some of the willows (Salix spp.) are forming their silky catkins.
There are other things blooming in the forest. The Vaccinium ovatum has been at it for a while, and so has Claytonia sibirica.

well said

"At daybreak, if the weather is fine, I go into the garden. This time of day is very special to me. I look at the sky. It's very clear and I see the stars and have this special feeling--of my insignificance in the cosmos. The realization of what we Buddhists call impermanence. It's very relaxing. Sometimes I don't think at all and just enjoy the dawn and listen to the birds."

The Dalai Lama from A Policy of Kindness p. 48.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hidden Road to Patrick's Point

Go alone. Bring a knife. Put food in your pocket (and a cell phone). This is where the hidden road at Big Lagoon begins. Yes, you have to cross a perilous "bridge" where the road has eroded into the ravine on both sides.

Then the road dives into spruce and redwood forest.

See, it's a highway, forgotten.

Many, many paces later the road dissappears completely. Don't think about bears or mountain lions.

You see a trail that sharply veers to the right. Follow this through the redwoods.

After many, many paces, and after climbing over trees fallen by winter storms, you'll emerge on a road. If you look closely through the trees you'll see a Yurok house through the spruce and alders. Find the path into Sumeg Village.

You see no one there. Crawl through the circular door of a house and enjoy the extremely dark and quiet moment.

You emerge from the earth and walk around the village admiring the structures, like this sweat house.

You find a narrow mossy path to a native plant garden. You wonder when it was last tended; it's the wildest garden you've seen in a long time. But would you really want to change anything?

Then the forest opens and you see a vast coastal prairie: douglas iris, salal, native blackberry, yarrow, and pacific reed grasses.

You step onto the Rim Trail because you've never been there.

And discover a meadow of sedges just around the corner.

And notice first flowers of spring: salmonberry barely unfurling their petals.

You wander aimlessly. It's imperative to lose yourself for a while.Tthen you can find the trail back home. Here it is: the beach below the sandy cliffs.

You watch as a few dark figures pick through the rocks looking for agates. You ask the ones you pass if they're having any luck. Just small ones. Then you jog home to give your lungs a stretch.

Not a bad place to live, really.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

TED Talks

Have you heard of TEDtalks? There are some amazing people and ideas here, and it's all free. The website says:

"TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. Almost 200 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted."

The speakers are amazingly intelligent and diverse. Gardeners might be interested in Michael Pollan, biologist/technologist Janine Benyus, and photographer Frans Lanting. But be sure to try a few random people. Videos can be found here on their website and at least some of them are on YouTube.

This video of nature photographer Frans Lanting incorporates many things that fascinate me: trilobites, silverswords, euphorbias, the stilt-legged fox from the Pampas, the work of musician Phillip Glass, and the unity of life.

I also enjoyed:

Theo Jansen: Kinetic sculpure "Beach Creatures."

David Gallo: Ocean animals. Amazing.

Calamagrostis nutkaensis

I walked along this road many, many times, but am almost always discovering something new. Last week these grasses surprised me. I had dismissed them as velvet grass (a nonnative invasive, which is also in the area), but noticed that they were too bunchy and attractive to be that. They were Pacific Reed grass (Calamagrostis nutkaensis).

Then I headed back into the forest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Big Lagoon Politcal Update

This just in:

"BIG LAGOON -- The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs recently sent a letter to local agencies asking their take on the Big Lagoon rancheria's application to bring a five-acre parcel of land at the intersection of state Highway 101 and Big Lagoon Park Road into trust for tribal housing."

"According to the rancheria's application, three homes are planned for the property purchased in 2004. It is located about one-fourth of a mile outside the rancheria's trust lands."

”We're not interested in taking land into trust with restrictions,” Moorehead said. “We're looking at this as an alternative in case we build a casino.”

(full story from Eureka-Times Standard)

More development at Big Lagoon (especially a casino!) makes me nervous...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Casino on Big Lagoon?

There is a Rancheria adjacent to Big Lagoon, composed of a small group of Yurok and Tolowa tribe members, that has seriously considered building a casino on its shores for some time.

I remember a few years ago a friend and I canoed to that part of the shore and saw the foundation for a large buidling, that had been abandoned, and that had been grown over with blackberry and jubata grass. Well, the foundation was for the casino. According to my dad, the foundation has been around since at least 1996. But nothing has happened so far, and this video explains why.

But the latest word is that the US Department of the Interior is NOT going to let them build in Barstow.

Concerns about impacts on water quality, endangered species and scenery from a
casino on serene Big Lagoon had state environmental agencies and conservation
groups supporting the Barstow compact. With that upended, and the tribe pushing
harder for a casino on their reservation, a battle is likely over who approves
the project. The California Coastal Commission has vowed to sue, claiming that
states which adopt federally approved coastal programs have the right to review
federal projects, like an Indian casino.

(Full story from the Eureka Times Standard.)

A casino and its tourists would be a serious ecological, aesthetic, and personal tragedy. I worry about the Rancheria, but this is not (morally and culturally) the right answer to their problems. I feel it in my bones. While the lagoon is not in immediate danger, I must keep up with story and prepare my war cry.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Dark Forest Meditation

Susan from Garden Rant said that the Secret Garden was “simply too other-worldly for us to relate to.” But this is exactly the kind of garden I do relate to. And it seems that Piet Oudolf has been making mystical gardens like this for sometime.

What is it about the other-worldly, “dark Forest” gardens that appeals to me, anyway?

At the library, I stumbled upon a book called “The Power of Myth,” which is based on an interview between Bill Moyers and the late scholar of comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell. (I highly recommend it—it seriously reopened my heart to religion.)

I think there are a couple of “dark forest” things going on in my mind.

1. Anima mundi….the animated world, the world full of soul and souls. What do you think about this? Too pagan or romantic for your tastes?

I thought I had uprooted (or at least suspended) my belief in things like God four or five years ago. But to my surprise, beneath my former religion was the simple idea of anima mundi. I don’t even know where I picked this up (and I just found the term for the idea), but I believe it. Sure it’s a romantic idea, that the jay is our brother, that the same spirit runs through all of us, and that we can “Paint with All the Colors of the Wind.” But to me, it means that we are all part of the mystery of life. It means respect and reverence toward the people, animals, plants, and things around us.

2. The Hunter. Something interesting I learned in the Campbell book was that in the land of Canaan the people were farmers and they worshipped a goddess. The Children of Israel were hunters and shepherds and they worshipped the male god, Yahweh, who, according to Campbell, was a war god. It’s not surprising then that the Children of Israel ransacked Canaan, and not the other way around. I’m not a religious scholar. Let me just move onto my point: The farmer and the cowman should be friends. Everything needs a balance of yin and yang, of animal and plant, of masculine and feminine. I think the “dark forest” element in the garden is important to me because it makes the garden more animated, more manly, and, like Ellen said, more visceral.

But there will be no animal sacrifices in the garden.

3. History. I like moss, lichens, patina, ware, rust, and signs of past life, like this chimney on a trail in Petersburg, Alaska (Here with my brother, Peter the Tourist, last summer).

4. Nostalgia. When I was in middle school I was obsessed with the Prydain chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. It was, you know, about a boy who wants crazy adventures, gets caught up in them, wanders the land trying to find himself, finds his ancestry and inner strength, and becomes king. Campbell would have called this the classic hero myth, right up there with The Odysseus, Luke Skywalker, and King Arthur.

My neighbor's planter reminds me of The Black Cauldron. It could use some plants.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Snow in Bayside

Last Sunday it snowed in Bayside! In the seven or so years we've been in the area, it has never snowed. The bulbs coming up will be alright, right?