This issue of Bay Nature is our contribution to your summer reading. And we mean summer reading in the conventional sense—writing that you intend to happily lose yourself in during well-deserved time off at the beach, under the shade of redwoods, or by a mountain lake. It has been a very long couple of years and we have longer to go still. Most of us could use a break, a change, an escape, a way to refill over this summer. The articles and essays in these pages aim to surprise and humor you into a renewed sense of self.
Start with the short essay on monarch butterflies, about the curious twist in their journey. Or, specifically, their lack of a journey: some monarchs are staying put in the Bay Area and forgoing their famed annual migration. Next enjoy the nearly-alien world inhabiting the piers, docks, and flotsam and jetsam around San Francisco Bay. We maybe unfairly call these mini communities “dock foulers,” when really it’s a biological party down there. Look anew at this mishmash of species in our department called Annotated Nature.
The issue’s cover story explores Bay Area airports as, counterintuitively, excellent wildlife habitat for many, including federally threatened red-legged frogs and endangered San Francisco garter snakes. Consider beginning to read this article while periodically glancing up and out from your window seat as the airplane gains altitude over a runway and you settle into your flight. There’s that brief and magical opportunity to glimpse an airport’s grasslands from a bird’s-eye view.
Next is a pair of essays on California’s keystone species of oaks. Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and award-winning writer Greg Sarris has a new book of essays out, Becoming Story, and we’ve republished one of them here. Read “If Oprah Were an Oak Tree,” his thoughtful, and by turns funny, essay on our relationship with the nature in front of us. I’m moved by Sarris’s talent for helping readers inhabit a multitude of worldviews. You will also find an essay on oaks that unwinds the longtime mystery of masting, the ability to produce copious amounts of seeds one year and few the next. Emeritus professor Walt Koenig has been counting California acorns for four decades and knows more than most of us about the genius of oaks and the math of outwitting a hungry landscape.
That’s just a portion of the stories in the issue; there’s more to discover. But promise us: peruse these pages with your feet up, a warm or cool drink on hand, and a little time to let these writers’ ideas and words lighten your burdens this summer.