In May, my family and I headed to Sycamore Grove Park near Livermore for a long stroll on Mother’s Day. Something about the dry heat and native, lazy-limbed sycamore trees there feels like an earlier version of California, and it was a good place to unwind after eight weeks of shelter-in-place. Near the end of the walk, I decided to take a half hour to stick my feet in the water that was still flowing through the arroyo.
The water couldn’t have been more than two feet deep and was clear and cool. Staring at my toes resting on the stones in the water, I started to notice things. There was a pea-size snail with a round shell, another that was conical. Three water boatmen, patterned like tiny brown and white Ukrainian eggs, hovered on a rock. Black pollywogs darted from crevice to crevice. A red-tailed hawk floated overhead on warm air.
Those 30 minutes alone in nature stand out in my mind like a saturated photo amid the blur of recent weeks and months. The plasticity of time is so evident these days. A half hour can feel full and rich, while indistinguishable weeks at home seem to evaporate. The next Zoom call is somehow constantly starting in five minutes, while waiting to enter the grocery store feels interminable. As we plod into our 12th week of shelter-in-place, a tense sixth day of demonstrations and riots rages on, protesting injustices 400 years in the making.
This issue of Bay Nature dips into matters of time. Summer is traditionally when we take stock of the long view, and maybe that’s a particularly important perspective now as current events consume us. In a story about Monterey pine, Zach St. George looks at the rarity and proliferation of the species, which has for more than 2.5 million years been roaming the land we call California, but less than 200 years ago fanned out across the world. Journalist Jane Braxton Little reminds us of headlines from 16 years ago when PG&E negotiated a bankruptcy settlement that included protecting 140,000 acres of watershed lands in the Sierra Nevada that feed the San Francisco Bay Delta. That project is coming to a close, and Braxton Little examines whether the power company’s seemingly distant promise has been realized. Our cover story on bull kelp forests, which died almost entirely along the coast of Sonoma and Mendocino counties in 2014, looks at how long it will take for them to return. Can we speed up the process? Is it better to wait? Or is it already too late?
At Bay Nature, we hope that this issue finds you healthy, safe, and discovering refuge in nature, be it looking out a window or on a distance hike, backyard bird-watching, or putting your feet in a slow stream.