Water Story (Fairy Tale, Part II)

4 -life in a bromeliad poolLife on Bromeliadia Island

In the beginning, there was just the rain – rain all day and rain all night. Water ran along and beyond every hill and every canyon. On and on it ran until sea and sky merged together and became one. This is when Slender Bromeliad gave birth to River Mumma. Unlike her brothers and sisters, the ginger bromeliads, River Mumma, from her very inception, refused to stand still or to remain in one place.

When all of the ginger bromeliads’ water tanks were filled to capacity and brimming over, they would call out to one and all, telling us to come live with them in the cave. That is how I got there. Oh it was a magical place, filled with forests and rare understories. It was a perfect home for iguanas and mountain river fish and bromeliads.

Day and night, night and day, the ginger bromeliads and Slender Bromeliad collected rainwater. In the void, the chasm, the abyss of the caves, they all worked hard to keep Water Table level. While River Mumma roamed up and down the mountain and back, her mother and siblings stayed put, replenishing subterranean springs upon which Water Table balanced.

Life in Castle Cave

Rain collectors, as bromeliads are also known, arch their gutters into curves until they overlap to form tight, protective bowls. This is no easy feat and in fact, is really hard work. In a good year, they amass so much water that the creatures of the forest cannot help but find new ways to enjoy the bounty. Some of them even make their homes in the bromeliads’ slender stalks.

The first time Red Crab visited Slender Bromeliad’s castle, Slender Bromeliad was busy sunbathing. What seemed to be shutters to the castle turned out not to be shutters at all, but windows. And far from being closed, the windows were flung wide open. Red Crab climbed across the roof and down the wall near Slender Bromeliad. “Anybody home?” she called out. Slender Bromeliad ignored her. She inched closer sideways. “She can’t hear you,” came a voice from the gutters. Red Crab moved closer. “Are you a tourist or are you looking for a home?” “What?” responded Red Crab. “Are you looking to live here too?” asked Blue Damselfly, trying not to sound too hopeful.

The luxurious blue creature with iridescent wings was happy to see Red Crab. She knew she could count on her to provide nutrients for her larvae. She had, in fact, been waiting and hoping for company to arrive. When Blue Damselfly first made her way to the cave, Slender Bromeliad’s tank had been under the control of miscreants. Damselfly quickly put an end to that and all the miscreants disappeared. Now Blue Damselfly needed a new source of food for her larvae. Her host, Slender Bromeliad, was oblivious to all of this. She was too worried about her wandering progeny, River Mumma, who she heard, had taken the reflection of their cave and placed it firmly in Gold Mine for all to see. No good could possibly come of that.

The Troubles

River Mumma had become a main source of worry for Slender Bromeliad who no longer, if ever, had control over her last born. First there had been the business of all the fish children she spawned with iguana. Now there was the matter of her goings and comings and her late returns home. That had been okay during the rainy season. Now, however, a second season had arrived on the island and like River Muma, it too, seemed to be up to no good. The fish children that lived in the mountain streams were starting to talk. They said the sun was getting jealous of iguana and was getting hotter and hotter under the collar. They feared he might stop River Mumma from returning home one day. What they really were afraid of was that she would dry up, wither away, and then they too, would disappear. Worse yet, if she took the castle with her, the underground springs would dry up too.

5- magical, enchanted Pan IguanaThey blamed it all on iguana for having tempted River Mumma to flow on out of the cave. They said iguana had tricked her into spawning fish in the lower rivers and even further below, in the salt laden sea. Lately, they claimed, he had taken to running pipes along her banks just to keep her close. It was he, they said, that kept her tethered to the golden table that shimmered and glowed and threatened to capsize any day now. He put her at risk and now she was in everybody’s crosshairs. River Mumma, of course, didn’t see any of this their way. She was merely charting her own course and beating her own path. And as for Pan, where would he find pipes in a land without pipes? None of this made sense, unless of course, the place ahd been bewitched by the fairies. Had it?

 

If you wish to read Part I of this tale, please click on this link.

Art///Sky Sculpture Hike 2013

"Root to Crown" by Alissa Neglia, 2006
This sculpture makes me think of Alice in Wonderland: “Root to Crown” by Alissa Neglia, 2006 (upholstered redwood stump).

Build a sculpture and you expect it to last. Not so at Djerassi where native redwoods, ancient oaks and wide open spaces are all incorporated into the art. Placement is a key feature of each installation. Most of the sculptures here are created from materials foraged from the forest floor. Mediums like fallen redwood logs, madrone branches and oak limbs eventually make their way into many Djerassi sculptures. Once installed the pieces are, for the most part, left to weather the elements. Wind, rain, sun and forest creatures all take their toll on the art. Change is but another factor that lends interest to the works. Many of these sculptures will eventually decompose and disintegrate into the land. This is nature coming full circle, reminding us of the impermanence of being.

Various artists, “2013 ART///SKY Sculpture Tours”, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Woodside (San Francisco/Bay Area), through November 10, 2013.

*****         *****         *****

During this weekend’s hike at Djerassi, my group and I focused on twenty-two of the thirty-one sculptures on the 2013 Art///Sky hike. The first stop on our tour was Cynthia Harper’s wooden sculpture, “Nest,” created in 1997. This piece is constructed of madrone and redwood twigs and branches. They are doweled together to form a nest on the forest floor. Nest was knee high at its creation in 1997. Today it is less than five inches high.  In 2009 it looked like this:

Nest (photo credit: Anthony Lindsey, 2009)

Today it looks pretty much the same except that it is a little more disheveled.

Next stop on our tour was just a few yards away from “Nest.” “Menagerie” by Jen Blazina is situated on the banks and in the bed of Harrington Creek. Some of these fairy tale like pieces have already been washed downstream towards the ocean. Who knows how many will remain after the upcoming season’s rains. This is in keeping with the artist’s intention — that the pieces become part of a diaspora of art.

2 -Menagerie, 2011 by Jen Blazina
Menagerie (medium: cast, hydrocal)

Yusuke Toda’s, “Contemplator” was the third work of art on the tour. This piece was carved by hand from a 10-foot redwood log that was found on the property. It is situated in a deeper section of the creek than “Menagerie” is. Its rate of decay is also specific to its location. Nearly ten years after its creation and installation in the creek bed, “Contemplator” has not changed much. Here it is in its current state:

3 Yusuke Toda, Contemplator

To keep this article relatively short I’ve only presented three of the many sculptures seen on this tour. If you wish to see more photographs of some other Djerassi’s sculptures, please see my recent art review, “Decay and Disintegration” at Droste Effect Magazine.

Big Basin! Whuu-huuu!!!!

I finally made it to Big Basin up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The visitor center, also known as Sempervirens Room, is in Boulder Creek, California. To get down to the seaside on foot, you start your hike at that section of the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail near the visitor’s center. It is twelve and a half miles, one way, down to Waddell Creek Beach.

Since I arrived at the park in the late afternoon, I did not attempt to hike the twenty-five miles round-trip from mountains to beach. I opted instead for two shorter hikes, the Redwood Loop, and a self-made route that criss-crossed three different trails. I plan to do the twenty-five miles round trip before the summer arrives in the Bay Area. An additional treat will be to camp overnight at Big or Little Basin.

From Bonny Doon to Fairy Circles

Fairy Circles (2nd growth trees)
Fairy Circles (2nd growth trees)

The drive up into the mountains from Highway One is spectacular. Up past Bonnie Doon and a few other towns I went. Further up into the mountains I passed the Ben Lomond Youth Conservation Camp, a monastery, and Little Basin, finally arriving at Big Basin.

There are some magnificent stands of redwoods in this park; some of them are surrounded by fairy circles.  If you hike the Redwood Loop Trail you will find some of these circles near the fallen, older trees  from which they sprang.

Father and Mother of the Forest

HillMotherofForest
Mother of the Forest (http://www.bigbasin.org)

Some of the old growth redwoods have been given quaint names like Father of the Forest (he is 250 feet high) and  Mother of the Forest (she is 329 feet high) because they feature what, to those who named them, male and female parts. These trees and others, are on the Redwood Loop Trail, the easiest and shortest of the trails here. It is a mere half-of a mile long and passes by Opal Creek where you will find a beautiful stand of tan oaks along the bank of the creek.

Conservation Camp

This drive to Big Basin is my third encounter with a conservation camp. The first time I came across one was near a forest between San Diego and Los Angeles. The second time, I was in the Sierras, heading to Yosemite. The words, “conservation camp”, makes me think of “concentration camps”. I did some research, expecting to find that the former are places where people learn how to protect the environment. Instead, it turns out that this is just a fancy name for prison or correctional facility. I don’t know why California doesn’t just call them by their real names. Why the double speak? They are listed right there on the California Correctional and Rehabilitation (Prison) Web site!

Big Basin

Big Basin, designated a park since 1902, is the oldest state park in the United States. That distinction used to belong to Yosemite, at least until it became a federal/national park. Big Basin covers more than 18,000 acres from sea to mountains. Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, Big Basin launched the state park movement in California. Its biggest attraction is a rare stand of ancient coast redwoods that are among the tallest and oldest trees on earth. These include the Mother and Father of the Forest, both of which are anywhere from 1,000-2,000 years old. See my Sequoia National Park article to learn more about some of earth’s giant trees and ancient forest.

Coast redwoods are native to the United States and grow only along the coast from southern Oregon to Central California. They are part of an ancient forest of which less than five percent remains. To meet the demands of the gold rush and urban development we logged the forest and these trees to near extinction. Long gone from the forest are the Quiroste and Cotoni peoples who once made this area their home. Look carefully when you hike some of the Big Basin trails and you will see evidence of their having once been here: The grinding rocks where their ancestors pounded acorns into flour still remain here and in other parks. Some of these grinding stones are also in several Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space Parks along Skyline Boulevard. I’ve seen them at Russian Ridge and over near Alpine Lake too.

Civilian Conservation Corps

Ampitheatre built by the CCC
Ampitheatre
2013-03-16 13.31.01
redwood seating

As part of his New Deal to lift America out of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a civilian conservation corps of men to work the land and help lift America out of its poverty. The CCC as it became known, helped to develop America’s state and national parks. They built many of the buildings, trails and general infrastructure at parks like Big Basin and Yosemite. The amphitheater and the rows of redwood seats pictured here, were built by the corp. They are a perfect complement to the landscape in which they sit.

Marbeled Murrlet

More recently (in the 1970s), the endangered bird species, the Marbled Murrelet, was discovered in Big Basin. It was the last bird species in the United States to have its nesting site discovered.

For more than a century early ornithologists searched in vain for the elusive murrelet nest. Quite by accident, a ranger at Big Basin discovered it high in the top of an old growth redwood. This bird flies in from the ocean, about forty-miles away from its feeding “ground”, to make its nest in the old growth redwoods. If we lose our old growth trees, we will most likely lose the Marbeled Murrelet. When you visit Big Basin, stop by the museum near the gift shop to learn more about this bird and what you can do to protect it from other birds when you are there.

For additional information on the Ben Lomond Conservation Camp, Big Basin, and the Marbeled Murrelet, visit the following sites:

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/conservation_camps/camps/Ben_Lomond_Y/index.html

http://www.bigbasin.org/trailsredwoodloop1.html

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/marbled_murrelet/index.html

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