Fight, Flight, or Loll

We were out early at Drake’s Beach in West Marin, California, under changeable skies. It was low tide, and we were the only bipeds around – the parking lot completely empty, no stray campers or hikers, we had the place to ourselves, at least when it came to other humans.

Drake's Beach, California. Photos: PKR

Drake’s Beach, California.
Photos: PKR

And while there were fewer shorebirds than I would have expected, there were a multitude of large crabs. Mostly intact, mostly dead.

And then we started noticing more remnants of life – traces that reflected the retreating tide in broken shells. IMG_2470

Something I haven’t seen before, countless sand dollars, most of them still alive, scattered at the ebb line. Those small, flat sea urchins with the lovely star patterns that we usually see bleached white – these were still pink and moving.

Some clearly were trying to find their way back to the water, leaving elegant script of their flight. (These two were still very alive, and we put them back in the water.)IMG_2474

Other creatures weren’t ready to give up even an inch of territory, no matter the cost. This palm-sized crab was as fierce as they come.IMG_2519

And then there were those who were neither in fight nor flight mode: They were lolling.

The white spots offshore are the whale and her calf.  Photo: Oliver Brüning

The white spots offshore are the whale and her calf.
Photo: Oliver Brüning

It’s not terribly clear from this image (the better camera had given up by the time we got to the bottom of the lighthouse steps), but this small cove below the Point Reyes Lighthouse had a number of seals, all sizes, doing lazy loops while a mother humpback took her calf through its paces, back and forth.

There wasn’t much to do after that then head back to Inverness for a good dinner. Not before having a seat in the empty lighthouse keeper’s chair, though – someone needs to sit there now and again, since the lighthouse was automated forty years ago.

Photo: Oliver Brüning

Photo: Oliver Brüning

Branched Embrace

I spent a large part of my youth living deep in a forest that was relatively untamed, a temperate rainforest of bay laurel and Coastal live oak on the Inverness Ridge in California, part of the Point Reyes Peninsula north of San Francisco.

Dusk falls on Inverness Ridge

Dusk falls on Inverness Ridge

There are large stands of Bishop pine and Douglas fir on the same peninsula, much of which is a national park. I was spoilt for trees.

On the Point Reyes Peninsula

On the Point Reyes Peninsula

I’m not ashamed to admit that I like some forests better than others, but in the end, any forest is a place of life.

Today is the International Day of Forests. Still under siege, still under threat of deforestation, still the single largest refuge for biodiversity on land.


Bear Valley Park, Pt. Reyes Peninsula

Forests feel like home to those who grew up in them.

We are fortunate to live just a short walk from a forest of pine, oak and walnut trees here in France. There’s nothing quite like the sound of trees being amongst themselves, the creaks of branch against branch, the rustle of wind in the leaves. Between the forest and the sea, these sounds are home for me. They have embraced me for much of my life, a backdrop against which days are lived.


All photos P.K. Read