Sunday, November 03, 2013

Past Present Future

I was going to start this post like this, "I don't know what compelled me to go back and re-read more than a year's worth of blogging…" but then I remembered. It was a conversation I had with someone about the unbelievable sight of watching shearwaters over the Monterey Bay. I knew I had photographed them and even tried to make a short video of their immense presence, but when? What month was it, which visit to the family beach house?

I found the posts easily enough and was reminded of why Roger and I love the coast so much. I read all of the posts beginning in May 2008 through September 2009. It was a crazy 15 months of house hunting and turmoil, but the natural beauty that engulfed that journey shines on every blog entry. Even the entries where we are banging our crazy heads against the walls and wailing about injustices and politics and insensitive louts and dying sea lions, we are comforted by the sights and sounds of the sea. Well except for when we notice that the ocean is being ransacked within an inch of its radioactive poisoned garbage-strewn life. Still… we love something there.

So here we are in the late fall of what may be our last year here in the Sierra foothills. We go for walks quite often, but have taken to calling the irrigation ditches "fake creeks" and the reservoir simply "fake water." There is some life in these altered liquid landscapes, like the spring-time newts in their amorous pursuits, and the occasional trout that is permitted to live until the district decides to drain the reservoir in an attempt to fix ongoing leaks. Natural is not a word we use often around here. I have stopped taking the camera when we head out on our local walks. Ninety-nine percent of the time there's nothing to photograph, and the other one percent… well we'd be happy to see something beautiful and wild, and only disappointed to not be able to share it with you here on the blog.

Sometimes when people ask us where we want to live I really have no answer about place. I have only an answer about time. I want to live when there were much fewer people on the planet. In 1975 the population of the US was 215,000,000 about 100,000,000 fewer people than there are today. (That's 50% more people in the US than there were only 38 years ago. I don't remember the earth adding any land mass to sustain that kind of population growth.) The 1970s would be a pretty nice time to return to. But we know, there's no going back, and only the crazy unknowable future stretches before us. We would like that future to have a good expanse of the wide open ocean, sea mammals and shorebirds, redwoods and rivers, land for gardening and skies for dreaming. Good neighbors and world peace would be nice too.

PS: Just got back from a walk. We saw the most beautiful reflection of the sun's corona and iridescent clouds in the reservoir. It would have made a lovely photo. 


  1. Well, there you go. Consider taking the camera again!
    I had an experience with too many people today - so I know just what you mean.

  2. Take your camera. Look at small things. Nature will recover when we are all gone and forgotten and it will be the small that take over first.

  3. kenju-- I know, I should take the camera. And yes, there are too many people on the planet.

    Ontario Wanderer-- I will take the camera next time. I read a book several years ago called The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. It is an interesting look at how long the planet will take to recover from us.

  4. Ah, nostalgia. The past week was "spirit week" at the high school where I teach, and Friday was "hippie day." It made me so happy to see people in the halls who looked like people with whom I went to high school. We were going to change the world. ..

    I remember when you lived at the beach and were looking for a house, I kept thinking, I would stay right there! but then you moved and that seemed lovely too. every place you are is lovely.

  5. I feel like I just read the most beautiful poem, Robin. I am so glad I know you and your words. :)

  6. Maryanne-- I wish I still lived in "hippie days." I still want to change the world, but at my age that seems a very (VERY) remote possibility. We always look for lovely places to live, but the coast... the coast... is where our hearts belong.

    Sky-- Thank you so much for such kind words. I am so glad I know you and your words too, my dear friend.

  7. I've been reading some Kim Stanley Robinson sci fi; Mars is starting to sound appealing...

  8. Isabelita-- Things have really changed on Planet Earth in our lifetime. I know I won't get to Mars, but it wouldn't surprise me if future generations figure out how to leave here. Of course, the rich who have destroyed everything in their own self interest will be the first to bail when the planet becomes even more unlivable.

  9. those are staggering statistics, Robin. No wonder the place feels so much more crowded and crazy.

    If I had small children, I'd be worried about living near the coast. I think our asses our going to get kicked good with radiation from Japan. No more pacific fish, either. Crap.

    Where can one go to escape and live a more tranquil, verdant life? Lemme know when you find it.

    1. I know where. And our water catchment tank is always full!
      And we have saved about 10 grand on electric and water bills in our almost 3 years here. Really.

  10. Selfishly, I start to think that I'll get to see what I want to see and do what I want to do before the truly apocalyptic stuff happens, and maybe that's all we can cling to. We really can't change the cataclysmic demographics in the outer world. We could perhaps buy some domestic time by limiting immigration from countries whose birth rates are higher than ours, and perhaps that would apprise those countries to address their birth rates, but there is no stomach in our cultural narrative that addresses population in any meaningful sense.

  11. Oh dear, you make it sound so bad there, I go up yesterday moring and wentto watch the sunrise, not a soul about other that me some sheep a couple of kites and a mouse who surrried away when he heard me move. Checkout next Skywatch Friday for what I took

  12. We're asking ourselves similar questions. Where do we want to live (and where can we afford to live)? Where can we enjoy the pleasures of nature and at least the most "necessary" conveniences of modern life without the oppressive flood of ever-growing humanity? Where can we find people who share our sensitivities and appreciations and sense of wonder at the world? It seems the only place many of these things exist is online, and it's hard to find a decent house there.

  13. Tara-- Oh it's absolutely true that the Pacific is a radioactive mess. It's a good thing I stopped eating fish a long time ago. Even back then the stats about mercury was enough to scare me. The best place is going to have enough good water and rainfall. We'll keep you posted.

    Phil-- Population growth, lack of water, our poisoned planet, there's not much wiggle room left even if we as a nation or globally as citizens of the planet enact strong measures. The time to have undertaken the real tasks was back in the 1970s.

    Bill-- I exaggerated a bit about how horrible it is around here. We never see people, not even our neighbors. But the land, these Sierra foothills were irrevocably altered by the search for gold in the 1800s. I'll check out Skywatch! Thanks for the tip.

    John-- I think it has been the ache of my entire life that we don't live in communities the way our earliest ancestors did for thousands and thousands of years. The juxtaposition of over population and true social loneliness is a staggering fact of the modern times.

  14. I am so with you on this one, Robin. I've become rather cynical and I ache for the youthful days of believing in the future.

  15. I wasn't aware of that monstrous growth rate but I have noticed that people all over the globe are more cranky prone to violent behavior each day. Over population could easily be an explanation.
    I do hope you find the perfect place. However if you find it, they will also come and it will no longer be ideal. Conundrum.

  16. NCmountainwoman-- I wish I didn't see the world the way I do, but I can't seem to view any other way. Our planet is in terrible decline, and there's no will for anyone to intervene in a meaningful and truly life-saving way.

    Arkansas Patti-- I love statistics about populations. Check this out: It is estimated that the world population reached one billion for the first time in 1804. It was another 123 years before it reached two billion in 1927, but it took only 33 years to reach three billion in 1960.[65] Thereafter, the global population reached four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987, six billion in 1999 and, according to the United States Census Bureau, seven billion in March 2012.[1]
    It is, as you say, a conundrum.

    John-- Thank you so much for stopping by. We appreciate hearing from you. You do have a beautiful blog. And yes, not fewer egrets.

  17. We have been following your journey for years now, and in that day-to-day morning ritual take heart that we are part of sojourner community that vibrates close to nature, and embeds in the culture those progressive values, imagination, art and observation. Catastrophic illness with all its pain and decline only makes the moments of life more precious. It is here I often go to delight in sky pictures and the daily goings about your Sierra retreat. We live in Forestville (Sonoma County) which is a tiny rural village with a two block main street and a cluster of older folks (some of old hippies at the end). It is progressive and filled with the most delightful people imaginable. You would be happy here.

  18. karmanot-- We definitely plan on checking out Forestville and Sebastopol. They're on our very short list of possibilities. I'd like to imagine that we'll be happy somewhere and stay put.

  19. I was just thinking you might be happiest in a horse-drawn wagon, traveling from beauty to beauty, making all the world your home. How's that song go? "He's mounted her on a milk-white steed
    Himself on a dapple grey
    He has made her the lady of as much land
    As she shall ride in a long summer's day"
    I agree that we cannot escape the consequences of our species' rapacious destruction of the environment; we can only live with dignity and work to improve the lives of the beings with whom we come into contact. Helping a beetle back off its back may not save the species, but it saves its very precious life.

  20. regarding population: when I was in high school/college it seemed everyone was hyper-alert to the population explosion and the amount of natural resources the 'developed' countries used vs. third world. Somewhere in my head I still think of the US as population 200M --when I know as you have stated it's gone way beyond that--50% is an incredible growth tho. It's not coming from my family--me and my four sibs, we have cranked out only 5 kids. And those 5 kids will have 2, with maybe another couple on the horizon. PS I always liked rural Sonoma. Close enough for urban advantages but only when you feel the need. lindaj

  21. ccorax-- Wow, I love that song, and I don't think I've ever heard it. I'd love to have as much land as I could ride on a long summer's day. Then, I could really have the tribal community of my dreams. I save everything that I can lay my hands on (or slip a postcard under, or catch with a jar).

    LindaJ-- Back in the late 60s and early 70s when zero population was an idea making the rounds, it was something I was absolutely tuned into. I took it quite seriously. My parents had four children, and from those four there are four grandchildren. That's it.

  22. I think you will remember the song when you hear this:

  23. CCorax-- Brought tears to my eyes at the very first note. I do remember it and haven't thought of it in so many years. Thank you for that.

  24. Roger and Robin Andrea: Three thoughts. First: Kali and I went out to a local cafe after we voted yesterday evening and before we went to the grocery store. While we were eating, Kali asked me if I'd heard a feature on "All Things Considered" which posited that there are billions of Earth-like plants throughout the universe, and that any or all could support life. (I hadn't heard the feature.) In any case, Kali then said, clearly exasperated and perhaps a bit wistfully, "I wonder if they're all full of strife like the Earth is."

    Second: On "Morning Edition" this morning, I heard that humans pumped more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere last year than during any other year in the past. It's just getting worse, not better! Aargh!

    I often think about the ideal human population for Earth and think it probably ought to be around 1 billion. Then I fantasize about ways that I would achieve that goal if I had supreme power, and how population could be maintained at that level.

    Third: I remember fondly hiking with my (now deceased) father in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeast Ohio (where I grew up). We were both adults when we undertook this hike, and we enjoyed one another's company. At one point, along a particularly pleasant stretch of trail, my father allowed himself to consider aloud, "I wonder if there are places in the cosmos that are as wonderful as the Earth." I was taken aback a bit--I never considered my father much of a philosopher or a "deep thinker"--so it was nice to share that part of him for just a moment.

    Thanks for this post, if for no other reason than it brought back nice recollections of my dad.

  25. Scott-- Thank you so much for this comment. It's as rich and illuminating as a post on your blog. I had heard about the "billions of earth-like" planets, but not the sad news on greenhouse gases. I wish humans were different, but we're a species long down the evolutionary road of Cro-Magnon psychopathology. It's lovely to remember those wonderful words from your father. Philosophical sanity does prevail sometimes, but not often enough to rescue us from our inevitable future.

  26. Talk about a thought provoking post...
    I'm confident that things will eventually get better. We have to remember that this is a big ship. Big ships take a long time to turn around. In many countries, the population is actually declining. Developing countries is where the population growth is the highest. As they actually do "develop," the need to have many children (to work for the family) will diminish. That is how it was here at one time, right? Anyway, I guess we all need to do what needs to be done in our own little spheres of influence.
    I hate to go there (not really), but the western religions of this world need to STOP worrying about converting third world people (to boost their membership) and start telling them to STOP having so many children. Or maybe I'm wrong about it all. I hope not.

    Maybe the things you said is the reason why I'm drawn to peaceful places like the desert and spend so much time there. We just got back from spending two weeks in the Joshua Tree area. One of the days I spent entirely by myself hiking around looking for petroglyphs, old Indian spots and just being by myself. I hiked off the beaten path and didn't see another human all day. During those times, my mind is still and quiet. I think that is how it is supposed to be. Maybe even how it used to be...
    Great post Robin.

  27. Pat-- Just read an article in Truthout that I thought you might interesting:
    We're all in this together, and I'm so glad you liked this post.

  28. Thanks for the link Robin! It was a very interesting article and I thinks he's pretty much on point with most of what he said. Unfortunately, I think a lot of wealthy people would sell their souls for another dollar (or million), despite the consequences...

  29. Most interesting post and a gorgeous header. Both big city people my spouse and I found of slice of heaven in Bluff Country - southeaster Minnesota.

  30. Pat-- Absolutely agree.

    troutbirder-- Glad you found your slice of heaven. Thank you for stopping by.