In the past four months, I’ve spent:
- 31 days in Humboldt;
- 47 days in San Francisco;
- 42 days on the road.
June will bring a slowing down, a chance to stay in my beloved house in Manila for nearly five weeks. I’m trying to not think too hard about the mosquitos – terrible this year due to all the rain – and hold on to the promise of river days, evenings at the Arcata Ball Park, celebrating the Solstice, hanging out at the Social Club during Bobby’s art residency, hikes in Arcata Community Forest and Prairie Creek, frisbee at the beach.
I’m ready to lie on the riverbank letting the sun’s heat dizzy me until I must plunge into the cold water to reawaken. I want to sit in the bleachers cheering the Crabs and heckling the other team, whoop at the crack of the bat sending the ball toward the fences. I long to breathe in old-growth forest, that scent of fresh new growth wrapped around decay, marked by timelessness.
Oh, my love for Humboldt holds strong! I need people who don’t live in Humboldt to stop telling me how beautiful other places are – they do not understand how high the bar is.
Although, speaking of high (zing!), Humboldt’s crashed economy and murky past has provided recent fodder for both sensationalist exposés and more serious ones; I’ll leave it to others to debate the details. I’m not, haven’t been, involved in the industry – except to the extent that anyone who has lived and worked in Humboldt has been involved, which is to say when you live in a place dependent on an illegal economy, you’re part of it whether you grow or not.
But all that, conversation for another time! For now, a recap of the past few days…
I joined a group of environmentalists and environmental justice advocates to meet with Governor Newsom, Secretaries Crowfoot and Blumenthal, and several members of the governor’s staff . I painted my nails, strapped on heels, wore one of my Sacramento Outfits and smiled as I walked past the CHP standing guard. I’d never been through the doors to the governor’s office before, just posed for photos by the golden bear during my frequent visits to the Capitol – Governor Brown wasn’t exactly interested in talking to coastal enviros.
It wasn’t as dramatic as I imagined it might be. The reception area contains zero personality and is walled off from the rest of what building regulars call “the horseshoe.” The meeting took place in an adjacent conference room larger than at least one apartment I’ve lived in, several standard brown tables pushed together to make one long gathering spot with Newsom at the head, his staff scattered among us.
When it was my turn to speak (about sea level rise, natch) Newsom fondly recalled the many times I testified during his tenure on the State Lands Commission, which should encourage everyone to go to more public meetings more often.
My two-minute pitch began with noting that despite his office’s current inattention to sea level rise, the fact is that all the work he’s doing to combat homelessness, solve the housing crisis, ensure health care and address myriad other social and economic issues matters greatly to protecting our environment; when people are experiencing extreme inequity and insecurity about their day-to-day survival, rallying them to take action and make the sacrifices necessary to solve, to the extent possible, climate change and sea level rise is much, much harder.
That said, I continued, we do need his office to talk more publicly about the threat of sea level rise – it’s predicted to be a greater economic and environmental disaster than even the worst wildfires and earthquakes. Think of sea level rise as a slow-moving Hurricane Katrina. We can’t stop it, but if we act now, we can stave off the most severe damage, maybe only lose half the beaches in Southern California instead of the two-thirds we’re currently sacrificing.
Point made, my moment in the sun and done and we moved on to the next topic. Throughout, Newsom, Crowfoot, Blumenthal and the staff listened attentively, asked for more information, responded to questions – what tangible results come of this remain to be seen, but high marks so far for engaging.
So that was Wednesday.
Ocean Protection Council Deputy Director Jenn Eckerle interviewed me as part of a four-person panel on marine protected areas during OPC’s MPA workshop, a well-run, fun and informative look at the history, science, studies, impacts and promise of California’s MPA network – a series of underwater wilderness locations connected in a way to make the protectino exponential. I served on the North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group during the implementation phase and now serve on the Expert Assessment Group for the IUCN Green List (my life in acronyms!), so I enjoyed reliving the hard-won success from the past and looking ahead to potentially furthering our state’s accomplishment in the future.
About 100 people attended the workshop and subsequent OPC meeting, during which the council approved funding for multiple marine protected area monitoring, enforcement and education projects. In a time when nearly every news story about the ocean triggers despair, a little hope is a welcome thing. And that’s what, in addition to more and bigger fish, MPAs provide: Hope.
Thursday evening, I popped down to Santa Cruz for Save The Waves’ “Life is a Wave” gala, which provided an excuse to put on a fancy dress and fangirl over surf luminaries – including Bianca Valenti! – plus reconnect with various ocean friends and colleagues till well past midnight. (So so much connecting!)
After a morning of answering some of the gazillion emails that had built up while I was on the road, I took myself to Natural Bridges and dozed in the sunshine as a cool breeze blew and a crew of college-age guys nearby tossed a football and argued about who had the best tan.
At some point in the afternoon I slipped from being grateful for solitude to experiencing a sense of loneliness. Look, I can be alone! In fact, given that I had kids and married young, “alone time” is something I usually cherish. And as a formerly shy kid, charging out into the world on my own reminds me I’ve grown braver. But sometimes I want some company. Sometimes I don’t want to go experience all the beauty and stuff by myself. Fortunately, a friend hit me up to go surf, so off I went, happy again.
Of course, being Santa Cruz, the break was overrun with locals and I may be braver than I once was, but I wasn’t feeling confident enough to channel the necessary aggression required, so mostly all I did was paddle in circles and agree with my friend – when he wasn’t catching waves – that it was, definitely, very beautiful.
Now I’m back in San Francisco, hanging out in case my sister-in-law goes into labor, staying a couple extra days so I can pick K up at the airport – she’s returning from Australia briefly and my heart is singing with happiness. I encourage her adventures, but wow, having your child across the world is to feel always incomplete, a bit unmoored. The scheduling is complicated and so are families, and I’m sure, much like the mosquitos, irritations are inevitable; still, to know we will all be together, at home, even briefly, feels like the promise of that dive into the river – the sense of being whole again.