And…I’m a Certified California Naturalist!

View from Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, CA where i took the course

To be frank, that doesn’t mean much.

I’m not one for validation by public institutions, especially when there aren’t any prerequisites (not complaining!).

But I signed up and forked up the money because lately I’ve been thirsty for deeper insights into the unique topography, geology, ecology, and biology of the state of California. The California Naturalist program is a holistic, science-based series of lectures and outdoor field trips that helps citizens gain a deeper foothold into the California landscape. It called to me because most of my insights to nature have been through more traditional, indigenous modalities and I felt a deep craving for a scientific explanations as to why things are. The two, of course, are not mutually exclusive.

Molting male elephant seals

In the past two years, I’ve become increasingly obsessed with the great outdoors. I’ve really gotten into plant identification and the utilitarian aspects of plant medicine. I am a lifelong student in the field of regenerative agroforestry and believe understanding how and where wild things grow is essential to fixing our broken food system. Feral plants, after all, require no external inputs and have, for centuries, provided food for the people of this land. We’ve mostly lost touch of that and I believe that it is paramount to decolonize our food system and take lessons from the plants and animals that have co-evolved with the physical land that we live in.

The Naturalist program successfully helped quench some of that thirst for more knowledge. For a week at Camp Ocean Pines, I was surrounded by a wonderful cohort of biologists, botanists, park docents, fanatic birders, bat nerds, and tidepool-obsessed humans who would answer my obscure questions and volunteer the most wonderful information. The assigned teachers were mostly retired professors. But it was my colleagues that impressed me the most with their constant bombardment of random facts.

Western fence lizard

Did you know… we don’t really have Lyme disease here in the West Coast because of a wonderful little critter called the Western Fence Lizard, which neutralizes juvenile ticks?

That lichen on a tree’s bark is an indicator that the air is clean (lol we definitely don’t see that in Los Angeles)?

And tidal friction (when water moves against the ocean floor because of the moon’s gravitational forces) slows the revolution of the earth. So the length of each day is slowly increasing. Climate change, with rising sea levels, will cause longer days.

And that you can find a bounty of perfectly edible kelps all along the Central California coast, like nori (Porphyra) and sea lettuce (Ulva)? That some species of kelp are iridescent (Mazaella) and that starfish populations haven’t been doing well lately because of a virus, so celebrate and keep your distance if you see one thriving on the tidepools?

Iridescent seaweed (Mazaella)

What was most visually awesome to me was to see the variations of plants based on location. We have poppies and wild buckwheat all over the greater Los Angeles area, but they take on a completely different form in Central California by the coast.

Sand dune golden poppy

I know. It’s a basket of random knowledge, but the point is that California is wonderful.

Kayaking at Morro Bay

Perhaps this is the appropriate time to admit publicly that I’m at a weird point in my life where things are slowing down in my life, mostly by my own accord. But also because the digital journalism world is a tumultuous one and editors keep on changing and it feels like being in a million casual relationships at once and we all know how that story goes.

I’m realizing that I am not living 100% in congruence with my truth.

Born in Los Angeles, I was raised into a narcissistic society where now, as a digital influencer, you get more views and likes if you package yourself the right way, with the right selfies and the right makeup and the right poses. As a freelancer, I’m compelled to be a content machine to pay the bills and keep my name in the wheel. We talk and spin and thread and tell stories until you wonder why you’re telling the stories you’re telling.

I’d rather spend my days sitting with a plant and love something other than myself. And lately, I’ve given myself a lot of space and permission to do that.

It is for that reason I have resurrected a blog of this form, to keep my writing as a sacred form of expression and give myself an uncensored space where I don’t have to think about my audience, if my words are too niche, and whether or not this sells.

I am tired of packaging my perspectives for the bored reader, asking questions I don’t really care about, and penning articles as travel souvenirs. Don’t get me wrong, I am not throwing in the towel by any means. But I am making a conscious decision to slow the fuck down.

Which is scary. Because money. But money can be gained. Time cannot.

With that, I end this with a photo of coralline algae, a red algae that isn’t a coral at all, but is rendered hard because of calcareous deposits.

It’s a beautiful shade of pink that lines the tidepools of California and gives us the false illusion that we have both kelp forests and coral reefs on our coasts.

That thought alone delights me to pieces and for that reason, I love it very much.