Foxhole Friends

It has been a tumultuous decade. But the tumultuous part all disappeared for me over a spaghetti dinner two weeks ago.

As the noodles wound their way around forks, bread irreverently tossed across the table, and wine spilled onto the floor, one of my pals proclaimed, while raising his glass, “It’s been 50 years!”

It never dawned on me, our tenure. There were nine of us, all friends from college, gathered around the table that night. We hadn’t changed much over the past five decades, at least from my perspective. Sure, our body forms had leaned into enjoyment, one of us had a stent, a couple tennis elbows squeaked, and hair was thinning, but we were all still very much alive, laughing, telling stories, and dreaming about the future as we always had. We certainly were of differing opinions about the outer maelstrom, the outside world that really doesn’t have much impact on our daily happiness. But it wasn’t worth mentioning. So, when it came up, it was quickly disposed of. That’s what people do when they care for each other, know each other, have the perspective only older folks like us can truly understand – nothing matters more than legacy friendships, friendships that have survived and thrived despite the passing decades. Foxhole friendships. Friends who would take a bullet for you.

The morning after we did what lots of people have discovered as especially enjoyable over the past few years – we took a walk in the park. It wasn’t just any park. It was a park filled with wild things – sprawling oaks, dense sage scrub, a flowing stream, dirt trails, boulders of tonalite, and a lone mission manzanita. Sure, the conversations and laughter flowed indoors the night before, around the long table I had built years ago to accommodate such gatherings (I’ve never quite gotten over how us kids were often delegated to a separate table from the adults during family events). But walking outdoors, breathing in fragrant terpenes, hearing water flow, seeing green, branching fractals everywhere, the conversations became more curious, free, filled with speculations about what was and what may come. In retrospect, the experience provided a kind of glue for me, pasting renewed memories of friendship onto a scaffold that had been standing alone, unattended, for quite some time. COVID had something to do with the lack of maintenance, but truth-be-told, I’d allowed my life-since-college focus pull me away from renewing our 3rd East’s vows on a regular basis. That’s what we call ourselves, the Third East Gang – third floor, eastern bank of the dorms, at Long Beach State.

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New Video – California Chaparral: The Most Underrated Biome

How did Nature ever survive without us?

This is a question those who eagerly manipulate wildlands need to ask themselves, be they from environmental management organizations like California State Parks and the Nature Conservancy, or fire agencies like Cal Fire and the US Forest Service, all of which encourage the clearance of habitat under the guise of “ecological restoration” supported by a plethora of misconceptions, especially concerning fire.
The new video below is being shared by us to encourage those who are willing to rally their courage and challenge their organization’s human-centric view of Nature and to help fight for the right of native plants and animals to be left alone.

The video focuses on chaparral, a particular target of those who fail to understand the role dense shrubbery plays, including dense forest understories, in supporting California’s rich biodiversity. It was created by an inspiring young man who has been tirelessly championing Nature for the past few years through his fabulous YouTube channel, Jack 4 the Planet.

Enjoy Jack’s new video, California Chaparral – Underappreciated Yet Incredibly Important, by clicking on the image below.

Celebrating Our Species Progress

We have so much to be grateful for, something that becomes clear when you take control.

Celebrating the state of our species came to mind after learning of the loss of P-22, the legendary cougar of the Santa Monica Mountains and Griffith Park. He was mercifully euthanized by a team of caring veterinarians last month after sustaining injuries from being hit by a car. The news caused me to think about the multi-million dollar wildlife crossing bridge soon to be built over Highway 101 near Liberty Canyon in Los Angeles County. I wondered if someday wolves would be using the bridge, wolves from the pack that has been finding its way into California due to our efforts to reintroduce the species in Yellowstone National Park.

What accounts for these incredibly expensive and heartfelt efforts to care for species that used to be our competitors, our predators, creatures that once made living in North America a seriously dangerous affair? There was good reason Native Americans celebrated the Spanish having their guns – it made living in California much safer by dispatching the great terror of the landscape, the California grizzly bear. Not only did grizzlies kill humans, but the bears raided the valuable stores of acorns many tribal groups collected and depended upon for food.

But after thousands of years of civilization, many nations have become wealthy enough, secure enough, to view Nature as something to cherish, rather than fear.

We are experiencing a unique time in human history when a large percentage of the population values wildness, Wilderness, and all the non-human species we share this planet with. Beginning with the creation of Yellowstone National Park, followed by the efforts of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt to protect even more, there is now broad public support for preserving Nature.

Such positive change is not restricted to our relationship with Nature. As Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has pointed out, “Extreme poverty has been decimated: It’s gone from 90 percent of the world’s population to 10 percent. Literacy has increased from about 15 percent to more than 85 percent. Prosperity has increased; longevity has increased from about 30 to about 71 years worldwide, and 80 in the developed world.”

Even a superficial understanding human history reveals how far we’ve moved away from our standard operating procedures of violence, slavery, murder, and mayhem. And despite the not-so-small hiccup after the collapse of Rome, the positive advancements in philosophy, science, and politics, especially the little experiment in democracy, have been breathtaking. Empirical thought has replaced witchcraft and mythology.

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