Being Gently Powerful

You could say that I’m a treehouse nut, as I’ve never understood why most people think that treehouses are for kids. The fourth one I’ve built, is in my backyard — a three story monstrosity that tops out at 32 feet above the ground. In the “crows nest” at the top, you can see over our house and down across Sonoma Valley to Sonoma Mountain, and south down the valley toward Marin. The lower parts of the treehouse were built 13 years ago and the upper parts 10 years ago. Both are slowly being absorbed and warped in odd ways by the tree.

In one spot (pictured), the ladder leading to the crows nest has been slowly bent way out of its straight up and down position. Clearly if it had been warped that badly all at once, it would have shattered. But rather, the tree gently but persistently pushed against it, and it has slowly but surely stretched it into its present position. It is this aspect of “being gently powerful” that one sees a lot in nature. Trees can also break stone using the same technique of very slow but persistent pressure.

In a related example, on a river trip through the Grand Canyon you eventually come to a section deep in the canyon where the oldest rock is exposed. It is a very hard, metamorphosed volcanic granite and schist. And yet the Colorado River has not only carved it’s path through the very heart of it, it has actually sculpted it, with intricate and fascinating incisions (see photograph). These were formed not by one cataclysmic event, but by the very slow and constant caressing of suspended silt and sand by the river over eons. The river is being gently powerful over a very long period of time.

I’ve come to believe that is exactly what our efforts to clear the Overlook and Montini Preserve of invasive species needs to be like. We need to be gently powerful for many years. As I said to someone on the trail recently, “this is a program, not a project.” You could also call it a war, not a battle. But that’s a more violent image that I prefer to avoid. I prefer the idea of being gently powerful, as that is more like what it feels like.

Each day that I can get out on the trail during thistle pulling season I am blessed to experience the outdoors, feel the sunshine, sweat like crazy, and do something that I feel is meaningful. That feels like being gently powerful. And something that feels worthy in and of itself.

So the next time you see one of us out there pulling invasive species, think of us as a tree or a river — gently, but powerfully and persistently, pressing against what we oppose. It, too, will give over time, as all things that are gently, powerfully, and persistently opposed eventually do.

 

Vishnu schist photo by Al_HikesAZ, Creative Commons License CC BY-NC 2.0.

The Park Blessings of This Valley

If you are putting up with my ramblings on this blog, you clearly love the Sonoma Overlook Trail and Montini Preserve enough that you are a true nature lover. Like me.

So like me, you are probably amazed at the embarrassment of open space riches that are ours here in the Sonoma Valley. Starting from the Bay and going north, here are a number of our choices (and amazingly, not all of them by any means):

From top to bottom the southernmost park is only 45 minutes away from the northernmost. This means that most people who live in Sonoma Valley (some 11,000+ people) are only about 20 minutes away, or much less, from all of these open spaces. Truly an amazing array of opportunities for exploring the outdoors, from baylands, to mountains well over 2,000 feet.

Not long ago my wife and I visited the Willamette Valley in Oregon, to taste their storied Pinot Noir wines. One morning we wanted to find a place to hike, and barely found even one place to do it. We are truly blessed here in Sonoma Valley, with so many options for outdoor recreation. I call the outdoors my “spin class,” as you will never find me in a gym. Give me the outdoors. Ever the outdoors. I will see you there.