Thursday, February 15, 2007

Because I love what I love

I’m thinking a lot about why I get the particular weird geographilic interests I get.

For instance, today I attended a talk at the Oakland Museum of California about the decline of amphibians in the Sierra Nevada. I am fascinated by this subject. Years ago, when I took meteorology at Sac State, I tried to do a term paper on it, but there was almost no research then, and it wasn’t a class set up for independent research, no resources, time; it was a term paper, not a research project. Why am I so interested in this, rather than, say, bark beetles or whether we should remove the Hetch Hetchy Dam? I don’t know.

I’m also fascinated by serpentine, the soil, the creation of the stone, the ecology on top of the soil. I’m fascinated by how it feels, its color, its association with gold. I’m fascinated by how it forms at the edge of the mantle, and how I can see serpentine, or serpentine soil, from the roadside and it feels like a familiar friend. Chert’s interesting and plays an important role in California’s geology. Jade’s interesting and valuable and scattered all over the California coast. Granite forms, literally, the backbone of California. Why does serpentine, this toxic, crumbly stuff, fascinate me?

I’m fascinated by California’s oaks. Other oaks around the world interest me, California’s fascinate me. I love the California Black Oak, how it’s neither a red oak with the hard prickly leaves or a softly lobed white oak, but an intermediate. I love the hybrid Oracle Oak, and I love noticing, when I notice one of California’s live oaks, whether it’s interior or coastal by the curve of the leaf and whether there’s hair in the armpits of its veins. I love sitting under huge blue oaks, and I love studying their ecology, how important they are to scrub jays and how important scrub jays are to them, and how valuable a food source acorns are to many different birds and mammals, and about acorn woodpecker granaries. I can cry if I read too much about sudden oak death.

I still can’t figure out exactly why I am sentimental about the aspects of natural history that rock my world. I certainly don’t need to figure it out.