Friday, July 10, 2020

Father-Son Trekking

We go exploring and discovering together. It doesn't have to be some grand celebrated destination like Yosemite - this old cracked and decommissioned road in the suburbs of Los Angeles leads through a world with hundreds of plant species you can see in a single afternoon, lots of lizards, snakes, bugs, birds, bats, and even some terrestrial mammals. It is 12 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles.

There is a cartoon I ran across on that captures one aspect of this that is fun:

There is much more to this. I value our wild places, even the scraps lost in the edges of a great city.

Things tell stories. They speak in languages we do not speak and cannot speak, languages that are open for us to hear if we have patience. I'm not telling this to my son, I am showing him and living this experience with him.

If I look at a hillside, it is a book I can partially read. There is a story about great geological forces and deep time, about how the rocks there were made, and then how they got to where they are, and finally how they came to be visible, even if no actual rocks are evident. Plants have roots that reach into the soil, into the rocks below the surface, and will tell you bits about what they find. You have to know the plants and what their likes and dislikes are, and if you invest in that, they will tell you things that are plain to see, if you look the right way.

Even in something as "simple" as sporting events, the game is richer if you know who the players are and what they are known for.

I bet most of you can find the Blainville's Horned Lizard in this photo. Finding them out like this is not exactly rare, if it is a less common delight than I wish it were.

Can you find the one in the next photo?

Or this one?

That last one is more typical of what we find - a trace, a track, especially since the ones of these that live longest tend to be the wariest of dogs, people, and such.

This stuff is best lived, shown, done together.

We eat wild berries, Miner's Lettuce, and wild mushrooms (our rule: all mushrooms must be cooked before being eaten, and only Dad is allowed to cook them - I am a Botanist but even that is not enough, I joined my local mycological society - see - and did what is the only sane way to learn edible mushrooms that I am aware of - apprentice with other folks that really know what can and cannot be eaten - then do it again if you are in a new area or ecology). We catch lizards (and release). I've taught my son how to catch dragonflies with his bare hands (hint: there is a lot of standing motionless involved...).

My son's prized things include a pineapple plant, a miniature Aroid from the Mediterranean that he seeks, but does not yet have (he is learning how to plan and save and prepare), a linear power supply he soldered together that works, his fans, and his portable seed cleaner. He invents and explores and tries things. He fails and we celebrate and then figure out what we learned and how we might do better with the next attempt.

He finds Calochortus in seed and stalk faster than I do, and has for some time. He knows how and where to find the elusive wild cherries of California.

It all starts by going for a walk together, in a place where we are both just details. To meet and exchange I find it easiest in places that are not my world, not his world, but our world. Listening is easiest where it is quiet.

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