Into the Wild Part II

In the last few weeks, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about nature. And zoning laws! And bureaucratic stupidity. Well maybe not stupidity, let’s be kind and call it arrogance, or kinder still, ignorance. Can sugar-coating turn a bitter truth into candy? Or change how we as a species, deliberately, with planning and the commitment of vast resources, show utter contempt for nature?

Last week my local government dredged the creek that borders my home, and since that fateful day, Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comI’ve watched as a solitary egret stands motionless in the creek. I wonder if the devastation of home leaves this bird as dazed and disoriented as it does me. Is it a mother looking for her late season young? Or a mate looking for a lost love? Or a youth who doesn’t know where to go now that its source of food and protection is gone?

The city says they did this for me.

All this devastation will prevent possible flooding to the homes in my area, and since they want to rezone a section near the creek “High Density” for a luxury condominium complex, I guess unpredictable water levels wouldn’t make the new developers happy.

They bestowed my gift in fall, a time when the whole ecosystem of the watershed is under stress. Migratory birds are arriving, desperate for habitat and a place to rest up before pushing onward to warmer climates. The year round critters of the waterway are stocking for the winter, collecting their acorns and fattening up as best they can on the last desiccated morsels of the summer’s bounty. They dredge the stream not just before spring when plants are ready to bounce back from the angry welts of backhoes and shovels, but at the start of the rainy season. Right when thousands of gallons of water will sluice down those raw, defiled banks dumping hundreds of cubic inches of good healthy topsoil into an already stressed waterway. This massive infusion of silt will destroy water quality and kill off even more wildlife. Ironically, it will also nullify the extensive manpower, fossil fuels and funds they just expended to dredge the waterway.

For the last few days I tried not to let myself become like my egret, a sad figure, helpless and dumbstruck by my agony, sleepless over everything lost. Worried about the fate of the raccoons that steal from my garden, shedding tears for the lost water dwellers, even these annoying little crayfish the heron loved to pluck from between the now missing river rocks.

Instead of becoming the lone egret, I choose to join a flock and fight.

The time to fix my creek will come, but yesterday I logged a day fixing other egret’s homes. I worked along side my son, his school friends, and the people of STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) to restore Tolay Creek.

Tolay isn’t a big water way, only about twelve miles long, but it feeds Tolay Lake and then flows into the San Pablo Bay. It’s a piece of a bigger puzzle, a cog in a vast nature machine of interconnected ecosystems, each one too long taken for granted, ignored and yes, even purposefully damaged. Sure, I could tell you more about STRAW and the work they’re doing to teach kids how to restore their own local streams, or you can look at their website for yourself if you wish.

I could tell you that we as citizens of the Earth owe it to ourselves and each other to roll up our sleeves and try to correct the damage politicians and developers have done to our wetlands. That we must do this by committing our hands to the body punishing labor of restoring lost habitat one tree at a time. I could yell and stomp my feet, demanding that people wake up, learn to see, learn to care and learn to change the giant mess we as a species have created.

But I won’t, because we are writers. Most of us are all too happy in our heated or air-conditioned shelters, shutting out the harsh real world to swim in the beauty of our own imaginations, the worlds we can dream up, the ones better and brighter than the world we call home. Instead of begging you to change who you are, I urge writers to put pen to paper and record nature. Give it all your skill, fill the pages with such reverent, exuberant worship of nature that somewhere a person will wake up, will see, will care.

Up Next from Robin… The call of the wild and how writers answer.

Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook( However, Pinterest ( is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

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