California’s hot and dry summer season is finally changing to its less hot, but still dry fall. September has arrived, and I’m starting to need a light sweater on my morning bike ride to work. Who knows, maybe we might even get some rain soon (fingers crossed). Even though the weather is cooling down, all the plants are gone, so that makes me really sad. This is a huge bummer, since forensic botany is more frustrating and dissatisfying than exhilarating. I’m already looking forward to next spring, so I can use my Jepson and Sierra Nevada Laws book to key out Calochortus amoenus, Calochortus venustus, Calochortus clavatus, Pedicularis groenlandica, and Aquilegia pubescens.
Lately, we haven’t really focused on Seeds of Success, because there isn’t much to collect anymore. Instead, we’ve been helping out with SSP (special status plants), Juniper mapping, and water rights. Sometimes our routine days feel monotonous , but I usually can count on seeing interesting wildlife. Nature is unpredictable, and you never know when you’re going to hear a hidden rattling rattlesnake a few feet away, but it sure makes a forgetful day unforgettable. And sometimes nature’s unpredictability is less dangerous, like when I saw 40+ sagegrouse on my way to a Juniper plot. Or like the times, we saw a badger on our way to Skeddadles and a squirreltail monster on our way to Bull Creek. You’re probably wondering about the latter. Well, if you ever read Goosebumps as a kid, imagine the slime monster from Monster Blood, or a very large squishy sea cucumber. The way it rocked back and forth with the wind made it seem like it was breathing, and then it would pick itself up like a dust devil, and join forces with other squirretail haboobs. It was kind of incredible, and I wish I had a video of it, but alas, I don’t. Then, there are the times, when field work is just downright weird.
Marilyn Monroe visiting Susanville
When I’m not in the field, I’m usually working on my answer to the commonly asked, yet dreaded “So what’s next” question. I’ve spent the last week, debating whether I finally have an answer. I was offered a position in Irvine, as a field crew assistant doing invasive species removal and other related restoration projects. There are obviously so many benefits to having a job, like getting paid. If I accept this position, I will also be closer to a climbing gym (only 10 miles, instead of 90), ocean (<20 miles, instead of 300), and my family and friends (70 miles, instead of 600). But if I take the position, I will be further away from the Sierras, the cool Sierra plants, and no traffic. But nothing is flowering anyways, so I shouldn’t make my decision based on the plants, even though it should be a huge factor. I should also mention that this is a great position, but I doubt I will be gaining any additional field and technical skills, that I will likely learn at other jobs (if anyone starts hiring). As you can probably see, I’m very back and forth about this position (I’m starting to feel like the squirreltail monster). I’ll probably have an answer by my next blog…but I’m already overwhelmed with the subject, so it’s time to move on.
I spend my free time reading books (from my long ambitious summer reading list), cooking, and learning about plants. I’m really enjoying the subtle transition to adult-life. A few years ago, I used to cringe at the idea of living a structured and balanced life. I remember wishing to live off the land or in my SUV, away from all the noise and people. It’s really funny how people grow, and therefore change (Bridesmaids reference). In the last year, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot happier when I have goals (career and adventure), and the way I balance my life, usually determines whether I will accomplish said goals. I think I really struggled with this in college, because everyone was so “chill” and carefree. After taking some time off from school, and now, living in the middle of nowhere, I’m learning to balance both lifestyles. I guess you could say my motto is “work hard, play hard.” I’m starting to use backpacking as my outlet to live the free and untamed life I ached for when I was younger. Soon, I’ll be going on a ten day trip to Yosemite, and will be backpacking for six days and camping for four. Then, I’ll be going to Tahoe, for the Tahoe Rim Trail…I’ve accumulated a lot of comp time.
Oh, and I’m also starting to feel like a botanist, which is a really sick feeling. I think it’s so cool when I see a plant, and either know what it is, or can key it to Family or Genus, without a field guide. I get hella stoked when I see Calochortus and Penstemon. I especially love Penstemon newberryi, because it’s pink and grows all over the Sierras. If I take the 36 to the 89 and hang a right, I can usually find a fat population of Penstemon newberryi growing along the granite rock edges. #shakabruh
P.S. My housemate is from the East Coast, and finds entertainment in my Californian vocabulary. This last paragraph was inspired by Jillian Sarazen.