Obliquity — physically used to describe the angle of the tilt of our planet’s axis; a departure from perpendicularity with the planar direction we follow through empty space. Also a description of mystery, of indirectness or obscurity.
There is a certain obliquity that is an arrangement of our existence on this planet. Have you noticed it lately?
Oscillating between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees on a 41,000 year cycle, not a single living creature will come to experience this veering in its entirety. But tilting is the reason for the seasons — and we cannot slight the experience of season. These refractory gateways find their own ways of reminding us of, from the mundane to the grandiose. The seasonal changes we experience not only manifest around our physicality but also within ourselves.
We are here again in the serotinal season. Late summer, where swirling changes are closer than the periphery. Fire, barn swallows out of the nest and into the sky, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, gold grasses with nothing but glumes and the remembrances of vibrant annual wildflowers in their cracking dehiscent fruits. Fall advancing, school coming back on, students returning to Arcata, my next chapter advancing.
In this last month, moving from the inner-bark of July to the serotinal, I have been engaged in my expectedly diverse and open work as a CLM intern. I walked the upper ridges of the King Range to monitor grazing allotments on Johnny Jack Ridge, adding a new experience to my journey at BLM. I took a sort of summer vacation to my heart-place — the big Tuolumne Meadows, were I spent time with friends and family, strolled the high ridges, climbed on feldspar crystals and soaked in the rarefied air. Collecting seeds has certainly been on my plate as well — the collection season is waning and the manzanita berries are nearly ripe!
I have also been heavily engaged by the Humboldt Bay dunes climate vulnerability and adaptation study (which I will refer to as ClimateReady from now on…), which is a collaboration between U.S. Fish and Wildlife, BLM, State Park (and others), funded by California Coastal Conservancy’s climate ready program. The long-term goals of the project are to understand how climate change will effect the dune ecosystem and to test adaptation treatments. More practically speaking, highly sensitive GPS (RTK, real-time kinematic; think 2 centimeter sensitivity) is used to create dune profiles (measurements of elevation) along 73 transects covering 32 miles of Humboldt’s coastline. These dune profiles are coupled with vegetation data and the entire survey is completed every year in winter and summer! I will be working a good deal with this project in the coming month.
Several posts ago, I explored stewardship in the most practical sense. Pulling broom along the roadside. Collecting native seed. Stepping and living lightly. These beautiful tasks are still a strong stream in my work as a CLM intern. That all said, in thinking about the different facets of stewardship, I have recently come to reflect on a stewardship of another kind.
When we engage in stewardship (acts of care, responsibility and love) we use our complete selves as tools. We use our hearts and minds to design solutions, our communication and connections to implement acts and our bodies to carry them out on an area of land (or sea).
Think of a feature of the land. What does it look like, is it as mysterious as the riparian gulch or as clear and pure as the long jagged scarp of granite?
Perhaps we can agree, that these land forms (or sea-forms) exist within ourselves. You may have already considered this. The peak you stand on within yourself when you have achieved a goal, the dark skulking depths you fear to go, the broad plateau within reaching from one experience to another. Are you in the valley of your life or are you on the shore of the lake of your life?
Thus, we are the tools of stewardship, and within us is the land we wish to be the stewards of (the reciprocality of this relationship should be disarming at the very least). On the path to become better stewards — to give more and love more the land that gives us more than we could ever ask for — this connection seems highly relevant.
The stewardship of another kind I wish to elucidate is moral stewardship, the stewardship of self in which we tend to those inner landscapes. The greater care, love and responsibility we can turn to our inner topographies, the more we will be able to give as stewards.
How can we steward our internal landscapes? These are the slot-canyons of exploration and the endlessly mystifying dune sands shifting. Cooperation, compassion, non-violence, temperance and adventuring to those dark inner riparian areas could be a great place to start.
Arcata BLM Field Office, California.