Oak Titmouse, April 2021 — Petaluma, California

1/1/2021 — Up early, hiking the trail in darkness. I focus my camera on a grizzled black oak perched on a hill on the west side of California’s great Central Valley. Perhaps four hundred years old, the oak stands alone against the sky and time. Gnarled from wind and storms, blackened at the base from countless fires, it seems ready to welcome the new day as much as it relishes the green shoots of spring grass, nourished by the recent winter storms and emerging in a soft carpet everywhere above the tree’s roots. …


Part 1 — The Race — 6:50 am, June 21, 1987

I was trying to clear my head before the race. I knew it would be a big week, but little did I know I would participate in a cliff rescue, have tea with San Francisco Rock and Roll royalty, and find myself on television. I was just a skinny broke student living in the city off ramen and coffee in a run-down flat. But hey it’s San Francisco, anything can happen (and often does). Ten minutes until the gun and the air begins to still. Pre-race stretching is done…


Running into the aid station at mile 30 I started to lose it. I could not talk when the volunteer asked if I needed help. I just started crying uncontrollably. The volunteers were concerned as I am sure they thought I was in pain or injured, but they were mostly happy tears. Many of my friends were celebrating their 50th birthdays by challenging themselves. Cross country bicycle journeys, wilderness adventures, global travel, the options were all very romantic. I loved the underlying statements of these adventures. …


The fog outside my door rolls to me from the coast with the cry of a forest dying within its thick stream. A voice picked off the surf a few short miles from here. Waves that joyfully guarded the forests below them for a millennium now mourn for the loss of that life. A loss that includes not only the kelp but hundreds of creatures that depend on it. And for people there is loss too. Going back tens of thousands of years people have enjoyed and made a living from the bounty of this coast.

I watched them go…


Part 2 — Shipwreck Point Cliff Rescue (start with Part 1)

7:00 pm, June 14, 1987

The place where the hiker’s friend fell was a nasty piece of ship eating rock. It is blocked from the main trail by a low rope fence and a sign indicating “Cliff Area, Danger Keep Away!” Yet, that sign and fence seemed ineffective as there was a well-worn path over and past the fence to the cliff area. Clearly many people ignored the sign for the billion-dollar views on the other side. …

Robert Watson

Artist, Writer, Endurance Athlete. More at www.watson-works.com

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