For the Birds

It had been almost a year since Fern and I last visited Heron’s Head Park in the Bayview/Hunters Point nieghborhood of San Francisco.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you may remember some of what I’ve shared about this super special park. But here’s another lowdown, in case you want a refresher.

While one third of the Bayview’s residential population is comprised of children –– the highest rate in the city –– there are over 325 toxic sites in this six-square-mile community. Two dozen schools and childcare centers are located within three miles of the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, a federal Superfund site. BVHP residents are hospitalized more often than residents of other SF neighborhoods for nearly every disease. Twenty percent of children have asthma, and the prevalence of chronic illness is four times the state average.

Heron’s Head is part of the Port of San Francisco and was formerly a pier. Since the 70s it has been considered a “brownfield”…as in dead zone.


An urban myth is that G. Lucas got his inspiration for the At-At from these goliaths. Turns out it’s just a story. Too bad I can’t say the same about the Disneyfication of Star Wars. *Sob*.

But neglect was in its favor, and it slowly turned into a salt water marsh that was restored in the late 90s. Recently, the park has been the recipient of a lot of help from Super Awesome San Francisco initiatives and grants. It now boasts an eco center that is Sf’s first “100% off the grid” building.

Plus an incredible stretch of marshland trails and biodiversity.

I haven’t spoken lately about the Keystone XL Pipeline, although it was the basis for a lot of ranting on my part last year. I hope you have been following their news, as they have been engaged in on the ground blockades and activism to stop the construction of the southern end of the pipe in Texas. Now 350.org and McKibben are in Washington with a mass protest. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here. Also, Nasa scientist James Hansen has proof that if the Tar Sands are exploited, it’s “game over” for the climate.)


I go dis vay.


Er maybe I go dat vay.


Ehh. Er maybe I just vest ‘ere.

Why am I bringing up Tar Sands right now? Well, partly because I feel guilty and fraudulent for not being in Washington myself. But also so that you can be informed, send the folks in Washington your support by the click of a button, and also to remind you that you have an outstanding opportunity for conversation with loved ones on Thanksgiving day. Read up on the basics of why it’s crucial that we stop this pipeline, and then have an open discussion with someone who may not agree with you. It all begins with discourse.

Mostly, however, it’s this.

We live in a beautiful world, full of wonder and astonishment. Many of us miss this, a lot of the time. Jeff and I went to the movie theater last night, only the third time in three years that we have gone out to see a film. Before the previews were even over, I was teary and cringing from the assault to my senses. Loud special effects and graphic violence left me overstimulated before I’d finished the first mouthful of awful popcorn. Going to the movies often leaves me in apocalyptic fear…because I realize with sorrow that the shock I experience with images in my face is the result of spending so much time AWAY from media. I spend a lot of time listening to birds, smelling and tasting plants, walking quietly with my daughter. The fact that most of America takes in vast quantities of media and has become desensitized to it makes me fear for our species, for our basic human animalness.

The children in Huntersview don’t deserve to live next to a Superfund site. The families in the middle of our country don’t deserve to live next to a giant pipeline pumping crude oil over their backyards. The indigenous communities in Alberta don’t deserve to have their sacred lands turned into a blackened hell.

But all of us deserve a future, especially one that is viable for our children. It begins with understanding the restorative power inherent in nature. With just the tiniest of a leg up, ecosystems will rebound and become healthy. It’s an investment that pays off forever.

Nature also restores our soul to our self. And again, it doesn’t take much. It might start with turning off the screen and opening the door.

This Thanksgiving Day, we are taking our thanks to the land, without which we would literally have nothing. Everything you see around you, right this minute, was resourced from the Earth.

Lift your eyes to the sky, feel your feet on the ground and place your hand on your heart. Pledge allegiance, to love, to family, to life.

Let it take flight.

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9 thoughts on “For the Birds

  1. holy moly

    i feel like i just stepped into another realm here, one i love and one i could spend more time in for the good of my soul….you are a blessing for this planet deer one

  2. What an utter treat to come here this morning and catch up, I know now I could not have come there to visit without Madeleine, it just wouldn’t have been right with all those other precious little ones there too! Still though, looking through I can so easily see myself there, visiting, one day.

    Sending all the love and blessings of a bright sunny morning. xxxx

  3. A brown field huh. That’s pretty achey. Glorious though that it self-restored and had some help later on too. There are some hills near us (we’re surrounded by them) and slowly over the last year we’ve noticed significant culling of forest. They’re pine forests, grown for cutting, and shipping out to countries afar. There are big clay coloured brown parts now…ugly and vacant. I drive or walk past them each day and am shocked every time I notice it. I worry that one day there won’t be anything growing on those hills.
    I do adore your pelicans, and have much hope that eventually things are going to get better. Even if I’m being naive as I see my own country following suit of those bigger more industrious countries….hope and awareness have to count for something right.
    x

  4. i’m just catching up on about 20 recent posts… and this one is where i’m planting my comment because i want to say thank you for continuing to speak up about the pipeline. i love you mary! oh and i have been giggling at your mentiones of the bioregional swap… yeah we’re perfect partners, and we will have those puppies mailed off soon i can tell! 🙂

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