Sunday, January 31, 2010

Great Blue Heron, Guide To The Marsh

Photo: John Cossick/USFWS

When you walk or boat along Beaver Creek Marsh, you are likely to meet a great blue heron.  They are part time photographer’s model and full time fisherman.  Male and female birds are similar in appearance but males are generally bigger.  Great blue herons are common in wetlands throughout North America and Central America.  You are drawn to their beauty and size as they silently stalk prey in shallow waters or fly over the marsh.  They are primarily interested in small fish and will feed on shrimp, crab, insects, and small rodents, amphibians, reptiles and birds.  Their call is a harsh croak, either short or extended. 

Photo: Lee Karney/USFWS
Great blue herons nest in colonies constructed in trees near water.  Nests are bulky arrangements of sticks.  Colonies are easily disturbed by humans and locations should not be disclosed or approached.  Range Bayer has provided links to resources and a spirited discussion of the ethics and etiquette of wildlife viewing which helps illuminate different perspectives on viewing and disturbing wildlife.  Visiting the marsh may involve disturbing wildlife when moving closer to animals, and presents an opportunity to learn and think about the consequences of movement there.  Feeling the effects of presence near the marsh, we can begin to understand the importance of respect for all of the environments that we live in.  Then take home the knowledge that actions connect us with everything.
The great blue herons are excellent guides to the marsh.  They show how to respectfully move and silently observe what is happening.  They show where other small wildlife is present.  Great blue heron colonies and feeding in groups can act as information centers for communicating the best places to feed.  Great blue heron food tends to be ephemeral and birds attracted to groups rather than individual birds capture more food.  Sometimes they show impressive behavioral display, as in territoriality and mating.  After observing the great blue heron, we are awed and inspired by its majestic presence in the marsh.
Posted by michael

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beavers - What's In A Name?

I’ve been thinking about beavers, and how the beaver gave its name to so many places around the state of Oregon (and in other states as well). According to the Oregon Geographical Names book, there are 62 Beaver Creeks in Oregon, and that does not include the Beaver Dam Creeks, Beaver Ponds, Beaver Lakes, Beaver Springs, etc. I counted 168 sites that include “beaver” in the name.
The area of Seal Rock was the site of an Alsea Indian village called “Kitau.”  Beaver Creek was referred to as “Nackito” River by Alexander McLeod, leader of the Hudson’s Bay Expedition of 1826 exploring the central coast region [this appears to be derived from the Alsea “Ne-Kitau,” “Ne” meaning a place name or village to the north, within the territory of the Kitau community].  Beaver Creek still has strong ties to Seal Rock, and is in the same postal zone and fire district, for example.  
Here’s an odd coincidence. My family name was originally Majaniemi, it roughly means in Finnish, “hut on a headland.” The word for beaver in Finnish is “majava” (means something like “hut maker”). I only discovered these parts of my family history within the last ten years or so and realized that these words describe where I live--on Beaver Creek in a hut (or small house) on a headland overlooking the area. Strange, but true!
Posted by jackie.

Seeing The One Creek In Many

When you look at Beaver Creek, what are you seeing?  It depends on how you look.  There are three primary ways to look at the creek.  The first way is to look at the boundless space that contains the many illusory perceptions of the creek and its inhabitants, like seeing a mirror and its reflections.  This method is not used or considered by science.  In science there are two ways which are called Lagrangian and Eulerian.  The Lagrangian method is to follow a parcel of water and its inhabitants as it moves through space and time.  The Eulerian method is to remain in one location and see parcels of water and their inhabitants moving through that one place with time.  Each of these frames of reference can produce a very different picture of the creek.  Which is the right picture?  This example shows that our perception of things and beings is dependant on the frame of reference that we choose.  In essence, the things and beings that we see are only apparent as our perceptions and do not exist as independent entities.  They are empty of being isolated objects and exist in relation to each other.  Definitions of inside and outside, self and other are arbitrary and illusory.  

How confusing is this?  If we take perceptions to be real then it is very confusing because the perceptions change constantly and cannot be objectified.  We are constantly seeing and reacting to things that are not there.  If we take perceptions to be apparent but not real, then we are not confused because we remember that our frames of reference and the perceptions that are included in them change constantly, in a playful dance of energy.  We can react to perceptions in a relaxed way, without clinging to fixed ideas.  If you look at the boundless empty space that contains the creek, you will see where this playful energy emerges from and dissolves back into.  An open mind relaxes perception and allows energy and form to flow freely.  We begin seeing the one creek in the many frames of reference and perceptions that make up our interdependent world. 

Opening up our minds to fresh boundless space that is without frame of reference is fun and helps everyone remember that we all share energy and form together, without the boundaries of self and other.  Immediately we are free of conflict and contradiction and feel at home on the creek. 
Posted by michael

Red-Winged Blackbirds

                Photo: George Gentry/USFWS

One of the most conspicuous bird residents in Beaver Creek Marsh is the red-winged blackbird.  During the spring and summer they nest in the tule and cattail marsh.  The male bird is black with prominent red patches on its shoulders.  The female is blackish-brown and paler below.   When you walk by the marsh on the county road, males will fly up into alders along the road and scold you with a distinctive call and display of expanded body and wings.  We call it the ‘just-a-minute bird” because the male alarm call is like ‘just-a-minnnute, just-a-minnnute’.  At the same time, the females remain near nests and give a scolding chatter, ‘chit chit chit’.  If you are wearing red, the birds get really excited and defensive.  Red-wing blackbirds nest in loose colonies, with males defending up to 10 females.  They are omnivorous, primarily eating seeds, insects, and berries.  The young hatch in 12 days and are ready to leave the nest 2 weeks after hatching.  The males actively defend territory and can often be seen mobbing and chasing larger crows, hawks, herons, and eagles away from nesting areas.

During the fall, large flocks of red-wing blackbirds assemble in the Sitka Spruce trees that grow near the edge of the marsh and make a loud sound with their collective calls of ‘just-a-minnnute’ and “chit chit chit’.  Then they will fly off together from the trees with a whoosh and circle around the marsh, finally to land in the trees again.  Doing this again and again, they seem restless and signal coming migration.  Eventually most of the red-winged blackbirds leave the marsh and a few dozen remain through the winter.  

The remaining residents stop being territorial and visit our field together to feed when we put seed out during periods of frost.  As spring approaches, the males become territorial again and resume their active displays, ‘just-a-minnnute’ calling, and chasing into and through the breeding season of summer.  We can feel and hear the approach of spring by their shift in behavior.
Posted by michael  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Water Level In Beaver Creek Marsh

Water level in the marsh changes on many time and space scales.  EPA gives a clear definition that shows the importance of water level to a wetland:
Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Water saturation largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants and promote the development of characteristic wetlands soils.
Water level changes on a daily and seasonal basis depending on rainfall, the tidal cycle at the mouth of the creek, and the amount of sand that blocks the creek on the beach.  Storms can move sand off the beach, while high surf and tides can push water back into the marsh.  Water levels are generally higher in the fall and winter and lower in the spring and summer. 

The mouth of Beaver Creek

Other events can alter water levels.  Large floods can redistribute sediment and organic debris through the marsh, altering drainage patterns by blocking or clearing smaller streams and culverts that drain through the marsh to Beaver Creek.  Beavers can build dams in smaller creeks and culverts, raising water level in areas of the marsh.  Drainage can be increased and water levels lowered by ocean scouring of the creek mouth and by clearing beaver dams and culverts. 

Cows used to graze next to this fence 

Changes in water level are a natural part of the marsh.  How often and where they occur can have an important influence on the types of plants in the marsh.  Looking at the marsh, patches of different species can be seen.  Because of the relationships between species occurrence, soil type, and water level, these patches reflect the varying water levels in space and time.  

Grazing by nutria and beaver can also change vegetation patterns.  Pollen and other plant remains from cores of marsh soil can be analyzed to map the history of marsh formation and spatial change in vegetation and soil.  Dead trees can be seen in the marsh.  These trees show that water level has increased with time and the trees became inundated during their growing season and died.

The historical presence of tsunamis can be detected in marsh cores and drowned forests.  Reading the history of the marsh through vegetation patterns is a wonderful mystery story.  
Posted by michael

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Can't Bury Water

During a discussion at a citizen’s meeting of where possible wetlands were located in South Beach, Oregon, a resident observed that ‘you can't bury water’.  This seemingly simple statement sums up one of the important functions of wetlands.  When large inputs of water enter a watershed during storms, they must go somewhere.  Usually a combination of draining, ponding, and absorption happens.  If the draining stream has big enough banks, then flooding does not occur.  If there is too much water for the stream, then the water floods over the banks and onto adjacent land which forms the floodplain.  This land can be either wetlands where water is welcome and damage is minimal, or it can be filled wetlands with buildings and roads on it and the potential for expensive damage.  

Part of South Beach runs north-south and sits in a basin between beach dunes to the west and forested hills to the east.  Water in the basin can drain out to Yaquina Bay or the Pacific Ocean.  Through the years, filling and development has occurred in the basin and flooding has become worse more frequent in areas that have not been filled.  As fill displaces water, the water is forced to lower land.  This is an example of not being able to bury water.  What happens when you climb into a bath tub and displace water?  The water level goes up and if you are big enough or the water level is close to the top, then you will get a flood on the bathroom floor.  An urban solution to this problem is to build storm sewers, which act like the overflow drain in a bathtub.  
Posted by michael

Floods In Beaver Creek Marsh

In early February 1996, the Beaver Creek Marsh filled with water and there was two feet of water on N. Beaver Creek Rd. (County Road 602) that passes through the lower marsh.  Flooding in the Beaver Creek Marsh is a relatively common occurrence but water on the road is less common.  

  Trying to go east on Beaver Ck. Rd.  Photo © Steve Card   
Two feet of water on Beaver Creek Rd. (1/2 mile from Hwy 101)
Flood flotsam line next to Hwy 101 bridge over Beaver Creek

A normal function of wetlands is to buffer stream flows by absorbing large inputs of water.  These inputs can be associated with rainfall, blockage of the stream mouth, storm waves, and tsunamis.  Notable flood years associated with high rainfall in the Beaver Creek watershed include 1861, 1890, 1909, 1927, 1953, 1955, 1964, 1974, 1982, 1983 and 1996, while floods in 1941, 1948 and 1949 were blamed on high tides and sand deposits that blocked the mouth of the creek (USFS 2001).  In December 2 & 3, 1967, large storm waves struck the coast and washed large logs through Ona Beach State Park, across U.S. Highway 101, and up into Beaver Creek Marsh (DOGAMI, Bulletin 81 1973).  On March 29, 1964, 11 foot tsunami waves passed through Ona Beach State Park, across U.S. Highway 101, and into Beaver Creek Marsh.

Several newspaper articles from local newspapers during the 1940’s and 1950’s that were compiled by Range Bayer describe frequent flooding in the lower Beaver Creek and at the mouth (flooding at Beaver Creek was noted in articles dated February 25, 1926; March 4, 1926; December 25, 1941; November 18, 1948; November 17, 1949; and November 6, 1952). This 1948 article from the Waldport Record describes the conditions at the mouth of the creek: 
During the freak storm of two weeks ago, high waves did so much damage at Beaver Creek that the normal channel became clogged with debris and sand. The creek could not empty into the ocean as usual with the result that its waters backed up inland. The road was soon covered with water and the mill-pond of the C and H Lumber Company over flowed. The mill was forced to shut down and the cars of people living up the Creek had to be towed in and out by the company trucks. Finally road conditions got so bad that not even these could get through. Dynamiting to open the channel was the only solution and this the company proceeded to do. A few hours later, the creek had found its bed nearly 3 feet below the level of the sand deposited by the high water. Everyone in the vicinity is grateful to the lumber company and the State and County workers who spared neither time nor energy in this emergency.

A December 8, 1949 article from the Lincoln County Times reported on a hearing for Beaver Creek flood control. It describes the cause of frequent flooding this way: 
Conditions at the mouth of Beaver Creek have been such that ocean swells and tides have prevented the natural flow of the stream. This has resulted in the annual flooding of many acres of good farm land; as well as the formation of a permanent swamp. Beneath this swamp lies about a thousand acres of peat soil which can be surpassed no where as far as fertility and productiveness is concerned.
In the mid-60‘s, farmers of Beaver Creek valley persuaded the County Road Department to obtain a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the mouth of Beaver Creek and maintain the mouth sill at the bedrock level.  Maintenance of this level caused the water level in the marsh to fall and expose farmer’s land upstream.  This permit was active until the mid-90’s and has not been renewed.    

Posted by michael

Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Show At Newport Visual Arts Center

Newport Visual Arts Center Show, Upstairs Gallery
“The Published Word: Literary Art of Lincoln County”
January 22 - February 27, 2010
Reception:  Friday, February 5th, 4-7 pm


Check out this show of diverse literary talent in Lincoln County.  More than 50 authors and 100 books are on display.  Most of the books will be available for sale at the gallery.  A visitor handout will provide a list of authors, books, and sales information.  Readings will be scheduled during the month of February [click here to check dates posted on the VAC website].  The Newport VAC is open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 4 pm.

Two artists books by Jackie Niemi are included in the show, and are entitled, “Historic Voices of Beaver Creek” (excerpts of oral histories of Beaver Creek pioneers), and “Living on Lattes: Drawing in Cafes” (drawings & collage from cafes around the Northwest).  Both books are printed on one sheet of paper and are cut & folded in such a way as to make a small eight-page book.  Each book sells for $5.00.  In addition to the show, these books are available at Canyon Way Bookstore, the 9th Street Gallery, and the historic book at the Oregon Coast History Center Museum Bookstore.

Posted by jackie.

Boating And Invasive Species

Kayaking and canoeing are popular on lower Beaver Creek.  Being close to the water and moving in a silent boat is an excellent way to enjoy the wetlands and creek, and their inhabitants.  The South Beach State Park has a summer program with kayak tours on the creek.  These tours give the experience of being on the water and learning from knowledgeable guides about the wetlands and creek and their wildlife, plants, history, and conservation.  

An increasing concern for wetlands is the introduction of invasive species by boats, foot traffic, and human release of animals or plants into the wild.  Careful cleaning of boats, trailers, and clothes helps reduce potential introductions.  Transport and release of animals is regulated by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).  Invasive species are introduced from other areas and habitats and can dominate their new habitats.  This domination or invasion is facilitated by the lack of natural predators and competition in their new habitat.  Importantly for boaters in Oregon, there is a new law that requires purchasing an invasive species permit for all boats 10 feet or longer in length.  

ODFW has developed a strategy to address concerns for conservation of Oregon wild habitats.  Six key issues for conservation are identified in the strategy report: 1) land use changes; 2) invasive species; 3) disruption of disturbance regimes (fire and flood); 4) barriers to animal movement (aquatic passage and terrestrial corridors); 5) water quality and quantity; and 6) institutional barriers to voluntary conservation.  The report gives a clear summary of information and tools for conservation in the state.  It is important to look at conservation from many perspectives: big picture; local; ecoregion; habitat; species; and partnerships among private land owners, conservation organizations, and local, state, and national government.  We will return to these themes as they relate to Beaver Creek Marsh and connecting lands, watershed, and ocean.  The subject is rich and includes all aspects of the relationships between space, place, and beings.  
Posted by michael

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Handful Of Wildflowers

I was looking through some old sketchbooks recently and came across this pen & ink drawing of a bunch of wildflowers.  I collected them on a walk to the beach about six months after moving to Beaver Creek.  Everything in my life had changed.  I lived in Portland prior to moving to Lincoln County.  Michael & I had recently married and I was still getting accustomed to my new life and new home.

I remember picking the flowers because I didn’t know then the names of any of them, or anything about them except that I thought they were pretty.  Looking at the drawing now, I not only know the names of the plants, but know that most have medicinal properties and what they are used for.  Plantain and self-heal for wounds, yarrow for fever and to staunch bleeding, red clover is a blood cleanser.  I see bleeding hearts, buttercups and fern fiddleheads as well.  I know more about where they grow, what conditions they prefer, what time of year they will appear.

In the recent issue of Potash Hill magazine, the article describing David Holzapfel’s elementary students‘ study of place [“A Small, Familiar Place,” by Louisa Pugh], the author talks about the students‘ need to name the place they chose to study.  

“Claude Levi-Strauss, the well-known 20th century anthropologist and author of The Strange Mind, wrote about the human process of naming places and features in the natural world as a way to create order, or ‘domesticate‘ the wild.  Anthropologist Keith Basso’s study of the named locales of the Western Apache revealed that giving names to places marked them as ‘place-worlds,‘ places invested with memory and emotional significance.  Naming is a way to metaphorically inscribe meaning onto the landscape.”

Now these plants are old friends and I’ve enjoyed them for twenty springs.  We’ve gone beyond a “first-name basis,” returning to no name at all.  “You’re back!”

Posted by jackie.

The Beach Was The Highway

In the early days of Lincoln County, there were very few roads connecting the length of the area.  The beach was the main highway and was used to transport mail, passengers, and supplies via horseback, wagon or buggy.  Each creek had to be forded, and larger rivers and bays were crossed by boat.  The winter storms made travel even more treacherous, with winds & high surf, floating logs & debris, and erratic currents & sneaker waves.

The following excerpt is quoted from an oral history of Paul Keady, recorded in the mid-1970’s [from the Oregon Coast History Center Library, Oral History Collections].
“Well, the odd thing about doctors in those days, they not only made house calls, but out here in the boondocks of Lincoln County, they would often take a horse and buggy, and take off to Waldport or Beaver Creek, or up the Alsea or somewhere--hoping to get there in time to assist some homesteader’s wife in the delivery of a child.  

On one of the occasions, when [Dr. Belt] was headed south of the Yaquina Bay, down the beach, when the beach was the highway, in the wintertime and stormy conditions with his one horse and buggy, an unusually large wave came, and caught him and the horse.  He saw it coming, and he turned up into one of the little alcoves that are off the beach...I know exactly which one it was.  He got as far from the wave as he could.  The water filled up in there, and he and the horse and buggy and all floated around for a while.  Then the water receded, without any of the logs breaking the horse’s legs or ruining the wagon, and he was not swept out to sea.  

And I, in my youthful eagerness asked him, ‘what did you do then, Doc?’  Well, he looked at me and said, ‘There was nothing else to do.  I merely straightened the horse around, and went on down the beach.’  And he got to Waldport--I hope in time to help some woman with her delivery...Doctors did those things in those days.”

The “Beach Highway” was used until the completion of the Roosevelt Highway (now Highway 101) in the 1930’s.  Makes me appreciate the bridges and pavement and engineering feats that were required to build that road.  And to be able to travel inside a warm, dry car in the foulest of winter weather!

Posted by jackie.

"Oh, The Tales We Could Tell"

There are so many stories that relate to the marsh. Those from long ago, from the present moment, and future tales yet to come. Many characters to introduce you to. Plant, animal, and historic voices, and many others.

Photo courtesy of Twy Hoch, the Florence Hallowell Collection

A little background on the historic tales. I was a volunteer for several years at the Lincoln County Historical Society (aka Oregon Coast History Center). They have a great research library and I was involved in a couple of projects there. The official one that I volunteered for was supported in part by a grant from the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Charitable Contribution Fund, to organize and digitize oral histories recorded on audio cassette tapes. I also transcribed some of the tapes to provide a typewritten copy. I was enchanted by the stories, told in their own voices, of the pioneers of Lincoln County.

The LCHS oral history collection is comprised of over 200 tapes. The largest batch were recorded in the mid-1970’s on a CETA grant (a government-sponsored granting agency at the time, focused on arts & humanities). The recordings were made all around the county, from Yachats to Depoe Bay and east to Siletz, Toledo, Chitwood & Eddyville, to name a few. Several more recent projects recorded oral histories in the 1990’s and 2000’s about Toledo, Waldport, Newport, and Maritime Stories.

The other project was one of my own personal interest. I went through the LCHS library’s standing files page by page and made note of people and subjects that related to Beaver Creek. This will eventually become a database listing of the source material that others can use to locate files for their own searches. Meanwhile, I will periodically draw from these two projects to tantalize you with bits of local history.

Posted by jackie.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Where Is Beaver Creek Marsh?

The marsh is located in Lincoln County, Oregon between Newport and Waldport and is in the lowest part of the Beaver Creek watershed, east of Ona Beach State Park.  The Beaver Creek watershed (32,500 acres) is described in a report by the US Forest Service (2001).  A map of the marsh was included in the back of a report on the Beaver Creek Natural Area, a project designed by Oregon State Parks.  The marsh is fresh and estuarine and drains into the Pacific Ocean, with close proximity to upland forest and fields.  This area of the Beaver Creek watershed is rich in habitats and biodiversity.  We live on a hill surrounded by the marsh and see many animals on our land who are residents or are moving between forest and wetland habitats.  Terrestrial visitors include, elk, deer, bobcat, coyote, black bear, rabbits, racoons, squirrels, beaver, nutria, mink, weasel, possum, chipmunks, mice, moles, voles, bats, frogs, and newts.  There are many birds in the area which are residents or migratory, depending on the season.  Fish are abundant in Beaver Creek, including several species of salmon.  Plant life includes species from aquatic, beach, wetland, upland field, roadside, and forest habitats. 

The close proximity of ocean, estuary, wetlands, fields, and forest makes an ideal place for animals, plants, and human recreation and learning.  Agriculture and forestry activity in the lower Beaver Creek area is low impact, while the middle and upper watershed includes active forestry and agriculture.  Residential density in the Beaver Creek watershed is low.  There has been a shift among many residents towards the idea of conserving wetland habitats which have been marginal farming areas.  Holding wetlands and associated forest lands in conservation is an important step towards creating legacy lands for future generations.  As urban needs stimulate development of these types of land, they will become rare and highly valued for recreation and place-based learning.  In 50 years the Beaver Creek Marsh will be appreciated as a natural resource jewel in the crown of Oregon.  

Conservation of wetlands and forest lands can be accomplished in several ways that result in tax advantages or income from land sales.  Conservation easements can be granted, or land donated or sold to non-profit organizations, such as Wetlands Conservancy. Government agencies can also buy land for conservation.  Partnerships between land owners, non-profit organizations, and government agencies are a key element of conservation projects and the Beaver Creek Marsh is a good example of this activity.
Posted by michael  

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Place-based Learning

Yesterday I received a copy of the Marlboro College alumni magazine Potash Hill which contained several articles about place-based learning.  Importantly, place-based learning puts knowledge in the context of student’s lives.  Field trips as students in our youth make this point.  This approach links understanding with responsibility, connecting us with the sources of water, food, energy, shelter, entertainment, and all else that we value in life.  The consequences of actions in our places become apparent. 
We can learn in a place like Beaver Creek Marsh.  A part of Beaver Creek Marsh belonged to the Zeek family for a time.  They decided to put it up for sale.  After seeing a for-sale sign, Jackie called and asked what was going on.  The realtor said that many people had called but that they were mostly asking what was happening and were not interested in buying the 77 acres of marsh.  We realized that many people watched and appreciated this marsh in a protective way and that it might be possible to raise enough money to buy the marsh for conservation.  Who would take title?  God has no standing in real estate matters so that was out.  We asked around and eventually partnered with the Wetlands Conservancy who helped teach us fundraising and networking and agreed to take title to the marsh.  Many interest groups were involved in the project.  Examples include, school children and their teachers, other community residents, Oregon Habitat Joint Venture, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Central Coast Land Conservancy, anonymous donors, and the Happ estate.
As the project grew, inspiration blossomed.  Waldport elementary-school kids, on their own initiative, wrote and performed a play with the help of their parents and teacher.  Their enthusiasm encouraged teachers, parents, and community members to participate in many forms of creative fundraising.  The play was a mock trial which presented a thoughtful and respectful opportunity for all parties involved to express their viewpoints about the marsh as a home or as other animals and people who wanted to visit and use the marsh.  Examples of characters included Judge Legal Eagle, Harry the Heron, Eager Beaver, potential residents of an assisted-living home, and a land developer.  Testimony was given from several perspectives about the value of the marsh and impacts of conservation and development on marsh residents and on the local economy.  Participants learned about the marsh, how to stage a play and raise money for a project, and how to stand up for what you believe in.  Newport high school students in the Youth for Peace Club also raised money for the marsh.    

Beaver Creek Marsh is a natural resource that is ideal for learning and teaching by students of all ages.  Schools and community groups continue to use the marsh as a classroom and discussion topic. Lessons can be organized around the meaning and value of the marsh for flood control, wildlife habitat, conservation, recreation, artistic expression, history, archeology, economics, and philosophy.  
Posted by michael

Taking "Darshan"

Before putting this blog together, Michael and I had many discussions about “space” and “sense of place” and other related themes we had run across. When applying some of these terms to Beaver Creek Marsh, I think of how residents and visitors alike respond to this place and speak of it longingly. As one spends a little time here, the shedding of worries and busyness and tension visibly relaxes a person, allowing a space, a rest stop, a “breather.” Those who live near here pass through and enjoy it every day. Others seek it out recreationally for weekend bike rides, hikes, kayaking, birding, and other activities.

My brother, Erik, comes to visit from crowded, fast-paced, urban areas. Even though we try to stay up late talking to maximize the (usually) short time we have together, he gets overcome with sleep. There are no street lights, so the nights get very dark. If we are lucky to have a clear sky, we can see the light of the moon and stars. It is quiet and calm. The house is well-insulated from the damp and cool, sometimes stormy weather, but the thuds and rumbles of the ocean waves still penetrate the walls. We are one-half mile from the beach, and still the sound can be loud enough to vibrate the glass in the windows.

Being between ocean and marsh makes for an interesting mix of flora and fauna. Something different is happening every day. New sights and sounds and smells.

I am reminded of an autobiography of a British woman who grew up in India called, “A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep,” by Rumer Godden. She describes “taking darshan”:

“Indians have a custom of taking ‘darshan’ which means, with a temple, a palace, a holy cave or a renowned view such as the sight of the Himalayan snow peaks, Everest or Kanchenjunga, or a notable person--for instance Gandhi or the President--they will travel miles, make pilgrimages simply to take ‘darshan’ of that person or place, not trying to make contact or speak--certainly not taking photographs as we do--but, simply by looking, to let a little of the personality, sainthood, holiness or beauty, come into their souls. They go away, usually without speaking and so keep it for the rest of their lives. Innately, from the time we were children, we had done the same thing; it was perhaps our deepest delight.”

A visit to Beaver Creek Marsh is one such place to experience in that way.

Posted by jackie.

Place And Space

Place arises from and rests on space.  Place is the vessel that holds all appearances and captures being’s imaginations and desires.  Through place we interact and live.  The marsh is a fine place to recreate and refresh our natural senses.  However, we often ignore or don’t see the space from which place arises.  Thinking about and seeing space is difficult for people who have the habit of filling it.  Seeing space is essential because place, and the things and beings in it, appear from space through imagination and perception.    

Space is often viewed as inert and undefined and then it is chopped up into different types based on form, function, and thought.  Through the dualities of inside, outside, and in between, pieces of space form our notion of place.  Space is awareness.  To see space look at the sky.  It is unbounded, clear, and radiant.  The sky does not hinder the arising of anything.  We may define the sky by its clouds, color, horizon, and moisture.  These qualities are not the sky and they arise from, remain within, and dissolve into the sky (space).  By showing an open mind like a mirror which reflects perceptions, you may see what cannot be seen and experience the taste of the sky.  Look beyond the objects and see the openness from which everything emerges.  Another example of space is the ocean, often defined by its basin, color, horizon, waves, and current.  The ocean as space is unbounded and wholly beyond its characteristics.  Do not confuse the ocean waves for the ocean.    

When we shift our gaze from place perception to space, we can experience the boundless imagination of awareness and give that spacious feeling to others for their enjoyment.  When our places are filled with space then peace arises and the world can use more peace.    
Posted by michael

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Welcome To Beaver Creek Marsh

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!  We invite you to experience day-to-day life on Beaver Creek Marsh.  The view from the top of the hill provides a unique perspective.  It is a place where ideas & friends (human & other) meet, as they come out of the forest, float down the creek, wash up on the beach, and percolate in the marsh.  A variety of topics arise and blend with whatever comes our way.  Look for notes on rural living, art, local history, natural science, conservation, and meditation.  Stop by and visit when you get a chance to read.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Posted by michael & jackie