Liquid Life

By Lisa Micheli, PhD, President & CEO


Newts photographed in a pond at Pepperwood.

I was privileged to be speaking to an elder about the power of rain.  He said “isn’t it magical and mysterious, the element of water?” “Yes,” I agreed, admittedly quite biased as a hydrologist.  “At Pepperwood, on a rainy winter’s eve we have to warn departing visitors to avoid the migrating newts traversing the road where flows stream across.  In my own Carneros neighborhood, these wet rainy nights are wakened by amphibious song, and we swerve around frogs swimming across the road—truly a fairy-tale experience!”

This is one of life’s treats, trading water notes with Malcolm Margolin, on the eve of his Bay Nature Local Hero award.  Malcolm helped to found a whole community who gathered that night to celebrate him—via Bay Nature magazine, plus Heyday Books, which he ran for 41 years until now, and publishing News from Native California.  Malcolm loves nature, and it’s contagious. Malcolm is the real Northern California deal, and I am glowing from a contact high. He says he first visited Pepperwood with an Indian friend.

I think sometimes people think scientists are like Spock, all logic, no heart. But honestly, would you spend nearly a decade in school to study something that doesn’t ignite both your imagination and your intellect?

That something was water for me—something Malcolm and I agree we couldn’t exist without—and we are in good company. He said, “if we discovered, truly discovered water, and didn’t take it for granted, we would be bewitched, playing with it and astounding ourselves with its qualities, how it sticks together, how it flows…” I know—I spent several years studying fluid mechanics trying to penetrate these exact mysteries…

So I want to stick up for scientists and say it’s exactly the mystery that joins us to our subjects!  And my favorite scientists are the ones who freely admit there are some mysteries our empirical approach may never fully expose, exactly because we are actors in this magical play, always engaged, never separate. And this is what we can thank Malcolm and his peers for helping to raise in our awareness—ecology—the science of interconnectedness.

For me, Malcolm provides a reminder to take time to enjoy the mystery of the late rainy full moon nights when magical creatures awake—creatures who faced the very worst impacts of drought without plumbing or water transfers to bail them out. With much watery gratitude, thank you to our 2016 Bay Nature Local Hero.

Visit the Bay Nature website to learn more about Malcolm and the other 2016 Bay Nature Local Hero recipients.

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