Hidden In Plain Sight


All these years, I’ve been jogging, walking, biking and driving up and down the same road that leads to our house. And other than looking for ripe berries, potential chanterelle spots and the occasional windfall tree, the roadside foliage usually passes in a green blur of underbrush and tree trunks. Mostly salmonberry, thimble berry, salal and ferns.

The other day, as I was suffering through my couple-times-a-week jog, something caught my eye. Something a little out of place, a kind of frilly bud or something hanging from what I suddenly realized was a hazel tree. I looked closer. Hazel nuts! Green, but definitely hazel nuts.

Then I thought I should look for more, and realized, somehow in my subconscious, I knew exactly where every hazel tree along the road was. My brain had been recording the information, but I didn’t know to even access it. Once I started following that stored information, I realized the hazels were everywhere. Probably 10 or 15% of the roadside shrubbery was made up of hazels. And they all have nuts growing on them. Not a lot, just a few per tree, but if the squirrels don’t get ’em all first, I’m going to attempt a harvest in late summer or early fall. Amazing how easy it is to miss things purely because it hasn’t occurred to you to look for them.

Tastes Like Chicken


Something’s fishy in West Seattle: Freelance conservation advocate and webmeister, Paul Moinester; The Flyfish Journal Editor and occasional Santa impersonator, Steve Duda; and Patagonia rep and Wild Steelhead Coalition boardie, Brian Bennett digging  in and grubbin’ down. Just part of the crowd at an impromptu, pre-Writers-On-The-Fly feast at West Seattle’s famed Ma’Ono. Did I mention the fried chicken? Or the Spam musubi? Or the saimin noodles? Holy smokes.

Any visit to Emerald Water Anglers should include a meal at Ma’Ono. Hey, McCoy…how ’bout a package deal: Buy a rod, get fried chicken free? Sales through the roof. Aloha!

Where Have All The Cherries Gone?


Here we are, just a few days before our delicious, sweet Rainier cherries are ripe enough for human consumption…and this happens. I spotted the little furry bandit after he’d cleaned out an entire tree except for one last bunch hanging just out of reach. Every time he reached for it, the branch he was standing on would start bending and threatening to break; the little guy was clearly in a quandary.

Weston came out and we tried scaring the “rat-coon” away by yelling and making threatening gestures. He glanced at us over his shoulder, rolled his eyes in disdain, and continued trying to solve the puzzle of good eats on a branch too thin. I threw some driveway gravel at him, and again, the look of disdain.

Weston brought out the slingshot. He loaded it with a little rock and fired. Miss, low. No reaction from Mr. Furball. Another shot. Miss, high. Still no reaction. Finally, Weston reared back and let fly right in the middle and the rock found furry forehead. THWACK! Ol’ Fuzzy leaped up in surprise and landed farther out on the branch, which promptly swayed downward, cracking. He shot us a dirty look and let go, and as he dropped through the air, he reached out, snagged the last bunch of cherries, and hit the ground on three legs. He paused there, looking right at us, then stuffed the cherries in his mouth and sauntered into the woods. Have a nice day!

A Father’s Day Wish


What do I want for Father’s Day? Many things, really. But I will try to keep it simple. I would like my children to find a passion for something the way fishing consumed me and shaped my life. I would like to have the patience and time my own parents gave me in support of whatever those passions might be. But mostly, I wish for my kids to grow up in a world that’s at least as good as the one I had, if not better.

Yeah, that’s a big one. It would take some serious change. It would mean learning something from the Mt. Polley Mine catastrophe, the Kulluk running aground, BP’s gulf oil disaster. It would mean saying no to Pebble Mine, the Enbridge Pipeline, fracking, old-growth logging, genetically modified crops and open-water salmon farms. It would mean citizens forcing politicians to offer something more than lip service to stop global warming. It would mean tearing down useless dams and hatcheries that destroy wild fish populations. It would mean altering our way of life to reduce toxic runoff and suburban sprawl. All of this would require a sea change in how each of us thinks about our lives.

Is it too much to ask? On a personal level, it would mean learning and thinking about everything I use, buy or consume. It would mean committing time, money and energy–and fighting tooth and nail–to protect the natural world. The change would have to start with me. Am I wishing for a miracle? Perhaps. But the tide is turning. I can feel it. And I believe this is more than just wishful thinking for one, simple reason: I know I’m not alone in these wishes. So here’s to a world for our kids as good as the one we grew up in, if not better. Happy Father’s Day.

Farewell Polar Pioneer

Shell's Polar Pioneer preparing to leave the Port of Seattle, bound for the Chukchi Sea

Shell’s Polar Pioneer preparing to leave the Port of Seattle, bound for the Chukchi Sea

Royal Dutch Shell–yes, the same company that was going to destroy the Sacred Headwaters of the Skeena and Nass Rivers with coalbed methane extraction–towed it’s arctic drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, out of Seattle yesterday. Based on their performance with the Kulluk (ran aground under tow off Kodiak Island) and other drilling platforms (one caught fire in an Alaskan port), I won’t be surprised if some mechanical breakdown or lapse of judgement stops them en route to the arctic. We just have to hope it happens before the thing is connected to the seafloor and pumping oil.

A couple more thoughts: There has been some criticism of the “kayaktivism” that Seattlites have engaged in during the month that the Polar Pioneer was in port here. It’s been said that these protests do little to stop oil exploration in the arctic. Some have even stated that people in kayaks with signs surrounding the rig are wasting their time. I disagree.

We’ve seen a number of these on-the-water protests, and while they’ve done little to stop or slow preparations aboard the drilling rig, they draw plenty of media attention and inspire further activism. Last week, police had to use power tools to cut apart a group of grandmothers who chained themselves together to block supplies from reaching the docks. And the number of people in kayaks swelled. When you have a City Council member arrested in protest, as we did a few days ago, people notice. When local politicians, including our Mayor, are motivated to work political channels in an effort to keep Shell from doing their work here, word gets out. This is just the most visible side of the battle to stop arctic oil exploration, and it’s about citizens who don’t want their city to participate in that drilling.

I did have an interesting conversation with a young woman who was preparing to join the waterborne protest from here on the Island. I asked if her group was going to paddle all the way over to Seattle, and she said some would, but that a number were taking power boats. I wonder if anyone in the group saw the irony in burning gas to get to the anti-oil-drilling protest?

Meanwhile, the less visible work to stop Shell from using Seattle as it’s oil-rig maintenance port, and in a larger sense, to stop arctic drilling in general, continues. But the kayak protests brought the issue to a wider audience, raised awareness, showed politicians how important the issue is, and helped bring in donors to the cause. That’s hardly a waste of time.