Heed the Call of the Song Dog: Why Coyotes are Important

coyoteprintlagoonWhen we first moved to Carlsbad in 1985 well before a LOT of indiscriminately built developments encroached upon animal habitats, our street abruptly stopped at a magical and wild hillside covered with sage, buckwheat, and coyote bush. There were deer and bobcats; even a mountain lion sighting now and again.

And always the ubiquitous coyote.

I’ve only spotted them a dozen or so times, but their scat is always present, and the symphony of songs we’ve heard over the years has been part of the joy of living here.

At sunset, at midnight, before sunrise, our lives have been punctuated with yips and howls.

Recently, there’s been one particular voice that belongs to a specific coyote we’ve named “Old Man” because he has a distinctive lower tone, and his signature song is one solitary defined melodious cadence.

It’s an unspoken code between tugboat man and I that if one of us hears a coyote — even in the dead of night — and even if one is asleep, we wake each other so that we can both enjoy it.

What is so amazing about “Old Man” is not only his distinctive voice, but he seems to be located in our yard, and silly or not, we believe he’s communicating with us.

I know. Crazy, right?

That’s one reason why we’re so upset about all the development that willfully destroys their environment: coyotes play a necessary and important role in managing rodents and rabbit over-populations.

COYOTEPIC

Beautiful and intelligent.

I’ve curated some great information about coyotes from Project Coyote and The Natural History of the Urban Coyote in hopes that everyone will learn to love, protect, and respect them as much as we do:

Urban coyotes do not feast on pets and garbage; they typically stick to a natural diet.
Due to sensationalistic reporting, many urban residents think all coyotes are out to eat their dog or cat at the first opportunity, or that they’re dumpster divers of the first degree. On the contrary, studies have shown that urban coyotes stick mainly to a natural diet.

Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores and will eat fruits and vegetables along with animal prey.  A study by Urban Coyote Research Program analyzed over 1,400 scats and found that “the most common food items were small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%).” Only about 2 percent of the scats had human garbage and just 1.3 percent showed evidence of cats. “Apparently, the majority of coyotes in our study area do not, in fact, rely on pets or garbage for their diets,” say the researchers.

This aligns logically with urban coyotes’ preference of sticking to parks, preserves, cemeteries, and other out-of-the-way areas as much as possible. The food available in these locations is rodents, reptiles, fallen fruit and other food items that are part of a natural diet.

Coyotes of course take feral cats or the occasional domestic cat that has been left outdoors, and there is certainly evidence that coyotes that have become habituated and overly bold will go after small dogs. However pets are not primary prey for them, not by a long shot.

As it is with the presence of apex predators in any ecosystem, having coyotes living and thriving in an urban area is a positive sign of the health and biodiversity of urban areas. Their presence can be considered a thumbs-up for the quality of a city’s urban ecology.

Project Coyote, a North American coalition of wildlife scientists, educators, predator- friendly ranchers and community leaders, promotes compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife.

As a national non-profit organization based in Northern California, Project Coyote works to change negative attitudes toward coyotes, wolves and other native carnivores by replacing ignorance and fear with understanding, respect and appreciation.

All of our work — through education, science, and advocacy — strives to create fundamental and systemic changes in the ways wild carnivores are viewed and treated in North America.

Why Coyotes?
As the most persecuted native carnivore and a species that has existed in North America since the Pleistocene, the Coyote represents all misunderstood and exploited predators. Poisoned, trapped, aerial gunned and killed for bounties and in contests, an estimated 500,000 coyotes die every year in the U.S. alone — one per minute.

Revered and respected by Native Americans for their intelligence and resilience, coyotes have much to teach us about the capacity to evolve and coexist in the face of rapid ecological and social change.

By changing attitudes toward coyotes, we replace fear and misconceptions with respect and appreciation for all native carnivores as ambassadors for healthy and sustainable ecosystems

How to make your community coyote-aware:

Whether you live in a rural or urban area, you can help to educate your community about coyotes and coyote coexistence strategies.

Many state wildlife agencies are underfunded and understaffed and simply don’t have the resources to address increasing human-wildlife conflicts resulting from urban sprawl, habitat fragmentation, and growing human populations.

Here are just a few ways that you can help make your community Coyote Aware:

  • Organize a Coexisting with Coyotes event in your community; contact Project Coyote to see if one of our staff or Advisory Board members can speak in your community or suggest someone locally.
  • Organize a screening of American Coyote—Still Wild at Heart in your community; this may be combined with a guest speaker presentation.
  • Ask your local cable station to air American Coyote—Still Wild at Heart
  • Write letters to the editor to help educate your community about coyotes and the important ecological role they play in maintaining species diversity and ecosystem health. Click here for our tips for writing letters to the editor.
  • Organize a tabling event at local venues or events and help distribute Project Coyote educational materials.
  • Help spread our message and support our work by purchasing and wearing Project Coyote merchandise. Visit our CafePress shop to see our latest hip t-shirt designs and other products.

Let’s all learn to CO-exist with the coyote.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201210/coyotes-lets-appreciate-americas-song-dog

Coyote, America’s song dog, is an amazing and magnificent animal who is very misunderstood, historically maligned, and tragically and reprehensibly persecuted. Coyotes are intelligent, playful, affectionate, and devoted caregivers. Native Americans appreciated them as cunning tricksters. They are among the most adaptable animals on Earth and are critical to the integrity of many diverse ecosystems. I know coyotes well having studied them for decades.

North America is home to a very special wild dog—the coyote. Highly respected by Native Americans, coyotes have held a special place in our history. The Navajo’s sheep and goat herders greatly revered coyotes, and referred to them as “God’s dog.” It wasn’t until sheep ranchers began running large herds of unprotected sheep that coyotes began to be viewed in an unfavorable light.

 coyoteQuiet and intelligent, coyotes play a special role in our sense of the natural world and in our eco-system.

Though our interactions with coyotes are rare, these fascinating animals live in nearly every city in the country, and in every forest and town in between. Because they’re predators that will occasionally prey upon the domesticated animals we love—our cats and chickens—coyotes have been reviled by many. But it’s important to keep in mind that, like any predator, coyotes play an important role in keeping our ecosystem in balance.

42% of a coyote’s diet is made up of rodents. That means that coyotes work hard every day to keep a cap on the mouse and rat populations in our area. In farming areas, coyotes can be seen following farm machinery as they catch the voles and rodents that flee the machine. Nearly 30% of their diet is berries and grasses.

Lcoyote pupike all omnivores, coyotes will take food wherever they find it, which means that they will also eat insects, fawns, birds, frogs, snakes, and human trash. Coyotes eat raccoons. And, given the chance, a coyote will eat a cat. This happens rarely, however—studies show that cats make up less than 1% of a coyote’s diet.

In many parts of our region, coyotes are an apex predator, which means that they are at the top of the food chain. By nature, they keep the other animal populations in check.

Humans and Coyotes
Because coyotes are predators, their history with humans has been filled with violence. Coyotes are hunted in many parts of the country, including Washington State. Yet studies show that where coyotes are hunted and trapped, females produce more pups per litter than in areas where they are protected.

coyote pupMany people worry that coyotes might attack or bite a human child, but the truth is that coyotes shy away from people. In Kitsap County, for example, in 2007 there were 189 dog bites reported. There has never been a coyote bite incident in Kitsap.

Not all humans fear or dislike coyotes. For many of us, the coyote is a mystical, elegant animal. There’s magic in seeing a silent coyote standing on the forest’s edge, watching us warily before trotting, light-footed, into the woods. Coyotes are the closest thing we have to wolves, to the wild equivalent of the dogs we know and love in our homes.

Family Life
Some coyote pairs live together for years, hunting and raising pups together. From time to time, these bonds last for life. Coyotes breed in late winter (something to think about on Valentine’s Day.)
During pregnancy, the female digs a den under an uprooted tree or log or in a thicket or other protected area. The den usually has a small opening, but is 5 – 15 feet inside with a sizeable nesting chamber at the back end.

coyoteAfter 63 days of pregnancy, the female will enter the den to give birth to a litter of pups. The average litter is four pups, but this varies depending on food availablility and the density of the local coyote population.

Coyote pups are mainly cared for by their mother, sometimes with help from an older sibling. The male hunts for the family during this time. After the pups emerge from the den at 2 – 3 weeks, they’re ready to start eating regurgitated food in addition to their mother’s milk.

Coyote parents with young pups often move from one den to another in order to keep their pups safe and secret. Moving also helps limit the mess in any one house!

Young coyotes usually stay with their parents until they’re 6 – 8 months old.

Coyotes are incredibly adaptive, even to human society. In pioneer days, coyotes lived exclusively in the Intermountain West, but as people have expanded their territory, so have the coyotes. Human trash, development, and infrastructure have helped coyotes spread all over the country.

They may be quiet around people, but coyotes have plenty to say to each other. They bark and howl to signal danger, woof and growl to show threat, and they whine or yip in greeting. Group howls are often given when the family is trying to communicate with an absent family member.

Read more about Coexisting with Coyotes and Fun Facts about Coyotes.

“…I’m not impressed by men in fancy suits with fake tans.”

Who said that?

Um…

I did.

For those of you who don’t live in my little town, here’s a bit of background in a previous post:

Something Sorta Stinks in Carlsbad

It’s become painfully clear that elected officials in Carlsbad seem to ONLY represent some of the people some of the time when it meets their own agenda.

I should state that I did not vote for ANY of those elected officials.

It’s about time we rethink WHO and WHAT we want to represent the best interests of Carlsbad.

No more realtors and developers or friends of realtors and developers.

We need a complete overhaul of city governance.

It’s time to emulate better cities with better practices who do what’s right for the environment and not what’s best for their personal interests.

I blame myself for not getting more deeply involved, and for not running for office  — there’s really no excuse.

The only other time I stepped up was to get a skate park built here, because I was tired of the way young skateboarders (my son included) were bullied and harassed by law enforcement and others; I rallied and organized hundreds of young people and their parents with petitions and public speaking, and due to my efforts, a skate park was built.

On Tuesday, August 25, Carlsbad City Hall was filled to overflowing with hundreds of people — people who were mocked and denigrated for demanding our democratic political process to be followed — for demanding transparency in government.

Toward the end of the evening, the mayor (who I believe fashions himself after Donald Trump) refused to allow the opposition their freedom of speech allowed time to speak for three minutes as he told them they now had only one minute AND couldn’t repeat anything that was previously said.

I believe he did NOT similarly admonish the supporters of the mall AND he gave Caruso an extra FIVE MINUTES to speak after everyone else had spoken or given up, defeated, and went home.

Hmmm.

Questionable?

I think YES.

The main point here is that the concerns of the citizens about the circumvention of standard process — was absolutely ignored.

The development was greenlighted by 100% of the council.

We don’t matter.

That’s the message I heard LOUD and CLEAR.

If you don’t agree with us, we don’t care about you.

And to the elderly woman who pushed me, you know who you are…you better be DAMN glad that tugboat man stepped in before you enjoyed a taste of a batshit crazy Jewish princess.

This is the same woman who called another woman a bitch because she was having a calm and INTELLIGENT conversation with an elderly gentleman (her husband?) rationally explaining the many reasons why and how Caruso had gamed the system with his council cronies.

Where is the sisterhood?

What is wrong with you?

And give me some of that Kool-aid y’all have been drinking.

It’s damn good.

Caruso’s main body of cult-like followers seem to be every single retired person who has swallowed that Kool-aid and bought into his heavenly representation of white blonde children running among the butterflies along the lagoon, stopping to shop at Nordstrom and lunching at the many corporate restaurant chains.

Maybe the reason these people got duped is because Caruso’s shady marketing campaign looks like heaven to them and that’s where a good percentage of them will be way before this mall ever opens.

Suh-NAP!

I was one of the fortunate ones who signed up to speak early, and was not challenged nor admonished to stop speaking (which I would have ignored anyway).

Most people who spoke in opposition simply want the right to vote on this major mall development on Agua Hedionda.

My desire goes further; to avoid the rape of even more land, and especially Agua Hedionda, where it needs to be left alone completely.

My speech, in its entirety:

“First, I’d like to make a brief observation; other than the farm workers at the strawberry fields, Caruso’s soft focused Utopian propaganda video had no people of cultural diversity represented. Kind of crazy, right? I mean, when you really think about it? What’s that all about?

[This refers to a video shown by Caruso Affiliated. Big bucks in play here.]

Mayor and council, I need to make myself particularly clear. 

I’m not impressed by fancy suits and ‘healthy’ fake tans.

My family and I are vehemently opposed to the development of Agua Hedionda.

Agua Hedionda is a sensitive resource and ecosystem that needs to be saved and protected and restored, NOT built upon and destroyed.

I love to shop and I don’t want Nordstrom built on the lagoon when we have a perfectly good mall that needs the promised renovation.

No matter what or how we were duped in 1986 and 2006, that should not mean this deception should continue.

For thirty years, I’ve watched you and other councils systematically destroy land and native habitats in Carlsbad.

This needs to stop.

Enough is enough.

My family and I vehemently oppose all building on Agua Hedionda.

Enough is enough.

Leave it alone.

Shame on you Mayor and City Council. 

Shame on you all.

And finally, Mr. Blackburn, we met privately about the pet store in the Westfield mall that sells puppy mill dogs and you PROMISED me that when the mall was renovated and all the stores were closed, that store would be gone and wouldn’t be allowed back. But it’s still open. You promised and I feel betrayed.

Do the right thing, would you?”


How about you guys? What’s the local government like in your town or city?
I’m fascinated and repulsed by all this behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing.

Something Sorta Stinks in Carlsbad

Agua Hedionda Lagoon is poised to become the backdrop for yet another nauseating acquisitive gluttony of commerce in an outdated mode of brick and mortar.

This is NOT what Carlsbad wants OR needs.

I stand in firm opposition to Caruso Affiliated 85/15 plan to build a Nordstrom-anchored monstrosity of a shopping center on the lagoon at the strawberry fields, in complete and utter disdain for its ecological and environmental importance to the sensitive ecosystem.

boatonbeachIn SoCal, we live very close to a lagoon called Agua Hedionda, (not the uber-romantic tropical blue lagoon in Kauai where my husband and I spent a magical pre-honeymoon in 1993) but this little lagoon of ours was named by the first Spanish explorers. The odor they reported might have come from a nearby Indian village, a sulphur spring, or possibly from decayed matter on the shores of the lagoon.

If you’ve ever been stuck in the muck, which is like quicksand in some spots, or if you’ve tried to wash the dried mud off a dog, you’d know it has a distinctively pungent odor.

Stinking waters for sure.

Still, it’s important historically for the Kumeyaay Native Americans AND the environment, and many of us are disturbed and concerned about the rumblings of development and a shopping center.

The developers seem to be trying to circumvent the standard process and place the development directly to the voters through the initiative process.

Hmm…something else smells in Carlsbad, don’t you agree?

Did you know that in November 2000, Agua Hedionda was designated as a critical habitat for the tidewater goby?

The San Diego Reader published a compelling article about this potential development: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2015/may/29/stringers-carlsbad-strawberry-fields-development/

From the article: Some say the initiative tactic used by big developers is a ploy to sway a generally uninformed electorate; or, in some cases, hoodwink them with slick or misleading campaigns. Additionally, councilmembers usually get a little nervous when angry mobs of voters show up at public hearings, usually opposed to large-scale development projects. Thus, councilmembers are more likely to follow public sentiment and vote against a project.

But Carlsbad residents should have seen this coming ten years ago, when voters passed another initiative, Proposition D. The measure set aside as permanent open space 300 acres along Cannon Road, which included some of the strawberry fields and the hills above the lagoon. Some Carlsbad activists say voters were duped, thinking open space was a good thing, but not realizing the rest of land could then be rezoned as commercial.

Learn about Prop D: http://www.smartvoter.org/2006/11/07/ca/sd/prop/D/SierraClubWalk4

Just because some of Carlsbad voters may have been mislead by the 2006 Prop D’s real motives is no reason to give up and allow this shopping center on the lagoon under the power lines.

And come ON, do we really need MORE traffic congestion?

SierraClubWalk3

While I dug around for more information, I discovered an interesting read from 1976, California Department of Fish and Game U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s coastal wetlands report, The Natural Resources of Agua Hedionda Lagoon.

I discovered some interesting data about how important is was — and IS —  to protect the lagoon’s rich environment and heritage; to preserve and enhance its natural resources.

Read it here: http://aquaticcommons.org/552/1/natural_resources_of_agua_hedionda_lagoon.pdfagua hedionda1976

Excerpts from the study:

Long-range resource management in the southern California lagoons and estuaries must be based on an understanding of the interactions of ecological factors involved, including human use.

PROBLEMS AND CONFLICTS OF USE
Development
The greatest threat to the present status of Agua Hedionda Lagoon and its environs is the continuing pressure for development of the lagoon and its watershed. The demand is for three principal types of development: 1) recreational 2) residential 3) industrial.

The City has prepared a very good and quite complete environmental impact report (EIR) that defines land uses in light of the environmental information available on not only the natural resources of the lagoon, but also on water and air quality, agriculture, aquaculture, archeological sites, energy conservation measures, as well as noise, traffic, visual resources, utilities, community services and recreation facilities. The EIR on the specific plan also speaks well to the relationship between local, short-term uses of the resources as opposed to preservation, maintenance and enhancement of the long-term productivity of the environment of the lagoon area. The specific plan EIR also enumerates the environmental effects which cannot be avoided if the project is implemented. These include: 1) a decrease in the amount of open space, 2) alteration of natural land forms, 3) removal of a small portion of the remaining natural vegetation, 4) displacement of some of the resident animal populations and partial destruction of their habitat, 5) an increase in erosion potential through vegetation cover removal, an increase in demand for recreational facilities, etc., 6) some problems in water quality maintenance and 7) increased human encroachment on sensitive natural and scenic areas. The EIR reflects the City of Carlsbad planning department’s awareness of and concern for the area’s natural resources. For the EIR also contains many sound mitigation measures for the impacts on the environment identified in the report. The EIR went into the review process in June 1976, and will be reviewed by several appropriate agencies, including the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Which brings us to right back to that odor, the stench of back door politics at work.

A couple of groups have emerged to help organize those of us who not only do NOT want our city to be further sullied by unnecessary development that’s killed most of what made Carlsbad unique, but is troubled by Caruso’s attempts to bypass the city’s usual planning and public hearing process and circumvent city municipal codes.

rosecarlsbad copyWhat can we do?

  1. GET INVOLVED!
  2. Send the Carlsbad City Council a PINK ROSE and urge them to let the people vote on the Caruso Affiliated Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan. (1200 Carlsbad Village Dr. Carlsbad, CA 92008) (I brought a rose with a note attached to the council offices but the receptionist didn’t really didn’t want her picture taken as she accepted it.)
  3. Join Carlsbad Locals Against The Agua Hedionda 85/15 Plan https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carlsbad-Locals-Against-The-Agua-Hedionda-8515-Plan/782521181866712?fref=ts
  4. Join Citizens For North County http://www.citizensfornorthcounty.org/
  5. Attend protests, meetings.
  6. Vote/recall these politicians out of office!

Exploring Carlsbad, Part Two: Wildlife vs Development

When we first moved here in 1985, our street was a dead end (literally).

My son and I would walk our dogs to where the pavement ended and there we abruptly entered a wonderland of nature: along narrow paths with overhanging vegetation;  sage, coyote bush, sumac — and wildlife; coyotes, bobcats, deer– even a mountain lion was spotted now and again.

In other words…heaven.

It was a sad day when the bulldozers appeared and in a matter of minutes completely raped the hills, scraping the native flora down to bare earth, uprooting mature trees, and displacing dozens, if not hundreds, of animals.

It’s unrecognizable now–if you hadn’t lived here as long as we have, you’d never know the rich beauty that once existed.

It’s regretful that the city leaders didn’t and don’t seem to care about respecting, protecting, and preserving native flora and fauna.

Instead of conserving and sustaining our unique beauty, they’ve allowed Carlsbad to become an Orange County clone — heavy on the ubiquitous business parks and subdivisions totally disconnected to the land.

They’ve mostly destroyed the unique personality and beauty of our little coastal town.

In my opinion.

Historically, Carlsbad/Agua Hedionda Lagoon was the former home to two Native American groups, the Luiseños and the Diegueños or Kumeyaay.

Did you know that Agua Hedionda means “stinking waters”?

(It does and it does.)

Although the Spaniards (and other settlers) decimated the Native American connection to this area, over the years I’ve heard about nearby sacred burial grounds that might still be intact, and that’s a good thing.

In spite of the destruction of habitat, there are still a few surviving animals attempting to coexist.

In the evening, we hear the song of the coyote, not as often as we used to, but it makes us happy. Check out this audio. So close!

I’ve seen fresh bobcat tracks, too, but no actual visual sighting.

On a recent walk, I stepped out of my front door, walked across the street, and was immediately greeted by this amazing sight, a Great Blue Heron nearly as tall as me.
GreatBlueHeron1 greatblueheron2 After I snapped a dozen photos, I continued walking, and spotted a White Egret.egret2015It was a day for wildlife; these are not good pics for some reason, but a couple of different rabbits made an appearance.

On a front lawn.
aprilwalk5 Overlooking Agua Hedionda. aprilwalk4

I believe this is a Cooper’s Hawk; don’t think it’s a Red Tailed Hawk.CooperHawk1If I ruled the world (or at least my little part of it), I’d make sure that any planned development would respect all wildlife and make appropriate plans to not only preserve habitat, but encourage MORE animals to coexist with us.

Especially predators. We need predators. We need coyotes and bobcats and mountain lions and hawks and falcons for balance. Without them, we’re inundated with their food source; rabbits, rats, and squirrels.

Can’t we all just get along?

Read Exploring Carlsbad, Part One: Signs
http://enchantedseashells.com/2015/05/01/exploring-carlsbad-part-one-signs/

Exploring Carlsbad, Part One: Signs

Warning: This series won’t be your glossy Chamber of Commerce tourism fluff piece to encourage more visitors.

Instead, It’s the candid observations of someone who’s lived here for thirty years.

Join me step-by-step as I walk around neighborhoods old and new all the way to the beach and back.

I’m seeing my not-so-little town through fresh eyes.

Today’s topic is Signs and Rules.

Do this. Don’t do that.

Carlsbad is chock full of sings and rules.

Here’s a sign with bad grammar.

And excuse me for asking the obvious, but WHY plant blueberries in a front yard on a busy corner lot where dozens of kids walk back and forth to school and in a ‘hood where almost everyone has more than one dog — when you have a HUGE backyard?

(That’s a rhetorical question.)

Next, are we going to see a misspelled manifesto to crows and blue jays about not picking and eating the ripe berries?

A lot of poop and dog-related signs.

Purchased or homemade…
I couldn’t find the common area this sign referenced; I assume the dog owners who live in the complex have been made aware of the pet-acceptable locations.

And what happens if they disobey the rules?

And here, humans are outlawed, while it seems as if implied consent is proffered to dogs and every other species.

I ignored the sign, ‘cos nobody tells Princess what to do.

That sign ain’t the boss of ME.

This tiki expresses exactly how I feel about being told what to do.

Or what NOT to do.

Usually I take a small backpack or cross body bag to carry essentials but leave my hands free to take photos; this time, thanks to Flipbelt sending me a sample to try, I wasn’t weighted down  — I hardly know it was there.

There’s room for my keys, phone, ID, lip balm, and a few dollars. Simply put the items in and flip the belt over.  FlipBelt is designed to carry on-the-go essentials without tying up your hands. Made of a moisture-wicking, spandex-lycra blend, FlipBelt slides right on and sits snug on your hip. No bulk. No bounce. FlipBelt is also machine washable and machine dryable.

flipbelt

It’s an ideal accessory for outdoor summer workouts, and will be great for biking and traveling, too, Flipbelt retails for $28.99, and comes in nine cool colors including black.  (I chose black so it would go with everything.)

For more information, visit www.flipbelt.com

For this review, there was no compensation; I was sent product to sample and review. The honest opinions are my own.


**And thanks to Kim who read my mind, I’m including this song about signs that all of us olds heard a zillion times:

Exploring Carlsbad, Part Two…coming soon.

Grammar, Please! #petpeeve #wordlesswednesday #grammarpolice #grammarmatters

From “The Product” by Ice Cube

Just because I didn’t want to learn your grammar
you say I’m better off in the slammer.

walkcarlsbad1I planned to bring a red pen and cross out the offending apostrophe, but there’s plastic covering the sign, so all I could do was snap a pic.

Living in the Shadows in Sunny Shiny Southern California

There’s another side of California that you might not know about.

Sandwiched between the manicured lawns of upper middle-class residential subdivisions in SoCal, there’s a microcosm of humanity living in the shadows — migrant laborers from Mexico in makeshift camps.

In my own neighborhood, just minutes from the beach and overlooking chaparral-studded canyons, hidden behind purple sage and giant coyote bushes, we recently went for a hike and found evidence that suggests there are still active encampments.

Mostly these men are invisible, ignored by us as we speed up and down our streets, shopping, caring for our families, and only sometimes do we notice these shadow people standing on the roadside waiting to be picked up for day work or at the local liquor store buying twelve packs of beer and money orders.

Like the crows that fly in and out of our trees in a raucous cacophony, there’s an exodus out of the canyons at dawn and back at sunset.

Whatever side of the undocumented worker discussion you’re on, it’s a  blight on our supposedly civilized society that in 2015, in this country of overabundance and excess, men and women live in the bushes without benefit of safe shelter or even running water.

When you scratch off the thin veneer of Pilates classes, weekly mani-pedis and facials, that fifty dollar bottle of pinot noir, and glance beyond Anthropologie and Sur la Table, in the hills behind The Forum, and probably most of the other open spaces that are clinging to life —  that’s where you’ll find them.

It doesn’t seem quite fair for us to have so much while others are living in squalid conditions.

It’s sad, don’t you agree?

kellytrail3

We especially liked the misspelling. There’s a certain poignancy.

There were several white rags hanging from trees along a certain path; we assumed it was to mark the way when it was dark.kellytrail2I think this is a creek, or it could be runoff from all of the developments.
Kellytrail Hard to see the turkey vulture among the clouds.
kellytrail4Do you know who and what lives beneath the surface in your neighborhood?

 

 

Best Christmas Decorations EVER. Haters, Line Up! Yoo Hoo, #Pinterest, I’m Calling YOU!

 I hope you enjoy a repeat of one of my most clicked on posts of 2012 while I get ready for my son and DIL who are visiting for a couple of days and my tugboat man who’ll be home on December 23. 
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Don’t HATE…EMULATE!

It was last year that I was inspired by other topnotch decorators who so kindly blogged about their DIY Christmas tree masterpieces.

In fact, I was so inspired and so thrilled to be stuck here all alone for the millionth time during the holidays that I created a masterpiece of my own, just for you, my loving internet family.

As I looked around my house, the elliptical seemed like it had the best “bones” to adorn.

Plus, it had a ready-made beverage holder!

I didn’t have any Maxi-pads or other feminine hygiene products–‘cos THAT ship has sailed–if you know what I mean. (Hey cool, a nautical reference jauntily tossed in. Damn, I’m good!)

I added a toilet paper garland, a couple of Sophie Kinsella novels, two glittery seashell ornaments, a bottle of wine in the beverage holder, a white plastic poinsettia, a few EMPTY gift bags, and a festive plush Hello Kitty toy.

You can’t really see it very good, but there’s a chocolate bar too, which I don’t have to share with anyone! I’m such a lucky girl! This is the best use I’ve found for the elliptical. Hanging freshly ironed shirts hanging on it is a close second.

Now you can carry on with your day; just take a moment to let it all sink in.

The moral of the story is that it might not be a good idea to leave Princes Rosebud alone for long periods of time.

Don’t HATE…Emulate.

Decorated for Christmas elliptical

Property of Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife

decorated elliptical

Property of Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife

Sunset On A Heavenly California Horizon

A photographic essay. Southern California. End of November. Big surf. Late afternoon.

It’s so cool to showcase this amazing Carlsbad sunset embellished by WordPress snow.sunset1

 

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A glorious ending to a spectacular day. Happy December!



The Unbearable Death of a Boy-Man

It’s been  a year since my son’s boyhood friend tragically died in Hawaii from a surfing accident.  His body was never recovered. I wanted to take a moment to remember this bright shiny boy and the joy he brought to everyone he met.

From Kirk's Facebook page

From Kirk’s Facebook page

The loss of a child cannot be fathomed.

Who could ever be prepared for their child to die before them?

There must be endless tears and sorrow and sadness and a forever and unrelenting pain.

For me, it’s a pure and simple matter.

If I never heard my son’s voice again or was never able to wrap my arms around him, I don’t know if I could take another breath.

…On Wednesday, November 13, 2013, Kirk Passmore, 32, a passionate big-wave surfing veteran and Hawaii resident, is presumed to have drowned and as of today his body has not been found.

One minute he was alive, surfing an estimated 20-foot wave at Alligator Rock on Oahu’s North Shore, with an audience of other surfers and photographers.

He dropped into the steep face of the wave before falling over the front of his board and into the water.

The top of the wave crashed over him and witnesses say he surfaced for a brief moment before he was crushed by another wave.

It was the last time anyone saw him.

Although extensive searches have been conducted in the area, he’s been missing since the day of the accident and is presumed drowned.

It was all caught on video.

This is the video of his last wave. Somehow he never made it out alive.

His dad wanted the his final ride shared with as many people as possible.

Maybe you heard about this. Maybe you were watching the news on television and you paid scant attention to the story while you were on the computer or eating dinner.

Maybe you read it on the internet and saw the pictures or the video.

You probably thought to yourself or even said out loud, ” Wow, that’s really sad.”

Kirk Passmore.

Why am I writing about him?

Yes, it’s true that he was someone’s child, brother, friend.

But he was also one of my son’s friends.

They went to school together.

He’s the first of my son’s friends to die.

Kirk had the biggest smile and the reddest hair. Everyone called him “Fanta” or “Red”.

He was one of the many boys I’d chauffeur around, packed like sardines in the back seat, all gangly legs and arms, endlessly stuffing their mouths —  bottomless pits of growing boy bodies– with the cookies and smoothies and other snacks cheerfully provided to everyone who came over.

A carful of boys talking about school, skateboarding; laughing, always smiling, always a thank you for the ride as he slammed the car door.

“See ya, Jason.”

A flash of bright red hair lit the way as he ran up the walkway to his house.

But no more.

I bet for most of these boys – and I still call these thirty-somethings BOYS because to me they will always and forever be “the boys” or “the guys” — my son’s friends from Kelly Elementary, Valley Junior High, and Carlsbad High School — this is their first experience with death and subsequent thoughts of their own mortality.

I feel so bad for his family and his friends who are mourning him with candlelight vigils, surf paddle-outs, tributes, and memorials. 

To honor Kirk, they’re handling their pain with grace and beauty.

One of them, artist Bryan Snyder, created a memorial wall in our town. If you’re ever in Carlsbad, check it out.

Bryan Snyder

Bryan Snyder

Our deepest sympathies go out to Kirk’s family. Our hearts are heavy and we are so very, very sorry for their loss.

The Passmore family released the following statement:

Kirk was born February 11, 1981 in Orem, Utah.  He grew up in Carlsbad, California and graduated from Carlsbad High School in 1999 where he was a member of the school’s surf team for four years.  As a youth, he was active in pop warner football, little league baseball, and basketball but his love was in surfing.

He started coming to Hawaii when he was 14 and was an experienced and expert surfer.  He was not new to big wave surfing, having surfed most of the well-known big wave locations, including Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Pipeline and outer reefs on the north shores of Hawaii.  He was a familiar face at Todos Santos off Baja California.  He also surfed Maverick’s in northern California and Puerto Escondido in Mainland Mexico.  He spent 3 years in the southern coast of France.  He moved to the north shore of Hawaii full-time in the spring of 2012.

Kirk was a part owner of Third Stone Surfboards in Waialua, Hawaii and a Manager at Bonzai Sushi in Haleiwa, Hawaii.

He is survived by his mother, Diane Passmore (Orem, Utah), father and step-mother, David and Karey Passmore (Sunset Beach, Hawaii), siblings, Alyson Adams (Highland, Utah); Merrily Roberts (Encinitas, California) and Matthew Passmore (serving an LDS mission in New York, New York).

The family wishes to thank the Coast Guard, the City and County of Honolulu lifeguards and Fire Department who continue the search.