When I was a kid in the valley, we didn't need "facilities." We had the hills to hike in and the fields to play football in. Recreation was spontaneous, creative, inventive.
I remembered again Coyote Creek made sterile, and Corte Madera Creek and Tamalpais Creek, and the creeks of Terra Linda, Lucas Valley, and Novato following suit. I thought of all the marshes long since filled, like the ones where Redwood High School and Mill Valley's new Middle School now stand, and I wondered what the students in these schools know about the heritage that could have been theirs.
Not much, I guess. They study biology in text books while the great marshes rot under them, beneath six feet of "clean fill."
I thought again about my Tam Valley childhood, and I realized that almost everything I know about the natural world I learned during those years. Most of what I studied in college text books I have forgotten, but childhood experiences have stayed with me. Those years cannot be repeated; every wild place of significance which I knew as a kid is gone, transformed, sanitized, "brought up to standard." I realized, standing in that desolate asphalt and weed covered school yard, that when I wrote LIVING WATER, a story about the Sierras and the mighty watershed of the Sacramento River, I was really writing a eulogy for the little watersheds of my childhood creeks, and that THIS LIVING EARTH, which traces the learning process my wife and I experienced in the San Geronimo Valley and West Marin, is just as much an epitaph for the house--covered Tam Valley grasslands.
Though published in l973, David Cavagnaro's writing remains as potent and as relevant as ever.What will our future look like, when kids today -- in Marin County and around the world -- grow up away from nature?
At least we have some idea of the past. Here's a favorite painting of Marin by William Keith, from 1869, before it was "brought up to standard."
It's called San Anselmo Valley near San Rafael.