by Carolyn Losée-Meade, Secretary Marin CNPS

This morning I went to Greenbrae to pluck heaps of Salsola soda, an invasive plant, from the banks of Corte Madera Creek. Salsola soda oppositeleaf Russian thistleSalsola soda (opposite-leaved Russian-thistle), photo by Vernon SmithI set out to get a good dose of medicine — “the work of restoration and re-creation.” This is the kind of medicine that sustained ethical forager Finisia Medrano, one of the “outcasts and visionaries” Lisa Wells explores in her new book Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World. Medrano declared, “If I cannot have this [work], my life is worthless and a forfeiture.”

Without weeding my life would not be “worthless” or a “forfeiture,” yet it would surely and sorely be missing one of its primary raisons d’etre, to restore and re-create the Earth.

Salsola soda, an estuarine marsh invasive plant, (aka. oppositeleaf Russian thistle, glasswort, living tumbleweed) is easy to pick. The persistent plant is thirsty and contains a great deal of water, which makes it heavy to lug up the stairs out of the park. Ideally, we would have left the invasive heaps until they evaporated and restored moisture to the air. However, the plants had already started fruiting, and we knew countless seeds could still be produced.

When it comes to restoring the Earth, my team was good company — supportive and sensitive toward each other and the neighboring environment. Social status, age, gender, ethnicity, and belief barriers evaporated. There was an exact 30-year gap among the half a dozen of us, from 90 to 60. I put the larger number first because 90 is a startling age to still be effective in the field! Surrounded by hearty, hardy teens most likely sleeping in their condominium beds, we oldsters were bending, stooping, pulling, lifting, and dragging literally dozens if not hundreds of pounds of the pervasive, persnickety Salsola from their creek landing. If they knew how much we cared about their future, they would probably join us.

We were silent heroes. We lost ourselves in the moist quiet of the marsh, plucking away and smiling confidently at the beauty of our mascot, Mount Tam. Her majesty is not only eternal, but maternal. Clearly nonhuman life matters too.

Aside from getting a good feeling of accomplishment, unexpected rewards abounded. I looked up and witnessed an elegant flock of white pelicans take off from shore—their effect, primordial. When the pelicans landed on the opposing side, four white egrets and herons flitted on the flock’s tails. To me, the behavior of these two achromatic species appears more rhythmic than symbiotic.

More fistfuls of thistle went in my bag. I heard another disturbance, and not one or two, but three boats of young women rowers glided alongside the park. I rejoiced, witnessing how far their sports have come in my lifetime. (In our little work party, women outnumbered men two-to-one.) White birds and white uniforms in and on the water reminded me that water birds are ancient symbols of the divine feminine. The morning was topped off by the music of live bagpipers coming from upstream.

I have always loved Marin. Now, through active stewardship, I am taking the time to restore and re-create both the land and myself.

References and Notes

Well, Lisa (2021). Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World. Black Inc. Available at Pt Reyes Books ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’ subscription club.

Salsola soda: https://www.cal-ipc.org/plants/profile/salsola-soda-profile/

Anthro/Pyrocene: Our current geological epoch is called the Holocene which began after the last glacial period. Anthropocene (influenced by humans) and Pyrocene (influenced by fire) have been proposed to be names for the succeeding epochs.

Stewardship Opportunities in Marin County: 

Friends of Corte Madera Creek Watershed https://friendsofcortemaderacreek.org/new_site/

Marin Audubon Society https://marinaudubon.org/

Marin County Parks and Recreation https://www.parks.marincounty.org/

One Tam https://www.onetam.org/

Richardson Bay Audubon https://richardsonbay.audubon.org/

For a more complete list see http://www.muirpress.com/marin_guide.html