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Steps to the Sea

July 19, 2011

The sun slants low into the forest, lighting redwood, madrone, elm and oak.

A light breeze sighs in the canopy.

Birds twitter and sing in every direction as squirrels chatter and scold.

This is where my steps to the sea started. Without knowing, the event started in my doctors’ offices. “Exercise is one of the best remedies you can do for the things going on with your health” she said.

I started walking. It’s important to me to contribute to my community, so within a week or two I was asking myself how I might make my walking something others would benefit from as well. I thought about ways I could encourage my friends and neighbours to join me, sharing my healthful activity with them. That seemed too small. I thought of putting together a site dedicated to exercise, activity and health. I was developing concepts for how I would present it when I realised my master’s of science and experiences with both marine biology and my LifePlace, the bioregion of the Napa River watershed, could all go together in this and benefit populations much broader than my original vision.

I planned to walk from my home to the ocean. It would highlight how closely connected we are to everything around us, even though we may spend most of the day indoors. Our use of resources and disposal of consumable goods like plastic shopping bags impacts the land but we can work to limit the ramifications. Connecting our shopping with the ocean, I think first of the bags and bits of plastic which resemble jellies or even plankton in the eyes of hungry creatures or parents out to fill their babies’ bellies. Turtles, whales and others fill their bellies with plastic. Birds stuff it into their young. Imagine starving because your body tells you that you need no food since you’re full and yet you get no nutrition. These animals slowly starve to death. I hope to highlight this aspect of our place in the web of life.

This connection at large and small levels ties us together in a consilient interdependence we cannot ignore, or do so at our own peril. However, when I attempted an unsupported marathon carrying two gallons of water on my back, I realised there were limitations to the body even when mind and spirit were willing.

I decided to start at my local library as a symbol of knowledge and information to walk the 52 miles out to the Pacific as a way to encourage others to educate themselves on their own lifeplaces. St. Helena to Jenner in one day. I would complete my own epic quest.

Carrying cameras, I could record the event and make a documentary. To manage this I decided to split the walk into four days. I would film and upload each day, allowing myself nearly unlimited footage.

Then the challenges began and allies appeared.

The schedule changed, leaving  me with only one option which would still satisfy my goals.  I had to do it in one day.

I injured my feet having purchased the wrong shoes for the task ahead. Looking for expertise from the running community, I spoke to the owner of Fleet Feet in Santa Rosa. She was tremendously helpful, going so far as to replace my shoes with a model better suited to the style of use I planned. Unfortunately, I still needed to take a few days off. I went 4 days off. I tried another day out but hurt enough to consider stopping after only one mile. Instead of stopping I decided to plan another day off.

Now I’m walking again, and a good thing, since my event has been shifted back to a one-day affair less than two weeks away.

I’ll walk through my LifePlace to Jenner, to the ocean. Fort Ross Lodge has made available to me a wonderful discount so that I might recuperate in the solitude and peace there above the cliffs. My steps to the sea will have ended but my work to educate on our land must continue.

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