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  • Derek Schultz

Early Spring in the Santa Lucias

Spring calls for exploration, searching out connections to our varied and beautiful landscape. On a warm and cloudy weekend in mid-March, the riparian canyons above Lopez Lake were beginning to reveal their splendor.



Lupinus nanus, the sky lupine


In the Mountains


The canyons of the Santa Lucia mountains are, like the rest of the California Coast Ranges, an incredibly varied and steep landscape; earth folded upon itself in a complex knot of waterways, sedimentary layers, and lush habitats in both sunny and shady aspects. In the deeper shaded canyons, the rich perfume of California bay laurel pervades the air. On the exposed slopes, the riparian woodland grades into open scrub, the home of our iconic friend Artemisia californica and myriad attendant butterflies.



California sagebrush & California bay laurel greeting cards
California sagebrush & California bay laurel greeting cards

Metamorphosis


Venturing into the mountains is always a refreshing and transformative experience for me. One never knows what one will stumble across – this time it was the beginning of the breeding season for Taricha torosa, the California newt!


California newt & eggs
California newt & eggs

Many years ago, on the Big Sur river, I witnessed untold thousands of California newts in their mating balls, filling every available pool and eddy of the wide flowing stream. They climbed by the dozens over the ancient cobbles, seeking their ancestral birthing pools, to which they will return every season throughout their lives.


The newts of Big Falls canyon were not out in such numbers as in the Big Sur drainage, but they were still just as charming and fascinating to watch. Some of them were in the process of metamorphosis from their terrestrial form to their aquatic form – growing enlarged fins on their tails, and changing from a rough skin to a smooth, hydrodynamic one. Visible on their toes were the dark sticky pads used to help them clamber on each other in their mating balls, dozens of newts embracing each other, grasping at the chance to renew life, to carry on in a new generation.


When I go into the real world, the more-balanced world beyond the one embroiled in human "development," I am always amazed by how I feel. I am refreshed and changed by what I see: my relatives, the real life all around me, woven together in innumerable relationships. Where does the waterfall end and the newt begin? I'm not sure I can tell.


Painting the Story of the Mountains


When I return home, I paint the stories I have seen in the land. I paint the moments that have, beyond my ability to control, reached into me and changed the rhythm of my heart.


Carex sp. (sedge) growing in Big Falls Creek

Sierran chorus frog
Sierran chorus frog, 16x20" print

Thanks for coming along with me to remember the coastal mountains in spring, the birthplace of the waters which feed us all.


First salutations to the stars.

Thanks to all relatives and ancestors.

May all beings be happy and free.

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