Yesterday I was up at 5 getting nervous for the conference. Talking beavers to a roomful of fish-biologists? What if I forgot what to say? What if the computer goes blank? What if what if what if? Jon drove me to the memorial hall where in the span of 5 minutes I was warmly greeted by Mike Callahan, Michael Pollock, Rick Lanman, Mary O’brien, Brock Dolman, Kate Lundquist, Sherry and Ted Guzzi and I thought, oh, I know these people, I can do this.
Tim Robinson was leading the session, and what I hadn’t understood before is that he had presented at a conference some pretty uncheerful information about beavers and gotten a SLEW of heated responses and emails which made him curious to learn more. I think an old Martinez supporter (GK) had tipped me off to his presentation at the delta conference, and I had written him an eyeful. To his amazing credit he actually sought me out and invited me to this talk along with a team of the most intelligent beaver advocates on the planet.
Rick started the day and competently went through the evidence about where beaver belonged historically. Eli went next and showed where they are right now. Then it was my turn and as always, talking about the Martinez Beaver story with footage and photos was very well received. A tech woman on hand made sure every one’s talk went perfectly and it was an awesome morning, By 10:30 I felt relaxed and pleased.
After the break, Michael Pollock presented on steelhead and beavers from the bridge creek data. (Does he ever get nervous? I don’t think so.) Then Tim presented on the unique challenges he faced with beavers on the Santa Ynez river which is a controlled water management system that releases water for the lower valleys. Then Kate talked policy and Mike Callahan talked about his adaptions to flow devices to allow salmon passage.
It was an amazing morning. After lunch they all went for a beaver fieldtrip on the Santa Ynez, and Jon and I dashed home to get things ready for dinner after a well-earned picnic in the sun looking at the beach.
I had invited folks for dinner at 6:30 but at 6:15 Mary called and said the fieldtrip had run long and they just got back. I wondered honestly if anyone would show and wistfully thought about the number of enchiladas we would be forced to eat on our own, but by 7 Mary, Michael Pollock (and his very smart tribal attorney girlfriend Karen), Sherry and Ted, and Mike Callahan were all there. We sat on the deck and drank beer while the sky darkened and the air cooled and then we funneled inside to Jon’s enchiladas and guacamole where our very small table hosted the most intelligent lively cheerful beaver conversation this side of the atlantic.
Somewhere in this day, I had the feeling of heavy accomplishment. Like a massive boulder I had been cheerfully pushing up a bumpy hill for seven years had just reached the top. I felt like beaver momentum was finally turning and it felt both relieving and weirdly a little sad – almost as if I was missing something.
I think now that what I was missing was the naive me of 7 years ago that foolishly started this journey in the first place. Without any of these companions, she felt like every part of this job was up to her thinking, planning and execution. I remember her as passionate and fearless, and I learned so much from her commitment. I am so glad she was (is) a part of my life. But I’m glad she’s not alone any more and really glad that dam rock is up the hill.
I know there will be other hills and valleys. But today I will sit in the sun and rest.