When my youngest son was five, I signed up to train as a Terwilliger Nature guide. We led children into nature at Muir Woods, Muir Beach, Richardson Bay, the Mill Valley Marsh, and Ring Mountain. Ring Mountain was my site, my place to lead.
Ring Mountain was the home of the Coast Miwok and we introduced children to life as it was when living with everything at hand, and how differently from that many of us live now.
Making a grocery list, we led fourth, fifth, and sixth graders up the mountain to the petroglyphs at the top. First, we gathered Pennyroyal from the pond below, and placed it in a thermos to steep so when we came to the midden along the stream under the Buckeye tree, we sat and drank tea.
Above the midden, a place where clam shells and other garbage were tossed, a rounded hole in the rock shows where acorns were ground, to easily be leached in the stream. Acorns are a powerful food source, and fish was plentiful in the bay below. As far as we know, life was bountiful and peaceful, and because Ring Mountain is preserved, it is a peaceful spot, though it overlooks the high-security prison San Quentin on the other side of the bay. Being there balances even more clearly the wonder and joy of being outside and not locked up behind bars.
The Terwilliger organization which began with Mrs. T. leading groups of children has expanded to become Wildcare which is still involved with education but also cares for and advocates for animals.
Last night I attended a fund-raising Gala for Wildcare. Ambassador animals also attended the event. I felt for them, even as I understood their confinement is essential, and they are well cared for, nourished, and loved. Their lives are not like those at San Quentin.
I sit here now feeling how feathering compassion for all beings illuminates all our lives.
This red-tailed hawk can’t fly because of a wing fracture that didn’t heal properly. The little opossum has no eyes.