On the Bluff Tops
The island headquarters is only a short walk. It is just a few hundred yards to the mission-style buildings, which now house the visitor center and ranger lodgings. Lunch is very peaceful on the bluff tops. Not too far away are the remains of Chumash middens, remnants of their lunch and dinner spots for thousands of years. I can see why they would have chosen such a spot. The grasses are dry but a very mellow yellow, the ice plant filled with red flowers, the coreopsis "forests"-or Dr. Seuss trees-as Victor calls them are lush looking, with green tops and clusters of yellow daisy-like flowers. We are high enough to have excellent views out over the ocean and it is truly beautiful.
In the not-too-far distance a cargo container ship passes quietly by, headed for Los Angeles, and in the mist I can see the oil derricks here and there, a reminder of how much the health and safety of the channel is dependent on man, and how careful we are to make sure things out here last far more than just our lifetimes.
Along the way Victor have begun to share bits and pieces of the island history and its plants and animals with us. He uses words like isolation and adaptation and interrelationship, and out here they seem to have a very real and direct meaning. He tells us, for instance, about how the kelp, the otter and sea urchins interact. He first talks about food webs and how the kelp provides food for the sea urchin and in turn the urchin for the otter, describing in vivid words what happens when any one of them are disturbed. Some of the kids do not listen but most do, fascinated by the urchin and how it "walks" on its spiny legs across the palm of his hand.
I am beginning to learn, too, about the difference between the native and non-native plants, which are here today. Forget the ice plant; the same for the wild oats, which cover the island: neither was here when the Chumash inhabited these islands. My dreamy image of what a Chumash might have seen begins to change too, as I try to imagine what it would have looked like here five hundred years ago, before the arrival of Cabrillo and a time when many of the Indians inhabited the Channel Islands. Things are not always as they appear. I wonder what these kids might be thinking now, and what of those Chumash who sat here many centuries ago?