At Land’s End

It’s all dark green, fog and rust, here at the edge of the continent. Shipwrecks, trails, and a labyrinth. Cypress and abandoned bunkers. For San Francisco, it’s unnervingly quiet, and there is a surprising availability of parking.

Where the park curves to cradle the ocean water there are the skeletonized remains of a once glamorous bath house. The bath house was built in the 1880’s by Adolph Sutro, as part of a glamorous collection of attractions on 22 San Franciscan acres. He built shops, cafés, an outdoor aquarium, a promenade, a public garden, a new Cliff House restaurant and a steam train to bring San Franciscans to the grandeur.

Today the land is owned by the National Park Service and is open to the public. Sea caves line the edges of the rocks, accessible but dripping with salty water in low tide. Intrepid pedestrians, lined in layers blasted by the cold sea air, balance on the chipped and stripped bones of the destroyed Sutro Baths.

A friend and I went to Land’s End to find a labyrinth we had seen pictures of online. On the cliffs we heard the eerie and persistent yawn of a distant foghorn, and I feel like I’m inside the game Myst. Waves roll in, booming onto rocks, navigating their contours and then rolling back partially as a new wave crashes in again. I snapped photos against the sky, white with fog and punctuated by calling black cormorants.

This fog has claimed its share of fatalities as ships passed toward San Francisco Bay. Over 300 ships have been wrecked there on the treacherous rocks that hide just below the water. The worst wreck, of the SS City of Rio De Janeiro, took the lives of 130 of the 210 people aboard the ship. For years after, human bodies continued to wash up on Fort Point. At low tide, three of the sunken ships are still visible.

In 1996 the baths were slated for demolition, but were burned down under mysterious circumstances before the plans to tear it down were executed. The labyrinth we sought has been pushed and pulled by the wind, rain and sea, rent into near nothingness. Today the area houses a new Cliff House and winding paths on the coastal trail, dotted with oceanic vistas. Land’s End, thick with fog and cypress, retains the ghosts Sutro’s heyday at the end of the continent. 

Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens is a collection of mosaics by Isaiah Zagar. He was considers himself a folk artist with a formal training. 

His philosophy is readily apparent in his art. He puts broken pieces of tile in a bucket, and when he reaches for a piece, that’s the right piece. Where he puts that piece, that’s the right place. Nothing he makes is perfect, but it’s all perfect. He spends so much time making art that it has spilled from the gardens and the building to homes and walls and businesses and pathways and laundry rooms. 

This makes for interesting pictures, but it doesn’t compare to actually going there. When you’re inside, there is art to your left, right, up, down, in front, behind, coming out of the walls, reflecting you, and your eyes can’t even take it all in. There are portraits and sculptures and art from others and words and body parts. 

shadyufo

Uniting Vulture Culture!

shadyufo:

naturepunk:

I’m trying to create a master post for Vultures to connect with others in their local communities. If you are a vulture (or even just interested in the art of bones, pelts, skulls, etc!) and would like to share, please re-blog with your location. 

I’m Sarah and I’m from Portland, Oregon. 

Excellent idea!

I’m Emily and I’m from Springfield, Tennessee.

I’m from Danville, (SF Bay Area) California! (I’m strangebiology, but I didn’t want to put this on my main blog.) I just got back from bone hunting, too—found four skulls of four animals!

contikistorytellers
contikistorytellers:

She had been dead for a while when I found her. Her bones, dry and sun-bleached, were scattered widely on the side of the hill, her skull fragmented and almost unidentifiable. She was just young blacktail deer. Too many of the dead animals I find are so young, even fawns.
Deer, coyotes, turkey vultures and Jericho crickets inhabit Macedo Ranch, hills nestled in an unknown corner of Mt. Diablo. Cattle languidly chew the grass, which is characteristically golden most of the year. Residents don’t like this living gold, and they don’t want it in their gardens. They think the native grass looks dead. It’s not. It’s just drought resistant; it dries in the summer and comes green again in the spring, as verdant as ever. You should be so lucky as to come back from the dead.
You can get to the top of the mountain by starting at Macedo Road, through trails that are cut through with shallow creeks, where red-winged blackbirds call in the cattails, and over bare rock. I have run hundreds of miles here, most of the time never having realized how many skeletons rest there to be found, if you just know where to look. Cattle were brought to these hills by the Spanish to feed Mission San Jose, and to this day their descendants live and die in the shadow of the Devil Mountain. In dry creek beds and at the convergence of hills I find, touch, arrange skeletons, morbid but an osteal testament to the animal in life. Of course I would rather find the animal herself, alive, but bones are noticeably easier to catch. My deer waited patiently where the hills met the road.
Jane Doe was a victim of the edge effect, wherein the ecological community of a habitat is affected by sharing a boundary with another habitat or urban area. There are herds of Colombian blacktail deer that live in these hills, but as they venture closer to the city, they spend more time in gardens and crossing streets, and so they are more vulnerable to being hit by cars. On dozens of occasions I have found dead birds, squirrels, raccoons, and deer just a few feet from the road. Given her proximity to the street, it’s most likely that Jane died after being struck by a motorist. It’s okay I suppose; the deer population is still stable in this area. There is consolation in that fact. She wasn’t any sort of keystone; the logical conservationist sheds no tears for her.
Years ago I found a familiar calico pelt flattened on the side of the road. The pattern was random but unmistakable. It was the remains of my first cat, who had met the same fate as Jane. The cat population didn’t suffer much, and the ecosystem was not disrupted. I am a conservationist, I’ve been involved in countless environmental efforts and minored in sustainability, studying statistics and population curves on charts, and I am astutely logical. But my cat was not just an organism or a part of a food web. She was Mew Mew. She had slept in the crib with my sister. So I cried for her.
I made a simulacrum, I laid down the scattered bones as they may have been perimortem. I didn’t know Jane Doe, and she wasn’t my pet, but I doubt that thinking of the natural cycle of life and death and the food web would have brought her much consolation in her final moments. Was she the same fawn who had hid in my own back yard? Did she bleat at her herd members before expiring? I picked up her triangular distal phlanges, from toes that skittered up the yellow hillside. I saw fear in her eye-sockets, a ghost of when she hesitated, a deer in the headlights. She wasn’t the first skeleton I’d found, and wouldn’t be the last. She had been dead for a while when I found her, and soon she’ll be grown over with golden grass.Kristin Hugo

contikistorytellers:

She had been dead for a while when I found her. Her bones, dry and sun-bleached, were scattered widely on the side of the hill, her skull fragmented and almost unidentifiable. She was just young blacktail deer. Too many of the dead animals I find are so young, even fawns.

Deer, coyotes, turkey vultures and Jericho crickets inhabit Macedo Ranch, hills nestled in an unknown corner of Mt. Diablo. Cattle languidly chew the grass, which is characteristically golden most of the year. Residents don’t like this living gold, and they don’t want it in their gardens. They think the native grass looks dead. It’s not. It’s just drought resistant; it dries in the summer and comes green again in the spring, as verdant as ever. You should be so lucky as to come back from the dead.

You can get to the top of the mountain by starting at Macedo Road, through trails that are cut through with shallow creeks, where red-winged blackbirds call in the cattails, and over bare rock. I have run hundreds of miles here, most of the time never having realized how many skeletons rest there to be found, if you just know where to look. Cattle were brought to these hills by the Spanish to feed Mission San Jose, and to this day their descendants live and die in the shadow of the Devil Mountain. In dry creek beds and at the convergence of hills I find, touch, arrange skeletons, morbid but an osteal testament to the animal in life. Of course I would rather find the animal herself, alive, but bones are noticeably easier to catch. My deer waited patiently where the hills met the road.

Jane Doe was a victim of the edge effect, wherein the ecological community of a habitat is affected by sharing a boundary with another habitat or urban area. There are herds of Colombian blacktail deer that live in these hills, but as they venture closer to the city, they spend more time in gardens and crossing streets, and so they are more vulnerable to being hit by cars. On dozens of occasions I have found dead birds, squirrels, raccoons, and deer just a few feet from the road. Given her proximity to the street, it’s most likely that Jane died after being struck by a motorist. It’s okay I suppose; the deer population is still stable in this area. There is consolation in that fact. She wasn’t any sort of keystone; the logical conservationist sheds no tears for her.

Years ago I found a familiar calico pelt flattened on the side of the road. The pattern was random but unmistakable. It was the remains of my first cat, who had met the same fate as Jane. The cat population didn’t suffer much, and the ecosystem was not disrupted. I am a conservationist, I’ve been involved in countless environmental efforts and minored in sustainability, studying statistics and population curves on charts, and I am astutely logical. But my cat was not just an organism or a part of a food web. She was Mew Mew. She had slept in the crib with my sister. So I cried for her.

I made a simulacrum, I laid down the scattered bones as they may have been perimortem. I didn’t know Jane Doe, and she wasn’t my pet, but I doubt that thinking of the natural cycle of life and death and the food web would have brought her much consolation in her final moments. Was she the same fawn who had hid in my own back yard? Did she bleat at her herd members before expiring? I picked up her triangular distal phlanges, from toes that skittered up the yellow hillside. I saw fear in her eye-sockets, a ghost of when she hesitated, a deer in the headlights. She wasn’t the first skeleton I’d found, and wouldn’t be the last. She had been dead for a while when I found her, and soon she’ll be grown over with golden grass.

Kristin Hugo