A story of
The Marin Headlands
as told by its environment
A visit to the Marin Headlands immediately begs the question: “What is the history of the place?” As one walks around the park, a question is always hovering in the background: “What was happening here before I set foot in this space?” This area offers a vivid outdoor laboratory in which to explore today’s popular concepts of “place-based learning”.
Furthermore, one’s awareness of a place is never complete until the questions of: “who left their marks on this place before I arrived?” and “what has happened in this place to make it what it is today?” Many answers to these questions are written in the Headlands environment, itself. To the trained “listener”, the voices of this environment will speak to us, at almost every juncture, informing us of much of the history of the place. As one explores these questions, a sense of “belonging to this place” may emerge.
For some, it happens quite by accident. You know it, when you later feel a longing for the place. Occasionally, a person may arrive here and may instantly feel an overwhelming sense that you want to stay in this space for a very long time, maybe forever! For others, the feeling may gradually come over you. Sometimes, it may even feel that what draws you to the place is an association with another person, or a group, of whom you are particularly fond! Whatever the drawing card, it leaves you “hooked” on the place.
I am one, who has been slowly drawn to this place and feel particularly “alive”, when I am here. So, I write from my spiritual sense of the Headlands. I am particularly indebted to the Marin Headlands Institute for opening up to me a host of observations to add to my own, to feed a growing sense of awareness of the place that is simply unquenchable! Every single visit awakens yet another new experience!
The Listening Medium:
I have joined a team of teachers, being trained to lead groups of school children around the place and expose them to the life of the place, to explore all the voices that hover around in the environment. The children have to be sensitized to see, hear, feel, smell and taste the environment. I refer to that desire to search and explore as “listening”.
There is a basic orientation that is established in the core of the environmental education that takes place here. The themes that challenge the students are:
- “The more you look, the more you see!”
- “The more you see, the more you wonder!”
- “The more you wonder, the more you discover!”
- “The more you discover, the more you wonder!” and,
- “The more you discover, the more you share!”
When one approaches the environment with this mode of inquiry, the real challenge becomes learning to listen on all channels. What channels? Consider what you can be aware of when someone speaks:
- the voice,
- the words,
- the tone of voice,
- the context in which the words were uttered,
- body language,
- facial expressions,
- other baggage the person may be carrying that influences what is being said,
- the influence the speaker may have on you, the listener, (for example, my relationship to the person, social status, position on the job, family relation, etc.)
- the nature of the forum in which the person is currently speaking.
Add to this awareness the idea of awakening all your senses, (see, hear, taste, smell and feel), and the stimulation can become overwhelming. When I have been listening with this heightened awareness, much of what I hear is astounding. It awakens in me a sense of humility. That humility calls me to slow down and truly listen to what the environment has to say to me. For instance, it is only when one takes the time to observe a bush lupine in the wind on a sunny day with the leaves exposed to the sun closed up while those in the shade are fully open, you realize that the plant is telling you: “I like the sun’s warmth, but I don’t want it to take my moisture from me!”
You begin to realize how much your constant observation and wonder informs you about the weather and other conditioning factors that have caused the local plant and animal life to uniquely adapt to their place. It may even prompt the question: “How adaptable and flexible are we to the ever present weather, etc.?” We have so much to learn from the plants and animals we find here! And, they humbly present us with such vivid lessons about the weather, the soil, the air, the ground, the water and the combinations of habitat conditions that govern their lifestyles.
[Prepare a schematic outline of the mouth of the river, (the lagoon), to show how and why over-flow always follows the same path, even though the sand bar across the lagoon is even for most of the year. =>