Did you know the newest National Monument is practically in my backyard?

Despite the fact that so many, maybe most, define Southern California in terms of undisputed cacophony and congestion created by more than 22 million people living on top of each other, I can tune that out because I make it a practice to tune IN to a different frequency.


My well-being depends on frequently lifting myself out of all that noise. And in the last few days I’ve had several opportunities to be reminded that if I want to listen just a little harder, I can tune in to an abundant natural world that also co-exists with the very same noise and congestion.


One encounter with “the wild” caused me to reflect on John Muir’s words, “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.”

You be the judge!  Just a week ago my water lilies were beautiful!

Thrashed water lilies

I wonder if the goldfish not previously eaten by a marauding heron fulfilled their purpose as dinner for one BIG and Hungry raccoon? I can’t find a one…gone!

Then just two days later the girls and I were caught off-guard, startled when our backyard hedge burst open as a young hawk came out of nowhere. Was he actually hiding in the shrubbery eyeing the bird feeder? I think our close proximity, and Zena’s sniffing around, interrupted his plans.  Later in the re-telling, Karina added a little extra to the story replacing the hawk with an eagle as the central character. She tells good stories.

Every encounter with urban nature gives me a thrill. I am caught in wonder just knowing “they” are out there. Lately that’s been almost every night. The dog knows when the opossum or raccoon or skunk is out in the backyard and won’t rest, or let us rest either, until the animals pass through, but I still try to be as welcoming as possible.

I’m not alone. There isn’t exactly an urban wildlife movement, but wildlife hospitable initiatives once dismissed by the U.S. Forest Service as ridiculous–“nothing urban can be wild,” are proliferating in cities all over the world.


And to round out my delight this week, I’ve been clapping my hands in glee since October 10th, last Friday, when a large portion of the San Gabriel Mountains, the mountains I share with mountain lions, California Condors, yellow-legged frogs, big horn sheep, bear and hundreds of species of small animals, received a Presidential designation as the newest National Monument.


The designation offers significant protection against future gas and oil leasing as well as protecting against private development. Thirty percent of our water comes from these mountains, and the area is home to more than 600 archaeological sites preserving evidence of more than 8,000 years of human history. The mountains were home to the indigenous people, the Tongva-Gabrielinos, until the Spanish Mission period.

Of course there are some loud and unhappy voices, too, but the President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation praised the local communities who have fought for fifteen years to see this day.

John Muir spent time in these beautiful mountains and wrote:

“In the mountains of San Gabriel, overlooking the lowland vines and fruit groves, Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage…But in the very heart of this thorny wilderness, down in the dells, you may find gardens filled with the fairest flowers, that any child would love, and unapproachable linns lined with lilies and ferns, where the ousel builds its mossy hut and sings in chorus with the white falling water. Bears, also and panthers, wolves, wildcats; wood rats, squirrels, foxes, snakes, and innumerable birds, all find grateful homes here, adding wildness to wildness in glorious profusion and variety.”

And now the San Gabriels are a National Monument. I always knew they were special.