• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Place Where You Live: Petaluma, CA

Air Date: Week of

The hills of Walker Creek Ranch, where Allie Rigby teaches kids about nature and writing. (Photo: Allie Rigby)

Living on Earth gives a voice to Orion Magazine’s longtime feature in which readers write about their favorite places. This week Allie Rigby takes us to the hills of the Bay Area, where the fog blankets the landscape each day like clockwork.


BASCOMB: We head off to northern California now, for another installment in the occasional Living on Earth/Orion Magazine series “The Place Where You Live.” Orion invites readers to put their homes on the map and submit essays to the magazine’s website, and we’re giving them a voice.

[MUSIC: The Place Where You Live: Theme Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros “Home” from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (Community Records 2009)]

BASCOMB: Today’s essay is from Allie Rigby, she’s an outdoor educator in Petaluma California, an area known for thick fog that blankets the rolling hills.


Fog rolling over the Marin County hills, seen from Coyote Ridge (Photo: Allie Rigby)

RIGBY: The fog here is definitely its own character. It comes creeping over, almost like clockwork, around five p.m., six p.m., just like it’s fingers stretching over the hill, and it just sinks.

So much so that on one night, there was a blood moon, couple of years ago. My coworkers and I, we decided we have to go up to see this. And we had to hike above the fog line, so about halfway up towards Walker Peak we sat and watched the blood moon rise over the fog.

We could see this bowl, of just this swirling mass. Just, it looks like a sleeping giant, just sitting there for the night. And it’s always a little sad, because every morning, it kind of withdraws and goes away. But almost like clockwork, you’re like, just wait. Wait till six p.m. It’ll come back.



Allie Rigby in the field with students (Photo: Allie Rigby)

There is a rock above a cloister of spicy bay trees where I go to think. Oils from the peppered bay leaves sting my nostrils as I make my weekly pilgrimage. The "headache tree" is a cousin to the avocado.


I love watching their branches in the wind, and the way they clatter and snap. There is always a rush to get here; I ache for my windswept rock.

This rock sits above the bay groves and rolling hills. Weeks, even months pass, when I realize I have not visited. I imagine the rock feeling sad, like a discarded envelope, pasted with the green stamps of lichen that curl at the edges.


Dried poison oak leaves scuttle across my toes when the wind strengthens here. Withered summer grasses quiver.

I forgot a jacket, again, but it’s only a short walk from the cabins and classrooms where I live and work. The fog lingers above the ridge today. By nightfall, the heavy mass of grey will sink into this dry valley, providing drink for the redwoods.


My rock sits on historic Miwok and ranch land. Each school year, I explore these bay woodlands and grasslands with over 600 students from the Bay Area. Our trails zigzag for miles, but none lead to this rock. I hop over strands of barbed wire to get here.


Sunset from the trail to Walker Peak (Photo: Allie Rigby)

Right now, the young salmon in our creek prepare to overwinter. I sit and think about the poison oak branch that brushed my leg. A skittish covey of quail cluck at my presence.


The creek below is a loved and controversial part of this storied landscape. It spills into the tidal headwaters of Tomales Bay and in 2008, levels of mercury in the creek raised eyebrows and alarm.


I often think of this when I sit here. I tell the rock that I’m sorry, that life is full of twists.

I will come back here next week with a better answer, or more likely, no answer at all—just a promise to return.


Allie by Grinding Rock flats (Photo: Allie Rigby)

BASCOMB: That’s writer Allie Rigby of Petaluma, California. You’ll find pictures on the Living on Earth website, loe.org, as well as details about Orion Magazine and how to submit your essay on the place where you live.




Submit the Place Where You Live on the Orion Magazine website

Find more of Allie Rigby’s writings on her website

Outdoor education at Walker Creek Ranch


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth