Mother Nature decided to break all our hearts this last week by blessing us with perfect early summer weather: sunny, warm days and deliciously cool nights. It will be hard to leave this place, we’ve all grown to love it. Not to mention accustomed to daily two-hour hikes through the mountains, nightly gourmet meals, glorious sunsets, excellent company, peace and quiet and redwood-scented air. And the occasional game of homemade twister (see photo below). On the subject of our Mother, Djerassi is home to a profusion of interesting flora and fauna. There are bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes (none of which I’ve seen — probably for the best). My sightings so far include an owl, a Great Heron, a hawk, and many, many deer, birds, hummingbirds, snakes, iguanas and salamanders — little auburn-colored things that come out in droves during the rains, so that the paths literally seem to be writhing, and it’s hard to take a step without crushing one. And the ubiquitous ticks, which we check for religiously after our hikes, and one of which took up residence on my stomach last week.
But by far the most fascinating creature here, deserving of its own paragraph, is the humble banana slug, pictured below. They are without a doubt the most repulsive creatures I’ve ever seen, more cringe-inducing even than the giant water bugs in Texas. Six slimy inches long, a putrid shade of yellow, with a shape resembling...well. But my respect for banana slugs increased greatly after learning more about them: They are mighty defenders of the redwood forests, because they consume competing seedlings. They can rappel from trees by spinning a slime cord from the mucus plug at the end of their tails. They are hermaphrodites who mate in pairs (each banana slug has both sets of equipment). The mating ritual lasts up to twelve hours, at least half of which is foreplay. Sometimes they are unable to disengage afterwards, requiring them to gnaw off their own penises, which later regenerate — but still. And finally, if you lick a banana slug, your tongue goes numb (tempting as it was, I didn’t test the veracity of this).
Saturday it got very hot here, and Susan, Jeremy, Ben & I hiked down to Bear Gulch Creek and took a dip in the extremely bracing water — during which it must be said that the guys shrieked louder than the girls — after which we picnicked on the banks under the redwoods. And yes, it really was as perfect as it sounds, right up until the moment I almost had a heat stroke on the hike back. Ah, how I hate being such a delicate flower...
Last day: our own James Huang contributed a sculpture to the place, a sort of tennis court to nowhere which he constructed in a creative frenzy in the last five days, and we all celebrated with bubbly and munchies at the site. On the way, we actually came upon two banana slugs mating! It was a sight to see. I’ll spare you the pics, but see below for a photo of the spellbound watchers.
Home now. Reality feels rather harsh.