In California’s past thousands of native people in hundreds of different groups lived here (and their descendants still live here). The landscapes were different. Tule elk and pronghorn antelope, for instance, grazed in huge herds on native grasslands and grizzly bears roamed hills and valleys.
Laura Cunningham, an artist and naturalist trained in biology and paleontology, spent years studying and painting forgotten landscapes of California, publishing many of them in a book, A State of Change (Heyday 2010).
The following are reproductions of her art work showing how the area around Albany Hill may have looked hundreds of years ago.
Something is reaching Something is grasping Oh, sadness That is my madness We cannot know what is not corporeal We spin in circles Trying to guess But it is only an outline or a fuzzy shape The reality may beg to differ And our conception is shattered Blown apart Scattered to the wind Stomped on Dismissed But that kernel of intuition keeps us going It spawns hope, creativity, happiness, action Yes, it may be smothered in time But it will be replaced by another Because without dreams we are dull, depressed, lifeless
I am of you, for you, with you You are beside me, beneath me, above me I can’t move, I can only think Thoughts move me to a warm place This place is my home I am home in this place I feel my soul touching the ground, taking root I sprout new shoots from this ground Nourished by rain and humus Summer may come and dry up my shoots But my roots have taken hold in this earth
Little island hill of green Machines all around Squares and rectangles and triangles arising Fallen rocks from the ancient sea floor Ceiling of gray, then blue, now pink Cages to protect Destroy nothing that is perfect Everything is there Everything is here
Why do we have 24-hour gas stations? We must support the purchase and protection of the last remaining natural habitat in Albany. To lose Albany Hill means that Albany becomes a dead city, one that people move away from to be closer to nature. My landlord lives in Orinda because there are more trees there and the population is less dense. The reason I moved from San Francisco 7 years ago was because it was too dense. Will I have to move from Albany someday because of this same reason?
Albany Hill provides the easiest getaway from the gridlock of our daily lives. It’s a tremendous educational resource for our children, and what will they think if we let this beautiful area go to the development of more highrise apartments or condominiums? The hill is a perfect working test of our ability to nurture our children and our community. If we fail, the repercussions will affect us for all future generations, in both obvious and subtle ways. When walking up there among the majestic trees, one senses the loss, as you can see the history of the development around the hill. The whole area is blanketed with a monotonous noisy carpet of suburban housing, commercial strips, and highways and industrial areas. Albany Hill is a jewel in the midst of this, and this addition to the diversity of our local landscape must be protected.
I live next to a 24-hour gas station. I live next to the undoubtedly busiest intersection in Albany at San Pablo and Marin, and commuters roaring to and from I-80 gridlock are only two houses away on Marin Avenue. Many of my neighbors use obnoxious machines to do yard work, and burn carcinogenic wood and barbeque
fires. I feel the effects of dense population and long for more time to get away to Albany Hill, the best way to escape from the noisy profit-motivated world. Albany without Albany Hill would be like San Francisco without Golden Gate Park.
Happiness is getting rid of your money. No matter how much money you have, you don’t benefit from it until you spend it on things that you need and want. The small amount of money each of us would spend on Albany Hill would be well worth the investment. Once it is developed into housing it will never return to it’s natural state, and then we will be forced to drive farther and farther to enjoy the peace and wisdom of the trees. We must set a good example for our neighbors by protecting this beauty, this botanical resource, this spiritual resource.