Twenty months after the prescribed burns, I can clearly see the difference between the two experiments.

For the Salton Sea, there are a few positive signs, but also trouble.

Silos are an integral connection between our fields and ports, between California resources and the global economy.

While the abundance of salmon is a tribute to the success of hatcheries, some scientists worry about the long-term survival of the species.

The Bok Kai Temple in Marysville is a living link to history, and to the dynamic economic and cultural relationships between China and America.

Riding high in the cab of a mowing machine, John Anderson drives slowly. Baby quail run for their lives. Anderson's aim is to harvest native plants for seed, he tells me as he gives creatures time to flee from the spinning blades.

It's early morning on Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco. Oystermen push an old wooden boat into low tide and leap aboard. Their leathered faces expressionless, lost in thought, their hoods pulled tight: it's cold. Their day will be long, their labor tedious, their futures uncertain. We head toward the sea, to the oyster beds.

What is it about books? Books contain the kinetic power of possibilities. Gathered on shelves, multiplied in old stores and stacked in libraries, unseen spirit emanates from each. Wisdom and knowledge contained within a room full of books could mysteriously seep into me.

From the dark a startled crane rises, a specter with wings spread wide, glowing in a near-full moon rising. He is my reward for a patient afternoon watching and listening to birds.

We see them dropping out of the sky by ones and twos. Surfing thermals, they've been spotted by pilots at 12,000 feet.

The Tehachapi Mountains, viewed from the ascending slash of the Golden State Freeway at 70 mph, is hardly my idea of a beautiful landscape. Rising from the agricultural abundance of the Central Valley, these bleak, brown, steep hillsides are a visual shock.

At the genesis of the California Aqueduct near Tracy, a tumbleweed bears testimony to the truth that lies south. To the west of Interstate 5, parched golden grass covers desolate hills, broken only by newly planted cherry orchards. To the east, the Central Valley appears green.

The air is hot, still, silent. The water's surface flawlessly mirrors sky and tules, a dual image of calm that conceals a world of conflict. From the west, tides flow in and out, pushing and pulling – salt water vs. fresh, exotics species vs. native.

One fine spring day in 1875, John Muir hiked to the summit of Mount Shasta. In awe, he watched the weather change. "Storm clouds on the mountains – how truly beautiful they are! – floating fountains bearing water for every well; the angels of streams and lakes."

A gift of time brings me to a hill town in Tuscany this past winter. In the footsteps of D.H. Lawrence, Charles Dickens, Henry James and other artists, writers and travelers, I'm curious. I've come here for five weeks to find out why we search for sensations and connections from this ancient Etruscan place. What makes the Tuscan countryside so extraordinary?

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