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'The California Field Atlas' Is A Love Story To The State

Obi Kaufmann, the author and illustrator of “The California Field Atlas,” is pictured in this undated photo.
Obi Kaufmann
Obi Kaufmann, the author and illustrator of “The California Field Atlas,” is pictured in this undated photo.

A lifetime of traveling, camping and hiking California led Obi Kaufmann to produce a comprehensive and personal field guide to the state.

His 600-page book provides a wealth of information, including maps of rivers and trails, geological faults and mountain lion habitat. In addition to the facts and figures, "The California Field Atlas" offers original sketches and watercolors on every page.

Author and illustrator Obi Kaufmann calls the book a love story.


Kaufmann will be at a series of events on Saturday to raise funds for the Anza-Borrego Foundation, the nonprofit partner of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. One of those events is a book reading and signing on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Borrego Springs Performing Arts Center, 590 Palm Canyon Dr. in Borrego Springs.

Kaufmann will join Midday Edition Wednesday to discuss the park and his field atlas.

'The California Field Atlas' Is A Love Story To The State
'The California Field Atlas' Is A Love Story To The State GUEST:Obi Kaufmann, author and illustrator, “The California Field Atlas”

>>> This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It took a lifetime of traveling, camping, climbing, hiking, and loving California, to produce a comprehensive and amazing field guide to the state, it provides a wealth of information, as varied as maps of rivers and trails, geological faults, and mount line habitat, in addition to the facts and figures, it offers original sketches and watercolors on every page. It is called a love story, by the author, OB Kaufman, author of the California field Atlas. Welcome. >> Thank you. >> At the beginning, you caution this is generally not able to sit down with and read, so how should it be used? >> I would love if people would try to do that, but it is a very >> -- A very special person that is going to read this book from cover to cover, it is a reference manual, that I hope, I believe now, is unique. In that it is a field Atlas, which is the genre that I made up to describe a larger character of California, the natural world of California, that has always been here, continues to persist, and will always persist despite the veneer that we have imposed on California over the natural world, so successfully in the 21st century. >> How would you describe the California field Atlas? >> The first thing that you will notice probably as opposed to other atlases, there are no roads. I don't draw a single row to my Atlas, that is because it doesn't really fit the story. A road is just the shortest length between some human point a and human point be, right? -- Human point A, and human point B, right? A watercourse, natural contours, there is a story there that is much more interesting. This Atlas is not going to help you if you are lost in the woods, either, that is not what this is about, this is about describing the larger natural forces in California, how they work across the state, and that is why it is divided up, the first few chapters, between earth, air, fire and water, the big orienting and shaping forces that I'm looking to describe. >> You think more -- most Californians realize how diverse the state is in terms of wildlife and landscape? >> I think they do, or their waking up to it, I've been unable to her for for five months, what I'm seeing from Crescent City to San Diego and back, this electric network of people of people who are ready for this nature first kind of narrative, I think that is so inspiring, to me, almost as if we are yearning to be counted as part of California's people as if we want to stand up and say, we belong to this land, it does not belong to us, it is almost like a paradigm shift, and I'm happy to see unfolding. >> I am cold -- told that the state park holds a special place for you? >> It does, I spent the first two years of my life in Los Angeles, my family would take me to the state park, the largest daypart, in what is generally referred to as the low desert, Colorado desert, and the Sonora desert, as opposed to the high desert, like the Mohave, Joshua tree, so different character, it is a beautiful character, when you think of the superlative that it offers, my own personal story, the wild flower blooming, taking off again now, and the bighorn sheep, small population hanging in there, the last population count, and the desert, Palm Springs themselves, that.the canyons up into and across the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, these oases, offering a habitat to an amazing and diverse portfolio of birds, mammals and flowers, implants, you would be surprised, most people think of it as a desolate place, but the desert spring is just so alive with an amazingly complex portfolio of biodiversity. >> What kind of challenges do you see the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park facing? >> We have conservation challenges coming from within and without, meaning that we have human challenges, namely political challenges, most notably probably the wall, which comes into and out of existence, I think, at least as far as the planning process goes, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park shares a border with Mexico, and we know that if this wall actually happens, between the U.S. and Mexico, that it will spell the end of the bighorn sheep, for whom the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is named, they routinely cross the border on regular annual migration, and that would be a catastrophe. And we also have the problems of climate change and human induced inflection upon the water table underneath the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, on the surface, a very arid place, but just as recently as 100 years ago, if you were to dig a well, you would find the water table about 15 to 20 feet under the ground, a lot of water, now you have to go upwards of 200 feet down to find any water, so we have yet to see how this is going to affect the desert palm oases that I was talking about before. But they will be affected in the future, and what we need to do is we need to think of agriculture differently in the farrago Valley, -- Barrego Valley, as we consider the options to make it happen to revivify the desert, and do it for generations to come. >> As the author of the California field Atlas, where would you suggest residence, have not explored the area much, where would you say they should begin? >> Such a wealth and diversity of natural landscapes to explore, if you haven't yet, go north of the city, to the Torrey Pine reserve, which is perhaps the most where pine tree in the world, it is yours to protect, the only grow on the bluff on the coast, and to ponder the rarity and specialness of that pine tree, in that landscape is a wonder. I would also recommend if you're looking for something a little bit more of interest, check out Palomar, into the national force there, the oak, white sage, landscape, up there, is really unique, and really represents this sort of mountainous border zone between what might be called a Mexican landscape or even a Northern California landscape, it is much different than the San Gabriel range, up north, you have some very interesting peninsular ranges down there, you settle into the Sonora desert. So your whole county is littered with the best, most beautiful, robust, adventure possibilities. Go out and check it out. >> Author and illustrator, Obi Kaufmann , will be speaking about his book, the California field Atlas, at a series of events, including at the Borrego Springs next week. >> See you out in the wild.