Sunday, April 22, 2012

Suisun Sundays: An Earth Day bike ride to Grizzly Island

"Suisun Sundays" is an ongoing blog about wildlife observations in Suisun City, CA

 I didn't bring my camera or cell phone on my bike ride to Grizzly Island. Here's a word picture instead.

The warm morning with only a little wind (unusual for Grizzly Island Road) provided the perfect ambiance for Earth Day. Riding south on the road that meanders and undulates, I had the Suisun Marsh to my right and the bright green Potrero Hills to my left. Red-winged blackbirds sang and flew from posts as I passed. Mount Diablo rose in the distance, its northern exposure a lesson in the extent of its foothills. My ride out was fast.

After turning around, I lollygagged. It was Earth Day after all: The breeze was soft; the hills still green (no sneezing); the traffic light; and the cows young and curious.

I stopped my bike to watch nineteen white pelicans fly high above the marsh. They flew east above my head and I could hear their wings flap. They continued and their V-shaped formation mirrored the drainage pattern of the modulating hills.

Further down the road, I saw a larger flock of pelicans. Again I stopped to count. A bike rider came up behind me. "Fifty white pelicans," I said. He stopped.

"So those are white pelicans?" he said, and asked if I'd ever seen them on the ground. I told him about the time I was stuck in a traffic jam on Highway 37, and how I had thought it was an accident slowing traffic when it turned out that drivers were slowing to watch a flock of 20 while pelicans swimming and feeding in a wetland pond alongside the highway. They swam in a clump and took turns dipping into the water and flinging their heads back with a shake. It looked like synchronized swimming.

The cyclist and I talked about how far each of us would ride and how long it would take. He pulled out his phone to see what time it was and how many miles he had done so far. He said he'd look the pelicans up in his bird book when he got home, and took off. He never took the ear buds out of his ears.

Riding on, I heard blackbirds, a crow caw, and crickets. I watched ground squirrels run across the hills and saw one squished on the road. I looked for the burrowing owl that winters near the seasonal pond but didn't see it. I never do because there's a big hill that's fun to go down.

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ina Coolbrith's Lost City of Love and Desire

Today is the 106th anniversary of the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire. Many lost their lives, and many, many more lost their possessions. Ina Coolbrith, who would be crowned California's first poet laureate nine years later, lost everything but the clothes she wore and her two cats, which she and her housekeeper carried through the tangled streets of San Francisco. Here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote about her experience that day:

Seconds before the 1906 earthquake hit, a pre-dawn light crept into Ina Donna Coolbrith’s parlor on San Francisco’s Russian Hill. A gilded photo album and a small vase rested on a wooden table rubbed hard with beeswax. Books grouped by height filled a four-tiered, doublewide bookshelf. A recently completed manuscript, ready for its publisher after nearly a decade of work, was stacked neatly inside of a small secretary desk.

Outside, a nervous horse neighed breaking the stillness of night. Then a crack, a jolt, and an explosion ripped through San Francisco, and for a long 45 seconds, streets buckled, bricks collapsed, metal groaned, and cracked plaster crashed into powdery blasts of dust...

Read it in its entirety at the Ina Coolbrith Circle website.