Dueling Chickens Create Sense of Place

Sunday, January 7, 2018, 735 am   40 degrees

This morning is the day for dueling chickens. One chicken calls and another answers.

One more calls and others answer, one at a time. “Are you awake?” “Is anyone up yet?” I hear them calling from many different sites around Fair Oaks Village and neighboring streets. None of them are out on patrol. It seems far too early and cold.

Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair Oaks Bluffs, walkers, place, morning, American River, seagull, Susan G Komen Breast Cancer walk
Rising sun hides behind a heavy curtain of clouds

On this frosty January morning, the soft yellow sun hides behind a heavy curtain of gray clouds. The American River and Fair Oaks Bluffs are lost in the fog. We have had many foggy mornings, yet little rain so far in December and the early days of this month. This time last year we were already in the midst of heavy, pounding rain that flooded the river and lasted all through winter. Where does that foghorn sound come from, I wonder?

Today, two fishermen sit waiting in their boat. No movement on their fishing lines.

A seagull interrupts the quiet of the river as it calls while soaring over me across the bridge to land softly on the water. Until that moment, the American River was calm and still – a mirror reflecting trees on the bluffs. I hear distant voices and see several people walking at the edge of the bluffs. What can they see of the panoramic view through fog? Three seagulls and three ducks swim quietly through the river near the boat launch ramp.

I meet and greet many walkers who visit this iconic bridge. I learn as much about the people of this bridge as the wildlife who live here.

Fair Oaks Bridge, Fair oaks, morning, American River, place, scenic views, photos, walkers, nature, outdoors,
One part of Fair Oaks Bluffs where walkers enjoy panoramic views of American River

Some walkers visit because they want to capture scenic photos or display the river as a backdrop for their family or wedding photos. Some come everyday to walk, some visit several times a week. People walk in pairs and bundle in jackets, hats and gloves. This morning I pass a group of more than a dozen women walking swiftly across the bridge. I bid two women good morning and ask if they are an organized group. They walk across the bridge every weekend to train for a 3-day, 60-mile walk to raise funds for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer walk.

Cyclists whiz by – sometimes alone, often in groups. For most of them, the bridge is only a place to pass through to get somewhere else as fast as possible. They are the ones who miss the unique sense of place on this bridge. As one fisherman advised me last fall, “The best things in life are the ones you do slowly.”

In January, when most ducks are hiding in the riverbanks and winter chill and rain are reason for individuals to stay indoors, this is the most peaceful time of year.