Friday, September 23, 2016, 7 am, 53 degrees
I finally acknowledge the passing of summer’s long, warm days when the cool mornings of October arrive. With sunlight and bike rides along the American River that last until 9 pm. Dew covers my car windshield in the morning now. The air is chilled at 645 am. My first Sunday morning on Fair Oaks Bridge, I wore shorts and a t-shirt, warmed quickly by the sun. Today, Friday I wear my denim jacket and slip on a pair of jeans. Yesterday’s morning temperature was 55. Today it is 53. As days grow shorter, and fall blends into winter, morning temperatures will drop further to 45 and then 35 and sometimes the high 20s. I will enjoy these mornings on the bridge before the chill of morning gives me a reason to stay longer at home.
Usually I wake gently as I walk to the bridge, listening to the morning symphony of roosters. Today my morning explodes with deafening sound as I walk down the street as a motorcycle with his radio turned up comes up from behind. I am jarred awake. My morning “fog” instantly evaporates.
Determined fisherman sit in their boats waiting. I have no idea when they arrive. Each morning they are already here. They must come before dawn to catch the salmon as they rise for breakfast. I notice the moon in the sky. During my first Sunday, the moon was full. Today, hardly a week later, the moon is now half visible.
Bicyclists carrying backpacks roar across the bridge this morning before the sun rises over the trees. Seeing a pair of walkers on the bridge, I hear “on your left” shouted aloud far too early in the day.
The pigeons have returned, taking their places on the bridge. Even when they are absent, anyone can tell where they sit. The edges of the bridge on each side are spotted with white droppings. This morning, they return without their ritual dance and quickly position themselves for a morning nap.
Commuters on Sunrise Blvd. river crossing can enjoy this view every morning. I wonder how many turn their head to enjoy this gift?
Reflections on either side of the river below are still fuzzy from the constant rippling of the water. Some parts of the river shine like mirrors.
Looking past Sunrise Blvd. bridge is another bridge. Jim’s Bridge is for cyclists, pedestrians and fisherman. This is my access to the American River Parkway from home. Every time I cross this bridge, two, three or four people have fishing lines cast into the shallow water. Jim’s bridge is the launch pad for weekend rafters, the place for family picnics and water play, and the transition point from cycles to kayaks during the annual Eppie’s Great Race every July.
I walk to the boat launch ramp to feed ducks and geese. Today two mallards and a Canada goose are here to greet me and anxious to snatch bits of bread. Once the feeding starts, other ducks swim over as fast as they can go. Some too impatient to swim, rise out of the water and flap their wings for 10 yards to speed their arrival. I throw to my left to attract attention, then to my right.
I throw my bits of bread to a quiet dozen ducks. Three fly in and more swim over. The crowd gets noisy. Some are fighting over the pieces, biting and squawking. Others are chased away. More ducks arrive and the noise gets even louder. Quack! Quack! Quack! Ducks dart from left to right, swimming in circles to capture the bits of bread.
Some open their beak and the bread falls right in to mash and swallow. Most others snatch and tear each piece, catching bread as it falls. Within minutes 30 ducks circle and wait and quack and complain. Several walk up on the boat launch ramp to get closer to the source. Canada Geese are usually late in arriving and merge into the crowd to get something for themselves.
When the bread is gone, the group realizes the excitement is over. As quickly as they arrived, ducks disburse and swim back quietly to where they came from. The morning grooming ritual begins. Some enjoy a leisurely swim and then settle back down near the shoreline in the shade of overhanging trees as they appear to watch the fisherman still waiting to catch a fish.