I enjoy many early morning experiences on Fair Oaks Bridge, the boat launch ramp and areas nearby along the American River Parkway this month. My backpack, journal and camera are constant companions.
Sometimes I don’t have words to express the joy and delight of these experiences. The beauty of these quiet mornings is a far deeper experience than that act of writing words on a page or taking photos can express. I sit and listen. I watch and wonder.
Quoting fromJohn Muir – one of America’s most respected naturalists – reflects my own experience .
“These beautiful days must enrich all my life. They do not exist as mere pictures. . . but they saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always.” John Muir
My mornings usually begin with greetings from Fair Oaks Village chickens – some still hiding in bushes or trees. Others roam the streets of the neighborhood on a search for breakfast. As I approach Fair Oaks Bridge, I wonder what colors will be painted across the sky today when clouds reflect the sunrise – shades of pink, fiery orange or gold? Will I see a curtain or a blanket of fog reflecting the colored sunlight that rolls slowly downriver?
I listen for the daily quacks this determined duck as she patrols the American River. She is relentless; quacking for 10 minutes and hardly stopping long enough to take a breath. I can hear her voice far off in the distance as she swims away. I listen for the calls of seagulls and watch them soar high above me. Birds sing unseen in trees – a calliope, a whistle, and other chirps and calls I cannot describe. I often hear the chortle of the Great Blue Heron and honk of Canada Geese long before I see them. The Egret and Great Blue Heron always position themselves at different locations on the riverbank – staying far away from each other.
I see soft ripples widen in the water as the ducks and Canada Geese swim through the quiet river. I watch the graceful flights of snow white Egrets as they extend their long, soft wings and glide under Fair Oaks Bridge. Buffleheads dive in the center of the river channel and rise to the surface many yards away.
Photographs and written narratives record memories of these magical experiences – and create an understanding that wildlife undisturbed live by their own rhythms as we silently watch and wonder.
As I enter Fair Oaks Village this morning, I stop the car to wait for a chicken to cross the street and join a friend in the center median.Chickens are calling from all parts of the Village. I see them in parking lots, on streets and hiding near bushes.
A cool morning wind feels refreshing after a long and hot day. Glowing, hot yellow sun and a brilliant blue sky. No clouds anywhere.
I see a kayak launch into the water and watch the driver inside pressing foot pedals to move his craft around the river. The boat is filled with three people, a large bucket and other fishing equipment. Fishermen in their boats take positions in the American River for a morning of fishing.
Water level of the river continues to be slightly higher than a week ago. The river channel is relatively flat at Fair Oaks Bridge, so the water remains calm. A pair of ducks fly in and land with a splash out of sight under the bridge. Joggers and walkers pass – alone and in pairs. No one pauses to look over either side of Fair Oaks Bridge to enjoy the scenic views.
A tiny bird greets me with its good morning song. “Ti Too! Ti Too!” as it stands at the top of the bridge truss looking down at me. I see no Buffleheads swimming and searching for breakfast. I can’t remember when I saw them last. When did they leave?
A dozen spider webs stretch across the bridge rails ranging in size from 9” across to a more compact 2”.
I rarely see spider webs hanging on the west side of Fair Oaks Bridge. Why do spiders spin their webs on the east side of the bridge and not the west?
Could web placement be related to the sun’s position in the sky? Is web construction related to where the shadows fall or the temperature of a specific place? Do insects prefer to fly about on the east side and not the west?
A loud fog horn blows. Long, loud and mysterious. What is that sound? Where does it come from? Few ducks are swimming. I wonder about the female Mallard who I heard quack relentlessly every visit in January and February. Where is she? Did she have ducklings?How can I even recognize her if she swims by me?
Brilliant pink clouds blanket the sky creating this morning’s dramatic sunrise.
The soft call of a Morning Dove greets me as I enter Fair Oaks Bridge. Ooooo weee ooo. Ooooo weeee ooo. After so many days of lingering daytime temperatures over 100 degrees, I feel refreshed as a cool breeze blows across my face this morning. The calm water of the American River shimmers in the early light of dawn.
The fresh scent of morning, the drama, beauty and character of this setting is a remarkable experience. I think of John Muir’s words, “These beautiful days must enrich all my life. They do not exist as mere pictures . . but they saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always.”
Two boaters prepare to leave the boat ramp. A cyclist rumbles past me, shaking the bridge. A line of Canada Geese swim quietly past the boat launch ramp. Then four more geese fly in from the East breaking the silence as sounds of their honking carries in the wind. They fly by quickly at such a high altitude, I am imagining they have a distant destination in mind.
Eight pigeons arrive for their morning rotations over the bridge. A single bird perched on the bridge truss frame sings its good morning song, Ti Too, Ti Too. I see this bird often. The frame is one of its favorite morning spots.
Dense clouds remain unchanged as the sky brightens. When the sun appears, I watch a pale yellow glow fade behind the dense cloud cover. As I watch the sky, an Egret comes into view, extending its long, silky wings to fly under Fair Oaks Bridge and land on the south shore about 100 yards west. It patrols the riverbank a few minutes and then disappears as it flies further downriver. Egrets always fly low under the bridge. Rare when I see an Egret fly over at a higher elevation as the ducks and geese.
Walking along the American River near Fair Oaks Bridge to write, take photos and share these experiences is as much as a healing journey and a reconnection to nature, as it is a time of quiet observation. The river is my place of peace and joy to share as a gift.
This special place at the river…
I believe this sense of peace is a shared feeling for many other visitors who stop on Fair Oaks Bridge to look, reflect and photograph. I see cars park on the road leading to the boat ramp. I see the drivers sit inside and enjoy the scenic views. I see visitors resting on the bench alongside that road facing Fair Oaks Bluff to admire the view.
I am fascinated by the changing patterns of clouds in the sky, and how they filter the sunlight to create vibrant colors of pinks, blues, gold and flaming orange.
I find joyin watching the rhythm of a duck’s webbed feet paddle underwater. I love watching its body sway back and forth as it walks up the boat ramp.
I breathe easily and breathe in deeply. I listen to the sounds of birds, embrace the sweet scent of flowers in bloom, and feel a cool breeze against my skin.
I think of the salmon’s enduring struggle as they swim upstream to spawn. I watch the antics of wildlife as they try to catch a salmon as it swims past them, They guard their dead salmon as a treasure to assure no one steals their feast.
I reflect on its history – a critical resource close to the heart of California’s Gold Rush. To remember the history of seasonal flooding long before Folsom Dam was ever built. To remember the earliest settlers who established Fair Oaks Agricultural Colony by purchasing small farms. Fair Oaks was one of many emerging farm communities in outlying areas of the City of Sacramento.
I recognize all the people who work tirelessly to manage a wild river so it can remain a stable habitat for wildlife who make their home here. This river is also a place for anyone to ride, walk, enjoy and become connected with the outdoor world – and Sacramento’s past, present and future prosperity.