We all Share Stories on the Bridge

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.

 

Where is Breakfast?

Thursday, February 28, 2019, 730 am, 46 degrees

On this chilly morning, I am alone to listen to the gentle sounds of birds waking up the morning with songs. Again, I hear the female Mallard I hear many days at Fair Oaks Bridge. Wonder what she could be quacking about this time?

breakfast, muscovy duck, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, American RiverWalking to the boat launch ramp, I see the water level continues to expand beyond its usual boarders at the riverbank. The bike path is closed at the parking lot near the boat launch ramp.

The Muscovy duck and a partner walk up the ramp expecting food when they see me. They quietly turn to face the river and ponder where to go next. It seems that they are staring at the swollen river and bare riverbanks and left wondering. Then with a great whoosh of feathers, both ducks rise up and fly to the other side where they vanish from sight.

breakfast, mornings, Canada Geese, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, observation, guardTwo Canada Geese arrive, skidding into the river before approaching the boat ramp. Shortly after the first geese arrive, two more arrive, honking wildly.

The first two quickly argue with the new arrivals, flap their wings and squawk. The intruders get the message to scram and fly away in an angry huff, honking all the way.

Finding nothing to eat at the ramp, the geese approach me expecting a handout. I have nothing to share. More geese fly in heard and unseen. I hear two Canada Geese honking behind me. They round the bend of the river unseen, honking loudly. One duck sits in the middle of the river corridor and lets the rapid current carry it downstream and under the Fair Oaks Bridge. Another arrives minutes later, dives, pops back up and continues its floating adventure downstream.

Fair Oaks Bluff, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, nature, outdoors, beauty, peace, skeletons, trees
Trees stand guard as dark skeletons on Fair Oaks Bluff against a cloudy sky.

The natural world has its own rhythms and it teaches us to be patient. Nature is no hurry.

Even as I stand and listen to the swoosh of swiftly moving water, the ongoing buzz of traffic from Sunrise Blvd. bridge and the occasional honking of Canada Geese in the distance, the setting is still peaceful and quiet. No chilling wind blows on my face. I stay standing on the boat ramp looking and listening. I stand still to allow this peaceful experience to enter my body and relax the tenseness and the stress that lies within.

 

Sunrise Between Rainstorms

February 2019

 In between rainstorms, sunrises continue to paint pictures awash in blue and gold as sun reflects through heavy cloud cover in the sky east of Fair Oaks Bridge.

 

First Day of Spring

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 715 am, 50 degrees

This morning – our first day of Spring – a gentle mist falls on Fair Oaks Bridge. Clouds glow bright white on the east side where pockets of sunlight shine through.

American River, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, water, nature, outdoors, writing, beauty, sunrise, clouds, mist

Birds twitter and rattle. I hear a sound that reminds of the whistle of a circus calliope. Air feels warm through the mist. I wonder why when I look closely at the river near the bend and it sparkles blue, yet the river near the bridge looks green.

Canada Goose, pier, Fair Oaks bridge, American River, water, mornings, wildlife, nature, outdoor, writing,Two Canada Geese honk loudly as they fly in from the west and cross the Sunrise Blvd. Bridge. These two geese are so loud, they almost drown out the roar of traffic. They fly in low over the bridge, still honking all the way as they continue past the boat launch ramp. Then both of them make a U-turn and split up – still honking.

One goose flies to the riverbank under the bridge. The other flies toward the bridge to land softly on the concrete support pier inches from where I stand on the deck. Standing quietly, the goose surveys the river from its perch and begins morning preening rituals. Minutes later, it shouts to its partner and they continue to hold a conversation from the pier to the riverbank. I am wondering did they take different positions to more effectively scout the river for breakfast?

One fisherman launches his boat and speeds up river. Runners pass me on the bridge. Groups of walkers enjoy the early morning air. The goose on the pier whispers and continues watching the river. Are they looking for the last Steelhead to swim upriver to spawn? As the steelhead run comes to a close, fishermen take their places on the American River waiting. A dozen fishermen were standing on the riverbank at dusk last night. Several others stood hip high in the river. One fish leaped out of the water. I saw no one catching any.

autumn leaves, fall, Spring, Winter, pavement, Fair Oaks Bridge, Bridge street, colorWalking off the bridge and on to Bridge Street, I notice the street covered with red-orange leaves laying flat on the pavement. I wonder where they came from? How did they stay on the trees throughout the winds and rain of fall and winter – to finally touch ground on the first day of Spring?

 

Music of Early Morning at Fair Oaks Bridge

Monday, April 15, 2019   52 degrees, 630 am

                        A cool wind blows under a dense blanket of clouds. Thin strips of sunlight shine through clouds.music, early morning, sunrise, American river, water, Fair Oaks, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, wildlife, beauty, scenic

Birds greet the morning with songs as they sit in nearby trees and later fly as groups in geometric patterns across the American River corridor. A single unseen pigeon coos. A lone rooster crows from Bridge Street. It walks on to the bridge searching for something to eat and continues to call its good morning song.

music, early mornings, rooster, chickens, chicks, Fair Oaks Bridge, American River, Bridge Street

The rooster wanders the bridge deck and lingers on Bridge Street alone, while dozens of other chickens and roosters roam and crow in parks, streets, sidewalks and fence tops in Fair Oaks Village three blocks up the hill.

I wonder about the mother hen that used to search for breakfast and hide in bushes alongside the rooster. She was mother to five chicks, several months ago. As the chicks grew in size, I also saw fewer of them. Then there were two “adolescent” chicks with the mother hen and rooster – then one. Now the rooster is the only one prowling the street. I can only guess that predators ate them, one by one.

As I watch the glistening blue gray sky and the swirling speed of the river moving downstream, two Canada Geese raise their voices as they emerge from hiding in the riverbank and fly away. More geese are honking loudly in the distance on the western side of Fair Oaks Bridge. Few ducks have emerged yet this morning. The river feels empty. Two men stand on the riverbank to fish.

music, Canada Geese, mornings, Fair Oaks Bridge, boat launch ramp, beauty, scene, American River, honkDuring brief walks along the American River Parkway on Saturday and Sunday morning, birds crowded trees along the bicycle trail to sing good morning. Three Canada Geese arrived honking loudly, circling the bridge and the boat launch ramp and kept on honking for several minutes. I always wonder if they are arguing about where to land or where is the best place for breakfast?

Listen to geese as they circle the sky alongside Fair Oaks Bridge. Bird song recordings were too soft to be heard.

Wildlife Gather at Boat Launch Ramp

Friday, May 3, 2019, 7 am, 56 degrees

Soft sunlight glows through dense cloud cover. The air is chilled and heavy with moisture.

sunrise, morniing, Fair Oaks Bridge, nature, outdoors, writing, peace, beauty,shadows,

I hear Canada Geese honking while swimming in the American River as I arrive at Fair Oaks Bridge. The geese fly across the river calling to each other, land on the riverbank nearest the entrance to the bridge. They rise again to settle back down into the river, now joined by another pair of noisy Canada Geese.  I notice that all the spider webs have been torn apart by the wind. I walk downhill to the boat launch ramp.

The bike path and driveway in front of the ramp are the center of this mornings’ activity.

rooster, Fair Oaks Bridge, mornings, walk, nature, outdoors, writing, nature, peace, lonely, bicycle trail, noisyA squirrel dashes across the trail, while the resident rooster patrols the street. The rooster walks beside me at first then wanders the dirt alongside the pavement. As I walk toward the boat launch ramp, it rushes to stand beside me. His feet scratch the pavement and feathers swish. As I watch the wildlife at this intersection of driveway and bicycle trail, the rooster continues to shout to no one in particular, over and over again.

ducks waddle, bicycle trail, mornings, nature, outdoors, Fair Oaks Bridge, Boat launch rampThree ducks waddle down the center of the bicycle trail. Two Canada Geese wander in the dirt alongside.  As I return to Fair Oaks Bridge. I watch one Canada Goose sit at the top enjoying a sweeping view of the river.

 

 

Listening to the Sounds of Morning

Wednesday, May 29, 2019 7:40 am

Sunlight today is warm. No wind. Scattered white clouds stretch over the eastern sky like thick cotton batting. I stand and listen to the bird greet me with a song from the overhead truss of Fair Oaks Bridge.   I leave the bridge and take the short walk to the boat launch ramp. Five women walk ahead of me. Approaching the boat ramp, I see a family of Canada Geese. The goslings are already nearly full size and the characteristic black strip is growing on their long thin necks.

Canada Geese, boat ramp, American River, wings, river, morning, American RiverBirds twitter and rattle. I stay and watch the water, listen to the resident rooster who lives and patrols the area nearby the ramp. He calls out over and over again. Each time I visit the boat ramp and the rooster sees me, he rushes over to walk by side. He is a sad sight – tail feathers drooping, looking like several are missing. I walk slowly back to the bridge, listening to the sounds of the morning.

Cyclists speed past me and a few more people walk by. When I reach the bridge, I stop. I sit down on the deck and feel far away from the “busyness” of urban life. I sit and watch the glow of sunrise in the water. I watch the graceful flight of an Egret fly west under the bridge until I can no longer see it.

This is the time to settle my body and quiet my mind focus on the present moments at the river. I watch the ripples forming in the water as it moves downstream. Long lines form with soft curves flow downstream under the bridge. The curves bend and form circles and continue to swirl.

More cyclists and more walkers pass by. Some focus straight ahead more intent on their steps than the beauty and peace of the setting they are walking through. Some people are talking on their phones, while others are deep in conversation as they walk.

Mornings reflections looking at Fair Oaks Bluff

A car pulls into the round parking area in front of the boat ramp and stops. It pauses a few moments and then drives away. Many drivers and w visit the boat launch ramp to enjoy the view. I see them sitting still in their cars, not getting out. Just sitting still and looking out the windows. Walkers come and sit on the memorial bench that faces Fair Oaks Bluff. The Bluff is often referred to as the “Crown of the Parkway.” The steep cliffs eroded over millions of year and the sedimentary rock face clearly defines its history.

As I walk off the bridge, I hear the rooster continue to call out looking for a friend. Two Canada Geese paddle slowly through the water to the riverbank.

Gratitude

Sunday, May 26, 2019  7 am

So many quiet mornings I see no wildlife flying in, swimming or diving. The river flows swiftly and deep. I need to look for other ways to tell the story of this beautiful place hidden away from busy urban spaces.

I feel grateful standing under partially cloudy skies and experiencing magnificent scenic views of the American River corridor even when the river seems empty. I see a brilliant ball of sunlight shining through clouds – and sometimes see no sun at all.

During many recent mornings, I have crossed Fair Oaks Bridge, walked the trail along the American River Parkway, and from Bannister Park to Jim’s Bridge (crossing the river farther east). My goal has been to experience the open space and the calm of the morning when few others are outside. I enjoy the cool wind against my face, the bird songs and the lonely roosters calling out to anyone who can hear.

At times when I have no words, I feel grateful. Voicing my gratitude for the beautiful spring day, warm weather and the beauty that surrounds me inspires the words to flow.

I feel grateful for the variety of trees in all their twisted shapes and sizes, sweet bird songs, green grasses and leaves. I feel grateful for the pale green moss that hugs tree trunks along the river trail. I notice weeds spreading everywhere boasting their own spiny purple flowers. I wonder when will the goats return to eat these weeds?

I walk on river rocks that line the trails – large, small, smooth round, jagged, curved and straight. I listen to the haunting call of a morning dove, the twitters and caws of other birds hidden in the trees that surround me. I enjoy the gentle curves and slopes of the dirt trail enclosed in greenery to create a walk with character, interest and a bit of mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

I stop to enjoy the abundant clusters of deep green leaves growing on mature oak trees. I marvel at the expansive oak tree canopy stretching its curving branches away from its central trunk as they reach for sunlight. I stand upon the edge of the trail and see deep pockets of green foliage set into a canyon.

I see trails crisscross leading deep into the parkway – some trails lead to the river, others to hidden concrete structures overgrown with ivy and often missed, secret picnic alcoves and islands where waterfowl rest and play. One day I found a small amphitheater long ago forgotten.

I feel grateful for patches of poppies yet to wake at dawn and the brightness of other wildflowers that live with them. I feel grateful to enjoy such beauty any morning, afternoon or evening I walk.

A Peaceful and Beautiful Morning Wake up

Thursday, June 13, 2019 640 am, 57 degrees

A sense of calm and quiet fills the air as I walk from Bannister Park to Fair Oaks Bridge and boat ramp.

Mornings reflections looking at Fair Oaks Bluff

As I stand on Jim’s Bridge, I watch the river move swiftly underneath. The air is so still, I listen to the whoosh of the water flowing downstream. I search for spider webs stretched across the side rails. I listen to birds fill the morning air with songs and enjoy the vibrant green on trees and plants and grass as I pass. The air is still cool and fresh and still. I greet many other walkers and runners also enjoying this peaceful morning. I continue walking down the Jedediah Smith Bicycle Trail toward Fair Oaks Bridge.

spider webs, Fair Oaks Bridge, morning, Jims Bridge, nature, outdoors, walks, beauty, scenic

 

Shortly after I walk on to the bridge, an Egret glides underneath it heading west. I always admire the Egret’s graceful, quiet flight and watch until it lands on the riverbank 100 yards away.

One boat sits in the water near the boat ramp. A fisherman stands at the end of the ramp casting in the water, drawing his line in and casting again. I walk down to the boat ramp for a closer look. Halfway across the river is an unusually colored small duck floats in the water. It is different than any other duck normally swimming in the river and continue to wonder about this. Suddenly it disappears. That is when I notice a fisherman  throwing his line out and the duck is attached at the end. Once more the duck bobs in the deep green water.

I stand and watch the fishermen throw their lines in, the men in the nearby boat as they sit and wait for a tug on their fishing line. I look up to Fair Oaks Bridge and see walkers, runners and cyclists cross the bridge.

I look across the river corridor at the deep colors of Fair Oaks Bluff and its reflection in the green shimmering water. 

The morning is so peaceful, even the two ducks standing in the water at the end of the ramp are standing in quiet contemplation. Occasionally a lonely rooster calls from a distance. Returning to Fair Oaks Bridge, I see two turtles are sunbathing on the log extending from the riverbank parallel to the bridge. They have been away for several weeks. I finished my morning walk not knowing the temperature had risen by more than 10 degrees and that I had been out walking, watching and listening for more than two hours.