I rush to Fair Oaks Bridge this morning expecting to see it covered in fog. No hint of fog and very little mist on the water. Instead I enjoy a pale yellow sunrise masked behind dense strips of white clouds.
Minutes after I arrive on the bridge, a crowd of cyclists rumble past me riding from the bicycle trail on the American River Parkway on their way to Fair Oaks Village. A few walkers pass by enjoying the cool morning. Birds twitter unseen in the distance.
I hear the sounds of Canada Geese honking far off in the distance east of the bridge. What sounds like the whistle of a train echoes immediately west of Fair Oaks Bridge. Intervals between the “call and response” echo of the geese and the train get shorter and shorter, until they are both honking and blowing very loudly at the same time. Two geese finally arrive and continue honking as they fly over the bridge.
A gentle wind blows against my face. I expected the air to be far colder, dressing in leggings, jeans, sweater, jacket and gloves. Instead the air feels warm. The sun slowly emerges from behind heavily blanketed cloud cover to reveal a glowing yellow fiery ball of light. The train whistle continues and the Canada Geese keep up their honking as they swim across the river channel. What a noisy morning! I always wonder what are these geese saying to each other?
A few more walkers pass. Another lone cyclist rides on. I walk to the boat launch ramp to get a closer look at the wildlife. All is quiet here. Three ducks walk up the boat launch ramp. I have no food to serve them.. The same noisy pair of Canada Geese swam over to dunk for breakfast.
Diving ducks swim calmly in the center of the American River. Now you see them. Now you don’t. When you do see them again, they have surfaced somewhere else.
A sense of calm and quiet fills the air as I walk from Bannister Park to Fair Oaks Bridge and boat ramp.
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.
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.
Every “place” has distinctive characteristics that set it apart from somewhere else. A sense of place is character, setting, mood, people, landscape and senses. Uniformity and sameness is “absent” when defining sense of place.
Listed below is a set of questions to help define a sense of place in a neighborhood, park, historic site, national or state park, or a one-of-a-kind restaurant. A bakery located on a main street with traffic buzzing by will offer a sense of place far different from the bakery nestled in a quiet neighborhood, known only to residents and friends.
Who are the people who have lived in this place? (today and many yesterdays)
What are the sounds of this place?
What are the smells?
What are the activities?
What is the weather? (today and through time)
What are the unique characteristics about this place that sets it apart from another places?
What is the landscape of this location?
Spend an hour to reflect, write, and reel in your senses to define a unique sense of place.