Smaller Adventure

Stephens Creek Natural Area

It’s sunny and I head north on a walk with a tiny grocery list is in my pocket because I love the quaintness of doing errands by foot. I cross Barbur and meander through South Burlingame to the park, past the playgrounds and abandoned tennis court, then up the hill to a quiet street where a shrine of various toys and figurines collect dirt on an ivy covered burm.

I take the stairs down the other side of the hill and watch a Cooper’s Hawk hunt in a neighbor’s yard. He dives into the ivy but comes up with nothing before disappearing around the backside of the house, each movement so quick it is only the distinct stripes on his tail that confide his identity.

When I get to the store I select my groceries by weight so my book bag won’t be too heavy going home. I decide to bring my backpacking pack next time so I can distribute the weight onto my hips and buy more food. To be honest, I feel squeamish about the impracticalities of my idealism. No one is going to be happy to bag my groceries into a deep outdoor backpack, and placing the eggs just right will be an act of unwieldy devotion. In my twenties I refused to buy a car, new clothes or even packaged food. One day I felt I needed some clear tape and it was a moral dilemma. I bought the tape but I’m not sure if I have forgiven myself yet.

I felt like an inspiration for good stewardship but, in retrospect, I was just a grim and neglected shrine to impossible ideals.

I leave the store and take Bertha to a little natural area with a trail along a creek. The first time I came here it was dusk. I locked my bike up along the road and descended toward the creek, raising the ire of a large group of crows. The dark sprawling branches of willows with their odd, obtuse angles in the dim light were enhanced by the birds Hitchcock-like menace.

Now it is midday and there is not a single crow here. There is an Anna’s Hummingbird singing it’s lungs out, robins hopping about the ground listening for worms, a couple Song Sparrows calling. The crows are probably on my roof eating the bread crumbs the neighbor leaves out

I stop and sketch the brambly woods a bit then head home on a foot path that sashays up the hill through the unmanicured neighborhood. Sometimes dirt, sometimes gravel, sometimes the bend of a narrow paved lane or the cracked pavement at the end of a cul-de-sac, sometimes lined by ivy or cut deeply by run-off the path carries me over the hill past blackberries and disheveled gardens, a wooden cart with wheels sunk in the mud, a tarped boat. At the crest there’s some fragrant cedars and at least one Doug fir so tall the wind sings through its needles like the ocean.

At home I put my groceries away, enamored with my tiny adventure. I have a car, so it’s a privilege for me to indulge in these quaint notions of life. It’s a shrine I’m building to a slower and possibly fictional time when people weren’t cogs in a fast moving economy. I don’t want it to become grim with the notion that it’s the right thing to do.

Crows at Stephens Creek Natural Area

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