Smaller Adventure

Stephens Creek Natural Area

It’s sunny today and I head north with a tiny grocery list is in my pocket because I love to be quaint and today that means walking to the store for my weekly food stuffs. I cross Barbur and meander through South Burlingame to the park where I walk past the playgrounds, through the abandoned tennis court, then up the hill to Canby street where there is a shrine of various toys and figurines collecting dirt on an ivy covered burm.

I walk down stairs in the hillside and watch a Cooper’s Hawk hunt in a neighbor’s yard across the street. 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 engage in the odd practice of selecting my groceries by weight so my book bag won’t be too heavy going home. Next time I’m bringing my backpacking pack so I can distribute the weight onto my hips.

I feel squeamish about becoming impractically idealistic. 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 20s 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.

At the time I thought I was an inspiration for good stewardship but looking back I believe I was mostly just a grim and neglected relic of my own ideals.

I leave the store out the parking garage and take Bertha to Stephens Creek Natural Area. The first time I came here it was dusk. I locked my bike up along Capitol Hill 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 enhanced their menace into a Hitchcock-like scene. I loved it of course.

Now it is midday and there is not a single crow here. There is an Anna’s singing it’s lungs out above, robins hopping about listening for worms, a couple song sparrows calling. The crows are elsewhere, possibly even in my back yard hunting for bugs.

I stop and sketch the brambly woods a bit, head up the trail, then take 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 up the hill by the water tower and back down the other side to Barbur passing blackberries, brambles and disheveled gardens, a wooden cart with wheels sunk in the mud, a tarped boat. There’s an impressive variety of evergreen trees, some fragrant cedars and at least one Doug fir so tall the wind sings through its needles like the ocean.

I arrive and put my groceries away, enamored that I just carried them over a small hill having an even smaller adventure. I have a car, so it’s a privilege for me to indulge these quaint notions of life. It’s a shrine I’m building to a simple, slower and possibly fictional time when people weren’t cogs in a fast moving economy. If I don’t maintain this shrine it will collect dirt and become a grim notion that it’s the right thing to do.

Crows at Stephens Creek Natural Area

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