On my rush hour drive home today, a CHP officer stepped out in front of a semi (excuse me, a “big rig”, as they call them here). He gestured for the big rig to stop using a two fisted hammering motion — the closest thing to a wave that he could make while holding two fists together. The car in the next lane slowed in turn and he stepped in front of it. He hammered toward me, in the third lane, and I slowed to a stop. Cars to my left followed suit and the officer crossed the other southbound lanes. A second man, holding his hands out in front of him in the same manner, followed.
The men were carrying something. I looked carefully and realized they were each carrying a fistful of ducklings. They stopped in the carpool lane and looked back toward the right shoulder. I followed their gaze and saw that the mama duck was there toeing the white painted line anxiously. The two men waited and she took a few timid steps into the first lane and then lifted off — taking a skittish flight to the barrier at the freeway median.
The two men climbed over the barrier to repeat their performance across the northbound lanes. Traffic on my side waited for a moment, though there was nothing stopping us from moving. I took the initiative, stepping on the gas. Cars behind me and in the other lanes followed suit. Two hundred yards ahead, I was back in 15 mph traffic.
Today I walked past the apartment where Scott lived for a year when he was a student at California College of Arts and Crafts. He lived there fifteen years ago and I flew down one time to visit him and to spend some time in San Francisco.
I’ve been on that street seven or eight times since I moved to the East Bay — five years ago. Three or four of those times were in the last three months, as I recently moved to an adjacent neighborhood. Today I thought to look down at the sidewalk, at a spot where one afternoon (fifteen years ago) Scott had stopped and turned a penny over as we were walking from his apartment to Piedmont Avenue. Pennies are lucky when they’re heads up, he explained. That penny had been tails up. Not lucky for me, he said. But it would be lucky for the next person to come past.
Today, the spot that I selected as the place where this had happened was a narrow path of newly poured concrete crossing the older weathered sidewalk, filling in where a sewer lateral had been replaced on a house that had been lifted for a new foundation.
In the wetland area on the landfill side of the San Rafael seawall, a limber white and black patterned bird tips its black needle-nose beak into the alkaline water. It has twiggy orange legs with ankles at it’s legs’ halfway point — looking like backward bending knees. It stalks something with short springy steps. A couple of sparrows intrude in its space and it takes flight, low over the water, scattering the sparrows.
I think that I should keep a record of the birds that I see there. It will give me a sense of the seasons passing. Later, at home, I check the field guide. A black-necked stilt. It’s non-migratory. It’s not going anywhere.