For the past thirty or so years, an early morning walk has been part of my routine, except for Wednesdays and Sundays when I take a break. In retirement, I at least wait until the sun comes up to head outside. Not to rub it in too much for family and friends waking up to snow, ice or rain, but the sun has actually been in glorious view for the last two weeks I've been in California.
I finish my coffee after Drew leaves for his job in Menlo Park, and wait for the sun to edge its way onto the wetlands outside our apartment windows.
Not for too long, though. I do have friends expecting me.
A wetlands trail winds its way just a stone's throw from our apartment, past waters and grassland, to an overlook 1.7 miles in the distance.
About five minutes down the gravel path, my walking partners appear.
Canandian geese, vacationing in the Bay area, greet me and pick up the pace. I can't tell whether they're chastising me for keeping them waiting or complaining about the rush hour traffic on nearby Highway 101, but they seem to be in a constant state of annoyance. Of course, since I don't speak "goose," I could have it all wrong.
Tired of too much walking and chatter, they stop for breakfast, allowing me time to catch my breath and take in the view. Seagulls, ducks and sandpipers gather on still waters, yards beyond a protective boundary. Their collective voices triumphantly rise above the continuous din of engines behind me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse movement and the tip of a pair of ears. For the past few days, I've noticed a jack rabbit skirting the trail, often crossing it just ahead of me, dashing into tall grass. I whisper goodbye to the geese and tiptoe in slow motion toward the ears. They pivot, twitch, then escape with a blur of fur into deeper thickets. I freeze with my camera at the ready, set to highest magnification. A moment later Jack steps cautiously from behind a bush, and I snap a burst of photos hoping one will capture him. And the next second, he's gone.
With the sun warming my back, I arrive at the lookout and gaze out on the natural beauty that surrounds me. Were it not for the vision and hard work of people I'll never know, these wetlands would be overgrown with buildings.
And the inhabitants ? Who knows.
I turn to retrace my steps and see a graceful reminder of why this wildlife refuge is more than a place of beauty. It is a home.
*For additional information: Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, Bair Island
Redwood City, California