For just a few extra moments, I postpone viewing the new day. Eyelids closed, I linger in dreamtime until familiar honking breaks the morning stillness in Benicia, thirty miles northeast of San Francisco. The world outside my window rests under the great Pacific flyway, the north-south path of North American migratory birds.
Eyes now wide open; I peer through the bedroom window in time to see Canada geese, a trio in flight, bound elsewhere, calling to one another, beaks pointed, necks stretched; chests lifted upward, wings flapping hard. I track their flight over Southampton Bay, the cove at Benicia’s west end.
The pale gray clouds of the marine layer blanket the opposite shore of the Carquinez Strait. Fully half of California’s water is funneled through this deep water channel on its way to the Pacific Ocean.
Cuddling under a soft, embroidered, cotton quilt, while I marvel at the waterfowl, Franz Kafka’s translated words come to mind.
You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked,
it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
The universe blesses Benicia with a significant year-round presence of waterfowl—mallards, coots, snowy egret, and the great blue heron. Spring brings an upswing in activity: nesting and the annual migration of some birds to points north.
Max's nose nuzzles me. The need to walk my golden retriever pulls me out of bed. We stroll beside the Jurassic Park-size-shoreline beach grasses. In the Benicia State Recreation Area, we take the path that runs three fourths of a mile into the park. Usually we turn back after a half an hour due to my reluctance to engage in more exercise.
On days when I feel more ambitious--Max never thinks twice about making our walks longer--we continue on to Dillon Point Road, another 1.5 miles. On clear days, I survey the future route of the Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail. Not yet finished, the entire trail will one day form a walking and biking path that rings Carquinez Strait.
But the Strait will always belong to the birds. Miles of tidal marshes offer ample rest areas for migrating birds and a year round home for some 100,000 waterfowl. The Audubon Society designates the nearby Suisun Marsh and the Benicia State Recreation Area as Important Bird Areas. I second that.
Audubon offers a three-page checklist of Solano County birds. Neither Max nor I plan on tallying our bird sightings anytime soon. Even so, the list serves as a useful guide for identifying birds, narrowing the possibilities among loons, grebes, sandpipers, swans, raptors, rails, larks, and the California quail.
Watching birds serves as a perfect way to experience the world’s beauty. As hobbies go, this one costs nothing and pays rich returns. Whether it’s an American white pelican soaring above or a sandpiper scampering on the rocky shore, these constant companions lift my spirits.
When I hear birds calling, I merely turn toward the window and the world rolls into view. Soaring above or resting on the water, they invite me to join the symphony.