Thursday, October 21, 2010


It’s 7:30 and just barely dawn outside. I forget about how dark it is in the morning as we get closer to the time change. Outside the open bedroom window where I stay in Livermore, there is what sounds like a whole army of birds chirping and chattering and singing.

I miss this kind of bird song. Where cacophony or symphony are the only words that can begin to describe it. It’s amazing, really, to sit and listen to it. The way it fills the air so completely. Louder than the cars going by. Bigger than the distant train, the little planes taking off from the nearby airport. We had the same thing in Dublin, especially around the creek at the little park where I used to walk Jasper every morning. It was so alive with the sounds of birds you could practically see it. In Sonora, I hear mostly a singular bird call in the mornings. I have no idea what bird it is, but recognize it as the same one I used to hear waking up in the early, early mornings in Yosemite. It was one of the things I first loved when I moved to my house last April. How I could wake up to that sound, and to the strong smell of oaks and pines and cedars, close my eyes, and be instantly transported to the canvas tent, the chill of the mountain morning, the warmth of the flannel inside the sleeping bag, the girls sleeping peacefully next to me, the pop of the morning campfire as Chris got it going.

Riding bikes past deer grazing peacefully in the late afternoon meadow. The way the granite face of Half Dome turned pink as the sun sank below the mountains and tree tops. The amazing array of stars. Summer thunderstorms. The spray of waterfalls on our cheeks. Holding their little hands as we hiked through the forest to Happy Isles, where the Merced River tumbles and roars its way down the mountainside with a power so astonishing it never failed to drop my jaw. And where I could sit, just like I could at Kepuhi Beach, for hours on end, in rapt wonder at the absolute glory of our amazing earth.

The sun is up. It is suddenly quiet. Remembering summer after summer, the only vacation we could really afford. A yardstick of the girls growing year by year; from the front pack to the stroller, to walking and running ahead of us on the trail. Graduating from the carrier on the back of my bike to their own—training wheels one year, the next balancing skillfully on their own. Pony tails giving way to French braids, glasses to contact lenses, Barbie and My Little Pony to reading quietly around the campfire or the four of us playing Yahtzee to the hiss of the propane lantern.

It is ironic that the only thing constant is change. Like the valleys carved by ice and flowing water, we are sculpted by the meandering creeks, rushing rivers, heady falls of life’s journey. Personally, I think I am beginning to sense a shift. There are hours, sometimes big part of days, where I feel almost normal. There seems to be less fighting what is, and more surrender. Less hanging on, more letting go. Some switch that is allowing a relaxation, almost a curiosity to fill more of the spaces of my days. A sort of grace that is allowing me, this morning, anyway, to notice, and to revel in the birds; to smile in the face of poignant family times and memories.

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