To celebrate our anniversary, B. and I returned to the place where we got married two years ago. While I won’t give away the exact location, I will say that we took a marvelous hike on a previously unexplored trail in Mt. Tamalpais State Park (the Mt. Tamalpais Interpretive Association website has maps, hikes, and info on their astronomy programs, which are tremendous — it’s hard to beat sitting atop a mountain during a meteor shower). The trail was secluded, and we barely passed another soul for hours, socked in by the soupy fog that poured down the mountain, surrounding us in quiet. The damp brought out scents of pine, eucalyptus, and sweet pea. Brief moments of hunger we sated with blackberry and thimbleberry growing along the trailside. Seldom has any fruit tasted so sweet! That area’s network of trails is so vast you can easily walk down into Muir Beach or Muir Woods, to commune with redwoods in San Francisco’s own backyard.
As we walked back to our car after the hike, B. stopped, spying something in the road. Worried he’d be hit by passing cars, I asked, “What is it?” I followed his pointing finger to a small clump of downy feathers in the road. A baby bird, possibly a sparrow, had fallen from its nest or perhaps been dropped by its mother or a predator. There were no other birds to be seen. I swallowed hard at the lump in my throat, and cried at B. to do something. He quickly scooped up the fledgling and we walked away from the road a few yards. I feared the little creature wasn’t long for this world, as it peeped softly in his hand. B. said, “I don’t feel his heart beating particularly fast.” The little bird, pale gold with brown spots, looked at us, blinking. It was as if he was pleading with us to help, or maybe he was just waiting to see what we would do next.
Such seeming power, yet such helplessness! I thought of our poor cat, gone for years now, how he slipped away while I held him. And I thought of my mother– who throughout her life rescued many a wounded bird, aging and declining so swiftly while all I could do was watch. “Maybe his mother will find him.” B. ever so gently laid the bird in a soft patch of grass. I looked over in wonder at my partner, so kind and compassionate, and felt overcome.
Note: An inventive soul, John Olmsted, son of a noted naturalist, has come up was a wonderful idea to raise funds to help California state parks. Due to the state’s disastrous budget problems, it has slated about 70 of its state parks for closure (although luckily Mt. Tam is is not one of them). More general information, including a free app available for download, is available at www.calparks.org