I wake early but fall back to sleep, finding myself in the thick of dreams. The sky is heavy; the day dark. I don’t feel like walking out onto the street today; it’s garbage day, and the trucks will be droning down the block, spilling as they collect. Too much spillage. The radio also drones on and on and on about terrorism, fear, the reporting of terrorism, fear, the relationship of the reportage to actual terrorism, fear, ad infinitum, declaring this program the first in a series of programs designed to mark the anniversary of 9/11, the anniversary of the birth of fear. I don’t want to hear anymore naïve dreary chatter about terrorism and terrorists, fear, fear, fear. The day is too grey and the fog too thick for such miseries. I turn the radio off.
Mid-morning, I pull a warm sweater over my shirt, a jacket over the sweater, and drive to the Alameda shore. I am determined to walk with Earnest for at least two hours along the bay, taste the wind, watch the birds. The shore path is empty and the shoreline exposed, the tide pulled well away from shore, so far that the catamaran ordinarily afloat near the shore is revealed as sitting cozily on its cradles, designed to keep the boat from sinking into the mud on days like this. I know these super low tides are bonanzas for the shore birds who arrive in great flocks to scratch about the newly exposed mudflats, looking for succulent tidbits, and I look forward to seeing the waves of birds. I am not disappointed. When we turn towards Crab Cove, dozens of terns, seagulls, egrets, and sand pipers are hard at work, scratching and catching. They have little fear of humans and will only fly up if any motion detected on the periphery is too quick, too sudden, too unexpected, but the zigs and zags of a small dog are just that. Earnest can’t reach them – he is leashed – but they don’t know that. He zigs onto the rocks, zags back to the path, and suddenly the birds take to the sky as a graceful expanding wave, a great comma beginning at one point and swooping upward and outward. They rise as group, opening to the sky as a fan might open, but then just as quickly come apart. The fan unravels, exploding into a thousand bits of light against the slate sky as each bird shifts and dives, discovering its own direction.
By the time we arrive at the far edge of the beach, where the park gives way to sand and beach grasses, our little bit of wild, I realize that I have not encountered anyone at the beach this morning who speaks English as a first language. I have heard French, Spanish, Portuguese, several dialects of Chinese, and two people speaking what might have been Nepalese or Tibetan but no one conversing in English. When I realize that, my spirits soar. All the oh-so-serious early morning radio discussion of terrorism that teetered dangerously on xenophobia dribbles away. How glad I am to be living here where so many from so far gather to enjoy the park, walk along the water, sing wind songs and listen to birds as unfamiliar perhaps to their eyes as mine. We are all strangers together on this beach, speaking our own languages but none of us are afraid. Shortly after noon, the sun breaks through the clouds, and I have to take off my sweater. The day will be hot. Hoy dia, hace calor, a man watching tie my sweater around my waist calls out. Peut etre, a woman passing replies, maybe, and touches her daughters hand. The young girl looks up and smiles. A man sitting on a nearby bench smiles, widely. The woman beside him laughs, and gently brushes the hair from his face. The boy on the skateboard smiles, looks to the sky, and gives a thumbs up. The man with the baby carriage grins. The baby laughs. The sun is out. No terrorists here. No fear.
The worriers on the radio should come more often to the park and listen to happiness. The world is alive with it.