Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Walking with Loki: Happy New Year!

Somewhat worse for the wear, and the time nearer to noon than an early riser like myself would prefer to admit, I managed to drag myself and the dog into our magnificent '86 Honda Civic and headed over to Fort Mason for a long New Year's Day walk through Fisherman's Wharf. On NPR, Sam Keen was discussing his Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds. It was a re-run and I had heard part of it before ... no matter because thinking about the miracle of birds is pretty much as spiritual as I get. I tell this anecdote, because Loki and I had unusual luck in casual birding during the three hours we wondered around.

But back up a little ... last night, we had a pleasant, long dinner with a few friends upstairs, eating AW's exquisite offerings and slowly, slowly drowning the old year in fine booze. We basically missed the big moment ... no countdown ... Frobisher quickly found a complete version of Auld Lang Syne on the net, and we sang that all the way through. And then we scattered just like the bunch of early risers we mostly all are, rebeling against being forced to stay awake past midnight.

And so it is 2008.

2007 for me: I started a blog, upgraded my computer life with a new desktop and laptop. I visited Vancouver. I read and read and read. The job went well, and the new boss has turned out to be even more revolutionary than I had imagined. Gave a few good parties, and the Christmas party was perfect. I think we ... that is my roommate and I ... made a lot of progress in ecologizing our personal habits. A good year, not earth shattering. Maybe that is why the days after Christmas often leave me a little melancholy ... good, not earth shattering. It's not that I am objectively stuck ... I have a good life, great friends, comfort and happiness. But some part of me keeps nagging ... isn't there more? Am I missing something that would require more guts, more glory, more risks?

So as Loki, my dog, and I wandered around the piers behind the tourist hordes at Fisherman's Wharf, and as the birds reigned above and on the water, I thought about guts and glory and risks, and living well, and figuring out what to do next.

The night heron at the top of this post was the most sublime avian encounter we had today. You don't see them that often. I saw three today, and one on Sunday when we also walked along the wharfs. I am assuming that they are night herons, but they might be green herons. I asked a couple of cops who were obviously part of the water patrol and who had stopped to look at a rather large starfish. Cops, even when you're being nice, have a tendency to look at you with undisguised skepticism. They didn't know. A couple of young, rough-looking fishermen did confirm they are night herons, and then volunteered that the night herons don't like gulls and harass them. Nice folks ... happy new year's all around.

We also saw several great blue herons. The pic above I actually took on Sunday. My little "belt camera", a late-model Canon Elph, has many positives, but a long telephoto is not one of them. 2008 will see some camera-upgrading once I have caught up with Christmas expenses. In the meanwhile, birds in my photos seem a little far away. But birds are never far away from my wandering thoughts. I have more or less given up on the iPod when walking the dog because I couldn't hear the birds.

Anyway, we also saw grebes, sundry gulls including one that I could not identify (gray body, white head). I'm not an expert of any type, so the assorted sea birds are confusing ... but I assume that we saw lesser scaups and some kind of merganser. We also saw a white egret ... or is that a cattle egret or a snowy egret. An egret nonetheless, and any day in which one sees three different species of egret/herons, well that is a good day. And once we left the shore, we saw and heard all manner of songbirds.

Before the walk, I had decided on creating New Year's resolutions that would be a series of monosyllables. I had three ... write, make, break ... and I wanted to add another ... go. But I tend to avoid even numbers of things ... that's a little nutty, of course ... so I set out to think of another monosyllable. The birds helped out ... fly.

Write, make, break, go, fly.

Write means that what I have started here I need to continue and expand.

Make means that I want to create photos and objects and aquariums and collections.

Break means I need to break up those parts of the comforts that I enjoy which interfere with thinking and changing and growing ... in particular my great comfort in solitude.

Go means I need to travel on down my roads gamely and boldly, and not be afraid to let go instead of running away.

Fly means I go to Europe again this year after taking a year off in favor of dentistry.

Living in comfort and as much security as any working middle class person can pretend to ... it obscures the fact that our world appears to be on the brink of an epochal change, and that change does not appear to be promising. So I can plan to write, make, break, go, fly, but what will it mean if the climate continues to decline more rapidly than even the most pessimistic scientists predicted only a few years ago? What does it mean in a society that continually accelerates the pace of living to the detriment of personal lives and the deeper satisfactions? What does it matter when I live in the midst of the greediest society that has ever dominated the planet, and as the lust for commodities crushes more of our planet ever passing moment?

I do not have answers for that ... not now at any rate ... but it did stir me to some side-vows that this will be a year in which I will not let the anger at the decline in our world impact my personal behavior ... no more fingers at Hummers, no more angry glares at the brain-dead cell phone herd, no more lectures to the passing impertinent. I still get to be cranky here, of course ... what the hell is a blog if you can't be cranky. But I am going to try to blithely ignore the ugliness through which I swim every day as I go about my business as best I can.

So, Happy New Year. Write, make, break, go, fly.

Photos by Arod.

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