14 September 2016

It Was Like a Day at the Beach -- Only With Crows

Photo by yours truly.

The crows approached as soon as I took the sandwich out of my backpack. Two of them. About 20 feet apart. Walking steadily. They stopped a safe distance away and waited and watched and acted nonchalant. If I didn’t give them any food it was cool cause they were just hanging out. Finally I threw a piece of crust toward one, then the other. This went on for a bit. They edged closer. Now I threw a piece to one but it landed just a few feet away. Very close to where I sat. The crow edged toward me. Then stopped. I made a point to sit very still. Now it approached the bread sideways, I guess so that if there was trouble it could fly straight off and not have to come towards me. The other black bird did the same when I left a piece for it quite close to me.

I finished the sandwich and produced a small bag of almonds. I shared them with my new friends. A third one flew in and joined in the feast. Two of the crows got into a dispute over one almond that I had accidentally thrown in between them. One of them puffed up and appeared menacing. The other backed off. When I finished eating the crows stuck around for a bit. They knew I was safe and they might as well graze the area for anything they’d missed or might have been left by someone else.

I was at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Usually when I have a week off I’ll make the long trek from Berkeley to the Pacific Ocean. I take BART into the city then hop on MUNI metro. I always look at it as a good opportunity to catch up on my reading, the long travel time, I mean.

Today was one of the rare occasions that the sun was out at Ocean Beach. It seldom appears there. Usually the area is blanketed in fog and is chilly. Today it was merely cool. I was there once when it was warm. That was during a heat wave and the rest of the area was baking while at Ocean Beach it was comfortable.

My lunch companions.
I like looking out at the ocean. There’s nothing, really. Aside from more ocean and endless horizon. When your looking out on the bay you can always see a bridge, an island, cities, hills, you name it. But when you stare at the ocean, ocean is pretty much all your seeing. True, in the immediate foreground there are surfers, waders, people fishing, people strolling and dogs romping. Also today I saw a ship. But when you look as far as the eye can see there is, in some respects, nothing to see. It’s akin to looking straight up into a cloudless sky. But the ocean is beautiful. It’s an amazing force of nature, vast and powerful and rich with secrets. You can always wonder what’s out there, hidden below the surface. Crabs, sharks, whales, salmon, sunken ships, submarines, the remains of a drowned sailor, Poseidon himself, maybe a mermaid.

The Pacific is especially beguiling because of its vastness. My father and older brother sailed the oceans. They loved it. I wish I had. When I was a boy we would often go fishing in the bay and sometimes out into the ocean. I miss that. I’ve only done it once as an adult and that was many years ago.

I take great comfort from the ocean, whether riding on it, looking down on it from an airplane, or staring at it. I know that it can swallow a person up, I know that is deadly, but it is, so far as we know, unique to our planet and one of the greatest powers and masses on it.

Waves are nice too. The steady pounding of wave after wave on the shore is soothing. I always — and today was no exception — feel so much better mentally after visiting the ocean. I think I could secure mental health for the rest of my days by living walking distance from an ocean. Wouldn’t even have to be the Pacific.

I suppose it happens but I don’t recall seeing any fights by the ocean. In the middle of a crowded city, yes. A park, sure. At sports or concert venue, on public transportation, but at the ocean, no. When you walk along the beach people smile at each other at a far greater frequency than they do in other places. I like that.

Sand. I didn’t even get to sand, or sea shells or driftwood or other detritus. There’s a lot going on and nothing going on at the same time. There’s stillness and activity all at once. There’s calm and excitement and there sure is beauty. Even crows. 

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