Snippets
1:41 p.m. on February 17, 2005

The tell-tale sign that you are in Northern California, are the turkey vultures flying overhead at all times. I think this is a new phenomenon over the last 10 years, I do not recall seeing them when I lived there, but now they are the predominant bird circling the ever expansive fields and hillsides as you drive along highway 101. They look majestic while in flight, but if you see them sunning themselves on the side of the road, you shudder at their ugliness.

On my first morning home last week, my Dad urged me to put on some shoes and come outside; he had something to show me. I quickly followed him out the front door and looked up at the many gnarled branches of the two large oak trees that rest in the front yard. There was about a dozen Northern Flickers sitting in various spots of the trees, making sounds like oilcans "wik-a-wik-a-wik-a”. I have only seen this type of bird once before and never in California, although I guess they are a fairly common kind of woodpecker. The coloring is very striking with black stripes on its brown back, black spots on its tan front, orange tail feather’s, a black bib just under the chin and an orange stripe below each eye. We each stood quietly for about 30 minutes watching the mating ritual of each bird couple.

Long after I moved out of my family home where I spent the first 18 years of my life, my parents were visiting me and told me some people had bought the Walnut orchard that connected to our property. For years that orchard had gone un-owned and was a huge part of my childhood. As kids, we would run free for hours almost everyday, climbing trees, eating walnuts, swinging on rope swings, making tree forts and running through the adjoining creek bed; it was the best. The walnut tree that sat on the edge of our property had a large limb that was stretching across the property line, so the new owners of the orchard cut off that limb. Upon hearing the news, I began to cry and had a total breakdown right in the middle of the restaurant where we were dining. This was no ordinary limb and no ordinary tree. This walnut tree had a large limb that almost looked like another tree growing straight out the side of the trunk. The limb grew out and swooped down to the ground and then twisted back up and curved out. It was as if the tree was reaching down to us to help us climb up. That tree was a good friend and the best playmate. I have probably logged a million hours spent up in that tree, helped up by the tree itself. Hearing of its’ cruel amputation sent me in a tizzy of sadness over the loss of the tree’s kind arm and the loss of my childhood. Now so much time has passed; the orchard is private property and we cannot even walk through it to get the creek. The new owners built a giant house as well as a separate garage that is larger than our whole house. They put a big shed at the base of our property and sullied our view. They cut down 90% of the trees and paved over the field where we used to collect ladybugs. I get a pain in my chest whenever I look down the hill and see what is gone forever.





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