Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What A Park!

Yesterday, I went walking with a friend at Laguna Lake Park. We hadn't walked there for some time as we had become enamoured of Bob Jones Trail south of town. We loved walking on a smooth path (it's a bicycle path)through the oaks and sycamores.

We parked near the lake, not too far from the area where people aften come to feed the birds. Sure enough, there were many of them waiting--birds, birds, birds! Geese, gulls, ducks, coots, and others I couldn't name, were gathered there, some squawking loudly, as if in protest, some just standing in the sun, and some running hither and thither looking for morsels of food.

As we got out of the car, a small gull stood nearby. He watched us, waiting to see what we might have to offer. He wasn’t afraid of us at all. I’m sure he was hoping for a hand-out, but we had nothing to give him, and went on our way, leaving him to ponder our selfishness.

The Lake looked like a big blue gem sparkling in the noonday sun. There was a fresh cool breeze coming from the direction of the ocean, and I was glad I had brought my jacket and scarf, which had almost seemed unnecessary when we started out.

We took the road along the shore, and walked toward the small dock form which people can launch their boats. We could hear all sorts of bird sounds—songs, twitters, and chirps, coming from the trees we passed, and yet we couldn’t see one bird.

It has never failed to amaze me how hundreds of birds can hide themselves completely in a tree, even a small one. And then, if something disturbs them, they rise up out of that one small tree like a sudden cloud of birds.

Because of the recent rains, the grass was smooth and green, not the dusty brown you see in the dry months of the year. I thought I saw a ground squirrel in the meadow a few yards away, and it reminded me of one we saw once on a hot summer day, standing on his haunches trying to eat something from the top of a dry weed.

Just as we stopped to watch him he lost his balance and fell over backwards. He looked so surprised! But he got right up and tried again. After nibbling for a moment, he went over backwards again. This time, he looked a little sheepish, but still, he got up and took another whack at it. We were admiring his persistence in the face of confusion, but, alas, he fell back again. I swear he looked embarrassed, if a squirrel can be embarrassed!

When we continued on our way, he was still looking up at the weed, as if wondering what he should do next. I have a feeling he figured it out in the end and got what he was striving for.

After walking for some moments along the shore, we turned and followed a shady path that ran between two rows of eucalyptus trees. It led us to another path going back in the direction from which we had come, past the refurbished restrooms, looking very spiffy, and then past the off-the-leash playing area for dogs.

We wondered how the owners know the dogs will get along and play with each other instead of growling and snarling and getting into fights. I don’t know the answer, but dogs of various sizes, shapes, and colors were cavorting about happily with no signs of tension at all.

How lucky we are in San Luis Obispo to have this large and beautiful park! It’s set apart so completely from the hustle and bustle of the city; you feel as if you are out in the country, even though across the lake you can see houses, docks, and boats. You can’t hear any sounds of civilization, not even the traffic along Madonna Road.

In every direction you can see hills, either close by or far away, and, in addition to the rather tame assortment of birds that wait for food, wild birds come looking for food, either in the park itself, or along the edge of the lake. We have seen egrets there, and sometimes even Great Blue Herons standing still, waiting, in the reeds.

I don’t know of anything more beautiful than the sight of a Great Blue Heron opening its enormous wings and taking flight. What a privilege to see such lovely wild things up close!

No matter how contentious and crazy the world may seem to be, there are still beautiful things in it to enjoy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year

I've been listening today to comments about the New Year: Should we or should we not make New Year's resolutions? If we do, will we keep them? Why do so many of us male resolutions and then not make a serious attempt to succeed? And so on.

I think that if you make a resolution because you think you ought to, you will probably fail. If you make a realistic resolution about something you seriously want to change about yourself, you up your chances of success. Especially if your resolution is specific, measurable, and has a time limit.

On the other hand, the idea of making a change at the beginning of a year implies that this is going to be a different kind of year than the one just past.

The only trouble with that is that no one can live a year at a time. You can visualize a wonderful year in which all your bad habits are gone, but you can only live it as you go, one day at a time, or sometimes, one moment at a time.

Now that I am old, I have given up worrying about what I ought to do, and instead am having a lot of fun figuring out who I am, what is important to me in my life, and then living with as much enthusiasm and integrity as I can muster.

I like the Dalai Lama's comment: "My religion is kindness."

If I have a resolution, it is one that is within me this year, last year, and next year: to be kind, kind to myself and to others. I don't mean a sentimental, slushy kindness that condones everything. I mean an attitude of kindness and grown-up understanding in the face of both wrong doing and right doing.

That's what's fun about being old. You can make up your own mind about yourself. Looking back you can see all the lousy advice you got, and followed, from other people during your lifetime, and all the trouble it got you into. So now, I'm just who I am, and am willing to take all the reponsibility for any train wrecks that occur.

I guess that means I resolve to laugh, be creative, help others, and enjoy life even when things go wrong.