Many of you know that I delight in the early morning joy of walking my heart out, and my lungs and my muscles. This week, during my normal 7 a.m. routine of walking the S.F. bay area shoreline with my four-legged companion, Henry, I note that I see more top-sided humans than I used to (compared to, say, a few years ago).
Remember when, back in the day, people strolled the neighborhood – sidewalks or nearby hills – and nodded to one another as they passed, maybe even calling out a cheery, “good morning,” or “so good to see you out and about, Mr. Brown!” Well, no more niceties now during the Age of Cell Phone Abuse. Nearly everyone has their heads turned down to their cell phone, to… what? Peruse the latest e-mail from a friend? Read their newspaper, check out the gossip on Facebook, twitter a quote to a stranger? But look what they’re missing right in front of their noses, if they’d only pull their noses, and eyes, front and center. In the early morning mist, pelicans cavort like babies in a bouncy house, racing back and forth, diving deep down and then soaring upward, to savor the school of visiting herring.
A woman with her two little bichons passes me and my big monster of a dog (to a bichon, an 11-year-old golden is a big bad scary beast). The white furry animals bark like seals in heat (and yes, I know that sound, since in the spring I hear the randy seals by the bay shore rocks, barking away).
The embarrassed woman gets out her big guns, a spray bottle, and I hear the swish swish of water aimed at her doggies as Henry and I leap by. I swear Henry’s head twirls toward them, chuckling at their humbling discipline.
And then there’s the man sitting in his car at the depot museum parking lot, reading his newspaper, which is propped up over his steering wheel. I notice him almost every morning, and make up a story. His wife kicked him out, again, and he’s getting his early morning coffee and front page read before he goes back home and asks for forgiveness, again. When my imaginings are more creative, he’s a C.I.A. agent who knows that soon a spy for the ‘other side’ will be passing secrets at any minute, here, in front of the bay and the pelicans and the seals, threatening world peace unless he’s stopped.
But sometimes I just listen to my footsteps on the concrete path, tapping in exercise mode; Henry’s paws on grass, muted and happy; the hundred pelican wings swishing in harmony, ethereal and magical; tiny dogs barking in the background and a woman’s soft voice chastising, “quiet now, quiet.” Swish Swish.
Can you hear those sounds, while your head is down, perusing your cell phone?
Does a tree make noise when it falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it?
What magic do we miss, when our eyes aren’t front and center of the everyday wonder occurring right in front of us every second?
I ponder these thoughts as I peer through the small museum’s windows, windows that overlook the bay and the creatures who live in and around it. To my surprise, I spy a tiny Santa’s elf, playing with the big toy trains that are tooting around and around the platform.
I snap a quick picture – will it turn out, or is he a figment of my imagination – and continue on my magical walk.
Cell phone in pocket, eyes straight ahead.