Friday, September 20, 2013

Say what?

I was walking during Noon Hour today in my old neighborhood.  It's a beautiful old area, mostly developed in the 20's and 30's as the commuter railroad extended out to North Berkeley.  The houses are large and genteel with mostly spacious yards, but not much space between them.  There's lots of oak trees and the occasional redwood or cedar or sycamore tree.  Though I was near a major business district, it was quiet out that way, as it nearly always is.  That's one reason I go there for a long walk.  It's a half hour away by foot, up and down lots of hills.  I turn around and head back to the campus at the north end of the Solano Tunnel and I can get back to my office before they start wondering where I am.

Some days I am hyper aware and tend to notice nearly everything that moves anywhere near me, from a passing truck to a finch flitting around a shrub.  Today, however, I was striding down toward the turnaround point and was deep into a brooding reverie, thinking about things having little to do with my surroundings and barely noticing when cars or people passed by.  I stepped off a path down Los Angeles Street, and made a sharp right turn onto the Solano Avenue sidewalk that leads into the tunnel.  Across the street on a slope that leads up to Mendocino Avenue is a sizable bank of ivy under large spreading trees.  As I'd turned onto the sidewalk I looked at this ivy, as I normally do, and saw nothing but ivy.  A few strides later I heard a noise like a large human stamping around in it.  Looking back and expecting to see a street person rooting in the foliage, I saw a large buck deer with an impressive pair of antlers.  He and I stared at one another for a long minute, then he casually turned up the slope, seemed to levitate over the chain link fence and trotted up Mendocino Avenue toward Arlington Circle, no doubt in search of something to eat and a path back to Tilden Park.  

Deer in the Berkeley Hills?  No big deal, you might say.  It's completely common.  Still, I usually see a doe and a fawn or two.  This thing looked like an elk.  It seemed enormous.  Being partially a child of Sixties TV, I immediately thought of the Challenge Butter wrapper.  Then I briefly wondered if there was mountain lion around, but thought the better of that since there was no fawn.  I had a vision of looking back as I walked through the dusty oily darkness of the tunnel to see a large mountain lion stalking me, having failed to bag the deer.  People passing in buses and cars would be treated to the sight of me being dragged off by the hungry puma.

I was so removed and so blunted by the urban milieu that this impressively large animal was entirely invisible and inaudible to me.  I suspect that it was moving around eating leaves and I just never noticed it.  Would I have noticed it if it had been making weird little metallic clicking sounds or the whirring of a spinning flywheel as it's jaws opened and closed?  If I'd been a little sharper, a little more attuned to all of the world around me, I might've seen this magnificent beast before he'd seen me and had chance to admire him before he decided he needed a more peaceful lunchroom, i.e. someone's backyard.

The incident had me wishing I could check out for a while and go live in a place where one rarely hears a motor, rarely sees a man made moving object.  The High Sierras would do, or even an atoll in the Tuamotus.  Failing that, perhaps I could move my desk into the local redwood grove, and dispense bureaucratic ed biz whizdumb surrounded by a carpet of redwood needles, smelling the sharp woodiness of the great trees in the heat of a long afternoon.  I could bury the wires for my computer and phone.  I might even get something done.

Happy Friday, y'all.

7 Comments:

Blogger Don said...

Never, ever saw such wildlife around there. But your descriptions took me back to a very special place and I'm happier for that. Love that neighborhood. Imagine if those nefarious plans had gone through and it actually became the State Capitol. Weird to contemplate.

I want to ride the F Train across the bridge and through that tunnel ...

6:55 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Never, ever saw such wildlife around there. But your descriptions took me back to a very special place and I'm happier for that. Love that neighborhood. Imagine if those nefarious plans had gone through and it actually became the State Capitol. Weird to contemplate.

I want to ride the F Train across the bridge and through that tunnel ...

6:56 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Deer are seen more and more in those parts of town. In fact, people in the Berkeley Hills have been injured by deer in the neighborhoods, especially during rutting season and when there are fawns in tow.

Wildlife is getting less wild all the time. Witness the coyotes in Diablo Valley who no longer run from people, and regularly raid towns around the base of Mount Diablo for pets. We've had puma sightings in our little burg as well.

11:47 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

I would imagine if you moved your desk out amongst the redwoods you might one day just wander off and never return. . . . there would be legends among the Berkeley staff of a wild, grandly mustachioed ape-man seen only occasionally darting through the redwood groves, swifter and more cunning than his band of deer followers.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

How right you are, Roy! I could easily imagine wandering off to become the Apeman of Berkeley (my current employers might think I already have). I might not be the first and I might not be that swift anymore, but that's OK. ACLs and knee cartiledge are for sissies anyway, right?

11:30 AM  
Blogger Roy said...

ACLs and knee cartiledge are for sissies anyway, right?

Perhaps, and except for the fact that you might click when you walk (or rattle!) you should be good to go.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Yeah. I still am good to go. It's a weird, heavy knocking sound, and moments of extreme apprehension when I move sideways too sharply.

8:07 PM  

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