I was only trying to get out of the inferno that was my house one July afternoon and maybe catch a breeze if I was lucky. What motivated me to take along my camera I can’t remember. Any other time I would have taken my fishing pole and whatever I could find in the fridge for bait. In the past few years, though, the fishing in the creek, over the levy where I was headed, hadn’t been worth the effort. Maybe I hoped to shoot a bird or butterfly or some other form of suburban wildlife.
This was my first trip of the summer over the levy to the creek. I fully expected to find a trickle of water lazily flowing through an otherwise parched creek bed, dry overgrown cat tails, and ankle high grass that snapped and crackled under foot. I didn’t. What I found was a lush oasis that snaked for miles through Sacramento’s North side. Not a dry blade or withered leaf could be found. There was no breeze in the world beyond the levy, but here it seemed to skim the water picking up a very pleasant grassy fragrance and gently wiping away the sweat from the tip of my nose.
I sat on the concrete edge of one of the creeks many tributaries. It was obvious that this one had not contributed in a long while. The rusted steel door was all but hidden by creek flora. The weight of my camera hanging from its lanyard around my neck only now caught my attention. I’d almost forgotten it was there. Now, what to shoot? I could have held the camera at arm’s length and snapped in any direction and it would have been an awesome shot. And I did capture lots of stunning moments though I refrained from any haphazard takes.
The landscape across the creek was even more amazing than on my side. It was mirrored off the water’s surface without a ripple. As pleasant as my side of the creek was the other side looked more inviting. More trees. More shade! The early afternoon sun taunted me to find a way across. Though I was dressed for it, wading across was not an option. This was still a creek fed by storm drain run-off loaded with everything imaginable that could find its way into a storm drain. The nearest bridge was about a quarter mile away. I could see it. I could also see there was no easy way to get there. In the past drier years there was a clear path to the bridge. This year it was a path only for fish and tad poles. I decided to be satisfied with the sparsely shaded concrete slab. I could get some great shots either here or there and it wasn’t that hot. (I’m great at excuses.)
After snapping a dozen shots or so I sat quietly and let the other side of levy drift out of my head. I had found a truly tranquil getaway. This was not the same creek that I had plucked sandwich sized blue gill from for the past ten years (when there was enough water to support them). This year the creek would be my little secret not to
be shared. If I invited someone along the tranquility would most assuredly be spoiled. The humming bird sipping nectar not ten feet from me would not appreciate the extra company. There would not be enough shade for another. The buzz of bees pollenating would be muted. I may as well stay in that other place with no cooling breeze and no reflections of oaks. I would not even notice small fish plucking insects from the water’s surface.
A while later the sounds of children making their way over the levy broke the serenity. They came with their sticks and throwing rocks into the calm water distorting the oaks. They came running and jumping and kicking and laughing. The humming bird was lucky to have wings that could whisk him to the other side where peace was still in abundance. My first reaction was anger that such a peaceful place was being overrun by utter disrespect for nature. Then I came to my senses. These children were a part of nature. A very innocent part of it. I myself played by a creek side not unlike this one. I threw rocks into the water and flung sticks across the creek. I imprisoned insects in mayonnaise jars. I did not appreciate or even notice the stunning beauty of it all at the time. And I realized that these kids were unaware or maybe unable to perceive the creek in the same way that I did and maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. To me this place was a sanctuary. A place for peace and quiet. To them it was simply an awesome place to play and explore. It served the same purpose for both; a brief escape from responsibilities.
More people came. This time adults with fishing gear. It then occurred to me that my sanctuary was not my own. It was not here for my pleasure alone. This was nature and should be enjoyed by all who love it. Once I settled with this reality it was easy to integrate the sights and sounds of the people with the sights and sounds of the birds, the bees, and the insects. I visited the creek only a few more times that summer, but none was like that hot July day when I came away with something that changed my perception of the world. From that day until this, I have had the ability to find peace and tranquility almost anywhere and at almost any time.
I never made my way to the other side of the creek. The side that seemed devoid of human presence. I had decided that it was better to be on my side. There were birds and bees and kids and fishermen. This was nature unadulterated.