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Bay Crossings Environment: Sharks First!
Riders of the Tides 
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Harbor Bay Honcho
Jack London Aquatics
Ferry Building Update
Ferry Terminal Set to Open
New Port Engineer (and what a spicy history the job has)
Hyde Street Harbor
You Can Call Me Al
Bill Coolidges’ Journal
Bay Area Bids Adieu to Madro
Bay Crossings Journal


By Bill Coolidge

Tiptoeing along the stony expanse of the tidal flat next to the sleepy marina, the heron’s fabulous tawny brown neck and azure breast feathers remain still, quieted in this ebbing brackish water. She is waiting for the tide

to bring her a fish. I am waiting for that pale light tipping the trees of Oakland Hills to ascend. Dawn nearing.

Far away across the waters I can see headlights crossing Coast Guard Bridge. An island workplace, though the two white ships vigil silently, lines taut at the dock. Only the hum of the ships’ generators reveal that they have an active life, while tied to port. All I think of is sweat, close quartered sailors, the relentless noise that never melts into background music.

The cattle egret has just joined the heron. The plodding tiptoe of a movement, like a dancer taking gracious time to lift thigh, high, stretch out the leg and then tenderly, firmly plant the step, the heron moves away.

The singsong has started up, as if orchestrated among the palms and purple bushes along the pathway. Three warblers on top of three lightposts begin a chorus. Two coots paddling toward me create the only wake in the Alameda estuary. I follow the pattern of their rippling, knowing at daybreak tugs, power and sailboats will ply these waters creating wakes often bristling with white, bullying their gentle trails by propeller strewn discharges. The coots passage will be lost forever so I watch their rippling wakes, riveted by how four little padded feet can leave such an intimate telltale.

At daybreak, birds rule. This time reminds of when I was in 5th grade at Gordon School, in southwestern Michigan in the mid-50’s. The bell would ring, recess! My desk by the window had already given me a view of the playyard, quiet, uninhabited except by squirrel or crow. The bell rings, my turn! That empty space beckoned. Football in fall, kickball until it snowed, softball in the spring. Unable to walk as the door opened, I galloped out.

There is a feisty northwest wind charging and curving around the docks and sailboats shaping an ‘S’ pattern, calm places, fringed by wind rivulets, changing, exchanging but I am attracted by the placid pieces of water, astonished at how the wind can swivel and turn, ignoring the man made things in it’s way.

This sense of calm is temporary, I soon see the currents of incoming tide, swelling up, collecting the coots’ wake hiding their crossing.

No fog now is snagging the sun’s attempt at illuminating the low lying life where I stand, docks edge next to the city boat ramp. The heron breasts her feathers, a flutter, a stoop then a rising as if in that short hop she caught the first thermal of the sun’s rising. Her wings brush once, then twice, she levels out about 3 feet above water’s surface. The cattle egret remains, unmoved by the leavetaking, her head looking down, looking down.

Like an artist’s canvas, suggestive not definitive, this dawn does not need my activity nor yours for completion. This crevice growing between dark sky and green tree yearns for nothing more, not even an additional brushstoke.

So much of my brittle life has focused on getting things started and finished, moving on, moving on, always moving on to the next task. Along the way I made money, a career, a family, a reputation, achieving ‘closure.’ Always intent on "tieing up loose ends."

Questions haunt me this morning, "How am I to have input into this day’s fresh start? Just what part of it needs my feedback?" When I was a boy, before the age of 13, I would paddle a canoe out along a rocky edge of an island point and stare down. The canoe slipping along, a foot or two above rocks and weeds. Perch and bass would slither in and out of this human unfriendly bottom and I would stare. Glimpsing a life unattached to mine.

The perch would often pause, like a ruffled grouse, ready for angled flight at my next movement, but I wouldn’t. My curious gaze was enough to quiet their fears and they would continue the zigzag of their life.

In a few minutes, I will reach out and hold the hand of my sweetheart and we will walk to my truck which will transport us to work. Across two bridges, amongst a thousand cars and trucks on their earnest way to an office, store, apartment or house. It will be a day of rough edges and surprises, some sorrow and no doubt anger.

By midday my forehead will be filled with furrows. Will I pause then?

Will I look out the window of my workplace, over San Rafael Creek, out the San Francisco Bay, along the Alameda estuary taking in the ‘S’ configuration that the wind creates shimmering through the gap of Coast Guard Island and my marina?

Will I stop, gaze and remember? And not in any wonder or awe, notice that the coot, the egret, the mallard, the warbler are still singing, paddling, and fishing? Right through ‘rush hour’ traffic, right through the tugs heading out, in between the white sheets of sails billowed capturing for a moment that curving wind?

Life, work, closure are not detached for these winged ones as they criss cross the waters, as they wing and sing. Dusk will hasten their silence and roosting. There will be no ‘closure’ really, as they rest and doze rocked by water’s swell or caressed by wind’s currents. They are unable to count up the ‘loose ends’ of the day nor are they harassed by a long list of items written on a sheet, on a desk, awaiting their presence at daybreak. Tonight they dream, they trust, they dream.