Thursday, July 06, 2006

Up close and personal

Today Maylin and I went to Monterey, California, with some old family friends and enjoyed a glorious day there. I have always remembered Monterey as a rather chilly city -- beautiful, but often overcast and crisp. We were lucky to have a sun-filled, warm day to spend at Dennis the Menace Park (a wonderful playground for children with many different play structures and two added bonuses: a drinking fountain within the jaws of a cartoony, fiberglass lion, and a real, retired steam engine for exploring), Fisherman's Wharf (for clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and fried calamari, which Maylin loved -- squiggly legs only), and the beach and tide pools at Lover's Point (where we said "bonjour" to a wee hermit crab with shapely, little blue legs, and collected pretty rocks and seashells).

One of my favorite moments of the day was feeding the flock of Canadian geese by the water, outside the children's playground. There's something really special about getting so close to these fearless creatures who jumped right out of the water to land inches away from me. I was so close to one goose's face I could have planted a kiss on his wet beak.

Last week, in the backyard of the home of another family friend, Maylin and I had another close encounter with a feathered friend. Actually, there were several little feathered friends -- three little baby robins in their nest, about a week old. We even saw their mom and dad there, catching little wormies which they doled out remarkably evenly among the three youngsters. It was fun to see these little ones so hungry, poking their little beaks out of the nest, saying "ah."

A couple days before the bird visit, we had another meeting -- but this time, with little furry creatures. On the lawn of a rest area off highway I-5, my brother introduced us to wild bunnies, squirrels, and gophers. Can you picture at least thirty cute, little, brownish-gray bunnies bounding around a public rest area? My brother's new bride, another rest area user, and I actually managed to corner a little bunny and thought we just might succeed in catching one for a pet (Maylin wanted to take one back for her "puppy," Leo). The little guy somehow managed to squeak by us and bolted like lightning. Those things are fast! We all spent a lot of time trying to catch a bunny, but they all ended up fleeing, escaping under a wire fence to hide in the tall, golden brush of the foothills.

The squirrels weren't terribly exciting, but we met a really funny gopher who unabashedly came out of his hole in the ground to look for food. It didn't seem to bother him that we were just a foot away. I was bad and tossed a few pebbles in his direction to provoke him, but I got what I wanted -- him to turn his head towards me and show me his long and sharp two front teeth.

I love animals and don't have an opportunity to interact with much wildlife in Paris (where is the wildlife? do pigeons count?). Sure, we've seen animals in zoos and on farms, but it's not quite the same as visiting critters in their natural habitat and in action -- foraging for food and running for their lives.

No comments: