I stood under a large Monterey Cypress tree the other day, watching the waves below a cliff along the beach, when I noticed a couple of bird feathers twirling out of the sky, spinning like helicopter blades, until they landed nearby. In another minute a few more fell. I looked up and on a high limb could see what I took to be a kestrel falcon, chewing on a smaller bird that he held tightly with his powerful claws. I could see the smaller, lifeless bird getting his wings torn off, by the sharp beak and claws of the falcon. I must have watched for twenty minutes, and while I did other people gathered around me to see what I found so fascinating.


Today the sky has again settled into a mode of gray. Rain looks likely. I see clouds in the early morning taking on that pillowy shape that usually indicates storm activity. The weather gods must want me punished for the several days of fine sunshine that I have been enjoying. Yesterday we drove south of the Monterey peninsula for an hour to have a picnic lunch on Pfeiffer Beach. It’s one of those special places, just a little beyond everybody’s ordinary reach, that makes the journey more memorable. After a three-day weekend of agreeable weather, the Big Sur coastline had emptied of its winter visitors. One last day of sun before the next round of weather nearly always draws me out of the house.

Thoreau says in his journal that when he sits inside a house he feels like he is in a hospital. He would go ice skating in the winter on Concord ponds when the fallen temperatures had driven most indoors. In younger days I’d stay out when weather was extreme, even go surfing in the ocean on days when ice fell on the surface of the water. Nowadays I might walk a mile or two of beach in the cold when well bundled. Have I become soft and forgotten how to push back against the elements?

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