‘A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air’ (Genjokoan)
I would never describe myself as a bird-watcher, and know the names of few of the species I encounter, but I do enjoy watching birds. One thing I miss about living at Zen Center is spending time on the roof, with its panoramic view of the city sky, and seeing how all kinds of birds navigate the endless space. They don’t seem to mind what they land on, as long as they can perch. In my current location, I occasionally hear the mewing of red-tails high above as they circle the air currents in the lee of Twin Peaks; more often the high-speed clicking of hummingbirds whipping in and out of the trees behind the house, the busy chirping of sparrows and their like, or the unabashed squawk of the scrub jay. Up on the high points of the city, I love watching ravens playing in the strong wind on Twin Peaks, or roosting on the Sutro Tower, bossing their domain.
During the last Roaming Zen, we had four close encounters with different birds that were a real joy for me: on Circular Quay watching a long line of pelicans skimming serenely atop the waves; in the Fort Mason community garden, seeing a red-tail circle just over our heads, wings wide; up on Russian Hill, flocks of noisy parrots wheeling away from treetops; up in Ina Coolbirth park, a hummingbird twittering in a branch just a few feet away.
Once at Tassajara I was sitting up at the solar panels, and watched a Stellar’s jay arc with open wings right across the valley to alight on a branch on the overlook; gracefully covering in a few seconds what would take me about a quarter of an hour to navigate on foot. In comparison, on Richardson Bay I watch from my bicycle egrets intently staring into shallow pools, and occasionally have one fly alongside me as I ride, a sudden realised sense of mutual, silent freedom of movement.
An early morning bird over Zen Center
A raven takes off from Twin Peaks to survey the city below
I consider this my luckiest picture. I had been tracking the hummingbird coming to feed on the rooftop flowers at breakfast time for a week or so, and somehow caught this as it flew off.