In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.
This holiday season caught me ill-prepared, which is becoming the norm for me the last several years. Time seems to spin faster and faster as I get older. The weekend before Christmas, I found myself running around town, getting the bulk of family presents. Our holiday e-greeting letter, once the first greeting card that all of my friends received for the season, has not been sent – yet. We have shifted from right after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
A lot of holiday traditions got squeezed this year. We watched the movie It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve while we wrapped presents. Instead of choosing each family member’s Christmas donation early in the season, we ended up deciding which organization – environmental, local food banks and homeless shelters, national and global human rights, and other miscellaneous nonprofits – we wanted to contribute to over our New Year’s Eve dinner. The kids always choose to save endangered or vulnerable animals. This year it was the pygmy elephant from Asia for my son and the Przewalski’s horse from Mongolia for my daughter from the World Wildlife Fund. David likes to support local organizations, and this year it was the Bay Area Rescue Mission, while I split my support between the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. The kids had been on my case about getting the donations out, so it was nice – if rushed – to follow through.
We were late this morning getting out to Muir Woods in Marin County on New Year’s Day, and ended up sharing the national monument trails with a lot of people. My daughter didn’t want to go this time and found reason to complain about myriad things such as the sharp object in her boot pricking her foot and being cold – even though we told our kids to dress warmly because it was a chilly and windy morning.
We were greeted by a swooping turkey vulture that shared the crisp air and moss- and fern-festooned trees with a pair of shiny blackbirds. And then something wonderful happened. We came upon a quiet and somewhat deserted part of the trail near the creek. We were on the lookout for coho salmon, which we read had been spotted spawning downstream. All the years we’ve been to Muir Woods on New Year’s morning, we have never seen the elusive fish, which die within days of spawning, because previous seasons had not been wet enough. The ranger at the visitor’s center told us they had counted approximately 16 of them. And we saw one of them, as still as the clear pool of water where it was resting.
It was a nice beginning to the New Year. Now for our traditional pot roast for New Year’s Day dinner.