Thursday, May 29, 2014

Island living: In the stream

“When we cast our bread upon the waters, we can presume that someone downstream whose face we will never know will benefit from our action, as we who are downstream from another will profit from that grantor's gift” —Maya Angelou, 1928-2014


When I lived in Santa Cruz while attending UC Santa Cruz, I'd meet a friend at the harbor three mornings a week to row a zipper out into the bay for a good hour. Sitting atop the water in a kayak feels like being a duck or scoter. You're pretty much in the stream with everyone else, short of committing to swimming, eye-level with otters and seals, pelicans and gulls. But while I've enjoyed kayaking on and off in the years since, mostly on vacations to warm lovely places like New Zealand or Hawaii, I hadn't ever thought to get my own. Then I married a man with a decidedly nautical bent—if guitars aren't been played or read about boats are.  Late last year, he read about Oru Kayaks, which makes origami kayaks. Yes, you read that right. Origami. Oru makes kayaks out of single sheets of plastic that fold up into 25-lb boxes you can put in the car, on the boat or carry up a trail.  Their motto is 'from boat to box in 5 minutes' and since two boxed up Orus arrived on our doorstop we've started taking them out around Alameda, which between the bay and the estuary offers a lot of kayaking options.  The kayaks were a little stiff first out of the box —I've needed help getting mine fully assembled so I'm still aways from 5 minutes— but once together are light and watertight, and glide beautifully and silently over the water...like a duck.  

A couple weeks ago, I noticed a new mural while driving over the Park Street bridge. A few days ago I was visiting a friend who lives in Jingletown, the warehouse, live-work space, art and mosaic- (IMA used to be based here) filled neighborhood just over the estuary,  and discovered the mural was right up the street. Painted on the side of the Oakland Museum's White Elephant Sale Warehouse, and within a few wing beats of the Peregrine Falcon-housing Fruitvale Bridge, it depicts several, mostly non-native species: a tropical bird I don't recognize, a chameleon and some elephants as well as the head of a condor.  The mural is bright and compelling as murals can be, but I'm flummoxed by the choice of subject matter (save for the elephants, given the building that serves as its canvas).  How cool would it have been to focus on native species? In any event, it's right by a waterfront park and the UCB boat launch so getting up close makes for a pleasant outing. Bring your binocs and look up for the falcons while you're at it— they're going to fledge soon — as well as the herons and gulls and ducks and other birds that frequent the estuary.