On Safari in my Backyard
Stressed? Broke? Feel like crap? Screw it go on Safari. No I don’t mean go out and use the last of your already waning credit and book a trip to Africa or some 3rd world country. I mean grab a camera or fishing pole pack a lunch and hit your nearest lake, river, wildlife refuge, or.. If none of these options are available then do what I do go on Safari on your own backyard. Leave your cell phone at home, or at least in the car, and take the time to sit somewhere far from the madding crowd somewhere that you can just sit and observe, listen, get in tune with the environment around you. Detach yourself from your personal issues, concentrate on getting that perfect capture, observe how the light filters through the trees or filters through the mist, focus on what the birds are doing. Are they flying? Are they stationary? Do they appear to be sitting at the dinner table or on their way to it. To take great wildlife photos or catch fish consistently requires patience and awareness to be patient usually means you have to focus, for some of us this can be extremely difficult for me it is something I have to practice on a daily basis. Photography and fishing are my stress relievers they are how I take a break from the everyday stress that at times can seem overwhelming.
Due to circumstances beyond my control I was one of the many Americans forced to relinquish my home of 20 years to the bank. Because of these unfortunate circumstances it became necessary to find new and cost effective living arrangements. Enter the Island. The Island is surrounded by farm land and is located in a remote section of the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta system. It is in an area termed by the media as The Last Frontier. The Island was settled In the early 1900’s and was once a thriving asparagus farm but now due to years of neglect and someone’s moronic decision to run cattle, the Island is now a great lake surrounded by a strip of land that is maybe 50 feet wide at its widest point, from the air the land mass looks similar to a Crescent Moon.
Habitable structures are no longer allowed on the Island but parcel owners are allowed to maintain their docks and in our case a deck as well, we can plant a vegetable gardens as the Island is zoned for agriculture and if you don’t mind spartan living conditions and commuting in a skiff from the levee to your front door which in my case is a 43′ houseboat the Island is a great place to live. The privacy is beyond reproach, the photo and fishing opportunities are among the finest in the State and while at times life on the river can be difficult there is something to be said about waking every morning to the sounds associated with living in the middle of a natural wildlife habitat.
Here on the Island I am literally on Safari 24/7. The photo, fishing and hunting opportunities here abound. The lake that now encompasses the Island’s interior and the river that surrounds it is a veritable wildlife extravaganza and on any given day you can photograph several different species of egret, heron, ducks and geese, there is a healthy nesting population of raptors that include Osprey, Owls, Redtail Hawks, Coopers hawks and Kestrels. The area is a regular stopover and nesting site for doves, swallows, starlings and a wide variety of hummingbirds and song birds. It is not uncommon to see otter, beaver and muskrat patroling the river in search of food or just plain goofing off.
As a General Contractor (now retired) I took for granted the world in which we live most specifically Nature, I couldn’t seem to stop and smell the roses. Having my health fail and losing my home could be almost construed as a gift from the heavens, I was a slave to my home and the almighty dollar, on my days off I would be in a hurry to take a rest, I would spend money I didn’t have on extravagances I could not afford and would justify doing so by telling myself “It’s OK you need a break” the fact is, these forced breaks would only make matters worse and help me to slide deeper into debt. I began to dread things that I used to enjoy like the winter and the rain. Rain meant no work and no work meant no money. Add a recession and failing health you have the recipe for disaster or Safari in my case.
Living here on the Island has forced me to relax, I no longer have a huge house payment to worry about, I am learning to live within my means, I have just recently come to realize that I once again love the rain. When I start feeling sorry for myself I grab my trusty Nikon D90 or my favorite flippin stick and go outside.. I go on Safari. If my funds are limited and I can’t afford the fuel to take a boat ride, I turn off my generator and sit in silence on my deck in the backyard, I sit with my camera and observe, I focus on the everyday rituals of the abundant wildlife that inhabits the area year round. I focus on the sunrise and how the light illuminates and refracts on a foggy morning, I marvel at the spectacular Delta sunsets and how the waning light of the sun filters through the clouds to form a brilliant canvas as if painted by the hand of God. Yep….. being on Safari in my own backyard can be memorable experience on a daily basis.