Darkness shrouds the Delta when I leave work. A snarl of traffic east of the Rio Vista bridge suggests that I am not alone in my urgent need for home. Ahead of me, a truck slows just before Jackson Slough. The delay draws anxiety from the pit of my stomach. I tap the steering wheel. My eyes flick to the side view mirror. I gauge how close I can get to the corner before I slip to the right of the semi. But I wait.
When I pull my car onto the loop I have no thought of my surroundings. Then a rush of feathers and a broad silver wing swoops in front of me. I brake. My heart pounds. An owl; I’m sure of it. I saw the green gleam of his wary eye. I slow my breathing, shift my foot to the accelerator and continue towards Brannan Island Road. By the time I reach the climb before the San Joaquin, I am calm.
Boats moored in the marinas to my right stand still in the moonlight. In the silent fields of Andrus Island, occasional flutters signify that flocks have come to their nightly roost. They will huddle until daybreak, then lift as one into the whispers of morning fog, toward the sun’s warmth and out onto the river in search of food.
When I have parked outside my tiny house, I sit for a few minutes listening to the cooling of the engine, the ping and tingle of hot metal in the damp evening air. Across the meadow, Christmas lights twinkle on a neighbor’s rig. Caws high overhead tell me that the crows have lighted on the towering branches of the park’s old trees. Everything falls silent as I exit the car and start towards my tiny house. I open the door and step into a waiting peace which defies the sadness lurking in my heart and strengthens my fragile grasp on tomorrow’s potential.
It’s the twenty-first day of the seventy-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.