Wild Surprise

Lime Ridge Open Space is a lemon-shaped ridge of grassland and chaparral wedged between suburbs. Steep hills drop to live oak and sycamores along Contra Costa Canal and rise to bald summits where red-tails, Cooper’s hawks, and white-tailed kites hover then stoop toward gophers and ground squirrels on the meadows. Yards with swimming pools back up to the border of the little wild preserve, a thick skin of town everywhere but the base that meets the foot of Mt Diablo. 

A packed-dirt trail runs along the spine of the hill’s hunched back. At noon most days I hike there under the hottest sun that keeps bikers, strollers, and dog walkers inside. From the peaks, I can see the city spread out over the flat pan of alluvial plain, traffic pumping along arteries, a haze like the exhalation of some great animal hanging over it. In the small ravines between hills, I see nothing but chaparral and hear only a distant, muffled hum of cars.

A fire truck siren floats up to me from Ygnacio Valley Road, and dogs in the backyards between pick up its whine, howling back. Thirty or so yards from where I stand, a wilder breed joins in. A pack of coyotes, sleeping through the summer heat in a den beneath a wide oak, wakes up and begins their maniac yipping at the siren, the dogs, the heat. I stand on an open trail below them, afraid to move or attract their attention, glad they caught mine. 

coyotes sleeping
first cricket sings them awake—
dogs go inside

for dVerse Poets Pub Haibun Monday: Take a Hike!

Episode 6 of the PoJo Show — a podcast mixing poetry, spoken word, music, and sound — is now up on the Sound Files page and on my YouTube channel. This show’s theme is Shark Week.

18 thoughts on “Wild Surprise

  1. I enjoyed your wild surprise and my virtual trip to another place I know very little about, Jedediah. I love that Lime Ridge is lemon-shaped, the variety of wildlife you describe, and the way the chaparral is wedged between suburbs – you have the best of both worlds.

  2. It’s amazing how nature can live so close to where we have found our so-called civilization. Nature is so different from where we live, but I spent some time many years ago in Southern California, and it reminds me a bit of the Santa Monica Mountains.

  3. Glenn A. Buttkus

    Sounds like the Southwest–AZ or NM. Excellent spirited writing, rife with fascinating particulars. I liked “traffic pumping along arteries, like the exhalation of some great animal hanging over it.” One reason I love your work is that it echoes my own style.

  4. Your prose is so pleasant to read and how you describe Lime Ridge Open Space says you have bonded with the place. There is something to be said for it. If there is time for podcast-listening, yours will be one I go to.

  5. A cinematic piece. The first paragraph was like a long panning shot moving up the valley, up into the sky and then down and we’re looking at swimming pools. Great visualisation – and the coyotes at the last adding music to the scene. Thanks for sharing this vibrant landscape.

  6. Holding one’s breath…I would too if I heard those sounds. But the description of this place is just wonderfully wrought. I especially like your description, from the peak, of what lies below you. Well done.

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