Standing on hilltops
motion and change
Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is a 920-ft peak called Hawk Hill,' named for the largest known migration of raptors in the Pacific states. During the fall, thousands of migrating hawks, eagles, vultures and falcons make their way through the Headlands, past Hawk Hill and south over the city and beyond. As well as a high concentration of raptors, the Hill offers a 360-view of the San Francisco Bay. On clear days, the craggy peaks of the remote Farallon Islands appear on the western horizon. To the east, Mt. Diablo cuts a profile beyond the Berkeley Hills. A mile or so north of Hawk Hill, Mt. Tamalpais looms. On the water, container ships make their way in and out of the Gate at all hours, while out-of-commission America’s Cup racing hulls, fishing boats, and intrepid sailors glide and bob and motor on the Bay. Periodically porpoises break the surface, stirring up small wakes amid the white caps. More occasionally, whales spout just outside the Gate. It is a special and very beautiful place in the world.
Most people who walk to the top do so to take in postcard-worthy views of the Golden Gate Bridge. I go up to the hill to watch and count the hawks as part of the long-term monitoring efforts of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, which has been tracking the fall raptor migration for nearly forty years.
This is my 10th year volunteering for GGRO during the migration season, which started up a couple of weeks ago, and will occupy my Mondays for the next several months. This past Monday started out with high fog and concluded with wind and clear skies. In between there were flurries of hawks and gusts of wind … and flurries of stillness. Kind of like life, which is one of the many reasons I like going up there regularly for hours at a time. It’s a real-time reminder of how things are always changing and excellent practice in being in the moment.
Standing on a hill all day is also a great reset button after the weekend. We had a fun, packed, musical weekend: playing a winery on Friday night, and the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts on Saturday on the California Coast Music Camp-sponsored stage my friend Janet Lenore curates. Sunday, we drove out to Penngrove to see Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express play the final weekend of his Twin Oaks Roadhouse residency. Prophet is playing like every show could be his last and he and the band laid it all out there on the Roadhouse patio. More good medicine for the soul.