A few stars dance as dawn begins its daily ritual beyond the Sierra. Layers of fog embrace sleeping vineyards and kiwi trees along the way. Ranchers and farmers are breakfasting on eggs and toast. The cranes are thinking about preening and spreading their wings, but that would have to wait for more light.
I can barely see the pinkish vapor cloud above the Lodi wastewater treatment plant west of Thornton Road. One cloud blankets another. Flag City lights adorn the lines of sparkling big rigs as I drive through. Denny's is busy. The lube place is closed. It's six thirty five. I'll be turning onto Staten Island Road about six fifty.
I drive between the Interstate and vineyards. The smell of dairy mixes with the heater air. Dozens of calves stand beside their plastic igloos, waiting to eat. It's 31 degrees outside. I already ate my banana and tossed the peel in front of the passenger seat. It's 71 degrees inside. The birds are waking, waiting to pose for a few photographers.
The little town of Thornton greets me once again. Porch lights, street lights, bakery lights - all welcoming this Saturday morning traveler. The fire department had decorated its four doors with Christmas lights all around in double rows. Simple fare for a simple town. The Psychic Shop chose to remain in the dark. The sound of geese calling was getting louder as I would soon hear for myself.
Staten Island Road is a straight, dead-end stretch of road just to the east of the Sacramento River near Walnut Grove. A single line of utility poles march along the narrow, unlined and rutted asphalt. The wires sport hanging bird warning markers with round red targets in four inch triangular frames. This is a bird sanctuary in the middle of ag country. Cattle roam the narrow fields to the west. The land on the east side is farmed, then cut, then flooded for the thousands of birds that will winter here.
Fog shrouds the few birds I can barely see as the sun rises. They silhouette in a dreamy world that is starting to color with a pink/gold hue. My best pictures will be of the sun covered in rising geese, their blackened forms crisscrossing between my lens and that giant orb. Second best will be of the Sandhill cranes as they wingflap and banter before lift off. But I'm only guessing: I haven't even seen the finished photos yet!