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Not Far to Go
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Distance is a complex concept for little ones. How far is one block from home when your toddling legs are tired? Your every two steps for my every one. How high is the sky when you’re swinging at the playground? When you demand, “higher, higher.” So high, you touch the sky and don’t come back until the 4th of July. Your legs, not yet able to pump the swing, reach upward to puncture the blue canopy.

You climb the playhouse ladder. A challenge of its own with measured space between rungs. Space that must look like a canyon for your tiny size seven feet. Space that looks like a precipice to me as you straddle a step, one leg suspended in air seeming ready to plummet back down to ground.

You climb to get closer to the sky. Wanting a perch to watch for the neighbor who hands treats over the tall fence. Willing yourself to pluck an airplane from its path from SFO to places unknown or known. You reach higher to tether the half-moon in its quarter phase. Pretending, not really believing, that you could hold that incomplete moon in your outstretched hands, fingers together in a gesture of friendship.

You count the birds flying overhead. You know the sound of a helicopter, circling Ocean Beach on a rescue mission. You announce, “windy” when the breeze ramps up, swirling sand into your eyes. The Golden Gate Bridge sings to you in high winds. Howling gales playing an endless loop of whistles and hums that vibrate your eardrums and tiny middle-ear bones like the bridge’s steel railings. There’s magic in the air.

Between dinner and bedtime, when you and your brother are overly tired and unfocused, your parents survive the “witching hour” by turning to Apple Music. “Alexa,” they call out. “Play Silly Songs.” And we get ready to sing, “Raining Tacos.”

“It’s raining tacos
From out of the sky
No need to ask why
Just open your mouth and close your eyes
It’s raining tacos.”

It’s party time. We all rise to the occasion. Shaking our boodies. Shaking our sillies out. Arms raised, playing air guitars, we dance around the living room. Mouths open, catching pretend tacos falling from the indoor sky.

Sometimes, we change the lyrics from tacos to chips or popcorn. Or, in a bigger leap to inedibles, we catch feathers like rain drops or snowflakes floating down. White and gray feathers from seagulls that we know well enough to identify. Black feathers from the ravens that drop in on garbage pickup days. The iridescent feathers in rainbow colors from hummingbirds that dip into the fuchsias.

Last week’s explosion in the anchovy population forced me to change the song’s lyrics. News of seabirds binging on the over-abundant anchovies moving closer to shore in a burst of cold water, called upwelling, caught my attention. According to the SF Community Fishing Association’s president, Larry Collins, “…the birds were just sitting on the water with anchovies in their mouths because they can’t eat anymore.” So, when these fishing pelicans and cormorants fly back over the land on their way back to wherever, they sometimes drop their catch. Can you even imagine such a happening?

Well, seeing is believing. And, I’ve seen the evidence. Right in front of our house. A scattering of green fish with silver stripes, about eight inches in length. Lying, fully intact, lifelessly on the sidewalk. Our neighbor, Angela, confirmed the sighting. “We found fish in our backyard. Did you?” she shouted out over the fence. We speculated the cause. Backyard nighttime marauders, she suggested. Our frequent nocturnal visitor? Rocky Racoon, we’ve named him.

“I think it’s a Clement Street shopper walking home from The Seafood Center with today’s catch falling through the hole in her bag,” I countered. Dropping fish like Hansel and Gretel, leaving a trail of bread crumbs.

What’s the likelihood? Neither of us were convinced of either possibility. We were open to other suggestions but none were forthcoming – until SFGate investigated and reported in. Yes, fish are in fact falling from the sky in The Richmond District. There have been numerous citizen reports. Amazing, incredible, astonishing.

So, now I’m humming my own silly song, “It’s Raining Anchovies,” with my mouth shut. And shaking my sillies out. There’s magic in the air, and I’ve seen it.

“It’s raining anchovies
From out of the sky
No need to wonder why
Just close your mouth and open your eyes
To see the big surprise.”

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