It was gorgeous this morning, just after dawn. Across the bay, wispy clouds were trickling over the peninsula range and down valleys into suburbs. The water of our little cove was tranquil, most of the migrant birds are now long gone. A few cormorants, the usual gulls, one scoter. A little gaggle of mallards was on the pier, but no harbor seals.
A killdeer was giving Edie the broken wing act, so I had to monitor her a little bit. All her hunting instincts kick in, and Edie does not need killdeer chick to supplement her diet. (“Aw, dad dog, just one?” “No.”) She wags in pitiable supplication, then is distracted by the next scent, and romps off.
Ernie’s bum back wheel has changed our route a bit — I park centrally now, rather than at the easternmost end, then walk to each end so he can lag a bit before we turn back. He never complains (of pain while walking — getting left out is a guaranteed whimper-getter), but occasionally he will lie down in a field and wait.
Walking west, I can see the skyline of SF under the cloud cover past the USS Hornet Museum, which has a fighter jet parked out at the end of its runway, wings folded upward, striking a look of alert stillness.
It would be easy to assume that the seven mile long island of Alameda runs north south, as that is the direction of SF Bay, from San Pablo bay to the north to San Jose in the south. Actually Alameda runs parallel to Oakland, and Oakland projects westward out into the bay, past the Oakland army base to the moorings of the bay bridge. Heading south, Oakland’s estuary cuts east to San Leandro Bay, so Alameda is predominantly east/west, a thin estuary separating the cities. We are on the west end; looking along the shore of the bay I see SF’s skyline west/northwest ahead of me.
In fact, as they plowed landfill into the bay to build the runways for the naval air station in World War II, Alameda now projects so far west that it actually sticks into San Francisco county.
Try bulldozing through a project like that these days, and you’d spark quite a lawyerly debate. But we were preoccupied with some folks on the far end of the Pacific at the time, and their attempt to create the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. An appropriate topic, as Memorial Day approaches.
But first, Edie ran off to an isolated parking lot. I’ve cut her some slack here. We’ve been working on waiting until I tell her it’s okay to dash off along the far fence to sniff for jackrabbits. So now she stops at a certain point, sits, and looks at me. After stepping into the empty street myself and checking to see there’s no traffic (it’s always empty–and any approaching car is visible blocks away), I’ve given her free rein to cross the street and run, so long as she returns on the whistle. “Okay,” and she’s off full tilt.
The USS Hornet and impending Memorial Day are perhaps good reminders of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and even the battle called “Coral Sea,” something we here in “the states” might not recall, but people in New Zealand and Australia probably do.
The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was an idea the Japanese had, an offer to other Asians and Pacific islanders to work together after conquest. The notion for places such as New Zealand was to take over the European’s farms and ranches and let the Maori run them, using whatever Europeans were left as slave labor. “Asia for Asians,” ran one slogan.
As the Japanese fleet steamed to Port Moresby, New Guinea to establish a base for future operations, some New Zealanders fled, others prepared to fight on the beaches — well aware of the daunting odds.
The battle of Coral Sea is where a US fleet intercepted the Japanese and prevented the southern expansion. The Kiwis (and Aussies) did not have to fight on their beaches, the Japanese army did not take over, and the Maori were not given farms and ranches in a Japanese-led economic bloc. While you might not have heard much of the battle, many Down Under are still grateful.
It’s the kind of historical fare I was raised on as a kid, making you proud of our international role.
I miss that.
We were almost back to the car now. Close to an old RV park (which the naval air station must have maintained for visiting veterans and families, I suppose), a large bird flew just overhead, appearing over the roof of an old commissary, flying across a short field, and lighting in a tree, pursued by a mockingbird.
Wide, powerful wings and mottled brown feathers; it was so close it startled me. I almost thought I had an immature golden eagle, rare out here, but possible. As it landed in the tree, however, I could see the buff chest streaked with brown, and knew it was a large red-tailed hawk.
The mockingbird cut him no slack, either, buzzing him and jabbering his little head off. The hawk tried to ignore the little bird — a fraction of his size, and I kept my eyes on them as we walked beyond the big old conifer they were in. I was surprised to see the mockingbird actually strike the hawk from behind, twice. The feisty little bird hovered, then flew straight at the hawk’s back: peck! then up and attack again.
The large bird grew weary of the torment and flapped off, with the still-jabbering mockingbird after him, mocking him off across the old abandoned industrial buildings.
I’d try and tie this in with the battle of Coral Sea, but any metaphorical stab at that would be belabored. Sometimes a hawk is just a hawk, a mockingbird is just a mockingbird, and a BA in English is just an old sheepskin forgotten somewhere in a box.
We don’t have much planned over the three-day holiday, but I’ll probably walk the shoreline with the dogs again. Edie will romp, Ernie pace along behind me, watching, and maybe I’ll think of some old naval hulls sunk over 60 years ago, deep down in the Coral Sea, and say my silent thank you’s.