My failure to retire is a comedy in four acts: 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2015, the years I was convinced I would stop working.
Today I am a 70-year-old battling Bay Area traffic to get to a part-time job while reveling full time over simple discoveries that keep me young at heart – like the call of a quail.
For decades I rose at 6:30 a.m. As soon as the alarm sounded, an inner voice reminded me how the next 12 hours would go. I never heard the birds outside my bedroom window, didn’t even know they were there.
Though I don’t need to adhere to the 6:30 a.m. schedule any more, my mind goes online close to that time without any help from an alarm. Assuming I was a captive of habit, I tried meditating, reading or eating an apple to ease into the morning.
Nothing stuck until I found salvation from the California quail, our state bird since 1931. Quail live and breed in bushes. They fly low, but prefer to walk fast to escape trouble. They hang out in my driveway and sometimes come to the front door. The call of a quail, usually perched on top of the fence near my bedroom window, has become my new, welcomed alarm.
A male quail calls out to his family when it’s time to move. A quick succession of “pit-pit” sounds usually occurs first at sunrise or shortly thereafter when the dangers of the world start lurking. The winter call might come an hour or two later than during the summer.
The male is protecting his mate and their brood. In a politically correct fashion, the male and female quail share the duties of caring for the newborns. A few hours after hatching, the chicks follow their parents around. At about two weeks they fly and a week or so after that, they are independent.
It’s nature and life, and I’m glad we share the driveway.
Listening to quails has become one of my first steps to slow down and reclaim the senses I had misplaced. When I’m at dead stop at 9 a.m. somewhere on the Bay Bridge, it is reassuring to know these plump birds are outside my window taking care of their lives.
Richard Steffen was a longtime aide in the Legislature and most recently worked for Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.