I’m an old man in autumn with nothing much to do most days. Though I’ve nothing much to do I am given, thanks to today’s unrelenting algorithms of connectedness, far too much to think about that is of no concern to me in the first place. Today each one of all of these many useless and infuriating things vies to become THE thing I am supposed to think about when what I really should be thinking about is no thing. No thing at all. Just sort of being in the day and all that. Dharma bums on a long lunch break. That sort of retired languor. And so to ignore the myriad ghostly news monkies trying to climb on my back I go out.
That’s out. Out to lunch. Out to errands. Out. Out perhaps doing ho-hum things but out I must go. The best out of all is out for no reason. And of those outs, the very best going out remains when I go out for a drive. And so I did.
Great crisp golden ocher day with trees from an autumn oak’s burnt orange hand-sized leaves to the shimmering gold glowing coins of Ginko leaves. Heading out of Chico west on 32 towards the Sacramento River, olive and almond orchards flash past staccato in long diagonals.
Came to the River Road and turned south along the Sacramento River until Scotty’s Landing. Pulled into this dissolving dive bar and parked next to the Golf Cart that’s been up on blocks since LBJ was president. If you like dive bars, Scotty’s your huckleberry. Excellent cheeseburgers, great fries, cold Bud in the bottle. If you’ve grown particular there’s Bud Lite in the bottle. Out back of the bar, you can be the master of your riverside domain slumped in a bunch of PVC furniture placed next to a rail with a view of the slough; a slough where all is slowly, chairs and tables and you, returning to the soil, declining into a bog. It’s a dive bar taking a dive. It’s perfect.
One Bud later back on the River Road a mile or so until West Sacramento that heads directly East back into Chico. Time to go home since the primary purpose of going out is to go home once you’ve arrived at out. Right? Right.
West Sacramento rolls east past orchards and then orchard businesses and then the outskirts of Chico and then into the neighborhoods and subdivisions and then past a half a mile of solid wooden fences with no breaks on the north side of the road. And then a birdhouse.
And then two birdhouses.
Then a cluster of fifteen. Then a run of ten, twenty, birdhouses then twenty five…
then a cluster of sixteen… and then one and then one followed by one, one, and two. That sort of random in placement and polish.
And then one more and another one and here’s a lady parked by the side of the road and it looks like she’s trying to glue a birdhouse to a wooden fence. She is…
I pull over.
“Where did all these birdhouses come from?”
“Do you think this superglue is going to hold my birdhouse to the fence?”
“Doubt it m’am. Who did all these birdhouses?”
“Well, all sorts of people I guess. I just made this one last week but they’ve been here and growing for months now. Must be a hundred, hundred and a half.”
“Is there like a club of Birdhousers of Chico?”
“Not that I’ve heard. It was just somebody who did one. And then somebody else did another. Then others started appearing on this long-running fence. And then more came and now it seems to be just a thing. A fun thing. But look at this glue I don’t think it’s right.”
I look. She’s made a nice birdhouse but she doesn’t get how both surfaces have to meld in order for adhesives to work. “Nope. No shot. You need to get a hook and eye or something like that.”
“Oh. I was hoping to get it back on the fence without tools. It went up that way.”
“Came unstuck. Surfaces are too incompatibly porous. Hook and eye.”
I stroll along a good half-mile of fencing looking at these spontaneous examples of folk art spontaneously generated by people who do not know each other, people who didn’t have a meeting, people who didn’t take a vote or seek permission. People who just saw something wonderful and wanted to add to it and did it all on an obscure street in an obscure town somewhere in an obscure region of northern California.
People who knew a good idea when they saw it.