Out in the avenues, the ocean calls, again and again. I return to revel in the sand and sunshine. Some days, this is everything and enough.
On the morning of what will be a really hot day, I venture to where the surfers catch early waves. As I walk the beach, I notice a bulbous form in the sand. At first, I perceive this to be a large piece of driftwood free of bark. As I get closer, I sadly see that it is a deceased whale. It is raw, damaged and in a state of decay. The smell is unpleasant. I don't look away. Instead, I document the animal and wonder what brought it to its demise. Several whales have washed up in the Bay Area recently, many of them wounded by ship strike. (My photos of the whale will not appear here, out of respect for the once beautiful, grand creature.)
Further down the beach, the tide is low enough to walk all the way to where the sand ends. Mussels and sea anemones cover the rock formations here. Waves crash and fall. Hermit crabs scurry to hide. My sneakered feet get wet, and I wonder why I have forgotten that it is sandal season. If it weren't for my camera, I'd probably just step deeper into the water, to get a closer look at the ocean critters.
Up on the hill above the beach, I wander through the fort looking for spots to aim my camera. I watch the cliff swallows fly in and out of their mud nests. I listen to a vibrant red finch singing sweetly while sitting on the wires. An official looking white vehicle pulls up beside me and I say hello. A uniformed gentleman asks if he can help me in some way. I say "no" and smile. He asks what I am doing, and I say, "I am taking photos". He asks, "of what?" I pause and look around. I point to some discarded objects lost in the weeds and say, "artsy stuff like this". It sounds silly coming out of my mouth, but all other answers seem suspect. If I am a criminal, I am plotting my future shady escapades. If I am a self proclaimed artist for profit, I need to pay to be permitted to be here. My solution is to look happily naive with a new hobby. It works, and he drives off, choosing to ditch any further inquiry into my activities.
I arrive at the park near the Lawn Bowling Club. It is often occupied by the elder set, dressed in crisp white attire, a uniform of sorts. Usually, stark white stands in sharp contrast to the vibrant green grass. Today, it is clear the formality of tradition has been lost to the pandemic. Everything is more casual now, because we no longer have time for posturing.
The man who waters the grass for the bowlers, notices me reading a sign. It has an image of a crow and says, "Don't worry. I'm not real". He explains to me that he has to use a decoy to scare away critters. In order for it to work, he must put the decoy on its back. This results in the park getting many phone calls about a dead or injured bird. Now there is a sign for the humans, but the other animals still fall for the ruse.
Around the bend, I enter the Aids Memorial Grove. It is absolutely stunning, a tribute to those who left us too soon. The plants are lush and green, even more so than many other areas of the park. The strength of spirit of those that are honored here is palpable. The care with which it was designed, and nurtured is immense. This is a sacred place. Hearts are mended here.
I go to see the dahlias, but it may be too soon. They are few and far between, and half of them are missing. Maybe it is early or maybe their tending was lost to quarantining gardeners. I admire a few lonely blooms. Behind me, a man in business attire sits on a bench, listening to heavy metal music that is trapped inside his backpack.
At the Conservatory of Flowers, a man wearing red, white and blue pants, and an absurdly quaffed head of hair, aggressively throws rocks. He intends to break the glass, but the glass is now wood. In his frustration, he bends and weaves wildly and grabs more rocks. I want to intervene, but I don't. He talks to the wind and traipses on.
From the nearby tunnel comes the sound of live music. I follow it and see a group of men playing. The tunnel amplifies the sound, and I stand in the middle listening. The walls are covered with various messages of past and present. I place money in the hat and hope to hear more, but the men soon pause to put away their instruments.
Golden Gate Park is the garden, playground, gym and sanctuary of so many locals and tourists alike. It will always be a place of refuge for me. It is not as if I don't see its troubled bits; it is just that the shiny bits shine brighter for me.
Over in the east bay, I weave my way into and out of shops, slowly bringing back some of the daily life from before. It is not so much about the purchase of things, but more about human interaction and the freedom of happenstance. Everyone appears to be walking around filled with a bit of weariness, but with an equal sense of renewed hope. After a spirited conversation with an eager fat cat and a peanut eating crow, I enter an antique store to buy vintage photos from a shop keeper with a French accent. I pretend I am on a trip that couldn't be taken.
Underneath the Bart tracks, I see tiny lines flitting about in the breeze. As the wind blows, the lines bend and dance, appearing almost metallic. I crane my neck to watch, and it is beautiful. These pine needles, caught in a metal grate, have created an effortless work of art.
At the end of a busy street, a repurposed bank contains a night deposit box. I imagine it being the place where daydreams safely go to sleep. At the rising of the sun, a key is turned and the daydreams are released, only to be captured again by wanderers like me.
THE DISQUIETED QUIET
photography and writing
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