I see Frida Kahlo in a window and imagine us as friends. I wonder if she can see my subtle limp, as hers is not so subtle. Together, we paint the day.
The blue sky has returned from the orange haze that blocked the sun for days. The air is no longer thick with ash, and hearts are no longer quite so heavy. I walk on a street that has been blocked to allow for car free pedals and strolls. I am happy to be among humans again. Isolation can stifle ones soul and creativity. Being able to move around with other people, even at a distance, even without interacting beyond a hello, is a gift.
I park near my favorite restaurant which has the best bread and butter I have ever had. If it was the last thing I ever ate, I would be fine with that. A few doors down is one of my favorite coffee shops. The owner is an artist with a way with words and coffee beans. Beyond that is an art supply store with beautiful paints and a desirable collection of paper and pencils. This is not why I am here, and I am still not venturing into my old haunts, open or not.
The ocean calls to me the way it always does, but I challenge myself to walk the other direction. It is unusually warm for San Francisco, but summer here generally does not start until fall. I've lost track of time. I click and step, click and step, never letting go of my camera. I walk up 27 long blocks, avenue to avenue. I walk back on a parallel street, 27 blocks in reverse. My pace is slow and contemplative. I try to take notice of everything.
Time is mysterious and safety from disaster is no longer a given, if it ever was. This day is a reminder to never take the blue sky for granted. Never dismiss the ease of breathing. I try to smile to others under my mask, as I know we have all been in a collective state of panic. Realizing they cannot read the smile from my eyes alone, I wave an awkward wave, and continue clicking.
As the smoke clears for the morning, I head into San Francisco. I park on the end of California and venture up a hill that takes me to a golf course. In non-covid19 times I might have wandered deep in to explore what I could find on the carefully maintained grounds. Now, I follow the rules for reasons of safety and social distancing. The designated walking path takes me to the other side of the golf course where the land meets the water. The view is amazing and the depth of feeling it evokes could never be captured in pictures. Vividness of color (or lack of), beauty of composition, and luck of timing can never come close to expressing what happens in my gut when something touches me deeply. It can, however, be a reaction or retelling of what is seen, a new story that exists on a different plane of reality.
Down the road are homes of great wealth. This is a unique world which is somewhat foreign to me. It is beautifully manicured, full of caretakers and builders. The facade needs constant maintenance. Walking through is free. I wonder who lives here and what their lives are like. A quick search reveals a few well known celebrities. I doubt I'll ever be their neighbor but no harm in pretending. And yes, this is a frivolous, empty kind of joy, but it is entertaining.
Further in, I spot a sign that says "public beach". Of course, I have to follow it, and I land at China Beach. There is a road down which is wide enough for social distancing. There, I find a lone fisherman, a swimmer who obviously does not mind the cold water, and two young men enjoying the view from above. Beyond that, it is me and the birds. I feel gleeful, because in all my years living in the Bay Area, I had never been here. I had seen it from above, but just assumed it was inaccessible.
The Golden Gate Bridge stands tall in the distance, an icon of this joining of land and sea. Seagulls rest in the sand, only slightly hindered by my human presence. I hop over the water that reaches the rocks to see the other side of the cove. I am filled with delight and know this is exactly where I need to be at this second, on this day, in this very strange and difficult year.
The overwhelming quiet can be incredibly loud. The slightest bit of activity can jostle the senses, but not enough to wake from the surreal state we all live in now. For many, self awareness has gone out the window in favor of the selfish pact of one. Others form community in attempt to stay connected, but their connection may ultimately do them harm. Many fight for justice, while our so called leadership is a dumpster fire of absolute madness.
The blue sky and birds chirping are simple pleasures which call for one to pause and take notice. I hear you birds, and I will not knowingly harm you.
A pine cone has fallen into an empty parking lot, lost from the tree from which it came. I bend down to visit it. This lot, once full of cars, is now abandoned for the summer and indefinite future. This is the summer that time has new meaning, and our understanding of relationships with one another will be forever changed.
Back on the beach again, the sun is brighter than last time. The air is warm. It is days like this that I wish I knew how to surf. Nothing is more satisfying to me than snorkeling in warm water looking at fish. The water is not warm in northern California, so that does not happen here. I have faltered at ever putting on a wetsuit and embracing these cold waves. That doesn't prevent me from putting my feet in or truly loving this beach.
I have lost a camera to the salt water on the East Coast. I've had one stolen from me while out taking photos on my bicycle. It was a crime that I was never able to report. I like to believe that young man is now a photographer, even though I know he probably is not. I've dropped other cameras with frequency enough to cause dings and scrapes, but not enough to hinder my picture taking ability. Today, my wrist strap gives way and my camera hits the beach in a fit of clicking. Sand permeates the lens and that is the end of this all too delicate picture taking device. At least I had already been looking toward getting a new one.
Due to the constraints of social distancing during the virus, the lingering, the mind wandering, the carefree enjoyment is short. These things are cherished to the extent that I am able to cherish them at this point and time. I continue to hang on to hope for what knowledge and good can be gained from passing the crossroads of pandemic and protest.
My legs feel wobbly and my knee aches. I crisscross the streets and sidewalks to keep the distance. This distance weighs on my mental state. I fight this and keep walking (limping), disposition in tact. Eyes darting left and right, up and down, I take pictures, breathing through thick fabric. There is an absence of activity that usually fills these summer months. The humans are getting restless.
I get lost, but not so lost I cannot find my way back. Adrift, in place and state of mind - this is how I process being. I find beauty and darkness and the balance between. Vibrancy of color imprints on my mind, saved for when the fog rolls in.
THE DISQUIETED QUIET
photography and writing
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