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.
The containment of the fires grows and the smoke has more breaks between. However, we are now in a heat wave and PGE threatens more power outages due to expected high winds next week. 2020 is relentless and California is in a state of fatigue. An early morning walk offers a bit of respite.
I look at a familiar apartment building in the neighborhood, called Capri. We went to the island of Capri once and rode the chairlift for the best views. I dangled my feet, kicking them back and forth the way a child might. I love ferris wheels, chair lifts and swing rides. I rode on a swing ride in Vienna once that was said to be the highest chained carousel in the whole world at 383 ft tall. No one I was with would go with me. It felt rickety and dangerous but I was determined. It was also night and the city was lit up. I could see the stars. As the swing dipped and turned, my teeth dried out from smiling. My hands cramped from holding rusty chains. It was the best sensation, and while it lasted, I was on top of the world.
I walk on and see a street sign that reads, "Florence". I have never been there but am happy to continue with the Italian theme this block provides. I imagine myself eating good cheese and bread and drinking red wine at a local cafe. Surely art viewing will be part of the day and hopefully a local flea market. This is my imaginary vacation prompted by a couple visual clues in California. On a good day, I am very happy to be here. When the Golden State suffers and wails, I escape into my mind where all things are possible.
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.
It takes all that I have to stay positive as California is burning, but it is nearly impossible to escape the inevitable at this point. Every time the wind blows, my heart jumps. When the heat rises, my stomach turns. When the electricity disappears I wilt in worry. These are the days of the apocalypse. Glimmers of hope filter in through the cracks. Watching the horrible that is the news creates an abyss that is hard to crawl out of. Photography will continue to be my refuge as long as I let it. A pandemic is one thing, but piling on raging fires is more than most have capacity to digest. Our "go bags" are ready and for now we are safe. Others are not so lucky. My heart breaks for them. My heart breaks for this beautiful state.
The heat rolls in, pushing away the cooling fog. Rolling blackouts take pressure off an aging power grid but it comes unannounced. I edit these photos outside tonight. Sounds of crickets, birds and distant voices fill the air. Someone is singing.
I look up and a young fox is staring at me, just a couple feet away. He waves his head back and forth to look past me, seeking safe passage. Something dead, like a mouse, hangs out of his mouth. He is not much bigger than a cat, so possibly new to solo outings such as this.
Last night I could not sleep because of the heat. Our cat meowed at what I believed was his distant pal I like to call, "Rascal Cat". However, this animal did not have a bell, like the bird hunter normally wears. I then saw one more, and eventually six cat like critters. These were young kits not cats, probably the offspring of the bigger fox that visited a few weeks back.
I imagine this young one in the yard to be my new friend, fast and furious. But I know I am just an unfortunate obstacle in the quest for dinner. He eventually turns and exits by crawling under the fence. I return to editing pictures I took just before the temperature got hotter than blue blazes.
Good morning ocean. Someone has left you flowers. Did you happen to notice them? The wind has battered their delicate petals but it makes me love them all the more. I have a feeling that they may not actually be for you but for someone you took. They could also be in honor of someone who held you dear. I will never know, and you can't answer, so I will leave it to wonder.
Good morning seagulls. You are lucky you do not have to be socially distant. Thanks for letting me join your gathering for a moment. I know no one hired a photographer, but lucky for you, I currently work for free (for birds anyway).
Good morning ravens. You and I have been friends for a while now. We pretend to ignore each other, and you do that silly dance of trying to get away, when you clearly want to be close. No, I did not bring a picnic, and will not be leaving any garbage for you to collect. You do alright though. Your numbers have grown and you show a vastness of age and agility. There are some scrappy ones among you, but aren't there always? I dare say, I find them charming.
Good morning humans. For all that need to hear it, we must do better.
A deer and I exchange curious glances as I walk slowly up a hill. I stop to say hello and to be an observer of this creature foraging for food. I send a mental apology for my presence but remain steadfast in my glance. I record the moment and move on.
I enjoy the view from way up here where the world seems quiet and calm. The sun is shining but the trees bring a cool breeze that is calming. This is a moment of contentment.
I wind up and back not having followed the road this far before. I am not sure where I will land and am unconcerned. I have a knack for following my nose and a harder time caring very deeply about maps. Getting lost is the way I get found. It hasn't always been the wise choice, but for the most part, it proves rewarding.
A bee finds refuge inside the carcass of a crab. Seaweed morphs into the shape of a bird. Masks are worn only briefly when nearing humans, few enough to be counted on one hand.
Wanting to feel the calm the beach can bring, I smile a true smile, with teeth revealed. But I am not truly calm. When time is so ill-defined and days turn into months of on hold, one wonders when idyllic days will return. Recognizing that no time is free of complications, this point in history is an endless series of chaos, destruction and bad behavior by questionable humans. Greed brought us to this state, and now we swim in the muck of our own making. We take our oneness to mean self, when the planet and humanity requires us to humble our own egos in favor of healing what has been so very broken.
Pelicans glide low and fast on their way to or from sustenance. A deer runs to the hills like a jackrabbit, nimble and appearing to fly. The fog slowly clears revealing a steely blue.
For a change of scenery, I decided to take the car (and one of my damaged cameras) to a couple mid-century modern Eichler housing developments. I parked and walked, checking out the iconic homes, some of which still respect the original architectural design. In my research to locate these homes, I learned that Joseph Eichler was in fact not an architect but a real estate developer. He hired young architects to design homes inspired by his love of Frank Lloyd Wright. The wonderful thing about these neighborhoods was Eichler was a strong proponent of fair housing and seriously opposed to racial discrimination. He sold to people of color at a time when many other developers were discriminatory.
From an aesthetic standpoint, what I liked most (but couldn't fully see) was that every home seemed to have an internal garden area right past the front door. The living area of the house wraps around this. The outdoors becomes indoors and vice versa. It appeared as though some folks had unique tropical plants growing there. Others used this space to store surfboards and bicycles. If a door was open, I could see that some treated their homes like a 1950s or 60s catalog showroom and others paid no heed to any particular aesthetic.
My artist brain had trouble with all the ugly cars parked in front of some of the more attractive homes. I scoffed at a few grannyish doors that looked recently purchased at local big box stores. Some gardens were beautiful and wonderfully curated, and others were a mess of weeds and dry brush. Some paint jobs used well thought out color schemes, while others made me want to grab my brushes. I am not an architect, a landscape designer, house painter or car aficionado, and no one asked me. I was just feeling sassy and opinionated. Luckily, no one can hear my thoughts, at least I think they can't.
THE DISQUIETED QUIET
photography and writing
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