Sky and water reflect, blue on endless blue.
Little birds nest in the sand while a vulture spreads its broad wings. Two humans walk maskless when others are far enough to be the size of ants. Behind the dunes, the sand is mushy and feet sink. An elephant seal calls out sounding like gurgling water in rusty old pipes. Barnacles cover cement and wood pushes itself into sand. Salt and grit whittle away at the skull of a whale that has found eternal rest.
Sky and water reflect, blue on endless blue.
I venture off to take photos of a hole in the ground, one I had stumbled upon once before. Finding the previously empty reservoir now being turned into a park, I am pleased but also a little sad to see the emptiness filled.
I wander around the neighborhood near my old art school. I knew the area was affluent, but it is amazing how that affluence can go unseen and untouched by a scrappy young student. The affluence is no more attainable now than it was then, but when noticed is more amusing than disturbing. The older one gets, the more one learns that money makes daily life easier but happiness is found by more simplistic means. It is not constant but is important to celebrate when clearly present.
This week we have a lot to celebrate. It is hopefully the beginning of the end of the horrific path our country has been on. We may have to continue to maneuver around in masks for a while to come, but at least there is hope for a semblance of somewhat normal life again. Basic human decency is nothing to be taken for granted. Fragility of stability is to be on constant watch. We are and must be stronger now.
I zig zag and climb up and down, circling around and repeating. I can feel my legs working and my breath deepen. I remember and create anew. I step and pause to reflect and see my shadow looking back at me. A hummingbird flutters near my eyes, not taunting me, but bringing me peace. This day is a good one, but never more important than all the rest.
I drive around in circles, looking for a place to park. I have no agenda other than to walk and take pictures, but today I am off kilter and a bit sad. I wander somewhat aimlessly, arriving at a hill. It is like a cartoon exaggeration of a steep street, but a perfect representation of my emotions at that very moment. I turn around before I reach its peak, adjust my temperament and start again. Riding the wave between is the balancing act of these pandemic days.
Finally parked, I head to the ocean, my steadfast friend. Here, the ravens dance as they always do. I am calm in their presence. The spirit finds solace in moments of simplicity. I cannot untether my connection to this place, even though I sometimes still feel like a tourist. The magic never ceases to surprise me, but I am easily wooed.
After a perfect amount of wandering, I return to the car and remove my mask. Contented and smiling, I wipe away the salt from the tears that dried on my sun-kissed cheeks.
Walking between two towns in the East Bay, I am pleased and also puzzled how quiet it is. I stay between two shopping districts on the residential streets, eventually landing in a cemetery up on the hill. Here, among the gravestones, it is calm and the view is sweeping.
I spot a headstone bearing my name, and I think, "Damn you! I am not done yet." I look back over the water to the vastness of the Bay Area and I am thankful. I see the cranes that rise their heads one block from my old art studio. I see the mountain that rises above my current home. I flash to my grandmother's back deck and how blown away I was the first time I saw the glorious view. In the decades of my adult life, I have stepped into and out of this coastal land many times, to visit family, friends and to make a home. I wish I could sit with my younger self, to grab a cup of coffee and have a long chat. She would have a hard time believing what we have gone through in recent days. She would also tell me to stop fretting so much, to live fully and completely, no matter the sometimes uncontrollable parameters. I would hug her and say thanks.
After strolling around the grounds of many lives lived, I turn back to where I parked. Along the way, I spot a ball in the grass, boldly printed with the name Wilson. Oh, I remember him! He starred in a movie with Tom Hanks where he played the best friend. I slyly take his picture and introduce myself. I have plans on how we can now be best friends. He is somehow immune to the virus, so we don't have to worry about masks. He is staring at me unflinching, and I realize he is unamused. I scurry away, laughing at my own goofy fantasy.
I have a couple different paths I normally follow when walking in the town where I live. These are not designated paths but repeated wanderings that are now routine. On this day, I veer off onto a hill that normally only gets a bit of side eye. I turn any direction that sends me further up. The landscape gets a bit more wild and the homes more hidden. My legs get that wobbly feeling they get when I am at great heights. To me, this is not a fear but an involuntary reaction, my mind just reminding me not to stumble into some great unknown crevasse. I imagine my legs like rubber bands when this happens and giggle quietly about it.
Navigating these narrow, no shoulder, roads can be a bit tricky at times. Mostly it is just me and the trees, but when it is not, I am an awkward walker. To create distance, I trespass into strangers driveways to let other parties pass. Other times, I am trapped, too close to an oblivious unmasked individual. Then, I can be found, back turned, staring into some shrubbery, hiding my disgust and shielding my masked face. The higher I climb, the less people I encounter. Redwoods create a feeling of otherworldliness and calm that I welcome.
As always, I prefer to find my way without a map. This works until I want to attempt to get home. I do get out my phone and ask the map lady to send me down the hill a different way than I came. In the spot where I stand, there is a narrow hiking path, a driveway, a residential street and the seeming end of the street I am on. I do what the map lady tells me and the dot runs along the wrong street and shows me eventually back up the hill. I turn another direction and hit a dead end. I return to where I came from and look for what I might have missed. Ultimately, I backtrack, taking the long way home.
One thing that this pandemic has taught me is that the slow, long way may seem cumbersome, but in the end allows for greater reward. I've always been one to lose time due to wandering, but what I gain is invaluable. It's never dilly dallying if it is made of dreaming and delight.
I don't feel much like exploring but know it is for my own good that I do. I have a particular destination in mind but find parking to be sparse. I drive around until I find an easy spot, then set out on foot in a bit of a mope. The longer I am outside my mood is lifted and my spirit less blue.
I walk down the hill all the way to the Great Highway. It is closed to traffic now, with four lanes open to pedestrians and cyclists. The wind is gusty, so the humans are hibernating. So many times I have come here by bicycle and had to fight traffic to enjoy my ride. It is wonderful to have so much space here now.
Just over the wall at the beach, there is a dog playing chase with a raven. The dog leaps high and the raven dips low. They frolic, both willing to dance with danger in order to have a little fun. I can almost hear them laughing.
When I turn to go back up the hill, a strong aroma penetrates the four layers of my mask. It is ham, the kind we used to eat during the holidays when I was a child. Oddly I savor it, even though I have not eaten meat in over thirty years. It is a comfort I will not partake in now, but it is the feeling that it evokes that is my keepsake.
I get out my phone and record some thoughts. It is not something that I do. I am alone on the street and no one is listening. Is this what I have become? A wanderer who babbles nonsensically to herself? Whatever the reason, I am laughing for now. This is what matters most.
Fires recently engulfed the area surrounding this beautiful beach. I watched the progress and air quality daily and expected to now see it charred and withered. Instead, there is evidence but not ultimate destruction. Nature finds a balance as long as we don't stand too headstrong in its way.
As we walk, a raven is in lockstep with our movements. We say hello as he skips beside us. It is delightful and quite charming. As I reach for my camera, he doesn't exit the scene like most of the corvids usually do. Seeing my curious glance, he does a little dance and pauses for a snack or two. Every time I look for his wings to be outstretched, he is just strolling at a safe distance.
The beach is sparsely populated, so we are able to breath freely at least part of the time. The salt air smells good and my lungs fill, crisp and clean. Various sea birds flit about feasting on what washes ashore. This is a good mid December morning, in the year 2020.
I am walking around in an area that exudes incredible wealth. Even though my mouth is covered, it is agape, as I cannot fathom living in one of these grand houses. The funny thing is that I have lived in the Bay Area a long time, and I have never truly studied this neighborhood. It is largely residential so not one of my regular destinations. I have, however, frequented these types of neighborhoods for walks during the pandemic, and they tend to be quiet and calm.
I stand in awe of one very modern house that looks like a New York gallery. I have my camera aimed at it as a gentleman walks to the car in the driveway. His uniform indicates he is an employee rather than a resident, and he looks at me uncomfortably. I try to casually ask if an art collector lives there. I am not sure why the words come out of my mouth and now feel like a stalker creep. I turn to walk away and spot a well endowed robot sculpture across the street. The absurdity of it in this rather buttoned up neighborhood makes me laugh.
One house that I find particularly intriguing is adorned with a placard from the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. Many of the tourist destinations of San Francisco are from that time. I wonder what purpose this mansion served and daydream about the sights and sounds of that era. I come back to earth, with one toe stuck in the past.
Finally we are collectively breathing a sigh of relief and feel there is still hope to be had. Although faces are mostly still masked, I can tell most people are smiling and stepping a bit lighter. I hear laughter, lots of it. I can't recall when I last witnessed real glee, but it is palpable. My eyes well up with grateful tears.
On the way to my destination I blast the music in the car and sing along. This is one of the joys of driving. It doesn't matter if I know the words, if I sound totally off-key, or even if I truly love the song. What matters is the release.
Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge the morning fog engulfs the bridge itself. I can see enough to get across and make my way to Baker Beach. Once there, the fog remains thick. The atmosphere is mysterious and somewhat magical. The mist from the fog and the ocean mix to make a salty spritz.
Fishermen dot the edge of the water, casting rods into raucous waves. One gentleman has built a low barrier wall and moat to protect him from the water. I compliment his set up and he grins at me, sans a few front teeth. He gestures to the sculptured sand and says something I can't quite decipher over the sound of the ocean. I smile back anyway, then realize he cannot see half my face covered in a mask. I give a friendly wave and walk on.
A man waves a metal detector over the sand. He has a little basket to filter the earth from his treasures. He shakes the basket and then puts something in his pocket. This is a modern day gold digger. I hope his search proves fruitful.
I wander to the edge of the beach where on a clear day, the view of the bridge is quite breathtaking. Today I like feeling like I am on another planet. I'm happy here where water fades into sky, and sand finds a home between my toes.
THE DISQUIETED QUIET
photography and writing
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