Welcome to Trump’s Amerika San Francisco style. Skipping my usual walk in hopes of finishing a work project, I instead wandered over to the Standing Rock Protest. Along the way I greeted the SFPD with a smile and half-wave (as did other protesters; everyone’s a regular here.)
Newt Gingrich used to disparage San Francisco protests as a “cheap date,” but he never understood the sheer pageantry and choreographed joy each brought. I can recall running out for days on end in the the late 80’s (Gulf War 1, LGBT Rights, and Police Brutality). Today I found myself reflexively checking my phone so I didn’t miss my start time. Damn it sucks to grow old. But sacrificing my first college education for politics taught me something. What I forget my migraines and need for health benefits reinforce.
The mellow crowd joined speakers in singing Wiccan, Jewish, and Christian spirituals. Female voices pervaded, providing a comfort I sorely missed. However, one young man had an enchanting voice which stilled everyone. Together it felt like someone, or something, embraced us all.
Glancing around I saw protesters of all ages. Squinting I vaguely recognized some of the older ones. [It’s really been years since I ventured out.] Moving actively around them were youngsters in their teens, twenties, thirties and forties. Many had amazing costumes and clever signs. Still I refrained from too many close up pictures because the police were taking plenty of them. However, sometimes I couldn’t resist.
Trudging back to work I felt guilty for not joining the march. However, I suspect many more opportunities will soon follow. Besides things were well in hand without me. Kinda of my life story. But it’s okay; I help most by telling other people’s stories.
So yes, CSheila blogs again. And somewhere my mother smiles.
Most of us exist in a dream state. We chase after our greatest desires, or fend off our current challenges, without giving real thought to what matters. “What” being our connections to loved ones.
Collective tragedies like the Sandy Hook Shootings, the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the Waco Plant Blast jolt our delirium. Instantly we morph into a community vicariously facing our greatest fears as we sit transfixed near flickering screens. During this collective outpouring we will hug our loved ones closer and dig deep to send what comfort we can afford. In time the closeness will pass as everyday life and loved ones reassert themselves, but painful memories defining generation remain. Dates like November 1963 or 9/11, remembrances of past wars, genocides, or plagues (AIDS), and the seemingly endless mass shootings will drag us back to the original horror.
However, nothing prepares us for the loss of a truly loved one. Even if anticipated the loss brings us to our knees. If we are fortunate, friends and family help pick us up. Still it remains a journey each of us must walk alone. A bleak journey designed to get us to accept a seemingly unbearable loss. Time helps but memories matter more (once we pass the ones loaded with regret). In time hopefully we regain strength enough to once again pass along the love so generously bestowed on us.
Before a torrent of losses of persons both known and unknown, I might have admonished everyone to grab a hold of their loved ones. (Obviously I recommend this approach on all possible occasions.) However, much like the now cliché quote from the movie, “we can’t handle the truth” we can’t handle the ecstasy accompanying the emotion. Truly grasping what losing a dearly loved one means would render us besotted, unable to leave their side. Most likely we would lose them along with our ability to continue as a species.
Still we must train our senses to capture the ecstasy when it arrives (often by surprise). It’s not the big events I remember spending with my mom, loved ones lost to death, or former friends and lovers. Often its an ordinary day spent doing ordinary things or perhaps a silly day where responsibilities got tossed. At the time it filled me with happiness but didn’t register large in my life. Now these moments are a lifeline. Pay attention to them and soak them for every bit of available joy. God knows we will be back in front of our flickering screens soon enough.
Growing up with a Canadian mother brought me great joy and profound insights. I learned life survives ferocious winters, hospitality trumps even the most mean-spirited, and no person arrives on earth better than anyone else. As the Canucks among you can tell, my mom came from the Western Prairies (a bastion of both radicalism and independence).
Her greatest gift lay in teaching me to seek out kindred spirits. Inspired by her favorite book “Anne of Green Gables“ this meant looking inside a person to find their core values and beliefs. In the process you disregarded differences in race, class, and gender. Looking back on my mom’s amazing life she never faltered from this approach however far it drove her from the path planned out for her. As a result she created a beautiful extended family which still benefits us long after her passing.
It hit me again tonight as I visited other bloggers’ sites. Like my mom, WordPress gathers a pretty diverse bunch. These bloggers write for various reasons: to capture beautiful images all around the world; to save souls through politics or religion; or to share their hard won knowledge and experience (without payment). At their core, each seeks to bring beauty where perhaps none currently exists or wants to show the beauty our busy eyes currently disregard.
One of the cool things about aging is you really grasp how little trappings matter. You have been fooled once too often, survived losses you once assumed insurmountable, and humbled by how the little things make you the happiest. It’s truly what the cliché “youth is wasted on the young” means. But of course, the cliché disregards the lessons one must necessarily learn to get where light shines through darkness.
It’s late so I’ll wrap up now. However, let me give a shout out to kindred spirits in my life (both real and virtual). Most importantly let me say love you to the woman who got me out of bed to write it. Miss you Mom. Here’s one of your favorite places (SFJapanese Tea Garden)
Obviously it’s a rhetorical question since the hills generally offer the best views, freshest air, and (often) greatest safety.
Rather than launch into a screed regarding scarcity of resources, I’ll reveal another not-so-hidden secret to San Francisco. Our abundance of hills opens these benefits to the masses. All it takes is a willingness to climb or a SF MUNI pass. Moreover, you generally don’t have to go very far to find a sudden view. The ones to my left and right are only just outside my apartment door. Remember too, I can focus my camera to catch particular aspects of the picture. However, my eyes benefits from the whole shot.
Or I can take a few more steps up a short hill to find pictures of Sutro Tower. It’s an icon for locals and our communication venue. Someone once pointed out it looks like a clipper ship if you get underneath it (especially on a foggy night).
Still if you want the best views, it’s best to make the effort to climb some higher hills. When my health improves I’ll cast the proverbial wider net. In the meantime, I’ll cheat and stick to local venues like UCSF (one of the great teaching medical centers in the country if not the world).From my house, I can walk up the back entrance to both its buildings and gardens.
UCSF’s location on the semi-steep hills of Parnassus Ave provides stunning views of the Golden Gate Park, the Bay, and various local neighborhoods. Most people tend to avoid it, however, because it’s a cold, foggy, wind-tunnel. Eh it’s why us Sunset Natives love it (after all conditioning makes us curdle at sight of sun or is it we are vampires :)) It’s part of why – sadly – many of its practitioners are fleeing out to Mission Bay‘s better weather. Of course it probably has something to do with earthquakes as well.
Given my obsession with buildings, I appreciate what great views it provides of Golden Gate Heights and the Sunset. Though I can’t help but think of another native’s friendly gibe at me years ago. No matter how much some of us (e.g. me) may seek to flee the Church, we always tend to live within the sound of church bells. The pink imposing building in the lower picture is St. Anne’s Catholic Church and School (nope, not my alma mater). Nor does it skimp on views of the beautiful Craftsmen Houses in the area.
San Francisco now enters our most glorious weather period of the year. End of summer and early fall represent our warmest and clearest months. It brings clear blue skies (minus the fog), toasty warm days (upper seventies), and explosions of people on the street. Only the kids forced back to school as summer actually starts and sweatshirt vendors unable to clothe tourists in tacky memorabilia get upset. Everyone else throws on what passes for summer gear and heads out the door.
This past week I wandered through the Tenderloin in search of color and found small gardens dotting the landscape. Among my favorites was a riotous gathering of colorful flowers guarding the entrance to a rest home. Granted flowers were unlikely drought resistent nor did the garden make space for veggies (all important considerations. But its jumbled beauty brought smiles to walkers passing on the street.
Other parts of the garden appeared “organized” but are no less lovely in their color burst.
In contrast, City maintained parks line up in cool geometric patters to maximize space. However, none skimp on color or texture.
Sometimes also plants just randomly shoot up on their own on City Property (how appropriate it’s a lovely purple flowering plant).
Sometimes too it’s just a colorful tree on a median joining those near it to grab the maximum sun and attention.
Nor should I neglect the federal government, which has added a lovely garden of metal and flowers to its Golden Gate Courthouse.
I highly recommend both of them. Essentially the photography site shows what I “try” to accomplish (but remains eons beyond me). The other site (Griffen’s) mixes up everything, which appeals to my eclectic nature.
I seek beauty in my everyday surroundings, especially objects folks have created or curated for others to share. Their unselfish efforts make me smile and calm my spirit. Given the short supply of laughter and peace in this world I consider these gifts beyond measure.
Tonight I will focus on mini-gardens I found in my neighborhoods (both work and home). Some are masterful efforts with many plants, others are clever uses of color to enhance houses, and a few are quirky celebrations of tiny spaces. All are surrounded by mature trees, which I sprinkled in this selection. Finally not bad for the land of the fog, eh?
Mind you a new photographer has grabbed them in quick travels. Thus blame the blogger and not the gardeners for anything you find lacking.