Wednesday, March 27, 2013 | San Francisco dispatch
We walked for miles, Adrienne and me. And always we were in the city. No gravity, no dissipation of sounds, not of the bleary horns, voices overheard. No end of streets. The three-story apartment buildings on and on. Walking easily, comfortably, another park with vista, another person, building to deconstruct. Occasionally the radiant, straight street, to fly forty-odd blocks along instantaneously, all the way to a green, dark pined hill anchoring the avenue end, lifting it, lit by a separate sun. As though San Francisco might be perfect, at some lucky nexus of climate and cultures, the only place to be.
We ate and drank what we bumped into. The only constraint in the wandering was that we wanted to be in the outside. We wouldn’t leave the air and light not even for one beer or sandwich.
We had arrived in rain in the early afternoon. From the train window, the city was all socked in, all the pastel hills introspective as Colma, city of the dead. By next morning, the sun came through. Spring sprung. The lilacs opened in the northwest corner of my sister’s garden. The sea roses pushed long, dark red leaves from pebbly buds. The lemon tree already had lemons.
The light was impossibly beautiful, bathing everything in a white clarity. Even a UPS truck double-parked on Mission Street looked photographic, out of time, worth capturing and eating.
Everything could be tasted. Nothing had to be had. The sleepiness and low buzz of the city bumped up against us, carried and lifted us.
There is always somewhere to go, for restorative baths, for the air, the light, to heal, for the material immaterial.
A vacation by definition transports, is a self-induced hypnotic. It is an exercise in letting go. And if you have enough money for a plane ticket, it is pretty easy, thankfully. But the one thing I can work on – will have to perfect – is the return home. Yesterday, back home, in the afternoon, in our own smaller, more typical American city, Adrienne and I were working in the shop behind the house, she up, me down, handing tools through the open trap door. We had all the doors of the house open. The air from the sound was entering everywhere, pooling, soothing. The neighbor’s cherry tree was blowing open bud by bud. I had a ladder under the birdhouse under the back stair, readying to clean it, to try a new spot for the season. My ear was still tuned to San Francisco. I was listening in the sun for that inaudible low buzz and not finding it. I was vaguely discontent. While I stood there, hesitating on the ladder, hearing my own emptiness, a pair of chickadees dipped down from the holly tree and into the hole. They flew out with mouthfuls of last year’s nest. All excited finally, I watched, saw the birds drop the old shavings, give them to the air to sift.