Finding Balance in San Francisco

“The sea and pine scented air fills me with hope and the belief that all men and women are made better by a visit to this place. The dream of San Francisco is that humanity might live in harmony with nature but at the same time enjoy the benefits of civilization.

Call yourself down through the centuries and see if it is not here that you will return. San Francisco isn’t just a city, it is a jumping off point to eternity. In an ocean of light, this is the place.

-Sean O’Reilly, “Lady of the Avenues” 

February 22, 2012, Washington, DC: I’ve held onto this passage by Sean O’Reilly for awhile now, ever since moving from San Francisco to Chicago. O’Reilly’s confidence in the belief that we all come back made me feel better about leaving, and I admired the way he succinctly explained the balance afforded to those who experience life here. “In harmony with nature,” we retain a quite physical, active and tangible relationship with the environment while “the benefits of civilization” provide us with opportunities for cerebral, intellectual and artistic expression.

Others, too, have taken note of the power of places that enliven both the civilized and the natural, the mind and the body. In his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, sociologist and urbanist Richard Florida explored a body of research that strikes a related chord. Within his larger argument about why creative types choose to live where they do, Florida found that the world’s fittest cities also happen to be the world’s leading creative centers.

Fresh off a long weekend in San Francisco, these juxtapositions are abundantly clear. Here is a place where balance comes naturally. Here is a city in which it is easy to be both an artist and an athlete.

There is harmony and symmetry and artistry and athleticism and creativity here — in charming storefronts and shops, among bicycles sprinkled like art throughout the city, in people’s outlooks, and in the city’s architecture. Pitched on precariously steep hills, we find balance in San Francisco.

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