“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.
February 21, 2012, San Francisco: I wake up early this morning in a land of grayscale. Cold fog lingers here on the hill on this south slope of Broderick. The severity of San Francisco’s colors have all but disappeared. This place can change on a dime.
It won’t last, I know that by now. But I recall too that this place is not only neon greens and bursts of yellow and radiant whites and blinding sunlight. There are grays here, too. They come with the marine layer. They come with the city. They come with the coast.
“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.”
This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.
February 20, 2012, San Francisco: I have the strangest feeling here this morning. I have a feeling I’ve written this post a million times over, like this whole concept started here years before I knew it. This neighborhood on Russian Hill is documented in my memory in this very format. This morning on Russian Hill was mapped out long ago.
On that note, here are the photos I never took back then, snapped just this weekend, accompanied by words I wrote circa 2003 sitting right here where I sit now, sipping a latte at Royal Ground:
February 20, 2012, San Francisco, CA: We take the high road, the Sun Trail, at its intersection with the Dipsea, winding our way along the slopes of Mt. Tam to the wide wooden porch of the Tourist Club. I gravitate towards the narrow dirt paths that weave through the landscape north of San Francisco, especially this one that ends at such a special place. Open to the public just a few short weekend hours, this place is a place to breathe deeply, to inhale the pine, to soak it all in. Some are here for snacks and beers and board games with friends in celebration of a 25th birthday; others have hiked in with their children for an afternoon picnic. It’s just as easy to imagine ourselves here years from now as it is to remember being here many times before.
It was from the slopes of Mt. Tam, not within the city itself, that I first felt the pull of this sliver of west.
“I got drunk on the city at first the way some people do on vodka, the way it lays itself out as if in a nest of madronas and eucalyptus, the way it sparkles brighter even than the sparkling water that surrounds it, the way the Golden Gate reaches out of it, like fingers, toward the wild wide ocean that lies beyond…
The fog rolls over and down the lanyard side of Mt. Tamalpais, and the city moves in and out of it, glistening like Galilee one moment, then gray and dreamy like a ghost of itself the next, and then gone, like a thought bubble, like somebody’s good idea.”
-Pam Houston, on San Francisco
February 18, 2012, San Francisco: This place is not normal. Did we know that when we lived here? I think so. I hope so. I can’t remember.
Photo Credit: Lesley Carter
This is one in a series featuring the places and spaces readers call home. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomad.
February 10, 2012, Washington, DC: Lesley is a spontaneous nomad who is at home traveling the world. She will pick up and head out at the drop of a hat, beckoned by extreme adventure. Lesley chronicles her adventures on her blog and agreed to give us a bit of the back story about home base and beyond.