Archive for May, 2012

Happy Birthday to my friend, the bridge

Posted on May 30, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Travel |

It IS amongst the most recognizable symbols of human habitation on the earth. In the United States of America, the East Coast has the Statue of Liberty; the West Coast has the Golden Gate Bridge. This notable structure had its 75th birthday this past weekend. I had relatives that remembered a time BEFORE the bridge, when one had to travel north of San Francisco on a ferry. You drove your car onto the ferry-boat and drove off on the other end.

San Francisco is on the tip of a peninsula. You can travel north and east of there by traveling south first and then driving east, and then north again, but it’s always been faster and much more efficient to travel over the water to get…well almost anywhere that wasn’t due south.

For the history of the bridge, along with some great photos, you can go here. I won’t repeat all the interesting facts there, such as that the bridge is constantly being painted. I met a man once that told me his job was to paint the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s it. Not just an industrial painter in general; his job was to be constantly painting the bridge in its signature vermillion color. (OK, so I shared ONE interesting fact…go see the above link; it’s all really quite interesting. Also the official 75th anniversary site is here.)

The picture at the top of this post is the view I had of the bridge from the football field at the high school I attended in San Francisco. There are actually even better and closer views of the bridge from the school. Being able to see the bridge from school is one of the few things I liked about high school…but I digress.

The bridge was always a part of my life; my neighborhood. From early childhood, I accompanied my parents across it in the car, usually when we went on brief weekend holidays to a woodsy cabin camp north of the city. It was always lovely riding across the bridge in a car. The views were spectacular: sailboats in the sparkling bay; the incredible mountains; the jaw-dropping San Francisco skyline view looking back towards the city. Even on those days of dense fog, where one couldn’t see a thing (and there were many) the bridge in the mist had an ethereal, other-worldly quality I valued just a much as when the days were clear and sunny and I could see forever.

It was when I was a young teenager–thirteen or fourteen years old–that I became “intimate” with the bridge. I had known for some years that people walked and bicycled across the bridge, not just drove. I had never walked across the bridge, but a youth group I was in was planning a bridge walk, and then a picnic “on the other side” That “side” was Sausalito, an absolutely charming town on the water, with elegant shops and eateries; houseboat communities and a yacht harbor, right down the hill and a lovely walk along the water from the bridge.  The first time I walked across the bridge, I carried a bowl of potato salad! We each brought something for the meal we’d share in the little park at our destination. I met my friends at the entrance to the bridge walk, and was almost in a trance all the way over. I’m surprised the potato salad made it intact. :)

I discovered that I could easily walk to the bridge from my home! I hadn’t really thought about that before the first time I walked the bridge. I could leave my cramped bedroom and walk, walk, walk all the way to Sausalito! My friends and I didn’t walk back from there; instead we took a ferry to downtown San Francisco, and then the bus home. The ferry ride itself was almost as magical.

One time, after I had moved to the magical land across the bridge from the city, I was driving on the bridge in my very lightweight car. A rare high wind came up and actually blew my car into the next lane! Fortunately there was no one in the place my car landed. I decided in the future to check the wind reports before driving, if the wind at all seemed out-of-the-ordinary. (And since then, I’ve driven heavier cars, too!)

I went on this walk a couple more times with friends, and then once or twice on my own. It is the most incredible walk, far above the sea; the boats; the world. The salt air and the feeling that I was one step further on the path through the universe was sometimes overwhelming. I felt the blood, sweat and tears of those that built the bridge (some had died from accidents during construction); and of those that had died by jumping from its heights. I did know a young man, a little older than me, that had jumped to his death from there, after his girlfriend broke up with him. I knew his mother quite well; she was never the same after this happened.

In spite of all that, the beauty and hope of this place; this bridge; this arc of welcoming to one of the greater cities on earth, held me in its sway. We became friends, the bridge and I, and it has never let me down, in or out of sight. Happy Birthday, dear friend!

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GONE

Posted on May 20, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Spirituality |

I had gone.
I’d Been before,
one foot out
the door;
the other laden
with burdens
and guilt,
memories, and love.

I had gone.
When you said
we’d better
join our souls
but mine
was not mine
to give.

So much
left to do you
said over cornflakes
Wait.
Just ten minutes
one
hour one
year one
lifetime Just
’til it’s right.

Look. tonight.
A total eclipse
of the sun.
We can share that.
We can share that.
The natural underpinning
of society’s angst.

Sun had gone.
You and I
wait that starstruck
minute.
Always before,
had reappeared.

You were talking
to me
for twenty minutes
before
you realized
I had gone.

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Oh, quail!

Posted on May 1, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy |

  I was typing away at my computer keyboard–my most frequent activity–when I heard a loud “BANG!” on the window next to my desk. I first thought a rock (or small meteor?) had somehow managed an unlikely trajectory, but it didn’t have that sharp sound, nor did the glass break; or perhaps a child’s ball was accidentally thrown against my window.

But the immediate neighbors don’t have children. I looked, of course, and on the ground near my window lay a quail on her back, blood on her chest. Her legs twitched for a moment, and then were still.

Oh, quail! How did you come to fly into my window pane? I’d seen the ads on television for a window cleaning product, that got ones windows so clean that birds fly into them and knock themselves out (hah hah!). While the ad didn’t amuse me the first 30 times I saw it; it just seems cruel, now. Besides, my window is not squeaky clean, I have a screen on it, and curtains inside. It’s not as if it looks like empty space.

“I’m going to have to go out there and do something,” I said to myself. “Maybe she’s just stunned.” (but it was a VERY loud bang…and she is bloody…) As I continued to look, I noticed her mate. He strutted nearby, making a curious, anxious chirping sound. And then, he stopped near her body, as if assessing the damage. Was he saying “goodbye”? He gave a little shake and began to walk; then run; then fly. Would I see him again? Their children must be grown, as they were not nearby. Desert Quail mate for life, and I’d seen many pairs nurture their adorable chicks, trying to keep them safe from the many predators here.

Oh, quail! You’ve made your mate a widower. Has he gone off to mourn?

He did not return. Quail are bold birds, and he would not have let the sight of me peering out the window drive him from his mate’s side, if there were a chance she could be helped. I finally went outside. I gently nudged her with a stick. I did not touch her; we’d been warned of several unpleasant diseases from wild animals lately.

I will not bury her. It will be dark in a few hours. I will leave her to a passing coyote–the small ones can get through my iron fence–or a swooping hawk. It is the kindest thing, I think, to let her feed others.

Her eyes are still open. The blood on her chest has already started to dry and congeal. It is 92 degrees out there, but she is in the shade. Hawks like to catch their prey alive, but they will pick up carrion. Coyotes will eat anything, but I haven’t seen a small enough one lately to get through my barrier. Perhaps an owl or a roadrunner will come by.

Tomorrow, if she’s still there, I’ll have to do something respectful.

Oh, quail!

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