Note: a gallery of images will be posted from this trip shortly.
The sweat against my back is gluing the cotton shirt to my skin. The afternoon sun is dropped into the deep blue sky. To my right are the old missionary style buildings of the Presidio. The brown grass has a empathetic sign explaining the lack of water due to the continious drought. Straight ahead is the golden gate bridge and high above is a plane flying a giant rainbow banner proudly displaying a love for all message. How much more California can it get? I’m on a run in San Francisco, a place that makes home more expansive for me.
My parents both lived in the Bay area during the 70’s and 80’s. It’s where my dad learned how to blow glass, race cars, and fly planes. It’s where my parents met. I’ve been coming here since I was born, making a trip nearly every year. Per usual, we are visiting my Aunt Lynn (or Lolo, coined by 4 year old Jack), who is not related by blood but by decades of friendship established well before my birth. Her house is a favorite place of mine. Most obviously for it's beauty and views of the city and bay, Alcatraz and the golden gate bridge. But more tuned to my eclectic side is her endless supply of knick knacks from around the world. My room in Cambridge has been heavily influenced from wondering trails across the floors of Lolo’s house. Now it seems every trip I take I bring back some little thing or two, bits and pieces that may remind me of what was. Her house is a museum of this things little and unique, a place I’ve explored for many years and continue to find new gems, in the bathroom on a shelf in the shower, in the laundry room behind the soap, in the living room atop a book. One sunny morning this trip I set out a fresh cup of coffee, steam rising to the metal banister of her porch. My bowl was filled with my dad’s famous blackberry cobbler, and my eyes took in the city. I was struck by a Mediterranean mix of the purple flowers rising from her garden, white building faces below and the ocean in the distance. It was a mix of where I was from, where I was familiar, and something I will always take with me: wonder. What was happening out there? What about the uninhabited island over there? More than that, my sense of wonder inhabits a space past my thoughts where I simply am, and nothing more. As if I am realizing that I am not a wave, but just that drop of change in the ocean.
There is definitely something comfortable here, even though my familiarity with the street names and neighbourhoods isn't spot it. It’s similar to seeing an old friend, and falling back into conversation. The steep hills, colorful houses, endless little restaurants.
But it’s something more than just being comfortable. Travelling is an indirect path to home. That is, my sense of home is not derived from a single location. When I leave and go somewhere outside my palate of usual habits and formations, little changes happen. They may be tiny strokes against a endless canvas, but I notice them with curiosity. Changes are natural and healthy. Can you think of a single aspect of the cosmos that escapes it? Just as our own sense of self, purpose, happiness, and so forth sway to and fro throughout our lives, so does home. Home is flexible, like the Douglas Firs which cover Western Washington. The majestic evergreens garner their strength not from rigidity, but their roots which give ever so slightly to the forces around them. Doing so in our lives can be difficult, as we often resist what is new, preferring something known and well worn. It is easy to dismiss using old ideas, and hard to let go and accept the new. But that resistance is the antithesis of the natural world, which forms the new through the old, continuously reforming and reusing. I am not saying to let go of home, actually closer the opposite. Do not let it become stagnant, but a growing painting, building layers by the colors and shapes seen elsewhere. It may be painful at times, and joyful at others, but that’s how it goes; there are no straight lines home.