Saturday, August 31, 2013

love vs. love

 I've been thinking a lot lately about the very important distinction between curating one's life and living it.  But today, as I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, returning from a 13 day trip to Oregon and Canada, I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I couldn't help compiling a mental list of all the wonders for which I am grateful.  And as it happens, this list became sort of a prose in my mind, as the evening unfolded, and I can't help but write it down.  Putting things into words has a way of making my emotions feel more... real.  More valid.  I don't know.  It's silly.  But this is  how I work. And I'm an indulgent person, so here we are.

 Back to the Golden Gate...  As I crossed from the white-yellow-golden sunny north end of the bridge, the Marin county end of things with all the gleaming million-dollar mansions in Tiburon, and the little white sailboats all drifting in little circles at the end of their moorings in Sausalito, onto the bridge which connects all things north of it with one of the world's most iconic cities, this is Paris, New York, Tokyo, and people are on the bridge, smiling, laughing, photographing one another, waving and then, beneath the great orange cables, the south side of the bridge is engulfed in the thickest fog you've ever seen, and as I plunge into it, the sky darkens and I smell the eucalyptus of the Presidio, and I am home.  The fog is so thick it becomes big drops and smacks my windows and smacks my smiling dog in the face, her head out the window, nose going crazy, smelling home, anticipating home the way I am after an 11 hour drive. We park quickly, I leash the mutt and we head straight for the ocean, to the market to buy wine and good cheese for tonight's dinner.  We are greeted with the smell of salt water as we walk through our neighborhood, and the Chinese families are out, walking arm-in-arm with each other, elders and children, four generations maybe, and the salty ocean air competes with their restaurants' smells, fried squids and jasmine rice and burnt sugar cane, and this is all wafting over me as I hear conversations in languages I don't understand, am grateful to not understand, and I get my wine and cheese from the market on the shore, and head home, safe in the dark but welcome streets, of the Outer Richmond Distict. 

Home, I boil the water for linguine, grate the Pecorino, open the Malbec, put on Schubert, Opus # 142, and play it loud, lovely piano sounds that follow me out through open windows to my garden, thirsty from neglect but nonetheless yielding greens, squash and fresh herbs for tonight's pasta.  I light candles and chop the rosemary, happy, happy, happy for this city which I somehow managed to take for granted in the preceding 6 months.

I live here!  I think this as I see the Bridge, as I see the skyline of downtown in the distance.  "Hey, there's San Francisco!"  Wait:  I. Live. Here.  I have to stop myself, mentally in my tracks.  Who gets to live here?  How did this happen?  Sometimes when I am doing mundane things like buying breakfast cereal at the grocery store, or doing laundry at the laundromat I look at the other people around me (ordinary people!) and I can't believe I'm here, they're here, how the hell did we all get to live here?!  It's impossible to find an apartment here.  It's impossible to afford rent here.  Food is expensive.  Everything you do is difficult, from parking to going to the bank to paying the damn bridge tolls, but we all manage to make it work.   We take the train,  we walk, we buy ginger and rice noodles and whole animals to eat, and I am part of that "we" now, my apartment's lease coming up on its year anniversary.  

The trip to Oregon set me straight.  I love home and I will always miss my family and friends there, but I have silently, subtly and unexpectedly become accustomed to the luxuries of living in a fabulous city.  Being in Oregon, I suddenly realized that I have, perhaps, lost interest in life being "easy."  The masochist that I am, I have become addicted to certain things, a constant tension that is inevitable when living amongst the people who are, essentially, in charge of major current cultural movements, ones we are so familiar with that we forget we have these things, like skin and eyeballs, we have iPhones and Google, Twitter and Facebook, all created here and seeping out into the world, like it or not, and these people, the epicenter of the Universe, these are the people I brush elbows with while sipping espresso or eating peach pie.  Because of these people, all the standards here are raised a notch or two above just good, or even great.  All of these geniuses and over achievers don't make life easy, but they do make it splendid...   Par for this course, my schedule is already brimming as I return home, Italian brunch with my farmer tomorrow, prosecco and gelato in the late morning overlooking the bay, a farm wedding later in the day, cedar hot tub tomorrow night, roasting green chiles with Lura my dear friend from New Mexico ("people here understand how crazy New Mexicans are, that's why you can buy green chiles here"), and dinner at Dosa Wednesday night, after a full clinic day at the VA on Tuesday.  Yes, it's crazy expensive here, but I do love my little apartment, my foreign neighbors, the fog horn drifting into my window each night...  Sun, the freshest farm produce, motivated humans at every turn, I find it harder and harder to remember how I managed to stay happy in the rain, surrounded by boarded-up storefronts and entropy. 

Do I miss Oregon?  Of course, and particularly Yachats and Cape Perpetua, where I hid out for the last 3 days.  I got my acupuncture there, ran with my best friend in old-growth spruce forests and this morning, reveled in the beautiful fog as I left town. 

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