Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Today on my walk with my beloved canine partner, I stumbled upon a tiny clearing off a side parking lot adjacent to the route of our usual habit trail for doggie promenades.
We walk by this empty parking lot daily, but have never ventured in, doing so today only to avoid the convergence on our path of two separate, and assiduously curious dogs on their owners’ leashes, who prompted a leaping enthusiasm from my pup containable only through my detouring us away into the lot. From my fresh vantage point, I could now see a small rope swing suspended from a tree. It is just like the one we had for our children at our home on the South Carolina Lowcountry Coast. This San Francisco swing find, however, is all the more precious because here, such indulgences as a quiet, swinging pursuit are scarce in our urban environment.
I convinced my dog to reluctantly accompany me to try it out. I pulled on the well-worn rope which connects the small, circular wooden seat to the strong tree branch around which it is looped.. It seemed sturdy enough, and I plotted my return, sans canine, to give it a go and remember what swinging on a secreted swing was like. I often feel that if I took five daily walks in the city I now call home, I would on each of them have the potential to ferret out some new hidden feature, peculiarity or jaw-dropping landscape. That recognition that we are always perched upon some inexorable change or discovery is what keeps us San Franciscans here, spending more than we make to live in a hyper-expensive, small rented space in the United States' most fascinating city by the Golden Gate.
An accountant from the East Coast asked me yesterday whether the scuttlebutt he hears of a mass exodus from Northern California is fact or fiction. I responded that for the droves that depart, there are corresponding droves that file in, seeking their present-day dream of a more diverse American environment, replete with economic, cultural and spiritual opportunities. He then asked whether I missed the security of a small Southern town where everyone knows you, and life is easier. I said I did not. I explained that “small towns” had never worked well for me, and that the “safety” implicitly promised therein had always proved for me, a wholly unfulfilled promise.
I joke with my older brother who was born in Oakland at the formal Naval Hospital where my father was a physician in the 1950’s, that it was actually I who should have been born here in the Bay Area. Despite my pleadings, he has never been back to California since departing as a toddler. My tales of my new adventure have not yet enticed him to hear the fog horns from the Bay for himself. One day, perhaps.
But if my East Coast brethren do not venture West to accept my repeated invitations, that too is alright. I am here for myself and my children, in order to raise them with the values and norms which are mine. California accepts and also ignores my idiosyncrasies and passions, like a tolerant, wise parent who knows that her child’s ultimate contentment must be derived from an implicit permission to always have one’s eye out for the next hidden rope swing.
To yearn for the uncertainty of what the next walk will bring is its own form of sanctuary.