It’s been a dream to set foot in San Francisco for most of my life. I understand that growing up in the NorthWest means that I’ve had ample opportunities all my life, too, but I never felt I had the right to act on any of these. Things always got in the way. There were work schedules to juggle, and then a kid, and somewhere in between there were all these other travels to Mexico. Scholarly work dominated the days for many, many years, and it just didn’t make sense to pop in on the city by the bay, and somehow the conferences were never hosted there. So when I finally found myself approaching 40, and sitting at a restaurant in San Francisco, I felt a little like crying.
It wasn’t any large issue about how I’d lived my life without being able to make side trips like this, because I can forgive myself for those things. I was just touched by the moment, because I’d realized that I’d been running very hard and fast without end for months. This was the moment when things stopped, or I stopped, and everything crashed down on me. In retrospect, it was actually a lovely thing to happen, because I felt like I was really in the city where so many people had come to get away from mindlessness and tune into something essential.
Gary Snyder might not be around here much these days, but his spirit is in everything. Or maybe that’s a rather naive hero-worship thing to day. He tapped into something here, that for me, is what San Francisco is. It might be equal part Buddhism, politics, poetics, and a deep love for nature. In this heavily urbanized environment, we are still all at the mercy of the elements, and it’s palpable here. In Seattle, where I’m from, there is a similar sense, where the rain tends to dominate the scene. Here, there’s a little more of a mixture, and there are moments where it’s slightly more perilous, but all the better for tapping into the moment and enjoying catching a breath.