March 5, 2012

Experiencing Light

Yesterday, Saturday the 3rd of March in San Francisco I had been out in the Richmond District revisiting my old haunts (to old friends, yes I was on Clement street on Saturday driving but it seems to have improved). I went by Green Apple Books, where I may have spent months of my life (it is my 3rd favorite bookstore anywhere, with Powell's in Portland holding the top rung). The mix of new and used and the nooks and crannies that hold great potential to open new doors of understanding are a real gem. I also wandered into Haaigs Deli and Spice where I used to buy bags of spice and loose leave tea to savor.

Comparatively, in and around Washington, D.C. things are far more transient and ephemeral in the community space than in San Francisco. Yes, there is history to no end in and around D.C., but but stores and communities drift with the winds. This 30 minute walk back through places that were core parts of my life and being in San Francsico has changed so very little. The crafts people as store keepers and business people has endured. I was back at home and not wanting to leave that comfort and connectedness to what was and still is. It reminded me of a great piece in the SF Chronicle/Gate from 2003 about the repair of the San Francisco Ferry Building clock. It was such a great San Francisco story of history, craft, and individuals having a part of the whole community fabric. As well the clock was built to continue working for over a thousand years. It is there to count the minutes of more than a thousand years of history, personal moments, booms and busts, and other general and momentous passages through time.

At about 5:20 p.m. (17:20 for clarity) I got back in my car (er, was my mom's) and started driving out Clement into the sun toward the beach to see the 20s street crossings of Clement Street that also held a lot of wonderful moments from the past. From there I turned and went over to California Street to drive back downtown to meet friends for dinner.

As I was driving in the bright clean clear increasingly golden sun was going down slowly behind me. The lighting was the most incredible light I have experienced. It was warm, golden, engulfing, and made everything radiant. It was the embodiment of the golden glow. And all of this was incredibly moving to the point of loving everything great and glorious about everything in life: people, architecture, nature, all made and natural, and all real and imagined. It was that kind of light. A perfect moment lasting through the golden shadows created by the hills all the way down to the end of California Street.

As I reached the end I really had been wishing I had my camera with me to stop and see if I could capture the glory of this light and the crisp blue skies wrapping this beautiful city. But, I remembered a great snippet of conversation I had in Berlin with Malcolm McCollough about reading after he signed his book, Digital Ground, I had read and jammed with PostIts sticking out the edges like a fuzzy caterpillar and highlighted extensively. We talked about the problem of reading a book like that and wanting to read it straight through to have the flow and understanding, but also to read with highlighter and paper snippets in hand so to capture the things I really want to hold on to [there is no good way to read it twice as it has unfolded already and what struck once with significance may not again]. Malcolm stated that was his problem with going to cities for the first time, but rather than an highlighter it is the camera to document and capture the city (which is how I often meet and get to know a city) and he opts to just experience. For that 20 minute stretch yesterday I had no camera with me that could capture the ephemeral qualities of light that were escaping, but my only choice was to live and experience it. I did possibly like no other stretch of time before. There was glory built into that time, woven with history of personal and collective all woven and washed in amazing light.



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