The thing about San Francisco is that it has countless faces … and many moods. I’ve been there innumerable times when the sky was inescapably blue and the sunshine as golden as the hills. But I think I appreciate the City most in the fog, when its mood and romance envelope us. The other Saturday was just such a day. We decided to take our house guest to cruise the bay for a couple hours on a Red & White Fleet trip that took us from the shore to the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge and back.
On our way to the Golden Gate we headed straight into the cold wind on choppy waters outbound from Fog City. We walked out on the deck and tried to keep our balance on the rolling boat as we surveyed the grey world around us. Beautiful.
Against the monochromatic ocean and sky, the skyline looked like a black and white photo.
Like the fortress it is, Alcatraz stood like a sentry guarding the City, the bridge, who knows what? I stared at the waves as they beat cold and relentless against the boat’s hull and wondered if those two escapees really made it to shore all those years ago. San Francisco Bay waters are teeth-chatteringly cold and so treacherous. How could they have survived? Just another unsolved mystery in this, the most mysterious of our country’s cities.
As we made the turn we cruised under the Golden Gate bridge. I’d never been so close to it. I marveled that painting the bridge is a year-round activity — the painters begin at one end and when they reach the other, do the whole thing again. Imagine that mind-numbing job at great heights, facing winds that can be as high as 100 mph.
Since the first time I saw it, San Francisco has always spoken to me, sometimes in whispers, sometimes in shouts. It’s a less foggy city now than it was 60 years ago, thanks to global warming…scientists say some 33 percent less fog, now. It’s a shame, I think, and hard to believe there may come a day when we won’t wear the City’s fog as a romantic cloak, that we might not be able to draw inspiration from the mist that cloaks us.
I write poetry only rarely, but an early morning of walking around alone in the fog inspired this 2004 poem that was published in 2011.
City of Spirits
In an alley behind a bookstore in North Beach
the ghost of Jack Kerouac
through a pungent veil of incense
walk to the edge
Spirits haunt these streets
listen closely for their whispers
beneath the clang of cable cars
Behind the gates of Chinatown
mystics stir potions, conjure
for those who can hear
In the colorless dawn chill
puddled on walkways
dries in the rising sun
Spirits slip behind shadows
Oh, you are making me want to go back to San Francisco! Beautiful pics….and it really is a lovely city. The view from Alcatrez is equally as stunning as the one from the city. I wonder how hard it was for the inmates to see that view and know it was only miles across the water but completely out of reach.
Loved your poem, too!
I hope you return soon, Lisa.
Ahh, beautiful post. I am right there with you.
The poem is gorgeous.
I appreciate it!
This was a wonderful piece to read this afternoon. Your poem is lovely, but your writing is most poetic as well…
The photos are amazing and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the poem!
That’s a really beautiful poem, Carol. I’ve never been to this city but it sure looks nice.
I love the fog and I love your poem.
I love San Francisco! Amazing city. It’s been far too long since I was there. I love fog! It’s so . . . quite. Like when snow is falling heavily. It seems to close you into your own little world.
Beautiful poem! I can just picture the spirits slipping behind the shadows to sleep. Shivery good!
Of all of the places I’ve traveled San Francisco is and will always be my favorite city!
Making this connection between the two states of being may provide insight into some of the commonly reported experiences associated with falling in love. For example, the similarity between the two states may explain why new love prompts us to float and flit between our daily activities with a certain glow, bursting with vitality and charged with energy, all while whistling a cheerful tune.
I’m so glad my daughter lives in San Francisco. It’s such a great city. Your pics are lovely and I really like the poem.