I am back from several days visiting old friends in the Bay Area and still acclimating to the land of ice and snow I left behind. Even in an El Nino year, rain on the Pacific Coast is a welcome change from winter in New England, and the sun came out for much of my stay. It was a fabulous opportunity to reconnect with one of my oldest and dearest friends and take advantage of the perspective that such a large step outside of my own routine affords.
My friends live in Oakland in a classic bungalow. The air held the tang of citrus and rosemary from the extraordinary plantings that are possible in pocket gardens in this climate. I always marvel at the size of outdoor jade plants, and lemons the size of grapefruits in backyard trees. One day we walked into the hills above Berkeley, where houses perched over gushing ravines in the luxurious shade of mature oaks, and where the old grade of trolley lines now served as driveways and house lots.
We also went hiking in Muir Woods, a place that always dazzles me with the immensity of the redwoods, the cool of the ravine and its wild salmon stream. This time we hiked above the well traveled paths and into the surrounding hills. This offered an entirely fresh perspective on the great trees and their sheltered groves. The steep hillside still supported massive trees, but the incline also elevated what was carpeting the forest floor - the familiar forms of unfamiliar species: flowering trillium and sorrel, fern and lady slipper orchids. The trunks of the trees throughout the forest were scarred by centuries of wildfires, sometimes leaving vast hollow cavities that the great trees still accommodate. We crested the ridge and stepped out into the sunlight on an open hillside with the Pacific coast in plain view and hardly a house to be seen for miles around. This sort of wild space just minutes from the Golden Gate is truly a treasure.
We took in Richard Thompson performing at the Great American Music Hall, a gilded baroque marvel that arose on the ashes of the great earthquake and shares its gritty strip of prime real estate with burlesque clubs and Thai restaurants. We proceeded from there to the Boom Boom Room next to the Fillmore, and closed out the wee hours of the day with an all night breakfast at the Grubstake; a diner that offered Portuguese fare along with bacon and eggs.
There were grebes and egrets on the bay and clouds rolling over the city as I took wing yesterday. I'm tired and utterly delighted to have been able to take the time to climb up and out of the ravine where I hunker down in winter. Today as my children scamper about and the snow falls in clumps from the barren trees, I replay the past week in all its glory and wonder and look forward with fresh eyes toward Spring.