It was nearly eleven by the time we touched down in D.C. last Thursday. The snow from earlier in the day a dozen states Westward had been shaken off and replaced with a cool wind, as if the worst had passed. My cab cut through the blackened evening along the GW, which might after all this time still be my favorite road to anywhere. It curved upon the monuments, steady as soldiers and lit for display, and something in that view brought a version of my life seven years back, back to life. For this was the site of my searching and finding. Of our necessary dissolution and ultimate resurrection. This town was the site of my fiercest ambition; the manifestation of a vision against all warnings, when the only direction I had to go was up from where I stood. It was a season of counting every single dollar, because the cards were cut and every safety net was gone. And I learned to be genuinely grateful for each meal procured and the generosity of others who opened their homes – for a meal, for a night, for a month, so I could sleep in a spare room or basement bed and figure out how to construct a blueprint of a life out of these matchsticks spread around. It was a season of falling, over and over again, accompanied by the realization that this kind of endless descent can also come with the sensation of being caught. By a whole village of hands you didn’t even realize were outstretched. This was a season of moving every few months in the kind of nomadic endeavor that can only truly be accomplished when all of your belongings easily fit into two suitcases in the back of a car. Add a lamp for good measure. This was a season of battling traffic, shuttling the route between Maryland and Virginia as you do. It was a time of deep honesty and new truths and the genuine love of friends. Of going out for ice cream and cooking in. Of living questions more than finding answers, and navigating a way to get comfortable with that open end.
I looked around the room at the wedding of one of my dearest friends in that town on Friday night – surrounded by so many faces from that stage of life years ago, people who helped keep me from hitting the ground in every way – and couldn’t help thinking of the foundation that tumult had laid. In some ways I can still tap into that feeling of directionless abandon. It rings relevant in me in a way I’m not sure I could describe or will ever shed. Still, a lot has changed in the years since, you could say. Goodness has bloomed from within the fissures. The monuments are still standing. So am I.
It took a whole year. To clear the dust and unlock the right doors. To take off our shoes and feel at home in this place of undulating hills and quaint charm and understand that this is a town more than a city and, hungry for a skyline as I am, that can be a good thing.
I’ve grown accustomed to the well trained climate and ubiquitous bay, the embrace of the waterline that envelopes this place. Disoriented as the lack of seasons found me at first — how summer felt all wrong wrapped in cold and laden with a thick and hanging fog that crawled up off the bay and onto the streets like a wet dog in the middle of the afternoon— it also mercifully offered an escape. Coming from the middle of the midwest where you could not outrun winter in a car if you tried, the ability to drive out of the weather and into the sun in under an hour is a phenomenon not lost on me yet.
In the beginning navigation was my nemesis, without the familiar grid and ease of a subway ticket to pay your way across town, whole swaths of the city remained a mystery and the nearest reach became familiar to the point of exhaustion. But slowly, one determined weekend at a time it began to unfurl in a series of wide parks and wooded trails, niche restaurants and clever bars, house parties and long walks, with a character all its own. It took a whole year to shed the desire for a bodega on every corner and welcome instead the pantone panoply of residential rows that house the growing masses here and disconnect one neighborhood from the next. What we gave up in reach, we found we gained in proximity, and the ability to walk between friends’ apartments and on to our favorite spots on Chestnut St developed its own sheen.
It took a whole year to understand which streets will get you where and start to learn what’s on past the Mission and shelve those last boxes into submission. It was New Year’s Eve when we moved in you know, tired and heaving from the cross-country trek from New York to California, a journey dotted by quick stops in western towns I’d never seen and great swaths of snow that went on for states, which is not an exaggeration, not even a little bit.
It took a whole year to find affinity in the gleam of the metallic bus lines that arch over this city like capillaries, taught and slack in turn, life lines, thin and sinewy in their unthinkable expanse. To see that 7 miles square wasn’t just finite but a comfortable finality. And a launching point to miles beyond. To vineyards and mountains and quiet and sun, and stretches of sand nearby that are so welcome in the summer months.
I’ve gotten used to the shadow of another hulking bridge on this opposite coast and come to find the recognition of home in its red hue. And the ability to see that Golden Gate or it’s counterpart to the East Bay began to feel familiar, though no less astounding, from most peaks in this place. I’ve learned to relish the accomplishment of walking horizontal up vertical hills, and the reward of a view that all the low buildings bring, a wonder really in this real estate hungry age.
Maybe the biggest change of all was the change of pace. The trade in of long hours for early mornings. For less evenings out and more nights in. And 4am free for alls for a 2am last call. Not all bad things, or bad things at all. It was surprising at first, the general ease and content of people here. The ability to spot them daily in droves out running or walking or kite surfing along the bay. This is, if nothing else, an active sort of place. And forgive me this, but the word balance comes to mind, elusive as it seems. For months we marveled at the number of people we met in this town who were so peacefully non-traditionally employed (unemployed?)…the sheer number who were between start ups, had just left a start up, were working on their own idea for a start up, giving it 6 months to a year. That kind of entrepreneurial leap, to be at ease without a steady paycheck nor structured plan, seemed so foreign to me, but admirable at the very least.
I grew into life here the way friends become more than just friends I think. Quietly, slowly, an accumulation of moments that one day turns into a realization that this is too good to ignore. Sure, we go to bed earlier, and don’t stay out as late. It’s about time for that anyway. And we still wrestle with the push-pull of urban life, the conveniences against the costs and the difficulties that are all but assured. But I find myself often now pausing in the moments when we crest upon a hill at the apex of this town and I can see stretching out before us the full expanse of the bay, past the bridge and the marina below, past Marin and onto Tiburon across the way. The way the houses look like colorful chicklets lined up and down the streets. I find myself enjoying the constancy of the water outside, the short walk to a cold beach, and the way the house lights at night define the mountainous terrain.
It took a whole year for San Francisco to stir something in me in a way that New York did near immediately. To learn to stop expecting the subway and instead just call a cab. Because parking is futile and there is still much to see. To feel like it fit, at times at all. To think more about staying than leaving in the long run. We broke each other in like a new pair of shoes, and now I fear it’s the kind of place that will be hard to ever shake. The kind of place I’m fighting, instead, to stay.
Thank you all so much for the well wishes! You all are truly the best. I’m overwhelmed by your kindness and David and I are so stoked about what’s ahead. Ok, a little nervous, but 99% stoked (!)
I know I’ve been holding out on you, but you see I didn’t exactly mean to keep it a secret so long… at first it was just an epic challenge waiting until Thanksgiving to tell our families in person (you should have seen the shock!), then our friends, then there was the question of when to tell my work, which ended up being after the holidays. And just like that, here we are, nearly 6 months along… man, it didn’t feel like it at the time, but that went fast.
No denying it now though, I feel like I am literally growing by the day. Which might actually be true right about now…
The first few months were a knock out (as is to be expected), but I can’t really complain. It comes with the territory, and I felt like myself again by the second trimester, so no harm, no foul. The fun really began when we started seeing the ultrasounds (for that, there are no words) and of course when we got this in the mail from Katherine & PKS … I don’t know why, but the world’s tiniest Patagonia somehow made the whole thing real.
We celebrated some more good news over the holidays… my sister in law is pregnant too! In fact, we’re only a few weeks apart, which is so very fun. We couldn’t have planned it better if we tried. Here’s to cousins!
For his part, David has been incredibly helpful and supportive so far. In fact, for awhile he and I were racing in the bump department as well, but I think I’ve got him officially beat now…
As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, I’m sitting this ski season out (well, what little snow there is to ski in Tahoe this year anyway). However, I did get ONE day in before I was too far along, thank goodness. I have literally been dreaming about those turns since August, so it was a welcome relief to get at least one snowy day in out there, though rest assured I was taking it easy on the blues. Promise.
And yes, I even spent that whole week in Switzerland in town on the ground, looking up at the Alps while David skied some truly crazy terrain with our friends. I didn’t mind missing out on the slopes as much as I thought I might actually. Hot chocolate and sleeping in suited me just fine. I can tell you now though about how funny it was spending NYE totally pregnant and definitely showing and as always not much more than 5’ tall, in our group of about a dozen (mostly new) friends, where all of the women were I kid you not 6’ tall models or nearly so. I have to say, stone cold sober, I had the best time ever though. Dancing with our crew at Farinet, we rang in the new year with the most insane crowd gathered in the square below in Verbier. When the clock struck midnight everyone out there popped so many bottles of champagne it looked like sprinklers went off in the crowd, and the fireworks carried on all night long. I nursed the same glass of bubbly all night (I swear I have never consumed anything that slowly in my entire life) and somehow still stayed out till 2am (by the grace of jet lag alone). Then we went home with our friends for some late night mac and cheese and Elf and an all-morning sleep-in. Quite possibly, the best NYE yet.
Back on the home front, we’ve been in full on nesting mode lately, tackling a list of projects that’s slowly dwindling down. Since we had a rare few days uninterrupted and in town, we cleaned out every corner of this apartment this weekend, including the hall closet because I kid you not, I think that’s where this child is going to live. I wish I was joking, but blame it on the insane San Francisco housing market right now; it’s either that or double our rent from the looks of things so far. But babies are small, right? ;) I think we’re going to try and make it work. Enter the joys of city living… more adventures in resourcefulness from our one-bedroom apartment to come. Stay tuned…