Wake up with the blues hugging me tight to their clammy bosom, not helped by skyping with family – although it is so lovely to see them and talk to them – I feel the weight of not being with them for so long. I repeat the words of Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese, and remind myself that we all find our place in this earth.
Time to dance – in fact, to Lindy Hop. I had read that there were free Lindy Hop sessions in Golden Gate Park, just outside the deYoung Museum. Its a no brainer. Golden Gate Park I have been told by several people is a must. I take the 5 bus all the way to the Park, get off, and am immersed in this beautiful huge piece of parkland. Awesome. The de Young building looms up into the sky (today, grey and cloudy). The park is filled with enormous mature Mediterranean oaks, maples with leaves just beginning the change of colour, cypress trees. Wide avenues with people cycling, roller blading, walking. No cars. Quiet, peaceful. The pace is leisurely, relaxed, nice and easy.
I breakfast at the Museum cafe – my treat to myself. I over look the Japanese gardens filled with maples of all colours and sizes. My morning blues and mood is lifting away.
After breakfast – Lindy hop. And there you have it – again, what better way to get into a place and people than to dance with them. I’m immediately invited to dance – a sequence of partners means I’m kept dancing for an hour, learning the steps and the different styles of my partners at the same time. This is a dance form for all ages, all body types – its as much fun to watch all the different couples.
We are given a free lesson – relief to do it all slowly, and have the moves broken down into simple steps. And then again off into full whirlwind of dancing couples. The music is so delicious – bluesy jazz – dancing in the clear warm air, in the green treed park to Ella Fitzgerald and funky gusty roots funk. What a wonderful way to spend Sunday.
The museum calls – reluctantly, I leave the dancers and head to the de Young. Contemporary art, and a collection of Oceanic and African art. It would take pages, hours, and too many words to describe all the wonderful things I see – so will just touch on two things. One, the tower – you ride to the top and step out into a full panoramic glass house overlooking San Francisco. I can see the whole of the park stretching out, the hills, the Pacific, church tops and spires – a bird eye view. Magnificent.
On the way back down, in a small grey cemented space between the tower and the rest of the museum, there is some beautiful woven wired work hanging. And what seems like branches woven into spheres, and shapes, reaching out high up on the wall. Even though they are carefully lit, I noticed but hadn’t payed attention on the way up (I was in conversation with someone heading up). This time I stop and take in these fragile beautiful delicate and yet commanding sculptures. They resonate with shapes from the natural world, strong simple shapes that belie their complicated and intricate weaving. I find out the artist is Ruth Asawa – an artist native to San Francisco. Her work is so beautiful, I go straight up the tower again, to find a book about her…It is so exciting to come across a new artist whose work thrills, and whose work and existence you never knew about. I think of my friend Debbie Hall, an artist who weaves exquisite pieces with willow; I must introduce her to Ruth Asawa’s work.
At so many points in this journey I have had friends and family with me in internal conversation – wanting to share what I am seeing and experiencing with them. As if I have a host of invisible companions with me. I do stop of shorting of speaking aloud….
It turns out there will be further links for me with Ruth Asawa.
I leave the Museum when it closes. On the map it looks like I am a stones throw from the Pacific, – must see the Pacific, so even though I am tired, I get back on the 5 heading to the 5, tickled that a proper city could have beaches framing its length. And riding slowly down the sloping hill, there it is – the majestic ocean- so exciting – a full spread of beach and far horizon of sea and sky. Wow. A beach front in your city. Somehow this seems too magical. That one could step out so immediately and easily into this wide expanse.
Far off in the distance, into the cliffs, I can see a lot of colour and people moving about. Again, despite tiredness and feeling fully satiated by the day thus far, I decide a walk by the beach always a good idea, why not check it out. As I get closer, I realise I’ve stumbled into what looks like a mini festival – people seem to be dancing, hanging out, lots of kites, colourful tents and groups of people. Closer still I realise they are all wearing yellow headphones – I have come into the Hushfest – a SanFrisco disco on the beach. I’ve arrived at Ocean Beach at Balboa Avenue.
Two dj’s are high up at the top of a castle of a truck, spinning the disks. I’m given a ticket for a nominal fee – it is 5.30 and the fest began at 11 that morning – and collect my headphones. Its a silent disco – the music is in everyone’s ears, so as you walk about, its a seemingly normal beach gathering – picnics, conversation, games, laughter – apart from that mostly everyone has headphones on, children as well, and is dancing away, silently. Until you put your own headphones on and then you’re connected to the the dancing bodies and the whole motion of the place. It feels bit strange to wander in at this stage of the festivities, the sun is beginning to glow its way into the sea, and alone…but I put my stuff down, face into the waves and wind and start to dance. I realise that I am facing the Pacific – and that’s it – I have to get my toes in. There are plenty of dancing bodies silhouetted against the waves – the music still blaring in my ears as I tread across the sand, lots of smiling faces and nodding heads along the way. And then – glory be – I am dancing in the Pacific, surfers riding the waves, fellow alone dancers every which way. This is it. I have arrived in California.