Update on life in SF

Leif Johnson — 05 Oct 2003, 00:10

i've been having lots of thoughts that i've wanted to get written down ... and unfortunately these episodes almost always coincide with those times when i'm too scattered mentally to do so.

but here i am, on a saturday night, sufficiently infused with mathé to be interested in typing rapidly, and having been sufficiently reflective in the past couple of days to have something to type. i just ate dinner at the house of nanking, a chinese place on kearny a couple blocks down the hill from my place. this particular restaurant was listed in my friend's lonely planet, so there was a line out the door when we arrived ... the wait wasn't too bad, though, and the food was excellent and decently cheap.

anyway, with a yummy post-meal gingersnap from mama wingo and a healthy dose of tea, i find myself sitting here on my mat in front of my laptop, typing. toaster leans agains the wall next to me, and somehow i managed to tune my radio to the classic rock station. (toaster is a computer, composed of the old innards from fridge—currently mounted on a piece of plywood, but slated for future movement into a custom built lucite enclosure).

places and where we are

this week i finished reading dakota, an excellent collection of essays on spirituality and the influence of the land in the western dakotas. the norris book was actually a quick successor to ivan doig's slightly more impressive collection of memoirs, this house of sky, but both tomes are beautiful webs of images gathered in the harsh land surrounding the missouri river (dakota for norris, montana for doig).

as kingsolver says more explicitly in her own essays, the land is such a complex and hardly acknowledged part of our lives ; it supports and guides us, but also ties us down. we unwittingly wake up on a breezy morning and long for the forests of northern idaho, for the elk and moose that were hardly ever seen but whose presence was nevertheless an essential part of the environment. or maybe we'll be walking home one day past the chinese marketplaces, maneuvering among the pedestrians and vehicles, when a glance skyward yields a chalky moon rising in the late afternoon next to a skyscraper. the impression leaves us with an unspeakable desire for stars, millions of them, coming out of the sky as the crickets chirp and the trees whisper in the night.

today i rode my bike out to a bluegrass festival in golden gate park, a distance of about five miles. it was a nice ride—my inaugural ride on my shiny red road bike—but i can't wait to get that bike out on the open road to really let it soar. there are too many stop signs in town. thankfully, the ride left me physically exhausted, legs throbbing with complaints about being out of shape, but my knee held up beautifully. i feel like it's getting in better shape ; let's hope the previous incidents were just early warnings, and that i can heed them. : )

land be damned, i like the city

today was also about the seventh day in a row now where i've thought explicitly at some point during the day, “i really enjoy being here.” on monday i went to precal class and got to do a mini-lecture on asymptotes, which wasn't wholesale rejected by the students (yay !). then i let my bus transfer expire, so i walked back home from central and hayes (about 4 miles ?). the weather was beautiful, and there are so many different things to see and do here in the city. every neighborhood—almost every block–has something different and unique to offer. what an exciting place. similar thoughts followed throughout the week, so i'm feeling quite comfortable here in san francisco.

being a child of the rural areas, i can certainly sympathize with kingsolver, doig, and norris on their common thesis of land being necessary for shaping an individual, for providing some definition in our collective lives. i personally thank every minute that i've had the chance to sit and experience the rhythms of the natural world, in as many as i've seen of their constant variations. but dammit, i like the city, and it too has rhythms and is a place.

although i envision myself eventually settling in a rural place, i certainly enjoy the stimulation, the community, the opportunities available in a place like san francisco. i find it difficult to embrace the rural thesis entirely, simply because there are so many people out there. as kingsolver argues effectively in small wonder, we ought to preserve at least some places in our natural world and disallow any intervention in those places at all. they'll be fantastically valuable for the creatures of the earth. so i don't find cities that bad, provided that people understand that their roots still lie in the rural territories of the earth.