Jul 16, 2002

Dark clouds over July
It's been a while since I last looked at other people's blogs. The month has been pretty dry - but who am I to talk; it's been three weeks since I've last touched this though it hasn't seemed half that long. A lot of things have passed since then, and I can't remember everything that I've meant to pen here.

June 30th was the closest thing we've had to a perfect day trip. Our group met for lunch on the patio of the Parkside Cafe (3/5), a stone's throw away from Stinson Beach, a relaxed beachside community isolated about an hour north of San Francisco by a twisty stretch of Pacific hugging highway. After an extended lunch under the lazy weekend sun, some of us toured the beach while the rest drove two cars to the top of Mt. Tamalpais. After returning to the beach in a third car, we hiked up one of the many trails from the beach to the top of the mountain.

The seven and a half mile hike took us about three and a half hours at a relaxed pace, though sections of the trail were steep enough to feel sweat dripping down our foreheads and our hearts pounding with the ascent. We got to the top about an hour early for our goal. On the peak was a fire watchtower, where firemen were posted two weeks at a time, scanning the horizon for signs of forest fires in the dry season. While they had their supper within the confines of their cramped tower, we sat on the rocks, watching the thick fog blow in from the Pacific, over San Francisco and the Golden Gate to the southeast.

As the shadow of the mountain stretched slowly, mile by mile, over the city of Sausalito below, the mercury dropped and the rushing of the winds picked up. Most of the tourists - photographers drawn by the perfect light, couples searching for a romantic spot behind clump of rocks, or families of hiking kids - had already left the peak, but a handful, including our group, stayed to watch the last fleeting rays as the sun dropped below the mountains to the west.

On the drive back, we stopped at Cristophe for dinner. A four course French cuisine that was hearty enough to leave each of us stuffed to the seams after the long day on the trail came to $22 (4/5).
wind
The next evening, after a church and a quiet afternoon, I was completely shocked to hear Amy's anguished cries over the phone, telling me that her father had passed. For a moment I was firmly entrenched in reality, yet the moment passing seemed surreal as the cell phone disconnected, and I felt only a total sense of helplessness. Later, when I was in Economy check-in line for United Airlines, I had the same disoriented sense watching people milling about the airport. Businessmen looked busy on cell phones. Some mothers tended their children on the benches while fathers waited in line with the luggage. Other families looked well prepared for a South Pacific vacation. One girl, who looked no more than seventeen, was carrying a baby in the ticketing line for almost the entire hour that I was in the check-in line, yet she still had a contented look on her face as she played with the child.

There's a dissonance in the perception of men. Standing there in the airport, I could see the happiness in the family gladly looking towards their vacation, the anticipation on the face of the old woman who was going home, the determination of the business flyers, yet inside I felt the incurable trauma that another family was living. As immense that it was, a complete breach in the fabric of their reality, I also knew that life went on as usual for most of the other six billion faces on the planet. Indeed, no one else at the airport would likely guess as to why I was travelling that day. Never before that day, have I ever looked at person waiting at the airport, thinking 'oh, they must be travelling to visit a dying relative'.

Already in the small circle of blogs, are there mentions of at least two other passings in the last two months. Our response - the feelings of sympathy, the words of consolation, are so drastically different than those in the lives directly touched. I sit here at my desk wondering and completely oblvious to what's going on at the current moment: children in Africa who maybe saying goodbye to their parents, parents in Cambodia who could be putting their children to rest.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
Tamalpais sunset

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