I’m back in San Francisco now after two and a half years away. It’s so trendy now to hate on the city that I’m reluctant to jump on that train, and I had really hoped it might pleasantly surprise me, that I might be able to find a fresh appreciation for it after being away, but it has been a rough adjustment back.
For the time being, I’m staying in Noe Valley, so perfectly pleasant with its stroller-friendly sidewalks and pastel-colored Victorians, and yet—in a word, the word that clings to my every attempt to describe how it feels to be in San Francisco again, after time in New York, London, abroad—it feels so provincial.
Every morning as I wander my way towards 24th Street for coffee, feeling the neighborhood starting to wake up, I think of Belle’s opening lines from Beauty and the Beast:
Little town, it’s a quiet village
Every day like the one before
Little town, full of little people
Waking up to say,
Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!
And as she continues through the town, the refrain:
There must be more than this provincial life!
Not that I particularly needed reason to read more, but being a bookworm of a child I always loved that Belle finds her escape through reading, and I am again inspired to take that approach in adjusting to my life back again in this tech monocultural filter bubble materialized as a city.
Today I stopped by the neighborhood bookstore and picked up a collection of poetry, a beautiful selection of works from the late Mary Oliver. And it is everything, just so; lovely, simple, pure, love letters to nature, existence, life. I’ve been hiding inside all day, recovering from a dull headache of exhaustion and weariness, but her words are such a breath of encouragement for keeping that sense of curiosity and wonder towards the world:
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?