Last month, I met two of my brothers, my niece, and my mom for a long weekend in San Francisco. I had not flown in airplane in five years, much less alone, without my little immediate family. It was a delightful yet surreal experience. San Fran was gorgeous, of course. It was so exciting to explore a BIG city again. To read public transportation maps, to use my street smarts (which are actually quite dull from living the small town Texas life), and to just soak in all the sites and sounds. What struck me the hardest is the way smartphones and tablets have changed the ways of interaction. The last time I lived in a big city, I commuted by metro rail almost entirely. And on the train, you could see people, reading books, newspapers, daydreaming, gazing out the window, nodding off. Sometimes strangers would strike up a conversation. But now, wow...everyone has their eyes glued to a screen. I suppose they are still reading the same type of materials, and no doubt a fair share of social media too. I even noticed people watching movies! It was so strange. I felt stupefied, as if I were a prisoner who had just been released from a very long sentence - noticing how overtly the world had moved on without me.
My smartphone has a bad battery, so if I'm not home with it plugged in the charger, it's more than likely out of juice. I admit, quite unhandy in an unfamiliar city. GPS does come in handy especially since I've pretty much forgotten that paper maps of a city use to be the way I'd learn my way around a new place. Since I didn't have a screen to glare into, I enjoyed my time people watching...taking it all in. Knitting a row here and there and just letting my mind wonder.
I loved listening to the vast array of languages spoken all around me. I loved the aroma of ocean air mixed with the scent of eucalyptus. I loved the brisk weather and the beautiful, delicate light that graces the area. I loved that we could walk for 30 minutes across the city and find several distinct neighborhoods each with their own cultural flare. I loved dipping my toes in the ocean and feeling like a giggling child as the waves kissed my bare feet and my ankles, soaking the bottom of my jeans. Hello sacred world! I loved that the tour bus driver handled a conflict with a tired and frustrated passenger with politeness and depth of understanding and then once on the road again, cranked up one of my most favorite songs in the entire world "Me and Bobby McGee." Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Loved that!
I loved the few hours I was able to spend in Muir Woods. I'd been before many years ago, but I think this time I appreciated it on a level I didn't the first time I visited. Maybe it's my camera that's taught me how to notice light and the way it gently filters into this ancient forest, giving just enough to illuminate giant trees and prehistoric ferns so gracefully. Maybe it's the wisdom that comes with age. But those trees...even with the noise of tourists all around, brought such peace and quiet to my soul. The short time there felt spectacularly moving.
Mostly, I loved spending time with my family. It's rare that we travel together so this trip was such a blessing for us all. We are so lucky to have each other.