Rain arrived as forecast on Wednesday, and it felt like a deliverance. The air was markedly different, adding an extra depth to the sense of freshness that rain can bring. I was reminded of this time of year at Tassajara, sitting in the zendo, and hearing the first rain of the winter falling, first as a distant rustling noise further along the valley, then closer, and then noisily landing on the tin roof of the zendo. There was a tangible feeling of relief in the room – just for the first rain, mind; at other times, especially for those in unheated cabins with no way of getting clothes dry, it could be pretty wearing.
For the first time in months I had to deal with riding my bike to and from BART in the morning in wet weather gear. Luckily it had moved on by the evening, and on Thanksgiving morning, there was some sunshine and warmth. I took myself out on my bike down to Ocean Beach, from where I saw the rainbow off to the north, and back via Twin Peaks, enjoying once again the wonderful view right across downtown and over to the East Bay, rendered that little bit more dramatic by the mix of sun and shadow that the cloud-filled sky offered – something I associate more with England, where that kind of sky is so much more common.
I had been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner by Mike, one of the very first Young Urban Zen students, and walked across the city to his place. It was remarkably quiet, outside of the main thoroughfares (Oak and Fell, Geary and Gough) and I appreciated how the volume goes way down when there is less traffic on the street, to the extent that the city felt much more spacious than usual. The rain came sweeping back in during the evening, and I was glad of a ride back with Tal, another YUZ alumnus, now a proud father of a six-month-old daughter who had been very present for much of the dinner.
On Friday I had no particular place to be – much more inclined to a Buy Nothing Day than participating in Black Friday (which has reached England, even though there is no holiday to make it relevant). I was glad to spend the morning listening to the rain, letting the warm damp breeze waft through open doors and windows after a week where everything had been closed up. It was a good day for writing, cleaning, organising, and later, heading out for a run, which I have always enjoyed more in the rain than riding.
The daylight was fading, as was the volume of rain, and the city was steeped in damp mist. Running for an hour cleared my head, as it often does, and I took in what is almost my default route these days – south on Castro to Billy Goat Hill and Diamond Heights, then back via Glen Canyon, Portola and Market. There are three satisfying climbs on the way out, and a good amount of dirt. It was not a typical Friday afternoon: people were relaxed and more inclined to say hello (a typical feature of holidays it seems – but why not every day?). The near silence of the streets again got me thinking, as I often do these days, of how much city space is given over to cars – not just the freeways and the roads, and the roadside parking, but the garages, parking lots, multi-storey car parks, gas stations, repair shops (especially in San Francisco, huge quantities of these persevere in formerly light industrial areas that are now ridiculously expensive real estate) – and the psychic space given over to the bustle and noise. I thought of the huge aspiration gap in car commercials (perhaps more than for other products), where the pictured independence and assertive identity of driving on unencumbered roads is exchanged for isolation in might-as-well-be-identical vehicles angrily stagnating in jammed lanes of traffic (and yes I was still glad to be driven home last night, though I could have walked or taken a bus as I had planned to). It was my first run in three weeks, so I was glad to be out for an hour, feeling, as I did several times in England, like I was hauling around the extra weight of the unusual amount of food I had eaten.
Approaching rain clouds from the vantage point of St Mary’s cathedral on Thursday.