Rest and Repose

As I was giving my dharma talk on the solstice, I started by invoking it, and how the darkest time of the year has acted as a time of reflection and renewal across human cultures. I nearly mentioned one of my students, who had told me that week that he had been stressed right through December, but was managing because he could see the holiday break coming.

In a recent writing on one of the five hindrances – sloth and torpor – I expressed that none of us are metronomes, and that energy fluctuates. Sometimes we can give our all, and sometimes we need to step back and let ourselves recover. And of course, our meditation practice is all about getting our body to move towards the rest and repose state.

Overall, my end of year break was deeply relaxing, even if I was very active on a number of occasions. For the last of my runs during my house-sit, I completed a 270 degree survey of the landscape (the other quadrant is where I have ridden through a number of times). I started by heading along Baltimore Canyon again, only this time I turned left to head towards the Blithedale Ridge – and once again came up against a reality the map hadn’t quite prepared me for. The Barbara Springs trail climbed several hundred feet in about a quarter mile, by following alongside a cascading creek. It was as sustainedly steep as anything I can think of around Tassajara, and also involved clambering over tree root systems on soft ground. It was intense and gruelling, and I was glad to see the fire road ahead of me – there I turned and followed it almost along a level, letting my body recover, before it turned around and started climbing towards the ridgeline.

I have long understood fitness, at least as it manifests in running and cycling, as being marked by how well your body recovers from intense effort and is able to continue; as I have got older, this ability has diminished somewhat, but along the fire road I did settle back down into my stride and was able to continue up to the ridge. Though of course, as at Wilbur, the ridge, while being the highest point, is not necessarily flat, and there were some short climbs to take on, with the reward being views through a hazy sunny day, right across Mill Valley to Mount Tam, and, as I approached start of the descent, seeing the rolling folds like theatre scenery at the wings of the stage, curving down to allow open space in the centre – the centre in this case being Richardson Bay.

The descent was the route I had taken up the hill on my first run there in the spring, which, as I went down it, seemed impossible to have climbed. But I had done it, just as I had got up the hill a different way this time. For some reason I was thinking about Tassajara practice periods – they are intense and gruelling, and sometimes impossible to enjoy at the time, or even contemplate how you have managed to get through them – but there is also the amazing effect they have on you afterwards, how all that intensity has left your body and mind in a more grounded place.

This week I took the opportunity of a free morning to ride over the bridge to the Headlands. I know the climb so well, and it is a good place to observe how my body – specifically my legs – respond to the climb from the foot of the bridge by the coastguard station, up the first steeper sections, through the easier mid-section, and then noting how much I am able to give as the road rises again for the last few hundred yards to the top of Hawk Hill. After which the always exhilerating descent on the narrrow road right above the ocean. It was quieter than usual on the Headlands roads that morning, and I appreciated once again that the area had been saved from development.

I felt good after that ride, but I also went out twice on my bike around town through the day, by the end of which I really noticed how much work my legs had done.

Checking in with the same student this week, he was gauging how his body was responding to being back to full-on work mode from a place of having rested. We reflected on paying attention to that level of effort as it becomes normal again.

Lastly a plug for Bryan’s recent talk at City Center, which touches on effort and no-effort in ways that I have been musing about. As usual, I think he nails it.

IMG_2205Riding back from the house-sit on Saturday morning, I stopped to take this picture of the hazy city from the approach to the bridge.

IMG_2209Looking back from the San Francisco end of the bride, the Headlands are rising to the left.

Lessons Of The Landscape

‘If we go somewhere on foot, we know the way perfectly, whereas if we go by motor car or airplane we are hardly there at all, it becomes merely a dream.’ – Chögyam Trungpa.

Last year at this time, my intention to get plenty of exercise in my free time was thwarted, mainly by breaking the frame on my road bike, though the wet weather did not help.

This year I have been doing a little better, and along the way, I have been contemplating Trungpa’s quote. As I have been walking, running, riding and driving, I have felt more and more immersed in the local topography. The crosstown trail last week brought home to me how San Francisco is a built-over and filled-in version of the whole landscape of the area: intricately folded land, with long ridges, deep valleys, and water coursing down the hills to form the huge wetlands of the bay.

A shorter walk I took on New Year’s Eve was part of my continued exploring of the area around Meadowsweet and Camino Alto that I started in the spring; I found trails taking me over from the north side to Horse Hill, with views back to the city, a pair of coyotes sunning themselves on the grassy slopes; working my way back to meet the top of Camino Alto, and back down the north side of the hill on the little residential roads.

Having only run once in about ten weeks after getting back from England, over Christmas week I managed three runs in the space of seven days, without feeling too beat-up. For the first, I was drawn back to Twin Peaks, as I have been on recent short bike rides around the city, still feeling that sense of home that I experienced a few months ago – and of course there is always the ineffable joy of having climbed to the top of something.

On Christmas Day in Marin, when the forecast was wet, I had another experience of plotting a new route on a map, and finding it differently challenging in real life – mainly as it took a lot longer than I expected; heading out into what shows on some maps as Baltimore Canyon, which ties in with the inscription on the old rail building nearby. It was damp and misty, though not actually raining, and the beautiful creek valley reminded me of Jumble Hole, with fewer rocks and more redwoods. I clmbed the back of King Mountain (alas the summit was gated off), and looped round to the fire road on the bay side – where, as with just about everywhere in this area, the sound of the 101 was most prominent.

My third run was at Wilbur over the weekend – the usual outing up the soft mud of the Smelter Trail as the sun was still warming the hillsides on Saturday afternoon.

I had gone up on Friday, via the 37 which arcs across the north of the bay, through wetlands; with Tam and Diablo dominating their quarters of the landscape, this is where the water cascades down to. The sky was blue, and the expanses seemed mesmerising. Heading up the central valley north of Vacaville, it was clear enough to see the snowy Sierras to the east.

For the first time at Wilbur, I was staying in the red house, in a quaint unevenly-floored room, directly above the fridges, the same kind which in the main building often amuse me when they  kick off in a deep harmonious set of hums.

It was pleasant when I arrived, but there was no sun down at the bathhouse – like at Tassajara through the winter, the hillside was too steep to allow it. In the morning, I woke to luminous clouds and frost.

There was no heat working on the yoga deck, and for the morning session on Saturday, the vents, which I could not find a way to switch off, were just blowing cold air down the back of my neck. Because I find the cold so challenging, I imagine others will struggle with it; the people who came took blankets, wrapped themselves up, and sat happily.

Afterwards I had my lunch outside on the deck of the red house, my back warmed back up by the sun, enjoying Frank’s company, such as he offers it.

Sunday, the weather was the opposite, mild, then, cloudy with drops of rain, that turned more steady as the day went on. I had a lot of time to be creative and productive with end of year tasks, but the sense of relaxation dissipated as I navigated the slippery road out, and three hours of fairly teeming rain all the way back, as the skies grew darker, reminding me of a similar return trip a little over a year ago.

On my bike, staying north of the city allows me an hour of headstart over my typical experience of well-known routes. I have been climbing the hills and riding through the valleys of Marin, the low temperatures down below – the San Geronimo Valley on Sir Francis Drake, Lucas Valley with the redwoods – giving way to warmth on the ‘sunlit uplands’ of Mount Tam on New Year’s Eve, and the grand open hills – which remind me of Cornwall – as I made my way out to the Marshall Wall on New Year’s Day, for the first time in several years. I would have stopped at the Bovine on the way back, but I was worried I would not get started again, and the line was already out of the door. I continued along highway 1, right on top of the San Andreas fault line, so visible from the air when I have flown back in to San Francisco.

The lessons of the landscape around here are the lessons of earthquake and water.

DSCF1719.jpgThe wetlands around highway 37.

DSCF1732.jpgSaturday dawn at Wilbur.

DSCF1746.jpgDifferently beautiful on Sunday morning.

DSCF1740.jpgMorning sun in my room in the red house.

DSCF1751.jpgA wintry afternoon going home.

DSCF1777.jpgMount Tam from Horse Hill on New Year’s Eve, close to where I saw the coyotes.

IMG_2154.jpgFirst light on the mountain, New Year’s Day.

IMG_2174.jpgThe winding road to Marshall.

IMG_2188.jpgHeading south on highway 1 beside Tomales Bay.

Of The World

My post yesterday prompted a correspondent to ask, ‘What is going on (actually)? Do you have some verbal answer?’ I suggested in reply that they go and look out of the window.

I received in return a description of things seen and things felt: ‘a very “mundane” verbal description of an experience – and yet, ok as it is.’

After this exchange, as I was out on my bike, I remembered that many years ago, when I was still a student, discussing with a good friend the value of traveling the world – not just to see amazing places, but also to promote personal growth – I quoted a line from a Talking Heads song, ‘I look out the window, and I call that education.’

I also thought, while riding, of the stamp that used to appear on books in the Zen Center library, courtesy of Celeste, the librarian who has since died, with the exhortation, ‘Have an Ordinary Day’; and of how Ed Brown, invoking Suzuki Roshi, talked of the ordinary being special and the special being ordinary.

The word ‘mundane’ has a connotation of boring, or perhaps even sense of drudgery attached to it. A sample online definition tell us:

Mundane, from the Latin word mundus, “world,” originally referred to things on earth. Such things were supposed to be uninteresting when compared to the delights of Heaven; hence the word’s present meaning.

And yet: this is what we have; this is where we are. Okay as it is. When we feel that we have to be looking for the supramundane and ignoring or belittling the mundane, we miss the opportunity to practise – or as Dogen would say we miss the moment of practice-realisation. When he says in the Genjo Koan, ‘here is the place; here the way unfolds’, it is easy to look past the fact that he really means right here, right now. Whatever that looks like.

On my ride yesterday, the world looked pretty beautiful. Once I was over the hill from Mill Valley, and descending towards Muir Woods, I was sharing the road with turkey, quail, and, unprecedented for me, two coyotes by the roadside in different places. I rode north along Highway 1 with the blue Pacific as a backdrop. It was wonderfully life-affirming, even the section that had recently burned, with its scorched ground, crisped brown leaves, and traces of pink fire retardant on the asphalt and barriers. And so was riding on 17th St later in the day, with three young people, two on scooters, one on a bike, all ringing their bells as they enjoyed their afternoon excursion. And so was chatting with the cashier at the supermarket, and being flustered by a careless driver soon afterwards.

Every moment counts.

San Francisco Days

Today marks twenty years since I first came to San Francisco. On the flight over from New York I had been chatting with the cabin crew, and, in the days before BART ran to the airport, happily accepted the offer of a ride into town on their shuttle. They were all staying in one of the big hotels near Union Square; I mainly noticed that the address was on Mason St, the same as my hotel, and decided to walk on to my destination. Which was my introduction to the hills of San Francisco, as the gradients of Nob Hill did not feature on the map I was looking at.

After dropping my bags off, I walked up Columbus Avenue, had a coffee, and found myself wandering unexpectedly around Chinatown, quickly forming the opinion that San Francisco would be a nice place to live, without realising that the next day I would meet the person who would change my life and make all that possible.

So I have a residual fondness for November sunshine – not the strong heat that lingers through October, but some bright hours, with the temperature dropping quickly as the day draws in. It was warm enough that time to visit a beach on one of the afternoons I had a bicycle rented…

It was nice to get roaming again on Saturday. The morning fog had lifted around eleven where I live, so I anticipated an afternoon of sun. I was thus a little surprised to be approaching the start point, not far from the Golden Gate Bridge, and hearing the fog horns.  Even though sitting on a foggy beach has its charms, I was wondering about how short a loop I was planning on walking, and decided to add in the little section of trail that runs above the National Cemetery.

The participants had all roamed before, and it ended up being a chatty afternoon, interspersed with sitting not just above the military graves, but also by the old merchant marine cemetery. These days, the dunes there offer a sense of the original landscape of the western half of San Francisco, but not so long ago, there were Nike missiles on the ground…

Amazingly, by the time we had gone along the Lobos Creek trail, there was no fog to be seen – Baker Beach was clear and sunny, and so was Marshall Beach, once we had climbed over and down the new trail. With the extra loop we had hiked, and with one of the participants wanting to make a quick get-away for an evening appointment, we did not linger as much as I had originally intended. The imminent sunset had brought quite a number of people to the bluffs, and once back at the top, overlooking the bridge, we also had a view of the fullish moon rising over downtown buildings reflecting the last of the sun. And then by the time I had ridden home, it was dark and chilly.

The next morning I rode over to Tiburon to take in the Paradise Drive loop. In years gone by, this would have been a relatively short and easy ride for me, just over three hours usually. Where my form is right now, it felt like a good solid spin to gauge how I was doing. The mist was high, and I wore several layers to stay warm, still early enough that riders and runners outnumbered cars out and about. Approaching Sausalito on the way back, I was worried that my legs were getting tired, but they did okay, and I had no residual stiffness afterwards. By the time I got back over the bridge, the sun was out, and the rest of the day was lovely.

Conditions for sitting on Monday were also pleasant, though the shadows get longer every week. We had a good group again, with some of our regulars bringing a work colleague for her debut. I still can’t shake off a little sleepiness over the course of my sitting, and when I went back to the company we had been drawing graphs of wakefulness, a little while later, my graph this time was the one that dipped lowest…

IMG_1622At Immigrant Point in the Presidio, prior to the roam with fog on the water.

IMG_1625I do love this little stretch of woodland trail near Rob Hill.

IMG_1627The fog reached through the bridge as we sat by the National Cemetery.

IMG_1632The hillside above Lobos Creek.

IMG_1641Looking down at Marshall Beach, with the fog nowhere to be seen.

IMG_1646A line of pelicans flying over the bridge.

IMG_1652My iPhone does not really do well with sunsets or other intense counter-light.

IMG_1654Looking back to the city with the moon and reflected sunlight.

IMG_1665.jpgSettling down to sit on the Embarcadero on Monday.


Back Into Place

As I settle back into life in San Francisco, I took a look back at some of the recent posts I had written, and was reminded of my somewhat unstable sleep before I left. My return mirrored that in reverse – waking up ridiculously early for the first couple of days, and then moving back towards my usual hours, which might still be ridiculously early by other people’s standards.

The warm sun continued for a few days, and now has also settled back into more seasonal temperatures, with a slight chill in the air; the difference may only be a few degrees, but it is the difference between wearing a t-shirt and shorts when I wake up, and donning a fleece and warm socks.

On Sunday, as I waited for the daylight to come, I remembered that this time of year used to be hard for me when I lived at Zen Center, itching to get out on my bike early on a Sunday morning (my only free day), and having to wait until at least seven (I feel very clear in not wanting to set out in the dark, though I have the lights to do it…). There was always a relief when the clocks went back, with the substantial trade-off of losing the light in the evening; this week it was getting dark by the time I got to my local farmers’ market after work, but only after a glowing sunset – typical for autumnal days here.

I have resumed parts of my usual routine – an Airbnb hike with a young English couple on Saturday; sitting on the Embarcadero with Zachary and some of the regulars on Monday; back to my part-time day job on Tuesday, where the eight-hours seem long after weeks of varied activity. There have been more occasional delights as well: the first of the three weddings on my slate, at a thankfully fog-free Baker Beach on Sunday afternoon.

My riding legs are starting to come back, after tackling San Bruno Mountain on Sunday, with pockets of warm and cool air on the way up, and the Headlands on Monday morning, pale silhouettes of the city from the bridge, the sun faintly glowing on the rocks by the water. The sense of having climbed, the joy of the views and the distance unrolling in front of me, are as nourishing as always.

We even survived the annual onslaught of the Blue Angels (which I am often glad to miss), and a smallish earthquake which was not enough to rouse me from my bed the other night. We are still figuring out whether this was just a precursor to something a little more challenging.

Should we all make it to Saturday, I will be offering the meditation instruction at Zen Center, if you are in the vicinity – and if you would if you could, but can’t, I have also posted the instruction I gave recently in Hebden Bridge, on the audio page.

IMG_1378.jpgGarret and Esther from Belfast were visiting, and we got the full Blue Angel display while we were in North Beach.

IMG_1395.jpgAn intimate wedding on Baker Beach, albeit shared with everyone else who was there.

IMG_1404.jpgAn iPhone is never going to do justice to a glorious sunset, but it was all I had to hand.

Across The Top Of The World

Now I am back in San Francisco, and happy to have returned to bright, warm weather. As at the beginning of the trip, the jet-lag is adding a little sense of dislocation as I move around and encounter things.

The flight home was remarkably smooth – the gate was announced early, and we were ushered straight onto the plane when we arrived at the gate, which is unusual in my experience. I find this leg of the flight much less daunting, and had no trouble staying awake, at various times glued to the view out of the window as we flew over Iceland and Greenland, the snowy Canadian Rockies, and the chain of mountains down the coast from British Columbia to Shasta. There were several forest fires visible from the air, and I landed to the tales of wide-spread power cuts imposed by PG&E, though the wind I experienced in San Francisco was less than forecast.

It really is a fine time of year to be in the city, and I was very happy to get out on my bike for what is now my traditional first outing after a long spell off the bike: through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach, and back via Twin Peaks. The air was so clear – I could see out to Point Reyes, and it was wonderful to look down over all the details of the city, including a small fire on San Bruno Mountain.

My body still adheres to English time, so the last couple of mornings have seen very early starts, and I have not lasted long into the evening. Nonetheless I have had plenty of energy for getting back up to speed with things I need to take care of in the weeks to come, including, as I have been telling friends, three weddings and a funeral (the latter in truth being a memorial for a friend’s three recently deceased pets).

I also went downtown on Thursday to buy myself a new laptop, as my old one, which I have had since 2010, did not want to restart after its weeks-long shutdown. I had everything backed up, so nothing is lost, but it added to things to get straight as I settle back in. I have managed to edit and post my talks from the trip, so if you would like to listen to them, they are on the audio page now. I also got the many hundreds of photos onto the new laptop, and will see when I have a chance to really sit down and go through them.

England already seems a long way behind; the last few days were very enjoyable, from hurtling south at the very back of a train from Leeds on Monday morning, getting to spend time with some friends in London and taking in some sights around town. The weather was slightly less grey this week, except for one sharp downpour on Tuesday that we dodged into a cafe to sit out.

If I look back, I can picture the various elements that always make up the trip: time with friends; time with family; teaching in different settings that are now much more familiar to me; time sitting in stations and cafes enjoying coffee and sandwiches or pastries, watching people; and many hours on trains watching the countryside. This latter was almost universally restful – probably just as well, as by rough calculation I clocked up a thousand miles on trains this time around. Would that I could easily do the same in California…

DSCF0838Modern architecture reflecting the sky in the City of London.

DSCF0848Alongside which, centuries-old alleys and courtyards, offering shortcuts and refuge.

DSCF0975Part of the frozen north, over Greenland.

DSCF0994The Canadian Rockies from the plane.

DSCF1009One of the fires burning in the north west.

DSCF1025The Farallones and a pacific Pacific as we descended over the Golden Gate.

A Few Reflections

I realised, after I had posted the other day, that I had left out one element of the two different rides I had been on: riding up the mountain was all about effort, and riding along the water was all about no effort. Among my dharma talk drafts, I have one that centres on that subject, but who know if I will ever put it together.

My last Embarcadero sitting, this past Monday, was very sweet. For a few weeks we have been filling the cushions; I estimate that we have seven regulars, most of whom come most weeks now, and this time we had a couple of drop-ins, including one young man wearing a full set of grey Chan robes. Unfortunately, as with some other people who come after we have begun and leave before we end, we didn’t get to chat with him, but just bowed when he came and went. Once again, we shared the shade of the tree with others who were seeking some shelter and respite, one of them familiar to us, as are so many of the passers-by now.

We are more back to typical San Francisco summer weather this week, after so many wonderful clear days. As my departure for England gets closer, I notice a poignancy that this is the end of summer for me; when I return in October, things will feel different. Being California, it may well be hotter, as it was a couple of years ago, but I know that after the equinox, the days get shorter quite rapidly.

Still, before then I have a weekend at Wilbur, for which I anticipate the kind of heat I relish. I heard from someone I know that they will be up there as well, and I am looking forward to checking in with them, as well as sitting, running, relaxing, and, since I have some projects unfinished, working. Part of the unfinished work has been procrastination, part of it that I have just not wanted to keep filling my free time, and that some self-care was a good idea.

It’s not that I feel especially stressed now. The upturn in my income over the past few months, and a general feeling of contentedness about the dimensions of my life, have left me feeling as relaxed as I have been in perhaps four years – back to the time I spent three months at Tassajara just working, and enjoying the community, the landscape and the heat.

And at a time when a contemporary of mine has taken the reins of power in the UK and seems set on running it into the ground – or over the cliff, depending on how dramatic you like your imagery – driven by a grotesque sense of entitlement and ambition, I feel glad that I can enjoy a life of different values – though I am somewhat dreading the mood I will encounter in my native country.

DSCF9358.jpgThis was taken a few days ago, from the back of where I live, but the light when I was writing this on Thursday evening was equally vivid.


The Mountains and Waters Sutra

As I like to point out, Dogen’s title is not claiming to be a sutra about mountains and waters, but telling us that the mountains and waters are themselves the sutra – if we pay attention to them rather than thinking we know what they are.

I was originally going to title this post ‘things falling into place’; that phrase came to me last Monday after I had run the uphill blocks and many staircases up to Twin Peaks, and was looking down on the city in a late afternoon mix of sun and shadow. There was a moment where the city felt so deeply familiar that I was settled by it, even as I am busy having plans falling into place for my upcoming trip to other places where I feel at home – and a few, like Hebden Bridge and Belfast, that are becoming more familiar to me each time I visit.

I almost didn’t run that day, but was glad once I was out there, and I knew it would be good preparation for a long run at Wilbur and then those to come in England. This past weekend I took my last significant bike rides until the middle of October, when my form will be very different, and they exemplified summer in the Bay Area: on Friday I left early to catch the BART to Walnut Creek, where it was already warm before eight o’clock; the ride up Mount Diablo was not blessed with much breeze, though at least there was shade. I sweated my way up the road I feel I know well, cracked by the continual stretching and shifting of the mountain, even if I only get there once a year at the moment, something I would like to change. Perhaps the winter will be less wet this year…

The ride is very simple, and that is the fun of it for me: put it in the lowest gear and pedal for an hour until you get to the summit; on the way down, pay attention to every corner.

I led hikes that afternoon, and the following one – my last scheduled roams, as I am not sure the weather will be amenable in the middle of October, much as I hope it will be. And I felt pretty weary from all of that (weary enough not to have written this post for the slot I had originally intended), but not enough to stop me pedalling south on Sunday morning. It was a mostly foggy ride, and having gone out along the Camino Real and adjacent quieter streets, still having to deal with fast-moving and impatient traffic at that early hour, it was a relief to get to the quiet, car-free miles alongside the Crystal Springs Reservoir and San Andreas Lake. Mist drifted prettily off the surface of the water and the farther banks started to appear through the fog. People walked, ran and cycled, all sharing the space peaceably.

I have also been at Zen Center a couple of times, offering zazen instruction this past Saturday, and leading a beginners’ sitting the weekend before. I was very happy that the fifteen participants all stuck it out for the whole day, even if some were struggling with physical discomfort, and sitting longer than they ever had before. I hope they got to watch and appreciate the arc of the mind and the ebb and flow of sitting for those periods, sometimes wakeful, sometimes sleepy – I was certainly tired in the couple of periods after lunch, but rallied before the end. I chose some lines from the Fukanzazengi to speak on, but mostly answered questions. Hopefully people felt met, and encouraged to practice more.

IMG_0795.jpgA view from the summit of Diablo on Friday.

IMG_0316 (1).jpgFrom a previous visit to Crystal Springs, with a different weather pattern.

Sunshine Days

I leave for England in two and a half weeks, and I do seem to have compacted the time down before then in my mind, so it feels quite imminent. I am trying to make sure loose ends are taken care of – not least by stockpiling posts on here for the next couple of months, with one gap a week for me to type in some progress reports (assuming I can buy a good wireless keyboard before I leave, as I have no intention of typing blog posts on my phone…), as well as buying train tickets and firming up plans with friends.

Getting material together for the teachings I will be doing over there has not been hard, although I am also making sure I have a few talking points for the beginners’ sit at Zen Center on Sunday – I don’t want to offer a full-on dharma talk then, as I find that answering people’s questions is much more vital and valuable all round.

The weather has been outstanding for the past week, with uninterrupted blue skies, warm temperatures and generally less wind than usual, which makes me glad that I get to be outside so much – with several bike rides as I also prepare to make sure my intended ride up Diablo next week is not too painful – and various walks, including a scout of the next roam. On my work days I was also getting off BART a couple of stops early to ride slowly the rest of the way, since I don’t get outside much on those days otherwise, and snapping a few pictures with my phone to try to get a sense of the strong light.

It feels like I have been living on berries for weeks – strawberries and blueberries, now raspberries and blackberries, offered at the local farmers’ market, and grapes starting to appear as well – there are stone fruit, but I am not so much of a fan of those. All in all, life feels good.

IMG_0687.jpgA tree catching the light under the freeway in West Oakland.

IMG_0699.jpgThe view north from the Park St bridge to Alameda on Wednesday morning, with Tam visible in the distance.

IMG_0745.jpgOld houseboats and new developments on Mission Creek on Thursday evening. There was no wind blowing at all – so rare here.


To the Top of the City

Coming into this weekend, I felt like I had a lot of time and space – there was very little on my schedule, though I knew I would have some writing and recording to do. Mostly, with the sun doing its best, I was looking forward to getting some exercise.

Between the summer weather and continuing tendon issues, I have barely been running for months; I don’t remember the last time I ran in the city, though I did make it out on my last two visits to Wilbur. So while my cycling legs are in reasonable shape – I got up to the top of Tam, well above the damp fog, a week ago, and have in mind to get up Diablo before I go to England (again!) – I realised I ought to at least try to get my running legs back so that I can enjoy the runs I typically get to do once I am over there.

It’s also a while since I felt the need to run around a roam route; mostly I am on familiar grounds now. McLaren Park was such an unknown quantity that walking round it with a phone map at hand seemed a better option. For the next roam, while I am well acquainted with the high points of San Francisco, either on foot or on a bike, the open-ended route I had planned took in a few places I wanted some refreshing to get back into my body. So on a sunny afternoon, I took the N-Judah outbound from Duboce Park to Cole Valley, and started trotting, quite slowly and self-consciously, at least until I got on the trails, where it became a matter of tackling what was at hand.

A lot of the climbing is fairly gentle – especially the trails on Mount Sutro, where I was least familiar with the North Ridge trail, which meanders about Medical Center Way to the summit; I also wanted to tackle the new Clarendon connector from the other end to the one I usually come into the mountain from.
I hadn’t planned my food intake very well prior to running, so while my legs were doing okay at the first peak, my blood sugar felt off; luckily I had a bar with me, and in time that took effect, as I sweated up both of the Twin Peaks. And then realised that I was also going to be approaching Mount Davidson from an unfamiliar angle. In the end, I was able to use visual cues – like the covered reservoir – to get me to the entrance on La Bica, and from there to the summit. On the way down, I tried a different trail to the usual one, and ended up at the top of Dalewood, a fearsome road I have not dared to climb on my bike for a few years, and only ever attempted when I was at my fittest. And then it was a short trot to West Portal station, where the T took me back home in a matter of minutes, a little stiff after the exertions.

I only hope that there isn’t a repeat of the McLaren Park roam, which was scouted on a gorgeous day, and then largely fogged in on the day itself.

Mt Sutro woods statue.jpgLooking back at my photos of the woods on Mount Sutro from a few years ago, I noticed how much more overgrown things seemed on my last visit. This water-guardian is much less visible now.