I began the day gathering with some 50 people rallying to keep a major road in Golden Gate Park car-free. Throughout my time in SF, a portion of JFK Drive has been closed on Sundays to give free reign to walkers, joggers, skaters, bicyclist and more. Once the pandemic started, the road was closed to motorized vehicles every day and has been for a year and a half. Now there is a move to re-open it to cars and a counter-move to keep it car-free. And so a varied crew of elders, parents, kids showed up in their various human powered modes of transport and moved a mile up the road and back again. No big fuss or shouted slogans, just a quiet gathering with a few signs and postcards to fill out to send to SF Supervisors.
The morning mist soon evaporated and the day filled its promise to be sunny, warm and inviting. The park was alive with folks of all ages and persuasions partaking of its varied possibilities. The roller skaters dancing to the disco music, a string quartet playing in the bandshell to an enraptured audience in the Concourse, folks circling up high on the large ferris wheel. There were volleyball games and frisbee throwers and tennis players and the ubiquitous drummers in front of Hippy Hill with a larger-than-usual group of folks dancing. There were groups gathering for picnics, boats paddling around Stowe Lake, a line at the Twirl and Dip ice cream truck which I joined and treated myself to soft-serve vanilla ice cream dipped in rich dark chocolate sauce.
I met a fellow music teacher for lunch at Carl and Cole Street, where we had a choice of crepes, designer tacos, Arabic comfort food, café fare and much more, all in a one-block radius. Each place was bustling, the outdoor parklets full and the buzz of happy diners in the air. The food was delicious, the company congenial, the air fresh. After lunch, I took my bike to the shop to replace the pedals and then biked back into the park. My wife was somewhere further on with a sketching group, I passed someone reading a book under a tree while the ducks were happily paddling in the pond.
The talk about the weather was an appreciation rather than the fearful climate cataclysm hovering about us every day, masks came on and off as needed with no anti-vax hysteria, the topic of race took a back seat while the museum-goers enjoyed the Patrick Kelly exhibit.
It was a day that gently—and wisely—refused to turn on the news, turned away from fear (purposefully manufactured and/or genuinely arising) in favor of savoring life’s bounties, basking in the sun’s tender and soothing warmth, enjoying the pleasurable company of fellow humans who left all their axes-to-grind at home and were reveling in the grass, trees, blue sky, soaring birds, happy dogs. It was a day that we all need and all deserve and the kind we don’t get enough of.
But today, in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, we did.