Yesterday evening, as the sun dropped low in the January sky, my canine companion and I headed off on one of our favorite walks out on the municipal pier that curls into the San Francisco Bay at the end of Van Ness Avenue. Emma, a Shetland Sheepdog without a flock, especially loves this walk; she stalks and herds every gull who dares to rest on the pier wall. Her sincere efforts to launch herself into the sky (both comic and a little pathetic) always make the fisherfolk checking their crab pots laugh.
As we walked out on the dilapidated pier, shaped like a French curve drafting tool, warm coppery light poured through the Golden Gate. Literally hundreds of seagulls criss-crossed the bay, skimming the water in hopes of supper. A sea lion poked its head above the water, orienting itself before a smoothly undulated dive back under. A constellation of star fish clung tenaciously to the breakwall just above the tide line.
A lone swimmer from the Dolphin Club braved the inlet waters—53 degrees at the most. You couldn’t pay me to get in that cold water, but some people I know do it every single day.
Just off the pier, a class of grade school children sang sea shanties from the deck of the Balclutha—a retired, three-masted, 300 foot, clipper ship built in 1886. This ship once carried goods around the tip of South America but is now maintained by the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Museum and used for monthly overnight field trips for local schools.
After walking the length of the pier and back, we started climbing the hill toward our car, parked at the upper Fort Mason Green, but stopped to peer inside the House of Days. The small cement building, once the Searchlight building, was adapted by The Exploratorium; a tiny window allows viewers to glimpse a photographic display chronicling changing weather conditions at regular intervals. This is one of my favorite parts of our walk; for me, the pattern and rhythm of this progression is somehow validating, reassuring and holds the promise of many more glorious days to come.