Over Christmas my sister was able to visit us in San Francisco for a few days. The sun was shining and the kids were restless, so we decided a walk was in order.
The sunshine can de deceptive. Especially in my little corner of the peninsula. When we stepped out onto the sidewalk I hesitated. It was rather more chilly than I had expected. But, I decided that warming up over the walk was far better than carrying three children’s jackets. So, onward we went.
We zigzagged our way through the extraordinary houses of the Sea Cliff neighborhood, admiring the expansive fronts of the colonials and moderns, each in turn. The last block of houses before the trailhead is low and modest facing the street. But through gates and between houses you can see stairs descending sharply down the hills, widening and opening up their ornate balconies and tall windows to the sea. The dark blue of the ocean sits cupped in the space between with the muted green hills of Marin across the bay, shouldering down against the wind.
I’ve said before how much nature hides tucked in and between the urban in San Francisco. The Land’s End Trail is no exception. The sidewalk ends, all of a sudden, giving way to cracked asphalt carpeted over with pine needles and the long faded leaves of the overhanging eucalyptus. They call it Eagle’s Point.
It was here that the wind hit us full force. The stoic houses owing us no favors, had given little indication of the wind they were entertaining in their arms. We gasped collectively. And I immediately regretted those three jackets, and all those hats and mittens, too. We walked the dozen yards to the lookout.
We watched the children lean into the wind as they let it push them back. They danced and squealed in a frenzy that at times approached panic. We watched the wind cut short white gashes across the face of the water and bend the cypresses back to such a degree it explained their normal angle as one of generous averages.
We stood as close to the edge as we dared, looking down the cliffs through the clinging shrub to the foaming rocks below, feeling the wind made bold from its unchallenged trip across the wide Pacific. The sound through the eucalyptus was a deafening roar, sounding so much like pounding surf.
But the day was sunny. And the light was bright on our path. There was such beauty in the magnitude of the violence, the trees that bent but didn’t break, the stripped leaves that were surprisingly found superfluous.
I laughed and shouted to my children, “Aren’t you glad to know that there is something so much stronger than you? Isn’t it nice to feel how little we are?”
The baby was in a carrier on my chest, his tiny fists curled into the warmth of my belly. My six-year-old and four-year-old were running down the path ahead, squinting into the wind and laughing. Yes, laughing, but at times nervously.