One of my friends arranged a little late night stargazing last night. They picked me up at 9:45 and we drove our way the last twenty blocks between my house and Sutro Heights Park. We stood for a while there leaning on a chain link fence, the only thing plus three feet separating us from the edge of the cliff. The long strip of the Great Highway demarcated by yellowed traffic lights went out from under our feet. The long black strip of Ocean Beach butt up against it flaming here and there with bonfires of a truer yellow. Here and there the waves cut gashes of glowing white against the black beach. And the city laid out to our left looking so much like the lame attempt of humanity to duplicate the stars, it’s beautiful constellations less interesting in the too ordered lines of streets. There were four of us, bundled against the mist, passing flasks back and forth, talking about our summers, our babies, and the impending start of school. We couldn’t see the stars. The marine layer was thick over our heads.
Someone suggested we drive across the bridge in hopes for a better look. The fog above our heads glowed with the city’s light and leant an unnatural dusk to our steps. Here and there we heard animals scurry. There being coyotes in these parts I carried two sticks, because, you know, that would help. And we saw what looked like a goose coming up, its long curved neck looking back at us.
My friend ran at it and quacked. Then we saw it move.
“Oh, no it’s not a duck!”
“It’s a skunk, get back, get back!”
“It’s tail’s up!”
“It’s going away!!”
“They can spray up to forty feet!” (I stated this unhelpful fact and I’m not even sure it’s true.)
Well, we made it back to the car still smelling like ourselves and wound our way to the Golden Gate Bridge. We felt young and old at the same time, running around with our friends at eleven o’clock at night, yet, tucked in the minivan next to car seats of various sizes with toys and tiny rain boots at our feet. As we climbed the bluffs on the other side of the bridge we realized that we weren’t going to get a better view from up here. We parked and walked out into a cloud. It wrapped around us giving the headlights coming around the bend the glow of wildfire.
We walked up the trail into the dark. The great bridge was below our feet, not far but completely lost in the fog. Its lamps alone delineated the bridge. And the cars driving through looked like sliding LED lights on a display board. The fog was so close it was claustrophobic, pressing it’s immense presence against us with a feather’s touch. The city light it captured and reflected back enhanced the effect of its solidity.
And it was good to be with these women, in our bundled jackets, sharing a dark chocolate bar, and trying not to acknowledge our yawns. We four being just mothers doing our best, working so hard to understand these hearts is our care, and trying to determine with laughter and earnestness where to offer ourselves grace and where to try harder. And the fog engulfing us made us feel small but it was tolerable because we were together.