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daily fieldnotes » San Francisco
 
daily fieldnotes

Back Home 3

We are back home in San Francisco, where the redwood trees bend and sway in the cold foggy wind, and the heater is on. From a high of 97 degrees in Spain to a high of 60 with a foggy wind chill. We have lived here for nearly 7 years, and it still surprises me to wear boots, a jacket and a scarf on a July afternoon. I am so glad to be home. But I wish we had more of a real summer here.

I have a post about traveling with toddlers in the works, and another about our last days in Spain. I’ve also been writing about women, work, family and the balance I’m finding. And I have an idea about a series on raising bilingual children, and would love to interview or have guest posts, so if you or someone you know grew up bilingual, or is raising bilingual children, I’d love to talk.

That’s all for now. Time to put this jet-lagged family to bed!

Hello. 3

I’ve been wanting to blog lately. Each time I post a comment on someone else’s blog, and it has a link to mine, I think ‘gosh, my last post was months ago’. But more than the typical guilty blogger feeling, I’ve been wanting to blog because I am writing, and taking pictures, all the time these days, and I want to share.

I am taking pictures of my Basil, every day. Capturing his expressions, his growing chubbiness, the way he looks at his dad at the end of the day like, ‘hey, you’re back!’. And I am writing about Basil, our time together, what it’s like to be his mom. How we sat this morning, in a strip of sunlight pouring through an open doorway, and felt the heat on our bare feet. How he stands already on my lap, and his legs flop a little like green beans, but he gets frustrated when I sit him down. How I settle him into the front carry, bundling up against the spring coastal winds, and we set off on an evening walk, up and down the hills around our house. And how I wanted to move so badly 6 months ago, and now with Basil here, I am falling in love with the possibilities of living where we do.

But mostly, my thesis writing fills every spare moment I have. I am writing about Barcelona, what I learned from the teachers there, about how immigration was transforming their daily lives. There is power in listening, really listening to someone talk for up to an hour, and that is what I did in my interviews with teachers. They told me their life stories, how they had grown up being punished for speaking Catalan, or feeling uncomfortable because they only spoke Spanish. How integrating or assimilating immigrants is a process of all of us changing, making a new society together. Or how integrating newcomers is about the immigrants changing, learning our language, because they are the ones who came here. Or how it’s really about basic respect, across divides of cultural difference, starting with learning to say ‘hello’ in each others’ languages. I am writing about all this, working on the second findings chapter of three, on track to finish by the end of July. If I keep at it.

So back to it, while Basil takes his morning nap. But I’ll see you here again soon.

New Life 3

The days blur together right now like the reds and yellows of a watercolor left in the rain, Tuesday’s becoming Saturday in a stream of rocking, diaper changes, cooing and nursing. JJ is off work for another two weeks, and some days we are still in pajamas at 11, Basil lying peacefully in bed between us after fussing all morning. Today, he slept for 2 hours on his daddy’s chest, arms hanging down JJ’s sides like the limbs of a stuffed monkey draped around a child’s neck. He’s a good baby, wiggly and full of life when he’s awake, insistent when he needs something but usually quick to soothe once we figure out what it is.

So good that I’m working on my thesis again! Monday we went to apply for Basil’s passport down the hill in the Castro neighborhood post office, and then I stayed to work in a cafe nearby while JJ brought Basil home for a nap. Being out for just a few hours, making thesis progress, then having the walk home to myself: it feels like forbidden fruit, in these demanding first months of caring for a newborn.

The city is bursting with spring, every scrap of dirt not covered by concrete or ornamental rocks crowded with new growth.  Walking up the hill to our house, I see a tangle of last year’s alyssum, wild sour grass, fennel and bright orange California Poppies compete for space in pots and patches of garden. A calla lily in full bloom stretched up through the center of a low hedge, reminding me of a giraffe reaching for tender treetop leaves, or the birdlike neck of my son, straining for milk.

Low coastal fog and chilly temperatures 2

I know much of the country is suffering through a heat wave right now, and many places have a serious drought. This is a huge problem and one that should make me feel grateful to be where I am.

But instead I want some heat. Want to sweat and drink tall, cold glasses of lemonade in a sundress. That’s summer! It’s the natural order of things. Temperatures in the ’50s all week in JULY is something else entirely.

It’s COLD, for one. And dark. And oh so depressing. The wind whips by constantly making me shiver in jeans and a WOOL sweater if I open too many windows. In the morning, the brown wood of our back porch is covered in puddles from a night of dripping fog.

Yes, this is currently the top reason I can’t wait to move – anywhere without the constant fog! And why I can’t wait to be in Spain for a month with the in-laws and sweltering 90-degree days.

So for now, I hope you’ll comment with links to your summer blog posts so I can vicariously feel the heat while nestled under a blanket working on my dissertation in SF. And if you’re in a place with a drought, I hope it rains soon!

Shadows and reflections in the city 1

I am determined to move out of this city. At the same time, I am determined to enjoy it now that my mind is made up. And there is little I enjoy more than taking walks with the camera, snapping pictures right and left, getting ice cream with JJ, or coffee, or appetizers at the Ferry Building.

Our first apartment was down by the baseball park, and we often walked along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building and downtown, taking pictures of the bridge or the old fireboat house, talking about technology and education, or dreaming about the future. “I’ve always wanted to live in San Francisco” I said, “and here we are”. It was so right for that time in our lives.

Now, we’re in our fourth house here, counting a short-term sublet last summer. Six years have gone by, with one away in Barcelona. We’re in a quiet neighborhood, and our house is the bottom floor of a 3-story Victorian, with views of buildings climbing the hills behind, and the brown peaks of the highest point in the city. It’s very quiet for the city, with easy parking, a small back deck, and a garden down below. The neighborhood is clean, and the shops are delightful. There’s a cafe 3 blocks away where I like to go work on my dissertation, or just write.

It’s the nicest place we’ve lived so far. But this summer, I’ve finally realized that as much as I’ve enjoyed living in San Francisco, it’s not home. I am ready to grow roots, but not here. I need to be somewhere that’s warmer, wilder-feeling with more open space. Somewhere where we can own a house, paint the walls any color we want, garden and know it’s ours.  I’m not a city girl, it turns out!

So we are talking about moving. And I am trying to make this feel like home in the meantime.

It makes me wonder: When did you feel like you’d really put down roots somewhere? What made you feel that way? Was it children? Buying a house? Getting a job you loved? Something else?

Spring on 24th St. 1

Fluffy, pink, clouds of petals blanket the trees in our neighborhood right now. On windy days there’s a carpet of petals below, light pink and fluffy like cotton candy. We woke up early Saturday morning after a late night with friends, walk down to 24th Street. Bought strawberries, artichokes, fresh bread,  and a fennel bulb at the Farmer’s Market. Got my favorite chips and yoghurts from the grocery store, morning buns from the neighborhood bakery. I handed the groceries to JJ, took pictures, trying to capture the candy pink, wild feeling of the trees juxtaposed against the meticulously painted Victorians, all brightly contrasted with an eggshell blue sky.

To be repeated.

Ripples, Sand, Mist 3

A Sunday walk at the beach. Blue sky, then swooping fog. Sand dollars on sand, white dotting brown. Dogs of all kinds. Walkers in sweatshirts and coats, hoods tucked against the wind. A little girl with a red shirt and long, blond hair, climbing a sandy cliff hand over foot like a monkey. Skateboards seen from below, skidding along a roadblock at the edge of the cliff. Water cold like snow, turning toes red. Sand pipers skittering along the shoreline, feet a blur like hummingbird wings. Deep breaths of salty air. A lone tree, high on the cliff.