Each spring, I am awed by Bernal’s rebirth. Waves of wildflowers—first something yellow, then pink and white—are followed by brambly blackberries. The eucalyptus tree is always there, growing alongside the rustic stone and wood slat benches. They offer a perch to return to, season after season.
Bernal is where my now-partner claims she first knew she loved me. It was too soon to say then, but those three words hung heavy and tender in the space between us. Bernal held them close until I was ready to release a fresh new breath into the fog.
Sometimes I think I know Bernal; I think I have traipsed every circuitous path. And though I usually walk the same meandering route, subsequent weeks often bring the discovery of a new staircase or another road that leads in. When I grow bold and let my feet carry me without glancing at the ground, I have to slow myself down and remember the moments when I have stumbled, tripped, and fallen again. Each time I slip, I get back up, and I keep climbing.
It was a long, rainy winter with the whole city getting a much-needed wash. Now, spring sun shines on tender new grass, and the clearing of the air unveils a rare view of the Golden Gate Bridge, standing in splendid relief against Marin’s sweeping headlands. For some, this is the emblem of San Francisco. But as my personal geography has been shattered, shaken, and rebuilt, it’s Bernal that keeps a careful watch from the center of the map.
The first roots I laid here were spidery and fragile, desperately entangled with others and easily broken by shifting winds over the bay. They have since grown stronger and learned to weave down through scraggly rocks to find the nourishing soil beneath, bringing forth the life now in bloom.
I’ve learned in San Francisco that memories can entwine with places, imprinting not only on people but on the very landscape of the city. When I think about uprooting again, I wonder how I’ll find myself when I can’t look to the skyline and see the fading colors of the sunset reflected back, awash in pastel possibilities. On my hill, my rock, every blade of grass grew from salted waters. To leave this city is to risk a world of abundance, born of my own ability to persist, and climb into the unknown.
Still, I know that when the day comes and I take my final walk downhill, the old Bernal radio tower will crackle its song over the distance. My roots will stretch and grow and carry with them my love for this place, to transplant and begin anew. ♦