There are moments that never fade with time. You can call them up in an instant over years, over decades, and their colors remain as brilliant as ever.
It has been ten years now since our big yellow moving truck lumbered out of the Waldo Tunnel and I caught my breath as the bright towers of the Golden Gate Bridge shot into view. That was the moment I came home for the first time.
I grew up in one of those wholesome towns in the Midwest, surrounded by a vast green ocean of cornfields. Despite a storybook childhood replete with fuzzy puppies and devoted parents, I hit puberty feeling like there might be something profoundly wrong with me.
I almost fit in, but not quite. Something was always off. I was never on the same page, the same boat, the same planet as the rest of my classmates, my friends or my fellow 4-H’ers.
By the time I reached my early twenties, I was living near Chicago, writing copy for an ad agency, spending my weekends as a black-clad club kid and penning maudlin poetry about my inability to find happiness.
Happiness isn’t a place, according to conventional wisdom. But I never was one for conventions.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of leaving Illinois sooner. Perhaps I was waiting for some kind of permission, some indisputable sign. It came in 1998 in the form of a guy named Bruce. We weren’t yet married when he pulled out a map of the United States, spread it open on the table and said, “If you could move anywhere in the country, where would you go?”
It took me about two seconds to say, “San Francisco.”
I had never been to the city, but I had heard the stories. I read the books. And as soon as I said it, I knew it was right.
Two years later, I sat weeping and astonished in the front seat of a moving truck as we rolled across the bridge, the fog reaching out to welcome us.
I can’t imagine myself anyplace else. This is where I belong, here in this beautiful city of misfits.
This city is more than famous landmarks and steep hills. It’s more than eclectic architecture and summer fog. It’s more than hippies and beatniks and liberals and homeless. It’s more than a muse, more than a melting pot. There is something inexpressible about this city, something virtually magical.
In San Francisco, you are allowed to be whoever you really are. This city will give you the chance to find yourself and the inspiration to make that self a better person.
From that very first day to this, I am constantly overcome with miniature love epiphanies as I wander around San Francisco streets. Topping Twin Peaks to see the whole bay stretched out before me like a promise. Watching the fog creep up Judah Street like a damp, benevolent cat. Running through Golden Gate Park in the early morning as the light begins to glimmer through the green. Feeling the salt coat my face as the waves throw themselves again and again onto the sand at Ocean Beach.
Every time it happens is new. No matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I fall in love all over again.
And so I’ve built a life here, at land’s end. I’ve discovered who I am. I’ve learned to be happy. I’ve come home.
LaDonna's website (poetry, cinčpoetry, blog): http://www.ladonnawitmer.com/
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