On a late afternoon in May, I came back from revisiting the Nimitz Way, located in Tilden, a Nature Reserve high up on the Berkeley Hills. The roads in that reserve are a bit confusing, and suddenly I found myself on an exit hitherto unknown to me. Eventually I emerged on a ridge road called Grizzly Peak Boulevard and turned north to find my way back to Berkeley. Hardly 100 meters after the turn, quite unexpectedly, a wonderful vista opened up for me. At a parking lot, the whole Bay could be discerned, with the Golden Gate Bridge shimmering in the mauve evening sunshine.
The view gifted me with an intensive feeling of happiness, quite surpassing my reaction to similar vistas observed at earlier planned and foreseen occasions. Why would that be? I really don't know, but it is a fact that unexpected events, arriving out of the blue, so to speak, stimulate our senses to a much higher degree than experiences of our day-to-day life, or events planned aforehand.
|Golden Gate, seen from Grizzly Peak Boulevard|
You may recall that I have a fond relationship with Strawberry Creek on Campus. Many a day have I been strolling along that gurgling water, up or down as the occasion demands, as the brook provides me with a convenient and shady access to the main buildings at UCB. Just at the first bridge crossing, coming from the Western Entry, the creek is forming a small "rapids" through a redwood grove, a view always challenging my photographic ability. One day, when I just had made the camera ready, suddenly a young nymph appeared, as emerging from the foaming waters. Out she jumped towards me and embraced me warmly, albeit with dainty fingers icy cold from the waters. I have described the whole episode in an earlier blog post already (Climb The Lofty Indians), but could not abstain from putting the picture in here again, as the foremost example of how your otherwise drab life can be enlivened by an unexpected encounter.
|"Naiad", arising out of Strawberry Creek|
One of those sunny days, when I was ambling below these impressive shadowing umbrellas, I suddenly felt the urge to look skyward, to admire the lofty airy crowns. Judge of my surprise when I saw, not only welcoming green leaves, but also a young girl placed smack up on one of the higher branches! She was as perplexed as I was, by having been discovered in the act, so to speak, of observing the passersby far below her. A moment of mutual silent observation ensued, before I could tear myself away and continue on my trodden path, leaving the young lady to her favorite pass-time.
|"Dryad" resting on Camphor branch|
Upon my return to Berkeley this year, I revisited the area with the aim to track down some persons pictured in that blog (to gift them a free copy of "Fiat Lux!"). Taking BART to Mission Station, I walked to Castro from there, strolling along 19th Street westward. Just when I arrived at the crossing of 19th and Castro, I saw this elegant couple striding confidently along the sidewalk, without any concern on their faces, despite a certain lack of civilisational accoutrement!
|Two Gentlemen striding along Castro Street|
Oregon Street, stretching in parallel to Stuart Street and being the next street to the south, is not one of my habitual walking streets. However once, on my way to a meeting with the Le Conte Neighborhood Association, I passed by that area. Suddenly, across the street, a wondrous scene opened up before my eyes. Instead of the usual, well-groomed small trees and flower beds adorning Japanese residences, there resided a complacent Buddha, shaded by a colorful umbrella, as if contemplating and blessing this little Japanese Community!
|Buddha on Oregon Street, guarding the Japanese Community|
I was completely taken aback by this configuration of a delicate and charming little woman within the "threatening" claws of an immense crab of her own creation!
|Artist Keiko Nelson in the throes of her own creation|
Little did I suspect that this Wednesday group exercise served as a preparatory training for a Japanese Dance Company. Realization dawned when I attended a performance of the "Bay Area Follies" at Roda Theatre in Berkeley on May 27. None else but Gil was the main leader of the performance and among several enticing sing and dance groups, suddenly, a troupe came to light on the scene by the name of "Yoko and the Sunshine Ladies". Yoko was of course the sprightly lady from the gymnastics exercises, now leading on a swirling circle of exotically dressed ladies, with Nobuko right in the middle of the melée! A sparkling performance indeed by my friends from the gymnastics exercise!
|Yoko and the Sunshine Ladies, performing at "The Berkeley Follies".|
Right: Yoko Fitzpatrick Middle: Nobuko Fujimoto
It so happened that I got a dinner invitation, in the last week of my visit to Berkeley, from an old friend from way back in my student days. She graciously invited me to a great Chinese dinner together with her family. Whilst giving me a ride back home from the restaurant, Lillian, that was her name, suddenly made a detour and parked on Durant Street behind the City Club. With the explanation that she had recently become a Member she enticed me to follow her on a tour of the premises. The Club certainly looked quite different in the evening hours, but enlightenment came when we stepped out onto the upper floor terrace and saw the view northeastward from the building. For a moment, I felt teleported to a Greek Island, with a church cupola serenely saluting distant mountains in the orange afterglow of a sun already set. Thanks again, Lillian, for a lovely dinner and for leading me to this magic view!
|View from the upper terrace of the Berkeley City Club|
This year, again, I was sipping my coffee in Peet's when, suddenly, I realised that a couple sitting quite close to me must have been among the persons in the above mentioned scene. I presented myself and learned, to my surprise, that my name was already known to them as photographer of the Karelia Blog. We became good friends and it turned out that the husband, Joshua, was a film maker, as well as patron of the arts, and his wife E. an accomplished dress designer. The first time I visited their home for an unsurpassed dinner, Joshua received me with warm cordiality at the entrance door and led me up the stairs to the living room. Along the way, he suddenly pointed me to a window facing the backyard. Expecting to see a lawn, adorned with a multitude of flowers and brushes, as is usual in South Berkeley, I was flabbergasted to behold an immense structure of what can only be described as an ancient Chinese Astrolabe, filling the whole expanse. This construction, illuminated by the warm glow of the reflected late afternoon sun, appeared as a magic antidote to all the greenery I usually had the pleasure of observing and photographing in Berkeley.
|"Astrolabe" in a South Berkeley backyard|
On my daily walks towards UCB, starting at my residence at Stuart Street, I used to proceed that street eastward until Telegraph Avenue, before changing direction northward towards Campus. But once, I took a different route, taking the first street on the left, called Fulton, on my way to a party further along that street, given by Nathan and Angela (Venerable Veterans). It turned out that the flowery displays on Fulton were competing with those on Stuart in ingenuity and variance, so my eyes and camera were kept busy along the way. Suddenly, my steps came to an abrupt stop, and my eyes opened wide in surprise. In a garden a bit neglected and left to grow pretty much as it pleased, suddenly the front of a car from the 'thirties showed its forward nose to the eager photographer. An amazing piece of art within a general area of gentle neglect!
Let me round up this exposé with a more general remark on the magic of flowerbeds. When strolling along in the heat of midday, I usually try to avoid the sunny side of the street and keep on the cooler opposite side in shade. But you will find that even in shade, time and time again, rare and forlorn rays of light find their way from in between facades and trees and fall on selected stretches of the small street gardens. In rare cases this will give rise to a view that most aptly can be described as "the fingers of God, pointing to the magic of his creation". I hope you agree with me that the picture below is a telling example of this magic.
|Death of a Chevrolet|
|God's Fingers ...|
Still, one piece of magic remains to be told. It concerns my life's largest project, that is, nought else but the two trips I made to the Bay Area in present time and the experiences I gained – and regained – during those trips. Who would have expected in, say, 2009, that I would spend all in all 6 months in the Bay Area in the near future, write a blog of 52 Chapters about my experiences, take more than 10000 pictures along the way, write a book about it all and revisit the area with 100 copies of the book in tow. This is magic on a grand scale indeed! And none of it was planned beforehand, it all developed on the go, so to speak, as actions, urged upon my be circumstances and my subconscious, were being met by responses from a generous Bay Community, as well as a Community of blog commentators, spurning me on with a vengeance and inspiring me to great deeds!
So I think you understand that I am looking at the end of this adventure with a great sense of loss. But there is a consolation in all this. Even if I have left the Bay Area – and who knows if I ever will be coming back – 100 copies of my book (Fiat Lux! Down Memory Lane in California) still live and strive in the US and bear witness to my fascination with this benighted place on Earth. Long may you live and prosper, my dear brain children, and bring joy and appreciation to your proud new parents! To those that have not yet got acquainted with my spiritual offspring, all is not lost: there is the possibility to order the book from abroad at emsvision.com. On that website there is also the opportunity to read chapters of the book; together with a slideshow of all the pictures (even more than in the book); and even read and inspect some bonus material not included in the book.
For the Swedish readers: the book can easily be bought from BOKUS or Liten Upplaga.
What more remains to be said, besides "Thank you and Goodbye!"? Don't rush me, dear readers, a main point has still to be made. During all my trips to the Bay Area, there was one single important fact that made my stays the more agreeable. It can most aptly be described as "The Kindness of Strangers". Ever since my student days in the seventies, I have consistently been met by warm generosity in all my contacts with residents in Berkeley, as well as elsewhere in the Bay Area. It appears, that this welcome of strangers is a trait truly American, and a trait rather surprising for us from the old continent. I am heartfelt grateful for this generous reception of myself, not only as a young student, but even as a visitor of advanced age. Too numerous are the warm benefactors to mention them all here, but they are all represented in the blog – in picture, with name or both. Thank you all again, from the bottom of my heart, for your kindness and welcoming. Your generous assistance gives me the courage to say:
You opened your angel's arms
To the stranger in paradise
And told me that I may be
A stranger no more.