Posts Tagged ‘Fort Mason’

I sit outside under the magic eucalyptus trees and slowly i come to life. They are trees that call me forth from afar, that come to mind when i think of this place. They do not disappoint although the air is chill and i do not linger out there as long as i imagined i would. They call forth life as small birds sing and flicker above, and if i look carefully, one of the green parakeets comes into view. I am in my oasis, my castle above the city, my sacred place – or so i thought it was.

I come back to the hostel once again, using up the last of my 14 days per year that you are allowed – ones that i had hoarded and resisted using because they were so precious to me. Ones that i had held tight against my chest the past few weeks, though i deeply longed to return – for if not here, then where would my oasis be, and would not having the option of coming here mean that this was the end of my forray in the city? – so i held out – perhaps too long, became sick inside, until that is … i came back to this place.

But now that i write this, all that is past, and i sit inside another here and now, yearning for the calm and serenity that had overcome me. Though my current room is nicer and for the moment and probably the night i have it to myself rather than shared with many others and the mattress and bed are much nicer, it is not as peaceful as it was there, and already i can feel the jitters and inner rush return – not the flow which came back there after the depletion in the place i had been in before – the out of kilter unfocused rush of the city and tenderloin.

I am in a nice place, probably nicer inside, but it does not have the same calming but awakening vibe. i step out the doors for a smoke, and rather than being greeted by grass and trees, perhaps a walker or a dog, i am on the city streets, people smoking crack on down the block, bum a butt, ask for money, others walk through. i do not sit on a picnic table under the trees and the night sky, or in the wind that comes up, but walk around the block instead. Out back of the building is not a path up the hill with a view of the golden gate bridge and the bay and darkness at night and cyclists struggling up by day, all pausing to get a view, and a smile that they have reached the top of the hill, a photo snapped perhaps (how many of others have i taken there over the years?) but the Glide church and community center = with lines for meals a few times a day; around the block for special food bags every now and then, and the most desperate, sleeping on the street at night, and kitty corner from there, another heavy drug corner. Of course next door towards the posher area, is the large Hilton hotel, with the well dressed smoking outside, but with a more nervous or held back edge, not a park where people smile. And here i stay again, on the border between the down and out land and the hyped up tourist shopping zone; and after a few days, my room is no longer my own, but shared with a group of three, who i can tell would prefer if i (not the personal me, but i as in a person who is not part of the group)not be here. but for the moment i have the room to myself, though not the serenity of that other place. I accept that magic place is gone for the year, my 14 nights used up until next January and that there is a reason why i am here.

I had been afraid to use them up for this has been a very special place for me, one that represents peace and tranquility, but also openness and life, a bounce to my step and more – and i remember… though it is time to move on from there in my mind, hold the love, but let it go, and bring that love into another here and now.

like the city, that hostel is partially a place of my imagination rather than one that is very real, and for a while, when i come, i lose sight of that place i have built up in my mind, and focus instead on what is here, the imperfections and the flaws, and how it does not live up to that image in my head – and i wonder why was i so desperate to return.

I go into the larger dorm, it has be rearranged and has new beds. finally the thin patched foam mattresses, ones i had probably slept on my first visit there 25 year ago, have been replaced. For now it is comfortable, but as the new ones slide around on the metal base, and i can feel a coil against my knee as i sit and meditate, i know they will not endure. As is the case with the kingdom i have claimed. And there is one less bunk than there was before, but somehow the feng shui seems worse than before – the beds which had always been crammed, but were placed in such a way to allow the energy to flow through. At first i am disappointed, “it had changed, it was not as i had been” i say to myself, “this is not the place i came back to, it is so ill thought out” i criticize, what happened i bemoan. Still, in my two nights there i sleep well and deep, love my bottom bunk – that personal space – and the cold that i had lifts away. And i do not want to leave.

I remember other nights there being uncomfortable, the cards for the door not working one time, and all knocking to get in and out, my bed being the one by the door, and the snoring symphony i have endured many a time, or the music from the crowded common room seeping in, or the communal bathroom down the hall feeling so institutional, and the huge kitchen downstairs, a place where i actually cook, being out of forks the last time i was here, but all that slowly goes away, as i feel the lighter energy of the place, both inside and out. and in remembering the place, both now and before, it is not that which comes to mind, but the peace and joy and conversations i have had there.

I walk outside, am greeted by the lawn, around the back, to the view of the bay and the bridge, the sounds are of birds, chirps out fromt and the cries of gulls out back, and a few people strolling by. The hum of traffic is not to be found, and i notice when a car pulls up. I walk down to the wharf one day, and then out to the marina and the golden gate bridge another, exploring the realms beyond, and am so eager to return – to my oasis in the park.

And that is what it is for me – an oasis an oasis in the middle of the city, or rather on the edge, a safe haven from which one might leave to explore but come back to the green and more. And i want to stay there – in the peace and the calm – i retreat to my bed and awaken refreshed, brain fog cleared. for here energy is calm but flowing, alive, but smooth, nurturing without smothering, set apart yet joined and connected, in the city but not of the city. And i am so content to be where i am, and do not really want to move beyond though the waterfront calls, as does the bay, the palace of fine arts, the hills and more. Still, i am so happy where i am. I feel like a princess in my castle, at one and at peace. For a while…

But coming back, i also come back to where i was – one year, two years, three years ago – my places on my journey, and how i have moved along, but perhaps failed to move at all. And i remember the stress i had felt previous times, when it was near the time to move on, the looking and searching of where i might go, and the tension that arose when i got into that zone, a zone that i come back to for a short while. And in this zone, i find the flaws, the dirty sink water in the sink, the broken plugs, the lack of light, the loud group and more and disengage from that light i so wish to hold – as if knowing that i must physcially leave, i leave first emotionally and spiritually. But then, as it is time to go, my heart bursts wide open with love again.

For it is a center, and represents that center inside, life flows in and through, life of joy, energy transformed, stays and moves on again, a fort transformed and represents the ideal me. As i sit outside the last night there before the rain begins to unfurl, i realize that this is a park apart, and though i long to, i cannot really live in a park. or can i?

but alas, it is not a place where i can stay. i tried and asked, but my time was used up. I cried when it was time to leave, a deep sadness and loss overcoming me. I leave my bags for a few hours, not sure of where i will go. I walk behind the hostel to where the path provides a view of the bridge, and the winds pick up but i am not ready to journey on. I head down to the jetty in the drizzling rain, look up at the hill where the hostel sits and know it is sacred ground. I walk and all is beautiful in the drizzle and grey, and San francisco comes to life for me yet again. i cry not wanting to go but walk back up the hill, take my bags and go. not wanting to, but leaving that magical center – heading back into the messy world.

I am in that other place, in the center of the city right now – and feel the love for there but have stopped clinging on. I realize that my relationship to the hostel so represents my relationship to the city – the ideal, the love, the knowing that there is much more, of the fading joys when i see the imperfections and the downside, and the yearning when i am away.

But more, it also represents myself, and that center inside, whose light i must carry into the world. And to carry that center with me wherever i go, for though like the hostel, it may have its flaws and imperfection, but is still so full of light and need not be temporary. And like the hostel grounds in fort mason, it has been, and is being transformed, and is in the city/world but not of the city/world, but is connected, and a special place, with energy flowing through and being renewed. And to this center, i can go back anytime, and am not limited to 14 days per year. And it still here, even in the tenderloin.

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The fort has been transformed long ago and it helped transform the spirit inside me. I arrived at Fort Mason, the home of Fisherman’s Wharf hostel and much more, and immediately felt at ease after the bustling of the city i had come through. It is an oasis, one of several, in this city of San Francisco by the bay. It sits on a small headland between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina District, but is a place onto itself. Up top the hostel sits, along with several buildings and here i make my temporary home. The landscape is green, and i feel at peace, away from the city but so close.

I had come into the city the night before and stayed downtown near Union Square. The canyons of concrete and steel and the rush of traffic replaced the mountain valley and the sounds of the creek where i had been. I went to the downtown hostel, a place i had been several years before, and had avoided until now – it had been renovated i had heard and I decided to give it a chance. The building buzzed from the sound outside, the chaotic centre with traffic, car alarms, music playing and people passing by – it was a hum, no even more, a buzz, i felt the vibrations of the sound and the energy that was around. I could not sleep, despite the now comfortable bed and the thick curtain that was meant to block the glare of the parking garage across the street.

Despite the buzz, the place felt sad, maybe a remnant of days gone by. The paint was dark, an olive green in the lobby and the narrow halls, and a deep grey in my room, the white trim now dirty, the baseboards chipped. The carpets were dark and the ceilings low. The kitchen had been completed, but it was not a place to sit – a depressing feel clung to the place. Outside, the old “hotel virginia” signs hung from the shabby facade, the blinds not quite fitting the windows, and only at the door, was the HI sign more visible. And what was this hotel in the days before, was it possible to transform it from inside? How much of the energy clung here, the gloom and the buzz.

Maybe it was the location on the border between union square/powell circle and the tenderloin, the place where tourists pass through with maps and shopping bags, and that where the down and out live, and here the two meet, and the hustle is deep. I hear the partying, the buzz of the night, The unsettledness of the locale resonates with that which lay deep inside and i know i must leave. I cancel my second night and head down to the hostel at fort mason where i still remain.

The bus i must take cuts through chinatown late on a saturday morning. I walk to the stop, with my pack and more, past union square where the tourist bus huskers hand out leaflets. The stop is crowded, a full bus passes by, and then another with people going to chinatown for their saturday shopping – a return to the centre they have left. I look around and know that cannot climb on with all my stuff. I walk a few blocks under the bridge to a stop where i know many people will get off. I am almost at the stop and the bus pulls in and i ride through chinatown, down columbus street, and through the upper wharf, until we stop outside the gates. I walk the path, the pack on my back, but feel lightened already.

I dump my bags and register, to early for a full check-in. fatigue overcomes and i go outside, sit on the picnic table near the eucalyptus trees. I breathe in rich fragrance of the trees and the moisture of ocean air and become revitalized. The sound of birds has replaced that of cars, and a dog plays on the lawn. The place feels good, the buzz falls away.

I walk out to the main path that connects fishermans wharf to the marina, and look down at the buildings below, the warehouses on the piers, concrete but not as dark, full not of goods but of life, cultural organizations, events and more. I admire the bridge crossing the bay to the hills to the north. Tourists cycle or walk their bikes up the hill, the blazing saddles map to guide their trip over the bridge. Joggers pass by, and a few stand or sit admiring the view.

I walk down the steep narrow stairs to lower fort mason. I want a coffee. I stroll through the parking lot and to the library book store with a full bin of dollar books outside. So much choice, i browse the titles and pick up one, i go inside, pay for it, and spot yet another bin, and find myself picking up another. Music wafts out of a building across the way, i sit on a bench by the water, seagulls staring me in the face. A child watches the seal who swims around, and a man tells her a tale. I open my book and am transported to another place, but still remain where i am. I grab a coffee and return, rested, peaceful and read for a while on a saturday afternoon. When it is time to leave, i walk by one of the buildings, people dressed up high, a wedding reception with a playroom for tots.

I exit the zone, to the grocery store, and return to the green and read some more. The joggers and cyclists are on the path, and groups, pairs and singles sit, eat, play, nap and read on the grass. A wrinkled asian woman sorts through a garbage can wearing plastic gloves, collecting the recyclable bottles and cans. A cool breeze comes in and slowly i make my way up the stairs, and under the eucalyptus trees.

The place is tranquil but is full of life. It is a place that was transformed from the inside. An old army base is now part of the golden gate national park area, the lower section a place for the arts, with theatre, art, schools and more and the barracks a hostel for travellers from around the globe. A place renewed, with many lives, a place with a centre in the heart.

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