Letting Go

Every nerve ending of the body’s largest organ comes alive as one walks into that wall of 52-degree, fog-laden air upon leaving the house on any given summer day in San Francisco. To be present in that moment reminds one of the wonder of the human experience. It’s a unique “aliveness” yet to be matched here in Tennessee, though walking into the 4 degree wind chill early this morning certainly shocked the senses – not so much a “coming alive” sensation as one of pain and near numbness.

There are, indeed, a handful of foggy days here in Tennessee each year, but it’s a fog more akin to the output from an outdated stage fog machine. The fog of San Francisco, however, can often be observed as a ginormous tsunami rolling toward the western shores of the city. Sometimes stalling for hours just offshore, it is a thick, weighty substance that doesn’t just hang in the air. It becomes the air. And breathing it deeply is one of the gifts of life in the Bay Area. As the thick fog bank rolls over the city, the world takes on a mysterious, two-dimensional characteristic. The edge of the universe closes in, sometimes creating a solitaire protected by penetrable walls within arms reach.

There are activities that range from fun to ill-advised that many who grow up in San Francisco enjoy when the fog rolls in, e.g.,

  • Losing sight of the football as it spirals or tumbles (you never know which) toward you after a kickoff or pass. It’s a great test of reaction time when it suddenly emerges into view. For that matter, playing quarterback and losing sight of your receiver in the fog, bringing new import to trusting them to run their route and throwing to a spot. And forget about reading the coverage!
  • Playing a round of golf. This is the ultimate test of keeping your head down and feeling the shot. Every opportunity for a second shot is a surprise, and if you should be lucky enough to have a third, fourth, and fifth shot before finding the ball on the green it brings a sense of what it must feel like to share the lead at The Masters on Sunday morning.
  • And driving? Well, it’s a bit like Russian Roulette. The experience of having to open the driver’s door to see and follow the painted line on the highway is an experience never to be forgotten. To survive it unscathed is a rush no less euphoric, I imagine, than reaching the summit of Mt. Everest! Following a lane marker is too easy, you say? Ok, you’ve not thought about the adventure of having to find your way off the highway via an invisible off-ramp that you know is somewhere out there, and having to let go of the security of that lane marker for what seems like an eternity before picking up the new line leading you off the interstate. No line? Welcome to the ditch.

I’m tempted to suggest you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced days like this. It’s about embracing confusion, helplessness, fear, disorientation, risk, mortality, and ultimately, the illusion of control, all the while clinging to the hope that keeps you moving and living large.

Here’s to living large in 2010!

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