Finding Beauty Series – The Bridge and the Bay

I live near an icon that visitors from across the world come to see, the Golden Gate Bridge. A place that’s packed with cars, bikes, and tourists on foot, it wouldn’t typically be a destination. But these are not typical times. I took advantage of the emptiness for a walk combining nature and history, strolling along the approach beside the spring flowers and eventually on to the structure 220 feet above San Francisco Bay.

Like many others, I am sentimental about the big orange bridge created in the 1930s, as much a work of art as a utilitarian structure.

Ingot symmetry

The base of the north tower

The north tower

The expansive views at eye level include the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz Island, and the Pacific Ocean meeting the horizon. On this day, I was interested in what I could notice looking up and looking down.

The afternoon light created a giant shadow, a still silhouette on the waves moving below. Standing in one place, I watched the water to see what would pass beneath me. A flock of cormorants. A small group of brown pelicans. A single gull that I managed to photograph.

A gull in the shadow

Four sea lions swam below. They surfaced and dove and surfaced again, their gracefulness amplified by watching them from above.

My best shot from 220+ feet above this fast-moving sea lion, its head underwater

Below the north end of the bridge is the ancestral land of the Huimen group of the Coast Miwok people. Today, Lime Point is the site of a lighthouse and foghorn dating back to the 1880s.

As I walked back to land again, I moved slowly and touched the plants, thriving in full bloom. I’m grateful that nature finds the cracks in the pavement and the soil beside the steel.

Pride of madeira


Red valerian

Thoroughwort, with thanks to Lawrence whose comment led to the species ID

As always, I welcome your feedback in the comments section.

Finding Beauty Series – Birds in San Francisco

Lesser scaup, Stow Lake

In these strange times across the globe, it’s been easy to feel unsettled around the clock whether checking the news or waking up suddenly from a disturbing dream. As I found myself feeling off-kilter for days on end confined in my house, I realized I had shut out so many of the gifts in the world that come with being an earthling.

Now I’m spending time outdoors where no distancing is required from flowers, from fresh air, from views of the landscape. Beauty in the natural world hasn’t disappeared and in fact, I need to connect with it more than ever. Perhaps you are feeling the same, so I have started this series—to celebrate beauty as a necessary elixir.

In the Bay Area, waterfowl find places to feed, roost, and nest adjacent to and sometimes in the middle of urban areas. Here are some of the local birds whose beauty consistently inspires awe and gratitude for their company. This post features those that frequent the lakes of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in the winter and spring.

As always, I welcome your feedback in the comments section.

Ring-necked duck, Stow Lake

If it were up to me, this bird would be called ring-billed instead of ring-necked

Female ring-necked duck, less colorful than the drake

Northern shoveler, Stow Lake

Northern shoveler with a ring-necked duck in the foreground, Stow Lake

Hooded merganser, Lloyd Lake

Pied-billed grebe, Stow Lake

Bufflehead couple, Stow Lake

Female bufflehead, Stow Lake