Marilyn Englander: Golden Gate Park

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Marilyn Englander discovers that a favorite San Francisco locale hasn’t changed much over the years and continues to provide a haven of calm.

My daughter recently got a new place in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond. I was eager to help her with the move and run errands along Balboa Street for those new home necessities: neighborhood take-out, flowers from a tiny stand and … paper towels from the corner mom-and-pop. Coming across the Golden Gate Bridge day after day, I savored the fresh, cold wind beating in off the ocean and delighted in driving the coast past Baker Beach. She’s just the age I was when these were my haunts. I was excited to be back.

One day, for a reward, I brought my bike over to ride in Golden Gate Park. In the early 80s, I cycled there every day. The reliable coolness and steady breeze made for a good workout, and I’d pound the miles breathlessly, basking in the ageless beauty all around me.

I expected the park to be much changed by now. I’ve been worried about San Francisco, the jewel of my youth brought to its knees by very serious problems that continue to defy solutions.

Setting out along the Great Highway, I bucked a frigid wind that sent sand slithering into the road. The breakers were roaring, just like always. Turning east into the park, suddenly I was surrounded by calm. The giant windmill slid by and purple rhododendrons peeked out. The click-slap of irrigation sprayers beat that familiar rhythm. Placid green lakes, towering branches. Cars glided by gently, picnickers lounged on blankets, bright flowers glistened. Nothing had changed! I expected to see the ghosts of long-departed friends slamming tennis balls, or giggling from the old-fashioned paddleboats on Stow Lake.

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The gift of this grand old lady of a park to the people of San Francisco is immeasurable. A world of peace where one can step apart from the struggles and woes of the present moment. An island of stately beauty in the midst of my favorite city.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator.