23 June 2014
Let me know which you prefer and why.
“As a child, yearning to leave home and go far away, the image in my mind was of flight – my little self hurrying off alone. The word “travel” did not occur to me nor did the word “transformation,” which was my unspoken but enduring wish. I wanted to find a new self in a distant place, and new things to care about. The importance of elsewhere was something I took on faith. Elsewhere was the place I wanted to be” ~ Paul Theroux in “The Tao of Travel”
San Francisco startles one’s reality. It’s an urban center with a stellar reputation, which never ever disappoints. Many of the most sought-to-see cities have such depth to their inner and outer shells that it takes a lifetime to appreciate and experience their offerings.
This golden city pulses with such enthusiasm for its daily residents and visitors that energy whisks through the streets. Its urban culture has saturated the bones of corners and turns. She seems to play with the life cycle, sharing examples of the depth and breath of humanity’s accomplishments, struggles and triumphs.
When I first walked the streets of San Francisco, I fell crushingly in love. She seeped into my veins and flowed into my heart. As I would later learn, she was already in my DNA.
After my dear uncle died, my mother began to take target practice at the family tree. Question upon question surfaced. I quickly grabbed the opportunity to ease her confusion, and learn more about our genealogy.
I knew a major portion of my maternal family tree was from Southern Germany, but I was unprepared for rich tales about their assimilation that began in the mid-1800s and continued into the twentieth century. While their acculturation is similar to many others’ experiences, during years of research I excavated details that spun complex story lines.
Their contributions to the economic and religious history of Baltimore, Maryland, began during America’s second wave of European immigration (1820-1880). But they also played a role in the history of the West Coast’s Gold Rush in California.
One of my great, great uncles was a member of the California Society of Pioneers (one of fifty Baltimoreans). His journey from Germany to the East Coast and two years later to San Francisco is one of courage, fortitude and perseverance.
As a forty-niner he went from mining camp to mining camp trying to economically and emotionally survive. He staked a claim in Columbia (California), became an entrepreneur in several mining camps, and used those experiences in a family clothing business upon his return to our newly-created homestead in Baltimore. As the era of the Gold Rush moved toward a halt, two other ancestors also came to San Francisco to try their luck panning gold throughout Northern California.
Even in the twenty-first century San Francisco is very much a symbol of the New Frontier: new ideas, new opportunities. For me this city is a testament to identity and memory. But it is also a place where the past accompanies the present and creates a new past in the present.
In the 1840s my ancestors became embedded in transnational migration. They left Europe for political, religious and social reasons. Many began the trek in their late teens, with their wanderlust helping to fortify them against the arduous journeys and tasks ahead of them.
While Battery Park in New York City was their entry point, eventually at least three relatives were lured by Gold Rush fever. At separate times each was greeted by the Golden Gate. San Francisco was a promise land that gave them less financially and more in personal metamorphosis.
Every visit to this golden city adds a special luster to my Northern California journals–journals that are colored with patinas of my own travel fever and just might be part of my family’s genealogical character. Or so I believe. Regardless the impetus, travel I must.
Tip of the Day: I enjoy reading about place and time through travel, and turn to some of the most noted authors for their travelogues. Paul Theroux’s publications cover over fifty years of travel writings. In The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road (2011) Theroux created a compendium that combines his own writings with philosophical quotes by other travelers. In The New York Times review (03 June 2011) Henry Shukman wrote: “More or less a commonplace book whose merit lies in its capacity to offer random delight rather than coherent argument, “The Tao of Travel” is as likely to land you with Pico Iyer as Emily Dickinson, Samuel Johnson as Bronislaw Malinowski. There are chapters on exotic meals (seal flipper, bear paw, adolescent human blood), travel ordeals, the English abroad, railways and imaginary travels.” Whether you enjoy travel by foot or any other mode of transportation, it’s worth the read.
View other entries for this week’s challenge:
Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. Click here and here to view recent posts also about my travels to Northern California.
If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature.
2nd Monday: Macro.
3rd Monday: Black and White.
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.
Loved hearing about your family history Sally and will check out the Paul Theroux’s book. I have his “Happy Isles of Oceania” which was also a great read. Cheers Irene
Irene, I appreciate your comment. Thanks for the suggestion. See you soon.
Finally catching up – I really like number 5 – I don’t know if it was intentional – but the contrast between the dark modern street and the lightness of the classically styled building appeals to me thematically.
Margaret, lovely to hear from you. Yes, I like juxtaposing contrasts. Thanks so much.
What an architectural delight!
Maria, thank you.
Just discovered your blog Sally. So much looking forward to exploring it. Your photos are so inspiring. Best wishes.
Andrew, welcome. Your comment brings a ray of sunshine to my day. Thanks so much.
Hey Sally 🙂 These are great ! I love the first picture because… somehow it gives me the idea of continuity. Hope that makes sense 🙂
Niki, lovely to hear from you. I like your interpretation of the urban waterfall. Thanks so much.
Your passion for writing, travel and family connections is a common theme on your blog, and sometimes it leaves me breathless. Thank you for another thought provoking post and for providing another piece of your family history. All of your photographs remind me of walks through many cities, where the light hits buildings or objects and you turn and look but you aren’t sure why, until it happens so often that it’s sought after and appreciated.
Elisa, I’m deeply touched by your thoughtful words. One of the main reasons to take this blogging journey is to meet and share with individuals such as yourself. Thanks so much.
“San Francisco startles one’s reality. It’s an urban center with a stellar reputation, which never ever disappoints.” Different people, different reactions. My father lived there for half a year in 1946 (and so did I, but I was too young to remember). Over the decades that followed he spoke of that city fondly, but when he finally went back for a visit in the 1990s near the end of his life, he found the magic gone and he felt disappointed.
People’s perceptions change. They also have expectations based on the past. I wish on his return that he had found joy in new ways. Thanks so much.
San Francisco is indeed a beautiful and lively city. In these images you have captured a little bit more serenity and quiet peace in city. Love the play between highlights and shadows. My favourite this time is the Urban Waterfall. Adds some mystery with that half visible figure to the left – and the pattern and texture of the water is lovely too.
Otto, I’m delighted that you responded to that particular image. The waterfall was a surprise and filled that the small plaza with such charm, and obviously added a bit of nature to the urban setting. Thanks so much.
These are great! For me San Fransisco is a city of colour and your shots allow me to focus on shape and texture. I’d struggle to name a favourite, but if pushed would say No. 2. I love the architecture and especially the detail on the building. Here’s my contribution: http://zimmerbitch.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/dreaming-away-the-midwinter-blues/
I appreciate your comment. As you know, I am entranced with the way black and white helps me see differently. Thanks so much.
You’re welcome. I feel the same way about stripping colour out to get to the essence of an image.
See you soon. Thanks.
Lovely photos as always Sally. Love urban shots in black and white. Here’s mine for this week. http://allkindsaeverything.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/phoneography-and-non-slr-challenge-travel-2/
Livvy, thanks so much.
aloha Sally. i like #3. i like the value contrast between the two building structures. it is however the shadow shape/line that makes this image stand out for me. it connects to my image of the classic hills of San Francisco which identify it with place so well. i like that. cool Monday Phoneography on you. and a fun trip through your ancestral travels. aloha.
Rick, thanks for your comment. I appreciate your response to my work. See you soon. Thanks.
Great iPhone photos, I really enjoy your photo series of SF. Thank you for sharing your stories. Here is my entry https://shareandconnect.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/phoneography-and-non-slr-digital-devices-photo-challenge-travel/
Amy, thank so much.
Sally, thanks for sharing so much of your family history, it’s a fascinating story of adventure. Like Linda John and I spent our honeymoon in San Francisco and I hope we get back there one day soon!
Lisa, yes, do plan a trip. At least you’re on the same coast. I have much to do with my family’s marvelous story as they settled on the East Coast, and became part of the fabric of their community. Thanks so much.
Love SF Sally so your photos were a lovely reminder for me. I like them all, they have a documentary feel to them. The family history was a nice addition!
Tina, I appreciate your thoughtful comment. See you soon. Thanks.
I love that all the subjects really pop in B/W. 🙂
Thanks so much.
Love those. I think a will join this challenge, looks awesome!
Mary, I’d be delighted to have you join us. Thanks for your comment.
I love number 4, the Skyscraper. It has great contrast and angles, reaching up to the sky!
Here’s my contribution:
Steve, thanks so much.
I love hearing about other cities. Great photos – can’t decide which one I like best. 😀
Raewyn, that’s part of the enjoyment that the blogging life brings: we get to share with others and they can share with us. Our world is broaden by these exchanges. Thanks so much.
I fell in love with San Francisco on my first visit there, when I had just turned 13. When I went back my expectations had grown too large for the city. I like all the photos!
Luanne, really, you were let down. It always transports me into a space that is completely overflowing with possibilities. Thanks.
Thank you for the fresh eyes on San Francisco, with “energy whisk(ing) through the streets”. My daughter lives over there about 15 miles away from us, but it is always a challenge for us to get together with either driving or public transport. I like the Mission building # 2. The z shape of fire escape, and the inverted V pattern helps the building speak for itself.
Happy Photo Monday.
Carol, thanks you for your thoughtful response. I do hope that you will be able to visit this marvelous cityscape and SOON.
Were just there Father’s Day when I got the red house pic. I’ll look with fresh eyes thanks to your post..
Carol, delighted that you had a recent excursion there. Thanks so much.
What a fascinating story! Steve and I would dearly love to visit San Francisco one day. 🙂
Amanda, you should start to plan now. It’s an experience that will be worthwhile on all counts. Thanks so much.
A wonderful entry, Sally. I love your story, and learning about our ancestry is always fascinating. Your photos are great, and I especially love that last one.
I’ve chosen to follow your steps just a bit with my entry today and some street photography taken in the City a couple of weeks ago.
Angeline, I appreciate your comment. Now I’ll go see your images of the golden city. Thanks so much.
I like them all but if I had to pick it would be the second image. I really like the high key look.
Edith, the light in Northern California was more than cooperative during my entire trip. That particular day it was so bright and delicious at the same time. Thanks so much.
It’s wonderful when we discover these family connections through place and time. I am sure the pioneer genes, the wanderlust, lives on, in many forms of creativity and sheer drive and determination.
Yes, I do agree. There certainly was a confluence of time and place that shaped this particular visit. Thanks so much.
Your personal connection with the city makes this a particularly enjoyable post Sally. The photos are all lovely. My pick would also be the skyscraper for the reasons mentioned by Janet. Incidentally, I relate to that excerpt from the Tao of Travel so much, it is part of my ‘About’ page!
Madhu, I appreciate your thoughtful words. I’m touched that we were drawn to the same quote. See you soon. Thanks so much.
Went to SF almost 26 years ago on our honeymoon. Loved it. Didn’t see nearly enough and was disappointed, because the trolley cars were not running. But I love the varied architecture. Your photos are great, but I love the old architecture best. I really enjoyed your tales on traveling and your book recommendations.
Linda, lovely to hear from you. You need to plan a second honeymoon to reunite with the city that has it all, including your first memories. See you. soon. Thanks so much.
Sally, you’ve just added a book to my already long list. Thanks! (Meant sincerely.) We went to San Francisco last fall and fell in love with it. We’d love to go back again. As for the photos, I like the skyscraper, especially as when I scroll up and down, it seems to move and elongate, which I’m sure isn’t anything you intended, but is quite enjoyable.
Have a great week.
janet, always enjoy your observations. Have a lovely week. Thanks so much.