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:
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.