Friday, September 4, 2009

A New Dawning

Yesterday I jogged along the beach to the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise. There would be no returning to capture this glorious scene on camera; it was as fleeting as life itself, and as magnificent. Picture a cloudless, fogless calm San Francisco morning with a calm sea, no waves and only a little chop on the Bay. Picture the sun rising over the mountains east of Berkeley, silhouetting Alcatraz island, the Bay Bridge, and the Financial District in a backdrop of dazzling orange light.

Picture two one-man sculls, shadowy slivers in the bay, being rowed across the calm water by their shadow-men. A lone paddleboard rider was paddling along the shore. The pier was occupied by seven of my kindred spirits -- fisherman out to greet the day. The usual cacophony of birds joined the scene, together with the early-bird walkers and joggers.

And I was both elated and frustrated. I've got a few aches and pains and I haven't been able to break through the endurance plateau that's capped my progress. I want to run a half marathon in the Two Cities' Marathon in November, but if I can't progress past this plateau that isn't going to happen.

Then it dawned on me how stupid I am. Sue is lying in a hospital bed and she can't walk the 100 yard loop around the hallway of 11 Long without feeling nauseous. She choked up with tears at every card she opened today. She said she thought this would be easier -- like the chemo treatments she got in Fresno. It's been hard. Harder than she thought. And she's one of the lucky ones. There are some people up here who are critical, clinging to life by a thread.

But that's the way it is. No matter who you are, or where, there are always going to be some who are better off than you, and some who are worse off. You want to progress to the next level, but sometimes you get pulled down. Eventually we all do.

And so it is good to remember that our life here, and our accomplishments, are temporal. Percy Shelly wrote it well in one of my favorite poems, Ozymandias.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

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