The view from my deck is a metaphor.
It sits 35 feet high on the side of a hill which is perhaps 400 or 500 feet high. It overlooks San Francisco Bay. I sit there – sometimes wearing a sweater, even in summer – to watch the sunset in solitude. Beyond the mountains, the sun runs crimson and amber into beautiful oblivion over the sea. Like all sunsets, it will never be exactly the same as on any other day in any other time. Sunsets are like snowflakes that way.
The sunset silhouettes the mountains in metallic gold and makes the hoarfrost fog easy to see. It tumbles heavily down the slopes like air from a freezer on a warm, humid day. Somewhere on the far shore, the temperature is dropping and people are bundling up or turning off their air conditioners. Depending on the day, a few may be starting their tiny California furnaces. It will be summertime-cold over there in the fog. The lights will come on in the million windows and the day will be done.
I can see two of the major bridges, the San Mateo and Dumbarton, that cross the Bay. They are the thinnest of silver strips skimming the darkening water. A constant march of taillight ants creeps slowly across. Each ant carries a crumb – some heavy, some light, some fragile or odd-sized awkward. They head home or to meet family or friends. A few are bound for their night work. The bridges will be almost empty when they return.
On nights when I am fraught with worry or life’s desperations, it is easy to envy the trip to the far shore. If I wanted to, I could ride my own ant across and head up through the fog and into the hills. There, I could lose myself in the web of mountain roads and quiet road noise and soft light from the radio dial. I could wander in ways that have no everyday quality, confined only to what my headlights could see – all sharp curves and redwoods, and the damp. I could take a turn and suddenly disappear as though I never existed to go walkabout and decide never to return – if I wanted to, if I didn’t have ties and responsibilities and all the grasps of modern life that constrain me, constrain all of us.
I don’t have so many, but on more optimistic days I’d join the crawl home to family or friends. My work would be done and I could return to my deck. I could smile a comfortable smile over all that happened that pleasant day, loosen my sweater buttons, and revel in the countenance of those I love as I tell the story. It wouldn’t matter that it was a story as old as all stroies or that it was mundane and trivialistic. Joy would carry the day.
The end is always the same. When it is fully dark I go inside and do the things most people do on most evenings, as routine as a job and sometimes just as empty and grinding. Finally, I lie down, hopefully find some sleep, and get up the next morning looking forward to my metaphor, my deck.