In 2008 I slept at Hornet Lookout in Montana. This quaint cabin perched atop Hornet Mountain, a decommissioned U.S. Forest Service fire tower, is one of hundreds like it around the United States. I flew to Idaho with my dad where we joined with a college buddy of his, Dick, and the three of us drove east. The approach to Hornet Mountain is long: hours of flat, dusty dirt roads through untouched, old-growth forest. The true backwoods of the United States. I distinctly recall laughing out loud at a particular road sign we came upon, buried deep in the woods and the first in what seemed like days, that pointed out the distance to the Canadian border.
Each morning I bike by the San Francisco Symphony en route to work. On some mornings it is still outside, the arcs of its exterior wall stately in the morning light. On others, like this morning, there are buses lined outside and stampedes of children milling about, accompanied by what always seems to be far too few adults to manage such a crowd. On these mornings I’m shocked and delighted by the sheer number of children. Cities, despite their densely occupied grid of streets, do not always betray their youthful populations to daily commuters. Surely the children are either at home or at school, but they somehow escape our recognition, those of us without kids of our own. The sudden appearance of adolescent multitudes brings a frenzy of excitement and fervor that makes me smile. Especially in San Francisco, a city of overworked technical minds, the vigor and naive wonder of youth would be nice to see more.
I spent most of my free time in high school making movies. You’re imagining shaky, grain-laden home movies with two actors playing seven characters and little to no plot, but it was more than that. Me and my friends were lucky enough to have access to good equipment and basic film education through school, and we cashed in on both. There’s a stack of DVDs in the drawer of the desk where I’m sitting to prove it.
Tonight I’m celebrating a small milestone as we tumble into the 2nd month of the year. Over the past 31 days I’ve succeeded in establishing a writing routine. It’s not perfect—not by a long shot, with many rushed entries and nights staying up too late to finish—but it’s something. To date I’ve written essays exclusively. The format comes naturally to me, and I enjoy ruminating on past memories. Going forward I want to mix in some fiction and longer essays. I may write less in my daily entries in order to put more time into substantial pieces.
In the house where I grew up I had the front bedroom, my sister the back; she looked out to the backyard, I to the front. The house itself was set on a hill, and the yard sloped down toward the street. My child’s imagination spurred on the sense of being high in a tower, surveying the land. The yard was largely grass with one lone oak—a thick one, standing near to 80 feet tall—that scattered shade over much of the grass below it. On the perimeter of the yard stood more trees, and an entire forest beyond. In the warm New England summers this yard saw, over the years, heated games of soccer and badminton, baseball catches with Dad, manic games of capture the flag with the full band of cousins, and laps around the lawn with the mower, my weekly chore.