No matter how many years I call San Francisco home (if you are curious, this year will be ten), when June arrives and the rush of whiteness seems to swallow the sky, I am always surprised, as if I have been duped, and then as if in mourning, I become sad in an inescapable way. Friends who have lived here way longer than I learn to schedule vacations during the month of June, heading off to places where summer means sunshine and tank tops and outdoor dining and sunblock. Not like here, with our UGG boots, winter coats and beanies stacked by the door ready to brave the park. Not like here, where Fourth of July fireworks are an imagined experience.
As if attempting to slap us in the face even harder, summer’s bounty springs into action this month, blessing farmers markets with juicy stonefruit that scream summertime and tomatoes—oh the glorious heirlooms with their tattered coats of red and green and yellow and orange. In some ways, the bouquet of fruit that arrives before I start wearing sandals signals an event, a party of sorts, that San Franciscans have yet to be invited to.
Sure we residents band together, creating our own soiree: smiling at tourists in their shorts and T-shirts, wearing those newly purchased San Francisco sweatshirts as they hop on and off blustery cable cars. As locals all tread to Dolores Park, unpacking our layers just in case the fog finally burns off the eastern part of the city; and we lick not-quite melting Bi-Rite honey lavender ice cream or to dine alfresco at Pizzeria Delfina insisting on Pinot Grigio rather than Cabernet—it’s summer for pete’s sake! And of course we know that one day, albeit a mere few weeks in September and October, we too will be graced with perfectly sunny days that make us forget the fog, the wind, the chill of our beautiful city.
But real San Franciscans, people who have married the city, grow to love the fog in the same way I imagine a woman in an arranged marriage suddenly finds herself enamored with the idiosyncrasies of her husband—something she did not sign on for, but in their innocence, their truth, those unique traits make her feel affection, after time.
This recently happened to me on a stroll through the Strybing Botanical Gardens; I found myself appreciating the layer of dampness that allows flowers, vegetables, and fruit to flourish here year round. While my Los Angeles family watches their hills turn gold and their flowers crumble off jacaronda trees, we can sit beneath cool redwoods in Golden Gate Park and inhale the cleanest air in the city.
And when yesterday, I was walking along the ridge of Bernal Hill, watching the clouds race across the bay, the duvet of fog hung over Twin Peaks, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin as if our guardian—who knows maybe if we had LA’s heat, we’d have almost 3 million residents as well—I followed my sons (a 5 year old and a toddler, used to hills, and the fog, and who giggled when the rush of wind pressed them backward) around the wildflower covered hill, watching the sun disappear behind the fog layer, sending fireworks of yellow and orange over the bay. In the absence of daylight, San Francisco continued to thrive. Because when the weather is too warm, too good, we would not have the inspiration to create one of the most dynamic, thriving cities in the country—a city that knows when to work and when to play. A universe that accepts, tolerates, and even comes to embrace its chilling fog.