I had the opportunity to stroll the Embarcadero yesterday, smelling the salty air and hearing the tapestry of sounds from a busy port: trains wailing as they lumbered past, ship horns honking a farewell to land, trucks groaning up Banker’s Hill, and airplanes roaring up toward the sun. The marine layer was thick over the port, a cool blanket of white that hung over the activity of the seaside and shielded it from the greater world. Indeed, time seemed to compress and warp as I walked. Sometimes there was a shock of juxtaposition, as ancient crafts tied up to mid-century war machines tied up to turn-of-the-century pleasure craft.
Sometimes I could turn my head, look out toward the Pacific, and imagine the time when throaty yells to heave to and trim sails could be heard over the clattering of hooves on stone pathways.
Here in the port, time has left its mark. Pilings are chewed away by the salt water and lashed to newer timbers. They, in turn, will be eaten away by time. In another hundred years, which of the ships of our harbor will seem quaint, which will evoke a nostalgic longing, and which will be as anachronistic as today’s square-rigged clipper?