love thursday: the left-my-heart-in-san-francisco edition

The always-lovely superhero, Andrea.

I'm back from San Francisco.  This trip was really rather sudden: the result of an unexpected instant-message about two weeks ago from someone asking if I would like to speak at a marketing meeting hosted by her company on social media.  I was happy to agree, I had the opportunity to meet and listen to some really fascinating folks in the health-care industry -- I hope they got as much out of what I had to say as I did from listening to them!  It was a really great event.

The talk aside, this was one of the best business trips I've ever had, mostly for what occurred on my off-time.  I flew in on Monday, arriving in the afternoon, and on a whim I called my friend Andrea to see if she might be up for an impromptu dinner.   I admit I was a bit surprised when she agreed -- it was such late notice.  We decided that I would come out to where she lives in Berkeley, so after a little down time at the hotel, I hopped the BART and headed out.

(A quick aside:  to those of you who live in cities that have rapid transit, I want you to take a moment now to thank your stars for your luck.  Oh, how I envy you!  Houston has no real rapid transit to speak of -- with apologies to the cute little train that runs from the Med Center to Downtown -- and it's one of the things I miss most about London.  It is for this reason that anytime I get to travel to a city with a subway system, it's one of the first experiences I try to grab when I arrive.  And honestly, I'm of the firm belief that a rapid transit system in Houston is all it would take to transform this city to a place where people would fervently clamour to live.

But I digress.)

Once I arrived at Berkeley and met Andrea and her beautiful husband Matt and deliciously sweet son, Ben, Andrea decided to take me on a walk to The Edible Schoolyard.  For those who aren't in the know (and I certainly wasn't), The Edible Schoolyard is an acre-large organic garden that is on the grounds of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley.  The garden is there to teach the kids how to grow organic food, and then the facilities include a kitchen to teach them how to cook healthy dishes from the food they've grown.  I'm so glad I had my camera with me, because let me tell you, this place is magical:




To be honest, I'm still not entirely sure that I didn't dream the place up.

After the sun faded, we walked to Andrea's favourite place that serves exclusively vegetarian sushi (vegetarian! sushi!) and, as Marcus would say, had "a good natter."  It was so lovely catching up with her, and I'm forever grateful to her for spontaneously coming out with me and showing me a part of the Bay Area I might not have otherwise seen.

The next morning I met a few other friends at a very funky little coffee bar, Sugar Cafe, to catch up over some hot beverages.  My presentation wasn't until midday, and a couple of the friends I wanted to see are women who I generally only visit with once every year in Oregon, so I was thrilled to see that they are positively radiant with the good in their lives:

Mati, one of my most favourite illustrators of all time.


The glowing Gypsy Girl, Alex.

The morning raced by far too quickly; but still, it was so great to see them, for even the short amount of time that I had.  Although we often send email to each other, really nothing beats looking your friends in the eyes and hugging them, and seeing for yourself that they're doing really, really well, does it?

After my presentation, I rushed to get ready for some down time with my sister, who lives in San Francisco.  She picked me up at my hotel and I spent the evening with her and her family at their home, eating Chinese take-out.  It was so nice just to hang out with them and play with mountains of Legos and get schooled on faeries and woodnymphs and pixies, because I'm sorry, but it must be said that my niece and nephew win for Cutest Niece and Nephew of The World:


You will never be able to convince me of otherwise.

On a serious note:  it occurred to me, as I was processing these images tonight, that these photos were all sort of my personal proof that love is, indeed, all around us:  from friends who will drop everything to connect with you, to little ones who insist on your tucking them into bed, to beautiful magical gardens that appear in the most unlikely places, evidence of the focus and gentleness of caring hands.  I love the idea that you can be going about your mundane day (or even be on an exhausting, whirlwind, ostensibly-strictly-business trip), and reminders of love are always there.  Always.

Happy (early) Love Thursday, everyone.


Song(Sittin' on) the dock of the bay, as performed by Sara Bareilles