It’s 4:45, right in the middle of an awkwardly-shaped space between dropoffs and pickups. The weather is unseasonably warm, if San Francisco can be said to have seasons at all. I’m walking, alone, towards the sandy bluffs above Fort Funston Beach and away from at least fifteen healthy-looking singles frolicking with happy, glossy-coated dogs. If I had a slow-motion camera, I could get enough footage for a sitcom break’s worth of organic dog food commercials.
I’m looking for flow. I now have a word for it. I thought it was “a meditative state”, but I’ve just learned it’s simply that feeling humans get when they’re immersed in an engaging, productive task. Flow
, according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, may be the key to human happiness. Maybe I don’t have to meditate anymore. I just have to get more flow.
When I’m engaged in the various fussywork tasks that a raging craft addiction mandates, like this one,
I often forget what I’m doing completely. (I cut and positioned paper hexagons for almost three hours.) I had the same feeling when teaching myself to play the piano as a teenager, playing Solfeggietto for two hours a night; running from breakers to Bay when I was training for a half marathon; writing romances with a sleeping newborn lying warm on my lap. I’m pretty sure that’s flow.
I’m taking pictures of the abandoned fort, of the sun filtering through cypress, when I see the highest point, a mountain of sand and ice plant pointing west. I start walking towards it. When the sand gets too deep I take off my suede flats and walk, barefoot, feeling the stored warmth of the sun between my toes. My camera bag squeaks. I pass a raven. I don’t ask it for wishes, but I consider the idea.
The sounds of millennials playing dog frisbee fade, and all there is is crashing surf on all sides.
From my vantage point, on this unreasonably clear afternoon, I see straight down to the beach and out across the Pacific. I know this is what I was looking for. I capture it all with my camera, or think I do—the setting sun glinting on the waves, the ice plant rolling right to the edge of the cliff, the lonely raven behind me, pecking at the sand. The act of turning experience into images is sublime.
This is it. This is flow, and, in the writing, I get to find it again.