Yesterday, I took a walk over the Carquinez Bridge which spans the Carquinez Strait, rising where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers empty into the San Francisco Bay.
As bridges go, it is not spectacular, certainly not comparable to the Bay, Golden Gate, or Richmond Bridges. It is short and kind of squat, allows for no spectacular views, and what view there is gets hindered by an even less impressive cantilevered bridge taking traffic in the opposite direction.
But a bridge is a bridge is a bridge, and although some are spectacularly beautiful and some are ugly, they all have one vital characteristic in common: they GET YOU THERE.
And we all have a THERE to which we want to GET, don’t we?
Bridges are architectural poetry. That’s what I’m saying. They get us there.
Scientists theorize that after human beings evolved in Africa, they eventually reached the American continent by relying on the so-called Bering Land Bridge, presumed to have spanned the sea between Siberia and America ages and ages ago.
We are all of us here, even the indigenous nations, because somebody, somewhere, at some time crossed a bridge.
In mythologies ancient and modern, throughout the world, the bridge plays an important part. Most cultures imagine a bridge between earth and heaven, a famous example being the Rainbow Bridge to Valhalla.
Among my earliest childhood memories is the excitement of traveling each summer from Boston to my grandparents’ home on Cape Cod. Crossing the beautiful Bourne Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal was the journey’s highlight.
I bet you have childhood memories of a bridge, too.
Poetry themselves, bridges also offer a never tired metaphor of all the transitions we face in life. Surely it has occurred to you, as it has to me, that the era of COVID is a bridge we are crossing, travelling together to a mysterious THERE. We all must hope that having crossed the bridge we will discover that there is a there there to be found, unlike Gertrude Stein’s description of Oakland.
COVID is a bridge and that’s poetry. And, as Hart Crane wrote of another bridge, we have seen night uplifted in its arms.
We are together on a pilgrimage, a truth that is perhaps universal in all times and places, but is especially true in shared crises like a war, a depression, or a pandemic.
Go for a walk. Try walking over a bridge. And remember, there’s poetry in it, if we pay attention.