Claire De Boer is a luminous, lovely writer and a wonderful friend. She is also my writing partner, and she consistently encourages me to be true to my story, and simply, to tell it. For this reason, I am sure that she is a wonderful teacher. Her passions revolve around writing through pain, and using writing to heal. We've done some of that together. I know that you'll enjoy this wonderful, evocative de(tale), fog and all.
If you asked me where my love of bridges came from, I wouldn’t be able to answer. But this is what my childhood bedroom walls looked like: at least six pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, three of Brooklyn Bridge, New York, and a poster of Bucks Fizz (a very popular UK band in the eighties) vying for real estate in between.
This was not what my friends’ bedrooms looked like, so I knew from an early age I was different. Perhaps a little weird.
I called them my windows—these pictures that showed snippets of a life far away. Brooklyn Bridge against the night sky; the deep red of the Golden Gate rising out of a sea of blue. I would lie on my bed and stare at each one in turn, placing myself in those scenes. What would my life look like there?
Looking into those windows and the possibility of new life gave me hope, inspiration and allowed me to dream big. They were my bridges of hope and many years later they were the inspiration that carried me thousands of miles from one continent to another.
At 26 years old I emigrated from England to Vancouver, Canada (I was hoping for San Francisco but the paperwork made it way too challenging.) I uprooted my life on a one-way ticket and crossed the bridge in my heart to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Many called me adventurous; some called me crazy. And the naysayers said I’d be home within the month. But I knew I wouldn’t be home. My home was somewhere far away; I had known this from early childhood.
Three years later, after making a permanent home in Vancouver, I met my red steel bridge.
My boyfriend and I planned a California road trip through Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and the Napa Valley. I could barely contain my excitement at the thought of entering through my childhood window into reality. Yet a part of me wanted to stay away, to ignore the truth about my red bridge: she was only a lump of steel.
Excitement overruled fear and after eighteen hours of non-stop driving we approached the city of San Francisco from the North via the mountains. The fog swirled thick and damp around us, obscuring any hope of seeing the bridge below. But as we descended further, I began to see snippets of landscape, roads and buildings. And I waited. Waited for the first glimpse of my bridge through patches of fog.
We pulled over to a lookout area and scanned what should have been the ocean, the city skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge rising valiant from its depths. But nothing.
“This is where I wanted you to see it,” my boyfriend said. “It’s supposed to be one of the best lookout areas over the city.”
Nothing. No red arms of steel. No ocean blue. Only grey.
Back in the car my anticipation grew. The highway would take us onto the bridge, but would I be able to see any of it through the fog?
We found ourselves winding down the mountain and soon reached ocean level. Our speed slowed to a crawl as we joined three lanes of traffic to board the bridge.
And there with my neck craning out of the window, I looked up through a film of grey white mist and saw my first glimpse of the bridge I had dreamed about for more than 20 years. A burst of blood orange reaching through the fog as high into the sky as I could see. There, rising in all her glory.
My throat tightened and tears collected in my eyes.
It wasn’t the structure itself, although something so grand, so imposing that spans miles of ocean and carries hundreds of thousands of vehicles per day is, by my account, rather impressive. No, it is what this structure represented for me—that bridging between two worlds—one where I lived lost, and the other where I found myself.
I would have liked to have seen her first in her full panoramic glory. But 24 hours later I was glad I hadn’t.
It was dusk when we returned to the bridge. The fog had lifted and the golden glow of the sun warmed the cool colours of the evening.: the long green grass that tickled my bare legs; the dusty grey path that wound down to the beach; the mosaic of neutrals that lined the horizon on the other side of the inlet.
The air was cool so we walked hand in hand clasping a blanket around our shoulders. And just as we were able to see a full view of the bridge my boyfriend stopped us and we stood, arms wrapped around one another, staring at its magnitude.
We had brought a bottle of wine, so we sat down on a large rock and I pulled the blanket around my legs, while he fumbled with the bottle opener down in the grass. His hands quivered as he poured the wine and passed me my portion, served in a plastic cup.
I waited for him to join me but instead he stayed, jostled close up and assumed a bended-knee position. In his hand he held a small box, opened it and smiled.
I don’t remember all the words. Rather, I remember the feelings, the images. The red of the bridge against the honey-coloured sky, the long threads of grass swaying gently in the breeze, and the love for the man in front of me, who knew to bring me to the place of my childhood dreams to ask me to marry him.
Yes, my bridge is just a lump of steel. But without her —without keeping my eyes fixed firmly on my windows of hope, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Claire De Boer is a writer, teacher and visionary with a passion for stories and a strong belief in their power to connect us. She is a certified Journal Instructor and teaches online workshops at www.thegiftofwriting.com. Download her free eBook, “Soul Writing,” via her blog and follow her on Twitter @ClaireJDeBoer.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.