Glen Park is on the outer-edge of San Francisco, one neighborhood past Noe Valley. It even has its own river, Islais creek, steep hills and a huge canyon with a path that goes from the bottom of the neighborhood up to Diamond Heights Shopping Center. It's also a place where dogs congregate, morning, noon and night.
This morning, walking my dog, Penny, an almost 14-year-old Bichon Frise, we passed the street called Paradise with the word "end" on top of it. But this is hardly the end of paradise this July morning, slightly cool as it often is in San Francisco summers; hundreds of birds chirp and guardians (not owners -- a linguistic law in SF) walk their dogs into the mouth of Glen Park. A jogger in a navy running suit passes by with his huge poodle-like dog running using the exact same gait -- people and dogs merging their spirits.
Two tennis courts on the left often have players, but no one is out this early morning. A Park and Rec. vehicle makes circles in the huge field where children play baseball and soccer -- in this era of structured sports for the young. Penny and I sit on the new green benches for a minute by the mural painted in 2005 on the walls of the Park and Rec. Department -- It is covered with birds -- Hooded Warbler -- Flycatcher -- Sapsucker -- and flowers -- Monkey Flower -- California Poppy. The Banana Slug, prominent in our neighborhood, is painted lying in a bed of dirt -- and looks like it slinks across the dirt like a child's slinky.
But it's the green grassy field where dogs suddenly appear from the right and left paths -- paths that lead in the summer to Silver Tree Day Camp -- where children wear colored scarves according to their age and group, do art projects and climb near the huge boulders that line the canyon. An older dog, tail down, looks like he's had enough while a small black dog suddenly jumps up on me -- but she's very small and sweet -- to an embarrassed owner -- and then races for the ball. Other dogs appear -- German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, mutts of all varieties -- some to harried guardians trying to get to work and get in the obligatory walk -- others to a group of women who look like they have some time -- carry their coffee cups and lean into each other, talking and laughing. Now that I'm retired from full-time teaching, maybe I can join them some mornings and amble instead of rush.
All around the park huge Eucalyptus trees shed their bark -- large brown peels like banana skins. Penny and I are ready to leave and walk up one path toward busy Bosworth Street. A man in front of me with a t-shirt that says "Latitude Adjustment" puts his Golden Retriever into his car and drives off.
Penny and I walk on the sidewalk bordering one entrance to the park. I think of all the dog-friendly Glen Park places -- Bird and Beckett where the owner's mother always brings her small lap-dog to the weekly poetry readings and jazz concerts; Higher Grounds café -- where dogs sit outside with their humans, watching the foot-traffic. Penny, with her inky eyes and eighteen pound body was a "therapy dog" once a week at the Richmond Senior Center where my husband worked with developmentally disabled seniors. They would run their hands over her soft fur and ask for her every day. Now she is our family's therapy dog (no small task) and a Glen Park regular, among the other pooches in the neighborhood.
"Animals are completed creations," Alice Walker said. In Glen Park, where cows used to roam many years ago -- now dogs -- "completed creations" remind us humans of all those things we might have forgotten.