Home -> Other California History Books -> Vignettes of San Francisco -> Miracles

Previous Page Home Up One Level Next Page


"Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles.
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car."

- Walt Whitman.

If man or woman be at all sensitive to life, he must react to the commonplace much as Whitman did. Such a person may be hurrying along about his business with perhaps no time for reflection and yet in a flash, the miracle of life will come. to him through the slightest happening.

A little girl on the ferry sitting with her mother takes from her small prim bag a set of doll clothes, and fondles them and smoothes them much like a pullet with her first chickens. The sight of those square, little, gingham dresses, trimmed with scraps of lace and silk and with awkward sleeves standing straight out, brought to me, on that Oakland ferry, all my childhood again, and I was cuddled close between the surface roots of a great elm and from the nearby lane came the sight and scent of Bouncing Bet, Joe Pye Weed, Tansy, Yarrow, Golden Rod, Boneset, and over in the meadow the sight of cows and the smell of peppermint and water cress, beside a little stream.

The moment I write it down in physical words it becomes somehow less miraculous. The mind is so infinite and the human being so essentially mental, that the spoken or written word may never express them.

The sight of electric lights flashing at night, the view of the city from a cable car, the wonder of great trucks bearing down upon us like fiery-eyed dragons, a bunch of poppies growing close to the roots of a billboard in the heart of the city, and the silhouette of a young girl, wind-blown, so that her straight slender figure shows more beautiful than the statue that tops Union Square. Up Kearny street the glimpse of eucalyptus trees on the top of Telegraph Hill standing out against the pink sunset sky, the postman with his pack of human messages on his back, the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson in Portsmouth Square, and a row of old, old men sitting in the sun on Union Square discussing the Universe.

Did you ever stand listening to the seals just at nightfall, and did their weird, low call stir you to a feeling of kinship with all the creatures of the great deep, and did you lose yourself there out under the cold, dark water in that mysterious untamed world of the sea that is older than the land?

I don't know what it's all about. I only know we need more poets. Still every man who reacts to life and feels it to be a miracle, he is himself a poet. Even Whitman could only articulate in terms of wonder.

Previous Page
Up One Level
Next Page