Small-footed Chinese women pass, humping along on their stumps and their babies running along beside have larger feet than the mothers who bore them, Bench warmers gaze after them with lazy curiosity. A fat Italian granddaddy washes a kiddie’s hand from the fountain and a man with a demijohn and a sense of humor goes smilingly down the path and what he has in the demijohn is none of our business.
“To make on the whole, a family happier for his presence.” It is noon and a bride has brought lunch for herself and her husband off the job in his white overalls, and the two eat together on the beautiful grassy slope. The poplar trees around Stevenson’s fountain whisper poetry all day long and the little iron boat on top looks sad not to be sailing away on high adventure to the South Sea islands.
“To renounce when it shall be necessary and not be embittered.” A woman with a baby carriage comes by. Something tender and sane and everyday and basic about her and her baby. A Chinese woman passing looks for all the world like a black and iridescent purple grackle in her shiny black coat and shiny black pants and shiny black shoes and shiny black hair, although the grackle has a prouder strut than her dancing little trot.
“To keep a few friends and those without capitulation.” Where, oh where, do all the men come from who lie stretched out on the grass? I’ve seen the very same men lying on Boston Common, and when my father was a boy he said he saw them there. Hats over their eyes or else blinking up at the blue sky. Then on the curb facing the Hall of Justice, philosophers up from the water front or fresh from box cars, everyone with a story that Stevenson would have got from them.
“Above all on the same grim conditions to keep friends with himself.” On the bench an enormous woman with a hat that looks like a schooner atop of a great pompadour wave and on the very same bench a mummied old Chinese as thin as a wafer. An aeroplane hums above and Stevenson’s little boat looks envious. Where did Captain Montgomery of the sloop Portsmouth stand when he planted the flag in 1848? The Mission bell, so many miles to Dolores, so many miles to Rafael. Ring, Mission bell, ring and show us where the El Camino Real will lead us all by and by. We who pass all day, show us the way, Mission bell. — “here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.”
“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.