The fog was my first friend in San Fransisco. A year ago I quickly uprooted from Bend Oregon to accept a residency as a health care chaplain . I was blessed to get into this stipended Clinical Pastoral Education program without previous experience or the often requisite Masters of Divinity. I was also lead to a cozy affordable (by San Francisco standards) mother-in-law residence, the basement of a Chinese Dr.’s home situated just below Twin Peaks and often surrounded by swirling mists and fog.
Growing up in Florida, I overdosed on sunshine early in life. I’ve always been enchanted with extremes in nature, storms, crashing thunder. Forgive me, but I even love turbulence on airplanes! Thus, in the early weeks of getting to know my way around the University of California San Francisco Medical Center at Parnassus and the city itself, the fog became a welcome friend. It soothed me to be surrounded by something both mournful and mysterious, a cool damp embrace. As I grappled with The Great Lonliness of relocation to a place where I knew absolutely no one, I was comforted by a companion that urged me to go inward and explore my own myths and mysteries.
The year in residency has passed more quickly than I thought possible, especially considering the many anguished hours I early on encountered, startled after the blessing of gaining this opportunity that I was so soon asking myself “what am I doing here?!”, wondering if I could endure the dismantling of what I assumed was “me” while serving patients facing life and death questions every day. The patients were as much my teachers as the supervisory CPE Chaplains. Sharing their struggles and stories often feed me with the hope I in turn offered back to them, all of us together in the human soup.
The path to becoming a Chaplain is a demanding and complex one, particularly for someone in mid-life with a history of meandering and wandering more than planning and goal-achieving. As I continue to discern what comes next, living with more questions and change than answers, I’m always grateful when my friend, the fog, is hanging around. Countless days I have l looked out the windows of this huge medical center toward the stunning view of the Inner Sunset and Golden Gate Park, beyond to the towers of that Big Orange Bridge, the Golden Gate. Many times the bridge cannot be seen. The fog is dancing around it, sitting solid on the expanse or merely hiding the towers in a batting of mist. But I know the bridge is there. I trust that. I depend on that metaphor for faith on my journey. Early on I claimed the title Chaplain of the Fog. This is the beginning of my Fog Blog, sharing my journey with questions, change, mystery and the many things that call us to transformation.