Sunday, January 1, 2012

There is Something About Bridges

When I was young, images of the Golden Gate Bridge represented America in my mind. America was not symbolized in the all-welcoming draped woman holding an inviting message standing in the New York Harbor. Nor was America represented in the hat-wearing, finger-pointing image of a man soliciting help from his citizen nephews (and nieces). In fact, I think there were pictures of various family members posing near the Golden Gate Bridge that drew me to the land of the free. It has been many years since then, but my love for that bridge still stands. During my daily commute to Novato (from San Francisco), I happily drive on one of the two north-bound lanes across the bridge, and sometimes it dawns on me that the dreams of that young, bridge-admiring girl have come true.

Though that partly describes and validates my love for this great landmark, lately, I have been thinking about bridges in general. They are of everywhere and of no where, at once. Every morning, as I begin my drive on the GG bridge, I leave San Francisco County and embark towards Marin County, yet during the time that I am on the bridge, I am in neither county and yet in both --liminality explained in the most physical sense. Though I have clearly left the 7 mile by 7 mile squared piece of land, I am merely on the threshold of the next series of cities and towns that make up Marin County (and counties beyond that). Bridges defy boundaries in this way by refusing to succumb to our modern (and perhaps ever-present) desire to categorize and classify everything and everyone. They are long stretches of man-made connectors that translocate people from place to place over various bodies of water, but they, themselves, are of no location.

There is, moreover, a third reason why I so love bridges. What they have come to represent for me is human beings' desire to connect to one another, even when nature dictates a degree of separation. Bridges were our first attempts at social networking sites. Perhaps the very first bridge-builders would be surprised and proud or dubiously afraid of modern cyber affairs of that sort. Either way, bridges, I would argue, is where it all began. Where water stood uncompromingly between two masses of land, there was a person (or people) who dreamt of means to override nature's unyielding, inexorable demands, thus conceiving elongated structures of iron works that would raise a crude gesturing finger to oceans everywhere. "We will prevail," they seem to say. If we stand together and deeply desire to connect to each other in physical ways, without desperately seeking to segregate and isolate ourselves from other human beings, I wonder how else we can stand up to nature, even when circumstances seem, somehow, inauspicious.

I look forward to my mornings on the GG bridge, and this most famous SF landmark eases my commute to work. Though I have always admired this vermilioned piece of work, I think I have new reasons to appreciate it, along with its other sister-bridges, forevermore.