This week we flew the coop for San Francisco to visit our youngest, Ellis, who recently settled the city proper after bouncing around in various suburbs.

When he first moved in, we were video chatting with him and his sweetheart, Dev, who told us that their new neighborhood used to be the Hippie Capital of the World.

“Why the Hippie Capital of the World,” I said, bemused, “is Haight-Ashbury.”

“That’s it! We live in Haight-Ashbury.”

“You live in Haight-Ashbury? How did you manage that?”

And they gave us a video tour of their apartment in a 100-year-old building with thick, white paint on the walls and built-in bookcases and cabinets and a pocket door that opens up the spare bedroom into the living room for one big party space.

Well, we had to see it in person, so Michael and I found ourselves at the airport. We swore we’d be independent and our boy wouldn’t have to take time off to entertain us. We could surely amuse ourselves, and maybe get dinner with him in the evenings. But he had other ideas. Not only did he pick us up from the airport, but he took off work and had the weekend planned out.

On Friday, he took us to Cal Academy — a science museum in Golden Gate Park. Is it a museum, or is it a zoo? Maybe both? We took the afternoon to explore just one part of it.

The Rainforest is a dome with a gently spiraling ramp that took us from the forest floor, where we peeked into a leafcutter ant colony (they were too busy carrying big slices of leaves to their den to chat with us), saw millipedes rumbling about in a glass case, searched for frogs and snakes in terrariums (and sometimes found them), and looked down into a lagoon full of fish. I saw a giant fish (longer than my 6-foot son) surface and then dive down again before I could get anyone to look.

We wound our way up through various levels of tropical plants and displays — palms, philodendron, orchids. Birdsong accompanied us as we climbed to the canopy, and we saw large blue and orange parrots and small blue headed tanagers flying around and perching on trees.

The higher we got, the more butterflies we saw, some a little like our Red Admirals only bigger, some blue ones the size of a saucer. When we got to the top, we stepped into the elevator, which had a sign warning us to check for hitchhiking butterflies. We didn’t see any, and the elevator took us down to the basement, where we could walk through a tunnel under the aquarium and let the fish swim above us and all around.

When we stepped out into the sunshine, we wanted a snack, but by the time we got our soft pretzel, the fog had crept up out of nowhere.

Ellis told us the San Francisco fog has a name: Karl. He even has his own Twitter account.

We didn’t see much of him on our visit. When he came, he made a sudden appearance and was gone just as quickly. We walked back through the Panhandle, and by the time we finished our pretzels and churros, Karl had dissipated. But that was not the last we would see of him.

The next morning, Ellis’ old friend, Joey, met us for brunch. They have been friends since they were 3, and both left the prairie to be California boys.

After breakfast, Joey would join us for a sailing trip. Ellis had booked us a two-hour tour on the San Francisco Bay. We walked out to the end of the pier past a beautiful stone lighthouse. The doorway had been filled in with more stone, perhaps because the light was now electrical and no longer needed tending.

Captain John asked us where we would like to go, and we decided to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. I sat in a special seat on the stern while the two boys sat chatting on the deck up near the bow. The wind was mild, and pretty soon, Michael joined them.

I watched the water and the boats go back and forth, Alcatraz receding as we approached the bridge.

Every once in a while, a flock of dark pelicans would swoop down and skim over the water. Karl made his appearance as we were sailing back to port, but he never caught up with us.

Later, Michael told me he saw a seal on the rocks as we went under the bridge, but I missed it. I was perfectly happy to sit and watch the boys laughing and talking, watch the pelicans skim over the water, and thinking what a good host our son is.

Walk in Beauty; Work in Peace; Blessed Be

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. You can livestream stingrays from the Cal Academy with the Stingrays Live app. You can follow Karl the fog at or You can see pictures about this week’s post on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal-Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 61856. She wants to thank her friends for writing and will answer you all soon.

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