“Sometimes we don’t realize what we have on our own doorstep.” I’d caught Paddy O’Leary outside of the lab, where the professional runner spends his working hours as a researcher, to talk to him about the short film Urban Oasis ahead of its local premiere. The four minute film is a love letter to a place both Paddy and the films director, Ryan Scura, had made home – San Francisco. A 7 by 7 square of land that I also called home for the past four years.
Watching the film I exhale, a familiar sensation rushing over me – a deep fondness for a place and time. The second time I watch the film it’s to show it to my husband, “It really does take leaving a place to appreciate its beauty,” again remembering how easy it is to miss a place as you run or ride through it distracted by the other daily acts of being human.
This particular love letter had been written and rewritten in Ryan’s mind since moving to the city in 2014, each line added as he explored his new home by foot. Like many looking for community in a new place Paddy and Ryan found it in the November Project, a free outdoor fitness group. “When I moved to San Francisco I wasn’t really a runner, but the community that welcomed me in [the November Project] helped me fall in love with the city. Everyone was eager to share their own corner of it, all the hidden and overlooked places, the green spaces, the urban single track, the stairs. Exploration became a core part of that community – no one cared what you did for work or how fast you were, that was ignored and we got to share the common bond of exploration, of really knowing a place inside and out.”
Dooster Film, comprised of Dylan Ladds and Ryan Scura, are not unfamiliar with producing films that explore and share a sense of home. During a previous project focused on mountain running in Ireland, Paddy got to share his childhood home and slow down just enough in the process of film making to become aware of the micro-moments he was running by most of the time. “I began to realize I was missing, not seeing or appreciating, the natural activity going on around me. Like a random weed popping up between two slabs of concrete – or the way mist hangs and gets tangled in the big trees in the Presidio – nature was always there…”
When you watch the runners traverse the contrast of urban structures to tucked away green space you can feel those micro-moments and the associated awe and wonder – the appreciation for the things we forget to see. While my backyard has changed I too am reminded to slow down, to try a new route, and to explore a new corner so I can fall in love with this community the same way I did last time.
So what have you been missing on your doorstep? Are their groups and organizations local to you that help to share and utilize urban spaces? Share your local urban oasis with us by using #urbanoasistrail so that you can share your little corner with the community.
Urban Oasis – is a love letter to San Francisco and was filmed on the ancestral land of the Ramaytush Ohlone peoples.