I found Justin Mayfield in front of Therapy Stores on Valencia Street, offering free poems to anyone on the sidewalk. It’s an activity that ties is life together.
“Some people call it the Dao, some call it God, some people call it the universe. Whatever it is, to be in it is to be in the right place,” he said.
Mayfield comes in to San Francisco once a week from a small house in fog covered Inverness in the North Bay, which he describes as invoking the feeling of Yūgen, a Japanese word that essentially describes things that are there, but not seen or intangible.
“Some days it’s quiet, but some days I come to San Francisco and turn up,” Mayfield says.
His choices, he feels, are a culmination of events tied together and leading him towards something greater. It was during his honeymoon on the northern coast three years ago that he first fell this pull to be in northern California.
Back home in St. Louis, he watched recordings of philosopher Alan Watts. Noticing that they were all filmed in Sausalito, he emailed Watt’s estate to volunteer, but instead was invited to work for the company and digitize old audio reels of Watts’ recordings.
That move, the home in Inverness and trips to Valencia Street, he said, are all part of the same pull.