Yesterday, we posted a photograph of an enigmatic note taped to a barrier at the foot of Berkeley’s Claremont Canyon firetrail. We asked readers to imagine the story behind it. Keith Skinner penned this one:

Sylvia had moved to the Bay Area from San Diego several months ago but had found it more difficult than she anticipated settling into her new Berkeley home.  She seemed to have a difficulty engaging her neighbors.  She had a sunny disposition. She liked people and was friendly.  And she stuck out like a sore thumb.  One of her neighbors, a middle aged woman in a floppy trail hat, wrinkled chambray shirt, olive cargo pants and trail boots had the nerve to say, “You know, we have places OTHER than the Gap around here where you can shop.”

And so it was that she found herself wandering one of Berkeley’s trails, contemplating the wisdom of her recent relocation.  She stood at one overlook, studying the bay and Mt. Tam in the distance; the sun slipping down into the rapidly approaching fingers of fog.

“Dear, dear,” a voice behind her blurted out about two decibels above normal speech.  Completely taken off guard, she twirled quickly to see an older man in hiking shorts, caring a walking stick, white headphones encircling his still brown hair.  She hadn’t heard him approach.

“Sorry to startle you dear.  Listening to Wagner on these blasted headphones and I’m probably talking too loud.”

He flipped a switch and pulled the headphones down around his neck.  “I was just struck by the melancholy gaze you had on your face.  It’s sad to see such a lovely young woman, who must have nothing but promising days ahead of her, so afflicted with sorrow.”

“Yeah, it’s been a tough few months,” Sylvia replied as she recovered her composure somewhat.  “I’m new to the area and feeling kind of lonely.  I’m wondering if I really belong here.”

“Oh, dear, you shouldn’t be so impatient.  Of course you CAN belong here, if you choose.  Anyone can fit in around here.  You just have to have a little chutzpah.  We have a lot of strong minded people around here.  You’ve got to stand your ground.  A woman like you is bound to meet interesting people.  Just take advantage of all your chance encounters.  It will work out.  Well, if you’ll pardon me, I have another half mile to walk before this Wagner piece is over.  Have a pleasant evening.”

As she watched her new acquaintance disappear around the bend, her spirits began to lift a bit.  The sun had melted into the fog and was providing dramatic bottom lighting for the mountains and stunning reflections in the water.  It was a beautiful place.  She needed to make this work.  She made a softly whispered vow to herself then and there to take the man’s advice; to take advantage of every chance encounter.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...