Posted by: jsmcfadden | December 30, 2014

Train trip from SoCal back home

After a wonderful Christmas week with my parents and sister and her kids, and seeing John’s brother and family, as well, we headed home on the train. My thinking was we didn’t have to be anywhere, so delays — mentioned so often on Yelp! — wouldn’t cause us stress. And who wouldn’t want to take the Coast Starlight along the beautiful California shoreline?

The beauty started at the station, which in the clear morning looked rather like a movie set. Here’s what we saw looking back into the city from the entry way:

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and then here’s the building signage:

DSC_6382 UNION station 1








The Art Deco theme is established! Inside, the space is tremendous. Here’s the old ticket counter with the morning sun coming through those gigantic windows. You can just imagine the ladies in their suits and hats and gloves, dressed up for traveling.

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The detail on the ceiling was impressive, too.

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And just opposite, was the elegant door into the courtyard and the restaurant beyond.

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Waiting area (John got a shot with a bird just posing on the armrest!):

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And the two lovely courtyards where travelers could enjoy the Southern California sun while they waited for their trains to Denver or Chicago or New York City. Or even San Diego, though those trains go so often that there wouldn’t really be much time to sit and wait.

But isn’t this a calm and peaceful place? I  could imagine the passengers enjoying a moment of nature and wide space before they go into the train, that narrow and enclosed tube moving through the landscape. Just nice to breathe in some fresh morning air.

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Notice the windows of the building in this photo. This courtyard is just behind that now-quiet old ticket counter space. I loved the shadows of the arching trees on the white stucco, filtering the sunlight onto that gleaming floor inside that we’d already admired.

DSC_6401 courtyard 2

[Having some trouble with spacing things so it looks the way I want it to. Probably the secret is to crop my photos a little larger so there’s no option of words to the left or right …]

Then we went in and followed signs to the place people with rooms or roommettes wait, a different lounge than the one pictured above, with a fancy name: Metropolitan Lounge.  I’m sure it makes boarding the train simpler and less difficult to group the folks, and I was eager to see this different waiting room. Here it is, upstairs and well-stocked with muffins, cookies, coffee, juice, and a TV.

DSC_6412 metropolitan lounge

It was nearly empty when we arrived, but filled up as other passengers arrived and got themselves a morning snack. Lots of luggage and several kids as well as dozens of adults who seemed to know what they were doing. We found out that the train was sold out, which explained the crowd.

Finally we were called to board the train, waited to reach our bags which were by now in the back of a large bunch, and then followed our attendant to the train. Through the station and down the passageway toward the tracks, then to the left and up a tunnel into the light of the SoCal sun. A huge train was to our left, nearly ready to pull out of the station. Our attendant told us our train would back in and we would be boarding in just a few minutes.

She was right, and we found our car — # 1431 — and then our roommette — 008, on the right side of the train. This meant our window would be facing inland rather than onto the ocean as we traveled north to Davis. We had a hard time imagining how our two bags would fit and then the nice couple across the walkway told us they just pulled down the upper berth a bit and stowed their bags up there. John figured out how to do that and got our two suitcases up there and out of sight. We got settled in our seats, the comfortable wide seats we remembered from our ride in coach up to Reno on the Snow Train.

photo (2)

So now we know we can’t really imagine a room when we think of the roommette. We need to imagine two facing chairs, with pillows and an outlet marked “for shavers only”,  plus a door which separates us from the aisle and curtains which let us have some privacy. It isn’t really space we reserved but privacy — and the meals, of course! Still, I was imagining our seats on the plane and being very glad we had more leg room, more room to each side, a huge window, and we could get up and walk around whenever we wanted!

We got settled into our seats. And then,

then we pulled out of the station.

departing station from phone

Posted by: jsmcfadden | March 25, 2014

A little drive

DSCN5072 cropped adj gloryhole

This is the “glory hole” of Monticello Dam, which holds back Lake Berryessa from flooding much of Solano County. Most years, the water level of the Lake covers the little peninsula and goes up to the lighter part of the side of the giant concrete drain.

Pretty low, this year, eh?

Posted by: jsmcfadden | May 18, 2013

Strange flowers

DSC_0029 seussy blooms

What is this?

Obviously, it’s lovely and it’s a flowering plant, and it’s growing in our Northern California front yard.

I think it needs to be the star of an animated movie.  It’s a three-headed something or other which can pivot on its long trunk but tends to rip if it pivots too quickly. Take a look at the appendages:

Seussy plant

Don’t they seem to be arms to you?

Posted by: jsmcfadden | February 20, 2013

Time for the sea.

DSC_0048 web vertPoint Reyes is a beautiful place.



But look at the blue water and the cliffs and the fields.

This is just after high tide on Saturday, February 16.

It was a lovely day at home, with temperatures forecast for the mid-60’s, sunny. One of those spring days we get a month early than we really expect but just on the week we SO need a spring day.

And it had been months — a year maybe — since we had seen the ocean. Bodega Bay fog from inside the restaurant isn’t going to count. So we drove west through the town, over the hill, across the marsh restoration, through the hills, around the lovely neighborhoods and along Tomales Bay and then out toward the Drake’s Beach visitor center.

Oh. The wind. Waves crashing and a few people on the beach and a few gulls and the wind. Some fog.

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Shuttle tickets for the lighthouse.

Last ones on the last shuttle out to the lighthouse.

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The short hike from the shuttle stop to the lighthouse visitor center; foggy to our right and wind, wind. Green fields up the rest of the cliff to our left.


We didn’t walk the 308 steps down to the lighthouse from the visitor center way out there on the point.


DSC_0036 web

Posted by: jsmcfadden | January 6, 2013

Yellow lemons

lemons at Christmas

This is what the lemon tree looked like at Christmas in 2012.  There were some days we needed to cover it with a big blue king-sized sheet because we knew temperatures were going to bounce around 32º or so. But — and you can tell from the injured leaves in the photo — there were nights we didn’t know or even think about how cold it was going to get and we went to bed with the tree uncovered.

Nevertheless. Many, many beautiful lemons!!

Posted by: jsmcfadden | October 27, 2012

Some things are beautiful.

The sunlight coming through and around this leaf this morning made me stop cold and then go inside, get the camera (I’m glad I brought it home this weekend) to snap it.

Posted by: jsmcfadden | October 10, 2012

Lemons are … lemoning

Many weeks ago, I showed you the amazing fruitfulness of our half-barreled lemon tree. Here it is since I know you don’t recall.

Now, after a lovely warm summer and lots of sun and heat and plenty of water and citrus tree food, even, the growth is impressive.

Back then, I counted 34 little lemons beginning. Now, there are fewer than 34 but only a handful of those little ones are no longer growing. You can spot several of the growing ones in this photo.

It’s mysterious, don’t you think? From their very beginning they were nothing but lemons, and yet it’s true that they weren’t fully lemons then. They aren’t still, and yet they are completely lemons. So what do we call it, this growing into their full selves? Lemon-ing doesn’t seem to work, because it implies that they are changing from less lemon-y into more lemon-y and that isn’t it; they’ve always been nothing but lemon-y.

So why is it so wonderful that they grow, swelling into more and more of their lemon-ness? Why is it that just walking around the tree, bending into it to smell the lemonish fragrance of its leaves and fruit, brings me comfort and joy?

Last year, desparate for evidence of growth from anything I felt I was spending time nurturing, feeding, tending, I might have identified the joy as somehow related to the satisfaction of achieving my objective. But it doesn’t seem that to me now. These swelling lemons are just doing what lemons do, and it’s wonderful! I am given a gift to behold it, in a way.

And today, a quiet day, a quiet place here this morning, with the sun on the lemons as they enlarge their lemonosity, it’s just good.

Posted by: jsmcfadden | October 7, 2012

What it’s like

But just kinda.

I wonder how far this analogy could take us.

Sometimes it’s all this — rushing, rocky, turbulent, rolling over itself in a pressure to get done, to move on, to proceed. Letting the pull of gravity decide where it’s going.

When it’s that way, what I want — more than anything else — is just to move quietly out of the rush, to find a quiet place to be still. Like this.

Could someone just make for me a quiet place? Just take some of the rocks and order them around the outside of a quiet place?  I won’t care if things aren’t moving; I won’t care if the rest of the river keeps rushing headlong down, down, down. I’ll rest here where it is quiet.

Because I think maybe what is important is this clarity:

and that only happens outside the rushing places, doesn’t it? That only happens when the water’s shallow and still, not when it’s moving so fast.

Posted by: jsmcfadden | June 23, 2012

Sometimes Full

The oleander bush in the back is FULL. Heavy with flowers, even.

When the Delta breeze comes through, the outside boughs move slowly, like something under water. Smaller, seemingly lighter branches which I expect to be moving quickly or independently aren’t: the breeze can’t get through to them individually. The whole shape of the bush goes back and forth.

The breeze hits the lilacs, then, and those rangy branches react one at a time. Long fingers of branches bend and sway.

The apple tree in the middle of the yard reacts next, and the leaves are wide enough to catch a bit of breeze and each leaf turns, twists, and flaps. They remind me of a school of sardines flashing in the filtered light of a bay.

After the breeze, though, the yard is different.

Dozens of blossoms are on the ground. How can the oleander still be so full? Every evening and night it loses dozens. Yet in the morning, the bush still moves heavy in the breeze.

Apples fall, too.

In the morning I just roll or toss them into the trench that is going to be a superb draining system at some future time. Almost every day one or two of the Gravensteins are on the ground; only rarely does a little Granny Smith fall out.

Posted by: jsmcfadden | June 14, 2012

Many Meyer Lemons Begin

This picture is from April. The lemon tree in the half-barrel was so loaded with buds like these, which turned into gorgeous blossoms, that we just stood around and stared at it.

We wondered: would each bud become a lemon? How could the little lemon tree hold them all if each one turned into a lemon? What would we do with all those lemons?

When the buds opened, their delicate fragrance and coloring, just as delicate, turned all the questions into flat out admiration.

Bees came. They hovered, they explored, they buzzed — with enjoyment, I’m sure — and they did what bees do.

And now we’ve got 34 little lemons beginning here. Seriously. I counted. Three times. And took photos.

















I don’t think you can see all 34 from this angle, but several are staring right back at you. Isn’t it exciting?

I’m thinking about how these little beauties will be swelling and growing and then changing from green to yellow and then coming off the little tree and moving into my kitchen (I might help with that part). I’m thinking about pie and lemonade and lemon curd on my blueberry scone.

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