Wednesday, June 29, 2016

UC-Berkeley's stunning campus

UC-Berkeley campus was amazing. I couldn't walk more than a few steps without stopping to take a picture!

These are roughly in the order we encountered things as we walked to campus from the Berkeley City Club. The best thing about the campus was the sense of energy that was all around. I actively wanted to be back in graduate school just to tap into it.

This was the first thing that stopped me in my tracks:

Then this:

You'll see how much I notice trees when I visit places. Berkeley's campus feels like it is inhabited by trees and the spirits of trees. I love how they live so very close to the buildings. 

The tower is a centering structure on the campus. Once you get your bearings you can use it to get around. 

And this is the view toward San Francisco from the bottom of the tower:

More trees and buildings:

It felt like the trees were perfectly suited to the buildings they flanked, almost as if the trees chose what course of study they would live with.

This one was stunning on the cool gray first day of our visit:

Of course we were heading for the physics and astronomy departments where my son had meetings with professors. This was the first thing I saw:

How many Nobel Laureates does one university have? And is that a future one walking to the door of physics and astronomy? Inside, I found this:

And this very cool display in the astronomy lobby. Note the temperature in June at near-mid-day:

I stood there pondering whether I could up my math game and apply to the program. On the other side of the lobby there was this:

Upstairs, my favorite display of all:

Meanwhile, over in the physics department:

In case you'd like a closer shot:

I left my son to do his thing and I went on my own expedition. This was outside the physics department entrance, looking back toward the building:

This large courtyard sits outside the physics department and I became mildly obsessed with it:

Somehow it felt like a mathematical equation.

Or a metaphor for a physics concept.

I came at it from every angle, trying to understand:

Sometimes my brain goes sideways when I think too hard.

But I decided the answer lies here:

Then I made a friend and ended my obsession.

I walked down the hill and found a wonderful coffee and lunch spot:

Somehow I think I should have been at Berkeley in the 60s, though I would have been a very young revolutionary.

My son went back for more meetings and I headed to the library that lies just below the physics building. It was the beginning of another obsession.

A display on the National Park Service. Of course horses were a part of making national parks happen. I couldn't help wonder - could the November Hill herd manage to eat their way around the trunk of a redwood?

It was a lovely display and I photographed each panel.

And more:

I especially loved this:

And this:

I finally walked on and discovered the undergraduate reading room, where I loved the artwork more than the desks:

And then the graduate reading room:

This was a lovely space and I spent some time writing here before wandering on to my favorite space in the library. I can't recall the name of this lovely room but it had literary journals on display, shelves of fiction and more journals, and even upstairs study nooks that peeked down around one side. I wanted to take more photos but there were people working and I didn't want to disturb them. Suffice it to say, if I went to Berkeley this would be my hang-out.

Leaving the library I spent a few moments with an old friend. 

What a campus! I hope I can go back one day and explore further. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 10

We had a dry spell before I left for California on June 8 and then only one rain while I was gone, so the farm has been dry and dusty for most of this month. On Sunday I took advantage of the dryness to power wash the dirtiest half of the exterior of the barn.

Armed with Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap and a handy power washer I rinsed off dust, spider webs, some green algae, and the stain of November Hill's red clay from the walls and doors of the barn.

The pony and Redford galloped most of the time I was power washing. For the first minute I thought they were afraid but then realized as the pony tossed his head that they were using the noise of my machine as an excuse to play. It wasn't as warm as it has been but even so, the pony lined up for 2 consecutive cold hosings when all was said and done. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the grooming tools, de-webbing in the barn, and scrubbing and refilling water troughs. And admiring the equines, who are all slick as seals right now and very shiny.

Today I woke up to soft rain which has quickened a number of times to very solid rainfall. After a month of dry weather (and for me a solid month with no sound of rain at all) it has been a wonderful respite listening to the drops fall and feeling, for it's a palpable sensation, the thirsty earth drinking the water down.

Later today I'll take a few pounds of grass seed out to sprinkle a few bare areas where I've spread stall waste. 

And once the rain stops I aim to use my new machete tool to strip the saplings we cut two months ago and get started on my wattle fence around the garden. 

For now, though, I'm just listening to the rain.

Monday, June 27, 2016

the Berkeley City Club - a traveler's delight

On the first leg of our trip to California, my son and I flew into San Francisco and drove across the bridge to Berkeley where we checked in to the Berkeley City Club. I found this hotel online when booking lodgng for our trip and really didn't know much about it except that it got great reviews and was very close to UC-Berkeley's campus. 

When we arrived I knew immediately we had hit the hotel jackpot. It was amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling in that area. It's a destination itself!

The building was designed by Julia Morgan, the first woman architect licensed in California in 1904. She designed Hearst Castle at San Simeon and more than 700 other buildings. The six-story Berkeley City Women's Club opened in 1930 as a social club and residence for women. In 1962 it opened to men as well and today is a hotel, conference center, and event center while retaining its historical significance. 

The hotel has steel-reinforced concrete walls and ceilings which are fashioned to look like wood, leaded glass windows, interior courtyards and a stunning indoor pool. I wish now I'd taken more photos but enjoy the ones I did take and if you have any reason to be in Berkeley (or want a good reason to go!) I highly recommend the Berkeley City Club. 

The rooms have no TV and retain the ambiance of the 1930s. They are well-appointed and comfortable but if you want cell phone and tablet ports, TV with all the channels, and new everything, this is not the place. The windows open, even in the bathroom. Our room had a huge dressing closet which was nice for all our luggage and for changing in. 

The hotel breakfast was in their dining room and was the most elegant, lovely hotel breakfast I've ever had. The restaurant is terrific for dinner. The lobby and first floor have nooks to read, work, or just relax. The interior courtyards are beautiful and inviting. The second floor has several huge meeting/event rooms which are fun to wander when nothing is going on. And there's an open air dance pavilion that I'd love to see all lit up one cool Berkeley night. 

If you loved Merchant/Ivory's film Room With A View, this is the place to be.

Here's the view from our room:

A peek at one of the courtyards from inside:

A shot of the lovely stairway from lobby to second floor:

From inside the lobby, the front door:

One of the many nooks that surround the lobby:

Another shot of the stairway - the architecture is just gorgeous:

And two views of the stunning pool:

There are so many photos I could have (and should have!) taken. Clearly there has to be a return visit one day to add to this series. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 9

We do not fuss too much over the property, for any good house is as much a living and growing thing as a tomato plant or a calf, and a stability of perfection is neither wise to seek nor possible to find.

-Henry Beston, Northern Farm

I returned on the summer solstice to find that many things I had tended to before leaving were needing tending again, and new things were waiting too. 

The honeysuckle and wild muscadine vines are climbing into the front porch and winding their way through the porch screens so will need to be cut back.

The flower beds which my husband weeded down for me have grown back to foot-high and thus will need weeding again before I can proceed with my efforts to restore them to real beds.

My materials for the wattle fence are still waiting in the long and narrow meadow and now nearly covered over with wildflowers and grass.

But my husband has kept the pastures mowed and dragged, and the fence line looks tidy too.

The vegetable garden went completely crazy while I was gone. Cucumbers, yellow crookneck, acorn, and zucchini squashes abound. The butternuts succumbed to squash bugs before maturing fully. The rainbow chard is still growing and lovely, but most of the lettuce has bolted. There are radishes, red onions, garlic, and tomatoes. The melons are bearing fruit as are the blueberries.

The day I came home my husband picked nearly 60 pounds of produce and took it to his office to share. We have eaten heartily since Monday night and have a full produce drawer in the fridge plus more on the island.

What a wonderful homecoming gift.

The sunflowers are all up and nearing bloom. The herbs are growing well too. There are a few mystery volunteers.

Having spent 12 days viewing mostly desert and finding it lovely in its own way, the biggest gift of all has been returning to this verdant, lush landscape we live in. I'm not happy with our governor or the legislature, our forests and rivers and ocean shores need protection, and development is a constant thorn in my side. But time away has renewed my appreciation for North Carolina as well as my energy to work hard to keep it as beautiful as it is. 

And that begins with November Hill. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Flying east

I got up at 4:30 this morning and drove from Pasadena to the Burbank airport, using Google Maps on my phone, avoiding highways, and had the most leisurely, interesting drive through the neighborhoods of Pasadena, Glendale, and then into Burbank.

The sun rose behind me as the full summer solstice moon (called a strawberry moon) began to descend ahead, looking white and then golden as it nestled into the tops of the mountains.

Just as I crested a mountain on a tiny residential street I noticed a black cat trotting down the sidewalk to my left. I had the thought this cat had been out all night and was heading home for breakfast.

My speed limit was slow, usually 35 mph, and there were stop signs and lights along the way, but I enjoyed the hour-long drive and the pleasure of being pretty much the only person on the streets.

Burbank's airport is small and quaint compared to the large ones, and I appreciate that about it. It's easy to navigate and even the TSA line was cheerful. I was cleared to go through without removing my shoes or getting a scan, but the forgotten unopened water bottle slowed me down a little. But a fellow traveler got trays for my things and didn't get grumpy when I held the line up to say they could take the water bottle.

I had plenty of time to get coffee and a blueberry scone and to sit and enjoy them before boarding. My favorite thing about Burbank's airport is that they still use open-air ramps so I walked out onto the tarmac and boarded the plane in the full morning sunshine.

The contour of the earth out here is fascinating to me. I have a window seat and am enjoying seeing the mountains and the desert and solar farms from above. Even the freeways seem inconsequential up here in the sky. Right now we're above the clouds and all I see is a vast white plateau with blue skies above.

I'll change planes in Denver and then I'll be on the way to RDU and then November Hill. Home! 

There's a long fine thread with a little piece of my heart back in UCLA but as we moms know that thread is strong and holds up across distance, time, and everything else.

Next blog post from November Hill! It's been a wonderful trip and it's going to be good to get home again.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Last night in Pasadena

Today I dropped my son at his summer research gig at UCLA. It was hard! I'll be all the way across the country from him and although he is independent and very mature I feel like a piece of me is going to be sitting here in California on a very long thread.

It was a crazy hot day here. The iPad in our hotel room looked like this when I got home from UCLA:

I am intrigued with all those 1's but not with regards to the temperature!

Once back at the hotel I felt what Virginia Woolf called being able to see to the bottom of the vessel. There is an emptiness about leaving a child somewhere, even when it's a good and wonderful thing he's doing. The room felt sad without him. I retreated down to the hotel bar for a burger and a gin/tonic.

Sitting here I kept thinking about how it feels to fly back home and leave him here. I glanced out and saw this:

A big sunbeam. Okay. That made me feel better.

It's been an honor and a privilege to share this time with him. And now I have a night to myself before flying home to November Hill and my amazing daughter, the menagerie, and a husband who has taken care of everything while I've been gone.

Life is good. November Hill, I'll see you tomorrow!

More Caltech and meetings with friends

A little more time at Caltech today and lunch and dinner with friends. Best way to wind down this trip!

Love this outside the elevators in the physics building:

And love the walkway underneath laden citrus trees between physics buildings:

The skies are so much clearer today and it feels more like the Southern California I remember. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara yesterday and Caltech today

I'll write more about the beach later but this was a nice shot from our time there yesterday evening in Santa Barbara.

Today we drove to Caltech in Pasadena. The campus looked deceptively plain on the edges but once you walk into the campus proper it gets very magestic and yet friendly and navigable. Definitely in my top three campuses with Berkeley and UC-Santa Cruz.

My big excitement of the day was getting to meet Sean Carroll after my son's meeting with him. I've been reading his books about physics for the past couple of years and just started his newest, The Big Picture, which I'm loving. He's a terrific writer and a nice person. 

Meanwhile, the heat is rising in this part of the state. It's 93 today, 97 tomorrow, 101 on Sunday, and a whopping 105 on Monday, which will make it very easy to get up at 5 a.m. and head to the airport to fly home to November Hill. (Husband tells me it will be 95 there by Tuesday, but the air will be clean and I will have horses to hose!!) Temps are a bit milder in LA where son will be so hopefully he will start his summer research with ease.