Good Morning, California, How Are You?
My views from the Amtrak train, near Point Conception, on the isolated coast between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
What a way to see our California coast! For so many miles, over 3 hours, the Amtrak Coast Starlight train, which I took this week from Salinas to LA and back again, travels within inches of the coast, with no roads or buildings in sight. Just us happy train passengers and the unpopulated coast.
When I drive to LA, my route is farther inland, Highways 101 or 5, many towns and “services.” But the Amtrak trains leaves “civilization” behind and follows the coast. There is something magical about these hours of track and rhythm and coast and dunes and water. Nothing else, no people or buildings, only the sea.
Point Conception is the marker between Northern and Southern California, so named in 1602 by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, because he passed from the calm warmer waters of the south to the rough and rocky coast of the north, on December 8, which he knew was the day the church had told him the Virgin Mary was conceived, hence the name.
Geography named for a sex act!
Frankly, I don’t really care much about the conception details of Mary, or Jesus for that matter, so-called immaculately or not. But I do appreciate the reminder that when we create new life, everything changes! So when we come to the place where the warm and calm waters of Southern California change to our Northern California dramatic granite cliffs and much more fertile seas, it makes sense to name that point after these holy conceptions, where the old becomes new.
Point Conception is the dividing line. One of many places where we see how varied are these divine landscapes, and how precious are the borders.
I took this train trip this week to visit in LA our son Owen and his fabulous new wife Sophie, and to give a talk about oceans and climate change at the inspiring First Christian Church of North Hollywood.
I will write later about my time worshipping and speaking at this very eco-conscious church and our profound conversations.
But for now, let me simply lift up the train, the coast, the rhythm of the rails, and conception.
I invite you to find a place in your neighborhood where conception happens, new life. And then let someone else do the driving. See where the water is near you. Look out the window. Maybe take a little nap.
From the Point Conception darkness rolling down to the sea.
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