Pescadero State Beach

I visited Pescadero State Beach during my short drive on CA-1 earlier this week, and despite the overcast and foreboding look of the place, it was good to put my feet in the sand and feel the water between my toes. It was also fun to test my iPhone’s waterproofing, which made the latter two videos below possible.

We get trapped too often in thinking that the only objective thing about life and the world is what we perceive, and we forget to ask how any of this came to be if we didn’t create it.


Driving CA-92 and CA-1

After leaving Palo Alto late Monday morning, I eventually headed west on CA-92 toward the Pacific Coast Highway and its beaches. First I wanted to drive through Portola Valley, which I had heard is one of the most beautiful and secluded communities in the country. Visited a scenic overlook near Redwood City before continuing on through the farms that eventually turn into Half Moon Bay and then onward to CA-1 and the picturesque coastline. Stops at Pomponio State Beach and then Pescadero State Beach a few miles further south were good, though it was so overcast on the beach itself (as opposed to just inland, where skies were blue) that it felt somewhat dismal and oppressive. Visited Half Moon Bay itself, which retains a fair amount of its rustic, agricultural character.

It’s tough to tell in the photo, but one of my favorite scenes driving CA-92 was in passing a nursery and farm growing sunflowers and all sorts of other beautiful, blooming flowers. That was a beautiful experience; I don’t think I’ve seen flowers being farmed in that way before—a whole field of sunflowers.


Visiting Palo Alto

After biking around Stanford’s campus on Sunday evening, I checked into Hotel Keen for the night. Explored downtown Palo Alto for an hour or so, grabbed some pizza, etc. Awoke the next morning and walked a stretch of University Avenue and some of the side streets, with views like these:

It’s a beautiful downtown, feeling a lot like a focused/wealthier version of many college towns. After a while, I hopped in my car and took CA-92 west toward the Pacific Coast Highway and its beaches.


El Camino Real encounter

I had just driven by Palo Alto High School as the sun was starting its long summer descent on Sunday evening, and had just parked my car on the side of El Camino Real, which runs along the northeast fringe of Stanford’s campus, when a woman approached me.

“Hi, I’m Diane. Can I borrow your phone to make a call? I live just up the street here in the yellow van.”

Alone. Forlorn-looking. Late-middle age. She wore a decently-put together outfit that wouldn’t be much different from the sort of thing anyone might throw on for a Sunday afternoon. She needed to call her mother, or someone who she considered her mother. There was some confusion on that point, relating to a soured relationship probably with an estranged sibling.

We struck up a conversation, and I handed her my phone. She didn’t get through to anyone, but left a message. Her narrative was disjointed, only getting to the point in fits and starts. As she continued, and I stood nearby, I counted as she ticked nearer to the three-minute mark when voicemails are forcibly ended due to length. She got there, the call disconnected, and she abruptly handed me the phone.

“If she calls you back, would you come knock on my door later?” she asked. “Yes,” I told her. I never heard back from that number.

There was this whole little makeshift mobile home community that apparently had materialized at some point along this stretch road. I could see the attraction, with just a metal park fence separating Stanford’s campus and park area from El Camino Real, an arterial road. There was space to be outside, space to sit, food to walk to, bathrooms and a medical triage van not far away.

As I walked to find the Lime-E bike for my ride through campus, I passed by a family that lived in one of these RVs, the kids playing in Stanford’s park for the moment, the father sitting at the park table alone with his thoughts.

Dignified but desperate. I felt that the moment I met Diane, and the father had the same look. The kids were too carefree for the weight of their situation to bear on them, at least at the moment. Noticing a note on the ground, I picked it up to see the reverse was a Palo Alto Police tow warning for someone and someone’s home that was here, and now was not here.

These are some of the people on what Pope Francis calls the peripheries.

I was glad to have met Diane. What is there to be done for her?

I don’t know.


Pro-Life San Francisco

I met Terrisa Bukovinac last month at Notre Dame’s Vita Institute, and when I saw that her organization, Pro-Life San Francisco, would be hosting “Stand with David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt” outside of San Francisco’s federal courthouse while I was still in the Bay Area, I decided to be there.

Judge William Orrick is presiding over a case that will determine whether David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress will be permitted to release its remaining investigative footage of Planned Parenthood’s incriminating interest in profiting from the sale of human body parts. David is also facing a suit from the National Abortion Federation. Together, these groups are interested in punishing anyone who dissents from their worldview, which holds that human life is only valuable insofar as another says that life is valuable, and that ultimately one can obtain justice at the expense of a weaker human person. These are some of the oldest, most disordered philosophies in human history. History is “on their side” on to the extent that human beings naturally seem to tolerate a great deal of injustice until it touches them personally; but after it does, the story changes.

I have great respect for Terrisa specifically as an advocate for life. She’s not coming at this from a religious perspective, but simply from a philosophical and scientific perspective. Here’s how Pro-Life San Francisco describes itself:

Pro-Life San Francisco is a millennial focused non-profit human rights organization for pro-life people from across the political spectrum. We stand for the basic principles of equality, nonviolence, and nondiscrimination. We recognize that regardless of your religion, sexual orientation or your political affiliation, a consistent application of human rights means protecting the pre-born members of our human family.  We are dedicated to creating a culture of peace where the pre-born members of our human family are protected from the violent and lethal discrimination of abortion. We aim to achieve this through the following actions:

Increase community awareness through online and in-person engagement, lectures, debates, public appearances, demonstrations, protests, and other creative educational efforts that uphold our commitment to the values of equality, non-violence, and nondiscrimination.

Assist those facing pregnancy decisions by connecting them with the resources they need to to thrive, such as: prenatal care, financial assistance, job placement, childcare, information regarding their title IX rights, and accessing nonviolent reproductive healthcare options.

I met a few of the Pro-Life San Francisco folks outside the courthouse after the hearing had concluded, and they’re joyful, unassuming, remarkable people.


Biking Stanford

After finishing breakfast at Napa Institute yesterday morning and huddling with Bobby Schindler, I decided to drive south to Palo Alto to work on some writing. Strategically, this meant that I was able to visit Stanford’s campus and spent about 90 minutes biking it on a Lime-E bike like I did in Seattle with the University of Washington last Sunday. I ate a late lunch at Kirk’s Steakburger’s and got to work. By the time I got onto the campus, the shadows were growing long in the fading hours of daylight—but this made it all the more special, and the great numbers of young, old, and very young alike across campus, enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon in July, made it great.

Afterwards, I docked the Lime-E and parked my rental car in a parking garage in Palo Alto at University Avenue and Bryant Street, walked University Avenue, enjoyed the vibe of the somewhat chilly downtown, had some pizza, and checked into Hotel Keen just off University at High Street for the night.



Leaving Napa

This year’s Napa Institute went by very quickly, compared to the past two years.


I’m sure part of that is my comfort/familiarity with its structure at this point, but it has also grown significantly in size just since I started coming and that has made it somewhat more difficult to break out of the initial social cliques that naturally form starting from day one. Napa Institute continues to be one of my favorite social/professional experiences, although I’m not sure that I’ll be able to attend next year.

I’m planning to be in San Francisco on Tuesday for David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress when they appear at the federal courthouse. Both face lawsuits from Planned Parenthood, and Daleiden faces an additional suit from the National Abortion Federation, as these groups attempt to suppress footage of their executives speaking in callous and inhumane ways about aborted children’s bodies and the market-rates that their vivisected remains are worth to medical researchers.


Sun, soil, and humanity

While the Napa Institute is taking place at the Meritage Resort hotel and conference spaces, nature in its grandeur is available just a few short steps up into the vineyards adjacent. A walk through these vineyards provides some incredible views of the surrounding hills, of the Meritage itself, and of the sun-lit vines that bear fruit and soil that preserves and nourishes.

At our best, I think we can never fundamentally improve upon, but rather only supplement, nature.


At Trinitas Cellars

This morning at Napa Institute, Cardinal Müller spoke on “Moral Principles Based on Veritatis Splendor,” followed by Dr. Catherine Pakaluk on “Pilgrim Pope, Bright Mountain” on John Paul the Great and a vision of pilgrimage and societies capable of serving the human good. These were helpful and provocative talks, and I was looking forward to them probably the most of any of this year’s prime talks. After lunchtime I walked down the road a short way to Trinitas Cellars for their wine tasting:


Trinitas Cellars’s motto is “Sun, Soil, Humanity,” and we tasted their 2013 Castellucci Vineyard chardonnay, 2013 Fr. Mathew Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Martin Vineyard Cabernet, 2013 Pelkan Ranch Cabernet, 2014 Pelkan Ranch Cab FRANCis, and 2014 Fidelis Red.


Sonoma scenes

The first full day of Napa Institute gets underway this morning. Due to a work meeting, I’ll be sorry to miss Thomas Aquinas College’s morning seminar examining John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio. But the rest of today should make up for what I miss.

Archbishop Charles Chaput celebrated mass last night in the Estate Cave, which was a fitting place to contemplate Saint Benedict.

Fortunate earlier this week to be able to meet up with a good friend in Sonoma, which is about 25 minutes from where I’m staying in Napa. Here are a few scenes from Sonoma.

We has dinner at Hopmunk Tavern, then checked out Murphy’s Irish Pub and Sonoma Speakeasy. There was a festival happening when I pulled into town, and which was wrapping up as we walked through it after dinner. A beautiful little town that’s apparently retained its character.