a weekend in the country

I booked the hotel months ago, but I realized on Friday night I never got around to buying eclipse glasses. By Friday night they seemed sold out throughout Northern California. Tears and recriminations ensued. On the bright side, during the make-up family hug, Claire said: “I took it out on Julia but I was actually mad at you,” which is a pretty sophisticated bit of emotional insight for a 9yo. The next morning I called Scope City as soon as they opened, and before I said hello the man on the other end said “We have a shipment of eclipse glasses arriving at 11.30am.” I laughed and said “We’ll be there,” and we were.

Christmas saved, we drove to Chico to see Tina and JD. Chico has dammed its river and built a swimming area around it.

There are so many storybook-style houses, it looks like the freakin Shire. It’s gorgeous. My daydream now is to be writer-in-residence at Chico State.

In Redding we saw the Sundial Bridge. What can I say? I’ve wanted to see it ever since I knew it existed. It sits on a bend in the Sacramento, with the snow-streaked Cascades to the north and trees all around. It’s a cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge, so its modernity stabs you with its sharp gnomon. What I didn’t know is that it also has Spanish ceramic mosaic all around the dial and down into the plaza at its base, so it feels like Parc Guell had a love baby with a James Turrell earthwork.

There’s a big science museum right there, too, so we got to watch the animal show with an iguana and a black vulture and a turkey vulture and a red-tailed hawk and a Stellar’s jay and a porcupine called Spike and a raccoon and a grey fox and a barn owl called Cricket and two cockatoos. Claire was the audience volunteer for the Stellar’s jay. She was given a hat with antlers and the jay perched on her head!

And then we hung out in the plaza under the bridge until the moon ate the sun, and we watched it through our eclipse glasses.

And it was epic. At totality, everyone clapped and cheered.

We drove all the way back. We had dinner in Williams, which is literally a cowtown. Our restaurant prides itself on cutting its own sides of beef, and is decorated with the brands – as in branding-iron brands – of local cattle ranches. The garlic bread was a mountain of garlic and butter on a baguette. J and I still smell of garlic 24 hours later.

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