April 28, 2008

I sat next to an elderly lady on BART. I was on my way to the Airport, and she was on her way to visit her cousin in Pacifica. We both had suitcases and she was concerned that she might not be on the right train.

I don’t normally talk to people on public transportation. It’s not because I am unfriendly, perhaps because I am shy, but probably it’s because I just don’t happen to be a very good conversationalist. However, I talked with this woman, and didn’t ask her name. She looked like a Marilyn, though, so I will just call her that.

Marilyn lives in Sacramento and took Amtrak down. I commented on my train ride last labor day up to Davis and bike ride from there to the Capay Valley. I asked, “Do you know the Capay Valley? Guinda?” Her eyes brightened with happiness and a shot of pride, “Oh yes, I used to live there!” Why does a world so large for a short moment get small enough so as to actually feel like home? We spent some time talking about the almond (a-mond) trees in bloom, the politics of and problems with new housing butting against old farms, farm land preservation, the traffic on 80 in Farfield… She then mentioned growing up in a small town outside of Vermont and helping her Vermont-based uncle and Aunt (around Bennington) with their maple syrup harvest in the winter. When I mentioned that my sister lived in Vermont, she was so pleased. As she talked her hands motioned this way and that, describing the flow of the sap as it went through the sugar shack to be reduced to syrup. Her nails, long and pink with flowers painted on the middle finger of each hand, did not belie the work of her youth. When I asked about whether she climbed through the mountains around her home when she was young (she is from North Adams), she said, “Well! I had hiking plenty just getting to school… I had a good childhood.” We connected in so many ways, across the years, across geography. Yet, I had to meet her on BART, the flat line to interesting places.


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