Deep dark winter, looking to the future, a brush with the wild in GE
The chill that has settled over the Valley reflects the way I’ve felt recently. While the festivities of the holiday season were delightful – in fact, I’ve expressed repeatedly that this was our best Christmas in many years – post Christmas felt melancholy.
The joy of welcoming home our two sons and their wives, along with a whole passel of other visitors, quickly faded as our beloveds departed, bound home for even colder climes. We bade each dear heart farewell at the airport, returning to a cold and empty house. Time to store the ornaments and sweep the fallen needles from the browning branches of a once lovely and living tree.
Yes, the empty house was a reflection of the cold outside, which left us feeling a sort of disconsolate weariness whether sitting by the fire with hot tea and a good book, or ranging through the regional park on one of the trails.
When such a mood invades our veins, even the birds seem to be hiding from us. (I don’t suppose that was the case, however, when Tom Rusert and Darren Peterie’s team of Sonoma Birding enthusiasts trekked our local trails to count their feathered friends.) A sad heart doesn’t notice even the joys of nature. To escape the midwinter blahs, we slipped away to the home of our dearest friends in San Jose with plans to welcome the New Year in a novel fashion. More about that in a minute. First, I want to shout out the joys of a few Glen Ellen folks who are newsworthy.
Sweet and lovely arrival
First up is the arrival of sweet and lovely little Trinity Sophia Magenta Wilding Mambote. For such a small and beautiful bundle of baby joy, her regal name is long and elegant, fitting for the lovely adult she will become. Little Trinity, born on Nov. 14, is the first child of Isabelle and Michael Mambote of Amsterdam.
Since when was news in the Netherlands news in Glen Ellen? Well, downtown Glen Ellen can look like Amsterdam when it rains hard, with water rising everywhere. But seriously, we once travelled there some years ago during a house trade; while our Dutch hosts enjoyed Glen Ellen, we frolicked in the land of tulips and waterways, feeling entirely at home. That was then, this is now. Today, Amsterdam folks are again featured in this column, and more significantly, because of their deep roots here. Trinity’s mom is the former Heather Sage Ansell, sister to Erik Ansell and daughter to Dr. Donna Grace Noyes and her husband, winemaker David Noyes. Donna Grace, the new grandmother, attended Trinity’s birth and we are eager to hear the latest news from her.
Isabelle was, not so long ago it seems to me, a student at Dunbar. I remember well her lovely modern dance performance at one of the talent shows at the school. Time passed and Heather became Isabelle, attended Altimira and Sonoma Valley High School and eventually left our Valley.
She has lived in Amsterdam for many years with her dear husband, Michael. While they are not quite ready to travel with the new babe, we know many folks in this Valley will someday be thrilled to meet Trinity. For now, we welcome her, as one of the folks who carries the hometown blessings of Glen Ellen.
Sweet and lovely graduate
Meanwhile, back in Glen Ellen, we praise the achievements of another native daughter. That would be sweet and lovely Ashleigh Molinar who recently graduated from Sacramento State University. She is the daughter of Virginia and Jorge Molinar and, like Heather above, attended all of the local schools. Her grandmother, Irene Pomeroy is especially proud of Ashleigh. And, it would also be my guess that her grandfather, Jim Pomeroy, is looking down and beaming at his beloved granddaughter, with praises and blessings.
Jim Pomeroy remains memorable even now many years after his death. Jim was the first fellow ever to make me laugh and appreciate humor at a funeral. At Jim’s beautiful service, so long ago, as the mourners filed past his open casket they were smiling and laughing, turning to one another with joyful looks. Waiting in line, and still “new” to this business of funerals, I wondered what was going on. Was it disrespectful? Not at all. In fact, it was Jim’s way of waking us up to the beauty of life, the preciousness of the moment.
Jim’s informal attire in the coffin was a T-shirt, commemorating the popular Bobby McFerrin a cappella super hit song of the late ’80s: “Don’t Worry,” the shirt said, “Be Happy.” I’m pretty sure that would be Jim’s message today to his wonderful granddaughter: don’t worry, be happy, life has blessed you Ashleigh, and will continue to do so. Same sentiment should apply to all of us. What joy is there otherwise?
Which brings me back around to my New Year’s activities this past week. We left Glen Ellen to join our oldest, dearest friends in San Jose. Well, Peter and Elise diDonato are hardly old – at least not any more so than we are – but certainly, they are our dearest friends. We’ve known them since long before we were married. In fact, my Sweetie, Bill, and Peter met when they were school boys, young enough to wear short pants and beanies to church. Yep, little boys really did do that back in the early ’50s, maybe not entirely by choice, but more by a mother’s urgings, we suppose.
Elise and I didn’t meet until some years later when we were each courting our respective husbands. Those were long after the days of short wool trousers for boys, but were still the good old days of itsy, bitsy, teeny weenie bikinis for us. Yes, we once donned such getups and we’ve been dear pals ever since.
An aside that bears repeating here. While I have long since passed the bikini stage (and I might say the same of my friend Elise, but I won’t; that would be for her to admit … or not), I do have one friend who qualifies on that count still, and ever so well. Sarah Clegg actually was wearing the iconic yellow-polka-dot-bikini when she met her husband Bill. That was at Lake Tahoe some many decades ago. But they still dwell, happily married, in our little village of Glen Ellen. Congrats to them.
Back to our New Year’s trip. We fled Glen Ellen to be in the warmth of our friends’ home, to reminisce, to laugh, to look backward at the year just past, but mostly to plan for the future. Far reaching planning is our hope. But of course, one never knows.
Instead of simply eating and toasting New Year’s Eve, we sat together to discuss and write out our advanced health care directives, complete with durable power of attorney, living will and the POLST, an expressive rush of air that is an acronym for physician orders for life-sustaining treatment.
Whew. Sounds nothing like a happy New Year to most, I’d guess. But, in fact, that is the way we approached the task, with some solemn consideration, plenty of lurid and grim scenarios, but mostly with humor and happiness, as old friend are wont to do.
The completion of such tasks is a gift. A gift to our children, a gift to each other, and a gift to ourselves. The last time I completed one of those forms was in a panicky rush the morning of a surgery. Certainly, that’s not the time to face such a serious and important duty, nor is it particularly conducive to humor.
This time, we planned to usher in the future, by toasting the past and looking carefully at the way we wanted to die. Die? Of course not today, not even tomorrow, but someday. And why not do it with pleasant company, a moderate amount of champagne, even a little Sonoma Valley wine, and with hearts full of love?
Peter was certainly one of the impetuses for this action. For many years, he has worked as a physician’s assistant in the oncology department at the Palo Alto Veteran’s Hospital. His intimate attention to people and their final days has sobered all of us to consider the obvious fact: none of us lives forever, and planning isn’t such a bad thing.
But it wasn’t Peter alone who inspired this odd holiday activity. In the fairly recent past, I’ve watched a number of friends die with such dignity and yes—dare I say it, even joyful attention to life up until the end—that I have been inspired to consider the way I would like to die. Of course, none of us can truly plan exactly how this will all play out. But avoiding the task almost guarantees a miserable ending, like so many that Peter has witnessed.
For me, watching first Phyllis and George Ellman’s simple, at home, dignified deaths, and then Evie Berger’s joyful blessedness at the end, made me feel that planning was essential. Janet Laursen’s at-home dying was also inspirational, though not easy.
Other friends, still living, still approaching each day with humor, mindfulness and peace have inspired us, too: Patricia Livingstone, who is a health care worker, and Stephanie Sugars, another friend, come first to mind. Both are wise women, philosophers, seekers of truth and educators who help their friends to view death as a natural progression, a part of nature.
With planning, one might, as these folks have, not wallow in chaos and interminable medical intervention, but end life surrounded by peace and love, at home, seeking the way for the soul to be free of the body.
Frost has shown some part of a day I rued
As it was, we and the diDonatos only began the task of filling out the sheaves of papers for end-of-life planning. Yet, we shared laughter and happiness, which is indeed the first step. We cannot be ready to die until we have reveled in the joy of life. I guess I’d call that step one in the process which is to be continued. That we achieved, by beginning the task with friends. Returning to Glen Ellen, the cold, frosty outside seemed not nearly so threatening, not nearly so grim. It’s merely one more fact of nature, beautiful at that. And, nature in our Valley reins benevolent and generous, worthy of attention and observation.
Now, I will close the lid of my laptop, heading out into the Regional Park to explore the trails and watch for what is new in this cold day of winter. Maybe I’ll see you there.
As for what has been seen and may be seen—though not in the Regional Park—Jeanne Wirka, the Bouv’s resident biologist, just sent an email featuring a photograph of the back side of a prowling mountain lion caught on the trip camera, high on the side of the Mayacamas. He’s not nearly in range of the Regional Park, but close enough for me to feel the connection with the wild, which I love. Life is good in Glen Ellen.
Next week, check back for an opportunity to celebrate one of our famous resident’s birthday, by toasting his day with local wines and a walk to remember.
See you on the trails or in the news. Blessed be.
Share your good news with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 707 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me @ Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before the run date.