Fall musings and difficult writing
The folks of Glen Ellen
This year, as every year for the past 20-plus, my mid October column is the most difficult to write. Oh, not because I don’t love the season. That affection must be pretty obvious to anybody who’s read these words in the past few decades.
Yes, I’ve loved the fall, the mist and all, ever since I was a child. In Humboldt County, where I was raised, October and November are the best time of the year, before winter roars its gusty arrival with gales and rain. In the fall the sky and sunsets are so awesome, even a three year old can appreciate them.
I found, more or less, that Sonoma Valley sunsets are equally colorful and inspiring. But my topic is neither sunsets, nor mist and rain, but another fall feature.
A fair to remember
It is our beautiful and glorious Glen Ellen Village Fair that I wish I could share today. But herein lies the rub. I can’t discuss how splendid it was. Because from my point of view (that is, a week before you are reading this) the fair has not yet happened; it’s still a hoped for event. Ah, the trials of newspaper deadlines. Now I know (from experience) that magazines, especially, focus with clarity and foresight on events months away. Some writers even write as if those events have already happened. That was most often the case back in the prehistoric days, before easy electronic communication. But it still occurs today.
Who dares tempt the fates with future predictions?
As for this column . . . can I say that this year’s Glen Ellen Village Fair was a glorious day, filled with sunshine, happy events, great food, delightful friends, neighborly encounters, lots of good music and a happy quilt winner? Of course, I can. But I may be stretching the truth. Or, more I fear, inviting the gods (that certainly warrants the lower case “g”) who rain down on those who are too assured of success. We will ignore the vindictive and volatile gods today and hope that all the powers-that-be (those who bring us sunshine and happiness on a regular basis in this Valley) are looking favorably on our good works and blessing that day of celebration of our town.
Rain on our parade? Never . . . yet
We’ve yet to experience a rainy day Glen Ellen Village Fair parade and I don’t expect it happened this year. Next week I will share the good news of Oct. 14, to pause its quick fade into memory. For now, I simply wish you the most celebratory time today and always.
Our town faired well in the 60s, mostly
My amazing colleague (who else do I know that would jump from a plane all in the name of journalism?) Emily Charrier-Botts shared a little of the history of our Glen Ellen Village Fair, including the colorful events that surrounded the demise of the 60s fair, before this current family style fair was resurrected more than 20 years ago. That was in last Friday’s Index-Tribune. I hope you didn’t miss it. But there’s some of the beauty of our modern electronic world: look it up online.
The fundraising quilt’s introduction
Emily’s article brought back memories of those years for me before the current incarnation of our fair. One of the pre-cursors to the return of this gala event occurred in those fairly fallow years (sans fair, I mean). The Glen Ellen Volunteer Firefighters’ Auxiliary produced a beautiful handmade quilt to raise money for the firefighters. Looking back I’m guessing that was around 1976 or ‘77, though I could be a few years off on that, either direction.
Sweetie’s contribution in framing the fair
What I do remember clearly was the quilt frame that my Sweetie built for me to complete a pieced blanket I’d been constructing. I needed a way to do the final hand stitching and Sweetie, given his creative and cleverly inventive mind, came up with a multiple seating quilt frame that could accommodate a good-sized group of stitchers, yet not entirely take up the limited space in our living room.
It was a hit, and my little bro, Robert Ayers (who became an awesome quilter on his own), and other friends, helped me complete my first quilt, all hand stitched.
The auxiliary arrives, squares in hand
Somehow, word got around that I had such an appliance. How? I’m not sure. In any case, I soon heard from auxiliary members. Could I help with their quilt project? You betcha. And I did.
My fond memories of that time include the best ever quilt square depicting fauna of Sonoma Mountain.
Stacia stitches skunks
Stacia Derickson embroidered a family of skunks strolling down Sonoma Mountain Road. I loved that picture in thread: humorous, charming and a slice of reality.
Truly. Just last week as Sweetie and I were rumbling over the mountain, past the Zen Center, around a few more curves and right near the Derickson’s beautiful homestead honoring Redwood Tree Thompson, what do we see? Yes, a family of skunks, strolling across the road, just like they owned the place. Mama and her three kits were making slow progress so we stopped to watch them. Nary a bit of spray; maybe Mama sensed our good will. But she did usher her little charges into the bushes in an orderly fashion and we got to observe nature without the stink. Lucky us.
Undoubtedly, those are not the same family that Stacia embroidered two decades ago, but the scene surely brought back a rush of good old Glen Ellen memories.
Initiation by elders of the village
I remember as a young wife, and not yet a mother, how readily I was accepted into this little village by the very folks who had lived here for so long it might as well have been forever. The auxiliary members and other quilters, a group of wonderful sages, women of our community, gathered at my house. As we sat around the quilting frame, completing the blanket that would later be auctioned for the firefighters, we shared stories, hopes and dreams. I treasure that time. Among those early greeters who made me feel at home were Judy Maxwell, Cecelia Muller and Ruth Campbell, as well as Stacia. Of course, Margie Everidge is foremost among those folks, although she wasn’t one of the quilters back then. She is now, but back in the day, her friendship was so complete and so helpful that I simply can’t categorize it in any way. I am forever grateful to that small group of “older” women for their easy inclusion of this newbie.
The welcome mat remains at Creekbottom
I hope that in my own small way, now as one of the old timers in this village, that I as openly welcome new folks to my house, into my life and as friends in this community. Don’t know me yet? Email or call me soon. You just might end up in the column, but even if that’s not your wish, we could end up being friends.
A private performance enjoyed by this columnist
Last week I enjoyed a special mini-concert at Dunbar School. M. J. Arner, head of Dunbar’s mentor center, had mentioned to one of the performing fifth graders that I had to duck out part way through the Opera a la Carte performance last week to attend a meeting in Marin. So, student performer, fifth-grader Phillip Bodwell, came to entertain me and my friend, mentee Luna last week.
Phil did not merely have a talking part in the Opera a la Carte production, as most students do, but his own singing part. He had to audition for it and his singing and acting abilities were even obvious to the San Francisco Opera professionals. Phil’s many experiences performing in Sonoma’s Broadway Bound Kids have given him the necessary confidence to perform for large (like the entire Dunbar School community) or small (just Luna and me) audiences. His rendition of the Major General’s song was pitch perfect and hilarious. The rolling lines of complex poetry done in a falsetto trill were brilliantly executed. I predict a continuing stage career for this rising star.
More rising stars from Opera a la Carte
In last week’s list of student performers at Dunbar’s Opera a la Carte I somehow left out one of the star students. Congratulations to clever and talented Dominic Garcia who performed his part with perfection. We applaud Dominic and all of the student performers who spend hours memorizing their parts, working with the San Francisco Opera Guild and then standing in front of their teachers and classmates (not to mention various visitors) to entertain us. Bravo to the entire cast.
Many thanks are also due to the large group of parent and teacher volunteers who make this happen, with special recognition and thanks to district music teacher Bob Gossett who brings Opera a la Carte to all five elementary schools. This program, and so many others in our district, is funded by donations, for which we are all grateful.
Get your car washed and send kids a sailing
Brandy Melendy, one of the fifth grade teachers at our local school, sends more good news. Dunbar School is sponsoring a free car wash this Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Drive out Dunbar Road, or take the long way around via Henno Road, drive through the playground gates to Dunbar School's parking lot, and offer up your dirty car to the enthusiastic kids who will make it shine and gleam. While everyone is welcome and no one has to pay, donations are happily accepted by the student laborers. Additionally, the students have collected pledges for the number of cars they will wash. Their aim is to spiff up at least 100 cars, and they hope yours will be one of them. Whatever dollars you’re willing to part with will be well used by the students.
With the carwash donations and pledges, the students hope to finance two exciting field trips. “The Voyage of Discovery” sailing trip on The Lady Washington for the fifth graders and “The Age of Sail, Age of Exploration” for the fourth graders. “The Voyage of Discovery” is offered by the Historical Seaport Organization and is a three-part journey through the world of late 18th century merchant sailors. Students move back in time to the 1790s and see just how young people, much like themselves, sailed the world’s oceans in search of fame and fortune.
The fourth grade program, called “The Age of Sail” is offered through the San Francisco Maritime National Park. The students are taken as “green hands” on an overnight stint aboard a historical vessel, learning the necessary skills to set sail on the evening tide. Guided by the ship’s officers, the students practice skills such as throwing a heaving line, rigging a bosun’s chair or cooking for the entire crew on a wood-burning stove.
The program encourages students to develop self-confidence and self-reliance, which in turn fosters a sense of responsibility for them, their shipmates and their community. What a great benefit to our local students just for getting your car washed. We’ll be seeing your clean and shiny car around town.
Traveling museum arrives at Dunbar next week
Dunbar students will be participating in Sonoma County Children’s Museum-on-the-go next week on Thursday and Friday when displays for students kindergarten through fifth grades will be set up in the multi-purpose room. Science activities will be provided for all classes. The museum promises “to inspire children’s creativity and stimulate their curiosity to discover the world through playful exploration of the arts and sciences.” We’ll have more news about that event in the next column, as well as kudos to the teacher who brought the program to our local school.
Good news from the Glen Ellen Historical Society
Those of you who are members of our Glen Ellen Historical Society recently received the good news in the fall issue of Tales of Glen Ellen. It’s one of the most interesting newsletters I get and is well worth the annual membership price of $25. The design is lovely, the articles informative and thoughtful, and the historical photos that are always included present fascinating views of our town in the past century. If you’re not a member of the society, contact them at Box 35, Glen Ellen, 95442.
The latest issue of Tales of Glen Ellen included news of the next presentation by the Glen Ellen Historical Society, a conversation about Jack London’s vision of sustainable farming, as it continues today at Jack London State Historic Park.
Sustainable farming in the Valley of the Moon, then and now
In 1915 Jack London wrote: “I am rebuilding worn-out hillside lands that were worked out and destroyed by our wasteful California pioneer farmers. I believe the soil is our one indestructible asset, and by green manures, nitrogen-gathering cover crops, animal manure, rotation of crops, proper tillage and draining, I am getting results which the Chinese have demonstrated for forty centuries.” Jack’s early rules of farming are still applicable today and worthy of emulation.
Experts to speak at Mayflower Hall
Speakers for the Historical Society presentation on sustainable farming include Tjiska Van Wyk (executive director, Jack London State Historic Park), Susan Nuernberg, PhD (Jack London scholar), Neil Shepard (resident farmer on the Beauty Ranch and Jack London’s great-grandnephew), Greg Hayes (president, Valley of the Moon Natural History Association) and Arthur Dawson (historical ecologist of Sonoma Mountain). The meeting begins at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, in Mayflower Hall in Glen Ellen, and there is no charge, though donations are always welcome. We suggest an early arrival to find seating. For information, contact Jim Shere at 935-3663 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be there and I hope to see you, too.
Explore the history of winemaking in our Valley
Great events continue at Jack London State Historic Park in the place that Jack London originally called the Ranch of Good Intentions, now more familiarly known as his Beauty Ranch.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, one week following our Historical Society’s presentation, from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m., Lou Leal, Sonoma Valley winemaker and Jack London historian, along with Marvin Collins, photographer and writer for Wine and Spirits magazine, lead a conversation about wine making on the lands of Jack London State Historic Park and in the surrounding Glen Ellen area from 1860 to the present. The talk begins in Charmian London’s House of Happy Walls, then continues with an outside tour. The two experts, Leal and Collins, will lead a walk through Beauty Ranch exploring the old winery buildings and vineyards. The presentation concludes with a tasting of Jack London label wines from Kenwood Vineyard.
Tickets are available online at jacklondonpark.com. The space can be reached by a stairway only. If you need special access, call 938-5216.
Hike, hike, hike we go a wandering
For those folks who love to be out in the autumn woods, I have just the recommendation. Join one of the Guided Nature Walks at the Bouverie Preserve. Led by trained docents, who will share the flora and fauna of this unique 500-acre preserve with a range of lovely habitats, from riparian to oak woodland, chaparral to mixed evergreen forests. Gilman Hall, David Bouverie’s old barn, holds treasures of scientific investigation from Native lore to bird skins.
Hiking opportunities at the Bouverie this fall include this Saturday, Oct. 20. Then again on Nov. 3, 17; and Dec. 1. Reservations are required and accepted one month before each hike date. Sign up at egret.org or by calling Bouverie Preserve’s parent organization, Audubon Canyon Ranch at 415-868-9244.
Margie retires, Caryn steps up
Much of the news I share I gather while bathing in the soothingly warm waters of ACAC. Last week was one case in point. New member, former Dunbar instructor, musician and all around great gal, Cynthia Carr, was neck deep in the pool when I arrived for a Thursday water yoga class with lovely mermaid, Milena Pritel. Before class started Cynthia told me about the retirement of one of her band’s lead singers, Marge Foster. Of course, Cynthia, leader of the Carrtunes, is sorry to see Margie move on to other activities. But Marge would not have retired if the group had not found her perfect replacement.
That would be singer Caryn Prince, who teaches special education students at Altimira Middle School. We’ll surely miss Marge and wish her well, but for now, we’re looking forward to hearing Caryn in the Carrtunes. Their next performance is at Murphy’s Irish Pub in downtown Sonoma on Sunday, Oct. 28, from 6:30 on, until we all get too sleepy to boogie. Costumes are encouraged for this yearly Halloween Party. Ed Davis, former school board member, and publicist and performer with the Carrtunes promises “tricks, treats, party games and some spirited tunes. Last year Jake and Elwood the Blues Brothers showed up. . . this year, who knows.
Spooky visitors win the prize
Cynthia described the prize wining costumes last year worn by former Glen Ellen Cub Scout leader, Susie Joyce, and her artist pal, Ann Hollister. They came as elegantly dressed Day of the Dead skeletons and wowed the crowd. Of course, they won the prize for best costume and despite the fact that Susie and Cynthia are long lost teenage friends, that costume surely topped the list of best ever. We hear that H.M. Woggle Bug, T.E. and his consort might make an appearance. We hope that Katie Wright MacDonald will dance her way to the pub that night also. It should be a haunting party. See you there.
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 three weeks before the run date. If your news doesn’t appear here, check online. Excess might appear online at sonomanews.com under “Lifestyle and History.”