The glorious on goings of Glen Ellen
I think September 11 should be a day of celebration of all that is good about America. All that our enemies can’t see and don’t know, we should celebrate, starting with religious freedom and the freedom to express oneself in whatever artful way one can. Best for that could be Woody Guthrie’s hymn to America, “This Land is Your Land.” I’ve long loved that song, having grown up on Pete Seeger’s version. Sing a few verses today in your class or at work, encouraging others to join in. 2012 is the hundredth anniversary of Guthrie’s birth. A great reason for a resounding Hallelujah!
Last week I was able to catch the final performance of Broadway Under the Stars when Transcendence Theatre took to the stage under a bulging Blue Moon at the Jack London State Historical Park. Having raised over $25,000 in support of our local state park, the Transcendence performers have been asked to return next summer. We were impressed by the demanding tunes belted out by the talented cast. While we shivered under layers of blankets, they mounted the stage in skimpy evening dress with nary a shudder, nor a sour note. Congrats to the rousing troupe of talented kids.
Brian Golub’s performance with Transcendence Theatre was stellar. His was my favorite of the evening and Yes! He alone is worth the hefty price of admission. Brad’s lilting plaintiff rendition of “Let it Be” was moving and awesome. Same for Stephan Stubbins “Look to the Rainbow.” More than a few tears there, as I thought of my own Irish Papa.
Watching the moon rise and the stars fade while listening to Golub’s rousing tenor, was as sublime an experience as one can expect on a summer’s eve. We applaud the performers of Transcendence Theatre and look forward to their return next year. Meanwhile, as the performers were setting up for their show and the concert-going picnickers were enjoying their suppers, a small group of wedding guests watched a bride and groom say their vows under a brilliant blue sky in front of Jack’s cottage on the state park grounds. We are so happy to see these multiple uses of that beautiful land.
Last month, a singer from the Vox Populi choir, Rona Weintraub, celebrated one of those significant birthdays that end in zero at a joyfully musical party in Kenwood. When I saw her at the Transcendence concert last week, she was hunting for Broadway Under the Stars performer Brad Surosky. Rona and Brad are both Baltimore natives and Rona suspected that her parents and Brad’s grandparents had been dear friends back in the day. Small world, eh? Their connection wouldn’t surprise me. Rona’s expansive network of friends and family make the typical six degrees of separation seem wildly remote. Rona’s on the two degree scale, I’d say.
That same weekend I was able to explore the Sonoma Mountain Zen Center Genjoji. I’ve been passing that beautiful property for many decades, yet had never visited. Wow! What a peaceful and lovely setting. With the northern hills and mountains framed between towering redwoods at the edge of their land, the setting is perfect for the beautiful meditation temple, a Japanese-inspired, building with glass and wood enhancing all within and without. I was captivated by their lush and bountiful gardens, ripe with luscious red tomatoes bigger than my fist and heartier than my heart, cucumbers, zucchini, and corn taller than I am. Their dahlias were resplendent in warm glowing colors of life. Seeing those blooms, wild in the garden and then formally arranged in altar displays, was silently transcendent. The walkways riddled with gopher holes made it seem like a paradise not just for the humans, but the animal residents as well. I glimpsed Jakusho Kwong-roshi’s smiling countenance among the crowds, he, too, content as the circling corvids.
The Mandala Fair, which was part of the Zen Center’s Open House, offered a variety of interesting and unusual craft items and foods for sale. Glen Ellen artist Christine Gonsalves displayed her jewelry. Being familiar with only her prize-winning photography, I inquired when she began jewelry making. “Oh, only about a decade ago,” she smiled. Her intricately fashioned, nature-based work is stunningly beautiful: bug-bitten eucalyptus leaves preserved in enameled metal, big leaf maple seed pods in burnished copper, polished and faceted agates from around the world were among the treasures that Christine offered. I’ll look for her at future crafts fairs, too. Maybe even our annual Glen Ellen Village Fair?
While I didn’t stay at the Zen Center for the tea ceremony in the worship temple, I did get a taste of its meditation services. Quiet and contemplative, the environment it offers is transporting.
I’m easily familiar with most Western style churches, the Catholic and Protestant chapels that populate our valley. It was interesting to catch a brief glimpse of another culture, this very authentically Japanese in its presentation and feel, yet uniquely American. One of freedoms many blessings.
Over the past year, I’ve become more familiar with our Sonoma Valley Ashram, as well. Located almost right next door to Sonoma Mission Gardens on Grove Street, this small Indian Ashram is the local place of instruction for Aghor Yoga in our Valley. Many local folks use their beautiful meditation rooms for quiet time. I first met the Ashram’s head, Baba Harihar Ramji, affectionately known as Babaji when I was working as the Education Director at Vintage House, some many decades ago. Just to give you a brief hint of how long ago that was, when I quit that job to return to teaching full time (that round of teaching at St. Francis Solano School), Cynthia Scarborough took my place. She was later promoted to Vintage House Director a position, which she has held for many decades now.
In any case, it was as the Education Director that I first met Babaji. He wanted to lead meditation classes at Vintage Center and I was happy to provide him with a room and a time. While I can’t say we’ve been best of friends since, he has remained in my mind and I’ve given him my deep respect as a Holy man for many years. I enjoy meditating at his Ashram now with friends, most of us Catholic in various forms. For me meditation is on Doc's orders: works miracles on blood pressure readings. The Ashram has a bountiful garden, all raised beds of vegetables and flowers, carefully cultivated and gently grown. A small paradise watched over Ganesha and friends.
Jane Davenport Jansen’s bountiful land, Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, has grown and prospered under the gentle and enthusiastic care of Bill McNamara, and is now one of the premier collections of Asian plants worldwide. Quarryhill, bounded on the south by Joan Cochran’s historic Glen Oaks, now owned by the Sonoma Land Trust, and farther south by David Bouverie’s beautiful 600 acres preserve of wild land, the east side of our valley is protected for a long and lovely future. Quarryhill’s 25th anniversary celebration will be held this coming Friday, September 14, in the gardens in Glen Ellen. Reservations were required, so if you’re not signed up, you’ll need to wait until next year for that elegant party. However, informal visits are always welcomed. The gardens are open for self-guided hikes all week.
Also, this weekend, the Bouverie Preserve of Audubon Canyon Ranch will be celebrating their Open House on Saturday September 15 from 9:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Guided nature hikes through the preserve as well as crafts and nature education for adults and children are offered at this community event. It’s free and everyone is welcome. Children’s activities will include Native American games, creating mammal-track cards, making nature journals, exploring the preserved bird skin bin, and much more. Cookies are available for snacking and information about the preserve’s next docent training classes for adults will be shared. This is a great opportunity for friends and neighbors to check out this local wonderland and to see why David Bouverie was inspired to share it.
Meanwhile, Jeanne Wirka, resident biologist at the Bouverie Preserve shared a great story about one of her late afternoon hikes at the Preserve. Out hiking as evening began to fall, Jeanne noticed a small frisky skunk exhibiting strange behavior. Standing at a safe distance, Jeanne (as biologists are wont to do) observed the skunk’s behavior. It was attacking and wrestling with a hornet’s nest. Yes, those nasty yellow jackets that we all hate this time of year. The skunk was not impervious to the hornet’s stings, yet it was determined to eat as many of those nasty critters as it could. It dug out the nest, gulping down hornets and relishing the juicy larvae, all the while being severely stung about the face and head, whimpering in pain. Not deterred, the skunk was able to do a considerable amount of damage to the nest, while munching down what must one of its favorite delicacies. While I wouldn’t dare attempt such a feat of bravery (or it is foolhardiness?), I honor the brave skunk for his perseverance. Hornets: zero. Skunk: hundreds. I don’t love yellow jackets, but I do love Jeanne’s tale.
While this particular story was shared on a commute to a meeting, Jeanne shares stories with her docent friends each week in the form of a most entertaining and informative Trail Talk publication available only to Bouverie Docents. One more reason to consider becoming a docent.
Finishing up my laps in a local outdoor pool recently, I happened upon Jane Martin, all suited up in a wide brimmed hat, to protect her English skin from the Sonoma sun. Jane is the drama teacher at Sonoma Valley High School. While resting after our exertions, she excitedly shared the news of this fall semester’s interns from Shakespeare and Company. She is thrilled that she has the support of the Teacher Network, her co-staff, but especially that of principal Dino Battaglini who wholeheartedly supports the new interns who have already begun their classes with Sonoma Valley High School theatre arts students. Yay, for that program.
Tickets for Garen Patterson’s show at the San Francisco Marsh are selling rapidly, so you’ll want to order yours soon. A group of Sonoma Valley folks are caravanning to San Francisco for this special performance of one of our own locals, and surely you’ll want to be a part of it. However, you must have your ticket ordered to be included. For that, go to www.themarsh/rising. Order tickets for “Marta’s Inferno.” Expect a hot night in the ole town, as we are serenaded with Mexican ballads, roused by Yippee shouts and soothed by subtle strumming. It’s Garen at his best. We’ll be there and hope to see you, too.
We applaud Glen Ellen operatic singer and star Jill Wagoner. She will be performing as Amelia, the soprano lead in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera.” For the non-Italian speakers in my audience, that is The Masked Ball. The opera features thrilling arias, glorious choral music and dramatic intensity. This event takes place in nearby Vallejo with tickets readily available online at Brown Paper Tickets. The opera begins in November and we will surely be there: to watch, to wonder, and especially to cheer on our favorite opera singer, Jill.
Talented Sarah Summer’s recent one night show at the Sonoma Community Center, was another transcending experience. Sarah’s show was personal, heartfelt and unique from beginning to end. Her repertoire of original songs is spectacular. The narrative quality of her verses mesmerizing, her lilting, song-sparrow’s voice and her sweet personality all shine through. We wish her well on her new path, college in SoCal.
Recent visitors to our little burg included former Glen Ellen Community Church pastor Gordon Johnson and his wife Priscilla Dahlgren Johnson. They came for the 113th anniversary of our local church’s founding and had a splendid time. That particular Sunday, the church celebrated with a luncheon, a sermon, and a baptism ceremony where nine Christians were born anew with a full immersion in the Snetzinger family pool. Jim Berkland, who remembered his first baptism at age eight, felt it entirely appropriate to be re-baptized now as an 80 year old now fully cognizant of the meaning of that important ritual. Jim said this was truly a blessing and he is grateful to current Pastor Jim Hill and the other members of the congregation who welcomed him. Congratulations to all of the current and past members of our little church in the vale.
The aforementioned Priscilla’s eldest son, Alden Olmsted recently sent me copies of his latest graphic project. Alden has designed a set of Sonoma postcards, some of the entire county, others of our valley. The postcards are available at the Sonoma Mission on Spain Street and at Jack London State Historic Park. Clever and colorful, the cards feature the hot spots in our valley. I hope that Alden will soon have them available at our local Glen Ellen Village Market soon, too.
Last week on a quick jaunt up to Dunbar School to visit M. J. Arner in her charmingly cluttered mentoring center, I remembered to slow down, way, way down. First reminder was the Patel family, Ashish and Sia, along with Grandma Maria, out walking the bundled baby. The Patels are the new owners of the old Glenelly on Warm Spring Road, now renamed Olea Hotel and entirely refurbished. Enjoying a local favorite walk, the trio looked happily settled in their new hometown. We welcome them.
On my return from Dunbar, the second reminder to slow down was a wandering yearling who was darting back and forth across Warm Springs on Henno. That dear little deer managed to stop a lot of traffic and we hope she found her way home. That Henno-Dunbar five-mile loop is a favorite route of bicyclists, runners, walkers and wildlife, so do remember to drive with caution.
Last week I attended a Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance event at Hanna Boys Center’s brand new and spectacularly beautiful Admission/Alumni Center, also know as the Hanna Legacy Center. They claim it’s inspirational and I have to agree. A beautiful, serene setting with view of the Mayacamas to the east and Sonoma Mountain to the west. As I departed the center near sunset, the sky was filled with intriguing and slight ominous cloud formations that looked like the underside of my down comforter. Sweetie and I ended that ride with a jaunt up the hill to B. J. and Malcolm Blanchard’s house nestled among the redwoods. The Blanchards were willing to accept unexpected cloud watching visitors because their house must seem a little empty now that Sydney is off at college in Ithaca, NY. From their be-flowered deck, all four of us watched the sky turn a peachy crimson while the sun descended behind Sonoma Mountain. Who could deny we live in Paradise?
Does everyone know what a sweet place of merchandising our little post office parking lot can be. I’m talking about quick and happy exchanges made with artists. At least that was my experience last week when I ran into jewelry artist Mary Neuer Lee at the Glen Ellen Post Office. I told her about a lovely set of earrings that Nancy Trbovich had recently given to our Docent Council’s “retiring” President, Diana Sanson, in grateful thanks for her service. Yep, the earrings were made by Mary and she said she had a few more already cast. I gave her my cash and she promised one of the tiny amphibians would be in my mailbox the next day. Indeed it was, and now it graces the neck of my Sweetie. The black rubber cord and the bronze newt look make some pretty cool man jewelry. Something my East Coast, button-down shirt Sweetie might never have accepted if Kaeti Bailie hadn’t taught him how to wear scarves from her great selection at Artifax. I like the look of both and feel he’s properly attired for the opera. Yes, Jill Wagoner’s opera in Vallejo or the San Francisco Opera House. That season begins now, though our first city show is definitely going to be Garen Patterson’s folk opera performance at The Marsh. Call me if you want to join us. Nicola Luisotti and the War Memorial Opera House will await our next outing.
For now, welcome the subtle signs of approaching fall. There’s a chill in the evening and morning air, the Butler Oaks at “The Home” are beginning to turn, as the buckeyes have long since. Last week we were awakened in the early morning hours by such a chilly breeze that summer evening’s open windows were slammed shut. However, we hope to keep our minds open. You, too?
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.