The softer side of SDC, a visit to Talisman, seeking a squirrel name
The folks of Glen Ellen
I begin this week’s column, in the same vein as last week, fueled with green tea, although not intravenously, as that cliché might imply. No, the tea merely fills my Okinawan cup, a souvenir from the Naha City Buckies.
Buckies? That’s our family’s handle for that ubiquitous caffeine outlet, named for Melville’s chief mate aboard the Pequod. Yes, Buckies may be ubiquitous, but nary a one to be found in Sonoma town. Please never Glen Ellen, either.
Along with the tea, I’m inspired in my words by Bernie Krause’s Wild Sanctuary website’s automatic audio background. A minute ago, wailing whales regaled me with their underwater voices. Earlier, hooting monkeys fed my imagination. Right now, I’m enjoying a meadow alive with songbirds and crickets.
For me, those sounds of a meadow alive recall summers out camping where my brother-in-law, Curtis Fredrick Wilson (back then, simply my sister’s boyfriend, Fred) would read aloud to us by the campfire, inciting my imagination and blessing me with a love of words. Krause’s environmental soundscapes can do the same. The natural sounds in the background free my mind to wander. They also pretty effectively block the chattering of that squirrel who kicks up dirt in my flower box. You know, the fellow I mentioned last week. Doesn’t he deserve a name? Any suggestions?
Oh how I love words, though the ones I write don’t often match up to the sounds I imagine. I love the alliteration of poetry, the rhythm of rhyming, the chiming of rhyming, the chatter and clatter of words that knock about in my brain. Alas, that passion can trump meaning and so I have to always edit the words I write. Does the art of scientist Krause help or hinder?
Last week, when visiting with my sweet mentee, she read my previous week’s column aloud to me. She’s an excellent reader, a fifth-grader who’s mastered a much higher level of comprehension. Still, a few of my obscure words tripped her up, as did occasional awkward phrasing. The end result is not always the poetry I seek. But what a delight it is to hear me “translated” by her. We’re a team of mutual improvement. I am called the mentor and she the mentee, but often enough it feels the other way around, and mostly, I feel I’m getting the better part of the deal.
OK, yes, this is just one more barely-veiled promotion for you – yes, you of my column audience – to consider mentoring a child in the Sonoma Valley school system. There are many children awaiting an adult who will join them, just one hour, once a week. Like the commonplace platitude claims, you’ll get more than you give. I do. Mentoring is a delight and a highlight of my week. Might you be interested in helping a child … and allowing a child to help you be a better person, too, all the while playing games, drawing pictures, reading together and more?
Tomorrow evening, Jan. 30, 5:30 to 7 p.m. MacArthur Place in Sonoma will be filled with folks who love mentoring and can fill you in on the program. If you’d like to know more about that meeting, call M.J. Arner, at Dunbar, at 996-7328. I promise, there is no hard sell, no obligation.
Building blocks of creativity
Meanwhile, even if you don’t have time in your life right now to mentor a child, M.J. has another request. She’s looking for more Lego pieces to supplement her current (inadequate) supply. She’ll be happy to take those mixed, unmatched sets off your hands. Call her. As your spring cleaning commences, remember that any stray toys, games, craft items, etc. can be delivered to Dunbar’s mentoring center. Yes, of course, my Sonoma readers may take their cast-offs to other school’s mentoring centers.
SDC past, present and future
While none of us can be in two places at once, I still encourage you to attend the community forum at Ramekins Culinary School and Event Center to discuss Sonoma Developmental Center’s past, present and future. It’s an important meeting, taking place tomorrow, same evening as the mentoring event. That’s Wednesday, Jan. 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. Space is limited and you must register at calwatchsonoma.eventbrite.com.
I hope that many folks from Glen Ellen will attend. The Sonoma Developmental Center is an important part of our village. The beautiful campus of SDC has been a landmark in our town for almost a century-and-a-quarter, as well as one of Sonoma Valley’s major employers.
As most of us are well aware, SDC’s history includes a small number of rare events that are painfully egregious. Given the way of the world, those kinds of things can happen anywhere and, I emphasize, trouble at SDC is rare. But of course, when victims are dependent upon the care and attention of others, it seems all the more heinous.
Most of what I hear, however, from friends and neighbors and workers, is the good news of SDC. That’s what I want to share a bit of today. I know it’s only one part of the story, but it is a huge and important part.
Even though my relationship to SDC is tenuous and secondary, I feel I know it well. Although I do not work there myself, I have many friends and neighbors who do, and SDC is a frequent topic of conversation in our town.
Again and again, I hear that the center is a worthwhile and meaningful place to work. Invariably, people who work there talk about the clients, almost as if they are part of their families; they become attached to them. The affectionate stories told by SDC workers are similar to ones I would share about the middle-school students I taught. And like teachers I knew, the employees at SDC go out of their way – in time, in personal funds, in affection – to make life better for the clients.
Works of care and dedication
Just a few of the Glen Ellen folks I know come to mind as dedicated SDC employees. For instance, there’s Gregg Montgomery, now retired, who spent his career inventing and creating special wheelchairs that made life easier for many an SDC client. Gregg loved using his creative and inventive skills to help make people more comfortable and more mobile.
Among the exemplary special education teachers at SDC have been two that come to mind immediately. That would be David Aguilar, who uses his musical talents to entertain the clients and clearly loves and enjoys being with them; and Linda States, whose calm and caring demeanor have made many folks happy. As for nurses, two brilliant and good folks come immediately to mind, both with master’s in nursing, both long devoted to their work at SDC. It is easy to heap praises on my friends, nurses Brenda Albertz Crocker and Sooni Kwon. Administrators I know who have tackled the tough issues at the developmental center include Mary Lavin and Teresa Murphy. My dear, late friend Dr. George Ellman, a well-known community philanthropist and volunteer, worked in the SDC research center.
Our Valley’s beloved Treasure Artist Roger Rhoten put in many years working at SDC in level of care, as it’s called. Same is true of talented artist Patrick McMurtry. Ditto for my best friend Judy Laursen who works in a classroom at SDC.
Works of love and meaning
One day, while a group of us were bathing in the warm, medicinal waters of the Agua Caliente Aquatic Center, I marveled at the happy stories that Donna Adamson, Judy Laursen and Patrick McMurtry shared about their years working at SDC. These folks were not grumping about tough jobs (though we all know it can be incredibly difficult at times). They were sharing stories about clients they cared for and cared about.
Other good folks who come to mind are Michael McClure, Gina Gipson and Diana Wang who are dedicated employees of SDC, whom psych-tech Judy Laursen has praised as “the best.” They work with her in the classroom, Michael is a teacher, and Gina and Diana are PTAs – that is psych-tech assistants.
Another person who always sang the praises of the employees at SDC was Mary O’Riordan, who for many years was the head of the parents organization. She felt so secure and happy that her dear son was cared for by loving and caring helpers. She often worried about the clients who were sent away to small care homes, feeling that the best care was here in Glen Ellen.
Folks I admire and trust
Of course, these people I’ve named are just a small part of the great group of workers at SDC. They are people I admire and trust. People I know do their best to help make sure that the “the least among us” are treated with loving care and kindness. Those few folks I mentioned are simply the ones who come to mind, right now, as I write. I know their loving care is representative of most of the workers at SDC.
Yes, the aberrations in conduct – carelessness, cruelty, mistakes – make the news. But, from my point of view, the truth is that the employees of Sonoma Developmental Center serve the residents of the hospital fairly and faithfully, with care and kindness. They deserve a grand show of appreciation at tomorrow night’s forum. Of course, it would be wrong to ignore, or worse to hide, the problems at that institution, but let us not fail to note the light that shines through good deeds, care above and beyond what is necessary.
Art and craft at Talisman
On a much more light-hearted note, I have praises for another couple of working friends. In this case, it is the endearing and talented couple who opened Talisman Tasting Room in the old store front on the southeast corner of Carquinez and Arnold on Nov. 28. Talisman is at 13651 Arnold Drive in the lovely olive green building that still features Remy Labesque’s whimsical map of Glen Ellen.
Remy, by the way, is long since a graduate of the well-known California College of Arts and is working as an industrial designer.
But that lovely and distinctive piece of Glen Ellen art was painted on the building when Remy was still a teen – and a talented one, at that. We’re so happy that Scott and Marta Rich, the winemaking owners of Talisman, admire Remy’s talents as much as we do. They have vowed to keep that artful map and, in fact, their spiffy new paint job enhances it.
Last week, just before heading out for dinner and film with friends, my Sweetie, Mr. C, and I rambled up the road for a visit with Marta and Scott at their Talisman Tasting Room. Marta is the effusive, engaging one ushering us in with warm hugs and grand smiles. Scott is only slightly more reserved and slightly more focused on sharing his knowledge of the wines they produce.
My initial impression: I like these enthusiastic neighbors. I also truly admire what they’re doing, even though I am ever-so-much a lightweight when it comes to wine. There I defer to my friends and neighbors who deem themselves wine aficionados. I enjoy a glass of red once a month, or so, as a complement to a fine meal.
But my complete ignorance of their product didn’t deter Scott and Marta’s enthusiastic introduction to their pinot noir, which they’ve been crafting since 1993. They call their elixir “soulful wine that reflects specific vineyard locations.” I translated that to mean one can smell the earth, taste the air and see the sun in their wine. It’s true. And I did.
Wine and wood
Before launching into a description of their lovely wines, I want to describe their tasting room. It’s like a warm and welcoming home of a hip, intellectual young couple. Decorated with furniture that feels good to settle into or on, yet conveying a style that is modern and personal. The walls are filled with bright landscape art.
My favorite piece of art there? Absolutely, it is the stunning table that is the focus of the room. The table is a broad slab of mango wood from the Big Island of Hawaii, brought over, milled and finished by Heritage Salvage in Petaluma. Marta says, “Owner Bug (yep, that’s his name) who has property on the island, estimates the tree was about 110 years old, coincidentally about the same age of our building.”
Expert sleuth seeks stories
Soon Marta and Rich will know the whole story of that building, as Arthur Dawson, of Baseline Consulting Historical Research in Glen Ellen, is investigating it. When Arthur completes his research for a client, they are presented with a lovely binder of a building’s history including the people who occupied it through various ages. Arthur’s research is meticulous, thorough and interesting. I’ve enjoyed reading his past reports.
Sun struck jewels
Returning to the table, old as the building: I fell in love with that slab of wood, which echoes the life of the tree and is a functional piece of artwork. The wood grain appears rich and rippled, yet the surface is so smooth that a full wineglass glides across it like skates on a lake, not even ruffling the wine’s surface. That wine, by the way, is another work of art. I loved simply looking at my glass of wine. Its rich-hued red makes one think of garnets, those jewel qualities enhanced as the setting sun glinted in the western front window of the tasting room.
I loved the varying bouquets of the four wines we sampled: earthy, rich, warm and fruity, a transporting waft of opulence. Each pinot tasted slightly different and I was entranced by Scott’s descriptions of the vineyards and the growers. Marta pointed out each region on the map as Scott explained how the grapes were cultivated.
My seat at the table placed the front door at a nice viewing angle and after my second or third glass of wine, I suddenly noticed the decoration over the front door. A Swedish relic that made me smile in honor of my own snow-bound Finnish ancestors. Be sure to notice it and ask Marta about it. You’ll hear a great description of a happy childhood that led Marta to Glen Ellen and to her true loves, first Scott and then winemaking.
Wine and food
Sitting at that elegant table tasting the excellent pinots I could easily imagine a delightful meal, prepared by Glen Ellen’s master chef Charles Holmes that would complement those wines in as elegant a fashion as they deserve. I made the suggestion to Marta and Scott and maybe someday they will plan such a feast. It would be a memorable way to celebrate a special anniversary with family.
All in all it was a delightful visit to Talisman and I suggest that you visit there, too. The tasting room adds an elegance to our town that makes it seem rather more sophisticated than it was when I first moved here, back in the day. Glen Ellen is surely growing up and Marta and Scott ride the cusp of that change as it elegantly evolves. I appreciate that they honor the past of our town (and their own past of living in Glen Ellen for 21 years) while looking toward a successful future for their winemaking and our village.
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Share your good news with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at 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.