Trek up Sonoma Mountain leads to a meal to remember
The folks in Glen Ellen
This Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m., at Mayflower Hall on the corner of O’Donnell Lane and Henno Road, the Glen Historical Society is presenting “Mapping The Lay of the Land.” Speakers include Bob Curtis and Arthur Dawson, both experts. Bob is widely considered the dean of Sonoma County surveyors, having spent half a century explaining how the land is measured and what we can learn from the maps that result. Arthur, who wrote the popular book “Stories Behind Sonoma Valley Place Names,” will help us understand how the features of these maps were originally identified.
This speech is the 10th in the Glen Ellen Historical Society’s series of historical conversations.
If you don’t currently belong to our town’s historical society, now’s the time to join. Its latest newsletter includes a great tale by Gregg Montgomery about the famous Chef Cardini, who, it turns out, was not the inventor of the Caesar salad, though, no doubt, he served plenty.
Trixie in rehab
You may have noticed, as I did, that our beloved Trixie has been missing from her post at the Sebastiani Theatre’s box office. Usually stationed out front where she greets visitors, Trixie, we’ve heard, has been off at a local spa, having a full body treatment. Her face is renewed, her breasts repaired (oh, pray tell, not made larger, merely firmed up and filled with love and joy). Trixie’s practitioner is none other than skilled artist Bernice Pecora, local artist and now cosmetic surgeon.
We expect to see Trixie back at work in the near future. Maybe even announcing that with a full color photo in this very paper. Watch for her reappearance with a charmingly up-to-date wardrobe change.
One of the perks of this column is meeting new folks, friends and neighbors whom I might not otherwise encounter without the need for a weekly 2,000 words. Last week, Sweetie and I were invited to luncheon with Gunnar and Rose Anderson who live high on Sonoma Mountain.
It was Rose who called announcing that she was a grandma to Thomas Gare, one of Bouverie Preserve’s prized Junipers, the talented class of junior naturalists. That made me sit up and listen, happy to have the call.
Thomas is one of the few students I’ve ever recommended to the Juniper group at the Bouverie Preserve and what a wonderful naturalist he became. Led on long and short, rigorous and mild hikes by his leader, Anne Goodwin, Thomas, quite frankly, loved every part of the preserve. Thomas is an unusual young man, a ready observer of all that is unique in the natural world.
One time on a short hike, where I tagged along, Thomas discovered a small copse of chanterelle mushrooms crowded under a towering oak. While all of the rest of us were staring up into the far branches of the tree examining mistletoe, Thomas was looking around in the tall green grass, and discovering a wonderful display of chanterelles growing in the shadow of that mighty oak. That day, Thomas took photo after photo of these magnificent specimens. That was almost as good as being an ingester of this local delicacy. But Thomas knows, as do all decent docents, that nature at the Bouv is meant to be preserved, not eaten for lunch, however tempting.
Thomas began his association with the Bouverie Preserve while he was still in elementary school. Now, as a Sonoma Valley High School freshman, Thomas is focused on doing the best he can in his academic pursuits. And that he does.
Realm of the artist
Of course, Thomas, and his sister Kirstin Gare and their parents, Karin and Bob were a subject of conversation when Sweetie and I visited the Andersons. But more than that, our quest that day was to view Gunnar’s work and workplace.
Before lunch, Gunnar led us on an art tour through the house, detailing and describing each piece. Many were trades with other artists that he’s collected during his career. Others were by his own hand, all were lovely.
Finally, we came to Gunnar’s studio spaces. Dear to Sweetie was the aroma of paint, linseed oil, and turpentine, his own favorite medium. Many portraits, particularly of children were noteworthy and evocative of simpler times and places. Others, landscapes, seascapes, and still lives with bursting flowers, were what I call happy paintings. You can’t help but be uplifted just viewing them.
Among my favorite pieces of art that day, two by friends of Gunnar are especially memorable. One is a large painting of Gunnar, in young middle age, just ready to send one of his model airplanes into flight. He’s crowned by a halo and surrounded by a group of eager children, with one boy to the side, ready to fly off himself on a shiny red bike. The hills in the painting look like home and the whole scene is one of anticipation and joy. My next favorite piece of art is a small sculpture sitting on a marble-topped table in the formal living room: a lovely young dancer, holding a hoop. It is serene and captures her momentary posture.
After this narrated tour, Sweetie and I were invited into the dining room, which looks over a broad deck, hills beyond, Sonoma town below. The whole time we visited, two squirrels frolicked there, racing in and out of winter-shielded furniture, up and down the oak trees and in and out the fencing.
Light coming through tall windows illuminated our springtime luncheon. With raspberries, asparagus, citrus and shrimp, we Crawfords were more than happily pleased. What gracious and talented hosts the Andersons were. Following lunch, we trekked outside to Gunnar and Rose’s beautiful gardens. That sunny day the ceanothus bushes, also known as early blooming California lilacs, were alive with buzzing bees that gave a pleasant background hum to all the sounds around. We followed Gunnar down a winding path to his garage space, with barely enough room for his pickup truck, the space being mainly given over to model airplanes of various vintages.
Realm of the winemaker
Through a door in a dividing wall we entered Gunnar’s winemaking room, alive with the sweet aromas of fermenting grapes, a heady thick smell that makes one instantly thirsty and relaxed. We wound back up the path and around under his split-level house to the wine cellar where a large variety of bottles are put to age. As Rose had advised us to notice, we saw the long wall full of prize ribbons, many blue, some red, a few yellow, announcing to the world that Gunnar’s wines are considered excellent, not only by his friends, but also by the most discerning tasters of our day. We can easily accept that having enjoyed a lovely dry and fragrant sauvignon blanc with our lunch.
• • •
A meeting at the Vatican
Rose and Gunnar are relative newlyweds, having met at a café near the Vatican in Rome one sunny spring day. Rose had been a widow for more than a decade and Gunnar had only recently joined that state. Rose and her three friends invited themselves to his table, where he was sitting alone. Thus, a friendship began, culminating three years later in their marriage. Rose, being from humid Galveston Texas, was happy to move to temperate Sonoma. All in all, a day to fondly remember.
To view a little of Gunnar’s artwork yourself, check out his website online; it’s easy to find through his name.
Mykah enters world
Donna-Grace Nassar-Noyes, whom many of you know as simply Dr. Donna sent good news last week. No, it wasn’t merely a follow-up on her sweet granddaughter Trinity Sophia Magenta Wilding Mambote who is at home in Amsterdam, Holland, but news of a second granddaughter.
This is the beloved first child of Grace’s son, Erik Ansell and his wife, Connie, who live closer, near Santa Cruz.
A grand Glen Ellen welcome to the brand new daughter of Glen Ellen native son, Erik and his wife, Connie to their baby Mykah Thi Ansell, who entered this world on Feb. 24, 2013, at 9:51 in the morning. Papa was there to help, with grandmother Grace rushing south to meet her second granddaughter. This new little baby girl weighed a perfect seven pounds, seven ounces, and is a long 21 inches. Mother and Father are “weary and well,” as Donna-Grace put it.
Erik and his older sister, Isabelle (Heather Ansell), have been competitive since they were wee tykes at Dunbar. As soon as Erik and Connie heard that Michael Mambote and Isabelle were expecting a baby, they got busy creating the same. Now Grandmother Donna-Grace is thrilled to welcome these two babes into this world, and most importantly, into her loving arms.
We send timely blessings to both Erik and Isabelle on their growing families.
Horse outfit rides again
Ann Abrams writes me with enthusiasm about the re-instituted horseback-riding program at Jack London State Historic Park.
Added to the many activities to enjoy at Jack London Park, now you can experience Sonoma Wine Country and Jack London’s Beauty Ranch just as he did one hundred years ago, on horseback. Triple Creek Horse Outfit is now ensconced at Jack London Park offering guided horseback tours through the 20-plus miles of trails at the Park. Jack London Park boasts some of the finest riding trails in the world, past acres of vineyards producing grapes for premium wines, through open oak woodlands and shady groves of tall redwoods.
Erin Ellis and Dominic Bettinelli, both Sonoma Valley natives, have been running Triple Creek Horse Outfit since they started the company in 2003. For seven years, they operated horseback tours at Jack London Park, as well as at state parks in Kenwood and the Napa Valley. In 2011, with California’s budget crisis looming and threatening to close state parks, Erin and Dominic moved their operation to the extensive and beautiful Kunde Estate Family Winery. After two years of giving horseback tours there, the opportunity arose to return to Triple Creek’s roots, at Jack London Park, and Erin and Dominic seized the chance.
Rich history and scenic beauty
“Jack London’s ranch not only has rich history and scenic beauty,” Erin observed, “but the variety in the trails – alongside world-class vineyards, among towering redwoods, through golden meadows and bubbling creeks – makes it absolutely the best place to ride a horse of anywhere I know.”
Please call 887-8700 or go online for prices and more information on Triple Creek Horse Outfit and riding at Jack London Park. Triple Creek Horse Outfit is adjacent to Beauty Ranch in Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road in Glen Ellen. Check online for other ongoing activities and events at Jack London Park.
In other news from Ann, she sends the announcement of a docent-led Spring Wildflower Hike at the Jack London State Historical Park. That’s scheduled for March 9, next Thursday, but I suggest that you sign up now. That can be done online at jacklondonpark.com.
Ann writes, “Groundhogs confirmed an early spring and Jack London Park will be budding by early March. The first of a series of Spring Wildflower Walks led by Park naturalists Deborah Large and John Lynch is an easy 3.5-mile hike encompassing the lake loop, quarry and vineyard trails. The hike focuses on early bloomers as we shift from winter to spring discovering trillium, fairy bells, redwood sorrel, shooting stars, star lily, milkmaids, hounds tongue, buttercups, Indian warrior, California poppies and Calypso orchids.”
Here are the necessary details: Saturday, March 9 from 10 a.m. until 1:30 in the afternoon. Ann suggests you bring binoculars, cameras, water and a light snack. Wear sturdy shoes and meet in the upper parking lot of Jack London Park, at 2400 London Ranch Road, in Glen Ellen.
Admission is $10 per person and can be arranged in advance online. Info at jacklondonpark.com. (Additional Parking fee is $10 per car and is paid at kiosk upon entering.)
Wine and food post-trek
After your wildflower trek, I suggest you wander down the road about 150 yards, dip into Benziger Family Winery to re-hydrate. It’ll help you yodel and sing. Plus it’s the best way to end your day’s hike.
After that, roll downhill into the Glen Ellen village proper and chose your favorite restaurant: The Fig, The Glen Ellen Inn, the Glen Ellen Star, Yeti or the Grist Mill. Another superb spot would be Olive and Vine, and if you arrive early enough, you can even buy a box of chocolates next door for your sweetie, to make up for the Valentine Choco you forgot. You’ll be forgiven all to pieces, with peace prevailing.
Horticulturalist makes grade
Last week, good news arrived from former Dunbar mom, floral designer, and new Santa Rosa Junior College student Alison Pimental. She writes, “I returned to school last fall at SRJC after years of talking about entering the horticulture department in hopes of earning one of their certificates. The certificate programs are all hands-on, very practical and aim to have you job-ready upon completion.”
Alison continues, “Being a life-long gardener, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be nice to earn a living in a field that I love so much. Imagine that. . . love your job. So, I began the Garden Design and Nursery Management Certificate programs, two separate certificates that are roughly 30 units each. I hope to start my own small design firm working to enhance and modify existing landscapes on a small scale, focusing on cut flower gardens, butterfly gardens, and raised planter beds. Nursery Management interests me on a wholesale level and is a good background to have when you work in any landscaping field.”
Alison enthusiastically adds, “SRJC is a fabulous school, I am really impressed by my instructors and my fellow peers. Students come from all walks of life and all ages, I am not the only 50-plus-year-old redefining myself. Everyone is so friendly, and excited to be learning about a field that cares for the earth and wants to work towards even better practices to save water, our soil, and the whole web of life that is so connected to the environment. Rebooting the brain has its challenges, but as my second semester sets in I think I am now well acclimated. I got straight A’s my first semester. I still work part-time and am a wife and mother, so life is very busy. Hence the pull-back from my volunteer responsibilities.”
Son of horticulturalist founds GD Band
Then Alison launches into praises of her son, Nick Pimental who is a sophomore at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore. It is a small liberal arts college with roughly 2,000 undergrads, a law school and a graduate teaching program. The campus is a former estate perched above Lake Oswego. It is gorgeous. He is as happy as a kid can be studying philosophy and rhetoric, plus media. He has been playing guitar, singing and writing songs since the 7th grade and is very passionate and dedicated to his craft. He formed a band on campus, The Goddamn Band (funny story about the name … originally it was called “My Friends from Arkansas,” but everyone kept asking, “What is the name of your goddamn band?” Hence the name change), freshman year that includes Nick on guitar, also a bassist, a drummer, a saxophonist and violinist. He has a band Facebook page and posts songs on Soundcloud under the band name and also his solo act, Hastings (Alison’s maiden name). They just won a campus “Battle of the Bands” contest and the prize is the opportunity to play at The Crystal Ballroom, a really cool venue in Portland that top notch touring professional bands play. He is really jazzed.
This summer Nick will be living in NYC while interning with the Rachel Ray Show focusing on social media for all of her enterprises. Then this fall he is off to India to study abroad for a semester. He will live and travel to four different areas of the country studying issues related to women, the environment, economics, politics, history, arts and human geography. Whew! One lucky and well-deserving kid, a Dunbar alum.
White robe daydreams
For several weeks, I had been daydreaming about the spiritual paradise that Morton’s Warm Springs Resort in Kenwood was destined to become. I imagined white robed parishioners (including me) silently travelling the trails, sitting Sonoma Creekside, meditating and communing with nature.
You see, some weeks prior, Sonoma Ashram’s leader, known affectionately as Babaji, had, in confidence, told me the good news that the Ashram was working on a deal to purchase the old Morton’s Warm Springs resort. It seemed such a perfect solution to bring a peaceful realm to that beleaguered property.
Sure, my boys and I, along with Sweetie, too, loved frolicking there back in the day. It was an oasis, in the chaos of family life, circa mid 1980s. We spent many days basking in the sun on the rolling lawns and playing in the water until closing time. Both of our boys took some of their earliest swim lessons there, followed by dozens of lazy summer days, poolside. I loved it then. But over the years, Morton’s took on a rather downtrodden and seamy look. Not exactly the place one would like to entertain visitors.
Tears in my ears, every way but aloose
When Babaji told me that it might become a second site for the Sonoma Ashram, I was thrilled. I’ve become a bit familiar with that mid valley Ashram over the past couple of years.
A small group of us, mostly reformed Catholics, including at least one nun, and several lost sheep, meet once a week to share a Bible verse, a psalm, or a poem. Then we pray, followed by a half hour silent meditation. I often find –as was true when I attended Mass, back in the day—that the whole process leaves me exhausted and in tears. I’m not exactly sure what happens in the time between our final prayer and our awakening. But tears flow so freely, that my collar’s often soaked and my chin is sticky with the salty tears I shed.
My dear Georgia Papa used to hold me and sing a little ditty about, “I got tears in my ears, from lying on my back, and crying over you.” Then he would laugh and swing me around and around, all the while gaily shouting, “I’m gonna turn you every way but aloose.” At which point I would burst into laughter, too, as he loosened his grip on me and I’d sail off onto the lawn. Love that, Papa.
But now, I recently read in the Kenwood Press, that Babaji and his Ashram crew were not the ones to purchase Morton’s Warm Springs. Alas, all my fantasies of a sacred spot in the middle of our valley of wine vanished. I wish the successful purchasers the best. May their dreams be realized.
Looking for further good news in Glen Ellen? Check our online column at sonomanews.com/Lifestyle-History. Overflow often ends up there. Want to see your own name in the news: Share your stories 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.