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Calls and a correction on when the big winds swept through GE

Furious spurious wind

After last week’s column on the big storm back in the 1970s, I got quite a number of calls. Even in the mild Mediterranean-style weather we have here in Glen Ellen, folks love to contemplate, review and discuss the weather. As a species, we’ve been talking about the weather since hominids first gathered around a blazing fire grunting their appreciation.

Now, in our era, the weather has become almost as treacherous and mysterious as what our earlier ancestors experienced. It also seems that things we can’t control, but must experience, make us want to share. No doubt weather – hot enough to make cool water imminently necessary, or cold enough to require furs and fires – was one of the strong motivating factors in development of communication. We humans love to reminisce about storms of the past and anticipate sunny days of the future.

But mostly we like to know what’s real and true. Hmm, and that’s a mark I missed last week, as I do from time to time. So when was it, really?

Last week’s column had more than a few errors. The best call I got in that regard was from Steven somebody or other who didn’t necessarily want his name in the news, but was willing to talk. I appreciate both sentiments.

Given the beautiful chaos and busyness of this time of year, I didn’t spend much time trying to convince Steven that his story was important as any other I’d be likely to write about. But I did get his phone number and one of these days, I’ll call this gentle reader back to get more of his telling tales of our town.

Steven grew up in Glen Ellen and his stories are just the kind of food for thought that fills this column.

Turns out Steven’s memory is far clearer than mine. Which, actually isn’t a difficult state to attain. He said he was sure that the storm I referred to last week was in 1976, not 1975. After a search of The Sonoma Index-Tribune archives, I have to admit he’s right.

Proof of the pudding is on the server

And so I offer him thanks. His inquiry led to a rabbit hole of research that occupied a good portion of a day and was frankly fascinating. According to the Dec. 2, 1976 issue of this paper, that Nov. 26 storm was one even old-timers hadn’t experienced. Wild winds with gusts up to 70 mph wrought havoc, which is just the kind of alliteration this columnist loves and either irritates or enthralls readers. You know where you sit on that issue.

For me, I even love reading the old columns (and not just my own). Stacia Derickson, who was the Glen Ellen columnist in the years of that big storm, shared the true news of that day, “Residents of Glen Ellen (along with the rest of Sonoma Valley) were treated to a real display of temper from Mother Nature last Friday night … more of a treatment than a treat as cars were crushed under falling limbs, electrical wires and telephone lines were torn loose from houses and poles, fences were toppled over and roof tops blown away.”

She continues, “The Glen Ellen Volunteer firemen responded early in the evening to a call for help on Carmel Avenue where a transformer had been blown down. A short while later, they turned out again for a structure fire on Arnold Drive. Because of the fierceness of the wind and the fact that so many limbs were falling across wires, the men remained on ‘standby’ at the station until well after midnight. In all, they responded eight different times to storm-related incidents. The sound of chainsaws reverberated throughout the area over the weekend as residents began the massive cleanup. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured during the storm. However, many homes still were without electricity of Sunday night.”

Emphasis on firepersons

Not only does that make clear that the storm of ’76 was wilder than this year’s, but Stacia’s emphasis on the firemen (which she of course would naturally do, and rightly so) helps us all remember how much they mean in our lives.

Maybe that means that it’s time to consider a year-end donation? I know, my email box and my post office box are full of those requests right now.

So, that prompts me to remind myself that my yearly gifts should go to the folks I most want to support.

I know my meager few dollars won’t make a huge difference to FISH, Bouverie, the Mentoring Center or the Glen Ellen Volunteer Fire Department (these are obviously my favorites), but it makes me feel better than scrambling to buy stuff that my great extended family doesn’t necessarily need.

What are your favorite local charities? Might a few dollars of your funds be directed that way?

But back to the big storm … of whichever year. In this case, trusting Stacia and Steven, I’ll go with 1976.

Blowing up our televisions

Jim Berkland, was the first to phone me after the paper hit the streets, calling even before Steven with the right date. While Jim relayed the story, I could hear his sweetie, Jan, in the background. Those two are about as mixed up on correct dates, as my sweetie and I are. But they have a better excuse. Jim has (at least) a couple of years on me … fact is, remembering isn’t easy.

Oh sure, we all remember the excitement and the glory of various events, especially ones as notable as dramatic storms. In the ’70s, Jim Berkland and his love, Jan, were living down in San Jose … well maybe … Jim said that might have also been the year that he spent teaching (geology, no doubt, though he didn’t specify) in Appalachia. In any case, the Berkland’s permanent home at that time was in the San Jose area. His childhood home (and current abode, of course) is in our town. (I gotta say if anyone loves Glen Ellen more than I do, Jim would be up there in the top ranks.)

His story actually begins in 1973, more or less, Jim’s childhood home up on Chauvet caught on fire when an old television blew up. OK, that made me laugh. Who, among us hasn’t fantasized causing such violence to the tube, from time to time? In our house, we deal with that simply by subscribing to Jerry Mander’s philosophy. (Look it up.)

As for a real fires, they aren’t funny, at all, which gives us more of a reason to remember the fine folks at our fire department.

Gone with the wind

Instead of diving into the horror of the fire, Jim reminisced that, since no one was hurt, it was his books he worried about. I’m with him in that, too. I love my books. I still have some of the burned books from the fire that nearly destroyed my childhood home. But that’s another story.

Jim had a beloved collection of Jack London books. They survived the fire. He told me that with the quick help of the Glen Ellen fire folks, and the fact that the books were tightly packed on the shelf, the only damage was scorched titles on spines. Otherwise, books were still in fine shape after the blaze.

That is until a couple of years later, when the aforementioned big windstorm arrived. By then, his favorite boyhood treasures were packed in an outside shed, a lightweight aluminum sort of thing (remember Stacia’s comments?), a storage shed that was quite obviously inadequate, actually entirely adequate.

The shed blew apart, the spineless volumes were whipped up by the wind and that was the end of those. Jim still misses them on occasion, when he thinks of it. Hard rock book club

Whence Jim’s great books? Maybe, as L. Frank Baum inspires to us believe, Jim’s collection of London books swirled up and away landing somewhere in a poppy field outside of the emerald city. OK, that’s my fantasy. I love reading before sleeping and it was Baum who flavored my childhood. But, whether Jim’s books landed in Oz, or somewhere else, they were gone.

Returning to my own reverie (an affliction that Jim and I share), my thoughts of Oz led me to Mollyanne Meyn’s recent suggestion to let rocks (in her case, some specific rocks, the rocks of her design at Hanna roundabout) inspire our imaginations. Molly said, “Rocks are so organic. I wasn’t sure what rocks I would use until the bed was made. I wanted rocks that somehow talk to each other. I’m hoping it is dramatic and uplifting.”

Molly you’ve hit the mark. You’ve made me see those rocks in a new way. In fact, all rocks in a new way. And that’s a gift greatly treasured.

Maybe those big conversing rocks at the Hanna roundabout (that I’m getting to love more and more each day) welcomed some of the pages of London’s books as Jim’s pages splat in their faces. What great stories those rocks would share then.

Thoughts of an unruly juggler

OK, dear readers I know I’m juggling time in an unruly fashion right now, but that’s part of the message of this column. That’s sort of what I do.

So, what is the truth of this column? That the everyday and extraordinary events of daily life in a small town like Glen Ellen are worth noting. Time is racing along for all of us, and I hope my column, from time to time, helps us notice the things in each of our own lives that matter. Not just raging winter storms, but the big and small events that make life good, worth living, and hence, worth noting.

Rich or poor, locally famous or infamous, we all are worthy of attention and affection. Our daily doings are what weave the fabric of our lives at this time, in this place. And it all matters.

My hope has always been that this column ties folks together with a kind of acceptance, and even love, of one another. High-and-mighty aspirations for a simple gossip column? You betcha. And I rarely succeed in making it both interesting and not sensational. However, when I do, I am pleased, as I hope you, my dear readers are.

As for truth and accuracy? The absolute gospel word account of what happened when and where and with whom and why … you’re not likely to find it here my dear readers. Or, at least, not often, and certainly not always.

But the stories that fill these columns tell us a lot about what it means to be a part of a small town, in America in the (good grief!) now 21st century. People are still having babies, doing good in their communities, making changes, growing old and dying. And, along the way, they are caring, and helping, and doing good in such small ways that it’s not going to make the front page, nor anywhere else in the A section. And, even though you may not know the friend and neighbor that I write about today, it might help you to look at the friend and neighbor you do know and see them in a kinder light.

• • •

Want to see your own name in the news? Share your stories 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 prior to your desired publication date.