Peace and joy to all of you my dear readers in this Holy week celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace, the God of Love. Merry Christmas!
For many years, Robert Lynch, the late editor and publisher of this paper, printed a Christmas poem by Edna Poppe Cooper as an annual gift to his readers. In time, that tradition faded.
Then, some years later, not long after I began this column in 1988, Bill Hall, a resident of San Francisco, wrote to me. Would I be willing to publish a poem written by his great-aunt? Of course. Turns out Bill’s great-aunt was the same Edna Poppe Cooper.
Remembering the Poppe family
Bill Hall has a long family heritage in our town. His great-grandfather was C.J. Poppe, the Glen Ellen pioneer who ran our first general store, on the corner of what is now London Ranch Road and Arnold Drive. Bill’s great-aunt Edna was C.J. Poppe’s daughter, born on Christmas day in 1889. The Christmas poem comes from her poetry collection, Songs From the Valley of the Moon, published in 1926 eight years after Edna’s death, with an introduction by her friend Charmian London.
Back in the day, the Poppe general store was three stories tall, and suffered through at least one fire. When Sweetie and I came to Glen Ellen, it had been reduced to the two-story building you see today, but with gas pumps out front. Don Shone ran his little grocery there, forerunner to today’s Glen Ellen Village Market. Upstairs Win Smith plied his trade as a landscape architect, and Alexa Wood designed clothing. Today, you’ll see the same stone building, sans gas pumps and certainly sans the hitching posts of C.J. Poppe’s day.
A poetic tradition renewed
As Mr. Lynch did in his time, I included Edna’s poem in this column each Christmas for many years. Somewhere along the way, the tradition ended, no doubt merely an oversight on my part.
Recently, a new request to see the poem again in print arrived from Bill Hall. This year, his 9-year-old son is assigned a report on California Missions. Of course, Bill has encouraged him to choose our Sonoma Mission so he can learn more about his family’s history in our Valley.
During those many years I published this sweet Christmas poem, I dedicated it to Bill Hall’s mother. She died in 2002. Now it is time for a new dedication, and that is to Bill Hall’s son, to young Fahad Frederick Hall.
We hope that this bit of poesy (as Edna referred to her own poetry) will inspire Fahad’s education on his family in the Valley of the Moon.
And now the poem
The poesy that Edna penned shines with a certain Valley of the Moon nostalgia that is pleasant to recall, especially now as Christmas Day approaches.
Imagine if you will, a Christmas spent far from home, in a lonely, snow-covered wasteland. That’s how Edna begins her verse. Thankfully, her initial vision is just a dream, possibly inspired by the dark of winter solstice.