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Fundraisers at Quarryhill, Bouverie; the quiet of the Ashram


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Wild collections

I can’t imagine anywhere better to spend this weekend than enjoying the two beautiful preserves here in Glen Ellen. May 17 and 18 feature two of the most exciting fundraisers our town ever sees.

Both the lovely gardens of Quarryhill Botanical Preserve and the wilderness of the Bouverie Audubon Preserve hold fund-raisers to benefit their education programs for school children. Both preserves offer free hikes to schoolchildren throughout the Bay Area where the kiddos are immersed in nature and educated about our natural world.

But this weekend, the two events are just for adults, with libations and celebration.

Quarryhill’s event is called “Wild Collections, Expeditions for Education” and takes place in the evening of Saturday, May 17, beginning at 5 p.m. Guests will stroll the lovely flower-festooned paths of Quarryhill, stopping along the way for snacks and entertainment. We wonder if the giant flower fairies will return. Last year’s photograph with one of these lovely ladies is my prize pix of the year (sorry Robbi Pengelly, but it’s true). The evening ends with an inspiring speech given by Sir Peter Crane, dean of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. He will speak about the importance of environmental education for children.

Art of eating

Almost directly next door, at the Bouverie Preserve of Audubon Canyon Ranch, is its fundraiser, called the “Art of Eating” in honor of M.F.K. Fisher’s famous tome of the joy of eating, the next day, Sunday.

For the final decade of her life, M.F.K. lived in Last House at David Bouverie’s ranch. She and David were dear friends and they made an arrangement that worked well for both of them.

The Bouverie event takes place on Sunday afternoon, May 18. Julie Atwood is planning a festive, gala picnic with famous fried chicken and potato salad from chef Tanya Holland and an auction to raise funds for the Bouverie’s education program. If anyone in this Valley knows how to throw an elegant and fun picnic, that would be Julie.

My suggestion: invite your out-of-town friends to experience the delights of Glen Ellen at its most sophisticated. Buy your tickets early and don’t miss these two special back-to-back parties. Check out the websites, quarryhill.org and egret.org for the Bouverie. See you there, all gussied up in your finery including hats and hiking boots … keeps the yellow jackets and rattlesnakes at bay (at least, that’s what we hope).

Frogs among the lotus

Last week, on one of those nearly perfect spring days, I went to my regular meditation hour at the Sonoma Ashram on Craig Avenue. I meet with a group of women, mostly Catholics, one even an ex-nun, to meditate in the peace and quiet of the Ashram. Following meditation that day, my friends and I sat in the warm sun, sharing the ups and downs of our lives.

After that, I took a stroll through the lush Ashram gardens, ending up at the maze. After several rounds of silently walking its concentric paths, humming my mantra, I retired to the nearby pond and watched the frogs leaping and playing in the shallow waters, amid the blooming lotus flowers. It was a pleasant respite from the rest of the day, full of letters, bills, and other worldly concerns.

Trickster tykes

Just before departing the Ashram, I walked back by the main meditation room and saw my friend Natalie O’Neill. Long ago, she was the babysitter for our two wild boys, who always played tricks on her. They loved her visits, yet also chose them as occasions to try things they knew we didn’t allow.

Sky, “Yes Natalie, Mom and Dad always let us climb this tree to the roof.” Gabriel, “Sure Natalie, Mom and Dad love it when we blow lighter fluid out our puffy cheeks and light it on fire.” Slightly exaggerated in my memory perhaps, but their antics were indeed a challenge for Natalie and for us.

She was a much beloved babysitter and is now a mom herself. She, and her husband Keith, have a daughter, 6-year-old Olivia, a kindergartener at the Sonoma Charter School, who also enjoys a meditation class for children.

Youthful yogis

I stopped in and watched the class for a while. Rochelle Hanlon is the yoga instructor and she has a heart and mind for working with children of all ages. Her gentle manner and deft instruction help the kids to understand and comply. I loved watching her in action. She is simply an adult who loves yoga and has simplified her practice to relate to children.

The class includes instruction both by Rochelle and by the children. They are encouraged to use their imagination to make up poses, name them, and teach them to their fellow students. The eight boys and girls there that day were quick learners, already more flexible and attentive than I could ever be.

I was happy to have had that serendipitous experience. It brightened my afternoon, as I returned to more drudgery, with a newly happy heart, provided by Rochelle and her little charges.

Old school yogis

Speaking of yoga, the display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is fantastic, well worth the trip to the city. One particular painting, from the 14th century, of Indian yogis in their separate ashrams in a large painting on a wing wall is memorable. The fantastical landscape, replete with all variety of animals, fish, birds, flowers and trees is inspirational. I am headed back, if only to see that one painting. As ever, Asian influences in California abound and enrich our lives.

Academic honors

Cool kids in the news this week include Siena Guerrazzi who is the valedictorian of Justin-Siena High School Class of 2014. In the fall, Siena heads off to UC Berkeley, her mama’s alma mater. Her entire family is so very proud of her. Siena also recently received another award of merit from the Sonoma Cultural and Fine Arts Commission. Siena lives in Glen Ellen with her sister Gemma, and their parents, Mary and Greg.

Prestigious prizes

Other youngsters in the Glen Ellen news include a Sonoma gal who is making her name in the Big Apple. Emma Cline was recently awarded the prestigious Plimpton Prize for fiction given by the Paris Review magazine. Emma made the front page of this very paper. I well remember Emma, at just that age she portrays in “Marion,” the short story that has garnered her all the praise and accolades.

Seven ages

When Emma was a sixth-grade student in my language arts class it was already apparent that she had a gift for writing … and illustrating too. I often think of a drawing she did at the end of one of dear Kate Kennedy’s Shakespeare units. The students had been studying Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man,” a melancholy monologue by Jaques from “As You Like It,” Act II, Scene VII. With Kate’s assistance the students memorized the lines, and even more, they understood them, entirely.

Toward the end of the unit, as a surprise gift for Kate, I had the students illustrate the ages. They were able to choose which lines they wanted to portray. The assignment included a colored hand-drawn picture of the age. Emma’s contribution was so memorable I have never forgotten it.

Though I do not have a copy of it, I well recall her “old age” portrayal with an aged, bent grandmamma hobbling her way across the large empty space of a nursing home guiding her walker along the way (as I recall, it was one of those four-footed canes, which is harder to draw than to walk with). It is a powerful and descriptive illustration and certainly a prize-winner.

Congratulations to Emma who continues to make waves in the larger world out of Sonoma Valley. We wish her well and share in the pride that Fred and Nancy Cline have for Emma’s achievement.

Slapstick antics, twisting plot lines

Speaking of the lovely and talented Kate Kennedy, she’s been wrangling 55 fifth-grade students all spring. The Dunbar students appear in the 22nd annual melodrama on Memorial Day weekend on the gorgeous outdoor Haver Stage (named in honor of former Dunbar principal, Rosemary Haver) under the oaks in Cunninghame Field (named in honor of Max Cunninghame, another former Dunbar principal).

This year the play is “The Deadwood Desperado, or, A Mother’s Grief” – a hilarious family-friendly melodrama complete with sound effects, costumes, slapstick antics, a twisting plot line, a saloon matron with a secret past, a crooning, blind, femme fatale, a bumbling band of cowboys and two-bit crooks, and lots of audience participation.

Professional director Kate Kennedy brings out the best in these kids; it’s a tradition not to be missed. Tickets available at the door: $10 adult, $5 child, or $25 family package. Concessions and staking claims for picnic spots begin at 5 p.m., shows start at 6 p.m., and the dates are Friday May 23, Saturday May 24, and Sunday May 25.

If you have questions, would like to make a donation to the program, or are interested in purchasing ad space in the playbill (deadline is May 13), please contact outreach volunteer Shannon Lee at shannonlee@me.com or 996-3352, or send directly to Dunbar School fifth grade play, 11700 Dunbar Road, Glen Ellen CA 95442.

Who writes this wacky stuff?

A simple fact that few folks know is that Squire Fridell who, along with his sweetie Suzy, was the first director of the Dunbar melodrama is also the playwright of the four plays that the Dunbar players cycle through from one year to the next. Each year, Squire has to re-write the appointed script, making sure that each child who wants a part gets one. He’s become a sort of genius at finding the right part for each kid, playing off their innate personality and abilities. We thank Squire for making sure this tradition continues and we praise Kate for her fortitude and talent in turning an unruly bunch of 55 kids into credible actors. Huzzah! as the Bard would say.

Brace yourself

More good news from the Fridell family. Squire and Suzy’s beloved daughter, New York actor Lexy Fridell, will be home this summer appearing with the Transcendence Theatre folks up the hill at Jack London State Park.

Lexy will appear in the first show of the Transcendence season, June 27 through July 5, “One Singular Sensation.” Lexy is also scheduled to perform her own one-woman show at Chateau St. Jean Winery, July 12 and 13. She calls it, “Brace Yourself: Tales of Broadway, braces, dating and drool.” No doubt it will be full of whimsy, highlighting Lexy’s talent. We’re thrilled to have her back in her happy hometown of Glen Ellen. Tickets will go on sale next week, so watch for them.

Moonglow music

Ed Davis, manager for the Glen Ellen music group “The Cartunes,” sends good news. Cynthia Carr and her fellow singers will be first on the list for the Sundown Music series at Jack London State Historic Park, arranged by Jeff Falconer. The Cartune’s concert, setting off the season, will be this week, May 15. This promises to be a wonderful evening in a truly special setting: the moon is nearly full that night and the Valley of the Moon will be glowing under its light.

The music starts at 6 p.m., with outdoor-festival style seating, so bring lawn chairs or blankets. Barbecue will be available from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., or bring a picnic dinner. The event is absolutely free, though there is a $5 parking fee per car. Plenty of room for kids, and it is an early night (the music ends at 8 p.m.). Ed suggests you bring the whole family. See you there.

• • •

Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net.