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Garden tours, Miles Votek’s show and remembering Tim Murphy


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Backyard blooms

A reminder: If you haven’t yet purchased your ticket to tour some lovely local gardens in Blooming Backyards this weekend, you can still pick up a “day-of” tickets at Hanna Boys Center where one of the shuttle buses awaits you. Don’t miss these never-before-open-to-the-public gardens, each unique and special. Ann Peden has coordinated this event using more than 200 adept volunteers. If nothing else, stop by Hanna Center, Sunday, June 8, beginning at 9:30 a.m. just to peruse and buy at their crafts fair. Maybe I’ll see you on the shuttle or among the gardens.

Plein errata

I must correct a recent erroneous note in this column last week, when I said that the Plein Air folks had donated $7,400 to the Sonoma Schools for art education since their inception in 2002. Boy was I off – way off. The truth is the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation has contributed more the $740,000 to Sonoma Valley School for art education for our children. Yay! We so appreciate their work in helping make art an essential part of our children’s education. As it should be. Hip, hip hooray for Sonoma Plein Air Foundation. I thank Judy Young for this good information.

Painting, ceramics and film

Even before Blooming Backyards, this Friday you can be entertained at an art show by local talent Miles Votek. Miles earned his BFA at the Chicago Art Institute, after growing up in good old Glen Ellen, attending Dunbar and all the rest.

Miles returned last fall to become the “Artist in Residence” at the Sonoma Community Center, teaching ceramics and creating his own art. Miles’ residency ends soon and his final act will be an art show featuring the pieces that he completed this fall and winter at SCC. We look forward to seeing this local gentleman’s fine artwork and meeting him in person. The last time Miles and I crossed paths, he was a wee tyke. No doubt, he’ll not remember that, though I do. He still has the same sparkly eyes, a gift from his papa, I believe.

Miles, now 29, has been practicing art since he graduated from the Art Institute in 2007. Following that, he left Chicago, returning to Glen Ellen, where he worked in mold-making with a neighbor artist, renowned world-wide, Douglas Fenn Wilson. You can see Wilson’s influence in Miles work today. Of the 7 (maybe 8, he offers) sculptures that will be shown at the art show, several were used as sets in a short animation that he produced while in residence at SCC. He will also be showing that animated film at his art opening. See you at Miles’s art show, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St., just off the Plaza this Friday, June 6.

Remembering Tim Murphy

This Memorial Day brought news of Glen Ellen friends and neighbors. First was an email from Dennis Garrett. Neither Sweetie nor I had seen or heard of Dennis in years.

Decades, it seemed, though that wasn’t the case. His sad news: Timo had died. Yes, Timothy Norwood Murphy died on May 10, 2014, in Panama. A true Irish wake was held to honor Tim, the theme for that: Tim is dead; let’s drink his beer. That’s something that Tim would truly have appreciated. As Tim’s many Panamanian friends (both native and USA ex-pats) gathered on the sunny Isle of Isla Colon, Bocas Del Toro, they sang and danced to Tim’s theme song, “So Fine.” Through tears of sadness, they shared stories and jokes well into the night and beyond.

Not a Riddle Road ramble

For so many years, Tim Murphy was one of our good neighbors in Glen Ellen. We saw Tim frequently because he had a unique way of getting downtown from his home on Riddle Road. He left through the back yard with his trusty dog, Amber, a glorious golden retriever.

Together they descended from the yard to Calabasas Creek, slip-sliding 20 feet down a steep dirt bank, all this without spilling a drop of his trusty Dos Equis, Amber, a glorious golden brew. They crossed the creek (in all weather, ankle or hip deep), climbed the opposite bank to Henno Road, and then strolled down Henno to its end at O’Donnell Lane. Then they turned left, and passed by our house just before the little brick bridge and the post office beyond.

Generally Tim and Amber sat a spell on the bridge, Tim tossing melon-sized stones into the creek while he nursed his brew. Amber, for his part, far less sedentary than Tim, leapt after each stone in turn, swam up and down stream until he found it, and then dove like an otter to the bottom where it rested and hauled it out by teeth and paws. This game could continue for minutes, or even for hours.

They never seemed in a hurry and Tim always welcomed the opportunity to share stories, give advice and enjoy the day.

Tim’s face was wizened into lovely permanent laugh lines, with wrinkles upon wrinkles, upon wrinkles, as his tender Irish complexion fought off the years of sunshine that Tim adored. Tim was always outside. He worked as a part-time teacher at the Sonoma Developmental Center, having a high regard for his clients. He loved them, and they in turn loved him back, and Amber, too.

Love of water, love of life

Besides his job, Tim loved the water – any body of water, from local creeks, to the grand Pacific, to the crystal blue waters of Panama and his beloved Isla Colon.

Tim’s friend, Dennis Garrett, who arranged the Irish wake for Tim, wrote to me about their travels. Dennis is still in Panama (a country both he and Tim loved). Tim and Dennis drove down there together after meeting in Belize about three years ago. Dennis tells me that Tim’s 73 years was more like anyone else’s 100. “Yes, he still smoked, drank his daily six pack and believed bacon to be a major food group.” Tim was an intense reader, voraciously devouring books.

Eventually, he gave up the hard and even the soft-bound versions, which never quite survived his wild travels and gave himself over to a Kindle. That machine joined him with morning coffee, afternoon cigarettes, and evening’s green-bottled Panama beers. Tim lived with an ocean view and a love of all nature and mankind within it. Tim could regale a crowd with crazy stories or sit idly alone, happy with his book and his brew.

Dennis predicts that Tim is not yet finished with this world … “He may even take up surfing again if the tides and rains prevail before his resting place is sufficiently anchored.”

Tim loved the Fiesta’s hit of 1959, “So Fine,” so it was “loudly mistreated over his grave and will hopefully be done again in Glen Ellen by his favorite local band, Tudo Bem,” Dennis shares.

Dennis ends with “Thanks to all who put up with him in the day,” but truly it was never “putting up with Tim.” He wasn’t merely tolerated, he was liked, even loved by many. His stories were ever entertaining and his manner was always open and friendly. Fare thee well, my friend Tim; we’ll see you in the by and bye. Hasta la vista, Amigo.

Butt darts on the Winnebago

Quick on the heels of the sad news about Tim, I found myself reading a hilarious story about our long gone neighbor, Norton Buffalo. Perusing the net one night (it’s a distraction from insomnia), I came across a strange and funny story about Norton.

Written by Sonoma author, David Gray, who bills himself as a minister, father, writer and resident of Sonoma, the story relates one evening in Norton’s life when it all might have ended. But it didn’t, and therein lies a tale worthy of the telling. I thank Mr. Gray that he told it.

The story is titled “Butt Darts” and for those of you who know what that means, no explanation is necessary. If you don’t, never mind. Or you can research David Gray’s short story in the “Syndic Journal,” found online. This particular tale is in volume No. 11.

The story relates a crazy bus ride to the desert with Norton’s men’s group. Enroute, Norton abandoned the steering wheel to teach his fellow friends how to play butt darts. Meanwhile, Norton’s beloved 1975 Winnebago motor home continued to race along, unmanned, up a two-way straight stretch of Highway 50.

Norton, known for his long and rambling stories, didn’t set the butt darts’ rules out simply and straight. He shared tales of former games, demonstrated his prowess with aplomb, while entirely ignoring the need to navigate the bus.

As Gray relates, “That old ugly motor home never once drifted off course or out of its lane.” When Norton demonstrated the game, cheers erupted instantly, everyone vying for who would try next.” As the ramble continued, each player would “retell their own version of how it all had happened, as though none of us had already been there to see it.”

That little game went on for miles and was reprised many times, over the course of the trip.”

Gray’s apocryphal story brought Norton back to life, as clear and dear as could be, a miracle itself. Later, finally tired, I wandered back to bed, drifting off to sleep with the strains of “Watching My Children Grow” running through my head, as I’d listened to it repeatedly while reading Gray’s tale. It was as if Norton serenaded me to sleep. Thanks, dear fellow, Norton. Your musical genius still informs our good world today. Thanks, too, David Gray, for resurrecting Norton, just as Dennis’ email did Tim.

Flowers on the graves

Not too many years ago (I think it was some time after my dear friend Evie Berger died), I made a commitment to always think pleasant thoughts when memories of these dear departed friends arose.

I didn’t want those reflections to bring on tears of loss. How much better to wallow in smiles of joy. Yes, dear Lord, these were my friends and I am blessed. Such is the same I wish for you dear reader, as you think of those who have died. Laugh along with them; the smile lines will serve you well.

• • • 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 before your desired publication date.