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.
Solstice, the shortest day of the year heralds the coming change of light, each day slightly brighter than the one before. Edna’s poem reflects this transition, moving from dark to light, and ending with images of our village bathed in love and joy. She requests of us a boon, that we all share our bounty. Even today, nearly 100 years since she penned this poem, sharing still applies … a smile to a neighbor, a hug to a friend, a gift to a beloved, or a donation to the hungry and homeless. We hope you will make this holiday brighter for the folks around you.
Christmas in the Valley of the Moon
By Edna Poppe Cooper
Last night I had a dream: it seemed I wandered far away ~
Before were fields of trackless snow ~ above were skies of gray.
No cheery voices greeted me; no hearth-fire sent its glow,
No light gleamed o’er the pathless plain, whose wastes I did not know;
Then, in my lonely heart there stirred an old, familiar tune ~
And something said, “ ’Tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon.”
My fondest fancy painted, then, the valley that I love ~
I saw the green of stately pines, the blue of skies above;
And there, the old Sonoma Creek was calling me to go
Where brown and golden woods were decked with fern and mistletoe
And glowing Christmas berries, bright as roses are in June –
The emblems of the Yuletide in the Valley of the Moon.
In fancy, then, the night came on ~ the soft moon glimmered bright ~
I saw the open doorways in floods of golden light;
In every home a Christmas tree with candles all aglow,
And sweetest music playing songs whose words I used to know.
“How fair it is,” I murmured low, “if I might ask a boon,
I would be home ~ ‘tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon.”
Then I awoke. It was a dream; my own home sheltered me;
And Christmas time was coming on; each heart was full of glee,
A mystery was in the air, the breath of pines was sweet,
And every home was bright and fair with life and love complete.
Oh, may the angel voices hear our hearts to love attune ~
That all may know ’tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon.
For where, from Bennett’s misty peak to Wingo’s marshy land,
Is there a heart, is there a soul, that cannot understand
The message of the angels on that first glad Christmas night,
Appearing to the shepherds in a glow of heavenly light?
’Tis “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” Oh listen and commune
With thankful hearts. ‘Tis Christmas in the Valley of the Moon.
’Tis Christmas: we must cast away all prejudice and pride;
And share our bounty with the ones who wait our gates beside.
’Tis Christmas: fruitful lands are ours; our homes are warm and bright ~
Oh, Lord, forbid “the least of these” should want this day or night!
May angels light the way for us, by blessing and by boon,
To make a heartfelt Christmas in the Valley of the Moon.
• • •
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 @ 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.