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Gushing over first grandchild; touring amazing home

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Sylvia Crawford/Glen Ellen Columnist

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Believing in love

For the 26 years that I’ve been writing this column, one of my favorite small town items has been to write about new babies. It’s always happy news and it is the one bit of my column that I expect to be saved, tucked into someone’s baby book.

Even more than that, each birth feels to me renewed hope for the world. Yes, of course, hope beginning with our village, expanding out to our county, our country, the entire earth (and, if I may channel Thornton Wilder here), the solar system, the universe, the mind of God.

For what is the mind of God, but the manifestation of love? At least that’s so in my universe. And even further, what is a baby but the manifestation of love? Who would bring a child into this world unless they believed in the power of love over hate, of peace over war? Each new life is a completion of the circle that begins with the mind of God and rolls around, once more, to love, with the blessed birth of a child.

Of all the births I’ve announced in this column, one particular birth came to mind repeatedly recently. Back at least a decade ago, my friend, fellow Bouverie docent, and neighbor, Eleanor Decker, stopped me in the market and gushed, enthused and carried on with great emotion about her first grandchild. When she looked in my eyes and said, with great conviction, “You will love being a grandmother, someday,” it felt like a holy benediction. And so it was, and she was, indeed speaking the gospel truth.

Welcome baby Shiloh

Today, in this column I welcome Shiloh Robert Crawford, first grandchild of Bill and Sylvia Crawford, aka Sweetie and yours truly. This most wondrous new human was born on Jan. 31, 2014 at 11:02 a.m., in the propitious Chinese Year of the Horse. Amy Beth Crawford did the hard work, and Schuyler Ayers Crawford provided the encouragement; they are proud parents, indeed, backed up by proud grandparents, including Barbara Goldhammer of Seattle.

The little fellow arrived on planet Earth a tidy 7 pounds, 7.9 ounces, 20-1/2 inches long. As for his landing site, it was Portland, Ore., but last weekend little Shiloh came to Glen Ellen to visit his grandparents and friends.

As with every grandmother I’ve interviewed over the past quarter of a century: Yes, I claim, “My grandson is cute as can be,” with his Mama’s bright blue eyes, and his Papa’s receding hairline. We would welcome those eyes remaining that enticing color, though we do expect the hairline to improve.

As for those bright blue eyes, they also honor his late, beloved grandfather, Phillip Goldhammer. Ditto for the charming smile that’s just beginning to appear.

Immediately after Shiloh’s birth was announced and we grandparents were invited to visit, I scheduled a flight … one that just happened to coincide with a board meeting I was running. My fellow board members might well be aghast that I can barely remember what we discussed. The meeting ended barely two hours before flight time.

Then, a miracle only second to Shiloh’s birth: We made the flight on time. Landing in a blizzard of a Northwest storm, we blew into Portland for a short visit, but long enough to hold that little boy in our arms, never wanting to let go.
So, here’s a grand Glen Ellen welcome to a fine fellow … one who has allowed his grandparents a moment with the Mind of God, (as Wilder urged and Eleanor hinted).

Another labor of love

Another labor of love that is a different kind of birth is Douglas Fenn Wilson’s amazing home, which I toured recently thanks to a Vintage House fundraiser. The veiled glimpse that one sees passing by is merely a mild invitation, compared to the actual experience of being there.

Douglas’s beautiful home is clearly the hard-earned, long sought, brilliant manifestation of his artistic ideals. Doug refers to this project as “My blood-and-sweat, eight-year labor of love.” That includes furniture of his own design. His home reflects his impeccable design sense, his imagination and his whimsy. Its beauty is simply spectacular, inspiring an awesome sense of timelessness, tempered by a momentary smile at Doug’s humor.

The wry bits of whimsy include a throne separate from its seated guests, and a river under glass, raging through a canyon deep beneath the surface of the dining table, and many other small touches that implore a second glance.

While I didn’t have a chance to ask Doug, I have decided, given his singular sense of humor, that the beautiful initials MH on that giant round ball, that earth image at his front gate, stand for “My House.”

Doug could tell you what they really stand for, but “My House” suited my fancy for the evening.

Because truly, I’ve rarely encountered such a beautiful, unique house that I could easily call my own. And, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Throughout the evening, I heard guest after guest remark how comfortable they felt in Doug’s house. Though massive in scale and almost palatial in form, each of the areas felt warmly inviting, even cozy. That was just one of the intriguing aspects of the house: a giant central room so beautifully designed that each space within it attained that proverbial “just the right size.”

While so many of the design elements of Doug’s house can be seen in some of his earliest sculptural paintings from the ’70s, the house was conceived after Doug’s simple 1950s creekside home was destroyed in the 2005 New Year’s flood. Since that time, Doug has devoted his life, his heart and his time to creating this stunningly beautiful monument to his art. And a monument it is; a building that already reveals a sense of permanence. It is easy to imagine a time, centuries into the future, when beings not unlike us will marvel at the building. It is meant to last.

And as for the lasting, that is evident, too, in its whimsy. Doug has incorporated ancient-looking artifacts into the design. From Mayan columns to Roman ruins, the design elements are like mirrors reflecting the future. As we admire the beauty of cultures long past, visitors to this house in the future will admire our own culture’s beauty, long past.

Doug’s elegant and massive dining room table that I mentioned earlier made me smile. Yes, a river runs through the middle, which of course it once did, on that fateful December night, as the calendar turned to a new year.

That must have seemed a year of great disappointment for Doug. His home was destroyed; his art would have to wait. Yet, that very flood, that soul-wrenching watery disaster, became the impetus for this great creation. As Doug so eloquently said, “It’s been amazing to see my vision rise from the floodwaters.”

Years ago, when I toured Doug’s old house, he shared his art and sculptures with me. I didn’t fully understand them. Granted, I saw the beauty, I saw the skill, I admired it. But I didn’t feel the force of his message.

Now it’s clear: the past is beautiful and worthy of emulation, though our interpretations will obviously reflect us today. The future is unknown, though we know that we will not be there 100, 500, 1,000 years from now.

Yet, parts of Doug’s house will be. And whoever or whatever is here to discover it, will interpret it with their own sensibilities … but maybe understand just enough to catch a glimpse of our ghosts, to know us, through Doug’s art.

Yet, future beings, or past beings, each of us lives only in our own time. And Douglas’s house is overwhelmingly a home for his own time. A place of beauty and comfort that he has chosen to share with various nonprofit groups, to help them earn money, to continue their good works. Doug has opened his home for a number of different fundraisers and will continue to do so. I urge you to take the opportunity to participate in one of these events. As Doug said, “I hope to share with the community I love, with confidence that what I’ve built will one day be regarded as a source of pride.”

Doug, I assure you, that one day is now, and your beautiful home will long be a beacon of hope for the future.

Stuart Steelhead to flourish

I was so happy to read about the good works of another Douglas in Glen Ellen. Doug Hanford’s company will be donating a great deal of time and work making sure that steelhead will once again flourish on Stuart Creek. It’s a Sonoma Land Trust project that is being funded by a Fish and Wildlife Restoration Grant. You can read all about it in the news pages of this paper.

What makes my heart sing is knowing that Doug Hanford and his crew will be doing the work. I have long admired their extensive restoration in the town of Point Reyes Station. We discovered the easy, pleasant trails of the Giacomini Wetlands one October a couple of years ago, when our car broke down on the way to the beaches in Point Reyes National Seashore. Stuck in town for the couple of days while we awaited car repairs at the little main street garage, we toured the town looking for a nearby, reasonable hike. The Point Mesa Trail, just two blocks from the center of town, provided ample wanderings to make for a most memorable weekend.

Discovering the sign on the trail that it was created our neighbor and friend, Doug Hanford, make the sweet trail even more charming.
Years ago, when another flood roared down Sonoma Creek in the mid ’80s, Doug was the one who helped restore our property boundary along Sonoma Creek. Then as now, it is clear that Doug Hanford is a man of great character with a heart for his hometown. We welcome his work here.

The steelhead babies that Doug Hanford will encourage to return to our town are Oncorhynchus mykiss, whom I’ve featured before in this column. I look forward to introducing little Shiloh to those fellows (or their close cousins) one of these days. I’ll also let him peek down the driveway at Doug Wilson’s house and ask him to tell his great-grandchildren to visit there someday. Isn’t it possible that those might just be among the thoughts of the mind of God, also? I’d like to think His love extends from human to fish and back again.

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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.