Many residents of Sonoma Valley who left town due to evacuations or for health reasons, have started to come home, as we did Tuesday.
Coming home from our daughter’s in the East Bay, I stopped at Starbucks in American Canyon where two firefighters were taping a map of red zones and closed roads to Starbucks window as if it were a bulletin board. When I asked if the flashing signs saying Highways 12 and 121 were closed were true, they showed me a list of actual road closures and said I could go ahead. Inside were a firefighting couple from the San Francisco Fire Department, so of course I offered to pay for their coffee. They wouldn’t allow that and paid for mine on their phone app instead. Then I asked the two guys who had come in from posting the map if I could buy their coffee and one said no, he had lost a bet and had to pay for his buddy. I responded: Well I won a bet – you kept our house from burning down. I left a little frustrated without getting to do something nice for them, but oh wow. They never stop giving.
Incidentally, all the firefighters I have encountered have marveled at how well they have eaten here while saving what they could. Thanks to our many chefs who have given of themselves, their skills and their treasure. Lots of food needed to be cooked before it spoiled, and did they ever turn to.
As I drove toward Sonoma Plaza the 16 handmade signs in front of City Hall thanking first responders made me weep. Many of us have had that moment in the last couple of weeks that helped us release the tears.
On my way to El Dorado Kitchen on its first day re-opened Tuesday, I saw Hank Marioni, who lost his own home, carefully watering the plants in front of the Swiss Hotel before he re-opened it that night for business.
Most Plaza businesses have reopened, but many restaurants, shops, wineries, and other businesses’ employees or owners lost their homes as well, as we all try to help in our way. Do shop locally to help owners, managers and staff.
At Sonoma Market Joyce Parsons ran around her samples (and love) table to hug customers she hadn’t seen since the fires started, asking each person “are you OK?” This has been the big open-ended question? And it can mean: is your house still standing, how are you feeling, can you breathe, do you have a place to stay, where are you eating meals, or how can I help?
People who hardly knew each other were asking each other the same questions, or telling their personal stories of various survival levels. And this is happening everywhere in Sonoma Valley. We all suffer when our neighbors suffer.
Wednesday I stopped at the Rotary-La Luz Food Pantry in the shopping center behind Palms Grill and there was organizer and Rotary member Rich Lee overseeing the pantry that offers everything from packaged foods, bottles of water, diapers, fruit, vegetables, tortillas, toothpaste and much more to anyone who needs it. Open 9 a.m. to noon and 4 to 7 p.m.
They could use more volunteers, beans (pinto - canned or dry), rice, onions, avocados, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, Russet potatoes, lettuce, fruit, tortillas, rice (1-pound bags), soups, cereals, granola bars, peanut butter, bread, oatmeal, baby food, kids’ drinks, juice boxes and detergent. They are not sure if they will continue this service next week. Vineyard Shopping Center at Highway 12 and Verano Avenue.