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Stamps, letters and memories from Glen Ellen

Sylvia Crawford/Glen Ellen Columnist

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Seed packet stamps

Good news from our friendly folks at the Glen Ellen Post Office. Erika Mysliwczyk (pay no attention to the complex spelling and just say “Mislifchek”) recently shared that those lovely seed packet stamps, which we’ve admired and used for some months now, are the design of Harvey and Georgia Cohen, our Glen Ellen neighbors.

Do any of you still own one of those beautiful seed packet bags they manufactured back in the ’80s? I have one. Make of nice, thick canvas, that bag has schlepped acres of produce, cartons of milk and maybe even a few six packs of brew from the market to home. I love that bag, a relic of an earlier time. A few years ago, I took mine and stashed it away to save it before it turned to shreds.

So many of the grocery bags that we buy these days are trash. Made of some kind of cheap, flimsy material, with poorly sewed seams, they fall apart easily. Not so, for the bags that the Cohens manufactured back in the day.

Harvey suggested the designs on his bags, historic seed packets, for use as postage stamps to the folks in Washington. They jumped. It’s been a big seller since. Ditto for the Jack London stamp, which we still admire but have long ceased using (it’s probably a 39 cent one, or something antiquated like that).

Meanwhile, another of our favorite postal folks, Sandy Volker, who hails from Okinawa though is an American citizen by birth, is on temporary disability leave, owing to a shoulder injury. We’ll miss her while she’s gone, and as Erika does, too, we look forward to her return.

Gift of a letter

One of my favorite activities post holidays is answering all of the sweet cards, notes, and letters that we received during December. I am definitely among those folks who love even those Christmas form letters, which used to be ubiquitous. No longer. But those few I get, I truly appreciate. What’s more, I actually have friends, and plenty of them, who manage to send holiday cards in a timely fashion. Not I, however.

I gave up being on time in the last millennium. January, and even February works fine for us come-lately Crawfords. Red envelopes celebrate not just Christmas and Chanukah, but are also appropriate for Valentine’s Day. If that doesn’t suit, we find that green is the appropriate color for March, as well as December.

Back in the day, when our two boys were still cute tykes, we took a family holiday photo each year. Always in a place beloved by Mama (that’s me) if not by the rest of the family. Generally, the photo shoot included hikes. Strenuous hikes, over hill and dale, through poison oak and struggling sand. I love our collection of Christmas photos, often with all of us dressed in red (which still works if the photo cards arrive by Valentine’s Day) or green (which is even better when I wait until St. Patrick’s Day).

Besides the cute notes and cards, we also entertain plenty of neighborhood visitors, and make plenty of phone calls, too. It’s good to catch up with nearby and far-flung friends. And if that crawls into February, and even into March, that’s okay, too.

My thoughts of dear friends soothes me through the windy winter months when roaming the nearby hills isn’t always pleasant. I hate being cold; even worse, is being cold and wet. Nonetheless, thunderous booms and drenching downpours have shortened some of my favorite hikes. Not so, this dry, dry winter. It’s strange.

Since I was able to visit with plenty of current and former Glen Ellen folks, I thought I’d share some of their news with you. Let’s begin with my friend who lives up the hill.

News from Belize

A happy email arrived mid January from our friends B.J. and Malcolm Blanchard. Actually, if truth be told, B.J. was the author, Malcolm merely the subject, along with their daughter, the charming and beautiful Sydney.

The peripatetic Blanchard Family were off to sunnier climes. They all ventured to the Caribbean to bask in the radiant heat of a sun that continues to shine, even through the rain. B.J.’s first note simply stated, “We are having a wonderful winter adventure in Belize.

Enjoying beach cabanas, Caribbean storms, drinking in breezy beach bars with interesting strangers, and now at a high-end resort where you stay in a tree house and they leave a hibiscus flowers on your pillow at night. I’m a lucky girl.” Indeed you are, B.J.

In second email, B.J. continues, “Belize, if you didn’t know, used to be called British Honduras, but few remnants of the Brits remain. It is on the eastern flank of the Yucatan Peninsula, surrounded by Mexico to the north, Guatemala west and south, and a long exposure to the Caribbean Sea to the east. The people who live there are Spanish-speakers, Mayans, ‘Kreols’ (descendants of the ordinal Caribs?) and an intact population of Garifuna (descendants of Carib, Arawak and West Africans by way of St. Vincent). Every individual we met was kind, proud and patient, with not a hint of shyness or animosity to outsiders. They have decided that tourism can help their standard of living — a complicated proposal.

If there were a word stronger than ‘phenomenal’ to describe our get-away, I would use it here. We had a blast. Decompressed in a lazy retreat north of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Cay, in a breeze-cooled cabana, steps from the sleepy surf. Outdoor shower with watchful iguana, good food at outdoor beach bar. What is it about a good beach bar that invites the most interesting people to sit around and talk for hours? Oh right, could be the Belizean rum.

Then by water taxi during a shivering storm, 10-seater prop puddle-jumper, and long drive to the lovely Hamanasi Resort south of Dangriga, by Hopkins Village. This is the kind of place where they warm the milk for your coffee, pull down your bed at night and leave a hibiscus blossom on the pillow. Slept in an elegant tree house high in trees with the birds.

Hamanasi had a bit of a British Colonial feel, wide verandas, ceiling fans, drinks called Tropical Depression and Belizian Sunset. The 50 or so guests showered after strenuous kayaking, caving, zip lining, diving, tubing, hiking, biking, trips to Mayan ruins, etc., to gather in the bar at five, and suddenly everyone is old friends. Lots of drinking, I must say, but laughter, arms around a new friend, coaxing the waitresses to dance, all fun. Sydney, who was enjoying the legal drinking age, asked a gal from Quinipiac College to dance to the Garifuna drummers and suddenly the whole place erupted into dancing and whooping and applause. She and Emily clicked into instant friendship, spoke the same 19 year-old language, and spent the remaining five days together and with yet another college sophomore on winter break with parents, Alex from New Hampshire. At night, they went into Hopkins, drummed at the drumming center, danced at the Driftwood Bar, came back and swam in the Caribbean under a full moon at midnight. What more could you ask for?

But how do I explain to Sydney about the disparity between what she saw in the resort and what she saw in the village? The poverty in the village was not teeth-rotting, flies-in-the-eyes, hungry poverty, but was simple-life poverty: food and health seem good, but not much else except serving the tourist industry. People cannot accumulate any wealth on wages earned at the resort or wherever, so how to ever own a car or own business? These are hard questions.

Suffice it to say: we are happy campers and recommend Belize. And, I, as always, am a very lucky girl. I only wish you could have been there with us.” Thanks B.J. for a glowing description of a faraway paradise. I guess we have no monopoly on that concept.

Celebrating 1914

Later that week, several friends and I celebrated the birthday of Scott Sherman, well known in Sonoma for his painting and framing. Scott owns The Framery on Broadway, but he’s no stranger to Glen Ellen. This particular birthday (of a number I won’t repeat, since I share it) carried the theme of 1914, the year of his father’s birth. I shared a Rupert Brooke poem, WWC read from important events of that year, and we all marveled at the frightful descriptions of WWI, with their admonition that it was “the war to end all wars.” That didn’t work, did it? Rather, we’re still working to achieve that goal. Happy Birthday dear Scott, with our wishes to you for many more decades of health and happiness.

Remembering Pete Seeger

We thoroughly enjoyed the impromptu gathering of Vox Populi singers and other folks, including Glen Ellen’s Chris Benziger in a spontaneous celebration of Pete Seeger on the evening of his death. The group gathered in the Plaza amphitheater and sang many of Seeger’s most beloved songs. Mary Sue Ulven led the singing while Vox Pop Maestro Mark Dennis accompanied us on guitar. We are thankful for this expression of love and appreciation to a great American hero. Many of us had sweet memories of Seeger concerts. Sweetie and I recall boarding the Clearwater for a concert. Another concert we attended was three days after baby Schuyler’s birth in 1978. I remember asking Leigh Hall, our doc, if it would be okay to take little Sky to a concert. When Leigh heard it was Pete Seeger, he readily OK’d the wish. We went.
Then, on Sunday evening Fran Dayan and her sweetie, Dick Ridenour, provided a community showing of the film “The Power of Song” by Jim Brown featuring Pete Seeger. The gathered folks, from Glen Ellen to London, were a very small crowd, but the film was awesome and was much appreciated. We thank these local folks, from Glen Ellen and beyond, who acknowledge the beauty that is evident in the world because of great citizens like Pete Seeger.

Remembering MLK

The previous week, Eleanor Nichols held a special showing of the 1970 film “King: a Filmed Record, From Montgomery to Memphis. A powerful 3-plus-hours compilation of archival footage chronicling the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, was historic. Originally shown for only one night in 1970, the little-viewed film combines dramatic readings with the historic footage to create homage to the legacy to the great philosopher, pacifist and activist, MLK.

Want to see your own name in the news? Share your stories with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 707 996-5995 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.