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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - August 2015


Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - August 2015

We Lead Charmed Lives

It’s so beautiful, it’s hard to believe there’s a serious drought or any other kind of problem in paradise. 

Of course we know there’s a drought because the water bill went up. I hear some people are taking (long) showers at the Aquatic Club to save money on water.

We still see some green lawns. Now how can that be? Aren’t we supposed to stop watering lawns? Is anybody watching?

We’re used to golden grasses on dry hills. They look so silky, don’t they? But if you walk through them, your shoes and clothes pick up pointy little seeds that are difficult to dislodge. It’s a minor inconvenience, like the minor inconveniences of our daily lives.

Because the truth is, we are so fortunate to live here. Not only is it beautiful, it’s mostly peaceful (barring an occasional police shooting; haven’t had one of these since Andy Lopez, have we? Maybe that’s because citizens in Santa Rosa were so outraged, and held vigils every week). Some people don’t even lock their doors in Sonoma Valley.

People are nice, friendly; no Gestapo. We have tons of food. We still have, despite the Tea Party, quite a few services for “the less fortunate” among us. The healthcare system is overwhelmed, but we can still get healthcare. Think of Sudan. Iraq. Afghanistan. Not much healthcare. Not much food.

It’s not free, but we can still get an education here. 

We certainly have plenty of wine…

The other night I went up to Sugarloaf Ridge Park to admire the night sky and peer at nebulae and planets through telescopes brought out for the stargazing occasion by amateur astronomers happy to share their experience with the public. It really is neat.

I volunteer at the park so I sat at a table in the parking lot below the Robert Ferguson Observatory to collect tickets and tell visitors what they could expect to find up the hill. As darkness fell around us, excitement was in the air, generated especially by the many children, who were thrilled to be up past bedtime. But we all shared in the anticipation of nightfall, the magic of stars becoming visible in the heavens.

About 150 people turn out for these monthly events! Who knew there were so many astronomers in our valley? Who knew there were so many interested people? Only $3 per adult, on top of the camping or $8 parking fees; children free.

It was Saturday night. Other people were dining in one of our many fine restaurants, or going to the clubs to hear music, or catching a film at Sebastiani Cinema, or attending the Neil Simon play, Jake’s Women, at the Community Center. Culture, anyone?

At the end of the month, we’ll be having the big Sonoma town block party, put on by the Community Center to celebrate residents of this lovely, prosperous town. Kick your heels UP!

And I mean, just being alive is a pleasure to celebrate here. A place of bounty, affluence, and peace. And it’s easy to rest in our good fortune, to lean back and sigh in comfort and relief. The rest of the world is only as close as the television set, and even when that gets pretty graphic, it’s remote.

Trouble is, the bounty we enjoy encourages complacency. It’s just difficult to drive down one of our country roads as the setting sun casts shadows across the endless vineyards and complain about our lot, even if it isn’t perfect, even if it leaves much to be desired if you’re looking at the empty half of the proverbial glass.

The traffic, though; there’s always something to complain about with some of these irresponsible and useless drivers cutting us off or riding on our rear bumpers. Probably from out of town! Harumph. Tourists.

That thought – damn tourists – might lead to others of declining enthusiasm. Everyone wants to come here, and others just want to come in and make a quick buck. 

So here we are, sitting on the crown jewels, with real problems about how to share what we already enjoy without being exploited by people who don’t live here and don’t care what happens after they leave here.

In a recent op.ed. in the daily paper, former Supervisor Ernie Carpenter compared these people, whom he called Big Ag, to Big Oil; we have the sense that we are being exploited. How are we going to protect the water? How come groundwater is unregulated in this county? And what about the heat?

We’re challenged to keep a balanced perspective, here in Paradise.