Saturday, April 22, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life

We’ve all realized that one of the amazing things about the blogosphere is how you can connect with complete strangers, and through reading their blogs begin to feel such a sense of familiarity and friendship.

I recently discovered a blog called PomegranatesandPaper, and I was enjoying reading it, thinking that certain things sounded vaguely familiar. The more I read, the more that sense enveloped me. And after poking around the links on the margins there, I realized that the blog is by Loretta Marvel, an artist and writer and lawyer who I’d known from my book-making and mail art exchange days. You might know her from her regular column in Cloth, Paper, Scissors, too. Turns out that Blogland isn’t that big a place, I guess. It’s been very nice to reconnect with her.

I love Loretta’s List Friday themes. So, in response to her challenge to list the reasons why I love where I live:

1. After living outside of California for almost 15 years and outside of the SF bay area for probably 20 years, I love being back and the sense of familiarity here. I encounter places I went as a child. I know the trees and plants and weeds here. The landscape is comforting, and the air smells like home. That smell of the eucalyptus trees when you through the Presidio coming off of the Golden Gate Bridge? Heaven.

2. It’s small town life, California wine country style. Healdsburg has great small town stuff – the Future Farmers Parade is one of the goofiest, rambliest parades you’ve ever seen, but it’s not to be missed. Everyone in town is either in the parade or on the sidewalk watching it. I love going into shops in town and knowing the shopkeepers and their greeting me by name. It’s a tight-knit community, even though weekends bring the straw-hat ladies (as a realtor one said) and their golf-shirted men for wine tasting and boutique hopping.

3. The rolling hills of vineyards are stunningly beautiful every single day. I love watching how they change, and seeing the seasonal flurries of activity as the vines are pruned and the grapes are harvested. Some of them are "sparkly gardens," which is how my 10-year old friend Selena describes the vineyards where silver mylar ribbons are tied to the vines to blow in the breezes and startle birds away. And this valuable vineyard business means that all these gorgeous hills won’t be turned into housing developments ... the land is profitable on its own for agriculture. So these green rolling hills will stay green...and sparkly.

4. Seeing family doesn’t mean a cross-country flight twice a year anymore. Mom and Dad are a two hour drive away, which seems like a piece of it means the gorgeous drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the city (see #1). My brother lives just an hour away, and my dear sister Laura lives right here in my very own town – this is the first time we’ve been able to share our daily lives since we were high school kids living at home.

5. We live in a 5 year old development, new enough that most of us here moved in to spanking clean, new houses, but now the yards are filling out with teenaged plants and the trees are looking tall and established. The road into the development crests a small hill and then dips down into a gentle valley, and at that hill crest there’s a wonderful view of houses nestled together surrounded by oak-covered hills, with Geyser Peak mountain in the distance. I love having families and kids all around us, people walking their dogs in the evenings, kids bicycling to the park a few blocks away. There’s a quiet sense of neighborhoodness here.

6. Living in wine country means that there is great food and wine all around us. We’ve become dreadfully spoiled and, despite the fact that we don’t generally buy wine over $15 a bottle, our taste for wine has changed pretty drastically. None of that "2 buck Chuck’s" for us... Yuck. Our local grocery store has great local offerings...local seafood, gorgeous local produce, interesting locally-made cheeses, farm-raised meat and poultry. The twice-weekly farmer’s market has wonderful stuff too... home-made duck tamales! Fresh caught crab!

7. Sourdough bread. This deserves an entry all its own, as it’s a basic necessity of life. Living away from the bay area for so long, and buying what was claimed to be sourdough in other places, makes me grateful that I can get the real, tangy thing all the time here. Good sourdough bread (crunchy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside), with a bit of butter...and a good glass of local Zin...What could be better?

8. I love the people in this community. I have friends who are natives, and I love hearing how Healdsburg was when they went to elementary school here – back when Healdsburg was known as the "buckle of the prune belt" (how’s that for a catchy town slogan?!) and the local industry was growing plums for prunes. Most of the folks I know have come here from somewhere else...many from the SF bay area, escaping Silicon Valley and the outrageous cost of living there, quite a few for the wine industry and for the ability to grow grapes and make wine. I love hearing people’s stories of why they’re here, and knowing that we’re all united in being here because we love it.

9. There’s a great public library system here. Growing up in California, I didn’t know that all library systems weren’t like this. I live and breathe reading, and the library is an important weekly destination for me. It was a shock to move to New Hampshire and find that the libraries were tiny, not especially well-supported, not linked together across communities or counties, AND that you had to pay a fee if you wanted to use any library beyond the one in your town. (I lived in a teeny town outside of Concord, where the library was open for 3 hours on Saturday morning and 2 hours one weekday afternoon...the "new book" shelf consisted of about 20 books. As a result, I paid an annual fee to use the big library in the Concord, where I was still dismayed to find that much of their fiction was stored in the basement where people were not allowed to had to "call" books up by name.) Back in California, I love that I can walk into any library in my county and check out books. The county’s entire catalog is online, so I can browse online, reserve books from home, and have everything delivered to my local library...for free.

10. I live in a town with a great fabric store, Fabrications. I can stop by to peruse the new stuff on my way to pick Caroline up from school. I can dash in on Sunday afternoon to pick up thread when I’ve run out while in the middle of quilting. There are terrific stores within an easy hour’s drive, but there’s nothing like the convenience of having a great place just 5 minutes away.

So, what do you love about where YOU live?


  1. My husband and I met in your area, and regrettably have not lived there since! Oh how I miss it, and how wonderful it was to read your words! Your local Chamber of Commerce would love to have a copy of your posting, I am sure!!!

  2. Anonymous11:38 PM

    When I read the bit about the smell of the Presidio I immediately thought, "Mmmmm, yes, I love/know that smell!" and was immediately transported to that side of the Bridge. I grew up in SoCal, but my hubby is from the SF area so I have many memories from there as well. Here, the German bread is delicious, but I really do miss sourdough!

  3. What a beautiful description of a place I would most love to live. Please find someone to will me their house and property...soon.

    I promise never to drink 2 buck Chuck again, if you do.

  4. Anonymous6:38 AM

    You know you live in a small town when there are more people in the Memorial Day Parade than on the sidewalk watching......

    teri in Hickory Corners (and yes, it's as small as it sounds....)

  5. Anonymous4:02 AM

    I am ready to pack my bags and move after reading your beautiful post. We lived in Fresno for about two years and our favorite destination for trips was up your way. It's a magical place. thanks for playing!

  6. Your #1 & #4 don't apply to me, but all the rest do! And based on #5, you must live within just a few blocks of me. Take PFR over the crest, take the 2nd left, and we're the last house on the left side.

    Here's the view from my husband's office window.