Years ago (I’m not telling exactly how many, but think pre-Beatles) I spent a few weeks in Sonoma on Fowler Creek Road. Just me, and the little lizards doing their morning push-ups on the warm stone walls, and the French exchange student who was staying with my Aunt and Uncle… sigh. He was completely oblivious to me and the lizards, but we were very aware of his sweater thrown over his shoulders a la Europe, his dark tan… yeah. Anyway, sometimes it takes a trip back to realize why you have always been so willing to welcome people from other worlds, so willing to travel.
Back then, Sonoma had one winery I believe, Buena Vista. Without even being allowed to taste the wine, I fell in love with the wondrous musty caverns, the oak barrels, the smell, the light. Now, Sonoma has a winery at least every two miles, and thank Goodness – because without the wineries and the vineyards, it would be L.A. The road where my aunt lives used to be a country dirt access route, bordered by dairy cows and gnarly oaks, golden meadows and soft brown hills. Now it’s a bumpy asphalt route, bordered by vineyards, old dairy buildings, the same gnarly oaks, and soft brown hills. Judging by the cackling as I sketched where the road takes a 90 degree turn, I’m guessing someone has a bunch of chickens now, but I didn’t see any cows. The light is still unique, so very Not Willamette Valley Oregon. The wineries are filled with the Nectar of the Gods, the barrels, those dark smells, fascinating people, and best of all, now I get to taste it all!
Being an artist, I know that when you sketch something, it belongs to you. You belong to it. Being a writer, I know that to name something, is to own it, and it owns you. Along those lines, here is an interesting discussion about what Sonoma means http://www.articles3k.com/article/513/241394/Etymology_And_Demography_of_Sonoma_County_California/.
My Aunt Hazel said she thought her husband Uncle Tom, who died very recently, would have liked this sketch. I think Uncle Gene, her first husband who died long ago, would have liked it also. They’re gone now, but I know they will be delighted that the essence of Sonoma remains, and I hope it persists. And the whole “famn damily” persists, with all their quirks and traditions and complexities and revelries. And reveries. And rivalries. Allelujah. Rest in Peace.