I was asked yesterday how I had settled on the idea of living in Sonoma County, and likewise I was recently pushed by a longtime friend to explain why we are moving “that far north.” After all, Randy was born and grew up in the East Bay and I, on the Peninsula — why would Bay Area natives ever want to leave that seemingly idyllic spot?!? The answer is partially rooted in the economics of retirement, but the biggest part of the reason struck me one day as I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge on one of my property-hunting expeditions last summer: Sonoma County feels like ‘home,’ simple as that.
My parents grew up in and around Mill Valley in Marin County, and when I was young all of my grandparents continued to reside in Marin County. We visited often, sometimes for extended periods of time. Gradually, there was a northward migration of this generation into Sonoma County — first Petaluma, then Sebastopol — and again, we visited often, almost always staying a night or two, sometimes longer. There is a sense of both anticipation and homecoming for me now as I motor my way across that iconic span, leaving the South Bay and all its busyness behind. There is a nostalgia on the one hand, yes, but also a sense of relief that I feel which is very much a product of the here and now: Sonoma County is as laid-back and pastoral as Santa Clara County was when I was growing up there, and that suits me just fine.
Yes, Sonoma County is less worldly for the most part than the area we left, many of its denizens a far cry from the sophisticated set we left behind in Palo Alto. BUT, given the importance another number of its inhabitants place on best-quality food, wine, and beer we’re pretty certain we’ll have no cause for complaint. The emphasis in the county on preserving and promoting its agricultural heritage sits well with us given the delicious outcome! As well, the outstanding natural beauty of the area, especially in the lovely Valley of the Moon (‘our’ valley), feeds my soul — the landscape is at once breath-taking and peace-giving. Home, as they say, is where the heart is, and Sonoma County has claimed ours.
“I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this
earth as far as nature is concerned.”
Once upon a time, there lived a wide-eyed kindergartener whose favorite picture book was May I Bring a Friend?(Tea at the castle, anyone?). When she was eight years old or so, this imaginative child wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder after soaking up the pioneer spirit from all the Little House books. (Oh, the romance of the ‘olden days’ and the notion of homesteading!). Then, when she was ten she wanted to be Jewish after reading The All-of-a-Kind Family. (Such a warm rendition of a family bound together by traditions and sturdy principles!). All through her childhood this quirky girl who grew up in Northern California, marvelous as that was in so many ways, wondered about what it might have been like to live in another era, in another place entirely.
That curious (yes, you can ascribe both meanings) girl was, of course, me. I find that even in my advancing middle-age, not much has changed in terms of the themes of my life: I still put a premium on the love and support of family and friends, hold dear the charm of relics past, and relish the opportunity to provide hospitality. I didn’t need to convert to Judaism, survive in a completely self-sufficient manner, or own a castle in order to arrive at the place I find myself today, but taken together these early longings certainly seem to have informed my experience, shaping my growth and becoming the substance of whom I see myself to be. What has changed is the fact that I don’t so much want to live in any other time or place any more — I’m quite content with the ‘here and now’ of my life.
These themes carry through as well to inform the principles that I’m using to guide the planning and design of Acorn Lodge. Our aim is to create a place of haven for family and friends so that we may enjoy their company regularly. I want to create a setting that is nourishing and sustaining in the day-to-day, and for us that means designing a cosy and inviting space for all of our books (no small feat!), and furnishing said space with our collection of beloved antiques. And while we don’t need to be self-sufficient, we enjoy putting our time into gardening, cooking, and lately, brewing, so we want to incorporate the requisite space and equipment for these activities into the design as well. And we’re staying in Northern California — this erstwhile would-be time-travelling globetrotter is firmly convinced that there’s no place like home, and no time like the present!
Today is a gift — that’s why it’s called the present.