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.