Test Run

We are housesitting our friend’s home (Hi America!) in Petaluma.

The house is a ridiculously cute little gem on a sheep ranch. In fact, the house is pretty much everything we are looking for…a miniature farm house. Our friends have done a lot of work creating gardens all around their little one acre, and we have the privilege of caring for them while they are gone.

It’s also been a good opportunity to try out living in the North Bay and getting a sense of what it might be like to commute back into the city for work.

As well, it is helping me fine tune our vision of what we want. For instance, I am putting in an added request of “no noise pollution”. Although the home is surrounded by countryside, there are also lots of neighbors…who seem to enjoy tractor mowing at 10pm (Guess there just aren’t enough hours in the day?!?), you can hear the Sonoma race track near by, and you could also hear the folks at the ranch house having what sounded like a bitchin’ party.

I could barely hear the crickets. Although I did witness four little galumping bodies running across the field, as the raccoon family came to check out the compost pile.

Petaluma is a funny town. Part small town, part suburbia and part agricultural community. We had the pleasure of buying our produce from a little farm store, where what they grow is what they sell, amazingly fresh and incredibly affordable.

I’m having a hard time getting a feeling for the place, since the township feels a little…uncontained. Arbitrary settlements have a sense of “middle of nowhere” to me, as opposed to spots having been chosen for their relationship to the natural surroundings. San Francsico is situated by a large bay, where the greater ocean meets inland, an estuary where pacific animals leave the wild waters to give birth to their young. Thus, the city feels like a nursery for new beginnings. Similarly, Redding is cradled by mountains on three sides, with the life giving waters of the Sacramento coursing through the middle. I feel drawn to places that feel dynamic to me in this way. Perhaps as we move through our week in Petaluma, I will learn the secret of “Why Here?”.

In the meantime, we are back in the city for a day, to attend going away parties, work and rehearsals. As we drove into our neighborhood last night, my heart was lifted as familiar trees and plants came into view. I was suddenly clear on the  impact of having spent so much time in the past few years on noticing. Paying attention to incremental seasonal changes, carefully observing the coming and goings of birds, of plant species and matching them to personal internal shifts and external cultural moods has bred intimate familiarity. I have felt disconnected from our place here, since spending two weeks in Shasta County. Bound up in homesickness and urban-sickness, I have not been able to truly return. But today, the air is distinctly fall-ish, the sun is shining and I feel a thrill running through me as I realize, “It’s the beginning of Indian Summer.”. As the rest of the country dips into Autumn, we are finally paid off for all the weeks of fog, as warm days extend into October. It’s the best time to be in San Francisco.

"Dear Mary, Please string onions. Love, America." Check!

Recently, this blog was the recipient of several vicious comments. Amongst the insanity, the name calling and basic incoherence, was the statement that “Life is not a Tolkien book.”. And I just have to disagree. Aside from the importance of Myth across all cultures and time…Magical realism is a perspective held in the heart, and middle-earth is the fantastical manifestation of such a point of view. Want to achieve Heaven on Earth?

Just open your eyes to what is right before you.

(P.S. All photos in this post by Jeff!)


18 thoughts on “Test Run

  1. I love Petaluma. My mom moved there and i spent many great times there. She loved it there, and ultimately she died there in the little house she loved. To me, the center of Petaluma are the neighborhoods off Petaluma Blvd. The downtown area, specifically, where you can find Petaluma Market, the Seed Bank, and many other places. It’s very walkable and has great parks and civic energy. Pegs and i would happily move there if the commute were do-able to the city, but it really isn’t (for us, anyway). Great climate for growing too – the best! Enjoy enjoy!

    1. aw, that’s so sweet about your grandmother. i could definitely see having a deeper connection here if there was some childhood/ancestral experience. and i love that seed bank…i feel pretty gleeful every time i see it.

  2. so funny, jen and i were just ruminating on the possibility of petaluma – and jackie, thank you, you just answered the question i was about to ask! i even love the name of the town. i heard they have a famous “volpe’s” italian restaurant there – you have to go and tell me if it’s good!

    1. I think i know the Italian restaurant, Gianna, and i remember that it is good. Wish i could go there more often but we rarely make it up to Sonoma – so busy in our daily lives! i think Petaluma is a great place to live – very communitarian, very knit but large enough to be progressively connected to the larger Bay culture. We would love to live there but the commute is just too much! I am just sad i could not (because of family bad stuff) keep my late mom’s house there and rent it out so we could have kept it.

      1. thanks jackie! i appreciate your descriptions, all of this gives me food for thought – i’m in search mode for my next home…

  3. It was interesting to read your thoughts on Petaluma. I recently had a conversation with some friends and we started talking about how we don’t get out there much and how it kind of looks great on paper with the historic neighborhoods and downtown along the river and it definitely has a lot going for it as a town, but there was just something that none of us could put our finger on about it, just a feeling that it has a lot of potential but there’s just something a bit off or lacking. Locationwise, Petaluma does feel disconnected from the rest of Sonoma County, just floating out there in the farmland. I think that has a lot to do with it.

    If I were to imagine you and your family in Sonoma County, it seems west county would probably be the best fit, unfortunately, that would be a bit of a crazy commute.

    1. YES. thank you for validating me. ha! it’s really an odd feeling…i want to love it here, but we went into downtown last night and i felt so…off.

      what is west county sonoma? is it in your backyard? if so, we’ll be moving there toot de suite. xoxo

  4. have you (i am sure you have…) looked into west marin? woodacre, etc. and the like. i have friends who live there who commute to the city and its “not so bad” and they love it. and whoever could possibly make vicious comments on your sweet blog?? crazy? we moved to mill valley after 12 years in SF and it took me 2 years to stop missing the city living and FULLY enjoy marin. just my two cents… xo

    1. we totally have! we are looking at the whole north bay…anything that fits our requirements (including the commute) will do. i love west marin.

      the vicious comments were so unexpected, and definitely done by someone with a few screws loose. i thought i was being pretty unoffensive here, but not according to this dude.

      that whole adjustment period is one that i keep thinking i will skip, and i realized this week, driving around petaluma, that i could if i was living VERY rurally. but living in a suburb of san francisco is still close enough to home to make me think, “ugh, peet’s coffee? where’s the la boulange?” ha! xoxo

  5. Noticing the tiny and the definite shifts of the seasons is one of my great joys, too 🙂
    It quite literary saved may life, a few years ago, by giving me back the sense that I am a part of the cycle.

  6. Thank you for dropping by at my blog, Mary!
    Yes, Poland is sooo amazingly beautiful, in most parts, including the village were I was raised, and my recent photos were taken.
    I’ve been spending quite a lot of time reading your blogy. I find it inspirational and informative, and I literarilly broke into tears while reading the report on Fern’s birth. Messages like that give me hope. Thank you 🙂

    1. Thanks Aneta! The idea that I am inspiring you is just the best thing to hear! I’ve been enjoying your blog too…even more so now that I have figured out how to get google to translate it from polish to english! 🙂

  7. Fummy how the same place can feel so different to different people. I know i have always felt good in Petaluma, though yes it is somewhat remote feeling … it’s its own place. I should also note that Petaluma has the storied history as a chicken farming town, and many of these chicken farmers were Jews from Eastern Europe who came in the early part of the century. Some were escaping oppression, some were socialists in the 20s-30s. They pioneered the chicken farming in the region and made up a good portion of the population for a while. The book “Comrades and Chicken Farmers” is about this. My mom used to walk with her dog in the cemetary there, and she would leave pebbles on the Jewish gravestones (a Jewish custom) to make sure they knew they were remembered. But she’s buried on the flanks of Mt. Tam now!

  8. wow, i can look back on the few times i visited petaluma and now i understand my feelings towards it, given the perfect way you’ve worded this. in one of your comments you say “i want to like it here” and that is how i felt too. so interesting! i’m still putting the hobbit homestead vibes out there for ya. what a bummer about the bad comments, you are such a beautiful kind person, and i just can’t imagine wanting to say something hurtful to you! yikes. i do agree with your conclusion on this: just open your eyes. 🙂

  9. THANK YOU for stringing the onions =) And for being here. I like Petaluma better just knowing you were here… Next time you have to come up while we’re here, and I can show you what I’m finding out about this place. It does have a reason for being here, which is the river, it being the farthest up cargo could get by water to/from the city before the bridge.

    And, I’m sorry about the mowing!!! I swear its usually quiet here. Really. I feel sad people were mowing on your quietness….
    Talk soon, A.

    1. ha! they were totally mowing on our quietness. the 10pm thing was ridick!

      i def want to meet petaluma through your eyes. i really just couldn’t orient while i was there. we wondered about the river and its role in the formation of the town. i look forward to spending time with you there soon. xoxo

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