As the ground crumbles below my feet, I feel the thrill of possibilities. Stepping off the tiller, I admire the effectiveness of this simple gardening tool. Then, giddily, I plunge the tiller right back into the soil and repeat. As an urbanite with zero gardening experience, the possibility of coaxing this hard dry soil into producing crop is very exciting.
When I first saw this house in Santa Rosa, the abundance of outdoor space was overwhelming. I was living in a 824 square foot apartment in San Francisco with no outdoor area. All the herbs that I enthusiastically (and illegally) planted on the fire-escape struggled to survive. The only real growth that happened out there was that of a pigeon family that made a nest in one of the flowerpots.
This house is my chance to redeem myself, to prove that I can nurture a plant. I am preparing the grounds to create an herbal garden, starting with cilantro and sage and maybe some other herbs. Before I could start tilling, I had to pull out all the weeds in the ground. I bought an impressive tool which grabs onto the roots and removes them in one easy sweep. I get goosebumps looking at all the fancy gardening tools online and in the store and learning how they can be useful in my project. So, instead of worrying about the extra expenditure, I was happy to purchase a shovel to help clear the ground for weeding the plants with tougher roots.
In addition to learning about gardening tools, I am learning about materials that increase soil’s organic properties. My mom and I have something new to talk about on the phone and we are connecting on a passion that we did not know we shared. And, I am excavating writing material from this new project.
The work gives me an unexpected sense of fulfillment. The crop of cilantro and sage will wake up my senses with their fragrance and nourish my body with a rich cocktail of nutrients. For now, the route there is nourishing my spirit.
Bella and Preston. That is “Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves” and “Preston Vineyards and Winery” in Healdsburg. They each offer an entire tasting for only $10 and Bella includes a small batch of truffle fries. I am here with friends visiting from San Francisco. After the tastings at Preston Winery, we amble around in the farmlands near the vineyards and are treated to dramatic views of pumpkin patches, dozens of hens running around in a coop, a cornucopia of plant and flower life, and even an old-fashioned pizza oven. Later, we splash around at the Healdsburg Beach.
It is a joyful day and a reminder of the special relationships I have developed in my 15+ years of living in San Francisco. We talk about everything from Pinot Noir to places in Switzerland we have all visited to the properties of organic food to breast cancer to women’s rights to the current government shutdown. The conversation flows with or without the wine. It’s often this way amongst the four of us but the surroundings, the long trek that my friends have made from San Francisco, and the variations in scenery make this a a particularly memorable day.
As I discover and create a new life in Santa Rosa, I am thankful for the years spent in San Francisco, developing relationships, that I hope will last no matter where in the world I go.
A sparrow is pecking away at the dead leaves on the roof of the neighbor’s house. As if sensing my enjoyment of this breakfast scenery, a blue Robin tweets, from its perch on a large tree in our backyard. The green pods, hanging from the branches of this tree, resemble tamarind and the leaves appear to be similar to internet photos of tamarind leaves. Once the pods ripen, its identity can be confirmed. The orange and grapefruit trees self-identify by producing fruits. The grape-vine, jasmine, and bamboo bushes are also not a mystery,
In San Francisco, I lived on a tree-lined street, a block away from Dolores Park. On some mornings, I heard birds chirping. I walked to the park for more intimate connections with nature. Living amongst trees, however, feels like a completely different experience. There are trees and bushes visible from every window of the house. Their presence soothes me. I feel a connection to the flora and fauna when I sweep or rake the dead leaves. I feel my own mortality when I see the big tree in front our house with its deep roots and thick branches. How long it has been here and how much longer will it continue to be?
Later, while sipping tea in the living-room, I wonder about the extremely tall and thin tree in our front lawn. I recognize the white oleander bush, near the mystery tree. The half-dozen or so rosebushes, all around the house, are easy to identify because they were flowering when we first moved into this Santa Rosa house in August. The giant tree near our front path might be gooseberry. I wish I had a better knowledge of flora and fauna so I can identify each and every tree and bush gracing our house.
Now in my home-office, I am aware of the trees and bushes lined outside my window, providing shade from the mid-day sun and privacy from the other houses in our little cul-de-sac. Simply gazing at the greenery often releases any pressure or tension.
As I think of a wrap-up for this piece, a bird chirps on queue, reminding me of the chirps I heard from my apartment in San Francisco. Despite having spent much of my adult life in cities, I have strived to be near nature. It is a new world now to be surrounded by it.
[If you recognize any of the trees in the photos with a ?? under their name, please respond to this post and let me know what they are]