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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]
A highly functional mannequin that can give birth. Now, that is something I had never heard of before. I am in a Simulation Lab in Santa Rosa, at my boyfriend’s nursing school. One of the instructors is telling us about a hi-tech dummy that can simulate many of the symptoms of pregnancy and child-birth and can actually give birth. I look forward to seeing this modern dummy, but when we are taken to see it, it is behind locked doors and we are only allowed to peek through the large glass windows. In the same room is another functional dummy, a much smaller one. It can simulate ailments common among children.
As we walk around on this family night tour of the nursing school facilities, we discover another room with a very realistic looking mannequin. It’s a man who can fake many illnesses and can even talk. The microphone is manipulated by the instructor. Again, the access to the room is closed. These dummies cost thousands of dollars and even nursing students are only allowed regulated access to them. The students use these to practice and fine-tune their newly acquired skills.
When we moved from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, I was prepared for a change in lifestyle and in being a supportive partner to my boyfriend as he transitions from technology to a career as a registered nurse. I had expected a vicarious experience of nursing school but this intriguing peek into his new life opened up another world.
I want to get a closer look, to experience the high-tech human persona of these dummies. Unfortunately, my boyfriend will not have access to these precious commodities until later this semester. I’m looking forward to a vicarious experience of these human-like creatures. I hope they don’t disappoint.
My boyfriend unpacks a strange little contraption from one of the kitchen boxes and examines it closely to unveil its mysteries. “It’s a stove-top espresso maker/dispenser,” I say.
My accumulations of exotic objects, from many years of traveling, were mostly stacked away in forgotten corners of my apartment in San Francisco. Moving to a house in Santa Rosa is unpacking many of the memories along with the collections.
I will not be unpacking everything. For example, I have decided to stack many of my boxes of books in the garage instead of restoring them to the bookshelves in my office. Considering that I do most of my reading on the iPad now, the books are going to slowly find their way to libraries, book-exchanges, and used-book stores. This choice already makes my current office feel expansive with space for objets d’art.
The unpacking experience is similar yet different for each room. As I hang my clothes into the closets, I notice that I can see them all in one glance because the dresses and pants and shirts are not compressed together into a small space. It’s not that my apartment in San Francisco was small but rather our house in Santa Rosa is bigger.
I can’t predict the shape that my emotions will take as I transition from an urban life in San Francisco to a suburban one in Santa Rosa. For the moment, however, I’m luxuriating in the pleasure of decompressing into a larger space.
While packing my 32nd box of books, I discover “Fierce Food” which has a cover photo of a grasshopper being speared by a fork and an armadillo being served in a spoon. I don’t recall where I picked up the book but it was probably in San Francisco, where I first tried chocolate-covered grasshoppers, fried larvae, and various other insect delicacies. The thought of ingesting insects might be repulsive to many people, but they are quite delicious (and a good source of protein).
When I tell people that I am leaving, some of the responses I get are:
1. But you are such a San Francisco woman!
2. I never thought you’d leave the city!
3. You are going to miss it and come back.
4. I wish I could leave this urban jungle too.
Am I a San Francisco woman? Yes, I have lived here longer than anywhere else and felt most at home here. I don’t think I really “fit-in” anywhere, however, and don’t really want to! San Francisco has been an adventure and I’ve made some wonderful friends. I have connections here that I want to maintain so I’ll be back to visit. Often.
I’m moving to Santa Rosa and look forward to exploring this lush and sunny paradise with soil and climate that allows for even the growth of tropical fruits like guava. I’ll miss the urban stories I often find in San Fransisco but I also need change to keep feeding my imagination and to force me to grow as a person.
I’m taking 32+ boxes of books with me. I’ll finally have time to read some of them, now that I’m removing myself from the endless distractions available in this city. I love San Francisco but I am taking my heart with me because I’m leaving to be with my boyfriend whose career change is leading him to Santa Rosa.