leena prasad

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digging it…

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 IMG_1272IMG_1270 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.

IMG_1262This 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.

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friends, fries, wine, water, and more…

IMG_2613Bella 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.IMG_2623

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.Preston Vineyards

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.

nature and I

tamarind

tamarind??

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?

??

??

oleander

oleander

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.

gooseberry

gooseberry??

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]

in quest of an Arepa

The car in front, on the left side of the street is flashing its headlights. The woman on the sidewalk is saying something. It is chaotic. I am confused.

Crazy people, I think, as I make a right turn. The car with the flashing lights must be trying to pick up the woman, I assume, and they are both trying to get each others attention. Just as I turn right, happy to get away from the chaos, her words and the flashing lights suddenly form a clearer picture. They were trying to tell me that I was going the wrong way on a one way street. My decision to turn right is the right response albeit unintentional.

I am the crazy one. The one way sign was blocked by a van that was parked on the corner of Valencia and 15th in San Francisco.

I lived in this neighborhood for ten years and walked around the streets hundreds of times. I thought I knew the streets. The roaring tiger, in the mural on the side of the Peruvian restaurant Pica Pica, always wakes me up. It’s at the corner where I had turned into the one way street. The van is blocking the mural also.

I am driving because I don’t live in the neighborhood anymore. My mission is to eat at Pica Pica. I love their Arepa and am excited to experience it again tonight.

I find parking within five minutes of my blunder, on the same one-way street but this time I am headed in the right direction. As I walk down 15th street towards Pica Pica, I am reminded of how easy it is to walk in San Francisco even late at night. I love the flowers and fauna of Santa Rosa, where I now live. But those can only be enjoyed during the day. At night, my Santa Rosa neighborhood is dark and quiet and easy to get lost in since the streets are not arranged in a grid.

At  night, I am lost in the streets of my old neighborhood when I am in a car. At night, I am lost in the streets of my new neighborhood when I’m on foot.

decompressing… into a New Lifestyle

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.

leaving San Francisco

fierceFood.jpbWhile 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).

Living in San Francisco for the past 15 years, I have had many experiences that are exotic, unusual and unique. Now that I’m leaving, I know that I will savor many memories of this city by the bay.

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.

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