Welcome to Sonoma County

Summer in Sonoma County means orchards and roadside stands rosy with fruit, hot inland air masses sucking chilly banks of fog from the ocean, kayaking on the Russian River, the warm piney smell in the redwood groves under one's walking shoes, outdoor concerts, visitors from the city and beyond. Luther Burbank invented the Gravenstein apple in Sebastopol; I remember Graton in the 'seventies as the home of a huge, stinking applesauce packing plant. No more--Graton's brand new tract homes and gourmet restaurant make it a desirable neighborhood indeed. There I will be visiting one of my best friends from my days at Wheeler Ranch, Karin Lease, who graciously agreed to put me up for twelve days. She bought one of the spacious new homes to live in until her younger son Brian finishes high school, afterwhich she plans to live in a yurt on a road less traveled. A gifted artisan--I own several pieces of her jewelry--Karin now finds her expertise with computers also provides her with plenty of work she enjoys--training people to use the hardware and software they acquire. Her older son, Pilvi, now twenty-eight, who I remember as a baby at the Ranch, also works in this field, and Brian, at seventeen, is no slouch, either. The three confer when one of them is stumped.


Karin makes breakfast for herself and three houseguests
while chatting with yet another adoring friend.
This omlette includes collard greens, green beans, garlic,
pinto beans and red onions.


In my one day in the county I have been interviewed by two journalists, made 1000 fliers for my book-signing at Copperfield's and delivered them to the store's booth at the Health and Harmony Fair, met with a fan who would be out of town for my booksigning but implored the bookstore to let him know the minute I arrived (I signed his nearly pristine thirty year old copy of Living On The Earth), was invited to a ladies' garden party in honor of my visit given by fellow author Salli Rasberry, was invited to dinner the following night by graphic artist/photographer Linda Kane, and was invited to Bill Wheeler's sixtieth birthday party, which I, regretfully, will miss, as I am performing that night at Harbin Hot Springs. I stopped on the way to Karin's at Food for Thought, Sebastopol's new natural foods supermarket and, almost literally, ran into my friend Brendan Smith amid the produce.

Artist/entrepeneur Brendan Smith

Right about the same time that Living On The Earth was first published, Brendan's Leather Book hit the stands. Over the thirty years since, Brendan's leatherworking business grew from a one-man cottage industry to a forty-employee factory with contracts supplying major businesses like Macy's and Amazon.com. I carried one of his gracefully designed and extremely sturdy shoulder bags for a decade. I also memorized a dozen of his songs from a homemade casette tape I begged off of him--not only for the wickedly clever lyrics and memorable tunes, but because the diverse American characters portrayed in the monologues of the songs speak to me. The feast or famine aspect of the music business terrified him. "I may have corrected too far in the other direction," he says of the over-busy but prosperous life he now leads. Most of us who are moved by the muse face the same question constantly, regardless of which end of the spectrum we consider our current situation to be.