It’s been a few weeks since I last sent you a postcard from my hometown. In those few weeks a lot has changed.
Saturday morning, I went out for a walk in the bright sunshine and 65 degree weather. The sky was cloudless and clear, the kind of light that glistens off every tree and accents every birds’ tweet. Though still technically weeks away, it truly felt like spring.
If spring is rebirth, it almost felt like a rebirth of my little town.
Sonoma Valley High School, home of the Dragons and recently converted into a vaccine distribution center, had it’s parking lot filled with eager seniors (in age, not grade level) lining up to receive the first of their two Moderna shots. We have just moved down from 75 to 65 year-olds getting the jab and I was seeing a lot of pent up desire in the faces of the about to be newly inoculated. Concern and a sense of hope hung on the faces of the soon to be inoculated.
The other vaccine center in town is the Veteran’s Building, set up specifically for anyone eligible for VA benefits. It also had a lineup of eager wannabe jabees, though the folks here seem to have reverted to their military ways as the line was more disciplined, straight, and orderly. Muscle memory, it takes more than time to leave the system.
Passing by the Little League fields I saw try-outs were in progress. Skinny legged boys with hand printed signs pinned to the backs of their shirts, numbered so no team coach can play favorites, threw, hit, and fielded as naturally as if they hadn’t been in utter disruption for most of the past year. The kids reminded me of young colts frolicking in a pasture, happy to just run, their energy a tonic for the extra long winter we’ve all endured. I was not the only one to stop and join with parents and siblings watching the play.
Of course there still was a reminder of the times as everyone, kids, parents, passerbys, all were masked. One thing about Sonoma, we take our masking seriously.
Sonoma Square was filled with people, not quite Tuesday Farmer’s Market level, but pretty close. There were pockets of ladies in circles of folding chairs spaced six feet apart holding forth on what I suspect was claimed to be a book club but in reality was a coffee klatch. The picnic tables were filled with old men, well older than I, containers of coffee in their hands declaiming their opinions on what should be done with the state of the world. Young children swung on the swings and slid down the slides, their high pitched shouts piercing the air with a joy that was intoxicating till reminded by nearby mothers to put on their masks, their joy at the spring like weather tempered by the tunnel of worry we still need to exit from.
Over in the vineyards the sheep were gently grazing. No, really, sheep are used as “woolie weeders” to remove the grass, weeds, and mustard flowers that grow in the lanes between vines. The perfect organic farming machine, they weed, they aerate, and they fertilize, all in one compact unit. And when all the work is done they make a fine lunch. Just kidding they make too much money for the guy who rents them out to ever be turned into kebobs.
In the evening the wife (Cruella) and I met with another couple, determined to do one of those civilized things couples did in the Before Times — go out to dinner together. Restrictions have eased to where we can once again dine in at a restaurant provided the dine in is outdoors. The town has given over about a quarter of the parking spaces on the Square for tables and chairs, creating small parklets of dining for eating establishments that do not already have patio dining.
Though the sun had gone down and the temperature had cooled it was still a pleasant evening which probably contributed to our having to try eight restaurants before finding one that had a table available without an hour and a half wait. I was rewarded by Oso Sonoma for my patience with a grilled achiote chicken breast with red onions and jalapeno aioli, paired with fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat. A bottle of 2016 Gundlach Bundschu Merlot made the cooler air irrelevant.
You could close your eyes and almost imagine things being normal again. Of course upon opening them you’d realize you’re still wearing a mask, sitting outside in the now cold night air, and with a waitress standing ready to disinfectant the table as soon as you leave.