Sonoma Garden Park Update

I just received this email from Tiona Gundy of the Ecology Center and the Sonoma Garden Park. If you haven’t yet experienced the Garden Park, you are in for a treat. Volunteer days are every Wednesday and Saturday, November 06 through February 07 from 10am to 1pm. Come spring, there will be a different schedule.

Winter Greetings from Sonoma Garden Park

Wow! 2006 was a big year for us. Reflecting over it, I think of so many wonderful happenings at the Sonoma Garden Park. Thanks to all the volunteers and staff, we have had a “fruitful” (pun intended) and delicious Harvest Market season, the community garden plots are thriving, many interesting workshops were held for adults and youth, and friendships and partnerships are growing! Thank you to all who taught workshops: Yeti “The Barefoot Gardener”, Marlie Wesner, Paul Wirtz, Bill Wiebalk, Tamara Unger and Angela Casazza.
New workshop calendar, coming soon!

The Beekeeping Project, headed up by Bill Wiebalk with much help from Tina Tovey, Will Ackley and Gabby Albright has flourished and we sold our first ever, Sonoma Garden Park Honey! We’ve created a label for our Lavender Hydrosol Mist which makes it an even better gift. (I can’t live without it and I know I’m not alone!). Seed packets were designed and decorated by one of our volunteers. Seeds were collected. Students from Justin-Sienna High School and Sonoma Valley High School put in Environmental Service Learning hours. Several youth groups came to volunteer, mulching fruit trees, building compost piles, weeding and harvesting. We appreciate the Sonoma County Volunteer Center and Roots for Youth for bringing young people to the garden! The Firemen’s Fund sent employees out for two days of pruning, weeding, mulching, and digging garden beds! Woodland Star Charter School continues to bring classes on field trips and to tend their garden plots.

We held some important fundraising events. Thank you to all who contributed! We are still accepting donations toward our matching fund grant, which will help us build an Education Center, restrooms and wheelchair accessible pathways linked to a Children’s Discovery Trail.
Please call me if you’d like to donate or need more information!

The Mid-Summer Garden Frolic was quite a lot of fun! Remember? The food, the wine and the music! I look forward to next summer’s events!

Happy Winter Solstice to everyone! May the return of the light be a joyous time for all!

*VOLUNTEER HOURS (Dec. – Feb.) WED. & SAT. 10AM – 1PM
Or by appointment… Hope to see you there!
Stop by to share ideas, harvest some swiss chard and carrots, and celebrate the coming New Year!

NEW WISH LIST ITEMS:
• several tarps to cover our compost piles
• straw bales (preferably rice straw which can be ordered through Brocco’s or the Granary Feed Store, or picked up at Larsen’s in Cotati)
• nursery starter soil mix (ask me about details)
• Garden forks
*
Sincerely,
Tiona Gundy
Sonoma Garden Park Coordinator
Sonoma Ecology Center
996-0712 X 120
cell: 337-2235

Sonoma Garden Park, a gift from Pauline Bond, is located at 19990 Seventh St. East and is an educational campus of the Sonoma Ecology Center.
www.sonomaecologycenter.org (click on garden link)

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Robert Ferguson Observatory here in the Sonoma Valley

About a year ago, I joined some friends for a night of star gazing at the Robert Ferguson Observatory here in the Sonoma Valley. What? We have an observatory?

We sure do!

It was during this visit that I met David Cranford. David was the docent operating the robotic telescope that night. It was VERY dark, no one could see anyone else other than as vague outlines. David’s knowledge and humor emanated from the night and kept us all entertained. (His choice of background music? Pink Floyd’s, Dark Side of the Moon of course!)

On the spot, and in front of the crowd, I invited David to be part of my radio program. He accepted (with prompting) and became “Science Guy”!

He now has a Thursday night radio show on KSVY.

I caught up with Dave recently to find out more about the Observatory:

When and why did astronomy catch your interest?
The space program and I grew up together: I was 6 in May, 1961, when Alan Shepard became the first American in space; I watched every minute of the coverage of his fifteen-minute flight and I was hooked. I knew the names of all the astronauts; I knew all the mission profiles. On Christmas Eve, 1968, I listened to the crew of Apollo 8 as they read from the book of Genesis, and I was touched deeply by the convergence of engineering and spirituality – left brain and right, yin and yang. And I was floored by the notion that just as sailors had done for millennia, the astronauts navigated by the stars. Even at thousands of miles per hour, they used the same tools and techniques as the Phoenicians! A few years later I took an astrophysics class at City College of San Francisco and the more I learned the less I knew. I’ve been trying to figure it all out ever since.

Tell me about the observatory.

Robert Ferguson was an avid amateur astronomer who built telescopes and shared his enthusiasm for astronomy with everyone he met, especially children. He started Striking Sparks, a program that gives away ten telescopes each year to Sonoma County school kids through an essay competition. The telescopes are built by the Sonoma County Astronomical Society, an organization that Bob was affiliated with for many years. Bob was the inspiration for the development of an observatory as an educational and public resource for the community and thus bears his name.

The idea of a community observatory was in the “dream stage” for about ten years. The Valley of the Moon Observatory Association was founded in July of 1995. Phase 1 of the Observatory (the West Wing) was completed in February, 1997. The second phase (the classroom, bathrooms, library and East Wing) was finished in May, 1999. The final phase, the construction of a domed observatory for our 8” refractor, was completed in Spring, 2002.

How long have you been volunteering there? And how did you find out about it?

Along about 1993 I went camping with a dozen friends at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. It was a gorgeous evening in late spring, and after sunset most of us headed for a clearing to check out the evening sky. I remember thinking, “Man, what a great place to watch the stars! Somebody should – oh, I don’t know, maybe build an observatory or something!” Then the weekend ended and I forgot all about it. Fast-forward ten years to when a friend introduced me to George Loyer. George was doing project management at the time, which was how we connected, but he was (and is) also president of the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association, the observatory’s parent organization. He invited me up during Mars Madness (Mars’s closest approach in 60,000 years took place in August, 2003) and I got a chance to see the layout and look through the scopes. After about fifteen seconds, I asked if they needed volunteers for anything; George told me that they started training courses in January and he’d let me know when to show up. I’ve been putting in a couple of hundred hours a year ever since. I especially like operating the robotic telescope; rather than an eyepiece it has a digital camera, and by displaying the image on a PC monitor we can involve a couple of dozen people at once instead of one at a time. You probably remember from your own visits that this kicks off some amazing conversations about the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. (Thanks to Douglas Adams we know the answer is”42″ but sometimes you want a little more detail.)

What programs does the observatory offer?
RFO offers a number of programs aimed at providing astronomical education to the public. We have at least one public viewing night a month (except December, when the weather rarely cooperates) as well as a number of courses throughout the year. My favorite is the Night Sky series; three courses a year (Fall/Winter, Spring, and Summer) with each course meeting six times. Our own very knowledgeable and personable Jack Welch goes through the mythologies of the various constellations and explains the objects within (galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae) and then the attendees spend an hour or two looking through a number of telescopes at those objects. It really drives home the material from the lecture. We also offer an observing laboratory; each session has a theme, such as stellar birth and death or multiple star systems, and each session has very limited enrollment to allow each attendee a maximum amount of observing time. And finally we offer private nights; for about $220 you can rent the observatory (with staff) along with the group campsite. Stay in the observatory as long as you like viewing whatever you like, then walk about fifty yards to your tent and hit the sack (or start a campfire and sing Kumbaiya, watch the sun rise, and eat s’mores until you’re sick – whatever). We’ve had bachelor parties, weddings, sweet-sixteen parties, sales meetings, youth groups, high school (and university) classes – and even just groups of friends. The campsite is limited to 50 people; that’s less than $5 apiece, cheaper than a movie!

What tips do you have for a first time visitor?
If you’ve never been to the observatory before, you should know that it can be wicked cold. Layer up! Warm socks, long pants, sweater and jacket, hat, and even gloves will all pay for themselves quickly. The more comfortable you are, the more you’ll enjoy your visit. Also, flashlights – because of the way the human eye works it takes between twenty and forty minutes for most people to adapt to the dark, and you just can’t see very much through a telescope until then. The problem is that any flash of white light makes your eyes start all over, which can be frustrating, and which is why astronomers (and sailors) use red light at night. So either bring a red flashlight, or rubber-band a couple of layers of red cellophane over the end of your regular flashlight. (We’ve usually got some on hand if you forget.) And finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You won’t appear dumb; you’ll be asking the same questions Einstein, Newton, and Hawking asked, and that puts you in pretty good company. All of our docents want to answer your questions for you, or better yet, guide you to find your own answers. It’s in our own best interest to help people feel comfortable wondering about the night sky and our place in the universe.

How can folks get more involved?
RFO encourages public participation on several levels. We’re in the process of building a new 40-inch reflector, which takes a lot of money even with most of the labor donated, and we’re always looking for funds for that. And members help support our ongoing outreach programs with their donations. And, of course, we can always use docents who volunteer their time in exchange for access to a world-class observatory. Docents don’t need any special training or knowledge; they just have to be interested in the night sky. We’ll provide training. We have astronomers, true, but we also have folks who help you park your car, take your money, and manage the traffic flow through the observatory. (And docents receive free admission to most of our programs!)

The Robert Ferguson Observatory www.rfo.org is located in the hills near Kenwood, California, in Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park

From Highway 12 east of Santa Rosa, turn on Adobe Canyon Road and follow it to the end. Cost for stargazing nights: $2 per adult, Children free, plus $6 per car parking.

We all had a great time at the Observatory. Be sure to bundle up and don’t forget the hot drinks! It is a great family affair and would be a fun surprise for the kids. Since it gets dark so early in the winter, you can visit the Observatory and still get home at a reasonable hour. As soon as the 2007 schedule is out, I will add it here. It will also be on the www.rfo.org website.

Thanks to David and all of the folks at the Observatory. Another wonderful part of this great Valley.

Music News – More than you can imagine, all in one place!

Many Sonomans know me from my Rock and Roll Memorabilia store that I once had on the Sonoma Plaza. Although it was called Rontor Presents, most people called it The Grateful Dead Store.

How I came to own that store is an interesting series of events. When I moved to Sonoma, I had just started selling items on Ebay. Our new Sonoma home was rather small and my (then) husband Phillip suggested that I rent an office for my Ebay business. It was either that or turn the bathroom into the computer room!

I went to the Chamber of Commerce and described my situation. I explained that I didn’t need a storefront just a phone line, electricity, and space that I could make a mess in (all those packing puffs!). I was told that 8th Street East was the ‘industrial’ area that that perhaps someone out there would have a small space I could use.

I drove around in the parking lots of these big buildings. The place had ZERO personality. It was just big metal building after big metal building. Finally, I saw one door with a rose bush in a pot out front. I thought, “Anyone that would try to dress up this place must be OK.”

I knocked on the door and was greeted by a bearded man and a small barking dog. The lights were not on in the building and I could hardly see who I was talking too. The dog didn’t stop barking. I was tired and hungry.

I was thinking that perhaps we could turn the bathroom into a computer room after all…..

I managed to explain my situation and was told that since there are so few industrial buildings in Sonoma, they don’t turn over very often and there are typically no vacancies.

The man then told me something that changed my life.

He said, “I have been trying to get my artwork on Ebay for three years.”

I said, “It isn’t that hard, I can help you.”

So I did.

As it turns out, the man was Stanley Mouse. Stanley is known as one of the “Big 5” poster artists from the San Francisco scene in the 1960’s. He, along with Alton Kelley, did a lot of artwork for the Grateful Dead.

But, I didn’t know that for quite some time. All I knew was that I had a gig in my new town and it was putting this guy’s art on Ebay. A couple of days later Stanley asked his assistant, “do you think she knows who I am?” His assistant replied, “no.” Stanley then said, “I have my own category on Ebay.”

Now, that got my attention.

As it turns out, he didn’t. He really didn’t understand Ebay very well at the time. But, what did happen was that if you type Stanley Mouse into the Ebay search, you get results.

I figured right then I was in for an interesting ride.

Eventually I opened a gallery/store where I sold Stanley’s art. Additionally, I represented other poster artists including: Alton Kelley, David Singer, Lee Conklin, Carolyn Ferris, Gary Houston, Christopher Peterson, Bob Masse, the photographer Gene Anthony, and others. I also bought and sold Family Dog and Bill Graham Presents posters and other artwork by Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscosco, Randy Tuten, Jim Philips etc.

One day a guy in a brand new Porsche pulls up to the curb. He jumps out and runs into the store. He says, “Do you have those little Grateful Dead stickers?” I said no. He left.

I sat there thinking about that dude who apparently has some spare cash and how I let him out of my shop without helping him decorate his house….. I immediately called the Grateful Dead offices and got in touch with their merchandise department.

At that time, the Dead offices were still in Marin County. I just drove over and picked out what I wanted to carry in my store. Thus, The Grateful Dead Store was born.

Yes, the Porsche dude eventually came back and was able to sell him the sticker and a satisfying amount of artwork as well.

I closed the store after 9/11 as business had dropped off to almost nothing when folks stopped spending money.

I still sell concert posters. Check out my Ebay store for availability. Also visit The Rock Art Poster Society, a group of collectors who are passionate about this type of art.

Now, that entire story has been told to share a bit of news with you.

Somewhere along the line I subscribed to an email newsletter called:
P U N M A S T E R’ S M U S I C W I R E b y D a v i d G r o s s
This newsletter comes out a few times a month or so. Each one is packed with details about the music world with an emphasis on bands and acts that you would have heard new in the 1960’s and 70’s. If you like the music of that time, you WANT to subscribe to the newsletter.

From his website:
Late Breaking Music News, Today in Music History & More
A Trusted Source In Music News Since 1873!
To subscribe, send an email including first & last name with the word “Subscribe” in the subject to: musicwire@punmaster.com

Sonoma Valley Film Festival – Big discount for Sonoma residents

Sunday night I watched the new movie The Persuit of Happyness at the Sonoma Cinemas. I recommend it highly, but be sure to take some tissue. I was in tears by the final scene. What a powerful exploration of one year in the life of a man and his child. Will Smith and his son do a great job.

While at the theater I saw a brochure about the 10th Sonoma Valley Film Festival which is coming April 11-15, 2007. The festival features over 75 new independent films from all over the world.

The Film Festival folks are making a great offer to the residents of Sonoma Valley. Residents receive a big discount on the 2007 Festival Pass which gives you access to all regular films and panels plus free gourmet food and wine tastings before every screening. (Sonoma folks don’t tend to gather without food and fine beverages being involved – heck one group advertised that there would be wine and cheese with their hike of the Overlook Trail!)

The Festvial Pass is normally $225, but residents can purchase one for $100.

Contact: www.sonomafilmfest.org or call 707-933-2600

UPDATE:  The chance to buy the discounted passes has, well, passed.  However, full price passes are still available.

Recycled durable medical equipment? Yes! A service here in Sonoma County.

Yesterday I had a joyful ride over to Petaluma to conduct a bit of business. The drive was so amazing as the sky was bright blue and the hills were a lush green. I love the weather this time of year!

While in Petaluma, I met Marshi Russell (707-695-0861) and learned about Home CARES. Home CARES (Collection And Redistribution of Equipment and Supplies) is a nonprofit program that collects durable medical equipment and gives it to individuals in need.

Examples include:

  • Walkers
  • Canes
  • Crutches
  • Wheelchairs
  • Bath Equipment
  • Hospital Beds
  • Blood Pressure Kits
  • Grabbers
  • Bed Pads
  • Wedge Pillows
  • Diapers
  • Dressings
  • Bandages
  • Liquid Nutrition
  • Oxygen Supplies
  • and more

Home CARES accepts tax deductible donations of these items and distributes them to those in need at no charge.

If you have items to donate or could use items like those listed above, contact (Sonoma County) Marshi Russell 707-695-0861 or Max Decker 707-763-2172 or visit the Home CARES location at 3100 Kerner Blvd, San Rafael, CA 415-388-8198. If needed, delivery can usually be arranged.

I am really big on redistribution of goods and keeping items out of landfills. I used to gather newspapers, cans, and bottles from the neighbors and recycle them to earn pocket money as a teenager. Yet, this program goes beyond helping the environment. This program helps with quality of life.

If you have durable medical equipment that you are not using, please consider passing it along to Home CARES. Give another the gift of increased mobility and comfort!

Sonoma Valley View….

Megan Clouse, the official Sonoma Valley Calendar photographer took great photos which will be used for advertising this blog and the Calendar. Here are a few.

Sonoma Valley, looking West, about 30 minutes before sunset.

Ahh, the beautiful Sonoma Valley in winter at sunset

This shot is facing South or South East…..

Veronica

One secret of Sonoma is the incredible weather we often have this time of year. Check out this blue December sky! I loved how the tree was lit by the setting sun and how brilliant the sky was behind it.

cool-tree.jpg

For those of you who used to listen to my radio show with Michael Kelley and have heard all about my cats, here they are. They followed Megan and me around while we took pictures. I managed to pick them both up at the same time. It only lasted a moment, but Megan snapped a great shot. The eleven pound “kitten” on my right is Redwood. The big guy on my left is His Royal Highness King Tuxedo.

Veronica, Redwood, and Tux

The Springs, CalTrans, The County, and us….

For those of you who live in Sonoma some of this will be a review, for those of you who don’t, here is a nice dose of small town-yet World Class Tourist Destination happenings.

What is commonly called Sonoma is actually 2.2 square miles of Sonoma City Limits and the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County immediately adjacent to the City. As you travel North on Highway 12 you leave Sonoma City behind when you cross over Verano Ave. I found a really cool map that lets you zoom in and see this in full color. (The town of Sonoma is in the lower right area of the map.)

The unincorporated area North of the City Limits is commonly referred to as The Springs due to the names of the communities within this area, Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, El Verano, and Agua Caliente. I am a resident of the Springs.

The Springs is densely populated area with plenty of houses on small lots, apartment complexes, and mixed use buildings. The section of Highway 12 which passes through the Springs is a heavy pedestrian area with an elementary school , a charter school, a post office, a variety of shops and businesses, restaurants, a coffee shop, a half a dozen small markets, taco trucks in the evenings, etc. It is very common to see mothers pushing strollers up and down the highway. I once counted 50 pedestrians in about one mile at 8:30 pm on a Thursday!

All these folks are walking up and down a state highway isn’t designed for pedestrian safety. In places there is less two feet separating the edge of the road and passing cars, some of which are actually observing the 25 or 30 mph speed limit. At night it is virtually impossible to see pedestrians due to the lack of lighting. For those folks who have mobility issues it is a nightmare. The idea that you could navigate a wheelchair, walker or even a scooter in these conditions is ridiculous. When there are sidewalks, they are often not a standard height, they begin and end within the space of one store front, and the ramps are either non-existent or of a strange grade. Yes, people get hurt. Yes, they get hit by cars. Yes, children walk this highway to school, every day.

What we are asking for is sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and lighting.

Safety and beauty for this part of Sonoma.

Within City limits, the City Council has jurisdiction over things like road improvements. It is somewhat complicated by the fact that a state highway runs through the town, but over all, the city gets to say how things are done and they also get to say how the funds are allocated.

In the unincorporated areas, things are a bit different. As Highway 12 is a state Highway, its maintenance and improvements are handled by CalTrans. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is the governing body for this area.

Since Caltrans manages more than 45,000 miles of California’s highway and freeway lanes and the Board of Supervisors has 466,477 people in its county, you can probably guess that it can take a LOT to get their attention and action for our little stretch (about 1.7 miles) of highway.

Fortunately, it appears that we have managed to do just that. This evening, I attended a meeting of the Sonoma Valley Redevelopment Advisory Committee (RAC). This committee decides how the redevelopment funds (a portion of the property taxes from the Springs area) are spent. At the top of their list, is removal of physical, economic and social blight and safety improvements to the Highway 12 corridor from Verano Ave to Agua Caliente Blvd. YIPPEE!!

Yet, getting all the approvals, right of ways, permits, plans, etc. takes a lot of time. Then you have to actually have to do the construction which costs a lot of money (let’s forget for a moment what the construction traffic will be like).

The estimate that was mentioned tonight was in the $12 million range for the entire project. RAC currently has about $6 million in the bank allocated for Highway 12 improvements.

Two representatives from Sonoma County Department of Transportation and Public Works were on hand to update the RAC on the progress being made on this project. They indicated that CalTrans, County Supervisor Valerie Brown, and Public Works are all motivated to see this project started and consider it a high priority.

It appears that they will be splitting the project into two phases. First they will work on the Southern part of the project area: Verano Ave. to Boyes Blvd. When I suggested that the other end of the project has more pedestrian traffic as well as both of the schools and it should be done first, I was told that there are more ‘right of way’ issues to be worked out in that section so it would mean a potentially long delay before anything could get going if that section was worked on first.

CalTrans already has a lot of the right of ways in place for the Southern section. So, starting there is the ‘path of least resistance’. That made sense to me. I didn’t like it much, but it made sense.

I couldn’t begin to imagine all the steps and people and meetings and paperwork and and and and and it has taken to get this far. Just the small amount of information presented in one hour at tonight’s meeting was enough!

Best case scenario is that bids are solicited in the Summer of 2007 for work to begin as soon as possible after that. Somehow, funds for the other end of the project will have to be raised. It is hoped that the State will assist us.

I wonder if the City of Sonoma might be able to assist us.

The City and the Springs have a symbiotic relationship. When tourists come to ‘Sonoma’, they aren’t only coming to just the 2.2 square miles of the City Limits. Within the Springs is lodging, entertainment, wineries, golfing, and a world class hotel the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. Additionally, thousands of Springs residents shop, dine, and $pend within the city limits all of which adds to the city coffers. I would love to see this relationship honored by city residents and representatives with some kind of contribution to the beautification and safety of the Springs.

I will now remove my rose colored glasses…… It occurs to me that I have fallen into this us versus them energy during this last bit of commentary. I really don’t like the idea of ‘us here in the Springs’ and ‘them over in city limits’. But, it is hard to talk about this without it coming off that way. Especially when, right now, as I type, all sorts of city streets are torn up because…..drum roll please…..they are putting in new sidewalks.

The RAC meets the first Thursday of each month,7:00pm, at the Boys and Girls Club at Maxwell Park. Of course, the meetings are listed on the Sonoma Valley Calendar. Stop in some time, learn more and add your voice.

If this issue is important to you, let your representatives know how you feel. Our County representative is Valerie Brown . To contact CalTrans and encourage them to keep this project as a top priority, use this link.

Center of the Universe Cafe

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the monthly Center of the Universe Cafe at the Sonoma Community Center. Although I have been in Sonoma for 6 years now, I had never attended the Cafe which has been held since 1991.

News that Ken Brown was no longer an employee of the Community Center brought me out to say Hello to Ken and hear about his plans (more on this later).

$15 purchased a wonderful vegetarian meal prepared by Cheyenne Smith and a ticket to the open mic show which followed. I stayed for the first half of the presentation as I got cold and was ready to get home and warm up. The program was full of local poets doing a combination of original and published works. I especially enjoyed original work by Lin Marie de Vincent and Shepard Bliss’ offering of poems by Rumi and Basho. There were also songs, readings, and even some Shakespeare!

Ann Hollister was the emcee for the event. I asked her about the cafe, “Well, you know, there are always surprises, it is never the same, it is a living event, and everyone is invited. Typically 60-75 people show up and, at times, we have fed up to 90. The event draws people from all over Sonoma County and even Napa. Usually there are 20 performances. Each performer gets 5 minutes.” She was quick to point out that there is no criticism and no matter what you do the crowd is supportive.

It was a lovely and intimate venue for very personal sharing. The Center of the Universe Cafe is held on the first Saturday of each month, 6:00 pm, room 110 at the Sonoma Community Center. You can purchase tickets for dinner and the show or just the show.

News from Ken Brown is a new project, the Bear Flag Social Club. Ken now has an office on the plaza.  A website and more details will be coming soon.

Friday night Vigils at the Plaza for over 5 years

One of the most interesting parts of presenting this blog and the accompanying calendar www.sonomavalleycalendar.com is getting to know the folks behind the events.

The Peace and Justice folks added a calendar listing for their Friday night vigils at the Sonoma Plaza. It said that they have been holding the vigils for 267 weeks. When I did the math, I realized that is over five years! I had to find out more about it.

Here is my interview with Dave Henderson:
Who had the idea for the vigil?
Virginia Merkel and Sharon Liu, two weeks after the 9/11 attack, just felt that someone should be publically witnessing concerning this horrific event. They stood, I believe, simply in solidarity with the victims. That witness simply attracted others, and it took off from there.

Who participates?
Anyone at all! This is NOT an exclusively “Peace & Justice group event.” In
other words, it is a free-form opportunity for any member of the Sonoma
Valley community to show up and witness, silently or with a sign, on any
issue that, they believe, pertains to “peace and justice.” We of the P&J
form the core, but not all witnessers, even those who show up on a more or
less regular basis, belong to our group. We do not keep track of who shows
up or joins us. The numbers range from a core of 8 (the minimum) to a more
usual 15, but we’ve peaked at about 30 for certain issues.

While the P&J folk may have a specific issue on occasion, there will likely
be a multiplicity of signs on other issues, too; this can tend to “dilute”
the impact of a specific theme, true, but we avoid attempting to impose our
views on others or achieve regimentation. As far as themes go, opposition to
the Iraq war and occupation has been constant, especially our demand to
Support the troops & bring them home, but other main themes have involved a
demand for more just and humane immigration policies, protest at
Administration violations of constitutional rights, support for habeas
corpus
, support for Ghandi’s principles, demand for universal health care in
California, etc.

What is the reaction from the community?
Ah! This has been most interesting! We obviously have strong local support,
as you can HEAR from all the honking of passing motorists, constantly. We
get a full hour of this, every Friday. Many people have stopped to tell us
of their appreciation that we’re “out there for them,” which is very
heartening. In fact, the realization that we represent a lot of community
members is one of the things that keeps us in good spirits.
We get lots of tourist snapping pictures of us, possibly to show people back
home “those strange characters in California.” But the real reason tourists,
especially those from other countries, stop, is to compliment us and express
appreciation. We have come to realize from these encounters, in fact, that
we are giving a healthier view of America to citizens of other countries.
Of course, we do get criticism, too, which we generally enjoy. We especially
liked one eloquent letter, published earlier this year in the Index Tribune,
that started “It’s a shame that a tourist entering Sonoma (…) has to be
greeted by these dirt-head, Vietnam-era throwbacks (and ) flower-power
degenerates.” But the abusive shouts and raised middle fingers are actually
very few.

For more information, attend their weekly meetings:

Sonoma Valley Peace & Justice meets every Wednesday
at the United Methodist Church 109 Patten
from 5:30 to 7 PM – All Peace/Justice Lovers welcome
Call Audrey 480-6973 for info

Or show up at the Friday night vigil, 5:00 pm at the Sonoma Plaza on the sidewalk in front of City Hall. This week (12/8/06) will be vigil number 272 .

You don’t have to agree with their politics to admire their consistency and commitment. Another wonderful part of Sonoma life.

Veronica