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LeBaron: Musings on why we get older but the world doesn’t get smarter

The guest house of David Bouverie was destroyed but the home of the Englishman survived at the fire at the Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen. (photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

GAYE LEBARON,

Some scattered thoughts today, strewn across a busy February.

One matter that comes in February is the issue of the day I like to call the Feast of the False Assumption.

That was Monday last — the 19th — celebrated with no school, no mail, no garbage pickup, etc. with the false assumption that it was the birthday of a president or two.

Honda had a radio ad last week featuring a child who wrote a book report on Washington and Lincoln and thought they were twins because they had the same birthday.

I thought that was really funny and I laughed aloud alone in my Honda — until the kid went off on the word “sales” and it disintegrated into same ol’, same ol’.

In spite of the fact that I find such denigration of our heroes odious, I can live with holiday sales. But I will never get used to the combined holiday.

Lincoln was born Feb. 12; Washington Feb. 22. Monday the 19th and all other combined observances are just wrong.

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We have spent a lot of time this month talking about the weather, which is all over the place — rain at the seashore, snow up north, not a drop of rain and temperature fluctuations from 80s to 20s almost overnight.

The TV weather folk appear astonished and have begun predicting another drought.

None of this is news to people who have read the history of the region. Our first county historian, Robert Thompson, wrote in the 1870s: “February is a growing month and one of the most pleasant in the year. It is like the month of May in the eastern States.”

But Thompson hadn’t been here quite a decade when he wrote those sunny sentences. Also, he was writing in a promotional manner, trying to convince more easterners to come and settle in this magic kingdom.

He hadn’t been here long enough to know beans about our February. He hadn’t reckoned on the rains, like the Valentine’s Day storm of 1986 that dumped 10 inches of rain an hour on some corners of the county and caused hillsides to slide that hadn’t moved since, well, 1870.

We’ve never been able to predict February. And just wait until you get to March!

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Thankfully, the bad news about friends and acquaintances who lost homes in the October fires doesn’t come daily anymore. We’ve pretty much heard it all by now, and are doing what we can to help.

And it has become increasingly clear that for every sad story, there is a happy one, like the account of the Heirloom Boxes and the joy that comes in them.

The story begins with Sonoma County’s Threshold Choir, which itself is a wondrous thing.

Threshold Choirs have one main purpose. They sing to people who are dying.

The founder, Kate Munger, who lives in Marin County, came forward with the idea when she sat with a friend dying of AIDS and, to assuage her own discomfort, sang her favorite song – over and over again. For more than two hours. It not only comforted her, it comforted her dying friend.

Kate, now in her 90s, is obviously a woman with organizing skills. She reached out to others and in March 2000 the first two choirs were formed, one in Marin, the other in the East Bay. Six months later, Threshold Choirs in Sonoma County and San Francisco were organized.

At last count there were 160 Threshold Choirs worldwide.

They don’t just sing. They play important roles in the lives of many people. Among their good works are the Heirloom Boxes. Members can donate items that have been precious to them, box them and ship them to choir headquarters in Marin. From there they are distributed to people who have need of meaningful gifts.

The “magic” of these boxes, if you like that way of thinking about it, was experienced last week at a gathering of docents from the Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen, which has a history with the choir, thanks to docents Eleanor Decker, Angela Morgan and Julia Clothier.

Bouverie is soldiering on in its mission to educate children about nature, despite the loss of its classroom building, dwellings and offices — just about everything except the home of the late founder, David Pleydell-Bouverie, and a house he built for author M.F.K. Fisher, which she called Last House.

The party at the Santa Rosa home of choir member Carol Lynn Wood honored 17 docents and staff members who lost their houses — and everything they owned — to the firestorms.

It was exactly the right time and place for the Heirloom Boxes.

As so often happens, inexplicably, the unopened boxes chosen at random by the guests seemed to connect, as Kate Munger puts it, “exactly the right recipient with the perfect box.”

A woman who lost her quilt collection opened a box containing a handmade double-sided quilt, another received a Waterford crystal champagne flute from the set she lost, the twin of the flute with which she had been known to enjoy toasts with her late husband.

Another box, containing a Precious Moments figurine, was opened by a couple whose daughter was grieving the loss of her Precious Moments collection. There was a silver ring, an Amish doll, both received by just the right people, a heart-shaped chunk of quartz opened by a woman who lost her rock collection and a scarf that matched the box-opener’s outfit just perfectly.

Kate Munger can tell you it often happens like that. But the Bouverie folk take it as a sign.

The boxes, the messages, were not only personal, but a gift for the preserve and its acres of burned beauty, which we all know nature has already given the gift of recovery.

So sing no dying songs for Bouverie and its mission. It will just take a little time.

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The good news, sesquicentennial category, is that the contents of the time capsule liberated nearly a month ago from its 50 years underground in Old Courthouse Square, are drying out nicely at SSU’s Anthropology Department and should be easily readable when they go on display at the Sonoma County Museum March 24.

Meanwhile, we should all be thinking hard about what might go into the empty capsule when it is reburied for the next 50 years.

I am told that there will be a call for suggestions. I’ll bet we can do better at telling the 2068 citizenry what life was like here and now. My advice: Skip the council minutes and the copy of the General Plan and go with small items unique to this day and age.

That could be an interesting list.

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Last item: The more the present piles up on us, the more tempting it is to retreat to days gone by. It seems that I am not the only one who thinks so.

A pair of concerts a day apart: Johnny Mathis at the LBC and Peter Yarrow and (Noel) Paul Stookey at the Green Center, on the road again without the late Mary Travers who completed their first-name trio of the Singing ’60s.

There were more than the usual number of canes and walkers in the audiences, but no lack of enthusiasm. Mathis still sings pretty — but I wish he would let himself look his age, because we all know he’s in his 80s and those long brown curls just look silly — and had his audience cheering at the first two syllables and popping to their feet (not always easy) to cheer every final fadeaway note.

Peter and Paul look their age and hooray for them. It was a two-hour singalong starting with “Puff the Magic Dragon” and ending with “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Sadly, those protest songs from the days of Vietnam seem to carry the same heavy weight today. We get older. But the world doesn’t get much smarter, does it?

Where HAVE all the flowers gone?