PD reporters share stories of trees, poetry and running in the North Bay

Life in the North Bay is full of wonder and surprise. Here are short essays by The Press Democrat staff about the region.|

Editor’s note: These reflections offer glimpses into life in Sonoma County. Short essays written by Press Democrat staff are accompanied by photos submitted by our readers.

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Saturday, Sept. 24

Hockey season is coming up

Everyone is geeked up about the NFL (Go Niners!), but for me the best part about the beginning of football season is that hockey season is just a couple of weeks away.

In fact, in some places, it’s already begun. A few weeks ago I joined a league at Snoopy’s Home Ice, which is where you’ll find me on Thursday nights playing defense for Seal Team Stix. (Sometimes those Thursday nights turn into Friday mornings, depending on how many beers are quaffed in the parking lot, but don’t tell my boss.)

I started playing when I was 40 because my wife really digs hockey players and I thought she’d like me better. The jury’s still out on that. I’m not a particularly good player, but it’s a good group of guys, and we have fun.

And the best part is that win or lose, we still booze.

— John D’Anna, The Press Democrat

Friday, Sept. 23

The Pomo tale of the frog woman

It’s California’s 55th Native American Day, a holiday which celebrates Indigenous people, their culture and resilience.

As a child, my father would tell me Navajo lores. While they are myths, I believe passing along these stories is an important piece of who we are as Native Americans. So I’d like to share a folklore I learned recently.

If you drive north on Highway 101, just past Sonoma-Mendocino county line, you’ll see a large rock formation towering over the Russian River.

This rock is named Maatha kawao qhabe, which translates to frog woman rock.

According to Pomo lore, the frog woman was the clever and powerful wife of Coyote, who lived near the rock. Her human face was beautiful, but she had the body of a frog which allowed her to jump 100 feet to eat men.

I recently went on a joy ride and stopped at the rock to pay the frog woman my respects. I thought I heard “ribbit” at one point. It was probably just a passing car. But maybe ...

— Alana Minkler, The Press Democrat

Thursday, Sept. 22

Celebrating autumn equinox

It’s the first day of autumn, and I can smell the grape harvest from my house.

At dawn, the damp sweet perfume of cold, freshly crushed fruit had caught its breath on the wind and drifted east above the redwoods — settling beneath my nose with an intimate familiarity.

My husband says I’m crazy. But I don’t mind. The American Psychological Association calls my sensory experience “the Proust phenomenon,” or “the sudden, involuntary evocation of an autobiographical memory, including a range of related sensory and emotional expressions.”

I breathe in, recalling harvests of years gone by – sticky hands sorting grapes, bins of whole-cluster syrah redolent of black pepper, nursing sore backs with cold beer and tired laughter.

It’s the first day of autumn, and I can smell the grape harvest from my house. My husband says I’m crazy. But I don’t mind.

— Sarah Doyle, The Press Democrat

Wednesday, Sept. 21

Turning to poetry to sooth my worries

Late summer is the time of year I like to head to the coast and spend some time cooling off near the waves. My partner has this wonderful habit of reading poetry to the sea, and with Sonoma’s own Ada Limon the poet laureate, it’s a good time to break out your favorite book of poems, maybe even Limon’s “The Hurting Kind”.

The world is a pretty crazy place right now, and as a poet myself, I often turn to reading and writing to deal with the rise of extremism, climate change and worrying for my children’s future. There’s something soothing and cathartic about a good poem, and we could all use a little more of that nowadays.

— Tom Sepulveda, The Press Democrat

Tuesday, Sept. 20

A little predawn motivation

I run almost every morning. When I say “run,” I’m being pretty generous with myself.

After years out there, on the same route many days, I see the same faces. I recognize gaits and gear, those who run with dogs and those who run with friends. We all wave and offer each other a hearty good morning.

It’s a nearly anonymous predawn team and I’m a proud member.

One day this week I saw a guy I hadn’t seen in a while. I know him a little bit so when I said my “Hey” he chimed in about having a tough morning. He’d been off for a while and he wasn’t feeling it.

So I told him what I sometimes have to tell myself. “You are out here. That’s what it’s all about and this is where it starts.”

Every day, this is where it starts.

— Kerry Benefield, The Press Democrat

Monday, Sept. 19

Spotted: Tangled trees in Fort Bragg

I recently spent a weekend on the Mendocino Coast after too many years without any extended time on that stretch of landscape and was reminded what a rugged, magical place it is — so different from its southern sister!

One discovery was this area of huge, knotted, gnarled trees of what I think were bishop pine at Jug Handle State Natural Reserve, where the wind had stunted the limbs but the trees somehow kept growing in loops of snaking tree trunks or thick limb — hard to tell which — without beginning or end, creating cave-like spaces that were super cool. I’d somehow missed them last time I went, which was years ago. So much to choose from close together on this rocky, forested coastline. Ready to go back!

— Mary Callahan, The Press Democrat

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