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Katy Byrne
What's Up With That?
Katy Byrne

Small town Sonoma

A lot of us moved to Sonoma to find peace and a place for reflection. It’s so soothing to live here with nature and town all around, after being in big cities. I hoped to learn here how to be in a true community, after moving up from San Francisco. And I now know that different people have a range of purposes. Some love to cook and others tell good jokes. Some know about Carl Jung and others about the news. Allowing differences is a great lesson in community and creates a rich soil to build from. So, what’s the shadow side of Sonoma? It’s not easy to make a living or to be single. It’s wealthy and white downtown. Sonoma is like an éclair. It’s pretty, but there’s nothing in the middle (middle class). And if you’re not skinny and white, you’re in the minority – at least on the east side. Some say Sonoma’s a bit uppity. The parking isn’t perfect. But, for me, having lived in big cities, this town is still pretty easy to drive through. I get most places around here in five minutes. It’s whimsical here the way people grin and say “hello," but still there’s judgment and gossip in our midst. What’s the dark side of sunny side up? We’re not unlike these crazy elections at some deep level. We disagree, or are greedy. We have a division of classes that’s soul sucking. And after a while everyone knows a lot about everyone else, even if you hide. As Kant said, “The nice part about living in a small town is that when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does.” I don’t mean to be a sourpuss but we know there’s pressure to grow and sometimes it can go sideways. We’re full of Airbnb’s with travelers buzzing around, which is sweet, but we’re scared of losing our safe small town to big buildings. Are we losing the heart of Sonoma with big money taking over? It’s a fear. We hope Sonoma will give us housing, lift wages and stay happy, but it’s also full of anxiety about change. What to do? We gotta’ have heart. The heart of a town is like the heart of a person’s body -- it’s central to our wellbeing. I sometimes joke about community being like “a bunch of nuts in a bowl” because we are all different and still evolving as a species; Imperfect but well intended most of the time. I hope we continue to try to build a town that cares for the common good. We could get really creative here if we work together. Maybe build a magical mystery village on Eighth Street that’s affordable for all? And trolleys with big flowers on them, and musicians? More farmers markets? Pet friendly rentals? Tiny houses everywhere? Brainstorming and ideas are the start. “In the beginning was the word.” I talked to a friend the other day who shared that while she was losing her husband and her house to job loss and his passing, this community showed up and made sure she was fed and helped with phone calls and stayed in touch with her until the matters were resolved. This is the great possibility of a town that cares. As Albert Einstein wrote to his daughter: “When we learn to give and receive this universal energy [love]…we will have affirmed – there is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to.” It exists here and I hope we keep the common good always in our vision. And from Scott Peck: “It is clearly no longer enough to be simply social animals, babbling together at cocktail parties and brawling with each other in business and over boundaries. It is our task – our essential, central, crucial task – to transform ourselves from mere social creatures into community creatures.” Ya’ gotta have heart.
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