History is a living thing; the way we think about today may not be the same way people think about it in the future. We’re only human, after all, and the decisions we make are sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and sometimes terrible. None the less, we muddle on, moving forward while looking back.
Sonoma Valley and the City of Sonoma occupy a special place in California history, a history filled with decisions people made about their lives and their future. The extraordinarily beauty of this part of the Bay Area has been altered, but still remains. This is not an accident. Despite the forces of politics and money, honesty and corruption, public benefit and selfish motivation, in some mysterious way we’ve never lost our sense of place nor succumbed to miles of four-lane freeways, cookie-cutter developments, big box stores and shopping malls. Although proposals for all of these have come, they all have gone, and we are better off for it.
An important reason is honoring the past, and the ways we pay attention the choices our community made about its future. For many of us, those decisions are obscured in clouds of unknowing, leaving many of us with just a vague sense how we arrived at this place in time and why things look and feel as they do. We can read about our history, of course, but that’s not the same as living it; with the passing of each generation some of the truth of history is lost and we rely on what we’re told.
The future is a moving target and anticipating what’s to come is never precise. August and September once were greeted with enthusiasm; climate change has shifted that enthusiasm to anxiety. We’ve supported and funded our small, rural hospital and its emergency room, but few of us expected to be reeling from a pandemic. Tourism is our economic lifeblood and its effects dominate our region, but it’s also vulnerable to economic shocks that deprive government of funds, making our own lives more vulnerable. Nonetheless, our only choice is to do the best we can, which looking back, we’ve always done.
History is about a place, but a place is just a place without its people. When we speak or write about our community, it’s from the eyes, hearts and experience of people. To some, our area is simply a cash machine or a place to land for a while and then move on. For most of us, however, it’s home; that’s how we feel about it and treat it. We throw street litter in the trash, rescue lost dogs, offer food support to the hungry, and in times of trouble open our hearts and homes. We volunteer, run for office and think about ways we can overcome our troubles and help chart a good and better path to the future.
The effects of this pandemic run deep and it will take time to recover from it. Gratefully, most of us pay attention to the steps we can take to protect ourselves and each other, like wearing masks and not gathering in person. Now’s not the time to give in to our frustrations and get lazy or sloppy. Hang in there; looking back, we’ve been through tough times before, yet here we are, and the future is in our hands. Stay safe.