Saturday, March 26, 2011

Napa Faculty Notes

C.D.Wright at NVWC Picnic
talking with Jamie Figueroa and
unidentified participant
C.D.Wright, Poetry Faculty this past summer, just received the  National Book Critics Circle Award for her book, One With Others [a little book of her days].  We had the privilege of hearing her read several excerpts from it in the brand-spanking new Performing Arts Theater on the Main Campus in Napa for our 30th Anniversary celebration. That was a pretty spectacular night.

Catherine Thorpe wrote a nicely crafted blog post on C.D.Wright as the first entry on our new NVWC blog. Cruise by and then join us in the search for a spiffy blog name; all suggestions welcome! Okay, maybe, not all. 

A nice surprise in the latest Sunset magazine (April 2011) ~ a tender essay by Antonya Nelson about the extraordinary gardening skills of her treasured mother-in-law who passed away last May.  It doesn't seem to be linked online anywhere, but perhaps you are a lucky subscriber....or know how to use a library. Do check it out if you get the chance. It is accompanied by a lovely painting by Jade Boswell Webber (Toni's daughter) of her grandmother tending the earth.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Visit to The Fairfield Osborn Preserve

The long and winding road to the Fairfield Osborn Preserve seems a most appropriate approach to the 400-acre preserve spilling along the north-west slope of Sonoma Mountain. The fifteen minute drive starts flat, running through pastureland and fields, then quickly rises, past old farms and ranches, pastures on either side sprinkled with horses, cows and llamas. Each new curve on the climb reveals a different angle to the spectacular view of the valley floor spread out below, edged by rolling slopes and ridges and the round rumps of coastal hills. Quotidian and mundane tasks that narrow our vision fall away, deadlines fade as the wide vision, the big view dominates. The road winds through the last few miles of oak woodlands; we arrive at the gate of the Preserve already in a different frame of mind, prepped to breathe the oxygen-enriched air of a natural, not a manufactured, world.

The Fairfield Osborn Preserve was created from a gift of land from the Roth family in honor of Emily Roth’s father, Fairfield Osborn, and dedicated to both nature education and scientific research. Originally owned by The Nature Conservancy (still an easement neighbor), it has been owned and managed by the School of Science and Technology of Sonoma State University since 1994. To protect the land and the integrity of its research sites, the Preserve (fondly known as FOP) has limited public access. However, there are guided hikes and workshops offered on many Saturdays for anyone interested. A calendar of upcoming events and hikes can be found on the FOP FaceBook page

Additionally, the Sonoma State Preserve Program has developed an extensive and well-respected outdoor education program for elementary school children. Through guided hikes and information, the program introduces them to the flora and fauna of our environment, the wonder of the natural world and research and the scientific process itself.

Throughout my own guided tour, I spot odd things in odd places: white buckets, data loggers, wire-fence exclosures (to keep the critters out), little flags of different colors marking trees and bushes, trees and bushes with labels and monitoring devices—all evidence of the research going on here. FOP encompasses various forested and riparian terrains: oak and mixed evergreen forests, grasslands and chaparral, a perennial stream, a marsh, a small lake, a vernal pool, which provides a wide canvas for environmental and ecological research. The projects, some funded by the National Science Foundation and others by more local entities, revolve around issues such as Sudden Oak Death, the effect of grazing on native habitats and the relationship between insect pests and their natural bug enemies.

As I leave, the road winds and curls, leading me downslope; the valley sits below, muted under a misty haze. In the far distance is a slim line of blue: the ocean. This brief introduction has only whetted my appetitite; I'll return for more hiking excursions on the Preserve. I'm even considering becoming a docent so I can lead tours of my own  - and visit that much more often. 

( reposting for logistical reasons, from early fall, 2010)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


... stands for Women on Writing, an annual conference held at Skyline College in San Mateo. I went a few years ago with a bwf (best writing buddy) where (among other superb writers) I first heard and met Yiyun Li; her novel "The Vagrants" had just been published. Her reading was electrifying.

This year, Alison Luterman and Li Miao Lovett will share the podium ... and moi during the Open Reading at the end. I'll have 3 minutes to stun the literary world with my, ahem, brilliance. Can it be done? Well, probably not, since brilliance is required. However, I'll give it the old college try.  And I'll be meeting fabulous writers; you sure can't beat that for fun and grand stories.