Writer in residence? I’ll give it a try.
I stayed four nights this week at the Moshin Vineyard in Healdsburg, in Sonoma county. The program, Writing Between the Vines, is directed by Marcy Gordon, from nearby Sebastopol. Along with Moshin Vineyards, residencies were also offered this year at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in British Columbia. You stay four nights, give a reading on the first night. The rest of the time is dedicated to writing and residing.
At Moshin I was welcomed by Jan Moshin and Julia Lander, and by Colleen, who has a expert pour. From everyone at Moshin, I felt nothing but all-around wonderful hospitality.
I showed up just in time for rain, which is an inducement to stay inside and keep your butt in the chair. And I did. Still sleeping on Detroit time, I was awake every night at 2:00 a.m. That’s a great time for office hours.
Daylight hours, sprinkles notwithstanding, I got outside and toured around Sonoma, an area I had never visited. In the far west, at Bodega Head you can do some whale watching. The experience turned out to be whale waiting. Alas, no whales. No matter. All that northern California rocky coastline, the jagged western edge of the continent, never loses its mystical power.
From Bodega I drove north to Goat Point, then east to Guerneville and the Armstrong Redwoods Reserve. Big trees in a quiet grove I had all to myself. I stood in front of a tall wide dude named Colonel Armstrong and looked up, hello there, at a tree 1400 years old, 300 feet tall. From there I cruised along the Russian River a bit, back toward Moshin, back to have a taste. Just a couple sips.
And writing. Take a sip, write a paragraph. Take a sip, write a sentence. Take a sip, add a prepositional phrase. Sip, ponder. More sips, more ponders.
Whales, redwoods, big stuff. Many small details also registered, resonated. The old red rail bridge over the Russian River, a mile from Moshin Vineyards. Westside Road winding north from Moshin toward Healdsburg, past wineries with their gates and tasting rooms, their stately rows of vines, all such clean geometry, and further on, the road curving beneath canopies of shaggy trees and lengthening toward town. Other small details. Good food: wild stinging nettle fritters, spiced and roasted fennel, raw ahi tuna tacos, tondini beans and roast pork.
Finally, and best of all, the company of good writers. Rebecca Gomez Farrell read from Wings Unseen, her gorgeously imagined fantasy novel that bursts with verbal energy. Marcy Gordon read from a future memoir, about the joys and comedy of living in Perugia, Italy. And Stephanie Rosenbaum, a prolific food writer, joined us at dinner after the reading, sharing her food knowledge and expertise, her love of Sonoma, and introducing me to Meyer lemons.
All in all, much to digest and be thankful for.