The Idea of Order in Russian River

The Idea of Order in Russian River

As I crest the rise, the smell of eucalyptus trees fills the air, blotting every other scent from my sinuses. The rain ended mere hours ago and the trees come alive in the humid air. I breathe deeply, taking in the rare fragrance, an extravagant exogenous perfume. Just beyond the last tree, the hillside falls away, revealing a series of jigsawed properties, all covered with vineyards.

The rows fan out in directions that evoke the pull of gravity, dropping straight down the hillside, across the brief valley and up the far side. A distant hillside on my left is quilted with smaller vineyards, broken by tan stripes of dirt roads and and the umber of fences.

With the fruit long-since picked, the vines are covered in changing leaves. The deep greens giving way to the golds and crimsons of the fall. Each fleck is small enough at this distance it’s impossible to call the vineyard one color or another. It’s simply the swirl of fall.

The vineyard is not the call of the wine. Not a symbol for it. It is it’s own thing, a living entity devoted to grapes with French names. And with those grapes gone, the vineyard begins its winter slumber. It’s an arc to the year that is followed without fail. No emotion, no force of will can revoke the fall.

As my eyes dance over the rows of vines I take a few deeper breaths and sense my body relax. I, an unyielding creative, a master of chaos, feel peace as I take in the distant rows. Why are we drawn to that which we are not?

The road bends, drops slightly, and now I’m paralleling a row and I watch the leaves whizz past until they are a blur.

The irony redoubles as I consider my love for this natural thing, the lovechild of grape and yeast, a thing not native to this place. A mile on I turn my head from the trellises on my left to the yellow field of grass on my right. I wonder if that’s closer to the original look of this place. Or was it deeply forested, those oaks punctuating the yellow of the grass surrounded, instead, by more oaks, conifers, undergrowth—what those early settlers in conestogas must have endured to make it this far.

We see the object of desire not as it is, but as we are. And so I wonder, as I look upon the sleeping vines and I see a love of place, not the investment of millions of a rich man’s dollars, what it is I’m saying of myself. Is there some deeper question I should be asking about who I am to see the world that way?

I cast it aside. I’m not unwilling to ask the hard questions, but this is one time when I don’t want to complicate the obvious. I see beauty. Sometimes life is that simple.


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  1. Grego

    Despite the trees being long gone, it’s still called Redwood City. And 101 is the Redwood Highway, for what that’s worth. Human interaction with the environment inevitably results in degradation. There are benefits, though, such as having a place to live, or a delicious beverage as a product of grape berries, multiplying yeasties, and just the right amount of time. Enjoy the Sonoma fall foliage, Padraig!

  2. TomInAlbany

    It’s nice to read when someone writes about a feeling or what their senses are informing them. Thanks, Padraig.

    I have to add, off topic: I will say that, whenever I hear the words Russian River I automatically say – to myself of course – “Pliny on Tap! Pliny on Tap!” I once found Pliny the Elder on tap in Philadelphia while on a business trip. It is a great beer! Bad Pig is also worth spending some time drinking. I would spend a fair bit of time inebriated if I lived in Santa Rosa. And now I have a friend that is building a brewpub in Santa Rosa called Two Tread Brewing with a bicycle theme. Check it out when he opens up and tell Bill that Tom in Albany said, “hi!’

    And now we return to our regularly scheduled commenting

  3. Howard Hesterberg

    Nice Padraig, sometimes a non-native can really see into the heart of things in a truly special way. I’m not a norcal native either, but seems like we’ve both become fascinated with our adopted home.

  4. EvoDavo

    Having grown up in So Cal your description of the post-rain smell evoked a smile. I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest now for many years and pine is the flavor in the air. Memories are treasures that add pages to our books of life. Thanks for sharing and opening my book to a forgotten page.

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