Hills Like Home


Rick Scheideman


The drive from Cloverdale to the coast undulates between grassy hills as flaxen as my lover’s hair. Now and then, the roadway dips through moguls: quick turn there, a rise, and then a plunge into a hollow—redwoods ahead. The sun has moved past the midpoint so that an August light diffuses into amber and gold. Though the Pacific waits in the two-hour distance, the colors know.

From San Francisco north on 101, my jaw clenched with the traffic. A glance over the Golden Gate into the whirling bay and later smiled toward Mt. Sonoma. I inhaled a respite. Still, until I turned the car west at Cloverdale, the sweat inducing traffic bog through Santa Rosa had made the trip feel like any other stressed thoroughfare. But then the turn and the sign: one village sits half way.

Boonville, the name suited for Appalachia, not this soft land of family vineyards with rose trellises and ample gardens. I would rather engage the hills in conversation than gaggle at the store in mid-village. I drive past charmed, I am home.

 I’m drawn into these hills, mountains of the Coastal Range, I suppose because they are unlike the Rockies. The slopes here lack scree and talus; no detritus of pick-up stick fallen pines and fir, or the exposed scar of shale. All is grass, blond, nearly white and breathless in the golden afternoon. No August wind to scour these soft cupped hills. Not only do I take lingering glimpses from the pavement, but sling off on a dirt road more than once for long moments.

It has been years since my journey to Mendocino, but I remain in its spell. A stretch of afternoon that meanders those luminescent hills continues to evoke whimsy. A place magical with particular beauty says, “Here is home, this is a piece of it.”