Hwy. 12–Sonoma’s Wine Country

Young grapevines

In 1995 my Grandmother turned 96. This turning implied more than a turning of the page. It was a turning of the corner. After effectively caring for herself nearly an entire century, she simply could do it no longer. Clearly. After soul searching and chest pounding and tears and prayer I took a step I had never imagined I would take. I brought her down to the Bay Area. Fortunately angels were at my side and a clear path opened and the next thing I knew I was packing her up into my Explorer Sport and driving her to her new life–mine. Managing her day to day care was prohibitive. I was able, miraculously, divinely, to place her in a loving, well-managed nursing home in the heart of downtown Sonoma. Little did I know that I was entering a six year adventure, for who is thinking that someone will aspire to and attain a century on planet Earth?? Looking back, I should have known. In that moment, however, I was just focusing on what she needed at that moment. Over the next six years Grandma was mobile enough to be able to participate in family activities and Sunday drives, which she thoroughly enjoyed. It was always so poignant, though, that during that time my Grandmother said to me so many times, “I would love to have lived here.”

One of the many blessings of that particular period was that for four of those trying years I placed myself on a hillside, up a dirt road, on four fabulously beautiful and healing four acres that required me to drive over Hwy. 12 to arrive at her nursing home. Thus the road I am going to here document for you, largely in photos, carries with it an enormous psychic imprint of a thousand conversations and thoughts about the caring and well being of my beloved Grandmother. Do you hear me? I think some of you will.

tree with mustard

So out of that six year commitment I managed to build in this wondrously magnificent trail–the way in, the way out. Indeed, it was on this very road, as I was just exiting Sonoma, turning on to Hwy. 12 when I was struck solidly with the intuitive knowing that she had left planet Earth. “Oh, Grandma,” I found myself crying out, tears streaming down my face. Indeed, when I arrived home at the other end of Hwy. 12 there was a message from the hospital that she had left us.

So Hwy. 12 will always mean a lot to me. I carry it with me wherever I go, a sacred touchstone, that I find I long for if I am too long away from it. Happily, now when I go I am ususally seeking out my longtime hairdresser, my favorite Italian cafe, Cafe Citti, or the sheer joy of a beauteous afternoon.

President’s Day I stole out of the office (no one was working in New York, afterall) as I know how beautiful the area is at this time of year and I was enormously inspired to share some of those images with all of you! Enjoy!

cafe planter

And nearby…

hanging quilts

One of my very favorite beauties on Hwy. 12 is the elaborate stonework, all handdone, in a fashion lost to most skilled laborers. (That is Hwy.12 you see stretching just beyond the trees.)


Continuing on our journey, do not these old vines wretch at your heart?

old vines

A lovely old rosemary grows nearby to keep them company.


An iron rooster keeps watch from a neighboring rooftop.


And our journey ends in a springtime mustard filled vineyard.


Thank you for taking this trip with me.

Love and blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

34 Responses to “Hwy. 12–Sonoma’s Wine Country”

  1. What a lovely memory to share, although, as you say, certainly poignant at moments. Although I never met her in person, I remember our friendship all those years including all the stories of her, her roommates, and the caretakers at the home…. the place where you would get flowers to bring to her, the outfits you would get for her. You were a very good caretaker, K.
    Having done something similar with my mom, (moving her close to me after my dad died, helping her re-establish a new life, and caring for her to her last day at nearly 91), I can easily relate to how we intertwine our memories of people with places.
    I love the pics…. very beautiful, evocative, and a very nice tribute to both Grandma and Hwy 12.
    Aloha from Maui, p.

  2. Hi, Pamela, Thank you. Yes, we certainly did do that in each other’s company. God bless them both.
    Love, Kathryn

  3. Thank you for sharing! Brings back many memories. You were an excellent caretaker and she was blessed to have you. The pics are perfect!

  4. Thank you, Antonia! Love you!

  5. God Bless you as I think back with tears of those I loved and went to the end with. Mary

  6. Aww, very sweet, Mary. Thank you for your kind comment. Love, Kathryn

  7. Kathryn,

    What a rush of emotion, I have had that same experience three times. So often we forget that others have walked in our footprint. Each of these lovely ladies, loved the earth and all its beauty. I am a better person for their love. We always regreted that we could not take Ruea’s mother to Maui. She would have loved the Islands. She did have a wonderful garden in Santa Rosa. My mother a wonderful garden in San Jose, and my darling Agnes in Watsonville by the sea. The pictures are beautiful. I thought of her when i reread An Island Garden. Agnes came to Ellis Island with her parents from Ireland when she was seven years old in the summer. She said she was dressed in heavy Irish wool and they were so very hot and uncomfortable. There is another great story there. A thousand stories and gardens for you to write about.

    I am pleased that you are progressing.

  8. Dear Marjorie, yes, the possibilities are pretty endless, though I will probably only share my own. It’s enough and more than enough, and what I know best. I’m just grateful that there is a resonating response to what I am sharing. That is blessing enough. Big hug! Kathryn xoxo

  9. What a magical and heartfelt piece, Kathryn. Beautifully told and beautifully illustrated. I am sitting here smiling. Thank you.

  10. Good morning, David! Thank you so much for visiting and for your kind comments! Kathryn xox

  11. Thank you for sharing this story. I am blinking back tears.


  12. Awww. Thank you, Deb, for visiting. Clearly you are an open-hearted person. I’m glad you stopped by and am honored you were touched by this sharing. I hope you will come back often. Kathryn

  13. Such a warm and heartfelt piece, Kathryn, beautifully illustrated. I’m sure it would make your Grandma smile. 🙂

  14. Nancy, thank you so much for stopping by. I deeply appreciate your comments and love the perspective that my Grandmother is noticing, which of course she is. 🙂 Warmly, Kathryn

  15. What a beautiful post! Amazing photos!

  16. I was so touched by your story. I was not fortunate enough to have grandparents that I remember well but my children did and they treasure the memories of their grandmother on their father’s side.

    Thank you for sharing such a poignant story. You are truly a remarkable person.

  17. Dear Marie, I’m so touched to have a new friend in Norway. Thank you for visiting and thank you for your lovely comment. Kathryn

  18. Dear Carolyn, It was so nice to have you come by today. I so appreciate your acknowledgment. I’m sorry you did not have the Grandparent Experience, and glad it has come to you through your children.
    Warmly, Kathryn

  19. Kathryn, I’m so glad you shared Hwy. 12 and your pathway to your grandmother’s with us. Thank you. I wish that I had such a road to take to the hospital to visit my mother. We should be moving her this week to a skilled nursing facility, and inspired by you, I will try to find some of the path that is part of the back country. It should help to soothe my soul.~~Dee

  20. Hi, Dee, I found myself wondering about you and your mother recently. Yes, build it in if possible. It’s such a balm. Blessings, Kathryn

  21. Kathryn,

    Highway 12 is a beautiful place. We lived in Sonoma County for 8 years and made many a trip down the highway. Thanks for great story. Bring backs memories of that great place.


  22. What an incredibly beautiful story – thank you for sharing it with us. I loved hearing about your grandmaman and how much the trip came to mean to you. The photographs are stunning – the field of mustard makes my heart do a little dance of joy!

  23. Good morning, Kate! Thank you for visiting and thank you for the lovely kind words! Kathryn

  24. Hi, Sean! Thanks for taking a trip down memory lane with me! Kathryn

  25. Wow those are great pictures. -Bill

  26. Dear Bill–Thank you for stopping by! I visited your blog. It looks like it’s a good practical resource! Glad you enjoyed the photos! Kathryn

  27. I do know what you mean. And your words are quite beautiful. I am a Meals On Wheels volunteer, and love my exchanges with the clients. Perhaps it has something to do with being raised by my great-grandma. And it is also possible why I love gardening and nature as I do. Well said.
    Brenda Kula

  28. Thank you, Brenda. Yes, after awhile we begin to see what the elderly need and we anticipate it. I know all those years in Grandma’s community left me much more sensitive to elderly drivers, walkers, etc. As a Meals on Wheels volunteer you will understand. And one day it will be we needing that kind of caring!

  29. Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing this heartfelt journey with those of us lucky enough to have joined you. Your mustard field photos are stunning. I have a tear in my eye writing since I am caring for my recently blind sister after a horrific year of illness, hoping to keep her near yet knowing I might have to travel a road similar to yours. If so, I hope I see the beauty …

  30. Heartfelt wishes, Joey. Yes, we are called upon to help those near and dear and it’s amazing what we need to pull out of ourselves to do it. Compassion, top of the list. Willingness. Putting ourSELVES aside, in the moment. Be sure to keep yourself well fed, spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally. Tend your own heart as well as hers. Bless you for your service to family. Kathryn xox

  31. Wow, Kathryn,
    This is powerful stuff. I experienced the shivers just reading your eloquent words and feeling transported along Hwy 12 with you – physically and emotionally. What a wonderful, healing, experience to draw our sustenance from a place where we know both sadness and joy. Your photography captures all the sensory features of Hwy 12, too. I almost smell that mustard and rosemary, and I can feel the breeze making the quilts ripple. Thank you. Debra

  32. Thank YOU, Debra, for visting and for sharing your response. As a writer, you will understand the value of this kind of feedback–encouraging me to keep on keeping on, digging deeper and continuing to share life’s journeys, only with the hope that it’s making a difference, somewhere, somehow. Warmly, Kathryn

  33. Your photos are just gorgeous, Kathryn. Very evocative of your Hwy. 12, and a lovely tribute to your grandmother. Thanks for sharing.

  34. Hi, Pam, lovely to have you here today. Thank you for stopping by and I appreciate your kind comments. Warmly, Kathryn

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