“As Ellen Dissanayake has observed, the function of art is to “make special”; as such, it can raise the “special” qualities of place embedded in everyday life, restoring them to those who created them…”
“Psychologist Tony Hiss asks us to measure our closeness to neighbors and community and suggests ways to develop an “experiential watchfulness” over our regional ‘sweet spots,” or favorite places. Seeing how they change at different times of day, week and year can stimulate local activism.”
From The Lure of the Local, by Lucy Lippard.
It’s all about paying attention.
“Open water” is represented by the dotted brown line. The dark blue is the storm sewer which starts at Central and Verde Vista and ends in the Sonoma Mission Inn grounds. Map courtesy of Sonoma County.
The course of the seasonal Lily Creek starts somewhere in the open space above Monterey Ave. (in the “Mountain Avenue Canyon”), goes under the street at Central and Verde Vista, travels below ground along Verde Vista, pops up at the corner of Verde Vista and Arroyo, ducks under again then is visible curling around the foundation of a house on Las Lomas, then parallels Arroyo Rd. traveling through back yards.
In the open space, looking towards Mountain Avenue.
Looking northeast from the corner of Central and Monterey towards the top of the drainage, circa 1910.
At Central Verde Vista, a complicated bit of engineering.
After the rains, December 2019
The creek runs under Verde Vista and pops up briefly at Arroyo Road
The majestic stone work of the old Larson Villa guards the creek’s appearance at the corner of Arroyo Rd. and Verde Vista
On Las Lomas.
In 2009 a property owner put the section of creek through the lot near Vallejo and Arroyo underground. Although this was engineered and done with county permits, the work constricted the watercourse and provided a place at its head for brush and debris to pile up, blocking flow. This has remained a problem.
Flooding, February 2019
West of Vallejo St, the bed goes through the yards of three houses, and then dives under Highway 12 at Arroyo.
The original Mary’s pizza Shack at Arroyo Rd. and Highway 12. The creek was undergrounded here in the 1980s. The old concrete guardrail at the creek can be seen in both photos.
Entrance to the Sonoma Mission Inn, 2019
Entrance to the Sonoma Mission Inn, circa 1950. Photo by Zan Stark.
On the other side of the highway it enters the grounds of the Sonoma Mission Inn. It is first seen there where a large grate covers the entrance. This was put into place, so it’s said, to keep miscreants from crawling through the culvert and into the grounds. It daylights briefly near the swimming pool, then disappears into the brush.
Just west of the SMI it takes a turn to the south, paralleling Happy Lane and Sonoma Creek. It crosses West Thomson near Happy Lane, behind the Ratto place, skirts the end of Academy Lane and then Fairview Lane, and enters Agua Caliente Creek near the Finnish American Heritage Association (Old Maple St.)
Lilly Creek behind the Ratto place, where it goes under West Thomson.
It’s curious that what is essentially an east-west water course would turn south very close to Sonoma Creek.
Behind FAHA, near Sonoma Creek.
Sonoma Creek near its confluence with Agua Caliente Creek and Lily Creek and the bridge between Verano and El Verano.
I like to think that the bullfrog photographed in 1922, “near El Verano,” was found somewhere under the “Bridge between Verano and El Verano.”
Tracy Irwin Storer was a biologist, not an artist or a poet or a historian, but a trained observer nonetheless. He thought it was worthwhile to note, in 1922, that “the French bullfrogs for sale,” he found near Boyes Hot Springs, “had been caught locally, along the creek, by two small boys.” Posterity thanks him for that evocative snapshot.
Thanks to Dan Levitis for showing me how to find field notes from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.
Addendum 3, December 20, 2019
Photos from author’s collection. Index Tribune courtesy of Sonoma Valley Historical Society.