Country road lament
By Marsha Moran
Last Sunday marked the end of an era for us. It was the first time in some 40 years that my husband and I decided to not take our usual Sunday morning walk up Henno Road. During the week, we try to walk daily in the Regional Park, but Sundays have always been reserved for walking what we think of as our road.
We moved to Henno in 1976, and lived Spartan make-shift lives while we built our home out of recycled lumber from an old barracks that we tore down at what is now Chrissy Field in San Francisco. We ended up with a 1,200-square-foot house that is home. Not the kind of home for everyone, certainly, but it looks and feels like us, and we made it with our own four hands (along with the aid of some helpful building inspectors, and a few friends – amateurs like us).
We began our Sunday habit of walking Henno Road the first year we settled on our property, and have enjoyed saying hello to neighbors and watching the many changes that have taken place over several decades. Our particular favorite part of the walk has always been the pond down by what used to be called Rancho de las Piedras. The pond has seen several incarnations over the years, but the gorgeous view of it, and the Mayacamas in the distance behind, has always reminded us of how blessed we, and all of us, are to be living in our small part of the Valley of the Moon.
We even have a whimsical watercolor by a friend who painted the pond after taking our Sunday morning Henno walk with us. This was a time many years ago when the pond was filled with frogs, so much so that when you looked at it, it seemed all you could see were hundreds of big bulging eyes floating mysteriously on top of the water.
Over the years, Henno road dwellers and other residents of Glen Ellen have taken an interest in the pond and the view of the landscape beyond it. Some 20 or so years ago, when a new owner of the property proposed building a large facility just beyond the pond to house bulk wine and cased goods, the community was actively involved in helping the owner decide how big and how high the envisioned building could be, without destroying the view of the pond and the land behind it from Henno Road. The owner and community came to an agreeable resolution but the property changed hands once again before the warehouse was realized.
When an earlier winery thoughtlessly dumped waste from its winemaking process into the pond, killing all the living creatures in it, the community also took an active interest, making sure an environmentally sound solution was put in place to handle the winery waste.
So, in many ways, during the four decades we have lived here, the pond has always seemed like it belonged in partnership with the community at large and the various owners of the land. And then a few months ago, we were dismayed to find that the current owner of the property had decided to build a solid fence (very nice, redwood and all) from the northern end of the pond south to about the middle of it. The fence is some 6 feet high, with double strands of wire stretched across its top, and it effectively keeps neighbors, road walkers, and motorists from viewing that end of the pond and its various entertainment improvements (volleyball court, bocce ball court, outside kitchen and barbecue areas, tables, chairs, boat dock, recirculating stream, etc.)
As I mentioned, we were sorry to lose this view, but we got it. We could understand why the owners might want more privacy for the area, since it was obviously designed for private entertaining. At the same time, we were grateful that the high fence stopped mid-way alongside the pond, so that we could still see part of it and the vineyards and mountains behind. We appreciated that the owners seemed to care about the quality of life of their neighbors and community.
And then last week, months after the first part of the fence was finished, to our surprise, the rest of the fence went up so that now the entire pond is walled in by a big long football-field-size solid barrier. (The irony is that if the owners had just left their original deer/rodent fence to naturalize for a few more years, the existing vegetation would have come to almost entirely obscure any view from the road anyway.)
So, last Sunday we skipped our beloved Henno Road walk. Maybe we’ll take up the habit again some day but it won’t be for a while, and there won’t be much of the larger world to see on the pond side of Henno when we do.
And I just don’t get it. If you own acres and acres of land, and your home is nowhere near your giant fence, why do you need one? Why do people feel they have to shut themselves in, or the rest of us out, just because they can? Are they safer? Are they protecting their belongings? Are they afraid of people whose eyes don’t belong in their world? Why do people continue to think that good fences make good neighbors when the fences often just end up taking things away from everybody else?
And what about that other fence? The one we keep hearing about that will be 2,000 miles long and 30 feet high that the folks in Mexico don’t think will be very neighborly. I don’t like it. And I just don’t get it. But maybe that bigger proposed wall is the real reason I am so unhappy about the new small one on our road. It makes me and my husband feel a little like aliens in our own land.
Marsha Moran is a Glen Ellen resident.
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