Happy May Day! Whatever your traditions – whether Celtic Beltane maypoles, encircled with ribbons by dancers; jumping over a bonfire, or crowning a May Queen – now the seeds have been planted, and these rituals ensure a bountiful harvest, and protection of crops and farm animals.
International Workers’ Day at the same time honors the working class, and each year there is a march in our neighborhood, Roseland. Through the decades this historic unincorporated area has been home to thousands of immigrants: Italians, Irish, and other Europeans coming to work in agriculture and canneries; most recently Latinos from Central and South America; and one of the largest Romani populations in Sonoma County (who have their own May traditions celebrating the end of the cold and the planting of the harvest).
A reputation for a high crime rate is somewhat founded in fact but is largely based on fear of nonwhite residents, as the clash between cultures, and between old and new continues. Roseland is one of Santa Rosa’s poorest neighborhoods -but it is also the town’s most diverse and vibrant, with residents of Native American, Asian, African American, Latino, and European backgrounds. Here, young and old families live in homes filled with character, enjoy great food, and support emerging artists in places like former airfields and industrial buildings. Our Cinco de Mayo festival is the greatest in the county!
But what most drew me is a direct line to Roseland’s rural, agrarian past: its ragged borders bleed messily from new subdivisions into abandoned fields and woods, gardens covered with vines and rosebushes and ancient hemlocks, miniature goats gamboling amidst wild turkeys and chicken coops, and even a horse here and there. The backyard tree we share with our neighbor was grafted by famed local horticulturist Luther Burbank of black and English walnut. Here, the wildlife and nature are stunning: magnificent red-shouldered hawks nest in redwoods, everywhere the brrr of red-winged blackbirds, snowy egrets fly overhead to nearby wetlands or Roseland Creek – itself slotted to be restored, with a bike path. I love walking these old streets as neighbors work in their vegetable plots, on their old trucks or classic cars, parents come home to play with their kids and fire up the BBQ. Almost as much as I love the return to our quiet street.