Bobcat, coyote, and fox are just a few of the mammals that frequent the acreage behind our public library. Add birds, reptiles and amphibians and you see we have quite a thriving habitat right here in Saint Helena.

If you’ve never walked the path between our library and Napa River, which includes vineyards, fields and a variety of shrubs and trees, I encourage you to do so. It’s beautiful and a pretty great place to spend a little time.

Twenty years ago, we didn’t know the future we find ourselves in today would include rampant extinction of species, decimation of rain forests, or huge glaciers melting at inconceivably rapid rates. We didn’t know our Pacific coast would become an underwater desert with an obliterated kelp forest. Nor did we know extreme and devastating weather would be occurring nearly year-round. Our local fire seasons have already become so extended and devastating it is nearly overwhelming.

Our own United States of America no longer provides potable drinking water for all her people. Closer to home, right now, nearly 1,000 of California’s community water systems are at high risk of failing to provide drinkable water.

Living in this gorgeous valley, it isn’t too difficult to remain unmoved by what is happening to our planet, especially if you disbelieve current science and research. It’s a little trickier to ignore the growing problems right here at home.

I’d say foremost in Saint Helena is our failure to provide affordable housing for our middle-, and lower-income workers. Our housing crisis has contributed to a shortage of employable people to fill existing jobs. The number is growing at great cost to employers who must limit hours of operation or operate understaffed at risk of providing less than stellar services and goods. Some have had to pack up their business and go elsewhere.

Perhaps 20th century thinking, and planning, is becoming obsolete. We geezers, and I’ll dip as low as 45 years old, might be wise to give way for contemporary generations to make decisions as to what is most valuable and prudent for their, and those coming behind them, future.

Should we throw all our resources toward workforce housing? How about more public buildings with the accoutrements of concrete and asphalt to take care of? Is preserving wildlife in a natural habitat worth yielding for? How priceless will open land and potable water become over the next decades? We all have opinions, but there are no concrete answers to these questions.

I see us at a crossroads in our town’s history. Do we press on as planned 10, 20 and more years ago or do we tip our hats to the current inconvenient reality of our previously unforeseen circumstances and adjust our course accordingly? Is it appropriate for the old guard, no matter how esteemed or influential, to keep calling the shots? Could we perhaps recognize and yield to our younger adults, the ones born into the digital age and global warming, who will bear the burden of care-taking whatever we build for generations to come?

Switching gears, I am convinced we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Regardless of how divergent the opinions and ideas, I believe they come from people each of whom has a heart, mind, and spirit that reflect a higher purpose, albeit often well camouflaged, than the challenges we face individually or as a community. Moreover, I believe that higher purpose -- there are many names, I call it God -- abides in a blanket of love and grace by which we are all covered.

I like this metaphor: No matter our status, skin color, gender identity, politics, religious views or lack thereof etcetera, eventually we will all be going home with the One who invited us to this fantastic dance, and it will be marvelous.

I could be wrong, but that is what I truly believe and doing so brings me a great deal of joy. And it helps me have a deeper appreciation for the wildly different kinds of people who populate this planet.

I realize much of what I have said is ridiculous or worse to many of you. I can live with that. Please remember though, I am not asking you to believe as I do or agree with anything I’ve said. I am simply sharing because I enjoy it and doing so helps me feel I’m part of our community. I wish more people would share from their hearts, and we would listen without judging.

We’ve had a good run in St. Helena. I have high hopes for a bright future, whatever decisions are made. In the meantime, may hope, love, happy times with family and friends and goodwill be with each of you as we enter this holiday season.

Rev. Nancy Dervin (Ret.)

St. Helena

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