Ken Pollitz: Not in Putnam County anymore

By Ken Pollitz - Guest Column

Wide-eyed and holding the bushy-tailed-terrier, Dorothy exclaimed, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Momentarily, after a brief survey of the landscape, she continued, “We must be over the rainbow!”

Beckoned in part by Azu and Shasta, the sibling canines of our niece, my wife and I took to friendlier airways last week for a California wedding quaintly entitled “hitched-huskies.” The nuptials would take place in what could be called the “wine-capital-city” of Sonoma County, namely Santa Rosa. Extremely complimentary, especially vocationally, the bride, a civil engineer, works on sustainable water use and conservation, while the groom, with a business degree in sustainability management, is making Sustainability happen at Le Crema, a large local winery.

We saw no rainbows journeying to our west coast destination as the skies tended somewhat gray, collateral damage from the tragic wildfires still burning up north. The aerial discoloration could not diminish the joyful and eclectic celebrations unfolding below.

This week-long excursion took us from Putnam County flat lands filled with corn and beans to rolling hills and plains distinguished by endless acres of vineyards and wineries. Our humble county of three quaint wineries was no match for this county that numbers over 400.

Moderate jet-lag on day-one tempered our activities that included breakfast at the Piner Café, a trip to Whole Foods for some groceries, and a dinner at Frank’s place. Did I mention he has a palatial estate, acres of vineyards, his own varietals of wines, and goes formally by the name of Francis Ford Coppola? Dinner included a tasty bottle of the “Director’s Cut” Cabernet. After taking a few selfies alongside the slowly rotating Tucker automobile on display, we came as close as ever to his half-dozen Oscar statuettes nearby.

Having little history with a paddle, my wife and I signed up for the group activity of a canoe trip down the scenic Russian River. Described as suitable for beginners, we proved ill-suited as we christened the river with the new name, “Tip-A-Canoe-And-Linda-Two,” having capsized not once but twice during the four-hour flotilla. Perhaps we should have retreated to the river bank to join the graceful movements of a couple middle-aged men in Speedo swimsuits performing a methodical exercise of Tai Chi.

The next day’s well-attended rehearsal dinner took place on the expansive patio of Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards overlooking two large well-manicured croquet courts. The father of the bride, my brother, who serves as controller for the company, arranged for an evening where the service was second-to-none with both a luscious multicourse meal pared perfectly with selections of Rosé, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

No one would be surprised to know the wedding would be both outdoors and nestled in an open field surrounded by vineyards in every direction. Under the “shade” of a bountiful knotted oak tree, the couple “tied the knot” among 150 of their closest family and friends. The bridal party was rather gender-non-specific and quite fashionably diverse.

Music, provided by a duo of acoustic guitars, spanned the likes of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” to the Beatles “All You Need Is Love.” Given the mid-afternoon temperatures, “Here Comes the Sun,” by the Beatles, could not have been more timely.

As only California can make happen and in lieu of a unity candle, the happy couple had planted a young redwood tree into which bridal party and wedding guests could add a shovel full of compost while serenaded with a rendition of “Keep On the Sunny Side.” One mustn’t forget the four-legged friends who were “formally” adopted by the groom during the ceremony coupled with a light-hearted yet thoughtful exposé by the groom’s younger brother coined, “Why Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog.”

Our week would culminate with a “goodbye brunch” at the “Upper Jackrabbit” picnic area in the local Spring Lake Regional Park. The festivities were to begin late-morning on Sunday. As good fortune would have it, we caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a Lutheran church as we headed to the park. It felt like a small tap on the shoulder and whisper in my ear. I made a quick U-turn and headed back to the church for worship.

Upon arriving, we soon learned that the church was of the Lutheran variety at 8:30 in the morning and then “morphs” into Presbyterian a couple hours later.

Warmly welcomed, we took our seats for the 10:45 a.m. service. We were not at all shocked that it was a service of Holy Communion. What’s more, we knew we were in the right place at the right time as the Gospel reading and sermon were from the second chapter of John where Jesus was at the wedding in Cana of Galilee turning water into wine to help prolong the celebrative union.

Did you know Jesus made about 63 cases of the best wine that day? He’s all about water, wine and sustainability.

By Ken Pollitz

Guest Column

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

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