Coast Miwok dancer, courtesy of Edward Willie and http: A railroad, built to haul redwood lumber south from the northern coast to the growing cities of the San Francisco Bay Area, afforded city dwellers the chance to visit Nature. Carved out of a piece of the Point Reyes Peninsula — now entirely protected within Point Reyes National Seashore and technically, geologically speaking, an island migrating slowly northward along the California coast — the little village of Inverness began as a summer vacation spot for well-to-do San Franciscans and faculty from the University of California at Berkeley.
The laid-back, rural sensibilities of West Marin were guarded jealously by European immigrants who raised dairy cattle, and sheep and goats. After the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, roads and highways permitted more people to visit the rural landscape framed by oak- and redwood-covered hills, the Point Reyes peninsula, and the Tomales Bay estuary that, for about eight miles, separates the coastline from peninsula.
Tourists came and went, and vacation homeowners, but local folk stayed on year-round, getting along as best they could. In the late s something began to shift — the notion of the region as a community took root, fostered by a friendly informal consortium of local people with a variety of perspectives willing to seek common ground. No doubt this movement was fostered by the activities of Marin Agriculutral Land Trust, which had required participation of ranchers and farmers, conservationists, the moneyed, and government agencies.
Out of this rich stew arose, among other great ideas of the mids, the notion of a community radio station — media for the people, if you will. A few years later, also ten years ago, fueled by the booming interest in organic produce and high-quality, locally made food — a development epitomized by Berkeley bon vivant and restaurant owner Alice Waters — Marin Organic came into being.
An association of local producers of cheeses and other dairy items, greens, vegetables throughout the year, summer fruits, meats, eggs and flowers, to list just a few — olive oil, wine and oysters to mention a few more — Marin Organic has launched a local, regional and now international interest in good, local food that informs the larger Slow Food movement around the world. Point Reyes dairy cattle, courtesy of http: And now, into this tasty stew of community, the arts and happy agriculture, was added the spice and nuance of literature and the arts, again locally produced and cultivated.
Last year, coinciding with a local conference on Wallace Stegner , the American writer, historian and environmentalist, local writers, editors and visual artists, working with a local bookstore and a regional library association, launched West Marin Review , a journal inspired by the landscapes of West Marin. Unlike any other literary journal, this one focuses an artistic lens — with humor, intelligence and heart — on the land itself, and on the diverse mix of people who live, work, play and fall in love here.
It is into this fantastic and luscious confluence that I have now been flung, a Shambhalian in a new community, welcomed and encouraged to be myself.
Circumstances beyond my control — a near-death encounter, as a pedestrian, with a speeding Sports Utility Vehicle, leading to cognitive and physical disabilities and then the coming apart of an eight-year marriage, and a mid-life change of course towards creativity and contentment — led me back to Inverness, where, 41 years ago next month, I spent a relaxing weekend in a little blue cottage and its garden, high on some locally produced!
I had already been driving the back roads of West Marin for twenty years, appreciating the landscape, the open air and vast perspectives, and the gentle atmosphere of residents and towns where life felt valued, respected and highlighted. Richard James, courtesy of http: Eager to make new friends and influence potential new enemies, I began several months ago volunteering at local non-profits: It was through this mix of activities that an idea popped into my head and gestated: To my amazement, the response from all sides — radio station and literary journal — was, Yes!
And so yesterday I hosted my first radio show, on KWMR , having invited together two founders of West Marin Review , including the local bookstore owner, one of the cultural pillars of West Marin, and two local writers and artists, and, you could say, community organizers.
Although I was a bit nervous at the beginning, I quickly recalled that basic goodness is waiting to be discovered everywhere, in the least expected moments and places, and so the roundtable discussion began to flow effortlessly, pooling here, burbling there, moving forward in a clear stream of heart-felt consciousness.
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