Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tiny Town. Big League.

I posted something on Facebook the other day, mostly an observation and reflection on love and how tiny stolen moments are a great breath at a time when it feels like the world is suffocating from bad decisions. People commented back, as they do on the interwebs: an old friend sent a kind note over messenger; I got some nice text messages. It made me want to write for the first time in a long while. And so, here we are.
  
In a way, I suppose the timing feels right, it being the New Year and all. Because it’s the time of the year when lots of people are reflecting on hope and love, and the importance of not losing sight of who we are and what we all want out of life. Everything feels so fresh and possible at the start - new beginnings. Resolutions. All those visionary statements about who you’re going to be or what you’re going to do – or not – in the coming year: This year I’m giving up gluten! (Uh-huh). I’m finally going to take that basket-weaving class I’ve been meaning to! (Mmmkay). I’m getting up early every day to go to the gym! (*thumbs up* buddy).

This year, I am resolving to do almost none of that. And mostly because I’m pretty sure I learned everything I need to know about how to get through the coming year on day one of 2017.

I kicked off the new year in a tiny little town in the far north of California we’re going to call “Pinevale”(names in this story have been changed to protect the sanctity of this magical place from terrible bay area dwellers like you – YES, YOU - and your sinister hipster ways). So, Pinevale. Population: 1,300. Or 1,303 if you count the three of us who settled in there for the last weekend of December.

As quaint quiet country towns go, Pinevale is a damned prize. It’s on the right of the Pacific and left of the middle of nowhere, tucked away into a majestic little a nook of dairy farms and pasture land at the edge of where giant redwoods meet the sea. There are 3 restaurants and one main street - during the holidays the center of town is lit up by twinkling fairy lights and dotted up and down with Christmas trees, each decorated by a different elementary school class at the local school. The town has one bar. One proper dive bar that heaven help me may be the best hideaway in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting shitfaced. (Pouring one out here for you Starla, you glorious bartender goddess).

We ended up there by accident. By the time I started looking for New Year’s accommodations nearly everything from Mendocino up to the Oregon border north and west into Nevada was booked. Except…for unassuming tiny Pinevale. It was the perfect misfortune.  Rather than glitzing and glamouring it up, we opted for puzzles over drunken dancing; cozy dinners instead of mad house clubs. We decided against heading down to the big city to chase taxis after midnight and instead followed the Christmas lights down Main Street into the warmth of the local pub. It was freezing and raining, and I may never want to see another Bud Light again as long as I live but damn was it the right place to be.

Pinevale - it might be love.

So the fact that I had a great New Years is a side note. The real lesson here, and what I will circle back to, is that Pinevale left me with some takeaways, which I think are worth repeating now because, well, 2016 was rough. 2017 might be worse. Pinevale itself I think proves a point about the ebb and flow of real circumstances vs expectations, something I think a lot of us could probably use a refresher course on right about now.

I was thinking about all of this when I woke up on that first day of 2017. This sliver of a town that by all laws of economics and industrial change should have disappeared off a map half a century ago still stands, preserved in time and present in modernity all the same. Pinevale has managed to stay afloat through earthquakes and tsunamis; flash floods and economic decline; the fall of the forestry industry and the unexpected phoenix of weed as a legitimate money maker. It’s like the whole world came and went and Pinevale stood there nodding and taking note before shrugging its shoulders unremarkably and heading back to the dairies, the barns, and the pubs to just get on with life. And remarkably through it all, this weird rabbit hole of a place seems to have kept its true nature and its heart, beating steadily and reassuringly as the world changed drastically all around it.

But that’s life, right? As much as you plan and research, or envision your path (if you’re into that hippie woo woo stuff) your current life circumstances are the result of 60% accident, 30% purpose, and 10% crazy weird WTF miscellaneous luck. Pinevale rode out that formula and while it hit some pot holes along the way, it’s still here to tell the tale.  Pinevale made the decision to stick it out. As far as I’m concerned, that is what we’re all facing right now: Just a heap of decisions to be ok with and celebrate the life we have individually and collectively, or a choice to wallow in absence and the darkness of past wishes.

My unsolicited advice to everyone in 2017 is this: Be like Pinevale. Embrace the innumerable accidental life circumstances we may find ourselves in in the coming year, or at the very least figure out how to adapt to the uncertainty of certain change. Be like Pinevale. Stand in the tide and let the waves roll all around and over your head – they’ll recede eventually. Be like Pinevale. Let go of things and people in your life that drag you down instead of lifting you up – they probably aren't as important as you thought they were. Be like Pinevale. Fight for the things that matter and ignore the noise that doesn't. Be like Pinevale. Listen more to your inner voice/gut/garden gnome – that barometer usually knows what’s best even before you do. Be like Pinevale. Rock that camouflage and Carhartts because they're still not, and will never be, fashionable but do it because YOU DO YOU PINEVALE. And please continue to watch the evening news and whammy up that panic button because shit, kids, we may be in for a rough four years but in the long run, nothing is unfixable.

And if in the end it still feels hard, take my last piece of Pinevale advice:  Find a bar with a bartender who loves whisky but loves you more. (Starla, someday people will write songs about you).

Get ready, 2017. We're a comin' for you. 

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