Travel: Small Town, Christmas Day

As a person with no immediate family, my Christmas traditions vary widely. Sometimes I snuggle up to other people’s children, grandchildren, pets, and turkey dinners — sometimes I wander around by myself, or stay home in front of the fire and read a good book.

Oak shadow on Nicasio garage

Usually I have figured out what I’ll be doing by Thanksgiving, but this year I ended up not having plans at the last minute and feeling very uncomfortable about it. So I did what many Americans do, I got in the car and went West. Three hours west, to the Pacific Ocean. On the way, I went through the little town of Nicasio, which has about six houses, a grade school, a church, a restaurant, a cheese-making farm, and the ball field on which we had our Class Day in the 8th grade. This beautiful chipped-paint garage is next to the ball field. I graduated from 8th grade in 1968, in case you’re keeping track at home.

The grade school was originally housed in this lovely structure, but now it’s a private home and there’s a more modern school next door with many classrooms and a 20th century look to it… maybe even 21st century. I didn’t take a photo, but here is one (uncredited, alas) from the interwebs.

See? Modern. But the old school’s cupola is visible in the background left.

Twenty minutes later, I came to the town of Point Reyes Station, where I once worked as a bookkeeper for restaurants in the early 1990s.

Since it was Christmas, nothing was open, and there was a relaxed and unhurried, possibly even slacker-like air to the place. My plan was to visit some friends, and while I waited for them to return to their airbnb, I roamed around town. I found my favorite graffiti.

Who doesn’t like a little joke at the expense of the authorities now and then?!

I found my favorite, and perhaps the only, example of abalone shells fixed to towering posts in someone’s front yard.

There’s beautiful lichen on the fence posts, too, but it’s hard to see.

And I found the Dance Palace, the town’s community center, where I have read poems since 1991, perhaps 25 separate times. If you live in a small town and are thinking of building a community center, please name it something as appealing as this. You can’t say the words out loud without wanting to go there right away!

This is part of the Dance Palace, but it extends over to the right, where there’s a room big enough to show movies and hold contra dances or what have you.

Walking past the closed Cowgirl Creamery (home of the famous Red Hawk triple cream cheese among many others), I came across this woman standing in an upturned boat. I’m pretty sure a friend of my sister’s made this sculpture/montage/arrangement/thingie, but I can’t exactly remember the story. Anyway, I bowed, it being Christmas, and she being a bit Madonna-like.

That is a halo, don’t you think?

I also came across a mural, in sort of a Mexican or South American style,

and a beautiful green gate with an eagle (I think) carved out of wood above it.

Note single abalone shell beside the right wing, continuing the theme.

One of the things I love about California is how you find small towns like this with all kinds of art and sculpture here and there. Somehow New England and Midwestern places don’t lend themselves to this kind of zany embellishment as much. Maybe there’s more of it in the South, or Texas, but I haven’t been down to investigate.

My favorite sight was a woodpile in someone’s front yard up on the Mesa, where I was driving around looking for secrets.

The logs are stacked on each other, not leaning against that fence (they’re about six feet in front of it). This woodpile made me inordinately happy.

I hope you had, if not exactly a fabulous and Merry Christmas, then at least a few moments of noticing the world, which is magical in its way, no matter where you go. I wish you a stupendously interesting and surprising New Year, with woodpiles, abalone shells, dancing, and as many palaces as you can tolerate. Much love.

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