Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Mendocino Musings

Monday morning dawned bright and sunny here in Fort Bragg.  A light, cool breeze pushed around a teenie bit of coastal fog high up in the trees.  A hummingbird flitted around the blooming star jasmine out on the patio, and the aroma of coffee filled the cottage.  

Nice, huh?

After breakfast, Alene and I got our gear and headed for the village of Mendocino, a quiet and very beautiful little town on the Pacific coast, known for its shops and galleries, and for the community support given to the arts and to artists in the region.  The town is maybe six blocks by eight blocks or so square, sitting on a peninsula, surrounded by cliffs, pounding waves (on a windy day like yesterday), and wonderful vistas all about. 

We stopped first at the Kelly House museum, and talked for quite a while with the curator there, who gave us a primer on Mendocino history.

Founded by a timber company, as most of the settlements in this area were, 40 hardy men landed here along the coast and began logging the abundant timber in the area in the 1850's.  The Kelly House is one of the surviving houses from the era, refurbished and renovated to be a glance back into life in the late 1800's.  

The Ford House museum is much the same, with a nicely preserved look into the past.  The Ford House, though, also houses an exhibition of local art, some of which was genuinely unique and beautiful.

Alene I walked up and down several of the town streets, looking into various shops and galleries. Local goods and jewelry produced by local artists predominate, with a liberal sprinkling of the kitsch you'd find in any tourist town. Shop keepers were mostly kind and welcoming with but a few exceptions, and those shops we didn't linger in.  

We stopped at Moody's Organic Coffee for a wonderful mocha latte and an organic brownie, which was delicious.  Thanksgiving Coffee company makes some wonderful coffee as well, which I know from a previous trip here.  The market in town stocks a tidy supply of all the sundries one would need to live in the area.  There are several small cafe's and eateries catering to a wide variety of tastes.  

But therein my enamoration with Mendocino kinda putters outs.  It's a lovely town, a beautiful destination, and  picturesque setting. Local art and artists flourish here. History abounds, and the pace of life is slowed down to a pleasant meander, but even here consumerism conquers all and, in my opinion, mars the beauty and joy of visiting such a lovely town. 

As Alene and I walked the town and took in the various shops, I couldn't help but feel a sense of beauty marred by the greed and commercialism of the shops and sellers.   

Don't misunderstand, I'm a capitalist with a capital "C", and agree that sellers can sell their wares for whatever the market will bear.  If someone agrees to pay your price, good for you, and hopefully your buyer feels like they received value with their purchase.   That's the name of the game. 

But as I walked the streets, I saw two Mendocinos : 

One is a town dedicated to the free spirit of art, encouraging artists to create and to be creative, endowing them with a sense of freedom and support for their craft that is somewhat unique to Mendocino and other enclaves like it.  I saw a community accepting of diversity, giving residents an opportunity to be unique and to pursue their dreams. 

At the Mendocino Art Center, Alene and I talked to a couple of ladies who were very kind, telling us all about life in the area, how they came to be there, and how much they enjoyed Mendocino.  We talked to an artist who invited us into her studio and showed us how she makes bronze sculptures, walking us through the process from wax model to casting in the furnace.  

We ran into kind, open people all over town. 

But the other Mendocino was one off commerce and perceived value, which in my opinion is highly inflated, and takes away from the authenticity and beauty of this little town.  

Granted, without  commerce, the arts wouldn't flourish because artists would have no way to support themselves, and the community can only support so many "free spirits" out of the goodness of their hearts, so I'm not really deriding the commercialism,  it just seemed a bit out of control to me.  

It seems the mystique and lore of Mendocino has overtaken the truth of Mendocino, and the perceived value of things here have far outstripped reality. 

It's just a town, after all.  A rather small, picturesque town that produces little of actual practical value. 

It's true value is in the beauty of the setting. 

Enjoy Mendocino at  own your pace, and enjoy the value you perceive the town to have.  Just  enjoy it on your level and at your leisure, and I think you'll find Mendocino a nice place to visit.  

I'd recommend finding a place to stay down the road a ways, though.  You'll save money, have the same grand views of the Pacific, and have some extra cash to spend on coffee in town. 

1 comment:

Joshua Grindle Inn said...

To encourage day tripping to the rarified atmosphere of Mendocino Town, without providing any support to the cost of its infrastructure is injurious to its magic to say the least. Places like Mendocino (unincorporated) only exist and survive because of those willing to acknowledge the expense of maintaining a unique community and provide livlihoods for the people who populate and care for it.