Long Story Short: Mendocino of my Mind

Truth be told, I’ve never been to Mendocino, Calif.

I’ve been close. I’ve been to Russian Gulch State Park just to the north. I’ve been to Point Arena about 30 miles south, but I’ve never been to Mendocino.

Even so, I love that place.

You may, too. For years, Jessica Fletcher was my Sunday night hero. Watching Angela Lansbury walk along the piers and sidewalks of Maine’s Cabot Cove, I thought “That little town is just about perfect – other, of course, than the weekly murders.”

In fact, Murder She Wrote wasn’t shot along the coast of Maine. The exterior shots were Mendocino – a place with everything I’m looking for. It has the weather I prefer, the charm I adore and easy access to San Francisco, my favorite American city.

I’ve never taken actual steps to move to or even visit Mendocino. Maybe there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to mess up the allure. Maintaining a “perfect place to move” is comforting. (Aside from the minor fact that the cost of living in Mendocino might surpass my meager pocketbook.) What’s reality got to do with a pie-in-the-sky dreamer?

Why not take the notion further? What if I could create my own little town (maybe on the outskirts of Mendocino) filled with all my favorite people? The problem with falling in love with different places around the world and the people who come with those places is simple. There’s no way to be in a community with all the people you love.

Through the years, I’ve kept a mental list of the many, many people I’ve met and grown to love and respect – people I would want to invite to live in my imaginary town on the coast of Northern California. Imagine living in a place where you knew and loved everyone you passed on the sidewalk.

My husband has long thought me ridiculous in taking snippets of time in lengthy car rides to plan my perfect community filled with people I love. In the last week, he’s challenged the concept further, using a question the Rev. Morgan Allen asked during his message in church last Sunday: “Are you a friendly church or a church of friends?”

There’s an important distinction. Anyone who’s ever tried to break into a church or other community of friends understands. As silly and/or theoretical as the Mendocino of my mind is, the paradox is clear.

My Mendocino would have to be a friendly town. A quick look at the basic history of modern times is all anyone needs to realize that exclusivity breeds trouble.

Whether it’s a group of first graders not playing with the new kid because the class bully says so or outright racial or cultural discrimination in a neighborhood, good never comes from leaving the odd man out. Granted, real trouble may not rear its ugly head for a while, but eventually it comes. The heroes out there are the ones who put a stop to the chain of actions that are set forth when others, either overtly or covertly, begin to leave someone or some people out.

Heroes come in many forms. She could be the first grade teacher who takes the problem seriously and fixes it. She could be the community organizer who works to change the culture of a neighborhood and school. He could be the young engineer who reads a quote on the office door of a stranger: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In reading that thought, his perspective on his role and responsibility in the world is forever changed.

I’ve been blessed enough to know a few heroes in my real world. They would certainly be welcome in the Mendocino of my mind, but I think it’s better for all of us that they continue doing the work that needs to be done right where they are.

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