Ah, Marin, county of my heart. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge north from San Francisco, veer west toward the ocean, and keep driving through oaks, hill country, and sea. Who wouldn’t love its rural beauty, or the loyalty to earth and humanity of the independent souls who choose to live there? The bio of Catherine David, whose delightful short essay “Amateurs are First-Rate Lovers” opens this issue of West Marin Review, identifies her as “an artist, journalist, and pianist living in Paris who visits West Marin whenever she can.” That love of place, that desire to be in this land of “seashore and woodland” infuses every work of word or art in this fine book.
West Marin Review describes itself as:
an award-winning literary and art journal published by Point Reyes Books, Tomales Bay Library Association, and friends and neighbors […] the only literary and arts journal to merit recognition at the prestigious New York Book Show […] delighted to be recognized for our diverse contributorship […] a community working together on a project that promotes literacy and art, and that includes, educates, and entertains everyone.
A glance at this issue’s contributors’ pages verifies this description electrically (and eclectically). Middle and high school students, sculptors, museum curators and gallery directors; medical ethicists, builders, mothers, painters; former editors of Pulitzer-Prize winning publications, poet laureates, sitters on benches; “Bolinas residents,” “Inverness residents,” natives of Alaska and Massachusetts—all appear here with equally respectful and beautiful presentation.
The editor’s note which heads the issue is impressive for its pride not only of place—truly, West Marin is a place to put down your land-honoring roots—but also in the quality and richness of the submissions which come to this all-volunteer-staffed journal. Among the most striking of the entries in this issue are a number of beautifully-executed, strongly affecting pieces from middle and high school students. There are bird and animal drawings—“Spring Lamb” by Jessica Baldwin, a seventh-grader at Nicasio School; sixth-grader Willow Dawson’s “Hummingbird”; “Jenna” by Kyla Pasternak, eighth-grader; and Ryan Giammona’s “Quail”—and a trio of quiet but fierce essays on the theme of “I come from…” by last year’s Tomales High seniors, Daniel Potts (“Scattered Threads"), Flor Jimenez (“Broken Blood”), and Jazmine Collazo, whose “Good-bye, Hello” evokes authentic feelings with its understated description of moving, always moving, from one tough neighborhood to the next.
Several excellent essays spotlight West Marin’s history and culture. “Marin Memoirs” is a bit of sisterly genealogy from Vivian Olds, charmingly brief and arbitrary:
Kate [Olds, b. sometime before 1857 in Marin] was not domestic by nature and spent most of her time horseback riding, but Jennie [b. December 15, 1857] loved to work in the house and was a great help to her mother. When she was 17, in a contest for the county’s best cake and bread, she won two sterling silver tablespoons and two Havilland bowls. Mr. James Shafter awarded the prizes.
“Farming and Ranching in Bolinas 1834 to 2010,” by Elia Haworth, accompanied by reproductions of oils by Terrence Murphy, one a stunning aerial farm view, the other aptly titled “Fence Mender,” recounts in clear, readable prose a story of livestock and agriculture, “the centerpiece of Bolinas history.” In “Fellow Conservatives,” Jonathan Rowe writes authoritatively of the West Marin worldview: “We are skeptical of the version of progress that the corporate market pushes at us […] embrace the wisdom of the past, especially as embodied in the natives of this place [….] revere the land and take a dim view of change, and if those are not conservative inclinations, then nothing is.” In “Tom Killion on Mount Tam,” Steve Heilig profiles the printmaker, whose work graces the cover of the issue, explaining his artistic process as well as his stance toward his subject, “Marin’s Mt. Everest.”
Here find fine poetry, from Juan Avalos’s “Dear Mud” (is Avalos another student, or a much-published adult? We don’t know; it doesn’t matter) to award-winning Prartho Sereno’s “The Dancing Cure.” Not a single poem disappoints, from the ones that are clearly Marin-inspired (“Advice for the Marin Lovelorn” by Jodie Appell) to the ones whose universality call out to every reader regardless of place (Roy Mash’s sweet haiku).
Wonderful personal essays and fiction fill out this issue. Whether you are drawn to the multiculturality of Jan Harper Haines’s “Hootlani!” and Agustina Martinez’s “Life in Mexico,” or to the humor in Dave Mitchell’s “Tall Tales of Intelligent Animals,” or to the heartbreak of Cynthia A. Cady’s exquisite short story “The Miles Pilot” or the bittersweet nostalgia of Reynold Junker’s “Yesterday, Perhaps,” you will be irrevocably drawn to West Marin through this noteworthy journal. I love everything in it—even the ads.