Missing Mendocino

This year’s Mendocino Coast Writers Conference is online. It starts today. I am looking forward to the three-morning workshop, with Nebula and Hugo winner Kij Johnson as the workshop leader. I’m pretty relaxed with Zoom these days, and several friends are in the workshop. The writing offerings are high quality, and interesting.

Workshopping from home will be way more convenient. I can join the workshop in my pajamas if I want to. I’ll be in a comfortable chair instead of a folding one around a table in a classroom that is usually too cold for me. I can watch the birds in my front yard off and on. I don’t have the nuisance of travel.

And it won’t be the same.

The location makes the conference in many ways. I will miss staying at my favorite inn, in any one of several “favorite” rooms or suites. I’ll miss Elaine’s scones.

I’ll miss walking down to the mouth of Big River, past the humming bee tree, and taking pictures of ravens, seals, and black labs swimming in the surf. I’ll miss a daily walk on the Mendocino headlands. I’ll miss the fog. (We have fog. I’ll miss their fog. It’s better quality fog.)

I’ll miss oatmeal and coffee at the Good Life Café – and lunch there. I’ll miss Moody’s Coffee, and Harvest Grocery. I’ll miss Gallery Bookshop, where, even though I’ve bought books at the conference bookstore, I would buy more books, and in spite of my vow Not to Buy More Journals Because I Have Plenty I Haven’t Used, I would buy a journal. Because it’s the Conference, and I’m a writer.

I will miss driving six miles north, to Fort Bragg, and visiting the Botanical Garden. I’ll miss going further into Fort Bragg itself and visiting the Noyo Harbor waterfront, just walking around and enjoying the boats, the bustle, the seals again, and the river otters. I’ll miss walking across the bridge and looking down at the dogleg harbor with its narrow, rock-strewn mouth, opening into a glimmering tranquil curve of green water, salt and fresh, as the Noyo River decants into the ocean. I’ll miss the wash of waves from the fishing boats going out or coming in through the channelized opening, the bright pop of color from somebody—a pilot or maybe just a tourist—on the boat, with their acid yellow or neon red windbreaker sharp against the green. I’ll miss the Coast Guard boats and the kayaks.

I’ll miss my stop at the light house on the way back.

I’ll miss the lunches at the conference, and the afternoon cookies!

I’ll miss the coast-weathered picnic tables outside the cafeteria/multi-purpose room. I’ll miss balancing my paper plate precariously as I hike one leg over the bench and squeezing in with familiar faces and friends of familiar faces. I’ll miss the truncated, disjointed conversations as people come and go. I’ll miss the gossip! Not that we gossip. Well, I do but nobody else does. I’ll still miss it.

I was going to write, “I’ll miss sitting in my room and writing a paper letter to Linda in Hawaii,” which has become a tradition… but I can still do that! And maybe I will.

It’s a year for doing things differently. An online conference, or at least a conference with an online component, may bring down the cost and open attendance to people otherwise under-served. That would be good. There is no doubt in my mind that shifting to online was the right thing to do this year. It was the only thing to do this year.

This experience will be new. I’ll probably have much to say about it, and probably most of it good. Things like Open Mike, Blind Critique and Pitch Practices may be easier in front of a screen in the comfort of your own house instead of up on a stage, wrestling with an unfamiliar microphone.

Today though, this morning, I want to acknowledge what I’m missing, and I’m missing Mendocino.

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