• mark sanford gross

postmark: anchor bay, california

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

(whale point.gualala point park)

I've been thinking about acknowledgment. Random acts of acknowledgment. Awareness. Engagement.

There is another common word that completes the phrase, random acts of... but I find that to be an easy cliche. An exclamation that falls from our mouth without much thought. One that is too easy to agree with in chit-chat or used in a self-congratulatory moment. An effective combination of four words to let people off the hook. Check off a list.

A random act of...

Easy to remember. Difficult to put into practice. Words that are an example of not speaking louder than action. Often used but sadly not as embraced.

I've been thinking about acknowledgment. Maybe, that's the problem. Too much thinking. Not enough practicing. Maybe, just maybe it's too overwhelming to do something uncomfortable. Out of the ordinary. Not part of who we are. Something/someone we walk past failing to notice or avoiding. Finding no reason for a random engagement. Or recognizing an opportunity. Not understanding what a random act of acknowledgment is. Give too much thought to what-if's and why's as we struggle to find reasons for something that doesn't need a reason. Or worse, no time.

Why say hi to a stranger? Why notice someone's license plate from another state at the campground? Or a parking lot? Say hi? First time visiting here? Try it. See where the chat takes you. Their first impression of us is their first impression of this special place we live.

Why offer help to someone looking at the trail map in our parks? Or suggest to bikers stopped at on one of our look-outs or standing by the market to consider Myers-Grade as a detour off the very up-and-down-curvey part of Highway 1 about 20 miles south of us? Why do we need a reason?

(Speed Museum. Louisville, KY. May, 2021)

I admit. Sometimes, I turn off a path because of an uncomfortable situation approaching me. I walk in a different direction. Take a different seat. Or, I assume what is happening isn't happening at all. A loud voice in my head gurgling up judgment, dangerous and uh-oh. Or the opinion of someone that was the opinion shared to me by someone else. If so and so said this, well, it must be true." Don't be fooled. What is noticing you approaching is well aware of your decision t turn away.

(Speed Museum. Louisvlle, KY. May, 2021)

It was during one-stop on my first cross country road trip earlier this year returning home when I realized there is a space between judgment/fear and mindfulness/caution. Too often, I have found myself at one end of these book-ends. Not recognizing the stories in the middle. Not giving time for a chapter to squeeze through my own assumptions and judgment. Not giving time for a person to come through as who they are rather than who I thought they were. Prioritizing my unjustified perception. Calculated fear. Imagined fear. My self-told story of someone else. Not giving the chance that perhaps there is a memory waiting in this encounter. More about my stop in Louisville, Kentucky to come.

While I am an optimist there is the necessity in recognizing compromising situations. Pay attention. Listen to the chills on the back of my neck tingling a warning. I am flexible on my feet. Years of working with all kinds of personalities in varied levels of life helped me learn how to pivot in conversations and situations to connect with people. The receptionist is as important as the CEO.

Our friend Peggy, KGUA-FM radio who believed in my thought of "the town that started writing" during at the onset of the pandemic provided the platform to bring KGUAWriters to the airwaves. One hour each week we host this show together that encourages folks to write and share without judgment. Acknowledge, share and recognize each other, our listeners, and the stories within us. More on this later.

(Peggy Berryhill. KGUA-FM Radio., 88.3. Gualala, CA)

Decades in the corporate world working for a well-known brand honed a skill for me. Later, not too long ago I discovered that this skill wasn't turned in along with my company credit card, cell phone, and laptop when I left the world of clients and boardrooms. Pivoting became intuitive.

Katharine Graham, The owner, and publisher of The Washington Post once explained to me that "our" brand opens every door. We are trusted, alone, to carry the authenticity of those we represent, the product, and its reputation. But, remember, you don't own the brand, none of us do. We just trust that you represent it well. "It's not about what we own or what our office looks like or the car we drive. It is about our readers. How can we serve them with honesty and integrity? Every one of them is a priority."

With years of education and exposure, this one statement while driving Mrs. Graham to a meeting on a winter night in Chicago in rush-hour traffic was not only the takeaway but the stay-with-me!"

(Katharine Graham USPS Postage Stamp, Coming, 2022)

Over the past seven months, I have driven across the country to "there" and back to "here" four times.. Each journey focused on a different route to avoid highway hypnosis and boredom. Just me and one of my dogs. Most recently, ruf? was my co-pilot (yes, ruf? has a question mark at the end of his name) or woof! who was my co-pilot in the spring (yes, woof! has the exclamation point).

(! and ? always 'beating')

Too difficult for our pack of four to do the trip together at this time. Not wanting to fly just yet. Leaving two dogs with one human at home (herding dogs = exercise and neediness) is not a good idea for more than a day. I wanted to see my kids. My grandson. My husband, my greatest supporter encourages these trips that would take me away from home that causes an intermission to our used-to 24/7 normalcy.

Living in a small remote town takes adjustment. Not a day or two. A year, at least. After six years living by the ocean where someone or some car is not recognized comes up in conversation during morning chores. There is a unity, unlike anything I've encountered that makes more sense each day. About me. About others. Neighbors. Community. Park rangers. Storekeepers. Strangers. Dogs. Local headlines. Every mammal that swims, soars, sounds off, hovers, brustles in the woods. All those passing through stopping to take in the magic of our place where the redwoods meet the sea. Soon after moving here the owner of our local market called me. "I haven't seen you in a few days, is everything alright?"

Someone shared that one thing that makes our spot special is that everyone who has moved here chose a destination that is at the end of fifty or seventy-five miles -depending on the route- of a circuitous up and down two-lane highway sometimes an arm's length from the edge of a drop into the Pacific and often behind slow-moving campers coming to drive the coastal highway.

We all had a purpose in settling here. We share this common thead.

(Halloween Trunk-or-Treat and Witches Dance, 2021. The weekends 'must-do' in our small town by the sea)

One said it is the longest driveway to our house. Three and a half hours from the major airport. Two hours from rows and centers of choice and convenience, familiar chain stores. Often, where three bars on a mobile phone for longer than a mile or two is awesome. No Uber or Lyft. Landlines are preferred because of emergencies. More often than not internet specialty delivery services come up with "not available in your area." Although, Airbnb seems to be the exception.

Here, where it takes more time to learn about the people around you than it took for them to learn about you. Wide-open ocean on one side of everything we do, everywhere we go. A symphony of birds and sea mammals in the air. A place where careless attention to a pandemic or a fire or a drought can wipe out the town.

(Our friendly neighbors 'just being' by the sea)

It is to this community I attribute a greater sense of the meaning and the action of kindness, acknowledgment, awareness of not only me but everyone around me. An inner ever-present sense of awareness that has become part of everyday living. And nowhere like a cross-country trip through small towns and big ones was this so evident and a reminder.

Five years ago I was behind a young girl at the Mexican food-ice-cream-pizza kiosk by the local supermarket waiting to buy a single piece of pizza for my mother-in-law. I stood beside this sweet girl still wearing her small school backpack as she ordered a taco. I signaled to the cashier that I would pay for the taco. She winked and told the little girl to put her wallet away. How much could a taco for a little girl cost?

The cashier said, "uno momento" and went to get the little girl's taco. She came back and handed the girl a small paper-wrapped taco helping her to hold it. The server turned around. Walked back to the kitchen. The little girl stayed at the counter. The server returned with a family-sized bag of food. Placed it on the counter. The little girl turned to me as she reached up to get the bag. Thanked me. Reminding me of my mother always telling me to remember to say "thank you." The little girl walked away, smiling, anxiously waiting to eat her taco but she had to carry the larger bag with two hands.

I knew my cash would cover the slice of pizza I came in for but little more than that, maybe a taco. I switched to a credit card. The cashier swiped it for the $30 in orange LED on the register screen. I added a $5.00 tip.

A 'memory" waiting to be adopted that lingered somewhere between assumptions, judgments, and awareness. Mindful of what a random act can do. And still, I remember that cautious smile on the little girl and the family bag of food. Perhaps, she remembers too.

Our days are filled with unsung heroes. New neighbors. Temporary workers. Strangers passing through. Staying an hour or a week. We walk past them throughout the day. In the park. On the beach. Along the bluff. Going in and out of stores and services. All with stories. So many who need or simply appreciate a little acknowledgment. A moment of chit-chat. One that echoes long after.

(Point Arena Pride Event. September, 2021)

Kindness. Awareness. Acknowledgment. Discovering story. It's just not that difficult.

It is my intent here to 'postmark' these random acknowledgments, learn about people. What can come from just experiencing the moment? For me and for the one crossing my path. Finding time to seek a memory. Join me. Thanks for reading.

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