Monan’s Rill plans to rebuild

“What does it say about capitalism…that we have money and want to spend it but we can’t find anything worth buying?”

So starts Eula Biss’s Having and Being Had, a brilliant essay collection given to me by this magazine’s former editor, Leilani Clark. As a professor, writer, and newly minted homeowner, Biss is frank about both her class privilege and her discomfort with that privilege. As the Glass Fire devastated hundreds of homes, including 12 of the 13 at Monan’s Rill (the intentional community I featured in the summer issue), I grieved and cursed the smoke and tore through Biss’s book, fascinated by her ruminations on capitalism, class, work, art, leisure, and service.

Our features in this issue are about people prioritizing other people over profit—from the good folks of SCAPE running up credit cards to highlight BIPOC art to the newest iteration of The Living Room, where an innovative kitchen staff is keeping our most vulnerable community members fed.

Probably like you, I’m someone who gets queasy over the excesses of holiday spending (all that wasteful plastic and packaging), but I also feel profoundly the tug of the golden arrow of consumption. It’s an endless battle: I reel over a story about the exploitation of Amazon workers and then click away to a company’s going out of business sale. A moon lamp at 70 percent off?           Why not?

As we’re all racing to the polls, it’s important to remember that daily, we vote with our dollars. At the very least, capitalism has flooded us with choices. To that end, our gift guide sprinkled throughout the magazine features a few hand-picked treasures worth spending your hard-earned cash on. Local herbalists and bakers, artists and dressmakers, and even an equine expert, abound.

And if all else fails and I’m totally stuck on gift ideas, I wander into Treehorn in downtown Santa Rosa and browse the stacks of used books. Like Eula Biss, I’m a big fan of Emily Dickinson:

He ate and drank the precious Words,

His Spirit grew robust;

He knew no more that he was poor,

Nor that his frame was Dust.

Here’s to the life-giving power of stories to shape and shift our thinking, to offer us new perspectives on tired old ideas, and to carry us through the longest, darkest nights. As always, thanks so much for reading, and for helping to keep our local economy alive.

Donate to Monan’s Rill relief efforts here:

Jess D. Taylor editor


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November/December 2020 Issue – Online Version

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