If we get it right, the winter holidays can be filled with expressions of gratitude.
Why do we celebrate? Just what are we celebrating? Whether it’s the mundane, the momentous or the mystical, the reason seems always to lie rooted in this truth: It’s a time to acknowledge that for which we are grateful.
Environmentalist Bill Kortum says he’s especially grateful for the coast because of its sheer beauty.
“We’re so fortunate to have a coastline,” Kortum says, with his wry sense of humor. “If you were in a county in Iowa, you would go to the county line and just find another cornfield.”
Kortum, 86, is founder of the group called COAAST – Californians Organized to Acquire Access to State Tidelands – and has spent years fighting to ensure the coast be open to all. As thanks for his tireless efforts, he has a trail named after him, a three-mile path that begins in Jenner at the mouth of the Russian River and ends at Wright’s Beach in Bodega Bay.
“When I meet people they often say, ‘Oh, I thought you were dead. You have a trail named after you,’” Kortum jokes.
The retired veterinarian, who lives on a 22-acre cattle ranch near Petaluma, hopes people appreciate the wildness of the coast and all it offers, particularly during the holidays.
“You can go out to the coast and dive for abalone,” he says. “You can go whale watching or go to Salt Point to pick mushrooms. Or you can go for a hike, a great pastime for a gathering of people.”
David Goodman calls himself a “food banker.”
The executive director of the Redwood Empire Food Bank works hard to make sure needy people have ample food for their holiday feasts.
“What is incredibly gratifying for me during the holidays is that everyone can share in the joy of the season,” he says.
“The holidays are centered around food to celebrate and connect, and our ability to help people experience that makes it very poignant this time of year. If they don’t have sufficient food reserves, they can’t celebrate.”
Kathleen Weber, co-owner of Petaluma’s Della Fattoria bakery and cafe, says she’s most grateful for the welcoming aspect of the holidays.
“I think what the holidays really mean is that you take your core family and invite others to be a part of it,” she says. “It’s the essence of life. The Italians really have it right when it comes down to food and family. That’s just part of their culture. You’re always welcome in an Italian home.”
Kindness, Weber says, has a synergistic magic of its own.
“The more graciousness and the more generosity you extend, it seems to come back in the form of relationships and connections,” she adds. “The holidays are a perfect time to restore all of those.”
While the holidays can be busy with special orders and stressful for the bakery, Weber says it’s still a very uplifting time.
“We see families come in with their kids from college, and their grandchildren,” she says. “There’s a huge family component and it brings a lot of joy.”