What we have in common

Claire Peaslee

Two Sundays ago was a good day in greater West Marin. On the walkway outside the Dance Palace Community Center, a couple dozen souls, aged 15 to 75, gathered to rededicate the giant carved bench that commemorates the life of Jonathan Rowe.  Jonathan was a visionary spokesperson for the value of the commons. The bench—a tree sculpture that people can sit on together—was carved in his memory by Rufus Blunk. Men and machines recently moved it from the main street corner near the little yellow house to its new location at the Dance Palace. 

Jonathan would have loved this dedication. His son, Josh, standing strong at the finish of his sophomore year in high school, spoke of his father’s ideals and of this community. The Dance Palace board of directors, in the person of Elizabeth Zarlengo, presented Mary Jean Espulgar-Rowe with a Mother’s Day bouquet. Indoors, a 30-piece big band from Albany was warming up for a free dance concert, courtesy of Joe and Mo Blumenthal, with donations to benefit the community center. Peering through the porch doors were Linda and Barry Linder at their usual post, serving beverages to help raise funds. 

Meanwhile, out at the bench, Mark Switzer gave a stirring talk about the enduring and necessary nature of the commons. Quite possibly, he was channeling Jonathan; certainly, he was honoring his memory. Mark advanced the notion that West Marin itself serves as a commons for the greater Bay Area and beyond—for our world. Those of us living here can view our home region, in part, as a place that holds value for many people, and a place for which we have the privilege of caring. 

Later, in one-on-one conversation, Josh told me about his academic and athletic pursuits, his new horizons. And he reflected on West Marin. “I didn’t realize how amazing this place is until after we moved to Novato,” he said. “When I was younger and we were living here, everyone knew me. I walked to and from school, and at least two people would say hi to me, every time.” It’s so fine to see him taking flight—and to know he will always have strong community here. 


Claire Peaslee lives in Point Reyes Station, and she writes and birds and swims in greater West Marin. She sometimes guides excursions into the more-than-human community (see clairepeaslee.net).