December 16th, 2016

McMinnville Tiny Travels

Tiny Travels McMinnvilleStrolling solves everything

Walking through McMinnville at this time of year is like strolling a tunnel of love and light. Everything’s all sparkly, dark and sweet, and there is this feeling in the air that everyone around you has made it their task to give it the old razzle dazzle, just because.

I can only begin to talk about how much I appreciate the heroic retailing spirit of this tiny town. Winter and I are nothing close to copasetic. If fall’s turn to gloomy rains always has me wandering the hills in search of a solution to my own Rilke poem, winter sees me waking up with a single question hovering over the day: “What if I didn’t?”

Truly, this is an unacceptable state of mind to be in at the holidays. There is no heroism in being a melancholic who gives up because of the weather. But because the winter doldrums are a real thing for me, they call for a bit forced busy-ness to keep myself occupied and meandering like a magpie down Third Street for moments of true delight.

Delight – it’s the word of the season for me. Everywhere I see people seeking out ways to delight others. The only family drama I seek out is the great theatrical reveal of gift-giving, the quick surge of joy that comes when you set out to exchange a feeling.

You can’t buy happiness, but you sure can pass on delight. And truly, the village has set its sight on it.

I was just chatting with bookseller Sylla McClellan, who spent several weeks gathering branches on roads in Yamhill County and beyond, as well as a few hours of handiwork to build the giant arbor gate up right now in front of Third Street Bookstore. She saw something similar at a florist’s shop in Paris last year and wanted to recreate her own.

Walking through it on the way to buy books feels like a magical gateway to a fairy land of the imagination.

“I think people have a strong need to see beautiful things in their life,” McClellan said.

Clearly, this is a town is populated with people who live to delight. Or how about the ever-changing window display at Twist Salon, where stylist Candace White builds often her windows like a  dramatic diorama. Her Christmas display for 2016 is a far simpler endeavor – multi-colored Christmas bulbs hung in strands over a blanket of white. The result feels like a snowy day, if snowflakes came in rainbows.

Then there is Mes Amies, which, I’m convinced, has the most compelling window shape known to woman.  As a women’s clothier, Mes Amies has gotten very good at presenting a woman’s life not as it is – harried and full and with too much coming at us – but as it can be: textured and visually enticing, maybe even a bit more civilized. My mind calms just looking at it.

Let’s, for a moment, thank Boersma’s for rotating exhibitions of hand-made quilts. Right now there’s the wintry mix of Christmas quilts and snowman patterns. It’s nothing less than a show of fabric art you can actually hug.

Creekside Community Church has, perhaps, the window where purpose is most clearly on display. Its window designers shaped a hearth display facing the street. To me, that’s McMinnville – it’s a place where conversations stop you in your tracks.

And if things get too serious, there are windows to LOL at.

At Vortex Records, it’s a display of California Raisins dancing on a turntable while Ren from Ren & Stimpy hangs out with a Christmas troll nearby. It makes me laugh just as I ponder:  WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Or at Cupcake Couture, whose Radio Flyer filled with perfect round snowballs reminds of a what it feels like to live in an age where no one really ever grows up.

The design lover in me squeed for a moment when I passed the collection of vintage Westclox Baby Ben clocks on display at the McMinnville Antique Mall. Such a thrilling image of how you can trick yourself to believing that you’re not dying every moment, that there is all the time in the world.

Strolling really does solve everything.

What if you didn’t have to rage against the dying of the light every winter? What if just woke up one day and decided, today I shall delight?  Today I’m going to look for love in all of the right places?

That’s my goal this holiday – to be delighted, to pass the delight on, and to stroll when I have to.

Emily Grosvenor is a travel writer and essayist based in McMinnville. Follow her on Twitter @emilygrosvenor.

Tiny Travels McMinnville