When I glance around at all the objects in my home, the few that I’d actually regret losing are special not because they are intrinsically valuable, but because of some element of creativity, memory or love that they symbolize. With the exception of my grandparents’ Edison phonograph, none was factory-made.
The cracked Italian flowerpot that my brother and I knocked down while roughhousing a half century ago in our little house on the Popo Agia River; the Maximino Javier engravings bought from one of his friends in Oaxaca in the 1990s; the huge old crock from my great-grandparents’ farm in Grants Pass: what these and other treasured items have in common is individuality and emotion.
We are in a season devoted to celebration of all we hold dear, but it is a time when too many are dogged by worries that they don’t have enough money to buy the things they’d like to for loved ones … or have the money, but can’t figure out what to buy that will be truly meaningful. How often have all of us parted with hard-earned cash for some toy or trinket that was broken, thrown away or lying forgotten in a closet or drawer before the trees leafed out in the spring?
For this month’s Coast River Business Journal, reporter/photographer Luke Whittaker was asked to travel around Clatsop and Pacific counties and pick out a few eye-catching items: things he might like to give or receive, or which he thought would help recipients more fully experience local life. A different day or a different person would bring back an entirely different selection.
What this month’s feature on gift possibilities tells us is that we have an exceptionally talented and imaginative class of local creators and entrepreneurs. At least here on the West Coast, I suppose every little village has residents who consider themselves artists or craftsmen, but these towns of ours north and south of the mouth of the Columbia River are loaded with the genuine article. Not only that, but many others are engaged in pursuits I consider to be barely less artistic: Things like perfectly smoking salmon and brewing beer that in some subtle way ideally matches this spectacular place of storms, tides and depths. Others are making objects of wood, glass, clay and metal that you can imagine showing up on “Antique Roadshow” in the year 2137: “That’s the finest example of a David Campiche garden ornament that we’ve ever seen on this show. Your great-grandmother only paid $300? It would auction for $6 million Cascadian dollars today!”
By buying products that are locally made and by favoring locally owned stores, we are investing in the future and have a far better chance than otherwise of finding gifts that really stick to the souls of recipients. A handmade alder-wood box may become your great-great-granddaughter’s most prized possession. The gift certificate you buy from a local restaurant may provide a laugh-filled meal that will linger in the minds of your children when they are as old as you are now. The fishing rod, the bicycle, the surfboard you buy from a local provider could become the foundation of a permanent lifestyle, creating decades of quiet joy.
This is a business publication and money helps make for an easier life in some ways. But Christmas, ultimately, isn’t about what you buy, but about what you feel and how you help others to feel. Give them your time and affection. If you also to choose to give them things, know that there are nearly countless local options that are rich in significance and love.