George Boardman: Take a deep breath and appreciate what we have |

George Boardman: Take a deep breath and appreciate what we have

This is a business where the glass is always half empty. While it is a stretch to describe a reporter as somebody with a can of gasoline looking for a smoldering fire, there’s some truth to the idea reporters expect the worst in the people they cover.

It is the negative news that people tend to remember (and read most frequently), and the kind of news people complain about when they think there’s been too much of it in papers like The Union. If you read enough of that stuff, you can forget why we like the area we live in.

This is something that has been pointed out to me by Judy Brose of Grass Valley, who has lived here 41 years with her husband, David. They raised two children here, retired here, and have no plans to leave here.

A careful reader of this column who clearly knows the area and its people, she has taken me to task for being too negative and not supportive enough of the community. Judy’s comments are always civil, and she usually has one or two good points to make. She clearly loves this community and has urged me to spend some time emphasizing its good points, particularly in these times of high stress.

“”I sincerely hope to help in whatever way possible to bring this community to some sort of peace,” she wrote to me recently. “I see the stress in our friends, on our health-care workers. People working so hard to help this community. It is just a shame to end up here when we have always loved and enjoyed this community.”

I was thinking about Judy’s comments when I arrived home recently one afternoon to see my granddaughter, Lotus, walking home with her cousin Pete and his good friend Mason. They had been giving Mason’s Slip ‘N Slide a good workout and they showed it.

They were wet, disheveled, and thoroughly happy. As they walked down the street, they were framed by trees on both sides — a scene Norman Rockwell could easily turn into a cover for The Saturday Evening Post, if he was still around.

That’s part of the charm of this area, a picturesque setting that invites you to slow down and appreciate the surroundings. That includes people you may have known since kindergarten or just met yesterday, people who seem to be genuinely interested in your well being.

When we moved to Banner Mountain last September, neighbors went out of their way to introduce themselves. We’ve been doing a lot of construction work behind the house, and other neighbors will occasionally appear out of nowhere to find out what we’re up to. Some of them even have sound advice on how to proceed with the work.

This concern can even be found in the pursuit of commerce. I first noticed this the first time I walked into a SPD market. I was delayed at the check-out stand while the customer ahead of me brought the clerk up to speed on the health of an acquaintance. Where I come from, it is unlikely the clerk and customer would know each other, let alone have a mutual friend.

SPD reminds me of the neighborhood market my mother patronized when I was a kid, before Safeway built a store two blocks away and put it out of business. I like SPD’s quirkiness because it’s not just another supermarket, designed by some numbers cruncher at corporate to expose you to the maximum number of items on the shelves while getting you out the door quickly.

The willingness to pause for the personal while commerce is taking place creates what I call Nevada County time: The theoretical concept that we are supposed to meet at, say, 10 a.m. If it actually happens 10 or 20 minutes later, that seems to be close enough. You know what? The work still gets done.

People here seem to have what the academics call a “sense of place,” characteristics that make a place special or unique, that foster a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging. I don’t know how many letters I’ve read in The Union thanking local businesses or even complete strangers for going out of their way to help somebody. There was even one about a cop who helped change a tire!

These things happen elsewhere, but local people seem to genuinely appreciate it when it happens. Then there are the people who recently put aside a day off to help tidy up the fairgrounds, or those who show up every year to help beautify downtown Nevada City, or just help improve one of our world-class hiking trails.

There seems to be no end of volunteers for good causes, and fundraisers seem to pop up over night. People are truly willing to come to the aid of their neighbors in times of distress, even people they don’t know.

Even the little things seem to count with people here. My niece told me she was at the Pioneer Park pool recently when an elderly woman exclaimed to nobody in particular, “Isn’t this water wonderful!” It may be a small town thing, as she put it, but it was important to somebody.

None of this is to suggest that western Nevada County is paradise on earth. We are too old, there are not enough good jobs to keep young people here, the ills that infect the rest of the country find their way here, and regular readers of the Police Blotter know we have our share of people who are not nice.

But to those highly stressed friends and neighbors who concern Judy Brose, I have some simple advice: Stop, take a deep breath, and just look around you. Believe me, it doesn’t get much better than this.

George Boardman lives in Nevada City. His column is published biweekly on Tuesdays by The Union. Write him at

Observations from the center stripe: Furnished edition

YOU CAN furnish a small house with all of the stuff that’s “free to a good home” if you spend enough time driving through residential areas…IRONY ALERT: CalSTRS, the pension plan for teachers, invests in firms that scoop up houses by the thousands and turn them into permanent rental units, making it harder for teachers to buy houses…THE UNWILLINGNESS of Republicans to probe the root causes of the Capitol insurrection reminds me of Jack Nicholson’s classic line in “A Few Good Men”: “You can’t handle the truth”…THE CLEVELAND Indians have been renamed the Guardians. That’s a good name for a bank or insurance company, but not a baseball team…THE FOOD found in the typical service station is another source of gas…


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