Karin Swanson is a UCLA alum and the current Ignite Good Fellow for the Huffington Post. She was born and raised in downtown Mill Valley where she treated Mt. Tam as her personal backyard playground. She now lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she wears her Joe's Taco's tee-shirt to bed and dreams of garlic plantains.
Each day for the past 8,487 days I have fallen in love with you all over again.
I love you for being so damn authentic. True, you have your flaws -- some roll their eyes at your plethora of yoginis and scold your affluence as excessive -- but you never try to be someone you're not (unlike that Southern California city).
To me, you are the perfect love child of an outdoorsy philanthropist and a progressive hippy -- a lovely contradiction. A land built on the dreams of true hippies who (partially) retired their peace signs and swapped Berkeley for Fairfax and hot tubs for BMWs. A cultural mecca where Tupac grew up and The Grateful Dead lives on. Where San Quentin and Skywalker Ranch both share roots. Where the fog meets the Purple Haze.
I love that "compost" was part of my kindergarten vocabulary. I love that the teenager blasting Mac Dre in his car waves at the senior citizen from the Redwoods protesting the war on the street corner. I love that In-N-Out's lack of drive thru means you'll likely run into your old volleyball coach or your middle school crush. I love that 101 is your main artery, where Priuses outnumber SUVs and it's nearly impossible to drive without spotting a "Keep Tahoe Blue" or "Free Tibet" bumper sticker.
Sometimes I get nostalgic for the old days -- when going to the Village meant a slice at Sbarro's with friends and Mill Valley's Sake's Alive was the go-to source for cheap party favors. But a core part of your admirable character lies in your ability to adapt. You evolve as the world does, incorporating change without sacrificing too much of your genuine identity. Your steadfast loyalty to the Peso and the Deuce amidst the burgeoning likes of Blue Barn and Beerworks attest to this admirable attribute.
You offer so much and ask for very little in return. You nurture me, providing me with so many opportunities to explore your vast geography. In one day, I can bodysurf the modest waves of Stinson Beach, hike beneath the lofty canopies of Redwoods, bike past the iconic Sausalito houseboats, picnic in the Headlands' barracks that Jack Kerouac once called home, and kayak beside Great Whites on Tomales Bay.
Being in love with you might have made me overweight, Marin, if you weren't so damn health conscious. Only you could overwhelm the foodies of San Francisco with so many options. From the lime green facade on 3rd Street that signifies a slice of Puerto Rican flavor to the familiar faces behind the magic of Stefano's -- and all the organic goodness in between.
Regardless of the season, you appeal to me. I love you in summer, when you greet me with brunch at Parkside and leave me with Headlands' sunsets. I love you in fall, when Blue Angels decorate the sky and the lingering heat is abated by an afternoon dip at Three Wells. I love you in spring, when Samuel P. Taylor comes alive and you seduce me with Lavender Honey Vanilla ice cream. I even love you in winter, when rain glitters on Phoenix Lake and Ghiradelli hot chocolate is just a bridge away.
Above all, I love that your iconic symbol is a mountain. To the sleeping lady who protects us all with her comforting presence, Mt. Tam, I owe you my heart. Your endless hiking trails crisscross the mountain in a poetic maze of natural wonderment. Under a cloudless canopy, you rise like a celestial beacon, tit for tat with your eastern rival, Mt. Diablo -- two sentinels beside the Bay.
I remember the time it snowed on your peak my junior year of high school, meager but majestic flakes. We clambered into our cars and raced to the top, blasting "Electric Feel" with that unique Marin smell wafting through the open sunroof.
Throughout all, I love that you remain you -- one of the most forward thinking and naturally beautiful places I've had the privilege of knowing. Your authenticity never ceases to amaze me.
Marin, if I could, I would keep you for myself -- blot out Bolinas from the map, barricade the Dipsea steps, smother any whispers of the Lava House, and stop telling hopelessly lost tourists on Blazing Saddles bikes where "the tall trees" are.
But, alas, I am far from being the only one that loves you. And damn, if that doesn't make me love you even more.
Peace and love,