A little bit about a lot of things:

• Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the Christmas season is upon us in earnest.

Gustine ushered in the holiday season with its Old-Fashioned Christmas at Home last weekend; Newman will do the same this Saturday.

Those hometown celebrations represent small communities at their finest.....fitting of a Norman Rockwell postcard.

Both date back a number of years.....as I recall, Newman’s Christmas celebration got started in the late 1980s while Gustine’s came about in the early 1990s. That’s strictly from memory, so don’t hold me to those dates (it has been a while).

Each grew from small beginnings to become full-fledged community celebrations....the kind that bring friends and family back home to share the holiday spirit together.

I offer a friendly reminder, though, that these types of events do not happen without volunteers behind the scenes putting it all together.

Without people giving of their time and energy, these events do not happen....and volunteers seem to be getting fewer and further between these days.

Sitting on the sidelines and letting somebody else do the work is easy....consider getting involved instead.

Perhaps as we consider New Year’s resolutions in a few short weeks one we could put on the list (and make a point of fulfilling) is to do one thing which makes your community better and stronger, in whatever form that may take.

• Amid the celebrations of the season, our communities will once again lend a helping hand to those in need.

The generosity of our communities is remarkable, and I fully expect that once again we will help brighten the holidays for those less fortunate.

Kat and I will be reaching out to support programs in both Newman and Gustine this holiday season. We are blessed, and want to help others less fortunate.

We encourage anybody who is able to support a food or toy drive, with a check or donated items. Even the smallest of donations add up to a big difference this holiday season.

• So we took the solar plunge recently, signing up to purchase a system for our home that will hopefully offset all our energy use.

Kat and I have been talking about solar options for at least a couple of years now, and decided that the time was right.

Funny, isn’t it, how you agonize over a decision (and in this case I flat-out procrastinated) but then when you finally decide things can’t happen quickly enough.

We’re looking forward to having solar installed soon, and having made that decision feel quite comfortable in it.

• While the Golden State has its drawbacks, California also has a lot to offer, including natural beauty that I think is unrivaled around the world.

One recent trip was a new experience for me, one that I highly recommend for others.

Kat and I embarked on an overnight to Oakhurst, which included a drive into Yosemite National Park from the southern entrance.

We have visited Yosemite Valley, which is obviously one of nature’s wonders in its own right, but the Yosemite high country offers a remarkable experience in its own right.

We made our way to Glacier Point, which overlooks the valley from a stunning vantage point some 3,200 feet above the floor. Spectacular does not begin to describe the view....although I must admit that as somebody who is not entirely comfortable around heights I was a little queasy. Beautiful as it is, that’s a long way straight down.

The drive in from Oakhurst is not long in terms of mileage, but navigating the winding roads and steep terrain is an exercise in patience.

We were rewarded though, as fall colors complemented the forest green and we found something of interest at almost every turn. Hey, there are a lot worse ways to spend an autumn afternoon than driving around the mountains and venturing into high country.

But there were also stretches where forest fires had burned earlier this year, areas that were left charred and desolate by the fierce flames. The reddish remnants of fire retardant on trees which had survived were a reminder of the battle waged there by fire crews.....one which truly we cannot imagine or understand.

Those scenes were sobering to say the least.....and the memory even more so when a few days later the Camp Fire exploded, devastating much of Paradise and the surrounding area.

That aside, the view of Yosemite Valley from its southern rim is something to behold.

Dean Harris the Managing Editor of the West Side Index and Gustine Press-Standard. He can be reached at dharris@mattosnews.com or by calling (209) 243-8104.