Friday, July 21, 2017

The Logan Visionary Conference

Our presentation, our song and dance, our Punch and Judy show, (guess who is Punch?) at 2017 The Logan Visionary Conference: FOOD, From Crisis to Innovative Delight at the American Visionary Art Museum  is now available for your viewing pleasure. We are happy with the expert editing of our slide show and are grateful for the opportunity to spread the word to the AVAM community and beyond. Please take a look:

Saturday, June 3, 2017

World Environment Day

World Environment Day, June 5 is a day to reconnect with nature and celebrate the places that matter most to you. This year the theme is #WithNature so everyone, everywhere will be sharing pictures of how they are connecting with #WithNature. In that spirit we are pleased to offer our love of nature at Kehoe Beach with this video produced by ARTE TV a French/German network with US crew Virginie Goubier, producer and Alexis Orand, camera. We are grateful for the stunning footage that captures the breathtaking sweep of the beach and grandeur of this place where we are #WithNature. You can watch it here:

We have been reminiscing about 2005 when San Francisco was host to the United Nations World Environment Day. The city stepped it up for five days, June 1-5. Some 50 mayors from around the world pledged to act on energy, waste reduction, urban design, urban nature, transpiration, environmental health, and water. We were pleased that San Francisco was taking the lead and we were especially proud to be included in the Environmental Art Expo at Fort Mason.

We were totally star-struck when Daryl Hannah and Julia Butterfly Hill heaped praise on our beach plastic display.

On June 1 President Trump decided to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. Hundreds of nations have expressed their dismay and across the US there has been a rallying cry. California's Governor Jerry Brown, acting as a defacto climate ambassador is on his way to China to invite dialogue and promote green growth. Mayors and cities across the US have committed to following the Accord guidelines. Top CEO's are proclaiming, He's wrong. Although we may be devastated by Trump's decision there is a ray of hope in all of this: 

If President Trump won't lead, the American people will.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

44 North Coffee

44 North Coffee on the 44th parallel on Deer Isle, Maine opened on Monday for the summah season. It gets darn cold up there so they close for the winter. Here in the Bay Area, we know nothing about cold, only as Poet Antonio Machado says, "The cold is a good advisor, but it is cold." And there is nothing like a good cup of coffee or some fresh roasted beans to rêve up the day.

So glad that marine biologist Abby Barrows introduced our work to proprietresses and coffee roasters par excellence Megan Wood and Melissa Raferty. Although we have never met Abby, we are excited to learn about her work researching micro-plastics in oysters, clams, mussels, mackerel and lobster. Yep, she has found plastic everywhere, in everybody.

We were surprised to discover in a fewer than six degrees of separation, chain of friend to friend, Megan and Melissa went to school with Lila Roo, daughter of painter Tom Lieber. We are big fans of Lila Roo and her amazing work with plastic and have joined with her in support of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. We recently were featured with her on the PPC blogThe connection goes on...Lila and daughter Amelia were tots together right here in the San Geronimo Valley.

Lila Roo is now based in St. Vincent and the Grenadines were she has founded New Roots a youth program that uses creativity as a model for empowerment and respect for self. culture, and nature. 

This summer if you are Down East stop by 44 North Coffee for a wicked good cup of brew and join the conversation about plastic and what we all can do to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in the ocean.

44 North Coffee
PO Box 511
Deer Isle, ME 04627
Roastery Phone: 207.348.5208

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Anticipating a visit with students and scholars from the Graduate Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley we went on a rampage cleaning and clearing. There is nothing like company coming to quicken the pace and motivate to get things in order. As sister in-law Mona used to cajole, "Time to lick the house, the folks are coming!"

As we decided what to show that would be of particular interest to students from Yohana Junkers "Visual Arts, Spirit, and Place in the Americas" it was Richard's book Bright Moments on the dining table that focused attention on the Buddha's final instruction — Make of Yourself a Light.

These days with the dark news from Washington DC (with climate denial, FBI Putsch on our minds, etc. etc. etc. etc.) we are keen to embrace the light and join with others who want to illumine the truth. We often think of Anthropologist Mary Douglas and her idea of pollution defiling the temple. Isn't this gorgeous planet our temple?  

The expansive and lively conversation spun near and far. The meaning of place was a recurring theme — from what it means to move from one home to another to the importance of a touch stone or work of art that one can return to again and again. And how subtle variations are discernible — when, like a drawer of beetles or birds in a natural history museum, the individual character (oil splotches, Bryozoans, bleached by the sun) of each of these cheese spreaders (or the lightbulbs) can be compared to type.

Although the prospect of finding plastic on the beach is always unpredictable —it's a leap of faith to promise a "mess of plastic." After all of the blah, blah, blah about the problem of plastic pollution, it was disconcerting when, from the top of the dune, the beach looked clean. 

Undaunted by the thought that we had made the trek all the way to the beach and there was no plastic to be seen, everyone was enlivened by the brilliance of the day and took to the task. Although there were scant few big pieces of plastic, with keen eyes and deft hands, in just a few minutes handfuls of tiny pieces of plastic and nurdles were collected. How to ever clean up this mess? The smaller the pieces = the bigger the problem.   

Whether it's off-shore oil drilling, tanker loads of crude spilling and spoiling our shores, or war maneuvers at sea, this toy soldier is poignant reminder of the true cost of plastic. Isn't it time for a war on plastic? The United Nations says, YES!

What gets us out to the beach over and over again? Is it an heroic act? Not really, it's simply the thrill we get from "being on the case," to do the tiniest action that ignites some vague inner thrill—turning on the switch. After all is said and done, we take Buddha's instruction seriously — Make of Yourself a Light.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The People's Climate March

Imagine a cadre of gray-haired women carrying this sign…

First, it was the Women's March and then, the March for Science and now, the People's Climate March. Thousands of people gathered on Saturday for, yet again!!!, another rallying cry for action. 

Via live-broadcast from Washington, DC we were able to watch the crowds, in the sweltering heat, drumming and shouting as they circled the White House.

A somewhat quieter but just as environmentally committed group of folks gathered at Falkirk Cultural Center for the closing party for the Living Oceans exhibition that included a 77th birthday party for celebrated marine artist George Sumner.

On this day, when people are thinking about how petrochemicals impact the planet, people were captivated as they watched the onslaught of plastic in the ocean via our SeaSpan TV.

And our Bottle Cascade is notably relevant — as an example of how the ocean currents serve as great conveyors cycling debris from all around the world. Single-use bottles and bottle caps are among the most common items found in the ocean waste stream. They come to our beaches, from our neighborhoods and from thousands of miles across the sea, connecting the world in swirls of single-use plastic. 

On Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore we find telltale product labels from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, even Russian and Hindi. And our bottles from the San Francisco Bay end up on distant shores.

Special thanks to Margret Farley and the Cultural Affairs Service League for mounting Living Oceans, a timely exhibit that addressed the profound influence the ocean has on our lives; on climate change. Just remember, our planet is 30% earth, 70% water.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017

Today, to celebrate Earth Day, we will be digging the dirt. While getting the corn and cassoulet beans in the ground, we will be thinking about the scientific discoveries that have enlarged our understanding of the world and will be wondering how the idea of science ever became so maligned. We are frightened about the current political climate and we believe that corporate profits are fueling the unwillingness to accept the facts about climate change. 

We are heartened by the photos of smart signs coming in on the news wire. This pic from 
the March for Science in DC.

The Washington Post
We are reminded of a different time politically when in 1962, the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, spoke about the ocean and the deep connection we have to the sea. 

We have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came. – John F. Kennedy

And in 1969, these words from President Ronald Reagan: Can you believe... Mr. "You've seen one redwood you've seen 'em all" said this?

The Summer of Love exhibition at the DeYoung Museum, San Francisco

To contribute to the Earth Day conversation we were honored to be invited to participate in the 5th Annual Earth Stewardship Symposium at West Valley College a vibrant educational institution at the center of the diverse and rich learning laboratory known as Silicon Valley. 
Co-presenters included:
James Nestor, author/ adventurer 
Stiv Wilson The Story of Stuff 

This spring we have been on quite a journey. We had a blast in Baltimore  at the American Visionary Art Museum, came home for a quick turn-around week. then went back again to the East Coast to Woods Hole, MA to celebrate the 70th birthday of Ron Zweig, Richard's venerable amigo from high school, circa 1962. 

Along with spending hours in relaxed conversation with Ron and his wife Christina, we meandered the beach picking up plastic—how great to have these kindred spirits who are amassing their own collection of treasures. The Naiads gifted Ron with two mylar helium birthday balloons washing up to wish him a "Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday".

On Easter we enjoyed the annual eggroll and potluck brunch at the New Alchemy Institute. There were kids galore and now grown ups who were there in 1972 for the first roll.

Back in the day (1971) the New Alchemy Institute was the epicenter for the developments of aquaculture, composting, and sustainable sanitation technologies. From the West Coast Judith, as an aspiring back-to-the-lander, longed to visit and Richard actually did in 1976 when friends Ron and Christina worked and taught there. The centerpiece of New Alchemy was a structure of passive and active solar energy, aquaculture all integrated into a home. The home provided waste systems as well as food production. These structures were called Arks. To be inside a home like this is to enter an eternal golden spring, where entropy itself, is put on hold. The grief Robert Frost expresses in Nothing Gold Can Stay, is held at bay by the likes of the wizards of New Alchemy:

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

New Alchemy indeed: turning dross to gold. Let's say it together 1, 2, 3…HUMANURE!!!

Although we could fall into a pit of despair about the bad news about the planet instead, we offer some links to bring heart back into a fraught period:

M Sanjayan's PBS series EARTH A New Wild. He explores the world reporting positive stories of human/nature interactions. 

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal, notorious for making chemical weapons, is now a wildlife refuge. Although visitors are allowed, the area is still too toxic for human habitation.

The infamous Korean DMZ is home to three species of endangered cranes as well as the endangered goat, the Amur Goral.

Chernobyl, 30 years after the nuclear disaster, is quite alive with moose, wolves and beavers who are busy re-creating the Pribyat River.

In New York City there is the spectacular High Line ParkInspired by the Coulée Verte in Paris. There are now such parks sprouting up in Chicago, Japan, New Jersey, Philly, London, Atlanta.

Close to home in Lagunitas there is the one-man operation, The Last Resort.
In need of your support: Sign the petition on the website.

We believe that good humor is the best way to get a point across, so Richard is happy to be tipping his hat to Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson with a message affirming his intention. Exxon has invested big time in Arctic exploration. They are licking their chops about the melting permafrost that will make it easier to extract the oil. Rex? Is this what our Secretary of State is tasked to do?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Blast in Baltimore

Although it was a whirlwind trip to Baltimore and the American Visionary Art Museum we are grateful for every moment. From Vollis Simpson's whimsical Whirligig to the ascending/descending turn of the mirrored wings of Andrew Logan's  Black Icarus to the spiraling energy of the dedicated staff at the AVAM we were caught in a vortex of inspiration. 

As we have written in earlier blog reports of our farm and garden—Rule #4 from Rancho Deluxe (formerly Uncle Dick's Fun Campstates: 

4. Listen to the small voices. Trust the whispers. Pay attention to what you glimpse out of the corner of your eye. It’s how you know what to do. Your furtive mind will offer many ideas that may become discounted because they are not practical, or remunerative, or, foolish in the eyes of others. Try some ideas out, they may become a signpost or a dead end but you won’t know until you act.

The old saw—the proof of the pudding is in the eating— finds the concept vitally alive at AVAM. This place is a delicious feast for the eye, heart and that most precious attribute: human imagination.

We are in awe of founder/director Rebecca Hoffberger who is visionary-in-chief of our all-time favorite museum. She does not shy away from using the museum as a place for bold statements and as a forum for inciting discussion about provocative issues. She is committed to opening the heart and embracing the creative spirit. 

Along with an extraordinary permanent collection of artworks by "outsider " artists every year the museum mounts a large thematic exhibition. This year its YUMMM! the History, Fantasy and Future of Food. To increase awareness about the problem of plastic in food our film, One Plastic Beach is included in a loop on the big screen. 

The table was set with a rainbow pile of plastic. Participants were given a plate and encouraged to make an arrangement. This was not a take-away project but Beka Plum, K-12 education coordinator, was standing by to snap a Polaroid pic. The plastic then went back into the pile for use by the next person. We knew our project was going to be a hit with the kids, but we did not expect this kind of hit. Our activity table attracted kids-of-all-ages. And talk about gourmet plating. Culinary artistry. The arrangements were fun and fanciful —how about a ham on rye with a pickle?  YUMMM!

Many of the kids had never seen a Polaroid so there were great squeals of delight as the image magically appeared.

We were honored to be invited to present our powerpoint at the Logan Visionary Conference: Food, From Crisis and Innovative Delight and to share the stage with such a remarkable group of experts:

  • Keynote speaker Seth Goldman: Co-founder & TeaEO Emeritus of Honest Tea and Executive Chairman of Beyond Meat
  • McKay Jenkins: Author of Food Fight: GMOs and the Future of the American Diet and University of Delaware Tilghman Professor of English, Journalism, and Environmental Humanities 
  • Kenneth L. Kaplan: Food futurist, senior health system advisor and co-founder of Food Systems 6
  • Deborah Mizeur: Clinical herbalist and nutritionist, and co-owner of Apotheosis Herb Farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore 
  • Ernestine Shepherd: World's oldest (most gorgeous, too!) competitive female bodybuilder and professional trainer 
  • Judy Wicks: Founder of White Dog Cafe and the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia

Big thanks to Abby Baer, conference coordinator, who kept us on time, on target, making sure everything went without a hitch.

We stretched out our art experience by making a quick stop at the National Gallery of Art in D.C. to check in on Thomas Cole's four-part allegorical series, The Voyage of Life. Over the years we have visited this painting several times to gauge where we are on the river of life. After the turbulence of 2016 with our move from the daily grind of commuting to Electric Works in San Francisco to the successful transition of the business to Richard's son and daughter-in-law to our days of retirement we find ourselves nearing the edge of smooth sailing.