Wednesday, September 26, 2018


The Panther

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly--. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

Rainer Maria Rilke

It may seem strange to begin a Plastic Forever blog post with a poem about a panther but it offers perfect insight into this day and this walk to Kehoe Beach.

In 1905 Rilke moved to Meudon, France to take a job as sculptor Auguste Rodin's secretary. When Rilke told Rodin that he was suffering writer's block, that he had not been writing lately, Rodin's advice was to go to the zoo (the Jardin des Plantes in Paris) and look at an animal until he truly saw it. Rilke began to study the caged animals displayed behind bars, observing the endless pacing and the confines of their captivity. He was not just looking he was seeing deeply into…

Heading on a road trip to the mid-West, Victoria Sloan Jordan, poet and film producer, wanted one last longing look at the Pacific before driving inland all the way to Kansas. Richard recovering from MOH'S surgery was unable to join us, but Victoria's old wonder-dog Rilke, blind and deaf, was ready for the terrain of new and exciting smells.

These days we spend so much time focused on our screens that the expanse of the ocean horizon is a welcome respite from the close-in view in our computers. Plus there is the great pleasure of using our eyes scanning, looking for the tiniest slips of plastic poking out from the sand. 

How great to spend the afternoon in the companionship of Victoria who has devoted years of her life observing the albatross on Midway Island and being on the team that brought the story of those magnificent birds to the big screen.

Our conversation was as wide as the horizon as we enjoyed the beach and beyond. We talked of poetry and plastic, watching for whales and the waves.

Imagine Tokitae (Lolita) an orca whale who has spent 47 years swimming round and round in a concrete pool in captivity at Seaquarium in Florida. Imagine her possible retirement being returned back to her pod in Puget Sound. We recently learned about the amazing work of the Whale Sanctuary Project and their efforts to establish a seaside sanctuary where whales can be safely relocated to an ocean environment as close as possible to their natural habitat.

At dinner with Richard we read The Panther aloud and marveled at Rilke's observational skills. Thanks to Rodin's sage advice, he overcame his writers block and became, as he described, “to be a real person among real things” and thus cure himself of what he wonderfully called his “breathing difficulties of the soul.”

At the end of a big day, who's a good dog?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Let's Do It

On Friday we met State Senator Scott Weiner who is hosting eARTh an exhibit held in conjunction with the Governor's Global Climate Action Summit. Big thanks to curator Joesph Abbati for including four panels from our Black Gold, Texas Tea series. Along with 20 Bay Area artists whose work is inspired by nature, earth, the environment, climate, and activism, we were glad to be in the fine company of the Hughen/Starkweather team— who, we learned, have also taken on the theme of Black Gold for their up and coming show at Recology.

There was a huge crowd — with friends, near and far, who braved the traffic to arrive at the California State Office Building (we love going places but what about what about all black gold to fuel us there?) The celebration seemed especially big to us. Since our retirement and recluse-ment, we have been staying close to home, not venturing much in to SF— and to think we used to commute 5 days a week! Richard has been calling our new found sequesterthe monastery, naming Judith as the Abbess herself who is keeping us on a rigorous creative schedule with most of the day in the studio, garden work in the late afternoon and strict as she is, allows a martini at sundowners.

We were sorry to have missed the reception and artlab for Eco Echo: Art and Environment Lab in Palo Alto this weekend. Thanks to Barbara Boissevain and our eco colleagues for keeping the echo going.

We were up and out early on Saturday. As official beach captains, stationed at Kehoe Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore we were there from 9-12 to welcome participants in Coastal Clean Up Day. A beautiful morning to walk the talk with others, commune with nature and pick up some trash — our three most favorite things. 

Since we had to stay by the trailhead for the checking in and weighing out, Judith meandered along the roadside - had no trouble finding plenty to pick up including 20 cigarette butts and 27 candy and food wrappers.

And this!!!! a dental flosser akin to the one Judith's sister, Janis Selby Jones found this summer in Delphi. Is there a message here from the Oracle about dental hygiene and planetary hygiene?!?

Although Kehoe Beach, as the crow flies, is only about 39 miles from SF, the twists and turns of the road make it feel remote distance. Nevertheless, we had an enthusiastic bunch: 23 participants who brought in 109 pounds of trash and recyclables including a few mysteries and treasures.

Although the final tally has not yet been confirmed, according to preliminary data from the California Coastal Commission, statewide more than 53,073 volunteers collected upwards of 734,606 pounds of debris, including more than 35,674 pounds of recyclable materials. By Saturday afternoon, the Marin IJ reported that the Marin County haul was more than 8,100 pounds of trash.

Janis went inland from Oceanside with a stalwart crew who wanted to catch it before it made it to the coast as part of the I love a Clean San Diego cleanup.

Grandson's Jude and Gray helped with the count at Loch Lomond Marina in San Rafael.

Coastal Clean Up Day, now in its 34 year, is the largest volunteer effort on the planet. Their citizen science documentation has found that, since the plastic bag ban, plastic bags no longer appear in the top ten list of items found. Yay! Taking a count makes a difference.

Thinking BIG this year we went international by connecting with Let's Do It from Estonia and World Clean Up Day.  Since could not stream live from Kehoe we pre-recorded a segment to air on their 24-hour programming that, as the world turned, followed the "clean wave" of clean-up efforts around the globe with live reports from Bulgaria, Iran, Dominican Republic and more. When the day was done, 144 countries with almost over 13 million volunteers participated.

Thanks to Kristi Sobak, broadcast producer for World Clean Up Day, for putting together this interview. With the time difference (10 hours) between California and Estonia, we were not exactly awake for our wake-up call, but here we are, a bit bleary-eyed, thrilled to be able to speak to the world audience.

Sunday, September 9, 2018


There are plenty of ideas about what to do about the onslaught of plastic flowing into the oceans — including Boyan Slat who gained notoriety two years ago with a cockamamy idea, a brainstorm about a big boom scooping up the plastic in the North Pacific Gyre.

Or maybe not so cockamamy… enough people believed in him, to the tune of 31.5 million USD yep $$$$$ 31.5. There have been plenty of nay-sayers and doubters galore but today under glorious fog-free San Francisco skies the Ocean Cleanup System 001 launched.
And we were there to witness this momentous occasion.

From high above the Golden Gate Bridge, we found a perfect vantage point, a breathtaking view with Doug Woodring, our globe-trotting friend, who just touched down in SF after a long flight from his home base in Hong Kong. This week world leaders are gathering for the Global Climate Action Summit and Doug will present his ideas to a group of government leaders.

In 2009 Doug was with Project Kaisei the first research expedition to the Gyre with the goal of sampling what was actually in the gyre. He co-founded the Ocean Recovery Alliance. This year his tireless efforts for the ocean were recognized by Prince Albert of Monaco winning the Award for Innovative Philanthropy An avid waterman (long distance swimming, paddle sports), he is on is way to Hawaii to compete with his 6-man team, doing a big 45km canoe race from Maui to Molokai.

Doug whipped out his cell phone and like a pro-commentator made a movie that within moments he had posted on Facebook. He really knows how to work social media.

As the ship pulling the 2,000 meter-long tube passed under the bridge, the Coast Guard gave a dramatic water salute. And we saluted too. We wish Slat and his venture adventure well. But until the report comes back, we will be at Kehoe Beach picking up plastic. As for stats: for Coastal Clean Up Day 2017 in California 54,101 volunteers collected 533,671 pounds of trash. That's 266.83 tons.

International Coastal Clean Up Day, California Coastal Cleanup Day, World Clean Up Day and Let's Do It are joining forces on Saturday, September 15. On that day several thousand volunteers will pick up a guesstimated shitload of plastic.

Slat estimates when fully deployed his rig will pick up 
3 tons per week. 

Do the math...

We are sending this greeting to our Let's Do It friends in Estonia who are coordinating 24 hours of TV programming for International Coastal Clean Up Day: Click here. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018


If you are feeling stifled by the heat of the Dog Days of Summer or slammed by the bad news from DC just take a gander at niece Tallulah, a sprite of a being as she flits through our buoys - it will give you a lift… for whatever ails ya'...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


In a 2012 update of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, a new definition for  “underwater” was added, as it pertains to a mortgage. Sure, it was a word before, but now it’s taken on another meaning of “having, relating to, or being a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth.”

In 2007 "subprime" was added to the lexicon followed by the "bailout" in 2008, and then in 2012 with "underwater" mortgages. A common trope in the real estate business—"they're not making any more of it" belies the wonderful mysteries to be found in all that exposed acreage with a minus tide.

On July 13, 2018, at the crack of dawn on Judith's 68th birthday, underwater took on an up-close and personal meaning. For Magic of Minus Tide a Point Reyes National Seashore Association trip, we met naturalist Wendy Dreskin with her sidekick assistant Lucas Corneliussen, Richard's daughter Amelia who had just flown in from NYC and a stalwart group of hikers at the Agate Beach trailhead, Bolinas at 5:45 AM to explore another kind of underwater world — when a minus tide exposes the magic of Duxbury Reef.

We were captivated by Wendy, our guide, as she pointed out and recited the litany of wonders: the soft light of dawn, the frill of the Feather Boa Kelp, the iridescent sheen of the Rainbow Kelp, an anemone devouring a crab.

The gems of the day were the nudibranchs  'noo-de-brank' — Although Judith appreciated Isabella Kirkland's gems Butterflies of the Sea when they on display in the main gallery at the Bolinas Museum while Judith's jewelry gems were on display in the Coastal Artist Gallery, she never had seen one in the wild.

Meet Doris montereyensis the big mustard colored specimen on the left that Judith found.

Almost every day we read headlines announcing the peril of rising ocean levels that will put thousands of coastal homes underwater. Scientific American published a key report about the threat. Communities are planning for "managed retreat" which means developing wetlands and channels for the seawater and removing built structures that are in the way or "coastal armoring" which means building seawalls and bulkheads

Judith has long been on the hunt for a trilobite fossil in the wild. It's on her life-long dream bucket list. So she was astonished when she found what appeared to be one nestled into rocky reef.  Chiton aka Trilobite Impostors — easy to be fooled by their segmented shells, reminiscent of the ancient artifacts. 

We humans can take a lesson from the tough armor of the Chitons to hunker-down and hang on. Chitons are well adapted to life in the surf, heck they have been around some 400 million years to the Devonian…and when our definitions of underwater (mortgage, coastal flooding) are long gone, it is reassuring to know that under the sea the Chitons will still be there.

Richard writes: Having been diagnosed with CIDP  I have issues with steadiness and balance, so for the last 150 yards of the walk which takes you over uneven terrain covered with very slippery seaweed, it seemed prudent to find a resting rock. From that perch a marvel of a different order unfolded. Sand fleas were on the march, climbing out of the surge seeming to all climb over the rocks in one direction in a marshall stream of crustacean progress. Up and over a rock right at my feet then, reaching the edge of a boulder and leaping into the air lemming-like. The stream was so relentless and unending it made me think of Rommel's Panzer Tank Brigades seemingly unstoppable marching across the Sahara. In this still, fascinated quiet, the crabs came out climbing out of their hidie-holes and up my pant legs.

Postscript: Although we were on the look-out, we did not find one piece of plastic.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

March for Everything

Today is, in some ways, like every other day — we wake up and think of friends and colleagues and the concerns we share for the oceans and beaches. But, since today across the planet there will be thousands of people joining together for events and Marches for the Ocean, we feel a extra special affinity. We have received multiple announcements about Chris Jordan's Albatross screenings and the roll out of his extraordinary gift to the planet. We are grateful for his clear and deeply creative responses to the environmental crises we face. The mark he has made is oh, so, beautiful and oh, how it hurts. We bow in respect and rise in inspiration when we think of his steady and years-long commitment to making the film exactly right. And now, it is his time. We were excited to be witness to the power of his presence on the UN World Stage and since we could not be there we tuned in via WEBTV UN. 

Closer to home, in Fairfax, it was not just a March for the Oceans it was a March for Everything. From Grandson Jude with a pot on his head to the Marin Alliance for Marijuana Dispensary team with pot in their heads and along the way there was politics aplenty (Solidarity Sundays) and the politics of pleasure with dazzling hula-hoop routines. Politics?We affirm the reality of the TAO, that great philosophy of "Is you is or is you ain't, and even if you ain't, you is."

The Grand Marshalls were Pete and Pat Arrigoni. In 1975 the Marin Mammal Center opened in Sausalito due to the successful work of Pat and two friends, Paul Maxwell and Lloyd Smalley.  Pat then published the story:  “The Marine Mammal Center: How It All Began. Recollections of One of the Founders”. We're pretty pleased that our Ghost Net Monster at the Center was extended from a six-month stay to going on four years now. 

Fairfax is for us, out-of-the-valley "over the hill." When we say "going to town" we mean Fairfax. Along with having most everything we need — library, grocery, hardware/building supplies, in that order, the community has long been a leader in the sustainability movement. By passing a pesticide notification ordinance, forming the open space committee, limiting chain stores and adopting styrofoam-free and nuclear free ordinances, Fairfax is making a difference at our local level. When Richard moved to Cali in 1974 Fairfax was a musical Valhalla and a palpable garden of Eden. With six live musical venues you never wanted for entertainment and with the European tradition of planting fruit trees as a primary gesture of settlement, in summer and fall, you could walk the sidewalks picking all the overhanging pears, figs, apples and... you could stuff in your face...

The parade began with the siren call of fire engines and Jes Richardson's Ghandi had the last word: 


Tuesday, June 5, 2018


It's June 5, World Environment Day.
What did we do today?
We walked to VOTE and along the way we picked up plastic.

We have traveled the world talking about beach plastic, presenting exhibits and giving hands-on workshops. When we are inland, folks complain WE DON'T HAVE A BEACH, WE DON'T HAVE PLASTIC,  WE WON'T BE ABLE TO CREATE. Y'all are lucky to live close to the ocean (heard this in Dallas and in Houston). Don't despair! We describe how plastic navigates from street to beach, how it makes its way down the gutter, down the drain, down the watershed, down the creek, down the river, then out into the ocean then back onto the beach. When stuck in freeway traffic just take a look at the shoulder, at the median. There be PLASTIC. PLASTIC. PLASTIC. In Dallas we went for a stroll near the museum where we were doing a workshop and the question of "where does all this plastic come from?" was quickly answered with a 10-minute pick-up along the gutter.  

As we set out on our journey today we did what what we always do at Kehoe Beach — we took an establishing shot. Here is the scene in the pastoral San Geronimo Valley: rolling hills, blue sky, grazing horses, and blackberries in bloom.

Our sun dappled walking trail parallels Sir Francis Drake Blvd, taking us past fields and through wooded areas arriving at our Polling Place at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center. At our age the importance of keeping on the move is palpable so we don't "seize up". The daily step counter, now on our phone, has become a metric for a competitive matchup.

Although many people now mail in their ballots we love exercising (!) our right to vote in this public way. We appreciate the poll-workers who stand vigilant to make sure each vote is scanned properly as it is put into the ballot box and we get a soft thrill when they give us our I VOTED TODAY merit badge.

It's not just the problem with the Russians trying to influence our elections, We are concerned about voter turnout and the purging of voter rolls. Attempts to disenfranchised voters, long lines at the polls, cyber-security, laws requiring people to show ID are just few of the problems. 

At our poll, you state your name then sign for your ballot — no photo ID required. It might help that most everyone knows everyone but it still reminds that there are places where there are attempts to block legitimate voters by requiring a government ID.

Along the way we collected a bag full of plastic- we were curious to see what items on our hit list we would find road-side. Our efforts did not disappoint. It just goes to show ya, we do vote with our pocket books.

It can be done. Change is afoot across the planet. Just one little chunk of pernicious-ness has been eliminated: The 3"x1/2"x1/8" piece of red plastic is now gone from Kraft Handi-snacks. Insignificant...yes, but on our one stretch of beach, over the years, we found 563 of those little devils. Vote with every means necessary. There are forces who would like to see democracy weakened to favor the oligarchical banditos. Don't make the mistake of thinking you are insignificant. 

El pueblo unido jamas serĂ¡ vencido