Sunday, October 12, 2014


On the radio this morning Richard (hopefully) entertained KWMR listeners (hopefully) with three of his stories on Elia Haworth's program Original Minds. His story about Robinson Jeffers—one of the first 20th Century poets to point out our ecological profligacy—had these these lines, from 1924:

 While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
to make earth….From Shine, Perishing Republic

Richard regularly posts his stories to his blog 90 OJIME. You can hear a podcast @…it should be posted later this week. Look for the October 11, 2014 show.

Since we began the day with an early-call arrival at the broadcast booth, a bit off our usual, we decided it was OK if we went around the back side of Kehoe Marsh to the beach. We always, always hike the direct trail, arriving at Kehoe from what we call the "front" side where we scramble up the headland to take a photo of the beach from the same place every time. In a exercise of observing the seasonal changes, we have hundreds of images from that vantage point. There is something to be said for traveling the well-worn path, the exact route, though something may be lost, (who doesn't thrill to discovering the "new"?), there is something gracefully subtle in being in these exact spots 345 times (Judith's records) 614 times (Richard's records). (The term for Richard's writing is Creative Non-fiction, after all).

But, in the interest of exploration, we hiked through the thickets of reeds and rushes. Through this dense undergrowth we could hear the flitting and the "pink" call of the Red-winged Blackbird. "Pink, pink, pink, pink." We couldn't see 'em, but we are surrounded. "Pink. pink, pink"…so alive with sound. Amplified by the sandstone cliffs of the narrow canyon we're traveling through, the crashing wave sounds are roaring like jets.

As we come out to the open beach, there is a small group from a class on tracking, hunkered down by the dunes examining the scurryings of black, glossy darkling beetles in the sand. Easily spotted but protected by their willingness to spritz a stink in the face of any who'd want to nibble. Stink bugs. In this tracking class we spotted Ellery Akers, famed North Coast artist, writer, naturalist.  While searching for a link to her fine work we discovered Long Distance: England that includes a blackbird.

Typically the marsh flows all the way to the sea. But because of the drought it stops short. And on this day the beach face seems exceptionally wide — tufts of seaweed with a few larger pieces of plastic are the first harbingers of the seasonal wave pattern and variation in current that brings rain (and plastic). Rain is forecast (hope, hope) for next week.

Looking like the marching advance guard of the plastic onslaught to come, this piece is a wad from inside a shotgun shell. We always find them and have 1000's in our inventory.

The glint of plastic bag is always an eye catcher. Upon closer inspection this pile of debris was mash-up of transparent plastic wrap and Velella velellas or by-the-wind sailors as they are more poetically named. They are colonial jellyfish related to the Portugese Man-0-War. While Judith was taking this snap, a sneaker wave washed in, taking her precious bag of collected treasures back out to sea. Luckily, Richard had his shoes off and in a sprint, splashed in to the rescue. How funny just how seriously we feel about this trash gathering. Trash rising on the semiotic escalator toward value.

From the top of the hill, usually our starting point, we're can clearly see the stretch of the marsh creek not quite meeting the long finger of the wave washing in. Is this some pean to Michelangelo's Creation of Adam? Such longing we have for the benediction of rain.

Balloons, rubber, and these days, more often, mylar, have joined the taxon of "We-find-'em-every-visit." Who doesn't like celebrating birthdays, graduations, etc? As in this case letting someone know "you're so special." But now that there are over 7 billion "so special" people on the planet, maybe it's time to re-think how we let our loved ones know. Balloons are a killing snack for marine life.

There will be an art exhibit focused on plastic for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. We are proposing large, bigger than human scale, photographs of balloon debris called Balloon Samba. Sooner and closer to home we are offering artist proof prints of two of our dancers in Collect! a benefit auction for the Berkeley Art Center.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Bay Model

We are never very far from our coastal connection. This week the Bay Model was the field trip destination for Judith's babysitting with the grandkids. The model is the creation of The Army Corps of Engineers, used to track the tidal flow for navigational changes and to track the flow of toxic spills. Along with the working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System there are many knobs to turn and buttons to press all designed to meet the rambunctious hands of children who like to explore every movement opportunity.

Big surprise! There is a display of all of the Coastal Clean Up Day posters including our 2010 contribution.

Josie Iselin, grad-school friend and colleague is exhibiting photos of algae INTERTIDAL HEROES: Seaweed Portraits. Seaweed is gorgeous and Josie's response did justice to this "primitive" life form bringing algae front and center. We are so glad that she makes visible these remarkable first responders to a niche opening over a billion years ago. They contribute so much to the health of the planet. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Like Diamonds - Plastic is Forever

Like Diamonds - Plastic is Forever 
Bolinas Museum
September 27- January 4

The North Pacific Gyre - a swirl of plastic debris in the ocean has been described as an island of trash, some say the size of Texas. Folks ask- why don't they just go and clean it up? Who is this they? If they could remove the heap of trash from the ocean they would put it where?

Scientist and engineers, teams of brilliant people, are designing high and low tech clean-up schemes from vacuuming the surface of the ocean to trawling deep to retrieve the accumulation from the ocean floor. Unfortunately all of the ideas, albeit sincere, have serious drawbacks — the problem of by-catch and the removing of vital plankton along with the plastic.

In this exhibition of Judith's jewelry at the Bolinas Museum the scheme is to consciously create the conspicuous consumption of plastic by making beach plastic jewelry a status item. As with rare gems, the value of pelagic plastic will increase, making it so valuable that pirates and swashbucklers will trawl the seas seeking treasure.

Scarcity can also be a multiplying factor in the creation of value. When all of the oil has been extracted, plastic as we know it today will be a rare commodity, people will look to mine existing plastic and recover the hydrocarbons. Petrochemical plastic will have tremendous value as a treasured reminder of days gone by, when plastic was a term for something cheap and disposable. An increase in the value of the plastic bits floating in the ocean could make for a contentious situation. Imagine the Great Pacific War of 2050 where nation against nation are out at sea mining to clean up the mess.

Since 1999, we have collected ocean-born plastic debris exclusively from 1,000 yards of Kehoe Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Each piece of plastic used in the creation of Judith's jewelry was collected from that 1,000 yard stretch. The brightly colored bits are "curated" from the confetti strew that washes up on to the beach.  In the studio they are cleaned then sorted into color and kind and become "inventory." Sometimes an unusual shape will spark a design reverie. Sometimes the rich surface, the sea-buffeted patina will incite the creative process. Sometimes the recognizable part of a something (a piece of a comb or a juice lid) will evoke the question - could that have once been mine?

Wearing an eye-catching piece of jewelry always attracts much attention and is a perfect segue to talk about what is going on with plastic in our oceans and on our beaches. Although the news about plastic pollution is dire, by putting a little fun and fashion into the conservation conversation, hopefully the value of the plastic detritus will increase so that soon everyone will be out at the beach “shopping” for a special piece of plastic trash or will be eager to “mine” the North Pacific Gyre for plastic treasures. Then, we get some great things to wear and to look at, plus we get a clean and healthy sea.

After years of collecting plastic, the choicest finds are hand-crafted into unique art-to-wear pieces — one of a kind, made exclusively from Kehoe Beach plastic. They can be worn or displayed as a precious artifact, a relic of contemporary consumer culture.