Monday, November 21, 2016

The future and the past

Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging; 
You are not those who saw the harbour 
Receding, or those who will disembark. 
Here between the hither and the farther shore 
While time is withdrawn, consider the future 
And the past with an equal mind. 

TS Eliot

A reminder of where we have come from and how far we have gone.
When we were describing the journey to Kehoe Beach someone asked - 
how far do you go?
We replied, we go all the way to the end.

Suffering a week of post-election blues, we were glad to have a Yohana Junker and Devin Zuber's Ecology, Spirituality and the Arts class from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley come to visit our home/studio and go for a walk on Kehoe Beach.

It was a welcome respite from our dismay. Maybe we haven't navigated all the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but as this monster-movie of a Trump administration shapes itself, we awake to the existential reality of a life vs. death struggle. We've become increasingly aware that the sixth stage for us is an awakening to the reality that a fight to the death is our new reality. "Winter is coming," as they say on Game of Thrones. Maybe it's more like, "Summer is coming." A very hot summer.

During the Viet Nam War era as Richard was being counseled to prepare a conscientious objector application he was asked: "Is there anything you would be willing to fight and die for?" This is just at the moment when he'd seen Earthrise, that quintessential photograph of the 20th Century of the earth floating in vast space. "Yes, I would fight for this loveliest of planets." There was no question about it. Although he did not get CO status, he did begin this life-long battle for what is right for the planet. 

As we are reflecting on the Obama presidency and are anticipating the Trump presidency we are counseled by Eliot to consider the future and the past with equal mind. Sage advice for sure - but this does not make it any easier when the appointment of the new director of the EPA is someone who disdains environmental regulation. As we stand on the verge of the known and unknown we strengthen our resolve. Although there are soooo many issues that need attention but as the saying goes we can't boil the ocean — we will continue to focus on what we, two people, on one beach, can do and make artwork that WAKES US UP! 

Apropos of the theme of the waking up on the journey we dipped into Dante's Inferno with a quick read of Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders' translation. Published by Electric Works, our business in San Francisco.

About half-way through my pathetic life, 
I woke up and found myself in a stupor in some dark place.
I am not sure how I got there; I guess I had taken a few wrong turns.

Show and tell in the studio:

Some serious explaining
Some serious mansplaining

As we walked along Kehoe Beach picking up plastic (we were relieved that there was plenty) there was plenty to think about and talk about — big questions about the state of affairs and the state of the environment. We were glad to be able to show nurdles in situ plus Devin found a tiparillo tip and Judith found a Handi-snack cheese spreader. Joy found the prize of the day a bright red star. Red star….hmmmm….A sign the Russian bear is slouching toward Bethlehem? 

We were touched that the students were interested in our devotion to a place as a kind of religious practice and were happy to be able to share our ritual of "stoop yoga" — bending over and picking up. The stimulating conversations along with the invigorating brisk ocean breeze, made us feel so much better. 

At the end of the day, but certainly not the end of the journey, we turned again to Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.

Thanks to Joy Barnitz for her photos:

Thanks to Doug Stinson for his photos:

Monday, November 14, 2016

How to explain to children?

We are reeling from the news of Trump's ascendency to power and about the possible end of the EPA and the cancelation of US participation in the Paris Accords, for starters. As we face our growing feelings of anger about what happened on Election Day, we are looking for ways to harness that energy towards taking actions that will have a positive impact on the issues near and dear to our hearts. Anti-environmentalists argue that dire predictions made that first Earth Day, 1970 never came true. Fact is — they didn’t come true because the legislation prevented many, many environmental disasters. How hard is it to realize—no air, no water, no life? 

This election is touching us at a personal and existential level. Our granddaughter is often in tears. Judith's sister, a school administrator in San Diego is having to devote much of her time to helping her elementary school students (largely Hispanic) deal with "why does the new president hate us so much."

Last evening while driving home, Judith caught a segment of Terry Gross' interview with David Bianculli. He has been a TV critic for 40 years so he has seen a lot of TV in his day.
He says his most favorite clip of all time, of all time! is one with Mister Rogers who, after the assignation of Robert Kennedy, did a special segment.

You can listen live (1.5 mins in) or read the transcript:

BIANCULLI: Yeah. It's unbelievable to me that - that Fred Rogers would be so sensitive that he would think that even preschoolers would be part of the family dynamic where everybody was upset. And, you know, maybe parents wouldn't bother to explain anything to kids that young. But Fred Rogers thought they needed it. But that's just so unexpected to me, and I can't imagine any children's television program today daring to do that.

This morning we Googled the question, how to explain environmental issues to young children? As you might imagine there numerous articles and websites that try to give answers.

This article from the Oxford Journals gave some helpful insights.
And this from Global Citizen:

Here is how Lakeside Art School, a pre-school in San Francisco used our artwork to inspire their lessons:

On November 3 in Hong Kong for Kids Ocean Day, over 800 school children spelled out Stop Trashzilla on the beach at Repulse Bay. This day of action is intended to educate youth about the problem of everyday trash and litter and its impact on the ocean. Kudos to Doug Woodring and the Ocean Recovery Alliance for organizing a day with a message those kids will never forget.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Rigged Election?

Back in the early 2000's the idea of a blog was just whiff in the virtual air. We didn't set sail on the good ship with our blog until 2005. It would have made a good post in 2002 when we found a battered ballot box lid on Kehoe Beach. We were still raw (and still are) from W's suspect ascendancy to the White House. So, when found a battered ballot box lid on Kehoe, instead of a blog post we created the Cast Your Vote Away poster. We'd suffered the debacle of the 2000 election. Disaster! We'd gone through the election of a president by a right wing dominated Supreme Court. Would Al Gore have gone to Iraq? Would 9/11 have even happened? Would we even be talking as if Climate Change were a hoax perpetrated by the Politburo in Beijing? T.S. Eliot has a thing or two to say in The Four Quartets:

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                                   But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

So as we approach this 2016 hog trough of an election, and "Voter Fraud" is an internet meme, we reprise our adventure brought to you by a local news source SFist.

The story about the ballot box lid we found washed up onto Kehoe Beach in 2001 is in the news today in the SFist.  As evidence of a rigged election it is remembered as one of the greatest San Francisco voter fraud cases.

San Francisco Chronicle January 7, 2002 Scavenged Ballot Box Lids haunt SF Elections

Arts and Healing Network 2004 Arts and the Vote

And in case you were wondering:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

You've never been there?

Although we officially married on May 14, 2004 we count November 5,1999 (our first date) as our anniversary. It was love at first sight and today we still feel the giddiness of infatuation.


“You’ve never been there?” Richard asks. We were looking at a group of photos of a beach spread on the conference table at Electric Works, Richard’s fine art print and book publishing shop. Judith had come to get an estimate on a book project. Richard's speech bubble says, “I’ll take you there", (thought balloon reads, “I’ll take you there, baby"). "Let's meet at my studio and we’ll go out to the National Seashore — Point Reyes." 

The place in the pictures was Kehoe Beach showing the headlands in full spring blossoming—lupins, tidy tips and poppies made the green bluffs into a magic Turkish carpet, florid and extravagant. In the pictures, the broken rain clouds scudded toward the sharp ledge of the Pacific horizon like galleons, sails set, balloons of cotton. 

Really? at this age, with all that water under the bridge? A date? 

November 5, 1999. It was not a day like in the pictures. It was early fall and the gold grass of summer had given way to brown broke-down stalks subsiding back to dirt. It can be a gloomy time of dead plants and the migratory hawks have moved on. But as we drove out to the Kehoe trailhead the clouds from the first autumn rain evaporated to make a bright day, a hard turquoise dome. We crunched along the trail to the beach rimming a marsh full of Tule Reeds and Cattails summer dust washed away—freshened up. It was a super low tide and the beach doubled its real estate—wide and flat, the waves relaxed into a shinning sky mirror. Sea air, fresh breeze, expansive and expansive to the mind though we were both with more than a hint of first-date-wobbliness, long single and at the fifty something mark…start this again?

State the territory: Who are you? We get talking about our art, both committed to it for thirty years. Judith picks up a piece of plastic. “You collect plastic? Not sea glass, plastic, really?" "You gonna keep that?" We discover we’d both been collecting plastic for three years before this (cue trumpets) appointment with destiny.

What are the chances? The plastic debris has a certain charm, worn to a wabi-sabi asymmetry and patinaed from a tumble in surf and sand. Plastic. Yes, we both had the collector’s penchant for picking up plastic with a curatorial disposition toward both the seldom seen and objects by their sheer number lending a giddy lust for finding.

And now on the beach, years later, still picking eroded chunks of a profligate culture out of the surf line. It’s the fall of 2016. After over 70 exhibits of prints and sculptures made of the stuff, we are still at it. Although we have gotten older (and wiser?) we are still able to bend to the task of finding in the welter of seaweed, shells and driftwood maybe a toy soldier, maybe a doll part, for sure a cigarillo tip chewed and tossed into the sea carrying the dental evidence of a worried thought. Always, a shotgun sabot. We still thrill at the find and, "Yes, yes, yes, I'm gonna keep that!!!"