Sunday, September 17, 2017

Head and Shoulders

Back in April we were contacted by TerraCycle about a special project to collect beach plastic that would be used in the making of limited edition bottles for the worlds  #1 shampoo brand Head & Shoulders. Proctor and Gamble is championing this experimental use of beach plastic in an effort to find a way to use some of the estimated 5.25 tons (and counting) pieces of plastic cycling around the gyres and winding up on beaches. 

With a swirl of family obligations and an eclipse trip to Oregon, this summer we have been on the go and slow to fill the super-sack shipping bags TerraCycle provided. Almost full, we hoped to top them off on Coastal Clean Up Day. Marilyn Englander who has been the beach captain supervising the Coastal Commission's cleanup day at Kehoe for eleven years offered to separate the plastics from the trash so that we could finally get our bags on their way TerraCycle. 

Typically this late-summer time of year plastic can be scarce, plus on Coastal Clean Up Day the competition can be fierce. Not only is there the vying for who can get the most there is always the quest for the most unusual. Along with the typical finds, every year there is always something strange and something outrageous.

Among the people who come out for Coastal Clean Up Day there is heartfelt camaraderie. To be with kindred spirits gathered together in devotion to cleaning up the planet is an uncanny pleasure and especially when enjoying a beautiful day with old and news friends. This premier volunteer event is a time to step away from our screens and the multiple distractions of our daily lives and into the restorative beauty of the nature.

Barbara Bonander, Kay Ryan                                                      Marilyn Englander

Some two and a half millennia ago The Buddha coined the term "monkey mind" to describe the capricious, easily distracted mental state of “Kapicitta.” He defined it best when he said; "Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night."  Accompanied by the chattering monkey of our internal monologue, with all of that noise, it is almost impossible to be present and focused on the moment. Instead we are carried away. We give our attention to too many things at once. We rush from one thing to another, focusing on what we are yet to do instead of what we are currently doing. There are dozens of trees with enticing fruit for our monkey to chase. 

For a calming look at dispelling the monkey, watch this Danish woodworker actually make a toy monkey. 

This is the exact opposite of "monkey mind" in case you were wondering.

On Coastal Clean Up Day there is only one thing in mind — picking up trash. To pick out (and up) the tinniest flecks that look like food to birds and the heavy snarls of entangled rope that trap marine mammals, collecting trash requires a particular kind of selective attention. Being on the case, eyes scanning out to the horizon and beyond.

The Mercury News reported:
"With about 80 percent of the nearly 1,000 cleanup sites reporting data by 5 p.m. Saturday, Eben Schwartz, marine debris program manager at the Coastal Commission, said 54,101 volunteers had collected 533,671 pounds of trash, including more than 23,000 pounds of recyclables. Typically, about 75 percent of the take is plastic, Schwartz said, and pulling it out before it has a chance to degrade prevents it from adding to the 51 trillion plastic bits the United Nations says are filling the oceans and being eaten by marine life."

Although our stalwart team of eleven at Kehoe Beach might be by comparison a small group, we were mighty and dare we say, head and shoulders above the rest. We brought in 90 pounds off the beach: 28 pounds of trash and 62 pounds of recyclables that included 7 Handi-snack cheese spreaders, 2 Starbuck's coffee cup plugs, 1 Superball, 1 tiny toy horse, 41 shotgun wads, 5 shotgun caps, 2 shotgun shells that filled our Terracycle super-sack to the top. 

Speaking of rare finds:  Kay and Barbara gave Judith this marvelous monkey.
Disclaimer: it was found on the beach, just not this year.

The mediation of picking up trash has its corollary in actual meditation, of which we are big fans (is being a fan of something very Buddhist? Probably not.) Actual meditation is more like don't just do something, sit there. The previous sentence is a good QED of monkey mind in action.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Around this time...

Every year around this time, with Coastal Cleanup Day (September 16) on the horizon, many opportunities to show and share our work wash in. 

We are forever grateful to Doug Woodring from Ocean Recovery Alliance for his efforts to promote our beach plastic project. These pics just in from his  Big Why Talk at UBS Hong Kong about his Zero Waste Initiative .

In conjunction with our exhibit at the Fairfax Library, we are presenting an evening discussion with colleague and friend Michael Stocker from Ocean Conservation Research.

To enrich the Tidal Response exhibition, the Petaluma Art Center is presenting a variety of related programs and activities, including a panel discussion on the relationship between art, science and the environment; a book signing of the newly published A Life Among Fishes; and demonstrations of both Gyotaku (Japanese fish printing) and 3D modeling of undersea coral samples. 

Bay Day, October 7 is the official day for residents, businesses and community organizations to celebrate the beauty and diversity of all San Francisco Bay life. We are working with Save the Bay to provide beach plastic supplies for art activity tables that will be set up at Jack London Square and The Yard SF. 

On Coastal Clean Up Day, September 16, there is someplace for everyone — be it a watershed, creek, bay or beach. Check the map and find a nearby location. For more about how to participate:

Sunday, September 3, 2017


The byline for the Marin County Free Library is My choice for leisure, learning and living. On Saturday when the thermometer in the car topped out at 111° cooling should be added to that line up.

Just to be sure that you know that you are welcome, the library has posted this sign on the front door.

We say that when we go to the library that we are shopping for free books, magazines, videos, even a seed exchange — the range of free resources is vast. Especially now that we are clued in to the Link+  service that extends our reach throughout California and Nevada, it seems like almost any book on the planet can be borrowed. Need a special book? Wait a day or two and it will be delivered to the library and available for use  — free.

When the grands come for a visit, tops on their things-to-do list is a stop at the library where they can load up on picture books and youth-friendly videos. Hey, kids fill your bag we are shopping for free!

We are thrilled to present re:Purpose Bricolage in a such a cool and welcoming place. Big thanks to Marcia Steiger, exhibits coordinator, for the opportunity to show our work September 5-30. 

On Tuesday, September 19 at 7 PM we will talk about our devotion to Bricolage. The term comes from the French, Bricoleur that refers to a jack-of-all-trades, a handyman who is able to "fix it" or "make do" with what is at hand. We will join forces with Michael Stocker from Ocean Conservation Research who will talk about sound, ecology, sense of place and his recent book Here Where We Are. 

Unaccountable Proclivities, a series of photographs of beach plastic arranged on Fiestaware plates, are on display in the meeting room.

On the wall behind the librarians desk Richard presents 20 bricolage repurposed pieces of "junk" dug up in the garden or found on the grounds of Rancho D.

On the back wall behind the bank of computers Judith displays After Cy an homage to the humble library pencil and to the obsessions of artist Cy Twombly.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Which story?

Tending the grandkids on a 104° scorcher of a day means it's time for a dip in the pool. 
We discovered the prefect alternative to plastic beach toys — ZUCCHINI.

Who knew that zucchini float???
And could be so much fun???

As avid bloggers about our garden at Rancho D and our beach plastic adventures at Kehoe Beach we sometimes find that there is a crossover so we are unsure about where to post — is it a plastic story? or a vegetable story? Either way we are filing for a patent on this squash — when we think about the boxes of plastic beach toys we have collected — imagine if those had all been vegetables washed ashore!!!

We are just back from a stunning trip to Oregon to view the total eclipse. Our blog post about that adventure touches on many of the themes we frequent - the play of serendipity, the importance of daily practice. 

We began our journey with a stop at the reception for Tidal Response: Coastal Marine Environments from Above and Below at the Petaluma Art Center. Thanks to curator Carin Jacobs we were pleased to be in the company of the fine group of artists who use a variety of media (3-D modeling, printmaking, ceramics) to respond to the complex ecosystem of the ocean.

We were amazed by the crowd of art enthusiasts and the vitality of the community support for the center. If you missed the opening there is still time to see the show, until October 21 with upcoming events.

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?