Friday, December 21, 2018

Ta! Da!

As we crested the hill before the dune opens to the expanse of the beach we saw in the distance a person with bags, bending over, picking up, bending over, picking up.

WHAT THE???? DON'T they know this is our beach? We better get down there quick  — looks like somebody might be getting all the good stuff. We hurried to apprehend this interloper and lo and behold it was our comrade-in-arms, kindred spirit,  Richard James — Coastodian extraordinare.  

This week there had been storms, high tides and the super big ( record breaking 35') waves, so Richard, like us, was checking on Kehoe to see if anything or everything had washed in.

He is an avid cleaner-upper who is not only is picking up plastic from Point Reyes beaches but he is making regular sojourns along Estuary Merritt in Oakland - that connects Lake Merritt to the Bay and the Pacific Ocean. He makes arrangements of condoms and needles and syringes and sharps, shocking displays that catch the attention of joggers and passersby.

Richard is the person you want on your side when lobbying for reducing plastic pollution and advocating for better collection of street plastic from storm drains and gutters before it washes away to the sea. As he reminds, if it gets cleaned up there we won't have to be picking it up here in Point Reyes. 

Our paths have crossed many times on and off the beach. We appreciate the playful rivalry among our fellow collectors. I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Soon we had traded our two shovels (green and blue) for his one Pelon Pelo Rico. 

But Judith won the day finding in the beach wrack of the high tide line  — a  Civil War Union bugle boy sounding taps for the ocean then later on eBay — Vintage Calvary Soldier Figures.

Richard James snapped this pic of Judith saying her photo prayers as she snapped the pic of the soldier.

On our way back to the car we met Park Rangers Jade and Mason who were out surveying the grade of the recently improved trail, measuring to make sure it is now ADA compliant. In the past the deep ruts made the trail nigh impossible to navigate especially after a good rain. Richard, identified himself to rangers as a disabled person, and proclaimed the trail accessible. First trip all the way to the beach in a year! Improved trail, improved meds for CIDP! 

Thanks NPS maintenance crew. Thanks Dr. Nandipati. Hey, Richard made it all the way to the beach. No problem! Ta! Da!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Even though there wasn't much plastic, there are many other reasons to meander the beach— sun and surf and skittering sandpipers chasing the waves. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Blue Whale

These days the The Blue Whale has become the symbol for plastic pollution and the ill-health of the oceans. Artistic interpretations are washing ashore everywhere. This form of public art, as crowd pleaser and selfie-site, is certainly entertaining, but it also offers tons of educational possibilities. A few years back we were on a whale-watching excursion near the Farallones, lucky enough to have a Blue come up for a breath right near the boat. Astounding—it took its breath and kept passing by and passing by and passing... We are thrilled that there is an upwelling of interest in this most magnificent of creatures. 

In our own San Francisco hood, the version below, commissioned by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is strategically placed adjacent to the Greater Farallones Sanctuary visitors center on the lawn of Crissy Field. It's a popular destination for walkers and dog walkers, frisbee throwers, kite flyers, and tourists interested in the view—hundreds of passersby will have an opportunity to experience it. Besides its size being quite the spectacle, you just can't beat the Golden Gate Bridge and the SF skyline for dramatic backdrops. 

Kudos to Bay Area artists Joel Dean Stockdill and Yustina Salnikova. Here is a fascinating MakeZine story and a short video about the project and how the tiles were made. 

Although we were invited to submit a proposal, our Plastichenge—"Times Up" did not make the cut. We do have BIG ideas about how to best actualize The Blue Whale vision. Instead of anthropomorphizing it into the shape of a whale, we suggested making the size and weight in the dimensions of a real whale 80' x 20' x 25'  300,000 pounds. Imagine bales of plastic from Recology set on Crissy Field stacked like the behemoth or arranged like Stonehenge.

Or since China is no longer accepting all of our recyclables, how about a barge tethered under the bridge, stacked with 300,000 lbs. of bales.

All this whale news got Judith thinking about the whale she made in 1987 with a class of 4th graders at Westwood School in Napa so she dug out the old pics. It was big news back in 1987 (how prescient was that?) and is so glad that whales continue to be big news today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Bend Design 2018

Bend is high desert and it's high style. Billed as the gateway to the great outdoors where winter sports abound and in the summer the Deschutes River is a fly fishing paradise. Bend is the home of Scale House the convener of Bend Design  a creative tank for thinkers both right and wrong. We were pleased to bring our song and dance, our Punch and Judy show where our Bricolage: Design For Life  mixed it up with a hearty bunch of visionaries and doers. It was our tribe gathered together for three action-packed days of talks, workshops, hands-on and kicking' it.

This creative process thing is amazing. We don't really do anything special — just pile on the plastic then ready, set and away they go. Works every time. Whether it's the field trips of 4-year-olds from the local pre-school, eighty-year-olds from Judith's classes of seniors, everyone is attracted to what we provide. Maybe it's the unified patina the stuff acquired in a long life at sea? It certainly got us going beginning in 1995. Folks do dive in with a minimum of encouragement. Everyone loves the feel of the material. At once so familiar and yet, since the pieces are disconnected from their use, they are strangely unfamiliar. We encourage participants to make arrangements of the colors and forms, free from their function and to be without judgement — to make something, sweep it away, make another something, sweep it away, then make another something.

Caravaggio's dramatic light is one of our prime influences. The cellphone flashlight illuminated these masterpieces by Tracy Tindle:

If you want to see the Caravaggio light in acton, here a theater company is enacting a series of Tableaux Vivants:

Over the years, it's been our lucky, good luck to have gotten to know some of the most remarkable people on the planet. In Bend, we made many new friends plus were surprised to see and hear about several old friends.

Judith, Richard, Tracy, Shannon

Tucker Nichols ingenious work with Sodastream was presented by John Bielenberg in his talk When Wrong is Right. As just one of many examples John's Project M Think Wrong took the phrase I LIKE PIE to extremes that resulted in the creation of a PieLab in a dilapidated storefront and the rejuvenation of rural town in Alabama. Electric Works studio photographed the illustrations for Tucker's latest book with Dave Eggers This Bridge Will Not Be Gray. 

San Francisco designer Martin Venesky was featured in the screening of Beautiful then gone. He is a raconteur par excellence who covets every font and typestyle and has filled his home and office with common and precious items that he enlivens with tales of their origin and their placement. Talk about covet!!! read our blogpost about when we took Martin and his partner Steven to the beach. 

Allison Arieff, whose column about design and architecture graces the opinion page of the New York Times, posed the timely question: with all of the problems in the world, do we really need an app that lets us brew our coffee from anywhere?— As a friend of a friend, in way less than 6 degrees of separation, her best friend is our neighbor Molly Giles.

Miwa Matreyek, MFA, 2007, Experimental Animation and Integrated Media, California Institute of the Arts has forged a new genre of performance video, live dancing with her own made animations. Although Judith attended Cal Arts back in the olden days of 1970, they share appreciation for the encouragement and the influences that helped to shape their lives as artists.  

Thanks to Tracy Tindle, Pitzer '82, and her husband Paul we were hosted royally and who introduced us to fine dining Bend style — a world-class James Beard Award winning restaurant: 5Fusion. 
Sushi in Bend? Really! 

We give a big "High Five" to René Mitchell and Martha Murray who made us feel so welcome in Bend and added a new layer to the meaning of high desert style.

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.