What does the American flag symbol currently represent?

My friend Annie recently mentioned a grocery trip during which her daughter insisted upon wearing her American flag dress. “What does the American flag symbol currently represent?” she asked. “In my opinion, it’s ignorance and greed at best. What can we do each day to resurrect the pillars this county stands on? We’re so much better than this.”

Annie: I hear you! I don’t claim to have any answers, but I love this question, particularly as an American abroad at this moment in history. I also love that children, like your daughter, aren’t caught up in the outer OR inner turmoil.

To further the conversation, I’ve just dug up this article I wrote some years ago for the Bolinas Hearsay (then my local newspaper). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, at least scroll down to the Wendell Berry poem at the bottom!

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The Psychedelic Seniors: StuArt and friends

A bit of context for those of you unfamiliar: Bolinas is a town that takes it’s July 4th celebrations Verrrrrrry Seriously. It’s easily the biggest celebration of the year, drawing tourists from far and wide for the parade, a showcase for small-town agrarianism, creative genius, and a heavy dose of progressive politics. The day also features a tug-of-war between Bolinas and Stinson, the small town across the lagoon channel.

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Bolinas women about to win the tug-of-war against Stinson 2015

I almost used the tug-of-war metaphor to represent the place we find ourselves in today, as citizens of countries and as humans with hearts, but as Annie says, “we’re so much better than this!” What about something along the lines of… let’s forego sides and ALL take up the rope and use it as a tool to achieve some shared goal? I want to stay optimistic, as angry as I am. Tonight I’m joining a class on Buddhism, social change, and non-violent action. I am curious to see what tools present themselves, and hope to report back soon.

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Bolinas Hearsay, July 2011

On the afternoon of July 5th 2010, I was wandering up from the beach on Wharf Road. I followed the stars and stripes painted in red, white, and blue along the road, beaming at the memory of watching them magically appear a day earlier behind the tractor during the parade, our latest gift from the always-inspiring, always-surprising Gospel Flat Farmer-artist-provocateurs.

Just then, Mickey and Sam Murch themselves drove up in the farm truck. Still grinning, I told them that they – the farmers and their art – were the highlight of my Fourth of July!

But Sam’s look was somber. “Some people complained to [name omitted]. We’re here to clean up,” he told me, nodding toward the pressure washer and lengths of hose in the back of the truck. “Apparently people aren’t necessarily mad that we painted on the road – it’s that they don’t want to look at American flags.” Continue reading

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Looping back around: music, memory, and meeting Scott

Every time Scott puts Wild Nothing on:

I remember that I had invited him (via the old-and-inferior OKCupid messaging system) to check out Bombay Bicycle Club at the Warfield as a first date.

As it turned out, neither of us ended up going to that show. We did meet in person to see Zakir Hussein at SF Jazz Center the following weekend, easily one of the best dates, much less first dates, I’d ever been on…

…but it was too late. I ignored his texts for a couple days. My stomach knotted with the decision I’d been mulling over, I called to tell him I had chosen to focus my energy into a different (also brand new) relationship.

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There’s much more to say, of course, about all the things that happened between then and now. But this afternoon we’re checking out the visuals from that Bombay Bicycle Club tour and trying to figure out the best way to get the album box set to our home in New Zealand.

 

Inverness Almanac: a biased review from a contributor

The first volume of the Inverness Almanac moved me on a number of levels. The publishers, a group that coalesced around a dear friend of mine, curated such a delicious collection of photographs and drawings and writings and maps and recipes and seasonal markers! And then they pulled it all together into a stunningly beautiful package, a book that is a work of art in and of itself.

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I had been visiting West Marin since before my birth, appreciating its topography and ecology since I’ve been a conscious human, and living there for years when they released Volume 1. And yet the sense of place conveyed within this Almanac opened my eyes to my surroundings in a completely different way. It was as if my powers of observation had been magnified. Everything seemed different, more luminous, containing so much more to discover if I could sit still long enough — or return frequently enough — to receive it.

That first Almanac also shook awake my writer’s muscle. I found myself unable to pass through the landscape without composing Continue reading

Resources for dating in small communities

For most of the decade from 2007-2017, I lived in West Marin. Bolinas was home for most of that time but I also spent a lot of time in Point Reyes Station (where I rented office space for a couple of years). These small towns are nestled amongst some of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes upon, much less had the privilege of living in.

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West Marin’s relatively small population presented (and still presents, I assume?) some challenges in the realm of intimate relationships. Though serial monogamy seemed to be the norm, it wasn’t the only relationship structure practiced within in this constellation of towns. We dated one or more of our neighbors; we became exclusive and shacked up for a spell; we broke up, moved away, and/or moved on to new partners… and not always in that order.

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How to move to New Zealand from the US

Sometimes when people in positions of power do things I find absurd and infuriating, I get depressed, cranky, angry, and/or despondent. Other times, I’m more productive, getting all academic, or trying to draw personal connections so people might understand that these decisions will affect real people. Last Friday, I channelled my frustration into making this video guide to various visa options for Americans wanting to move to New Zealand:

To be abundantly clear: you can’t actually move away from climate change. Nor do I believe that anyone, Americans abroad or citizens from any other country, can escape the responsibility to be part of the solution to this or any other political absurdity.

But this was still a super fun opportunity to learn how to edit video on my iPhone using iMovie (I’d only ever used that program once before, four years ago, and the full version rather than the mobile version). And I can’t believe how many people have already watched it! Fun times.

I’m not planning to make any more videos any time soon. Of course, it’s entirely possible that news from the White House will drive me to new heights of creativity sooner than I expect.

Kiwi Californiana: Arthur Ahbez

We’ve been enjoying Arthur Ahbez’s album Gold. His aesthetic strikes me as decidedly NorCal folk psych pop, not something I was expecting from a Kiwi! Either way, I was excited to see his band open for the mesmerizing Julia Jacklin last Saturday at the Tuning Fork. Alas, he played solo, and was quite nervous (he said so several times) without his band. Definitely rocking a Devendra-esque look. And that voice!

But tell me Arthur’s song Gold:


…was not inspired by this:

It had to be. Right?!

Reflections on a first Spring and Summer in New Zealand

It’s been exactly six months since Scott and I moved to Auckland from San Francisco, so it seems like a good time to write up a few more quick reflections on the differences between life in those two places:

  • Farmers markets are few and far between.
  • Storms actually affect the price of veggies; after one of the recent tropical cyclones hit, cauliflower and lettuce went up from ~$3 to ~$7 a head (all costs in this post in NZD).
  • Thanks to its Mediterranean climate (not to mention the drought), I’m totally used to California’s hills being crispy and golden for most of the year. It really felt odd to me that New Zealand’s bright green grassy hills stayed that way all through Spring AND Summer, even though it does make sense given the regular rains.
  • Leaving the house without a layer is usually OK. Really. Even in the evening. But you never know when it might rain, so keep the umbrella handy.
  • You can actually swim in the ocean(s) here! Without a wetsuit! And there are so many beaches right in the city that we haven’t even come close to checking all of them out. Ditto all the beaches within an hour’s drive of our place.

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The personal is the political

My older brother died before I was born due to a heart condition that doctors can now successfully treat with advanced surgeries like the one Jimmy Kimmel describes here:

So, with tissues out and proverbial protest signs up, a few Thank Yous:

  • Thank You mom and dad for going through what must have been a horribly traumatic process and still deciding to have me and Adam;
  • Thank You scientific research for helping prevent similar grief; thank you US Congress for increasing, rather than decreasing funding for science despite the proposed budget (keep up the good work!);
  • Thank You Affordable Care Act for insuring me and everyone else who has pre-existing conditions when nobody else would; and finally,
  • Thank You everyone in countries where socialized health care exists for being a bit more compassionate and recognizing that most Americans did NOT vote for Trump before responding with something like “you voted him in, now deal with it” whenever someone expresses their grief about what is going on in the US right now.

Connected circles

Last night we braved (former) Cyclone Debbie’s downpour to visit the Auckland Gallery during one of their Open Late events. One of the pieces in the current exhibit (The Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from Tate) is this, Men Shall Know Nothing of This, from Max Ernst:

I was immediately reminded of the circles in Hilma af Klint‘s Swan series:

As usual, I can find no evidence that she influenced him, but what are facts, anyway… I’m convinced. Continue reading