Welcome to Transition!

Help us build a vibrant and resilient society for people and the planet.

Coming up:

Friday March 23 –  March Fourth Friday, 7:30-9:30pm. Shop your kitchen Potluck. UUCPA, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto. Scroll down for details.
Tuesday March 27 –  Games Night, 7:00-9:00pm. Palo Alto. Please RSVP to transitionpaloalto@googlegroups.com for address and other details.
Wednesdays Permaculture Cafe, 6:00-7:30pm, Red Rock Cafe, Castro St, Mountain View.
Fridays, except fourth Friday – Transition Cafe, 6:10-8pm, Red Rock Cafe, Castro St, Mountain ViewMore about the cafe
2nd Sunday each month –  Mountain View Garden Share, 2-3pm, Heritage Park. Details
4th Saturday each month –  Portola Valley Garden Share, 1-2pm. Portola Valley Town Center. Details
4th Sunday each month Sunnyvale Garden Share, 11-12 noon. Usually at Charles St garden, 433 Charles St, Sunnyvale.
For up-to-date info, join the Google group at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/garden-share-sunnyvale

To get involved, check out these links: How to get involved! and What you can do about climate change. And sign up for our spam-free mailing list for information about important activities and events. And want to get in touch? Send a message to transitionpaloalto@gmail.com.

mailing list Meetup Group/Facebook group


Transition Café – Triggers

Triggers…everyone’s got ’em…those things which turn you from a reasonable, rational human being who is having a conversation into someone who is shrill, yelling, or otherwise way more intense than the conversation calls for, leaving the people around you wondering what just happened. Some have relatively few triggers, are aware of them, and are able to make skillful conversations happen, regularly. Some have so many it is less like walking on eggshells and more like walking through landmines. I’ve been reading a book, lately, which asserts that an essential quality in a leader is the ability to manage one’s own upset in a way which doesn’t severely impact those around one, although this comes up over and over in the literature on living in community.

The big question is not whether you have triggers, but what do you do with them? Do you “act out”, lashing out at everyone around you, or just those you perceive as less-powerful than you? Do you “act in”, bashing yourself and taking responsibility for more than you need to? Do you use the trigger and your reaction to it as ways to learn about yourself, those around you, and your relationships with them? Do you take time to get to know your triggers, exploring your psyche before those bombs go off, to make yourself a little easier to be around, a little kinder to those around you? A little of each, at different times?

This is of great concern, these days, obviously, and is a central issue in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, written by 27 psychiatrists and hailed as one of the most important books written this century. This is a sobering book, if one needed sobering, but also offers much for all of us to chew on, in relation to how we work with others, and with ourselves, and, also, how we move forward in the Transition Era.

Talking about Triggers, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 9 March. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.

The Guidelines are below. Read ’em, learn ’em, bring a copy if you think yer gonna forget ’em.

Venue information is below the Guidelines, and check out the random and useful other stuff below the notes section. Feel free to forward this widely.

Transition Café Guidelines:

– Whoever shows up are the right people
Whenever it starts is the right time
Speak when you are moved to speak
The conversation gets to go where it wants to go
– Pauses in conversation are good, they allow information to sink in, thoughts to happen, and quieter people to have a chance to speak
– Silent listening is fine, you do not need to speak if you do not wish to
– The “Law of Mobility”: if you feel like you are neither learning nor contributing, you may use your mobility to find a place in which you are doing so
Bring friends, if we overpopulate the venue, we’ll figure something else out
If you are able, please buy stuff from the venues. We’re trying to support local businesses!
– Anyone can host a Café! All you need is an hour or two, an independent

café you like, this list of guidelines, and a starting subject. Bring something to read while you wait for folks to show up (see the first guideline).

Please note venue changes:

This week, we will be meeting on Friday, 9 March, from ~6:10-7:45pm, at Red Rock Coffee, in Mountain View.

Thanks to everyone who has been supporting the venues by buying stuff while we’re there!

See you at the Café,


Notes: Free Form
Lots of personal sharing

Random and Useful Other Stuff:

Toby Hemenway’s (author of Gaia’s Garden)

website: http://www.patternliteracy.com/

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, by Gary Paul Nabhan
Thinking in Systems, a primer, by Donella H. Meadows
Masterminds and Wingmen, Rosalind Wiseman
Queen Bees and Wannabees, Rosalind Wiseman

I’ll post other links and readings in this space, as they occur to me.

Please join us on tpa_cafe, or tpa_chat, you can join at http://www.transitionpaloalto.org./

Look and See

February Fourth Friday attendees were treated to LOOK & SEE, a lovingly filmed portrait of farmer and poet Wendell Berry and the lives of his family and neighbors in Henry County, Kentucky.  Through Berry’s poetry, the reflections of others, and evocative photography and cinematography, the film captures a deep love of the land, sense of place, and values of land stewardship and hard work — and the heartbreak of loss as these treasured values are undercut by industrialized agriculture.

TPA was delighted to co-host the film with Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), which has been working to protect open space in and around the peninsula for more than 40 years. Thanks to POST, UUCPA for providing their main hall, and to all who helped with the event!

As an additional treat, check out this recent Yes! Magazine article about Wendell Berry’s wife, Tanya, who was interviewed in the film.

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Bird sit

After a long day, on a Thursday, texts were coming in – we were headed to the bird sit in Redwood Grove Park. I had not been to this park before, and my phone map told me it would take 25 minutes. My children dawdled. People wrote, saying they would be late, or could not find the entrance, and where was it and what was it exactly, anyway? I considered throwing in the towel, briefly.

Then we got in the car and drove. Rush hour traffic was growing, but I found plenty of parking. I saw familiar faces. Then my son and I hurtled down the driveway-like path and landed at the bottom in the middle of trees and calm.

We said warm hellos, hugs. We introduced ourselves. William gave us some cues – what to listen for and to. “See what you see.” We stopped to listen, we wandered, we sat, we observed. We breathed deeply, as if for the first time all day. We stilled, for 35 minutes.

Then we gathered, and discussed the types of birds, what we had heard – hawks, the cowbirds or mafia birds, the bush tits, the juncos, crows, squirrels, so much more wildlife. We discussed the impact of our personal stress levels on wildlife, the interactions of humans and birds or animals, shared books and resources, took a last look, and walked back, a little calmer, a little more in tune with nature.

Some resources we shared:


What the robin knows – Jon Young

Sharing a robin’s life – Linda Johns

Becoming Animal – David Abram

Documentary by Anna Reitenbach – The Animal Communicator


Transition Café – Social Justice in Transition Towns

–By William Mutch
The issue of Social Justice is coming up a lot, and certainly should be, so I thought we’d have another formal conversation about it. Specifically, what should the role of the Transition Town Community be in conversations around Social Justice, especially in an era when the white supremacist movement is so openly supported by our national government? (I understand that it has been covert policy for a very long time, but the current brazen support for it is alarming, to say the least)

A quick survey, online, offers the usual diversity of definitions for Social Justice. A rough summary would probably be: “equal treatment under the laws of the land”, without regard for culture, ethnicity, gender, religion, spirituality, economic class, sexual preference(s), etc…

The Transition Town Community is very much of a grassroots movement, but with a mandate to work to influence conversations at the local, state, and national levels. Working at the grassroots level, we are in a position to influence people in ways that are simply not available to folks working at the policy and government levels–through conversation, relationship, shared projects.

For those of us who are members of a culturally-dominant group, or who can pass as such, it is easy-ish to say “well, I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, or to draw attention onto myself, so why don’t ‘those people’ just learn to stick up for themselves?” It is a great feeling, though, to know you have an ally in the room, to know that folks support you for who and what you are, instead of turning away because they don’t want to “cause trouble”. When was the last time you allied with someone who needed it? How many times have you turned away, or said it’s “not my problem”? How about this one: “I’m not prejudiced, I just don’t want *those people* (in my neighborhood; taking *our* jobs; dating my children; dressing like *my people*, stepping out from the kitchen, from behind the counter, etc…)

Lots of folks who make those comments, and they happen all the time, genuinely don’t see themselves as prejudiced or in any way responsible for the current state of affairs, and many probably would even say they object to Trump making similar comments. However, each time we allow a comment like that to pass unchallenged, or call the police to remove one of “those people” from “our neighborhood”, we enrich the soil from which Trump and his organization grew.

Every time we look away from situations where Black and Latino folk are arrested or killed for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time”, where someone shouts at someone “Middle Eastern looking” to “get out of my country”, we empower such things to happen again. If you are White, you can make the choice of whether to intervene, or to look away, believing that Trump’s people, or folks like them, will not someday be coming for you and your family. Or, maybe just think that this person is a human being, like yourself, and might like to be treated the way you would want yourself and your children to be treated, and say something because it’s the right thing to do. Of course, we’ve all stood by when we probably could have intervened, or intervened when it was inappropriate or in an inappropriate way. So, we own it, make appropriate reparations, and move on.

What role could Transition Towns have in this conversation? How can we better empower and support our members to speak up for themselves, and for others? A number of us took to wearing safety pins, after Trump announced his candidacy and hate crimes skyrocketed as an aspect of the “Trump Effect”. What does that mean? Do you still wear yours? Prominently? Why or why not? How can Transition Towns influence the conversation at state and national levels?

This feels like a messy e-mail, but then, it’s a messy subject. Come on down to Red Rock, and talk about it. Social Justice in Transition Towns, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 16 February.


Transition Café – Designing Community

We have a couple of rooms opening up in our house, right now, so, perhaps more than usual, I am thinking about what I’d like our community to look like.

Community is a funny thing. Sometimes it doesn’t gel, in spite of all predictions, likelihood, and work. A group of folks who are great, as individuals, doing great work in the world, have their values in alignment, get together and simply cannot get along with each other. Sometimes folks who get along fine as friends try to live together and discover that their values are not in alignment. Sometimes one or more folks have emotional wounds or personality patterns that the community simply cannot hold, and those prove divisive, tearing the community apart.

Sometimes, though, community shows up where you don’t expect it to, in spite of all expectations to the contrary. A group of very different folks find themselves working or living together, and friendships and community develop as they discover that their values are more in alignment than they thought. Sometimes, the project they are working on is bigger than a lifetime, and their descendants continue to live and work together, the greater vision taking precedence over whatever individual differences they might have.

A community could be small, in a house, tribe, or village. It could be larger, like a suburban neighborhood or a district in a city. As Psychosynthesis has become more mainstream, we are now having discussions of self-as-community, and of internal family therapy, referring to the multiplicity of subpersonalities in all of us, to greater or lesser degree, and who get along with each other to greater or lesser degree, the macro in the micro.

What are the elements which allow a community to gel? Are they are predictable? Can they be designed for? Adam Brock, a Social Permaculturist, points out that many movements and organizations which “should” work out often don’t because we forget that they are composed of individuals who have their own personalities and motivations, conscious and unconscious.

If you were going to design a community, what would you include? What have your experiences been, of living in community with other Humans, or others of any species? Have you seen communities thrive, fall apart, drift through mediocrity? All of the preceding, at different points? What would the ingredients of your ideal community be?

Design your ideal community, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 9 February. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.


Rooms Available in Permaculture House

–Submitted by William Mutch
We have two vacancies coming up in April in the house on the land that I steward.  This is the house and land I write about often in the Transition Café announcements.  We are on ~four acres on a gentle hill above a neighborhood near the Saratoga/Cupertino border, covered in mixed Oaks and Grasses, and various wildflowers in Spring.  We’re building contour beds which will be home to various edibles, including Fruit and Nut Trees, Cane Berries, perennial Grasses, and much more.  The plan is to be harvesting loads of atmospheric carbon, storing lots of water in the soil, and creating habitat and food for humans and other critters.  One of the rooms could be excellent for a couple, another may be a good commuter room or studio.  Please forward our ad to any person or organization you think might be interested in hearing about it.  Craigs List ad
Thank you!

A Letter from Cornwall

Last month, Transition Palo Alto received the most wonderful letter from Christine Sefton, a member of the Eden Project Communities Team in Cornwall, UK.  She wanted to let us know about their Share Fairs, and how similar they are to our own Share Faires.  We have responded, of course, and are beginning what should be a great conversation around the simultaneous development of great ideas across a vast ocean.  We thought we would share Christine’s letter with you – with her blessing – for your own inspiration:


My colleague sent me a link to your November 2017 Share Faire event because she knew I’d be massively interested…which I am.  It seems we have come to the same conclusion and created the same community project.

I am based in Cornwall, UK at the Eden Project and am part of the Eden Project Communities Team. For the last 18 months I’ve been developing Share Fairs (which sound very similar, if not exactly the same as, your own). So far there have been piloted 25 Share Fair events across England and Northern Island, engaging approximately 2,000 people and four of our pilot Share Fairs are set to continue into 2018. Some of these events have been stand-alone, others have been part of bigger carnivals or festivals. We’ve held Share Fairs in town centres, village greens and council parks. Many have been big community events with 100s attending, others have been more intimate – all have been positive.

We describe Share Fairs as social events a bit like an old-fashioned market or village fete but instead of buying and selling, people swap and share in a pop-up, money-free zone. Alongside sharing and swapping items such as clothes and books, people also share skills, stories, ideas, information and above all company. Instead of making financial capital, a Share Fair is about building community and creating social capital.

A Share Fair is also a process of empowerment. For community spirit to thrive, communities need to come together and enjoy regular, positive, shared experiences. Equally important, is the collaborative effort that goes into creating and developing these shared experiences. So Share Fairs are more than just the event on the day – they are the opportunity for communities to work collaboratively all year round, to be the vehicle by which new community groups are formed, individuals gain confidence and skills, and service providers co-ordinate. Share Fair events provide the focus, but the collaborative effort that goes into developing the event, is why Share Fairs have the potential to create enduring positive change and the opportunity for communities to tell new and positive stories about themselves.

Our facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/ mksharefair/ and our twitter account is @SHAREeFAIR and here are some films we made:

https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=mjZeoG2ENHo&feature=youtu.be



https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=E4AKzFlzIQs&feature=youtu.be


What I shall be doing next is gathering evidence about Share Fairs and exploring how to gain the necessary funding to support more communities to start Share Fairs.


I’m really interested in your Share Faire story and hope you can let me know all about your project and ambitions.

All the very best.


Transitioners at EcoFarm 2018

Razia Mianoor

I would like to share my recent EcoFarm attendance at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA.

This was my first conference as a beginner farmer and landowner of 20 acres of organic land, located in Gilroy.  I attended workshops that were designed to help understand regulation, soil, and management of bee hives on farms. I was very impressed by the speakers and the workshop leaders to share their knowledge and answer questions and provide guidance in making selections.  The marketplace was informative with vendors displaying their products and showing new products that are available to improve farming methods.

Overall, the planning committee put in a lot of effort selecting a good variety of speakers and organizing the workshops.  The conference grounds are very easily accessible and comfortable, the staff was friendly and helpful.  I would recommend the EcoFarm conference to new members like myself to learn and share the experience.


Peter Ruddock

This January I attended my eighth EcoFarm Conference.  When I first attended in 2011, I wondered how welcome a food advocate would be at a farmer conference.  By 2014, I had joined the conference planning committee, one of a number of advocates with different points of view who was working to support the food system and, in particular, ecological farming (farming that is sustainable, regenerative, organic and more).  By 2016, I was helping co-found EcoFarm’s Diversity Advisory Group, whose mission is to increase the diversity of the conference to more closely match the demographic make-up of California.  We want to include people of all backgrounds and experiences, and to make everyone feel that they are a welcome, integral and important part of the conference, an effort which in its first to years has had some gratifying initial success.  So, yes, I felt welcome – and I guess that I am all in at this point.

Each year sees more programming that would be of interest to Transition members.  From urban agriculture to school gardens to permaculture, programming is growing to include more than production farmers, though production farming will always be the core of EcoFarm.  Transition Palo Alto members are increasingly paying attention – one friend spent much of January talking himself into going, and by the last day of the conference he was telling me what he is going to do differently next year.  It is obviously a way to learn.  But it is also a way to give back, a way to help build the resilient, local food system that is a key component to Transition’s vision for the future.

Curious?  Consider attending in 2019.  Check out the conference web-site.  If a three-day commitment is too much for you, come for a single day.  Do plan to eat there – the food, sourced from local farms like Full Belly Farm, is very good.  Asilomar is a stunningly beautiful place to confer.  Fun is had by all – music, films and more supplement the conference sessions.  And the people who attend are folks that you will want to meet.  See you at EcoFarm next year!

Transition Café – Self Care

Submitted by William Mutch Feb 2, 2018
A Chestnut-Backed Chickadee flew into the house, this morning. I waited until he or she had worn themselves out with the window thing, then picked them up and carried them outside, getting some bites in the process, although once my guest figured out what was going on they settled down, some, but with attitude. Earlier in the week, I put up some birdhouses, one for Bluebirds, one for Wrens, and another for Chickadees. Of course, those specifications only apply if the Birds have been reading the same books I have, which is not always the case.

I was part of a difficult conversation, last night, and lives were changed, and will continue to be, as a result. These things don’t always go the way you think they will, and sometimes, doing the thing that is clearly best for everyone doesn’t feel the way it seems like it should, so…not much sleep afterwards. Sitting with this, this morning, I learned that an old friend had passed, about a week ago. She and I hadn’t been close close, but we had shared some adventures, in the early days when I was starting out in the Permaculture and Nature Awareness communities. The nature of those communities breeds close connections quickly, which remain so, over the years. She has been a strong and needed voice for keeping space for non-binary gender diversity, among other things. She was within a couple of years of my age. I have a complicated relationship with Death, as mentioned in many a past Transition Café newsletter, but it still involves a change in our relationship. So…a surreal few days, accentuated with the historically beautiful moon performance. Oh, and of course the insane $#!^-show that is the news, right now.

But, sometimes, life is just like that…you get to help a Chickadee through a major event in their life while working out major events in yours, while your culture and even your planet work out major events in theirs.

So, I have to ask again about self-care…

As activists, we often run ourselves even more ragged than the rest of everyone, and in Silicon Valley that is saying something. We frequently have a very hard time taking a break and setting down the burden, from time to time, until we pick it up again. So important, though, to rest and care for ourselves, so we can come back refreshed and recharged, to fight the good fight, another day. If we burn out, we can end up walking away from this work that is so important to so many.

What do you do to care for yourself? Do you take sensible breaks during the day, the week, per month, per year? Do you eat well, sleep well, get enough exercise, drink enough water, meditate, take regular news-fasts? Are you using your work to self-medicate something else? If you were, would you know it? What is that frantic hard-work ethic keeping us from feeling? What happens to you, when you slow down? Can you slow down enough to meet the Wall of Grief, before it catches up to you? Are you responsibly sitting with that grief, so you don’t act it out on the people and environments you are trying to be an ally for?


Please join us on tpa_cafe, or tpa_chat, you can join at http://www.transitionpaloalto.org./

Bringing Permaculture to Life

Permaculture is a design framework that brings systems thinking and an ethical sensibility to the creation of environments that are not just sustainable, but also regenerative. Permaculturists start by observing how nature operates in forests and other natural settings, and then design environments that incorporate the natural patterns and relationships.

On January 26, Fourth Friday attendees were introduced to the diverse and inspiring world of permaculture. The film ‘Inhabit’ featured living permaculture projects on farms, in cities, in suburbs – ranging from a rooftop garden in the middle of New York City to an idyllic rural spread of many acres.

After the film, permaculturist and TPA steering committee member William Mutch answered questions and shared his own perspective on permaculture.  He explained that permaculture is based on ethics and principles — not a step-by-step process — and emphasized the importance of beginning with patient observation.

William also hosts the Permaculture Cafe, a weekly gathering of people who are interested in learning more about permaculture. The cafe is held every Wednesday 6-7:30pm at Red Rock Cafe in Mountain View.  If you’re on the TPA mailing list, you’ll get an announcement each week.

And to start learning more now about permaculture principles, ethics, and practices, you can go to permacultureprinciples.com.