Transition Café – Conversation

Interrupting the usual format of these intros to say…the conversations over the past few sessions have been fantastic. Sometimes they are just mellow checkins, other times they are highly engaged with the subject, moving and flowing so quickly that I’m hard-pressed to keep with the notes. There are, of course, occasional frustrations, but by and large we have created a conversational culture which has endured for nearly seven years, now. Thanks for being part of it! With that in mind, we now return you to your regularly-scheduled Transition Café prompt…

Walking into a group of feeding Chickadees, Titmice and Bushtits is an experience. Their conversation is often interesting, and the first two can be pretty interactive with Humans, if they see that you are responding appropriately to them. That said, when they are feeding in a forest, they are often up high enough that they don’t get too disrupted when a Human walks through, so they stay more-or-less in Baseline behavior, allowing the Human observer/participant to soak up that mood. Much of their conversation and mood transmits through tone of voice and body language, same as Humans. As with Humans, the words spoken are much less important than voice tone and body language, which move into our nervous systems, allowing us to participate in their conversation. Imagine the feeling of dozens of little Birds excitedly talking about food, an excitement which cannot be contained by one, but has to be embodied by a flock, amplifying and spreading.

Do you get that on social media? Texting? Much has been made about the substitution of virtual non-community for in-person community and conversation. What do you think about this? Online activities, including social media, are certainly addictive, some think destructively so. This is, perhaps, useful for folks using them for surveillance of their users, gathering info on us to sell to high-bidding buyers. I’m sure your favorite social media site would never engage in such a thing, but what about the others? But do data-scooping surveillance websites make for good community or conversation?

A hidden agenda of the Transition Cafés at their outset, not so hidden now, was to get folks interacting with each other, face-to-face, without a digital intermediary. Since then, we have had a steady group of regulars, semi-regulars, visitors, kibitzers, which seems to suggest that this has been filling a need. We have covered a very wide range of topics, intentionally starting our conversations with topics which are conversation-enders, in polite company…

I made a comment, the other night, that when I’m at a party, I usually head to away from polite company, either to the kids’ table, or to the kitchen to do dishes. The first is easily explained, as conversations at the kids’ table tend to be bright, fun, and deeply insightful. They could also lead to a game of Chaos Tag, which is simply the greatest tag game ever conceived by a Human mind.

The kitchen/dishes option is perhaps a little harder, but could be summed up by saying that the conversation and camaraderie among the folks who choose to roll up their sleeves and do dishes so other folks don’t have to, or instead of engaging in the social posturing of the main party has a gravity pull all its own. This is especially true if you get to work with folks who have worked in a lot of kitchens, and a flow develops wherein everyone loses themselves in the work and the conversation becomes nonverbal (after an initial working out of who does what, and how).

One sees this among musicians who have played together for decades, as well, an effortless flow between Humans, instruments, music, audience…bringing us back to a flock of feeding Chickadees, Titmice, and Bushtits. Their enthusiasm overflows the boundaries of individuals, family, species, flock. Do even the Trees get in on the conversation? New/old knowledge suggests…yes.

Have you experienced truly memorable conversations? Verbal? Nonverbal? Confined to your species? Your genus? Family? Kingdom? When you and that Deer or Coyote make eye contact and something passes between you, what you are not sure, but something, certainly. Or when you “just know” that the Plant in the other room needs water?

Or, more mundane, walking with a friend, a Friend, lover, partner? How is that different with someone you’ve just met versus someone you’ve known for awhile? Decades? One of my oldest Human friends has been in my life for ~44 years, which seems like a long time, until I think of folks who have been married for 60, 70, 80 years. What must those conversations be like? Or between Trees and/or Fungi who have known each other for centuries? Millenia?

Join us for a conversation about

Conversation, this Friday, 21 June, at Red Rock. Sometimes we 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, 21 June, from ~6:15-7:45pm, 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: Travel

What can we do, in terms of giving feedback?

Intentionality around travel – more necessary?
Train from SF to Chicago with little change of trains, or buses?
Conscience-easing methods of travel?
Socio-economic class and electric vehicles?
What would it take to pass laws about climate change?
“I bought a Prius, so I’ve done my bit”
Travel methods
-Time vs. Cost
Train is slower, more conversation, getting to know co-travelers
Carbon Credits
Peace Pilgrim – circumambulating the Earth?
Energy use: plane vs. train vs. automobile vs. bus?
Does the number of seats filled matter?

What do you do when you encounter the Wall of Grief? The Wall of Guilt?
Ethical Action-what does that look like?
If petroleum-based travel were ending in one year, how would you use that year?
Doom Tourism: this ecosystem/species/region is doomed, but I want to see it, so I will do so, knowing that in doing so, I hasten its demise. Which ecosystem/species/region would you, personally, do this to?
-This is a thing, by the way…
Travel, Staying Home (Staycation), Local Travel, Inner Travel

Please join us on tpa_cafe, or tpa_chat, you can join at Transition Palo Alto

Random and Useful Other Stuff:
Toby Hemenway’s (author of Gaia’s Garden and The Permaculture City) website: Articles – Toby Hemenway
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

Why Writers Fight Style Guides Over Animal Pronouns
I’ll post other links and readings in this space, as they occur to me.


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