Transition Café – Giving Thanks

Submitted by William Mutch:
I had a few ideas for this week’s Transition Café, but we missed last week, and I’d really like to have a giving of thanks. This has been a shocking week, on top of a shocking year, to the degree that it is beginning to be difficult to be shocked by what is coming out of Washington, D.C. Last night, after the Permaculture Café, I got to explain across a language barrier why I have a safety pin on my coat. It took a bit, but we got there, and the fear and rage the woman expressed at the week’s issuances from our President caught me off guard. Again, I’m surprised at myself for being surprised at this. She asked if the Safety Pin-Wearers are an organization, I said we are a loose one.

One of the things I am thankful for is that we are not going down without a fight, and possibly not at all. There are so many good people doing what they can to help and support each other through this parade of “it-can’t-happen-here” scenarios, I feel as inspired by them/us as I feel shocked, outraged, and saddened by what we have unleashed upon ourselves.

Also, the Permaculture Café was on fire, last night. The conversation gloriously bounced all over the Permaculture spectrum, and spent no little time on Holistic Management, then on to Darren Doherty and Geoff Lawton. Thanks to everyone who showed up, so glad to have you! You’ll probably hear about this again in the announcement for that Café, shortly.

Lastly (not really), so very thankful for the inclination and ability to continually learn and teach new skills. I’m teaching a tool sharpening and care class this Saturday, and in preparing for that I’m looking at the fabulous web of skills attached to that one, and the ones which led me to it. Wonderful memories of those learning edges.

And…thanks to all of you who follow these e-mails (in the old days we might have called them “columns”), and who write in and/or chat with me about your reactions and ideas for our Café conversations. I realize that our “virtual Transition Café” community has grown, over the years, and seems huge, at this point. This is happening in the Permaculture Café, too, where folks in the “virtual Café” are following along, reading the books along with us, and either writing in or talking to me about them in person.





Holiday Share Faire 12/10 – Save the date

Our Holiday Share Faire is around the corner on Sunday, December 10th, at 1-3pm. We’ll occupy two rooms on the A-block again this year at Cubberley Community Center, and fill them with all things holiday.

Some things slated to be offered by skilled TPA volunteers and regulars:

  • Garden Share! While the Palo Alto Garden Share lacks a permanent home, we’ll have a chance to share the bounty of our gardens at the Faire. Bring your produce, plants, seeds, and garden books and tools to share.
  • Telling stories. We’ll share stories about this season – of darkness and light. How does it impact your traditions? We’d also love to share tales of best and worst gifts given and received over the years. Read an article here by Mas Masumoto (of Masumoto Farms) on how and why our stories are so important to share, especially in these times.
  • Peter Ruddock will share a favorite holiday recipe with details on how to make it. Yum.
  • Lori Stoia will teach us how to make candles – and you’ll have a chance to make a simple beeswax candle of your own to take home.
  • Let’s gather together and make homemade decorations, garlands, menorahs, ornaments and more from natural materials, foods, and dyes. Joyce Beattie and Barbara Weinstein will teach us how.
  • Peggy Prendergast offers her skills as a Master Gardener on composting for the winter.

We’ll also share Holiday decor, cards, and our usual goods share.

Looking to demo something else or help out? Contact us. We’re always happy to get more volunteers :  set-up, organization, greeters and more.  If you’d like to participate, please sign up here.

Please put the date on your calendars and join us in this joyous season!

More at


Transition Café – Stuff

Friday, 10 November, 6:10-7:45pm, at Red Rock Coffee, in Mountain View.
–Posted by William Mutch
We have Dusky-Footed Woodrats (Packrats) in the garage, many of them, and they are disassembling our Human objects and collections of objects and reassembling them as their own homes. Going into the garage at night is interesting, as they will rattle their tails and/or stamp their feet to convince me to leave and alert others of their kind to my presence. We have already pushed them out of the engines of our cars, the dryer vent, and the drainpipes. Some of us have so much Stuff crammed into the garage, though, that the Woodrats are able to do their thing and be pretty much unassailable, without the Humans pulling lots of Stuff out. Not that the folks whose Stuff it is weren’t comprehensively warned about the situation. Still…

Speaking of Stuff, we’re coming up on the Holidays, and the great giving of Stuff. There was a time in my life when I felt I needed to give Stuff to people on holidays, etc. Even dated a woman, once, who was not interested in something well thought-out and relevant to her life, she just really wanted a Thing to indicate that I had spent money on her on the Day in Question.

How many of us are like that, though? Many business seem to think that rather a lot of us are. Myself, I’ve gone through the phases of giving, and preferring to receive, gifts which are relevant and useful, to preferring money that the person receiving it can use to supply themselves with things I could not imagine them wanting. Not always sure how that is received, though, as some folks see it as a Test of the Relationship to find a Thing which would be the most useful to them.

What do you do with all of your Stuff? How many of us rent storage for our Stuff? Storage for our Storage? How many of us wish we had,after seeing what the Woodrats have done with it? What kind of Stuff do you have? I have weaknesses for things which are practical and educational: books, pottery, tools, cool storage doodads. I really dislike clutter, although you wouldn’t know it, to look at my bedroom, at the moment.

How much Stuff do you need? Is it the same for everyone? Is it appropriate for one person to judge another’s Pile of Stuff? Some folks seem much more at home where there is not just clutter, but actual filth: weeks worth of unwashed dishes, food smears on surfaces, unemptied garbage and compost, and a certain smell about the place…and that is home, for them. Raccoons spring to mind, certain types of Rodents, some Humans. Think Freshman dorms…So easy, though, to look at someone else’s Stuff and see trash, and our own to see treasure. There might even be a saying, about that…

In an atmosphere where we have shows pillorying Hoarders, inspiring ordinary folks to spy on their neighbors to find out if they have *gasp* a Hoarder in their neighborhood, how could anyone possibly know how much is too much, or what is right for them?

Of course, the more Stuff you have, the more you have to defend, and sometimes you have to defend against folks who are born to hoard (see above).

Stuff (and maybe some nonsense)at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday. Dinner often happens, afterwards, maybe it will this week, too.





Sunset Sit

On a cool October evening, my children and I joined some Transition regulars at the Baylands for a Sunset sit on a Tuesday. It was evening, and any soot from the incessant fires up north had settled. The gate was closing at 7, so we parked our cars outside and walked up the path, where there were benches and sandbags in front of the reeds and saltgrass. We met up with Barbara and William, and looked around for a good place to sit.

We decided to sit for 20 minutes, so I got out for the kids their dinner and some snacks. They decided to sit on a bench together while I sat within line of sight on a nearby ledge. My daughter picked at the curried quinoa and ate carrot sticks, watching movement and listening and walking back and forth along another ledge. My son ate directly from the can of puffed rice, watching the lights in the distance across the water, having told me he was doing some mindful eating. My little girl asked a few questions first, then settled down.
I sat, feet gently resting on woven reeds in the marshy area below, listening to at least 20 different bird sounds, private planes from the Palo Alto airport passing low and close overhead, trucks beeping farther away, animals and wind. For 15 minutes, the kids were silent, eating.
Then my daughter walked over, sat quietly beside me, and held my hand. Silently, she leaned against me for the last five minutes, her feet dangling over the ledge.
We got up, packed up our containers and bags, likely leaving the few dropped bits of food for local wildlife, and met up with Barbara and William. We chatted, saw more planes as they disappeared into the orange-red sunset, looked at the signs that described what was happening here, where the ocean turns into bay, where saltwater meets fresh, what animals and plants make their home. My daughter drew with sticks in the sand. Then, too cold, we said our goodbyes and drove home, the sky an inky blue.

Transition Café – Days of the Dead, 2017 edition

From William Mutch for Transition Cafe Nov 3, 2017:

Funny, this morning, during my sit, I watched two Coyotes frolicking just feet from a day-bedding Buck. I’ve seen Coyotes and Deer close to each other, before, but that’s the first time I’ve seen a Deer so composed about a major predator hanging out while he was relaxing. Perhaps they had eaten recently, and he could smell that or see it in their body language? One of my housemates just found some Deer legs down in the Oak grove we are stewarding, so one would think the Deer would be aware of the Coyotes as a threat. I wonder how often Coyotes actually kill adult Deer, in this area. Maybe they mostly scavenge from Feline predators? Anyway…

It is that time of the year, again, when we get to welcome our departed family, friends, and random party-crashers into our homes, celebrate their lives, remember their deaths, wish them well until next year, and perhaps contemplate our own mortality in the process. …or just dress up in costumes and go neighborhood-hopping, hitting up the houses with the best loot, and forgetting that someday we, too, will get to melt into the ground, or leave our bodies “forever” …whichever… (and yes, I know that this is highly culture-specific, with different cultures celebrating their Days of the Dead at different times of the year…(see last year’s writings on this))

If the latter, enjoy the fallout from that evening, and take care of those teeth. If the former, whether you do the whole thing, or some part of it, what is that like for you? What is it like for you to read that, whether you believe in that sort of thing, or not?

Interestingly, there have been some (many?) cross-cultural studies on bereavement, and it seems that those who have a continuing, evolving relationship with the departed become the most emotionally-healthy, going forward. To clarify:

Some folks force themselves to “move on” from the departed, whether or not they believe in an afterlife, on the grounds that they “shouldn’t” hold on, either for their health or for that of their departed loved one.

Some folks remember the departed the way they were the last time they saw them “alive”, as a “snapshot” of who they were.
Some folks continue to relate to that static image, as if their loved one “stopped”, right then.

For some, the relationship with their departed loved one continues to grow, mature, evolve, as it might have, had the person continued in corporeal form. This seems independent of belief in an afterlife, per se.

Whole cultures (and cults) have been based around each of those options. Some of us, due to culture, personality, indecisiveness, or general obnoxiousness, apply each of those to one or more individuals, at different times and/or when we are in different moods. Not to say that any of these is more or less right or wrong than any other, either, just that the last option seems to be the one which offers optimal emotional health. Of course, some of us also apply each of those relationship options to our corporeal loved ones, too, and for similar reasons.

How a culture deals with Death can have a huge influence on how it deals with Life. How does your approach to Death influence your life? Do “we”, in the US, have a dominant, cultural view of Death, or is it a sort of mishmash of different cultural ideas? Is it worth thinking about future lives and generations, or does the person who dies with the most cheap plastic crap actually win?

How do these questions relate to the world, today, and Transition Towns, in general?

Days of the Dead, 2017 edition, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday. Dinner often happens, afterwards, maybe it will this week, too.

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

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).


Living in PA

I’ve lived in Palo Alto for 10 years now, the Bay Area for 18. Admittedly, this is not a very long time compared to some, but it’s longer than many of my neighbors, and by at least a decade, the longest I have lived in one place in my 40 years.

Still, as a one-and-a-half-generation East Indian, raised in the deep South, former scientist, eco-passionate stay-at-home-mom, sometimes I feel I don’t fit in. Other moms take kids to a plethora of museums miles away, know which is the hot new date night restaurant, bike miles and miles, attend pilates, and make homemade brownies in the same week. Instead, my days are peppered with conscious, difficult choices that juggle responsibility and mediocrity – we are late for school, so should we drive, bike, or walk? Shall I pick up that piece of trash? That one? That one? Can we let the dryer run – just this once? And those fruits – pick, let rot, or leave to wildlife? Pick up another orphaned mug I don’t really need, or leave it to fill a potential landfill? Let the kids wander while I cook, or play with them, watch them, and let dinner burn? Do they like to do yoga with me, or it is just an excuse for screen time?

These are the questions I ponder while I make that second batch of yogurt after the first failed (spent too long playing cards with my daughter), or pick apart moldy raspberries with my hands to save for freezer jam. There is joy in this – the not-knowing which way is right, exploring what works for us, fumbling our way to sustainability.

In my heart, I know it’s not enough, not nearly, not fast enough for what is coming, but this is the slow world of my choice, the one that lingers in vision. I wonder if others could see that being really intentionally in this world is a process that evolves even for the passionate, may they, too, might try. Maybe we can support each other as we dabble in the new, and take tiny steps towards giant leaps. All while the kids are watching.

May Fete Fair

Since my children were babies, we have been going to the Palo Alto May Fete Parade and Fair. This Children’s Parade has vintage automobiles, local school bands, floats from each school and local community organization, and children biking, scootering, riding strollers, and walking down the middle of University Avenue, as onlookers cheer and announcers describe each group – in short, it’s a testament to community in and around Palo Alto. This year’s theme was “Who is your hero?” – so there were plenty of superhero costumes and buttons that announced each person’s personal hero.

The parade is followed by a Fair in Heritage Park, where food trucks offer food, children and adults attend booths full of low-tech games and information about community resources, and prizes are offered. This is where we came in – my friend Priya and I hosted the Transition Palo Alto table (which was also strategically placed next to the Zero Waste table!).

We taped up a paper wall to be our garden, and the children wrote and drew on flowers and leaves, answering the prompt “I am a Planet Hero when I…” – answers ranged from biking and recycling to saving bees and planting trees. We filled our paper garden with ideas.

Priya and I also demoed her adventure, Pebble Pod, which is a subscription box that will have ideas for bringing families together around culture, community, and environment. We showed how to make a simple solar oven from the black box – using chopsticks, cling wrap, newspaper, foil, and tape. Kids were thrilled with the idea of making s’mores inside, and adult visitors were interested to learn that the temperature inside can get as high as 200oF!

I’ll be marching again with my children next year, albeit with a new school group, because this is what community is about.

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Spring Share Faire coming April 10

Share Faire - April 2016-v2Join us for the Spring Share Faire, where we share skills with small 30-minute classes, goods ranging from garden produce to household items, and stories. Our theme this Faire is Food and Garden, so expect refreshments, and bring family and friends!

We’ll be back at Cubberley Community Center, using their classrooms for protection from a possible, and hoped for, re-visit from El Nino.  So, mark your calendars for April 10, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM and plan to come join us.

Teachers wanted!  We want to learn the skills you have!  If you want to teach a 30-minute skill-share class aboutFood or Garden topics reply to this e-mail.

The focus for April at Transition Palo Alto is Seeds!  We have endorsed AB 1810, the California Seed Exchange Democracy Act (learn more and sign up for alerts here), we’re partnering with local organizations on April 17 forSeed Day in Cupertino (more info soon!), and our Fourth Friday film on April 22 will be Open Sesame:  The Story of Seeds.  So – seed oriented skill shares are particularly desired!

Volunteers wanted!  We continue to have great volunteers at our Share Faires.  We’ll be glad to have help setting up and cleaning up, greeting people and managing goods, and more.  You can sign up on line here.

And please print out and post our wonderful event flyer – courtesy of Herb Moore – to locations where you might find people who are interested in our event.


You can follow for updates on Facebook, our Meetup group, and on Twitter (@patransition). Details on all Share Faires are here.


Got books?  Got books you don’t want?  Want books?  Our friends at FOPAL hold a giant used book sale every 2nd Saturday and Sunday of the month at Cubberley Community Center (4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto).  In April, it will take place on the 9th and 10th – Hey, it’ll be going on at the same time as the Share Faire, so you get a two-fer!


We want to thank Zero Waste Palo Alto for being an event sponsor!  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost!

Share Faire February 14

Come celebrate Valentine’s day (or don’t!) with us at our first Share Faire of the year. We’re launching a new Share Faire schedule for the year – details are here – and starting off with a Faire that focuses on fabric and community organizing, organizing the fabric of our community!

We will be at Cubberley Community Center, rooms A7 and A3, onn Sunday, February 14th, 1pm to 3pm, with 30 minute classes in the rooms and goods sharing. Classes will include Community activism, lotion-making, knitting, and more! Visit the library sale at Cubberley and come by afterwards!