Fourth Friday Photos

We had a lovely Fourth Friday film “Paris to Pittsburgh,” presented by Linda Hutchins-Knowles from Mothers Out Front – more than just a film, it was also a chance to take action against climate change.



Transition Café – Hands

We did a big house project, a few weeks ago, painting the big bathroom. The ladies collaborated on the painting project, while I kept them fed, watered, tea-ed, music-ed…a general gopher. The bluegrass playing during the whole evening gave this air of a commune, which was lovely. The next day, another coat was painted by another housemate, with the final one put on that afternoon, by one of the painters from the night before. Cleanup was a shared job.

Transition Towns loosely divide our projects into Head, Heart and Hands emphases, with an overarching theme of building community and the strong foundation of Permaculture ethics and principles, the ethics being Care of the Earth, Care of the People, and Generate and Distribute a Surplus. We’ll probably talk about all of these, at some point, but I’m interested in Hands, in this writing.

Shared work has been a form of bonding and community building since forever, among Humans, but also in the Greater-Than-Human world. Our Transition Initiative has gone in and out of emphasizing Hands projects, versus Head and Heart. Most projects are a mix of emphases, like a bread-making skillshare, where we are using our hands to make bread, our heads and hands to learn the technique, and our hearts and heads in the conversation and bonding with each other, or a Transition Café, which has both head and heart aspects.

What sorts of Hands projects do you find bring folks together? Gardening? Cooking? Helping others? Building? Permablitzes? Protests? Marches? Blockadia? Other projects? Is there a duration that is ideal? Daylong? A couple of hours?

Who do you like to do these projects with? Friends? Family? Folks you’ve just met? Folks you may not see again?

Years ago, a group of Transitioners and other friends got together to help me move to this place. We have had our ups and downs, inside the house and outside of it. This current generation of housemates benefits from the work of generations of housemates before them, nearly four years worth. There have been times when I have had wondered if we would ever be in the place of doing a house project together, as a community, but here we are. Where will our Transition Town be, a few years hence? What will we do, to get it there?

Notes: What We’re Reading

Being Salmon, Being Human, Martin Lee Mueller

Nourishment, Fred Provenza

The World We Used to Live In, Vine deLoria
Lean Logic, David Fleming

The Great Pivot, Justine Burt
Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
Watership Down, Richard Adams


Fourth Friday/Films of Vision and Hope: Paris to Pittsburgh

Friday May 24, 7:30-9:30pm 
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto

An inspiring film about how cities around the country are moving forward with bold climate action despite the announced pull-out from the Paris Climate Accord. See the trailer…

See the trailer…

FREE, Donations appreciated. RSVP here.

Co-sponsored by Transition Palo Alto and Mothers Out Front: Mobilizing for a Livable Planet.

Inner Transition  – New Group Continuing this Month

by Victoria Armigo

Session 4: Engage Parker J. Palmer, PhD
The Supple Heart: Wrestling with Our Better Angels

Writer and activist Dr. Parker J. Palmer has long been at the forefront of applying grassroots efforts for improving the democratic process. In this session, Parker speaks with Tami Simon about the current state of national politics and what we can do on both micro and macro levels to improve the situation. Parker notes that even though it may seem as if anger rules the day, “It’s not actually the politics of rage; it’s the politics of the brokenhearted.” Here, Parker teaches us that it’s how we react to the million heartbreaks of everyday life that dictates the energy we put out into the world—and ultimately the health of our society as a whole. Highlights include:

  • Recognizing inherent privilege and learning how to mindfully apply its advantages
  • The ways in which the heart breaks
  • Why periods of tension and distress can also be revelatory
  • The difference between righteous and self-righteous anger

6:30pm Monday, May 20th. Check email for details.

Transition Café – Bystanders

My thanks to those who stepped up, last-minute, to host the Self-Organized Transition Cafés, while I’ve been out, much appreciated!

Learning new languages opens up new worlds to us. For me, learning languages of non-Humans as well as those of other Humans has been opening huge new worlds, for most of my life. Happily, the white-coat-and-clipboard set are now recognizing Animal languages as worthy of study (although the word “language” is still triggering for some of the old guard, so we’re supposed to say that while Humans use “language”, non-Humans “apply labels”. Anyway…) Very informative is learning the difference between Baseline behaviors and communications and Alarm or Distress behaviors and communications. For instance, learning the Junco term for “Snake” has helped me find some large, beautiful Gopher Snakes on a few occasions, now. Their term is a combination of spoken word and body language. I’m basically at kindergarten level, if even that, in learning these languages, although I get better all the time.

When Birds become aware of a predator in their midst, the Birds who are affected by that predator make the presence of the predator known to all. Alert Humans can figure out the identity of a given predator fairly quickly by looking at the shape, texture, direction, tone, and volume of the alarm. Not all alarms make a sound, some are silent, and the shape and texture of that silence can tell a great deal about what is going on in that space. More than that, Humans who are seen as allies will sometimes be sought or summoned by Birds who trust those Humans to assist them when they are threatened. One could say “it’s just Nature”, and refuse to interfere, of course, but Humans and non-Humans have had beneficial relationships with each other for as far back as oral history takes us. When did we forget this?

Something we are learning about bullies is about the importance of bystanders. Bystanders give important feedback to both the bully and the bullied. What do you do, when you see something cruel or violent being done? Do you pretend you don’t see it? Do you cheer on one party or the other? Do you join in on what is happening? Do you pretend so well that it didn’t happen that even a few seconds later, when asked about it, you can’t seem to remember? Are you pretending to not remember, or do you actually not remember?

The way bystanders behave in a situation where one individual or group is being bullied by another has a direct impact on how long that bullying continues, or on what the outcome of the bullying is. Saying “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls” or “kids will be kids, they’re so cruel” tells the bullied that they have no allies, and the bullies to keep at it. What will you do when those kids begin bullying those weaker than them? Will you stand up, then? How will you explain to yourself the role you played in that? What about the ones who have nobody below them to bully, but they do have free and easy access to guns?

But really, what do you do when they attempt to stand up for themselves? As much as we pay lip service to the underdog standing up to their oppressors, what do you actually do when they attempt to, or when they even name their experience? Do you take time to sit with what you saw, with the testimony of the different participants, with the consequences of the situation and your participation in it?

Whatever your decision, you are part of that system. With the Birds crying to you to keep their children from being killed in front of them, you are their neighbor, and they must have some level of trust in you to make that ask. We know, now, that they study us, know us as individuals, and have relationships with us as such. This is not just theoretical, but is well-studied and reported in a host of books and articles, as far back as 1992, but observed long before that, and embedded in our oral histories.

We know, very well, the impact of bystanders on bullies and the bullied. The bully looks to you for approval and support, the bullied looks to you for approval and support. They are your neighbors, and they must have a level of trust in you to make that ask. This is not just theoretical, but is well-studied and reported, not just academically, but by every one of us who has ever been bully, bullied, or bystander. Can you support both to be their best selves, to shift out of that dynamic with each other?

Of course, this is not as simple as I make it in this essay. Predators need food, which can mean that someone else needs to die or watch those they love die in order to feed that predator. Bystanders may well sneak in for a quick swallow of spilled egg yolk or gobbet of flesh from a slain chick, and then have their chicks killed the next day. Do you honor the relationship you have with an individual, or turn away to allow “nature to take its course”? How do you behave with a Human neighbor? Human predators also exist, and can enable or inspire predatory behavior in others. They can have personality disorders which can make it difficult or impossible for them to stop hurting others, or to take pleasure in it. In terms of Human ecosystems, they certainly exist for a reason, and will continue to do so long into the future. It could be argued that that is “just nature”, as well. Does that absolve us of the decision to act or not act?

In the runup to the 2016 election, a number of White folks began wearing safety pins, in solidarity with our friends of color who were under threat by newly-empowered white supremacists. What does that actually mean? How many of us still wear those, or display them visibly?

If we choose not to act in service of our neighbors, Human and Otherwise, who will act for us? Why am I asking these questions in a Transition Café?

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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


4/26 Fourth Friday/Films of Vision and Hope: Teach me to be Wild


Friday April 26, 7:30-9:30pm 
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto
Free, donations appreciated.


This month we are screening the film “Teach Me To Be Wild”

The filmmakers Rajesh Krishnan and Anne Veh will be joining us for this very special evening. After the film John Malloy (featured in the film and Healing Circles) has offered to anchor a healing circle after the screening. The Film ends in naturally creating a safe space and it lends itself well for a circle of reflection. You can read more about their circle experiences here in the Daily Good article:

Also learn more about John Malloy here:

“We Are All In This Together” A Conversation With John Malloy

John Malloy shares his life journey including his work over the last five decades with vulnerable communities in the Bay Area and his life mission of preserving and fostering the Native American Heritage.

“The Wisdom Of Circles” In Conversation With John Malloy 

In this intimate conversation with ServiceSpace anchors, John Malloy dives into the wisdom of circles, the role of anchors and facilitators, the nature of human groups, and different types of leadership.

Download and share flyer: Flier_11x17_A3_TransitionPaloAlto_Apr26_2019

Inner Transition April 15th

On April 15, 2019 the TPA Inner Transition Hearth & Soul group plans to meet at 6:30p. Location TBD. We will share a potluck at 6:30, listen to a Sounds True Waking up in the World presentation by Tara Brach PhD at 7p, followed by discussion at 8p. Details below for Session 2: Engage

Inner Transition  – New Group Continuing this Month

Tara Brach, PhD – Disarming Our Hearts: Letting Go of Blame

We have a deeply conditioned habit in our individual and collective psyches of making others wrong, fixating on “bad others.” For us to evolve and move toward a more peaceful and loving world, we need to release this trance of blame and bring a deep and caring presence to the vulnerability and intrinsic goodness in all beings. Through didactic presentation, stories, and reflections, this session explores how we get imprisoned in the habit of blame and the ways that the practices of mindfulness and compassion can free us. Highlights include:

  • The suffering of separation—how mistrust and fear are sustained by the habit of blame
  • Beginning to release the armoring around your heart
  • Learning to bring a compassionate presence to the unconscious, unmet needs that drive you
  • Freedom from trance—recognize the vulnerability and sacredness that lives in others and all beings

Oily Wells March!

March 16 -18
Palo Alto to San Francisco


TPA is joining with other social justice, environmental, and faith-based groups, led by 350 Silicon Valley, to march for action in March. The 3-day, 34-mile walk from Palo Alto to the Wells Fargo offices in San Francisco will protest Wells Fargo’s continued investment in disastrous climate projects, including tar sands, pipelines, and extreme condition extraction.

Learn more about the action…

From Victoria Armigo:

For those who want to act in the world, please consider attending some part of this 3-day Oily Wells march that TPA is cosponsoring.

This is an invitation to join me and 350 Silicon Valley as we ramp up a campaign to expose “Oily Wells” by participating in the March for Fossil Fuel Freedom, a 3-day, 34-mile march from Palo Alto to the bank’s San Francisco headquarters on March 16-18. The pilgrimage will offer a chance to meet other concerned folks (from partners such as Idle No More SF Bay and the Sierra Club) and act as a human billboard attesting to the rapidly deepening climate crisis and the prospect for sustainable solutions.

It would be great if participants would please  register online today (3/11).  We need to know how many delicious vegan meals and snacks to serve to how many people and where.

We will spend two nights in church and community halls, with food and support vehicles for carrying gear provided. At “stagecoach stops” along the way there will be educational presentations and performances (featuring Oily Wells himself). Learn more and register now at

Just having you there, at any point along the way, as a show of support means a lot.

Please RSVP today.

3/22 Fourth Friday/Films of Vision and Hope – Redefining Prosperity: The Gold Rushes of Nevada City

Friday March 22, 7:30-9:30pm 
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto
Free, donations appreciated.

Born in the California Gold Rush, Nevada City was once the scene of some of the most destructive environmental practices on earth. By the 1960s, the town was a backwater, its extractive industries dying. Then it was discovered by the “back to the land movement.” It was a second gold rush but with a different idea of gold based on nature, community and a sense of place.  Learn more…


See the trailer…

Heart and Home

It was dusk, and we sat at oblong tables laid for a meal- forks, knives, spoons, tablecloths, in a space I’m used to seeing filled with rows of folding chairs with an inspiring film playing in the dark. Instead, the space was lively and bright, with clusters of chatter and people going in and out. As people trickled in, food was heaped on plates from the buffet, and conversation began to flow.

Two hours earlier, a crew of five – Peter, Chris, Victoria, Diana, and Yon – had shopped, chopped, sautéed, tossed and simmered this bountiful menu at Victoria’s beautiful home: chicken stew, vegan vegetable stew, salad with dressing, two types of fruit salad,
mushrooms, brown and white rice, baguettes, and oranges. The food was carried over to the UUCPA church and served.

It sounds like an ordinary dinner or potluck, like so many we have had in Transition Palo Alto, but this one was different. This time we weren’t just cooking for ourselves, but for others, in particular for those who are less fortunate this winter.  Like other things in Transition, it was community-building for a greater purpose.

In partnership with Heart and Home Collaborative, we fed not our usual members but instead housed and unhoused members of the community, joining in on what they do every day. We mingled, listening wide-eyed at their struggles this winter, connecting eye to eye with neighbors, offering an ear and shoulder, being heard and seen ourselves.

Soon it was not just our bellies that were full, but also our hearts.

As I and my children headed home for bedtime, we reflected, grateful for all we have, for all we can offer, and the knowledge that if ever we, too, are in need, we have a loving circle who will feed us and welcome us with open arms.