Transition Café – Nostalgia for Oil?

Transition Cafe notes from William Mutch

I arrived home, the other night, at the beginning of a concert. The players were just warming up, gathering, tuning their instruments, figuring out where they could play to best advantage. I was sitting in my car, in the driveway, when I felt like I should walk around the house. When I arrived at the front of the house, my headlamp picked out eyeshine, in the dark between the clothesline and the big Cork Oak. Probably seven individuals, glowing eyes bobbing and weaving as they checked me out, then they disappeared toward my neighbors’ place. I circled back around, encountering them again on the little road that runs up the hill, still checking me out. Then the concert began, Coyotes bursting into full voice.

If you’ve never experienced being near Coyotes howling in large numbers, it is something. I’d only been close to it a couple of times, before moving onto this land. My first Coyote song was scary to me, actually. I couldn’t figure out what it was, and the alien, not-Dog-ness of it had me jumpy. It didn’t help that I was one of two Humans designated to scout the Dark and figure out what on Earth that sound was… The second close experience had me right in the middle of a howling pack. I still don’t know how they felt, having me there, but I was close enough to feel the compression waves as their voices hit the air between us, and it took my breath away.

The current concert seemed to involve three packs, or three sizeable subsets of the same pack. The music swirled around, for awhile, then moved down the driveway and across the hill. I was right in the middle of it for around…awhile…which was probably shorter than it felt…

The first time I heard a Coyote, I couldn’t sleep through the night for worrying about what it might be. On a recent campout, I apparently slept right through a great chorus. I usually find it soothing, for reasons contemplated in the Transition Café archives. Not that I’m advocating for standing in the Dark, in the middle of a pack of howling omnivores…do be safe out there…

It’s funny, living in the Age of Convenience. We think nothing of traveling great distances to see things we can’t see around these parts, visit relatives who live far away, but so close via powered vehicles, order stuff from all over the globe. So much I will miss about this, when it all goes away, not least of which being the access to books, tools, and seeds I haven’t heard of. And it will, of course. I love being able to “easily” visit my sister in the North Bay, friends in the East Bay, places I love, like Mendocino, Ashland, Corvallis…things which will be so much farther away, when the cheap oil disappears. So many things we take for granted, that won’t be available anymore, at least not at a price most of us can afford. Mostly I probably miss the innocent ignorance of the early and mid-era.

 

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Transition Café – Superstition

The Guru and the Cat

Once upon a time, there was a certain guru. During meditation, the temple’s resident Cat would wind around amongst the meditators, meowing loudly and making it hard to concentrate on anything other than her. So, the guru ordered that the Cat be tied up outside the the meditation hall. In due course, the guru departed the physical realm for more ethereal pursuits, and the students continued to tie the Cat up outside the hall, although few had been with the temple long enough at that point to remember why. Time passed, and the Cat eventually joined the guru. So…the students procured a new Cat, who they duly tied up outside the meditation hall, while they were sitting. Centuries later, scholars would write learned treatises on the importance of having a Cat tied up outside the room in which one is meditating.

-Source unknown, but possibly fictional…

Kind of a silly story, and a trap which, in these enlightened times, none of us would ever fall into. Or…would we? How many of us have habits which we adopted so long ago that we have forgotten why we do them? How many of those habits were consciously adopted, long ago, and now are so far from consciousness that we would deny doing them if asked? How many of those habits have stories wrapped around them to justify their existence, even though they don’t make sense? How many of us make a habit of questioning those habits, when they show up, or even of seeking them out, when they don’t? For instance…how many of us refer to making an auditory duplicate of an event as “taping” it? How long has it been since that term made sense? How about the ring or wristwatch (remember wristwatches?) you no longer wear, but keep adjusting, anyway?

So, to, with Superstitions. Some make sense, sometimes called “constructive paranoia”. In other words, the behaviors do not objectively make sense, but, given the life history of the individual, not only make sense, but their life without them wouldn’t make sense. Habits like going back to check the stove, even if you know you didn’t turn it on, which drive your friends and relatives crazy, might make sense in someone who had lived in a situation where stoves were routinely left on when housemate(s!) had left for work. Others, like a dread of the number 13, might have historic or cultural roots that simply don’t make sense in the current age.

There are also funny ones, like a practice which had become Superstition, bleeding Humans with Leeches, and which, for a long time, was synonymous with barbaric medicinal practices, is now recognized to have valid medical applications. Superstitions around certain Plants being poisonous or medicinal, which turn out not to be (The Milkweed Effect).

What Superstitions are active in your life? Why do you believe them? Are they constructive, destructive, neutral? Do they make sense to you, but to nobody else? Are they cultural? Familial? Personal? Do you remember the moment you were taught one, or when you started to believe one? Is it only a Superstition if it is active in the life of someone who is not you?

Superstitions, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 13 April. We often go to dinner afterwards, maybe we will this week, too.

April Fourth Friday/Films of Vision and Hope – ‘The Reluctant Radical’ and ‘Arrestable’

April 27, 7:15-9:30pm NOTE TIME CHANGE
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto
All ages welcome! FREE, Donations appreciated.

April Fourth Friday will take a close look at direct climate action — how activists are putting themselves on the line and turning up the heat to fight climate change.

  • THE RELUCTANT RADICAL is a documentary about climate activist Ken Ward, who turned to civil disobedience after working within environmental organizations for many years. (Scroll down for more about the film and for a link to the trailer.)
  • ARRESTABLE is a short video that follows activists in Seattle as they prepare for civil disobedience to urge local banks to stop funding fossil fuel companies.

We’re pleased to welcome the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center and 350 Silicon Valley as co-sponsors. We’ll include some time to discuss the films and share experiences and ideas about stepping up the climate fight.

reluctant radical

More about THE RELUCTANT RADICAL:
The film follows activist Ken Ward as he confronts his fears and puts himself in the direct path of the fossil fuel industry to combat climate change. After twenty years leading environmental organizations, Ken became increasingly alarmed by the scientific evidence of climate change and the repercussions for civilization. He now embraces direct action civil disobedience as the most effective political tool to deal with catastrophic circumstances.

The film follows Ken for a year and a half through a series of direct actions, culminating with his participation in the coordinated action that shut down all the U.S. tar sands oil pipelines on October 11, 2016. The film reveals both the personal costs and also the fulfillment that comes from following one’s moral calling- even if that means breaking the law. Ken Ward has no regrets, and his certainty leaves the audience to consider if he is out of touch with reality, or if it is the rest of society that is delusional for not acting when faced with the unsettling evidence that we are collectively destroying our world.

Director Lindsey Grayzel, co-producer Deia Schlosberg and cinematographer Carl Davis were three of four independent filmmakers to be arrested and charged with crimes for filming the activists on October 11, 2016. Their charges have been dropped, and they have joined forces to tell Ken’s story through this film. See the trailer

Sponsored by Transition Palo Alto, the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, 350 Silicon Valley, and the Green Sanctuary Committee of UUCPA.

 

 

Waste Not – and Enjoy!

It was a delicious and informative evening at the March Fourth Friday ‘Shop your Kitchen’ potluck. Participants raided their refrigerators, freezers, cupboards, and gardens to create tasty treats, from casseroles to pie to soup to nuts.

The group talked about creative recipe ideas, how to preserve produce, how to make better use of your fridge, and how your nose is better than any expiration date label.

We also showed some short videos about food waste. Some amazing facts: 40% of food produced in the U.S. never gets eaten. At the same time, about 1/8 of all Americans suffer from food insecurity.  Food waste is the biggest low-hanging fruit (so to speak) that we could tackle for an impact on climate change.  If food waste were a country, it would be #3 in climate emissions. And it’s a problem that everyone can help solve.

Special thank yous to Herb for lovely background music, and Debbie, Lawrence, and William for super KP duty!

Here are the video links:

The Life of Strawberries
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WREXBUZBrS8&feature=youtu.be

Three meals from one zucchini
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2MkLWbe7B0

Creative ideas about tackling the food waste problem
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RlxySFrkIM

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.

 

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

 

 

 

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:

Books:

What the robin knows – Jon Young

Sharing a robin’s life – Linda Johns

Becoming Animal – David Abram

Documentary by Anna Reitenbach – The Animal Communicator

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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.