Click here for Shunryu Suzuki Photo Archive images and links to all cuke.com pages on .
Cuke Interview with Katharine which includes
March 2008 knee replacement email
A Green Gulch experience involving pottery and power sent in early 2008
Incantation for People Tending the Watershed - January, 2008)
Because There was Lagunitas School
A Tassajara Story involving a late night return - sent in early 2008
Taking the High Road, Long Road In - posted 11-26-14
Summers by Lake Water - posted 12-11-14
Speaking of My Lovely Daughter - posted 5-16-16
Poems sent May 2016
12-14-15 - A poem from Katharine
How the Park Saves the Wildlife in Me
Whenever the all night industrial street noise
surrounding my downtown Pt. Reyes apartment
keeps me up all night, finding me desperate
for restoration resources in the morning. . .
I take myself to the Bear Valley State Park
Visitor’s Center in my ’97 Nissan van,
bought years ago for its spacious interior--
one that could accommodate a sleeping cot
should I ever need that -- and find the
one shady spot under a tree, if I am lucky.
I put the sun screens up in the front and
back windows, hang my hand-sewn car
curtains on the side windows and sleep well
into the day for as long as I need, to recover
my health, sanity and good will.
Just now back from a 4-hour excursion,
feeling rested and awake, I am glad to
be alive once more, thank the Bear Valley
State Park for making my life, both wild
and tame, possible once more.
9-15-15 - Harvesting Your Life - audio of radio interview with Katharine's writing teacher and her and three other students - I think that's right. - dc
8-29-15 - from the Oberlin College Philosophy Club Newsletter. Katharine was a philosophy major there.
Katharine Cook ’59 writes: “I continue to be involved in citizen
2014 - Interview with Katharine Cook on KWMR radio in Pont Reyes, CA, interviewed by Lyons Filmer with Peter Martinelli commenting.
- 90.5 Point Reyes Station / 89.9 Bolinas / 92.3 San Geronimo Valley
11-26-14 - I write an column for the West Marin Commons forum
Pretty good. Love living in this small town nestled between Tomales Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Great bookstore, Geography of Hope Conference every other year, Amber & son Simon close by. Switching my focus from mainly ecological restoration to writing. . .happily working with the Marin Carbon Project: www.marincarbonproject.org who are at the exciting cutting edge reducing global warming by planting pastures of native perennial grasses that bring down CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as usable carbon in the soil. . . .while at the same time providing local food.
9-24-13 - Minding the Earth, Walking by Katharine Cook
5-11-13 - Florales Ludi: Festival of Flowers with Games by Katharine Cook
9-06-12 - My Love letter to Plum Village: Thay Nhat Hanh and the Brocade Fan - by Katharine Cook
9-02-12 - Katharine Cook and Peter Martinelli radio interview, - Festival of First Fruits, is on this page of Pt. Reyes' KWNR's site
6-29-12 - Update on Katharine Cook. Katharine has moved to Pt. Reyes Station, CA from San Rafael 3 years ago, drawn by the natural beauty of the place, vibrant community and other Zen friends -- i.e., Stuart Kutchins, Bing Gong. Her daughter Amber had been living out here for some time. Main activities have been writing for the West Marin Citizen, covering the annual Bioneers Conference, which takes place in San Rafael each October, writing poetry and gardening, hosting radio programs for KWMR. Currently working on an article about Suzuki Roshi's gardens at Tassajara for the Citizen. Hoping to publish first poetry collection soon.
She was able to bring John Liu, the leading international ecologist and film-maker who opened Bioneers 2011, to Pt. Reyes for a conference, and will be continuing to contribute to the Geography of Hope events sponsored ty Pt. Reyes Books. Putting "ecological value and function before an economy based on the production of goods and services" has become her mantra. Her joy is growing heirloom flowers and perennial grasses. Reach her at katharine.cook[at]gmail.com"
I had not known it could be like this: awakened at
6:30 a.m.by the phone ring, I hear my daughter,
solicitous for my well-being -- inquire after my state of mind.
Would I like to come over and sleep for awhile
on the extra couch bed in their living room?
Would I ever! It had been days with no sleep,
due to the industry, grid and 16 street lights
surrounding my place. No rest to be found here!
“”Yes, I would .” She arrived in her familiar Toyota van,
offering clothing found for me in the Good Will.
My being sagging, I donned it, followed down stairs into her car.
She drove to Pt. Reyes Affordable Homes, where she led me
into her darkened living room, where her dog and another
being boarded growled a bit.
Led to a low bed in the back of her living room, she
helped me undress into its warmth and abundant covers.
There, surrounded by a welcome quiet dark, was the
night I longed for. Low sound. No 16 street lights, traffic,
nor industry. Not a womb exactly, but a hefty slice of
true night, the way the earth feels when the sun is completely
down, the moon and stars up. I stretched out into the pillows
the thick quilts piled there.
Did I need any help out of my day clothes? ”A little,”
I closed my eyes, grateful for the darkness that
filled the room into every corner. I stretched and turned,
the little dog being boarded yapped a few times until
Drew, my daughter’s mate, quieted him down with
some strong orders. I lay there. . . quiet in true rest
for a couple of hours.
Then, queried about coffee and toast said “Yes.”
I was brought to their kitchen table, still dark
within the outdoor night.
She has a way with foods and service, learned through
native crafts she has studied. The coffee was above par
with a spicy fragrance. Whole wheat toast, buttered,
cut into attractive shapes with jam offered, a colored napkin,
and company, her caring ways laden with personal artistry:
she showed me her latest beadwork, so careful in
choice of colors—sewn onto soft leather.
I am in awe of her spirituality, so well grounded in her
earth body, the fruit of years of practices: the teepee of the
Native American church, Amma from India.
Her spirit nurtures me like no other. Her name ‘Amber’
was gleaned from the movie ‘Amber Tibet’ by Houston Smith,
about that ancient community of Buddhist practitioners.
Lying in bed pregnant I had noticed there were two colors
in the glass candle-holder by my bed. Amber was one of them.
Katharine Cook - 04.19.2016
Seen from Where I Stand and Walk
Pt. Reyes Coastal Interface
From within a shroud of fog
banked up on the southeast
horizon, the winter sun emerged:
blazing gold, curls of white cloud
imbued with variegated light
surrounding it – stunning, rich, orchestral.
But for a moment only. It disappeared,
then re-emerged spreading light
beams all around, and again was gone.
A skyful of fog remained leaving one
smooth low band, a trail of buff yellow
within the misty grey.
Olema Valley, Winter Afternoon
Never have I seen Olema Valley
more beautiful than now, this
winter solstice afternoon. Her sun,
so now low in the southern sky inspires
reflection off the velvet green of
grassland verdure newly sprung from
winter rain, the red-twigged growth of
willow woods, the marshy wetland reeds.
Then comes the last flash of
daylight across the tower of tall trees,
What Air Conveys
Air, this fragile ocean of air, brings
with her all she’s touched, conveys
to me right now the power and strength of
our towering redwoods, which
within her, bend to me,
informing my very standing here:
my also upright nature, where
pressed against the face and breast
of Nature, I drink to breathe in
the fragrance or the ocean of air,
especially woodsy scented now.
With this saffron stretched across my
breast, my heart and lungs, I am folded
into the cloth of Gauthama Buddha–
my human body dressed -- wrapped, covered
with her earth’s geometry of stitched together
equal fields, which in my wearing of them
now become my protection, my
expression, the nutrition of my soul,
the attrition of any negativity.
How this rectangular length of
stitched-together cloths enfolds the
contours of our human shape,
like the touch of the breeze that
reaches everywhere. How we know
our shape from the earth’s point of view.
Wrapped so, I am joined with all
life on earth which comprises conscious mind;
fields of awareness of five senses: sight, sound,
smell, taste and touch.
Wrapped so, I am here protected In the space
of self and other -- not one, not two --
Suzuki roshi said.
This is the adornment of no adornment,
the simplicity of perfect form,
these stitched together fields,
gracing my heart, allow perception,
then expression of my awareness of
Leaf Fall on Asphalt, Giacomini Way
These leaves fallen onto asphalt
have lost the only thing they
had to give -- their lives to others.
So I have raked them up
carefully, tenderly, carrying them
to the garden, where they now lie,
leaves touching. Returned to a
common life, they breathe again
in concert with earth below
sun, moon, stars and the
White Tara of air herself, belonging.
Narrow Garden Bed Edging Asphalt
Along, and within the narrow width
of this December bed, its length planted
out to meadow flowers, grasses and herbs,
the calendula spark their fiery orange out,
the brightest in the dark, wet winter earth.
Calendula, or Mary’s Gold, can remediate
biting words with maternal warmth,
thrives in winter cold contrasting
here with blue viola, lavender stock.
Growing flowers in Green Gulch Farm
early days, I heard Bolinas farmers
grew stock too, along with other brassicas --
winter cabbage, broccoli –
or the San Francisco markets.
Dotted among them, the artemisia
stream silvery, spread along and through
wet ground, among the frosted maple leaves
laid down for mulch. . . create allure,
express the immanence of warmth in
Calendula, orange. Viola, blue.
Stock, lavender -- all bloom in cold,
create allure, call out the
warmth implicit in winter there.
Adulation for the Fish Chef, Wait Staff, Hostess
Behind the counter, where I sit, these many
slender-waisted wait staff, all dressed in black,
bound to and fro before me, nodding greetings,
commingling, staging the offer of one white
oval china platter, bearing kids’ fish and chips,
with a side of slaw: the presentation:
fresh and uncontrived, the cooking
tender and delectable, combine to evoke
gratitude in me for this one small, delicious meal.
February Grey Clouds
Grey skyful of February
clouds, how darkly do they
brood, hang down spread out
so pressed close onto the horizon.
Rain is pouring down everywhere --
Cold. Driving. Hard.
(last quarter moon past Vernal Equinox)
Valentine Sunday, Station House Cafe
As I sit at counter here, they behind it
whizz me by . . . zip, swish! Wait staff
striding, pony-tails fly, to feed the Sunday
celebrants of a three-day weekend. . .
Behind them, three chefs, all of significant
stature, one new, each wrapped in his
own white double-breasted chef’s coat,
all three in black caps –- baseball or kerchief,
the wait staff bending, moving quickly,
appear almost to run without legs.
At the stoves, it’s all arms, hands and
eyes, composing platters, turned out
quickly, an exciting array of select dishes.
All here enjoy the offered foods,
eating, living, loving-- some alone,
On the counter immediately before me,
four soup plates line up perfectly.
Each bears one sparkling clean silver spoon
laid slantwise across it, each at the
exactly the same angle . . .service!
Next, the empty reed baskets,
each of which floats a single square
of white, waxy deli paper.
Pulling my popover open, I let the
steam pass out, pick up the knife
and spread the butter.
To my left, the dishwasher-prep cook,
dressed in black, with his two good arms
unloads his racks of clean dishes into
the empty waiting sliding drawers of the
Across the room at the bar piano,
a lone woman prevails, pounding her chords out
solo into the full house of an evening crowd.
Here, another graceful young woman
glides by before me, her long hair
floating out behind her.
(Before the Full Snow Moon, 02.14)
Tomales Bay State Park Revisited
After a two year absence, I have returned
to a beloved spot, only to be dismayed at
the deep layer upon layer of thickening deadfall.
I behold a forest in decay, an open invitation
to destruction, preventing its own future
by the lack of a possible healthy understory.
There is no more massive destruction to
‘wilderness’ than from a forest fire. There is no
thriving clean and fertile, nutrient-dense forest
understory without managed fire.
Seeing it so brings back Kat, down on her knees
In musty university basement libraries, who
made it her life work to seek out survivors
from native California, to make friends, ask questions,
listen to stories, to bring forward into present time
how millennia of native Californians managed
the woodlands, the forest spaces, coaxing by tending
the understory into a culture producing foods for
myriad living systems to thrive there,
Bearing witness, I stand here wanting to cry out --
here where no one is listening -- “there is no true story
of the healthy, layered forest without fire,
nor human food. . . without fire.
Cooking with fire created, and now defines our humanity.
There is no food without fire.
Co-evolving with the tall trees’ high branches densely
loaded with edible seeds and nuts, our female
forebearers calculated the geometry of the culture
of layered living foods to space these coast live oak
at optimum distances to favor health, circulation of the air,
of light, or rain to reach the forest floor, which then
received the seed, the thriving forest understory
meadows and grasslands, which fed the birds and
animals hunted, and the tribe.
The staple food was grass seed, harvested by
women with seedbeaters, who could harvest and carry
up to 40 pounds a day.
Tomales Bay State Park -- which holds, I hear
the purest stand of California native plants
around -- again threatened with closure:
thriving coast live oak, Bishop pine, shore pine,
red-barked madrone, coast silk tassel, coffeeberry,
evergreen huckleberry, salal, sword fern to name a few.
Marvelous, inispiring to any Californian to
encounter stands of historical natives still intact,
who tell me not only where I am, but who I am to become,
People, animals, birds, insects, soils found
their nutrition here, as they in turn
nourished the systems they took from.
We could, I pray, desperately hope, we
could remember, relearn how to do this here.
Tubers in the streambanks tended both for
harvest and stabilization of the bank;
understory soil remineralized annually
through managed fire.
For six thousand years, native people burned
here every October, clearing the kind of deadfall
I see now piled up before me, any detritus or disease
preparing the ground for renewal.
Reading on bumpers “no farms, no food”
I reply, “no fire in the forest, no understory,
no nuts, fruits or berries, no flowers,
pollinators, grasses no food for people!
By picking up fire once more, we relearn its skillfull
wielding, reclaim our rightful place in the natural
order of things, not consumers, not plunderers,
not war-makers, but as tenders of life on the planet,
and that which follows it, that illumination called
awareness of the interdependence that is All Being.
The moist earth, streams, seeps and bulbs,
the tubers in the stream bank require it.
New life calls for it, the annual managed fire
this time next time, again and again, driving
the pattern of renewal.
There is no true story of the wilderness,
or enlightened forest management without
managed fire, no food without fire.
Approaching Vernal Equinox
Before the Thrift Store, rosa chinensis’ rosy pink
first blooms, edge winged, fragile into the air.
Turning the walkway, ceanothus’ densely sweet perfume
drenches me, it clouding up from within its
infinity of so tight, tiny buds. Next, I bend to delicate
handfuls, small pink bouquets of manzanita blossom
opening, it all budded out among the natives
lining the walkway to the library.* Time slows down,
or disappears as we approach cross-quarter day,
half way between the solstice and the equinox,
called Imbolg, or “sheep’s milk,” by the Celts,
the beginning of lambing season. Before them,
Hippocrates said: for good health, walk among
aromatic plants daily, and bathe in their essential oils.
(*Design by Nancy Shine, Plants by Mostly Natives Nursery 03.2011)
Cherry Plum Bloom, Pink Cloud, Hy 1
Some structure of vision
some neurophysiology in my very
eyes is changed by my now knowing
the flowering cherry plum, gracing these
spaces around us here, came first from China,
then Japan, then crossed the ocean
in the holds of wooden hulls of British
sailing ships, perhaps collected
by one hardy Scotsman in the
employ of East India Trading Company.
Men went for the medicines,
but were taken by beauty; her medicine –
Cherry Plum -- known by Dr. Bach,
to moderate extremes:
fear of insanity, panic.
First to push out blooms, from
ice and snow, she delights us
with her wafting clouds of
pink. . . downtown, along the highway.
Cloud of ethereal blossom,
impermanence symbol for
Zen poets, festival subject for
Japantown, manifests here her
strength and power, the first
to break out from snow and ice to
herald Spring: medicine beauty,
Listening to Men Singing
The lengthy preparations were appropriately
time-consuming: setting the stage,
involving the laying out of equipment,
the placing of instruments on their stands,
chairs, and the tip jar, CDs for sale.
The stage then quiet for some time,
with musicians and guests both eating
and drinking, the Station House bar filling
with anticipatory buzz.
In time, the band assembled, the male lead
led off, and in so doing, filled the bar
with his deep and mournful cry, the band
This is when, and where I found myself
listening to a man singing his heart out,
more from empathy, less from desire, more
from seeking to understand. . .
“it can’t be easy to be a man,” I heard, in
tales of lost love, danger, facing death, poverty
I noted their women all lined up at the bar, their
pretty faces fresh like flowers, loving,
the men’s more like rocks or mountains,
their values strength, manliness, bravery,
But somehow, I heard through it all that
the love of a woman came first,
trumped even courage, and
all the rest followed. . .
Struts, frets, virtuosity.
Geography of Hope, Water
Before those leaders and luminaries assembled
to confer on “water”, Claire stood, reciting,
calling out from memory, all waters in this
domain, every stream, lake, river, bay and harbor
along our coast brought to the assembled.
A powerful evocation of water in place.
Too many to remember all, but I will never
forget the invocation of The Pacific, as a
spiral vortex, whose currents flow down from
Alaska south on our west coast, then circle
Across the wide ocean, to then flow north to Japan.
Hearing it thus thus made it my ocean in a
way never before imagined, explained
something never before understood about
me and Japan.
Standing on the shore at Muir Beach,
two decades ago, I was yearning desperately
to swim or somehow be carried across that
ocean so I could study traditional Japanese
pottery with the masters there. 20 years in a
apanese Zen style monastic setting,
practicing the art of the traditional I wanted to
go back to the source, study the root in its
place on the land.
It was across the ocean from Muir Beach.
Robert Hass told how the railroads had
followed the river courses across the continent,
something I never knew, how industry, farming
and settlements followed the railroads,
wound up trashing, polluting the very rivers
that had shown the way across, made it all possible.
He called on all of us, with eloquence
and urgency to “clean up our rivers.”
Striking to me that not one panelists mentioned
the promise and practices of rainwater
harvesting, the most direct and effective
strategy we have for managing either drought
or the ravages of stormwater, or potential
wars about water.
If “world peace” exists, I see it there.
Rainwater harvesting intercepts waterflow
just as it is arriving on earth from the heavens,
make human intervention possible
before a problem can arise. “Save it on a rainy day”
or manage stormwater before it can damage.
Watershed by watershed with those with
whom one shares a “basins of relations.”
Brock gave us the language, energy and insight
inspiring us to action, Bioneers 2005.
According to John Mohawk’s vision, the survivors
of global warming will be those who can manage
water flow, or lack of it where they are, with corporations gone, because they have retained the ancestral memory of plant cultivation.
It could come down to that, rivers polluted or not.
Where we stand or drive in Point Reyes,
what is more beautiful than the exquisite lines
of spontaneous musical play that are the horizon
defining the upper edges of our coastal watersheds,
telling us where we are, and if we can see it
where the water we depend on for life itself
flows and is stored.
Where does rainfall land where you live?
Where does it flow from there?
35.000 gallons cross the lunch shed
roof of Lagunitas school each winter, are stored,
are then enough to water the garden all summer. .
From your roof, how many gallons
per year could you capture and store?
In a cistern, or in the soil?
When it rains, is what it falls on permeable?
If not where does it go? Can we learn
as a species how to manage rainfall,
prevent stormwater disasters, quench our
thirsts, nourish our crops?
Peaceful management of water requires our
literacy, our collaboration in managing rainfall,
beginning with knowing, then organizing
in the watershed we live in.
The rain from heaven is falling
all around us. Each of us needs to
know what to do to save the rain.
On Meeting the Host
From within his greeting, front desk,
Station House Café, I feel the
warmth of a generous spirit. . .
this one takes care of us, takes delight
in our expressions, notes our feelings, moods.
Sensitive, I’ve seen him pick up the
tiniest inattention from across the room. . .
host as servant, as communicator, as convenor.
How rare to meet him in person, named
in this place Dennis. Physically generous,
sturdy, upright, always in motion,
tractor mind plowing the fields of the restaurant.
Rain’s End, Break from the Rain
After days on end of relentless rain,
grey afternoons, and cold, I savor the warmth,
relish the candor and company at the bar
at Station House Café.
Unexpectedly I have lucked into music night –
which brings new friends from out of town
to greet, to meet, the sight of old friends
venturing in to listen.
Who is the quite tall, lanky man Paul Knight is
sitting with? He looks familiar . . says he’s seen me
at the Farmer’s market. . . which one?
Ah, the Marin Farmer’s market, selling wool.
Of course! It is Arann, the shepardess’ son.
In here, so warm and dry, cheerful, convivial,
me glad to be here, in good company,
in from the rain, sipping a mug of kids’ cocoa
laced with brandy.
Two girl children play off to the side, one in
lavender knit, the other in yellow wrap skirt,
7 or 8, perhaps, practicing crayons in their
coloring book at the bar’s edge, near
Paul’s wife Colleen.
Which scene evokes Arann’s mother’s
Mimi’s work with color: the exquisite earth
rainbows in her homespun woolen yarns,
dyed imbued with the rich, unexpected
hues of Nature’s storehouse. . .
coreopsis, marigold, red dahlia, indigo,
to name a few.
Arann’s invited to play this evening with
new musicians, one lean guitarist,
a mandolinist with wavy grey hair,
Paul on bass, as usual.
At the bar before the concert, we are easy . . .
eating, drinking, chatting, anticipatory.
The couple next to me, she, a patent attorney,
he an environmental scientist --
have been on a hike in the mud.
The music starts with Arann leading off
with a hard, driving, oceanic sound,
sing-chanting the story life of a fisherman
at sea, his struggle with the catch and
ocean, the waves pounding his craft,
the boat rocked out at sea, and how he
just wants to get home to his baby.
Next, O Sinner Man. . . where ya gonna run to?’
Singing now through clenched teeth, jaw
and throat, he drives himself hard into
to the raw edge of his own big man power,
from where he projects to the rest of the room
who are clearly impressed. . . Paul’s
melodic and rhythmic generosity
on the bass backing him up.
Arann, the son of Mimi the shepherdess,
givies birth to an awesome cry of ragged power,
makes me wonder how he got there
coming from all those skeins of hand-dyed
wool, his mother’s gentle loveliness, her
lambs, the girls she loves, knit shawls
from Nature’s flower bodies: coreopsis,
red dahlia, marigold, indigo, to name a few.
What they share may be intensity. . .
now curious about how this came to be
I must go visit Mimi’s farm in Petaluma,
learn more about that from which she dyes
and see her lambs, Arann’s root.
Finding the Breast, Offering the Breast
Finding the breast denied me in
Infancy, allows the circulation to begin,
the blood to flow, the breast squirting
its imaginary milk, completes me, as
I begin to flourish actually, communing
with the rest of you: seven consciousnesses
Interact with the 8th, that deepest ground of being.
How many of my generation never
knew a real mother? I had formula bottles at
regular intervals, was weighed before and after feeding,
never touched or held as it should have been,
according to the General Theory of Love.
It is, we are, the saffron robe of the
Lord Buddha, the soft okesa of stitched-together
fields that exemplify our human consciousness
as it floats above and interacts with the deeper ground of being.
My own heart, my own breast now
offers sustenance, after seven decades.
Norman said, at her stepping down
Ceremony, Abbess Blanche flowered in her 70’s.
Feeding the Earth Feeds
Love and Understanding
When I eat organic, my body shows me
food becoming energy transparency,
a translucent structure, not garbage.
For a human being, mindful eating is the
way to and of clear mind, elegance and
protection of the soul. There is no other way.
Suzuki roshi said, ‘strictly speaking
there is only one Way for the bodhisattva.’
Nhat Hanh said ‘mindful eating brings you love’.
Father and Daughter, in Play at
Dusk, around the Pergola,
Station House Café
Seated on wrought iron, sipping decaf
Earl Grey iced tea, I spoon clam chowder
into my mouth. On the first hot day of
Spring, I am in the cool. It is nice out here
among the plants, especially those
ornamenting the pergola -- perennial
climbing hydrangea, roses.
Diagonally across the courtyard,
outside it, a father with touches of
gray at the temples, 6’2” is minding his
daughter -- a feather-light wisp of a girl,
face like a flower, skittering around
in yellow pants, short flowered skirt,
sweatshirt . . . her blondish hair
pulled up high on the back of her
neck into a braided pony tail . . . who
runs, skipping, amazingly quickly
around the garden perimeter
outside the pergola.
Utterly taken with this duet, I call
out to the father, saying “she looks to be
less than a third your size,” to which he
replies, saying “by weight, she is just an
eighth, and I am 215!”
He grabs her up in his arms, they leave,
I leave the garden, and in so doing
see him carrying out a bassinet which
cradles a very new sleeping baby
from there to enter the car
with his daughter.
I see that his wife is very beautiful,
clear-eyed with a long blonde ponytail . . .
which explains everything.
Lunch Today was 99 Cents
99 cents -- I loved the sound of it
ringing up on the register -- the
heart of my noonday meal to be:
one organic carrot, two organic zucchini . . .
all three flown in and trucked here
from Mexico by Covilli.
I cut my carrot and zucchini in the
”roll cut” style learned at Zen Center;
layer my organic veggies over
yesterday’s par-boiled organic
Rosie chicken breast, into a
small, flat skillet on my hot plate.
We have been taught to
fault the costs to the planet from
cost of shipping that burns petroleum
but according to Gary Hirschberg,
CEO of Stonyfield Farms, the more
important story is the costs of
any non-organic production weighed
against the costs to the planet from
shipping organic. He claims the
former far outweighs the latter.
So enjoy your lunch of organic veggies
sold at Toby’s, shipped from Mexico
by Covilli without regret.
(Gary Hirschfield, Stonyfield Farms Organic Dairy
Presenting at Bioneers, 2009.)
Blooms in May
These two kinds of so small
bright flowers blooming here
so close down onto the ground
are both coastal natives.
So being, they share a privileged
relationship to light, that being the
light reflected off water.
Light near or on water has the nature
to magnify, so accounts for the
especial brightness of their loveliness
as their relationship to skies.
Through the blossom you feel that
special wonder, awe and delight you
always feel approaching light reflected
These escholzia Californica
maritima are not the orange of their
inland earthbound cousins, but are
pure gold, deep yellow brilliance
an orange fire in their centers,
their foliage fringed a greyer green
that lasts through winter.
The pink dianthus with deep magenta
centers, also ringed In lighter pink,
grow on the chalk cliffs of England,
next one another these two
share, express a relationship
to light and water, translate it for
us into another form, one of pattern.
which is why they look so good
together, though they arrived here from
coastlines oceans and continents apart.
The Virtues of Two, Wait Staff
Of Joanna, I note the nobility
of her upright stance, head held
high, the level gaze of her awareness.
The disc of her own hand-made jewelry
hangs from a cord around her neck.
The determination of her pose,
all muscles slightly flexed,
has this young woman poised
with the sure focus of long-legged
shore bird, looking, with an eye for
food, below the surface, under the water.
Of Hanan, who Mark tells me
Is from Palestine, I remark on
her self-assurance, soft grace and
balance, a headful of shiny black
hair, cut with bangs and two flirty
spits of it framing either side of a
pleasantly rounded face, full
bright red lips, the focus with which
she carries the small round tray of
cocktails, all top heavy in long-stemmed
glasses so nothing spills.
North on One, towards Tomales
Long north on One, past Marshall,
mid-April, all the road cuts here are
banked with mustard, yellow, dense,
floriferous edging the highway for
mile after mile of curving driven asphalt.
This is the medicine to end winter,
Nature’s prescription for depression,
all these tiny yellow-flowered multi-pointed
displays, blooming into a
hundred thousand lights along the way.
Here, everywhere along the road,
mustard, wild radish and cow
parsnip, whose flat white umbel heads
that made the milk grazed by
England’s Jersey cows, the
richest in the world.
The season changes, brings in
warmth and light as the planet
turns towards May Day, cross-quarter
between Spring Equinox and Summer
Wild mustard fills the road shoulders
climbing the cliffs, lining the
river banks of Walker Creek.
The Role of the Human Male in the Propagation
of the Species, Flower Festivals
As a woman, I am fortunate In having a
male friend, a peer intellectually and horticulturally,
with whom I have earned and share enough
trust and openness to be fully free to discuss
issues of gender that perplex me, online.
he fact that he had the courage to name “phallus” and “vulva”
to me in writing, broke a barrier in place
for a lifetime, signaling the certain end of patriarchy.
As it is May, the time of flower festivals,
with no comparable celebration
of the pollinators, we got to wondering
about the role of the male. My friend
remarked on “the relative insignificance
of the role of the male in the
propagation of the species,” which
got me thinking:
Finding the way into the right place
to deposit the seed, at the right time, feeding,
housing and protecting the pregnant woman
and her children to their adolescence is no small matter!
Compared to the strikingly visible image of
pregnancy and child birth the more invisible
role of the male does look to me to be pretty
unglamorous, a lot of hard work one
might not be inclined to sign up for without seduction.
In Christianity, we celebrate the birth of
a male child in December, as the one who is,
or ‘brings back’ the light. Then we celebrate
his crucifixion on the cross in April, the resurrection
to imply eternal life, which I suspect to a
misunderstanding of how this really occurs.
In Buddhism, folks celebrate the birth of the
male child in April, he arriving just in time to
be the light, or pollinate the flowers, so that
his continuation, his “eternal life” then
flows from that act as interdependence.
As the familiar sweetness of her
speech and manner beckoned
from the table behind me –
never mind her conversation
was with the handsomest man
in the house, I turned to her upon
finishing my cup of cauliflower soup.
Her nearby presence reminded me
that verbena bonariensis along my
garden fence were getting tall,
soaking up May rains and warmth
lengthening out with tiny purple flowerets
appearing at the stem ends, so vanessa
annabella, looking like a small monarch,
was sure to be on its way to
drink from the blossom.
From there my friend instructed me
in Vanessa Atalanta, Vanessa virginiensis,
and Vanessa carye, each of whose
American habitats she described
and offered up as well.
Her husband was so impressed I
could repeat all four after hearing them
once, he promised to test me
next time we met.
Vanessa annabella, Vanessa atalanta,
Vanessa virginiensis, Vanessa carye.
Four butterflies that look like small Monarchs.
Bay and Redwood Woods in the Full Pink Moon
On this ‘Full Pink Moon’ night
named for the flowers that bloom
in its light, we are to here to hear
these three come to play: Dale
Polissar, clarinet; Bart Hopkins,
guitar, Blake Richardson, bass,
all three full moon flowers themselves.
Leading off with the purest of sweet
clean melody, Dale is followed up with
Bart’s lively intellect and passion in
harmony, articulate rhythms in the bass,
with which they take us swooning into
Some of us feel the nostalgia,
sweet on melodic honey against a
lyric, lilting background, rich with
They play with soft, yet penetrating
thoughtful awareness, offering up the
sumptuous pleasures of magicians of
the strings and reeds. Dale, with his white
hair and beard, his tapping foot, renders
the older ballads with an ease and melodic
virtuosity -- a kind of sweetness you
don’t get in a young man. From the guitar,
masterful chordal harmonies, articulate
lines from a rhythmic bass.
Their beautiful music evokes in me
the sound of rain on roofs, leaves sliding
downhill on the wet grass, piling up onto
meadows where peaceful
grazing occurs, meditative.
‘Time after Time, so lucky to be loving
you’, rendered with passion from the
guitar, a riff of lively rapid finger work
from the bass.
Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’,
graceful and romantic, closes the set.
Puzzled by the unorthodox
rectangular soundbox on Bart’s
guitar, I inquire of Blake, who relates
the sounding board is made of redwood,
the neck of California Bay. He says Bart
chose those light, soft springy woods
for a reason having to do with resonance.
Three Riffs on Grass
1. Lawn Reduction, Easy
Once into it, among the weeds
I note that all I need to do is simply cut
the seed stalks off the taller imported
annual exotic grasses, and let them
fall to the ground. No regeneration
possible if done before the seed is ripe.
With that single effort,
The ‘lawn’ can then revert to
Native groundcovers already in place,
wild strawberry, coastal poppy, clovers,
yarrow and other nutrient lovelies that
bloom and leaf out close to the ground,
don’t mind being walked on.
Plenty of room appears to tend
the borders of our beautiful climbing
roses in two shades of pink, and
wisteria, lavender. Beautiful to boot,
effortless to manage, nothing here
that has to be mowed.
More beauty, food and life, no
petrochemicals, no money needed
to pay a man to push a lawnmower.
How is it that I find myself cutting
down for “weeds”, seed-bearing
grasses like those my native California
land ancestors gathered for food?
I’m doing this to simply have a
place to walk where they would have
swished through in chest high grass
with seedbeaters knocking the grains
off grass to fall in their baskets.
When I read about those native
California sisters of so long ago
wading on hill trails through breast high
grasses harvesting seed together,
I long to walk back through time,
Into and through the pages of
Malcolm Margolin’s Ohlone Way
to arrive in the native California
past, go there, be with them, walk
the hills where they walked with them.
And gather seed for food for my
More than anything else,
that is what I want to do.
Fashion Page, Miss June
Wheeling Grocery Cart with
Clementine, Palace Market
Exiting through tall glass doors, that
swing wide open, open, I am startled
to behold Miss June wheeling out
before me, her daughter, Clementine
riding happily high in the cart seat
over the groceries, waving a drum on a
stick with feathers, wearing an Indian headdress,
purple knit shawl, with upside-down
triangle pattern in red striping on a tan
skirt, black cowgirl boots, all gifts from a
dumpster diving friend, I later hear.
Miss June, so pretty, lithe and
physically engaging, as ever, is wearing
a short black jersey dress, light grey hooded
sweater, moves dancer-like, lightly elegant
even on very pointy brown leather high heels.
Striped leggings, black, grey and brown wool
scarf complete the outfit.
It’s how she moves, the way she’s
Created this fun theater with Clementine,
an improv dancer expressing delight and
perfect joy that makes the scene so unforgettable.
A welcome contrast, this exhilaration,
after the humdrum, mechanical taking of
money in the checkout line.
Witnessing the Production of Wealth
After overhearing some discussion of
this last night at Pub Night, with a lawyer
financier and retired corporate chief, I
’ve been reminded of how my elderberry
does it as the only tree I planted in my
garden strip, to echo the only other large
existing tree in the area, a cotoneaster across the lot.
Another tree was needed to balance the space,
echo the shape, create structure and a connection
in dialog. The blue elderberry would grow to
about the same size, a more native counterpart
to this exotic, get something going on the land.
Because of the strong coastal wind sweeping
across that lot, the tender elderberry sapling
could not grow straight up fast, but had to
measure its leaf production carefully against
the available light, wind and ground mass.
And so it stayed low, and started spreading horizontally,
proliferating leaf mass like crazy, close to the ground,
where it could become the wealth of leaves
created in harmony with the available sunlight,
wind conditions and topography.
It did so perfectly, producing an unexcelled
leafy mass turning CO2 into oxygen, creating cover,
saving moisture in the soil.
It created a beauty perfectly expressive
of the time and place, which could not have
been imagined beforehand, as life
responded directly to responded to conditions.
Given the prevailing wind and weather,
it may take some time for it to create a mass
able to dialog with cotoneaster, but when it does,
it will be an amazing expression of t
time and place on this lot, anchored in the
completely durable value of its being here on earth.
From within the fog
shrouding the southeast skyline,
the winter solstice sun dawns,
streaming light beams, then
gone into fog, then bursting
glorious through banked up clouds.
The land that cradles water
Is the land I want to live in.