Getting over the fear of failure (I crashed my bike)

I made this video ages ago for work and even though we decided not to publish it, it’s still one of my faves 🙂 especially as it’s all about the inevitability of crashing, which I hope can paradoxically motivate all of us to get over our fear of failure.

Thanks to my colleagues Cat and Nadim and Kylie for the motion graphics savvy — turns out it’s not easy to, say, “draw” a red circle into a video, much less one that moves! — and to Luda for moral support always, including encouraging me to share this one ❤

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What does the American flag symbol currently represent?

My friend Annie recently mentioned a grocery trip during which her daughter insisted upon wearing her American flag dress. “What does the American flag symbol currently represent?” she asked. “In my opinion, it’s ignorance and greed at best. What can we do each day to resurrect the pillars this county stands on? We’re so much better than this.”

Annie: I hear you! I don’t claim to have any answers, but I love this question, particularly as an American abroad at this moment in history. I also love that children, like your daughter, aren’t caught up in the outer OR inner turmoil.

To further the conversation, I’ve just dug up this article I wrote some years ago for the Bolinas Hearsay (then my local newspaper). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, at least scroll down to the Wendell Berry poem at the bottom!

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The Psychedelic Seniors: StuArt and friends

A bit of context for those of you unfamiliar: Bolinas is a town that takes it’s July 4th celebrations Verrrrrrry Seriously. It’s easily the biggest celebration of the year, drawing tourists from far and wide for the parade, a showcase for small-town agrarianism, creative genius, and a heavy dose of progressive politics. The day also features a tug-of-war between Bolinas and Stinson, the small town across the lagoon channel.

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Bolinas women about to win the tug-of-war against Stinson 2015

I almost used the tug-of-war metaphor to represent the place we find ourselves in today, as citizens of countries and as humans with hearts, but as Annie says, “we’re so much better than this!” What about something along the lines of… let’s forego sides and ALL take up the rope and use it as a tool to achieve some shared goal? I want to stay optimistic, as angry as I am. Tonight I’m joining a class on Buddhism, social change, and non-violent action. I am curious to see what tools present themselves, and hope to report back soon.

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Bolinas Hearsay, July 2011

On the afternoon of July 5th 2010, I was wandering up from the beach on Wharf Road. I followed the stars and stripes painted in red, white, and blue along the road, beaming at the memory of watching them magically appear a day earlier behind the tractor during the parade, our latest gift from the always-inspiring, always-surprising Gospel Flat Farmer-artist-provocateurs.

Just then, Mickey and Sam Murch themselves drove up in the farm truck. Still grinning, I told them that they – the farmers and their art – were the highlight of my Fourth of July!

But Sam’s look was somber. “Some people complained to [name omitted]. We’re here to clean up,” he told me, nodding toward the pressure washer and lengths of hose in the back of the truck. “Apparently people aren’t necessarily mad that we painted on the road – it’s that they don’t want to look at American flags.” Continue reading

Inverness Almanac: a biased review from a contributor

The first volume of the Inverness Almanac moved me on a number of levels. The publishers, a group that coalesced around a dear friend of mine, curated such a delicious collection of photographs and drawings and writings and maps and recipes and seasonal markers! And then they pulled it all together into a stunningly beautiful package, a book that is a work of art in and of itself.

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I had been visiting West Marin since before my birth, appreciating its topography and ecology since I’ve been a conscious human, and living there for years when they released Volume 1. And yet the sense of place conveyed within this Almanac opened my eyes to my surroundings in a completely different way. It was as if my powers of observation had been magnified. Everything seemed different, more luminous, containing so much more to discover if I could sit still long enough — or return frequently enough — to receive it.

That first Almanac also shook awake my writer’s muscle. I found myself unable to pass through the landscape without composing Continue reading

Resources for dating in small communities

For most of the decade from 2007-2017, I lived in West Marin. Bolinas was home for most of that time but I also spent a lot of time in Point Reyes Station (where I rented office space for a couple of years). These small towns are nestled amongst some of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes upon, much less had the privilege of living in.

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West Marin’s relatively small population presented (and still presents, I assume?) some challenges in the realm of intimate relationships. Though serial monogamy seemed to be the norm, it wasn’t the only relationship structure practiced within in this constellation of towns. We dated one or more of our neighbors; we became exclusive and shacked up for a spell; we broke up, moved away, and/or moved on to new partners… and not always in that order.

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How to move to New Zealand from the US

Sometimes when people in positions of power do things I find absurd and infuriating, I get depressed, cranky, angry, and/or despondent. Other times, I’m more productive, getting all academic, or trying to draw personal connections so people might understand that these decisions will affect real people. Last Friday, I channelled my frustration into making this video guide to various visa options for Americans wanting to move to New Zealand:

To be abundantly clear: you can’t actually move away from climate change. Nor do I believe that anyone, Americans abroad or citizens from any other country, can escape the responsibility to be part of the solution to this or any other political absurdity.

But this was still a super fun opportunity to learn how to edit video on my iPhone using iMovie (I’d only ever used that program once before, four years ago, and the full version rather than the mobile version). And I can’t believe how many people have already watched it! Fun times.

I’m not planning to make any more videos any time soon. Of course, it’s entirely possible that news from the White House will drive me to new heights of creativity sooner than I expect.

Reflections on a first Spring and Summer in New Zealand

It’s been exactly six months since Scott and I moved to Auckland from San Francisco, so it seems like a good time to write up a few more quick reflections on the differences between life in those two places:

  • Farmers markets are few and far between.
  • Storms actually affect the price of veggies; after one of the recent tropical cyclones hit, cauliflower and lettuce went up from ~$3 to ~$7 a head (all costs in this post in NZD).
  • Thanks to its Mediterranean climate (not to mention the drought), I’m totally used to California’s hills being crispy and golden for most of the year. It really felt odd to me that New Zealand’s bright green grassy hills stayed that way all through Spring AND Summer, even though it does make sense given the regular rains.
  • Leaving the house without a layer is usually OK. Really. Even in the evening. But you never know when it might rain, so keep the umbrella handy.
  • You can actually swim in the ocean(s) here! Without a wetsuit! And there are so many beaches right in the city that we haven’t even come close to checking all of them out. Ditto all the beaches within an hour’s drive of our place.

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Some longer reflections after four months in New Zealand

Here are a few more remarkable things about life in Auckland, longer-format this time, with some links for good measure:

This is NOT a litigious society. It doesn’t need to be, because the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) “provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.” It’s funded by levies collected from motor vehicle operators (through licensing fees and petrol sales), wage earners (via income tax), and the government (via general taxes). Thanks to the ACC, your medical costs and even most of your lost wages (the latter only if you work in New Zealand) due to accidents are covered, even if an injury happens while you’re at work or playing a dangerous sport or on the premises of a business. How this actually feels different on the ground is that we regularly encounter all sorts of things that you simply would not find in the US, like massive public play structures that kids could actually fall off of, cliffs at lookouts without fences to prevent falls, people walking around everywhere (inside and outside) with bare feet, absurd pits of unmitigated mud at music festivals (I’m still somewhat traumatized by last weekend’s Splore experience), uneven stairways without hand rails, and the like. So much lost revenue opportunity for the poor insurance companies, ambulance-chasing attorneys, and safety device manufacturers, to name but a few! But it sure seems a lot more efficient to handle things this way.  Continue reading

Reflections upon moving to New Zealand

We’ve now been in Auckland for two months – here’s a quick summary of some differences between life here and life in the San Francisco Bay Area that have struck me, avoiding the most obvious, in no particular order:

  • Almost all egg yolks are the gorgeous orange I associate with pastured eggs back home.
  • We’ve traded burritos for fish & chips, and approximately 1,000 options for Chinese dumplings. Though we have found one brand of halfway decent corn tortillas, we’ve yet to find any tortilla chips or salsas worth buying again.
  • Toilets don’t swirl the other way; in fact, they all seem to be low-flow, dual-flush… and what little water does go down, goes down straight.
  • Big, fluffy clouds (with and without rain) pass through on a regular basis, which makes for lots of rainbows and generally dramatic skyscapes, particularly at sunset. It is quite different from the standard coastal Bay Area options of clear, fog, or total cloud cover.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way.

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Don’t rob yourself of the now: Timmy’s tribute to José as a balm for those who grieve

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My interview with climber, comedian, friend, and _____* Timmy O’Neill is now live on Xero Gravity, please check it out!

Timmy was a consistent presence during my Yosemite years, and he recently wrote a beautiful tribute to our late friend José, asking:

How do you bring someone long gone, back to life, and what are the physical and emotional artifacts that allow you to personify him?

I feel similarly trying to describe Timmy; *there are precious few words for describing those people who just vibrate at a higher level, even when they are still with us Continue reading

Chris van Leuven: my other “brother”

chris-vlChris van Leuven spent quite a bit of time at our house in high school, so much so that I often thought of him as the third sibling in the family. Things at his house weren’t going that well, we gathered, but neither my brother nor I asked many questions. Instead, we would bring him home after our afternoon sessions at the local boulders or climbing gym. We’d let his endless stream of words, spoken in such animated, rapid succession that anyone else would have struggled to comprehend, melt into our own stories from the day. Often, all three of us would be speaking at the same time, but that didn’t hinder our understanding.

In the Spring of 1996, I was just finishing my first year of college in Montreal while Chris was actually living our high school dream of dirtbagging in Yosemite Valley. Continue reading