Artist Practice Day 1

Today was the first time I really sat down and looked through my work for the last year. Not all of it was great, there were some good beginnings and ideas I’ll carry through on in my work for the next few weeks, some I’ll forget, but it was an interesting day of progress. I started by finally updating my Instagram, which I abandoned during the pandemic. I don’t really use IG except as a way to show art. It’s almost like a standard now for getting shows. I put together an online gallery and then worked toward getting all the work together from the last six months, posted it, and finally felt ready to take a step back.

I don’t have many photographs to document my day to day art practice. We often don’t take photos except of things in nature, our walks and hikes, which have become so infrequent that they’re really important to me. So I set up a camera, took a quick photo in the early morning light, made even and clear in the open fog. It caught something I didn’t quite expect. It looked like a photo I could have captured at any time. It’s probably the only photo of me, a self portrait, that clearly showed something about openness. In the shadow figure it looked almost like a completely open space against the light of the day. I looked at it for hours really trying to answer a question, who are we? Are we what we seem or an ability to change with everything we encounter. Complete freedom. I posted the photo and put it in my gallery on twitter to watch how it would affect the other images around it as a kind of sequence. I’ll always love this photo.

What it prepared me for though, was spending a day completely open, not forcing anything, just being receptive of anything I came across. This is a photo of listening, a photo of the open eye seeing all that comes in front of it, yet abstracted to a point with a single point of light, which is in many ways how I see meditation, single pointed meditation. I looked at for hours. And then after studying it, looked through some of the amazing art I’ve seen on twitter in the NFT space and started to share it.

There are so many new artists who inspire me, and are guiding me to every new step of my creative process. The art being made right now, in my opinion, is the best art of any time period. So much is coming together. I don’t have my art criticism at the ready for any of it, but the fact that it’s all digital in a digital space is so important and amazing. It feels like the future really came together for me today, and that started with my work on another digital platform, where I took close photography of my blood and skin, with the light passing through. I looked through all the social channels and thought, this was a great first day taking my art practice seriously. I’ll make more art starting tomorrow, but today was a really important first day. I was so present and aware that I was ready to take it all in, without judgement or elaboration. Today was such an exciting day that I don’t want to go to bed. I’ve never felt that way before, but the art is so good. I’m in love with art again, and I’m finally able to express my voice without fear. There is total freedom in expression, even against censorship and hate. And in those moments, everything becomes so full of hope and life, that everything else seems to drip away.

I hope my photography can show that we don’t have to be afraid. We can show up for ourselves even when so many voices try to suppress us, and tonight I’m not afraid of the dark. The night is just as beautiful as the day.

Working at Peets

I may step down from what is, in all likelihood, one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I’ve been working part-time at Peets Coffee, a place I love so dearly. It’s been with me for so many years, and it’s been amazing to finally be on the inside, working with the baristas and everyone who brings the team together. If you’re ever looking for a place to really grow and build your strength up, and be around a vibrant community, definitely consider a job as a barista, and this shop has so many resources to make that happen. I’ve made a lot of drinks there so far. I’ve been there for a month. But I realized after thinking this morning, that really I already know every inch of that shop, with the exception of what our manager goes through. I’ve made all the essentials, lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, and all the rest, and I even made a frappe. Someone got them, I’ll never know who. There are so many things that happen when you’re working the line, you have to pivot from conversation to conversation, remember customers and orders, in an act of friendliness and pure love. I could work there forever. It’s so incredible. It may be time to go, but I hope if anyone’s looking for something really fun and engaging to do to try it out. I have to head into my shift in a bit, but I really hope anyone who reads this blog might consider it, as we’re entering a new phase of the pandemic it may be the best thing you can do, and for me, it definitely is. Had a lot of coffee this morning. I’ll always be a Peetnik.

Sciences

James swiftly moved in circles around the room, like the chalk in the drawings of the magic officers, looking from one painting to another. “This is language,” James thought.  “It’s almost as if they’re talking to each other. These aren’t paintings. This is a conversation.” “And James, you will learn their stories, their language,” came a voice. James turned around to see who was speaking. In the open door stood Claire, resting her shoulder against the wall of the door. “I told you there were no goodbyes,” Claire said. 

The light hit the leaves of the canopy into bright shafts of radiant light, and R76-8723 walked in the clearing until arriving at the specific location. There was the work at hand. Her sensory vision called up the temporal display unit divider, she activated the visual display from a grid of images, from previous experiments. The data indicated that the green lower canopy had yet to be analyzed. Her reverse silver auxiliary six-armed grappling mechanism swung her to the lower branches: each arm grasped at the branches in the higher unit. Not that she could tell the differences between the facility and positive or negative aberrations. After all, she was a cybernetic being with little regard, if any, for any sense of fatigue, with the exception of what might require system maintenance. If she ever had any instances of disruption of the mobility mechanisms, she wouldn’t be able to repair them and would need to return immediately to the central repair unit, and she was very careful not to overload the system. 

James looked up at the door, took a deep breath, and walked inside. The hallway was enormous. It’s white halls softly lit by the sun of the afternoon, through two windows above the door, and on the right side of the wall, leading to a large opening, to where James did not know. James stood in the hallway for a moment, and then walked up a small flight of stairs to where a door was open, leading to a small room. James walked inside. Inside, there was a small kitchen, a screen, and four windows, with yellow window blinds, through which a warm glow passed through into the room, creating an almost sunset haze in the glowing environment. There was a bed, with brown bed coverings, and a small desk. James put down his things and sat on the bed, looking up, and then he saw it.

The canopy had a light wind, her sensory mechanisms informed her. Taking samples of the plant forms at the green canopy form, in places, she could see through the leaves to the floor of the forest. It was a far drop, as tall as a deep canyon. If she fell she would break her system, and shut down from the power unit disruption, her memory databank informed her in a lower visual system. It was designed to assist her. 

I spent the entire night in a raptured daze as I worked on each of the paintings, fall, winter, spring summer, and I remember this exactly because of what happened when I finished the last one. My phone went off, the alarm bell set for the time I had programmed to be how I would wake up every day. The phone started playing a music piece that sounded like the sunrise, and I watched this moment pass as the waking sounds allowed me to see that the last piece I was working on was an abstraction of the sun, which I chose for summer.

James may have stood in front of it for hours, he just didn’t know, and then turning around he looked at the rest of the room. He didn’t notice before that directly across from the orange figure, on the wall, was another painting, seated like the one he was looking at, yet this time, this color was blue. He knew this one. This was one of the images of the constellations, the color of the night sky, for healing, as night often does, at the end of the day. The room was completely silent. At least he thought it was. He may have just imagined it was, but either way, there was nothing blocking him from being lost in thought, of these images.

The cybernetic beings of the science and ecology division relied on the visual system to process information data. It wasn’t visual, necessarily, but the original designers devised a system that would reflect the reality of the visual world. Since the identification of test samples required simultaneous analysis, it was imperative that the data would be visual. It was a way to compartmentalize and analyze multiple sensory units. R76-8723’s sensory mechanisms and camera unit were almost impossibly detailed. Simultaneously a stereoscopic sub atomic microscope and what, historically, could be called a telescopic lens that could detail the entire atmosphere and the nearest reaches of space, she could constantly see both the most subtle workings of the deepest levels of visual inquiry that could see a holistic view of the universe and the deepest workings of the atomic level. 

Focusing on the task at hand, R76-8723 focused on one part of one leaf in the canopy that had alarmed the science division. There was a strange colouration reflected in the morning light. The effect of the reflection of the transparent view across the green surface, with areas of gentle light from the light reflectors above the atmosphere of Gaia, was in a way, it’s own atmosphere. Cloud forms moved across the interior. She focused on that area, and the display recognition system shifted into subatomic mode. She was, in human terms, surprised. The data that came back indicated that there was a strange consistency within the cloud forms within the green and yellow color form reality. There was nothing there, and then it happened. A soft wind parted the ceiling of branches, and the reflector light shone directly, brightly onto the deepest reaches of the plant extensions deepest unit. It was a limitless sky. She had never indicated in any tests, as she rapidly searched all visual databases in a matter of less than a second, that there was any record of such an occurrence. 

Central informed her across the atmospheric communications system for her to retrieve a sample; she removed the sample from the branches and then it happened. The leaf immediately became a sky of colours, and then shattered in her hands, but there, in the interior what was left was like a subatomic glowing sun. This is what we came for, her division informed her in her communications system. Placing the sample in her storage compartment on her back, she swung across each branch until she was at the forest basin, and headed back toward the science division center. There was a soft blue colouration of the forest floor, like an impossibly clear visual indication system of the reflected light from the forest’s arching branches of soft, impenetrable light. 

Heading back over the forest basin and back into the central system, the life forms gave way to the chrome and pale white city as it reached toward the distances. It was so familiar that R76-8723 shut down the auxiliary visual systems and allowed the automatic drive systems to begin. The next moment R76 was awakened was in one of the storage and retrieval libraries, moving the compartment from her back, she placed the enclosure on a table. 

“What did you find?,” came a voice. R76 turned around. An identical unit walked toward the room, and R76 recognized that this was one of the interior scientist aberrationists, AB-782, and she opened the container. “I was surprised, I have no idea what I found. It was like a shattering glass of energy stored within one of the canopies. It was encapsulated into a kind of circular form. Could you take a look?” The aberrationist looked inside for the sample. “There’s nothing here,” the scientist said. R76 looked inside. “Maybe it was lost?” she said. “Maybe”, said AB-782 “Or possibly it didn’t exist.”. 

A small painting was on the wall across from him. He gazed into it deeply, until time stood still. At the center of the painting was a seated, orange figure, framed in yellow, blue, and brown, appearing on the surface, yet seeming to exist in real space. James expected them to move, but they were silent, seemingly for infinite time. He got up and walked toward it.

Lets shut you down for system repairs and I’ll look inside. The visual sensory displays went into a low hum, and within moments she fell asleep. When she regained visual system activation, and she realized she was inside the central systems consciousness. She heard a voice. “R76,” came the voice, “We’re temporarily gaining control of your consciousness simulator took look at the data you may have obtained,” this wont take long. Luckily you won’t be bored, we’ve removed the time simulation from your generation of science units. “Thanks, but the impatience simulation was left on by mistake,” she said. “No it hasn’t,” said central consciousness. “We just activated your sense of the absurd. You may find you need it.” 

In what seemed like moments, her eyes opened, and she saw the room around her. “We have your report,” said one of the assistant drones. “Central has detected an aberration of your power systems. You may not believe this, but you may never need to be recharged. Something has happened that has altered your electromagnetic sources. What was the sample you were retrieving? Central couldn’t detect a record of it in any of your auxilliary system controls.” “It was a bright light,” R76 replied. “From what we can tell,” said the assistant, “That may have been a source of pure energy. We don’t know where it came from. It’s not one of ours. It’s changed you.” “But what happened to it?”

“Ok,” Claire said. “We’re here.” James and Claire stepped off the caterpillar and onto the broken pavement. The Caterpillar making a sound like a stream of air, as it lifted up and curled up in its first motions to its next destination. As always, James was distracted examining the lines of each break in the ground, until he finally noticed how close they were to the door. James had been to the magic officers center before, but only in dreams, and, physically, in the remote viewing systems within the Research facility where they worked. “They taught me everything,” Claire said. “This is a new moment for you, James. I think you’re ready for this.” James smiled, “I hope you’re right Claire, and by the way, you never told me why you thought we were in danger.” “James, I don’t know,” Claire said. “I only know fragments. They may want the solar research we’ve been working on, but I don’t know. I’ve thought about it over and over for days, in stolen moments in the research center, which I will never get back.” “I always wondered what you were working on,” said James “No one ever gave you any assignments.” “There’s so much I can’t say, though I’ve told you everything,” Claire said. “Not in words, but in the moment I fell apart, and you put me back together. In your reflected light.”

R76 asked. “R76,” said the assistant. “That light is you.”

As it is in each of us, inside of all of us. A limitless, open sky.

Climate Workshop


It’s the end of the workday here in Fairfax. It’s been a busy day but I wanted to get this all down on paper. It’s an unusual day, and I think I’ll know just what it means if I write this post. Where to start. I think I’ll do this linearly, even though that’s not really how I think. It’s the moments in between that matter the most to me, the spaces and silences in between each step, the individual moments as they pass and fall, the inherent emptiness of each action, but as I refilled my cup with so much life the day before, today was an outpouring of progress and action, and here’s how that went.

Around 1 am I woke up for almost no reason at all. I just opened my eyes and I was awake, and I knew I couldn’t go back to bed. I walked into the living room, gathered my things, sat down, and picked up my tablet. I wanted to paint the changing seasons. The style I’ve been developing that’s been getting such a good reaction is one I’ve been working through and developing for around two years. I remember showing a prototype, more along the lines of reinterpreted William Morris designs with an abstracted grunge texture that I began when I was a student at CCA. Even then, it was considered one of the standouts of my period there, but I ignored it out of a growing depression that clouded my mind.

Depression creeps almost unaware. I never thought I had it until it became a steady rhythm, causing me to abandon great ideas and constantly search for another approach. I didn’t realize though that’s essentially what college is about, finding different ways to explore your own abilities, and while clinically it caused my depression, it was some of these creations that led a way out. I don’t think depression can just be so easily overcome, and I know I attribute my healing to both a good deal of cultural strengthening and also the medicine I take to balance my overall sense of self. That’s just the way it works. If you ever feel that kind of depression, it’s great to check in with a therapist. That’s how, after many years, I was finally able to free myself of the worst side effects of clinical depression. I’ve been stable now for almost three years, even in the face of what might be perceived as inescapably difficult odds. I know I’ll never feel totally secure but I believe I have the ability to grow now, and that’s what I focus on.

The way the style works is that I quickly make oil paintings using my own gesture sequences on an iPad, and then work carefully for hours on the color work and texture until I come to a solution that I did not expect. I almost think of what I do as a combination of photography and painting, since many of the tools I use once the traditional paintings are made have, like many of the tools in photoshop, their foundation in photographic techniques. I was trained in a dark room at SFAI and the tension between the critical moment when I dropped out of a painting class and enrolled in photography is preserved perfectly in the practice I’ve developed. It’s all an abstracted photographic art of organic flow paintings. It’s the closest thing to acrobatics I do.

I was compelled, for no reason, in particular, to make a series of paintings depicting the changing seasons, so that I could really feel each moment of them while I engaged in a climate workshop. I wanted to really use my time in between sessions (it was all day, for two days), to think about climate on my own terms, which for me this week was focusing on arts and literature, less on policy.

I spent the entire night in a raptured daze as I worked on each of the paintings: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, and I remember this exactly because of what happened when I finished the last one. My phone went off, the alarm bell was set for the time I had programmed to be how I would wake up every day. The phone started playing a music piece that sounded like the sunrise, and I watched this moment pass as the waking sounds allowed me to see that the last piece I was working on was an abstraction of the sun, which I chose for summer.

It was 4 am. I finished the piece, quieted the phone, cataloged and uploaded the final pieces into their respective media, and then spent the next hour and a half or so reading comments and studying what I had done. It’s the best-regarded work of any of my paintings in the last four months, but I realized that that really didn’t matter anyway. The paintings were like medicine I had made for my own journey, and I knew that as Walt Whitman intimated, making my own medicine might mean that I could have made it for anyone, and in that simple post was a shared offering. This was possibly the most impactful intervention I could have made. I made some coffee and sat back, researched for the second time of the day, and waited for the online workshop to begin.

It was a workshop called Climate Candidates Accelerator, which was a group learning session about engaging with public policy and leadership for climate change. I didn’t know what to expect but it was amazing, but there were some critical moments for me that I wanted to write down. The first presentation was about forming our own narrative about our climate journey, and that’s when things became interesting, and some of the best insights I’ve ever been able to develop began. We were shown an arc narrative, a western story construct that, while effective, and some may say the only method, of crafting a “well-told” story. Yet as I offered to the group, it’s not the only way. There is also a view of literature that is itself a kind of overstory.

And many of my great heroes, whether poets or prose writers, have long engaged in a kind of resistance against these western ideals and posed a different way to conceptualize the story. This is in many ways experimental, but I can’t help it. Almost all of the ideas I was taught at the schools I went to were experimental in a way. These institutions have been my home base and source of training for almost ten years.

And it might be that this way of looking at narratives is what storytelling may need to become. Divergent, multiple perspectives can always lead to a different reality than the hero journey so popularized. I love arc narratives. I love Disney, Marvel, and all of the artistry that comes from this architectural form, yet since I watch these films so visually, you almost might say that these stories, the best of them, are their own form of multi visualization. I don’t think it’s any mistake that for almost two decades my favorite films were film production documentaries, when there were groups forming the reality of the story they were documenting, yet their own journeys within them were so real, so important. We were given the basic outline, and then we were divided into groups to test our own versions, and that’s how my journey began.

We met in groups and had five minutes to say our climate story, and get feedback. What I found was that I really figured it out, aided by notes I had made before, of just what led me to the climate crisis, which I’ll include here now that I know. At the original meeting, I was just putting it together. I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but in 2017, my first semester at CCA, I wrote a short science fiction story about environmental collapse, and within two years I was in a writing class at CCA.

The writing program was in a separate building, a nondescript locked door that looked just like any of the industrial buildings in the design district in San Francisco. You had to ring a buzzer, and someone would let you in. And then you entered a secret garden of rocks and trees, leading to a stone floor room of windows and comfort. It took me a long time to find it, but once the door was opened, and I was inside, it felt like home.

I adored the writing class, they were why I started a non-profit for poetry two years ago, and they were like a shelter for all of my ideas. Nothing was discounted. We were all almost in love. Deep connections, sharing complete freedom and joy. Yet at the same time, the fires began. Within moments it seemed like we were wearing N95 masks against a bright red and orange sky. Smoke at dangerous levels, until we were all told to shelter indoors. I remember these days completely.

The fear of wondering if your windows were too porous, the thought that we might need to seal the windows even more shut. The reality of not being able to order an air filter quickly, and the feeling of sickness from polluted air. The devastation was miles away, and we felt it in the bay, and it went so far as to cause problems across the coast. It was a terrifying, gritty time to be alive. How could I have not paid attention?

My entire thesis was devoted to this concept, which I wanted to develop into a series of experimental designs exploring various aspects of the colony on a moon of Saturn. I designed robots and solar structures, I envisioned a biodiversity culture within new worlds, wondering out loud if there was a future for humanity, which at that close proximity, seemed almost out of reach. So why am I explaining this? Because the series of books I developed from this concept moving into where I left off earlier this year, was intended to be a divergent narrative shift that would reexamine the role of time and perception in the form of the novel if that could even be a term.

The story I had developed was both dream and reality, a series of three timelines that could be interspersed within each other to become something more, something I didn’t expect, and one that was always changing. It’s this same situation that I was developing within the paintings. It’s always open, and I feel like this subtle shift, not unlike what I wrote about before in the press briefing piece from a couple of days ago, allowed the work to become more than what it appeared to be at surface value. That’s what I was looking at changing. So much in our culture, especially limited in the building of these simple narrative forms, the good vs. evil, the binaries, the purity culture, all of it well documented in theory, was expressed in the simple paintings from earlier in the evening. I realized at that point that I was on a long journey, maybe the most important of the last few years. I realized that I had to continue writing, and that’s why I’m here right now writing this down. I will continue this book at some point.

Then we were given some charts and methods to categorize our power structures and support systems. This felt completely out of line with what I understand my network to be but I’ve never visualized it before. I know a lot of people, so it proved fairly difficult to do in the session. We were told to get a few pieces of paper. I don’t have any paper right now so I grabbed my iPad and tried to find a pen in ProCreate to take notes with. I kept selecting the wrong brush. Brushes that looked like markers, while writing turned into broad ink strokes as I looked at surprisingly as they fell on the page. We were supposed to categorize, but how could I, I sat for a few moments and then automatically started drawing a circle. Then I stopped and looked at it. It was, as I soon found out, an Enso. As written about in an article here, this is a description of an enso.

Enso (formally spelled ensō) is a sacred symbol in Zen Buddhism meaning circle, or sometimes, circle of togetherness. It is traditionally drawn using only one brushstroke as a meditative practice in letting go of the mind and allowing the body to create, as the singular brushstroke allows for no modifications. While at first glance, the enso symbol appears no more than a misshapen circle, it symbolizes many things: the beauty in imperfection, the art of letting go of expectations, the circle of life, and connection. The enso is a manifestation of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of our innermost self. It symbolizes strength, elegance, and one-mindedness.

My day was peaceful from that point further. For the rest of the session, I stayed completely silent because I realized I had already learned what I had come here for and was able to just listen to the amazing community, many of whom feel like we’re already becoming friends. There were folks working on their campaigns, students with eager questions, amazing speakers, more learning and growing. It was beautiful, every moment of it, and as I said when I left at 2pm and was back home by 4 with a booster shot, twelve hours after I had finished my four seasons paintings. What I learned is that after hearing about what every speaker told us would be good for effective leadership I already have. I work with the public, seeing people and being kind for six hours a day in a front-line job, I write and have social efforts, and I’m already on a town committee for climate action. I can’t do more. This is absolutely everything I could possibly do, and I do it without hope of public office or power. Softness. We need to change the narratives. We can’t be caught in some kind of a childish tug of war between numerical entries, that’s an illusion, and it’s dangerous.

We need to reframe the very structure of how these stories are told because no one is a god, no one is a devil, and it’s these structural choices that prevent us from having an urgent need to address the climate and all of the issues we face so that we can all see a better day. I want to live in a world where all people are heroes, and everyone sees within themselves a spark of hope. That’s why I turned to Buddhism even in high school. In that narrative structure, Buddha-nature is within. We all have it, and that’s not powerlessness, that’s because the mystery is in all of us. The world is more than we feel it is. It’s only ignorance that clouds our way. And not anti-academic ignorance, just the blindness that turns us away from the miraculous, that on days like this, seem so open and undeniable. This was a perfect day for me, and I never realized I would feel it. The world could change right now if you let it.

This is, in its best instance, a strange way to conclude this post. But I realized I forgot to say just what I realized changed everything for me in my journey of climate activism and public service, which right now is at Peets, and if I ever need to be anywhere else, I will be, but right now it’s within the design, communications, and the visual arts. It’s very simple.

I went with a friend of mine to a Fridays for the Future March in San Francisco, and I didn’t know what to expect. We walked together through the crowd of youth activists, and somehow I got whisked away into the thick of it, right at the front of the line, and felt the cries of the students around me, the next generation. And for the first time, I emotionally felt their calls. It was a simple cry for action, not sad, not angry, just a plea, with all of the sense of frailty that that word has in its symbology and inflection. It was just a plea for a better world, for our leaders to come to their senses, and just do what’s right.

I realized at that moment that I would do everything I could for them, whether that’s making inspiring paintings, serving coffee, telling stories, writing posts, or anything they need. Today, I gave everything I could to this struggle, and in that sense, in some way, found my own way home, and that was just where I started, as an enso shows, so carefully balanced between beginning and end, a part made whole, a line to form and in all of that an empty space that is not quite an end and not quite a beginning. I need to study more. As someone said to me, we need to fill our cups as much as we pour out. So If you’ve read this you’ve had a good day at Reluctant Blogger Coffee Shop, where I poured out my soul for 17 hours. And now it’s time to rest, and heal. I am so excited, happy, and calm, and can’t wait for a new day.

What I Learned from Watching Jen Psaki Press Briefings


At the beginning of the Biden Administration, right after seeing Amanda Gorman read her poem at the swearing in ceremony, I became fascinated with politics. It’s not something I had thought about, apart from what we can’t avoid in our lives. During other administrations, I just assumed everything would be taken care of, so I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I just assumed everything would always be something I could take for granted. I was just some crazy artist, I thought, and the rest would be up to very smart people in a very different, separate world. All that was an illusion, and as I now know almost everything changes day by day. So what’s constant? Staying steady in a storm, as so much happens around us, only poetry and zen guided my way. Buddhism had always been my foundation, going back into the earliest memories I had. Star Wars, the hero story of my youth, had so much of a foundation in this, so much so that I won’t repeat here. And it’s not that important for what I’m writing about right now, but if you’ve ever read any of my other writing you might find that it is actually something that’s very dear to me.

The swearing in ceremony was full of speeches, and I followed all of it, from its earliest hours to the fireworks at the end. The night ended, and somehow I went to sleep and then I was able to wake up and get on with my day. We were still living in an old artist loft before we had really gotten our act together after school. Everything in the previous seven years, during a series of guided academic pathways, during which I thought about nothing else but the assignments and tasks that were placed in front of me, were like a blur. But sometime during the following week I happened to come across a press briefing, and for the first time I saw a team of reporters from all segments of society, asking Jen Psaki questions about the administration. That’s how I started to understand what was going on.

I can’t remember when I first saw this, but C-Span’s coverage is not like many other networks, who only focus on the Press Secretary, in an unwavering constant camera lens. It focused on everyone asking questions, and that’s when I realized I couldn’t let go. I saw and listened deeply to this incredible group of reporters, and to me that was the America I needed. It’s a slight shift in camera angles at a press briefing, but in that multiplicity, I found something familiar, and even though I don’t know any of the journalists personally, I felt like I was joining in. The same way I had questions, so did they, and I watched it all

I read a lot of journalism. I have around 26 sites I go to various points of the day, staying updated on all of the various headlines in order to get a more cohesive view of language and perspectives. I stay and read articles on a few sites, but I also try and stay meta, and try to make connections. But nothing was like the press briefings. Honestly, it’s both the most difficult and best part of my day when I can catch it. There’s such a camaraderie of very smart people just trying their best to understand, and get clarity. It doesn’t stop there for me. I also try and keep up with the reporters in a twitter list that I look at now on my 10 minute breaks from work at the coffee shop, and I’ve even gone so far as to purchase in bulk, a reporters notebook so that I can take notes on the coffee drinks when we get a difficult order. I try to read our guests at Peets just as carefully as when the press pool tries to read the reality around them at any of the official meetings. Seeing things this way gives me a way to remind myself that I am at service, the same way all of the press briefing does for our country. I read journalism as if it’s the most important thing for me to read at anytime, and for six hours a day at the coffee shop, I consider my practice to be that of a reporter, except for the difference that I am reporting to the baristas how our guests would like their coffee to be. It gets me through the day, and I go right from work back to the apartment, sit down, and for the first hour I’m home check in with the other reporters who are gathering information that is just as important as the dryness of a cappuccino. They’re gathering information on what’s happening at the highest levels of government. But I’ll bet a lot of them had coffee at some part of their day before work.

Jen Psaki is answering questions at most of the briefings. She’s tough and kind, direct when she needs to be, and does an amazing job making sure all voices are heard. I don’t know quite what she goes through. She always reads as completely honest, and in a lot of ways, seeing her speak and respond on the spot to so many questions is something I’ve never had to deal with. At the coffeeshop, where I have my reporters notebook, I’ve only really been asked a question maybe a few times. Most of the time, I’m just taking orders. It’s my zen practice in full blossoming, just focused on one moment after the other, not even as separate orders, but in each action, clear and without elaboration.

But today someone very sincerely, seeing how I was in a moment that might break my practice, just said “How’s your day going.” It caught me off guard, but it actually came very simply when I just replied, very sincerely, “You know, it’s kind of a stressful day.” And as I said it, I saw the cadence of how I answered the question. I was honest, clear and with a joy that was part joy, part sadness, understanding, and something else I can’t quite put into words, because it’s a feeling beyond actual writing, it almost came from a voice i didn’t know I had. I thought about it a bit tonight. I think I learned that from Jen. What was I looking for when I started to go to the press briefings. What was I looking for when I checked in every day at work to see what the press pool was up to? A lot, more than I can ever put into a blog or writing. There’s probably an avalanche of new stories being written every second that just goes into this, but that’s what I was looking for, just the ability to take all the information that can be thrown out at you, and for the ability to just find something of peace in between, and not to take yourself too seriously.

That’s what joy is, when you can forget yourself, go meta, and just see things for what they are, beyond appearances, and on Jen Psaki’s best days, that’s what she’s taught me. Is there a simple way to describe this? Probably not, but there are probably at least 100 hours of the press pool asking her questions on C-Span right now if you ever want to check them out. I’ve seen them all. I always thought I needed to go to another school to pick up what I had missed in my art education, but it turns out, that was exactly what I was doing over the last year. I didn’t get another degree or honour, but I’ll be taking more orders at Peets tomorrow, right before I start a climate seminar, and I’ll be listening with all the intent of a focused reporter, taking notes in my notebook so that just in case I get asked m\any questions, I can listen with total attention to what’s in my heart and soul, so I can give any answers to any questions that come our way. I can hear my manager right now, as she said before. “We’re not trying to save the world, we’re just making coffee.” And that’s zen. It’s all zen.

Thoughts on Peets Today


Today the shop was busy again, so busy that you almost couldn’t hear what folks were saying. Lines long all morning, lots of excitement and fun. There were only two difficult guests, and what you don’t see that I see when I’m helping out the line, this is an absolutely equal and amazing fabric of life from almost all parts of our world. So many cultures, identities and incredibly unique personalities. I count them all as friends, helping everyone get their orders. Their needs are my own. I love this job. I thought about trying to paint some of the regulars, but we have so many.

I think I helped at least a hundred people today, and from what I could tell everyone got what they wanted. There was one case of mild harassment, inexcusable but childish. I shrugged it off. All in all it was amazing. I learned that I might be leaving the morning shift, but I’ll be handling the morning rush for at least a week. That’s longer than I expected but I think I made a difference. The shop is back on its feet and humming. We’re doing well. I’m so grateful for Peets and all it’s allowed me time to grow in.

It’s a hard job but it’s amazing. And if you ever see me struggling it’s because I’m so focused on listening and reading all of the signals around us to help our team. We did well this morning, and that gives me such joy. It may be strange for blog readers to see both the practical, work focused writing I have in my thoughts about this amazing coffee shop, but it’s necessary. Peace work requires specific detail pragmatism and also the poetic flow states. Both are a reality, and both are true.

My dad used to always say that something he thought was a great asset to me was the ability to be both engaged in flow and dream states and practicality. He once bragged to me that I was called a shaman in a review, lol. Also, I think he was proud that the only subject I did well in in my absolute bomb of a semester at UNT was an economics class. If anything, that allows me to, as my cousin says, be crisp in my writing. Flow states also have moments where the water meets a canyon, the weathered, clean edges made from centuries of rainfall, cutting the form of the stones as each moment passes untracable, yet visible in the form of the towering cliffs. And here I sit, in my imagination, preparing for a new day, somewhere around the edges, where you can see for miles, clear in the early morning sun.

Ocean Sky Daylight

For two days the sky burst open,

And standing in an open field asunder, each moment a dewdrop, passing into the ocean clouds, resting on the appearances below. For two days I slept, reaching into the consciousness of each rainfall. It lasted a moment, then another. Until the echo of each opened a world inside. And yet, is this possible? Within each rain, the promise of a new day?Infinite in possibility. Giving life? In all its wonder? Reaching into a night sky, and then, the brightening day. And in my heart, I drink deeply. Rainfall. And it seems like it would never end. If we hold this in our memory. can we see? That in every step, every moment, an ocean of possibility. And in each drop of water from the sky. a dream.

Burnout

I read an email from AOC today that really struck home. She talked a bit about burnout and how we need time to refill our cup and not always be pouring out of it. It made a lot of sense. It was a beautiful metaphor. I was close to exhaustion but just reading the email was all I really needed. I’ve been working for days and giving so much, literally and figuratively, with both my mind and body in the coffeeshop and my work at Peets.

I finally unplugged from the internet, and just took some time to drink water and sit and listen to music. I spent some time outside just watching the wind go through the trees, the gentle birdsong free of intent, just the atmosphere and me, sounds in the distance, and a steady peace in the quiet as my mind slowly drifted away, into a steady relaxed point. I was defininitely freed from something. My job, which I love, is very difficult. I was so overworked, but didn’t really notice it. The day went well, occasional hicups, but everything felt so easy, even in moments of stress. My team is amazing. It’s like a family. My manager even found a way somehow to get me the time out to focus on a workshop with climate policy, which I’m so grateful for.

But this simple email from her meant so much. It made me go deep inside my mind and find what it really was I needed to do. In my mind I thought about taking a retreat, maybe even resigning from work for a little while. But after I had some water and really let her thoughts enter my mind, and held them for a moment, I found the peace I really needed. It just felt so direct, so shared. I’m so grateful. I put on some Bach and did the dishes, just walked through the apartment and then sat down. Looked at some impressionism and painting books I had around. Nothing remarkable, just everyday things that I may have forgotten. Then put on some proto ambient music and sat down. That’s it really. It’s a silent moment, where I’m sitting right now and writing my thoughts.

The interesting thing though is this came right before I have the first meeting with the Fairfax Climate Action Committee, where for the first time I’ll have a voice as a member, and not a volunteer. And what I realized is that what happened over the last couple of weeks, between all the conversations and requests I listen to every day to make sure everythings staying steady at the coffeeshop, prepared me for this moment. The ability to just listen, carefully, observationally, almost like a science, to the needs of the folks I literally serve every day. If that didn’t prepare me for this meeting I don’t know what will. And all this came through stillness, meditation, and calm. And none of this would have happened without that writing.

I’m still, I’m calm, and maybe that’s a turn of phrase that expresses what I feel in this exact moment, which is very simply, not really anything. I’m just listening. I’m peaceful. This post doesn’t even feel like I’m writing, but I know something real tonight. We’re all connected, and we never know just how powerful our words are when we really reach each other through sharing our difficulties, because we’re all in this together. I’m trying to figure out an artful way to end this post, but I can’t because there’s no ending, just a steady peace, and this, like water, was the thing that I needed to carry on. I can’t wait for this meeting, and I can’t wait to be back at work tomorrow morning, and yes, maybe some painting, privately, unshared, in moments where I can find some peace. Thank you, AOC.

What it’s like working the coffee bar.

When I get on shift at Peets, the moment I set foot on the floor I am in another world. Things look so different. I studied zen so much in the last two years, and I sometimes wondered if that was some kind of an escape, maybe even a part of hubris at wanting to become enlightened. But what I found is that that’s all an academic distinction. The minute I am in that store there is nothing but each motion, without almost any distraction. There’s just too much to focus on.

When I’m at the register, I’m balancing incongrous orders in random bursts. The control system is designed with a careful logic. In many ways it’s an unsophisticated ideograph that doesn’t exist the way people talk. It may look like I’m just typing in a terminal, but I’m not. I’m translating from chaos to logic. When people walk up to the counter they begin quickly announcing things. Most of the time it’s before I even have a chance to log in, not from distraction, but because of the limits of human computation and motor skills. The people I am trying to help with their order may not know this. While I am parsing the infromation and holding it in my memory, I am also balancing listening to announcements from my teammates, a bell sound for finding mobile orders, the sound of the oven, and watching for the door and making sure we’re all balanced in the small corridor where we work.

Because I miss reading journalism and going to press conferences on c-span I bought in bulk a reporters notebook so that I can write down any information that might be missed when orders get changed. It’s practically like being a mentat. There’s nothing that prepares you for this. Most of the people I help, and I’m starting to know, are absolutely respectful and wonderful people, but occasionally we do get experiences that are less than kind. There’s also a sense of protocol and kindness that we have to maintain to keep ourselves from becoming too forefront from the experience. It’s a careful balance.

There are so many people who work in retail. Most of the time a lot of us work at minimum wage, and in my current role without benefits. It’s a very difficult job, and I recently spoke with a PHD who doubted that they could do the job. So why are we so many times unappreciated?

The baristas I work with love what we do. I know, at least this very moment, nothing I would rather do. I could be anywhere. But I’m loving giving coffee for a small exhange every morning in a complete offering of love. It’s a moment I don’t take lightly. So much happens in the chain of events that leads to the moment that I place a coffee in front of the register for one of our visitors. A combination of science, agriculture and technology, weather patterns and rains, the interaction of seasons and the movements of the earth and sun. Nothing can match it. Nothing in the visual design of our company nor any of the conversations we have. Is it just a coffee? Yes. It’s so much more, and yes it’s strong. It’s strong because a lot of us are holding each other up. It’s strong because of the careful attention paid in every step in the process, people who give so much of their time in love for coffee. It doesn’t make much sense. I don’t know why this particular drink, apart from chemical reactions leads to such a fever pitch both for those of us who love coffee, and the tasks we bring to it. If coffee production stops would the world ground to a halt? I don’t know, but it’s possible.

The next time you’re at a Peets take a moment to realize that behind that cup is a radical act of love and teamwork. We’re moving at the speed of light, as one organism. And never forget that espresso is a technology, the greatest and fastest way that we can move at a speed that doesn’t sacrifice artistry. Tomorrow, when I wake up again and step back onto the floor, I hope to bring my absolute all to every moment, so if you’re in line waiting for us, because we are so busy, just know that we can’t wait for you to get your coffee either, and we’re performing acrobatics for very low pay because we love what we do. I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this, but don’t take it for granted. Every moment I am in that store is an act of radical love.

Application to the Fairfax Climate Action Committee

I recently was accepted to the Fairfax Climate Action Committee, which was decided on at a public meeting with the council. I was amazed at the absolute balance of good humor and kindness of the council, and even though I was nervous, the time felt both considered and generative. It’s the first time I met the council, and I see Fairfax so much more clearly through their eyes. They showed me so much about leadership, and were so gracious throughout the interview. Here’s what I submitted as my explanation of why I was seeking membership on the committee.

Town Council,

Today I am applying for membership to the Fairfax Climate Action committee, a group I have been working with as a volunteer for the last month and a half. I’ve been amazed by the expertise of this group, and I’ve been learning so much and making friends with some of the most incredible individuals working tirelessly to bring what they can to the care and long term future of Fairfax, and Marin. I’ve helped with the town picnic outreach, helped on strategy and design for the Engagement committee, and have been present as a member of the public at meetings. I am humbled by the commitee every day. I am so grateful to be a part of it.

I’m currently a member of Climate Changemakers: a climate outreach organization, and I’ve been part of campaigns reaching out to our senators in california about CEPP and Democratic Reforms focused on climate action. I also am part of an All We Can Save Circle where we discuss and meet about, what the architects of the project call “Nurturing a welcoming, connected, and leaderful climate community, rooted in the work and wisdom of women, to grow a life-giving future.” Climate is something I work on almost every day of the week, if not every day of the week. Last month I marched in San Francisco with the Fridays for the Future Rally.

In their own words: FridaysForFuture is a youth-led and -organised movement that began in August 2018, after 15-year-old Greta Thunberg and other young activists sat in front of the Swedish parliament every schoolday for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis. She posted what she was doing on Instagram and Twitter and it soon went viral.”

I was proud to stand with the future leaders, if not todays leaders of the climate movement, and the day is something that lives with me at so many times. It’s our responsibility to change what’s going on in our world, from the ground up. The everyday systems we are currently in need to be rengaged, to work across generations and people across all spectrums. and I think all of this experience will allow me to be a voice on the committee. I also work and study with an incredible team at Peets in Tiburon and can offer a wealth of coffee brewing expertise and coffee fueled insights.

Immediately I’m already working with the engagement subcommittee, and as a lifelong designer with academic and professional experience I plan to lend that to the Climate Action Committee. And first and foremost, I’ll be listening. I’ll be listening across generational and economic divides. I’ll be listening to the days as the time passes as the world itself cries out for change. I’m already a student at the climate action commitee, and I hope to offer a way to bring the work of this committee out into the world as part of of the communications team.

Thank you for your time tonight.