Deep learning in a natural classroom


As a society we want our youth educated. We want them inquisitive, creative, persistent, resilient, and most importantly we want them to problem solve. The collective experience tells us that our youth hold the keys to our future, and investing in them is investing in the future of our territories and our species.
How best to do this remains elusive. A great many people invest time, money, and effort into what they believe works best. What follows is not a scholarly article citing a myriad of studies and authorities lauding one learning regime over another; instead it is one educator’s opinion on a positive alternative to the status quo.
Island High School is a continuation school in Alameda. Students enroll at Island because they are credit deficient and are at risk of not completing high school. The deeper reasons for this are many, varied, and beyond the scope of this piece. However, a common thread is a disconnection between lofty societal ideals, what the students receive, and their readiness to receive it. Island does many things differently inside the classroom and out. The description of what follows would not have been possible without The Alameda Education Foundation, Bay Area Community Resources, and the faculty and administrators who help make what follows possible.
One program is our annual four-day field trip to the Point Reyes National Seashore where students investigate their food sources, the math and science of nature, and develop self-reliance. Students visit local dairies, cheese factories, and spend time cooking their own recipes for the group. They go on day and night hikes through the park, and investigate many of its wonders. Regular lessons that pertain to the activities are peppered throughout. Students start their day around 7am and are busy until about 11pm.
The Point Reyes National seashore is an excellent classroom. Muir woods and the forests of Inverness ridge provide a perfect laboratory on the role of trees and carbon capture. Students estimate tree height, bole volume and weight. They infuse this with data from NOAA to better to understand carbon emissions and carbon capture on a local, global, and geological scale.
Standing on the beach near Coast Camp students can use geometry and trigonometry to investigate earth curvature. Further, looking down the miles of beach toward Limantour, they use area, volume, and exponents to estimate quantity of sand grains on the beach and then compare this to the known quantity of stars during nighttime astronomy lessons. Being in a setting where questions arise organically and then are applied in cross-curricular lessons helps students make connections. They are connecting lessons in one subject to the next while also making connections between what they are learning about, the world around them, and classroom instruction.
Learning about the distance to nearby stars and their size relative to our Sun is reinforced with nighttime hikes and stargazing. Our ancestors looked up for millennia at one of the greatest nighttime shows. Reintroducing this show to our youth who have become far too accustomed to night-time gaming and video viewing inspired some to invent their own constellations and go out for additional night hikes to watch for shooting stars and orbiting satellites.
Many students view equations about logarithms and exponential growth as arcane, and graphs on the white board or video models as too abstract. However, visiting the epicenter of the 1906 earthquake in Bear Valley and seeing the amount of earth that moved, and the geology of those great tectonic shifts, helped students gain an appreciation for the power of a 7.0 earthquake. With these fresh images in hand, students start to better understand the Richter scale as a logarithmic measurement of sinusoidal force waves. On a hike to Divide Meadow students compared earthquake magnitudes to distances walked and get a solid kinesthetic understanding of how much larger a 9.0 is than a 4.0.
Students investigated properties of nasturtiums (The Lotus Effect) and butterflies and experience how technological innovations flowed directly from observing the greatest teacher of all, Mother Nature. Bio-mimicry generates many questions from the students, piques their curiosity, and gets the students primed to observe nature through a new lens.
The lessons are multi-faceted. For example students study the geometry of how the eye works in the morning using a head-sized pinhole camera. In the afternoon sun they use magnifying glasses to understand their focal properties. In the darkness of night they use lasers and colored light to understand the physics of additive and subtractive color and how eyes interpret them.
When cooking, students investigated the thermal dynamics of ice cream churning and the chemistry of jamming. They visited the sources of production for the foods they use. The Nunes and Mendoza diaries, Nicasio Cheese factory, Drake’s Bay Oyster Company, and Marin Sun Farms have all graciously allowed my students to visit and learn from them. Tim and Betty Nunes, Joe Mendoza, David Evans, Ginny Lunny, and Lynette Lafranchi have not only been extremely gracious over the years, but have been instrumental in sharing their expertise and life experiences with my students who are far removed from the production process.
A common sentiment amongst the students was captured in one student’s reflection: “I made my own jam! I learned about what’s in cheese! I learned about milk. I feel like learning about where my food comes from. And coming from an unhealthy family, I went home and told my mom that we need to be more cautious about what we eat.” Certainly, in the days and weeks after the trips students follow up with me and share stories of how learning about cheese, aquaculture, or dairy process fomented permanent changes in their dietary habits.
Part of the group’s family time is eating together. For some students cooking, eating together, and engaging in face to face conversations that don’t involve tweeting texts about Snapchats or Instagrams while sneaking Facebook pokes and youtube views is a new experience. “This is the longest I’ve been without my phone, and you know what, I don’t need it as badly as I thought I did.” quipped one student after last year’s trip. According to another, “Family time allows us to get out of ourselves, and bond on a more real level.” When I told a student going on this year’s trip about family time, he exclaimed: “How are we going to have family time without watching TV?” Separating students from their environment allows them to shed some of their image, and recreate themselves in a more positive manner.
This physical and digital separation leads to connections. Students hold nightly Socratic seminars where all topics are on the table. Students have what one student noted as: “Real-talk time.” Uninterrupted by sirens, ring tones, or televisions, a space is created for a forum of communication about panoply of topics. The students open up to each other, problem solve, and frequently offer counsel. There are conflicts and stress; however they become close. In our closing activity on the last night one young woman said: “We were all hella separated in the beginning, and now we are so close, what happens Monday morning?” (In case you are wondering, many stay close, and remain so today.)
While it is true that many of my students have experienced far too much violence, poverty, indifference, and detachment, I find that taking students out of their comfort zones and giving them unfamiliar challenges in a natural setting is key to the success of their education. Having them hike in the park at night without flashlights, hiking trails blindfolded with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, hiking back from the beach in the rain, opens their mind and willingness to experience. More often than not, the students who resist taking notes, participating in class, or complain relentlessly about why, turn out to be the first students to volunteer for extra cleaning, asking questions during lessons, or show a level of engagement that any teacher would appreciate.
I watched my students stand respectfully, attentively, and mesmerized to John Littleton’s animated recitation of Miwok and Pomo stories at Kule Loklo while the heavens dumped rain and hail on their heads. This motivated one young man to write: “I learned things I never really thought I would be able to learn. I even got to learn about the native tribe that my family is registered as. It made me feel good about myself and my people and made me really want to learn more about everything.”
One student confided to the group last year: “This is the longest period of time in years I gone without smoking, I feel so clear.” To me that is what this trip represents: a moment of clarity – the moment when we realize something important. For me it’s this:
Many concepts taught in schools are the product of centuries of thought and intellectual evolution; people in my profession sometimes forget this. Great ideas that propelled us forward were the products of cross-curricular synthesis by people who thought deeply and at great length. Newton said: “If I see farther, it is only because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” Spoon-feeding youth algorithms and factoids between bells, without the time, reason, or context to absorb them undermines curiosity and learning. There are important things to learn in the classroom, but we can’t shake our heads in dismay when a student says they are bored, or that there is no point, or even that they don’t get it. We need to offer more authentic learning experiences outside the classroom. We need to bundle their education with meaningful life experiences. Our youth are worth it.
“This has been one of the best learning experiences I’ve had.” Is a comment I frequently see in closing essays. It has been for me as well.

Dan Goldfield,
Math Teacher Island High School, Alameda Ca



“A” frame signs taken from Town Commons


Last week two “sandwich boards” where taken from the Town Commons. One advertised the Silent Auction at the Dance Palace on May 25th and the other the Holstein 100 in August sponsored by West Marin Senior Services. Both events are major fundraisers for these essential community organizations.

In the course of investigating what happened I learned the 2001 Point Reyes Station Community Plan, Policy CL-4.2b – Signs states “No portable “A” frame sign (sandwich boards) shall be allowed.” This policy, I have been told, has not been effectively enforced, witness the sandwich boards up and down main street. The policy has other provisions that very specifically constrain signage much of which is also clearly not effectively enforced.

In renovating the Town Commons, West Marin Commons hopes to create a more hospitable space for residents and visitors. A display case has been installed that we plan to use to feature events in town and guide visitors to essential services. When implemented it should obviate the need for signage.

In the meantime, it seems appropriate to have a discussion regarding the Signs Policy to both inform residents and business owners and consider how the intent of the policy can be achieved. I have asked the Village Association to take up the matter at the monthly meeting on Thursday, June 12th at 7:15pm at the Dance Palace. I call on all interested parties to participate in the discussion.

I call on the person(s) that removed the signs to return them to the Dance Palace and West Marin Senior Services. The vigilante action to arbitrarily remove these signs doesn’t serve anyone or accomplish anything. Honest and direct communication between members of the community as individuals and organizations is what a village is all about.

Mark Switzer

Board Chair, West Marin Commons


Announcements – Week of 06/05/14

Ana Maria Ramirez retirement potluck

Ana Maria Ramirez is retiring from Inverness School at the end of this school year and we invite you to celebrate with us! On June 3rd from 1-3pm at Inverness School we will host a community potluck to thank Ana Maria for her many years of loving service to our students and their families.
Please join us!
Melissa Riley, Dee Lynn Armstrong and Chris Greene
¡Ana María Ramírez se retirará de la Escuela de Inverness al final de este año escolar y les invitamos a celebrar con nosotros! El 3 de junio, 1-3pm, en la Escuela de Inverness habrá una comida de “potluck” para agradecerle a Ana María por sus años de servicio a los estudiantes y sus familias.
¡Por favor vengan a celebrar con nosotros!
Melissa Riley, Dee Lynn Armstrong y Chris Greene

Book release celebration for West Marin Review

A literary and musical wingding (readings, nibbles, sips, music, schmoozing) to celebrate the publication of West Marin Review, Volume 5 will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 1, at Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station. The free event will presentations of prose, poetry, and art from the latest, hot-off-the-press volume of the award-winning journal. Refreshments will be served. West Marin Review features Marin artists and writers alongside the work of accomplished
authors and artists from near and far. The popular collection is published by Point Reyes Books with friends and neighbors and created through the volunteer efforts of professional editors and designers. West Marin Review, Volume 5 and previous volumes of the journal will be available for purchase at the event. For more information, contact Suzanne d’Coney, About West Marin Review: The nonprofit West Marin Review is an award-winning literary and art journal published by Point Reyes Books with friends and neighbors. It features art and poetry by local writers alongside the work of accomplished authors and artists from near and far. In 2010 West Marin Review was the only literary and arts journal to merit recognition at the prestigious New York Book Show. Submissions are being accepted for Volume 6 until September 1. Guidelines are available at

Keep Maddy Jammin

Maddy Sobel needs help. If you have any old canning jars in your cupboard or garage, why not drop them off at her house? She lives in the blue house, just two doors down from the West Marin School. Canning jars, lids, pectin, organic fruit – all things she needs to keep her livelihood going. “Maddy’s Jammin'” is her business; She makes jam and sells it to local stores. Maddy suffers from a chronic illness that prohibits her from driving. Her husband is in a nursing home in San Rafael and she hasn’t been able to visit him for several weeks. She could use a ride over the hill. Maddy has artwork to sell as well as lovely potted succulents. Her situation is painfully dire. If you can offer any help, please phone her at 663- 1293 or stop by her house and knock on the door. Please help.

Art by Joe & Maureen Blumenthal to benefit KWMR

By Ellen Shehadeh

Etchings by Joe Blumenthal and photographs by Maureen (Mo) Blumenthal will be on sale at Toby’s June 6, 7, and 8, from 11:00 am- 5:00 pm. All proceeds will benefit KWMR, Community Radio Joe Blumenthal, sometimes known as Dr. Joe, has been making art since 1982, after studying with Elaine Badgeley-Arnoux. Although his main interest is printmaking he also works in watercolor, and does graphite and ink drawings. He has had several solo shows and has also been part of many group shows. His work is inspired by nature, especially the beauty of West Marin. One of Joe’s other gigs is bicycle riding. He has ridden to raise money for charities, sometimes accompanied by his wife, affectionately referred to as “sag wagon Mo.” A few years ago it was a journey from Vancouver to Point Reyes. His KWMR show, Cuppa Jo with Dr. Joe, features good news (hard to find these days), great music and “no politics.” Recently he has begun demonstrating his vast knowledge of very cool jazz, and is morphing into a stellar KWMR deejay. Mo Blumenthal also studied art with Elaine Badgeley-Arnoux in San Francisco. Her special interest is photography and she beautifully captures the light and essence of the Point Reyes area. In addition to photography, Mo does plant prints and has collaborated with Janet Robbins to produce a series of pencil portraits of women composers.

Oysterpalooza coming to Valley Ford, May 25

The eighth annual “Oysterpalooza!” festival will be held once again at Rocker Oysterfeller’s Kitchen + Saloon and the Valley Ford Hotel in Valley Ford, California on Sunday, May 25th. This is a celebration of food, music and community. Doors will open to the public at 12:00 pm with the first musical act beginning at 1:00 pm. There will be five bands between two alternating outdoor stages.

The lineup:
1:00 pm – 2:15pm Church Marching Band
2:30 pm – 3:45 pm Mr. December
4:00 pm – 5:15 pm Lucky Drive Bluegrass Band
5:15 pm – 5:45 pm A Second Line with Church Marching Band
5:45 pm – 7:00 pm Frankie Boots and the County Line
7:15 pm – 8:30 pm Arann Harris and the Farm Band

Outdoor food court. Local microbrews on draught will be served alongside locally produced wines. Proceeds of Oysterpalooza 2014 to CropMobster and Valley Ford Volunteer Fire Department. Pre-purchase tickets are available online at for $15 per person or will be offered at the door for $20. Children 10 and under are free.

Mad Marmalade Duo

By Adrienne Pfeiffer & Sharron Drake

This dynamic and irreverent pair met back in the aughts while traversing the boards of professional thea-tuh. A short time later, realizing their geographical closeness, fondness for a good Becherovka and penchant for performance in song, they started a duo that eventually became the aggressive folk quartet Pink Sabbath. The two have now reunited to conceptualize and torpedo the most beautiful ballads and pop standards that bring tears to the most seasoned concert goer and shut in alike. Their borne-from-the-heavens harmonies along with their trusty guitar and violin waiver and whine with spicy hints of country, Celtic and good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll; saucy tunes evoking a homemade and organically sweet jam in a Mason jar sitting on a country kitchen’s shelf – right next a welcoming bowl of coconut ambrosia and the Lysol®. They also make themselves available for hire as an unlikely and unconventional customized sing-o-gram act – eagerly available to batter through any dead-bolted vestibule to crash weddings, birthdays, brisses, motivational speaking engagements and…bachelor parties! With their brazen warbling of their specially composed three sheets-to-the-wind ditties it is no wonder they are referred to as the Sweet Assailants of Song™.

Coastal Marin’s Role in World Communication

The Bolinas Museum is preparing for the June 7 opening of Transmit / Receive–four inspiring exhibitions celebrating the story of wireless radio in coastal Marin and its role in world history and the evolution of the communication technology we all take for granted today. This year marks the centennial of theopening the Bolinas transmitting and Marshall receiving stations that were once the largest wireless stations on the planet. Built by Nobel Prize winning Guglielmo Marconi to connect his world-wide communications network across the Pacific, today the Bolinas and Point Reyes RCA stations are part of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

At the heart of the program is the exhibition Wireless Giant of the Pacific: 100 years of Marconi & RCA History curated by Carola DeRooy, archivist of the Point Reyes National Seashore, which traces this fascinating and complex history. Many people are familiar with the old buildings at Commonweal in Bolinas, the Marconi Conference center near Marshall, and the RCA buildings in the wild lands of Point Reyes Peninsula, but few know that these building represent an era of cutting edge technology. In 1914, dignitaries from great shipping and communications empires came to the Marconi transmitting complex built on the Bolinas mesa to witness its first Morse code transmission across the Pacific Ocean. It was the last link in Marconi’s revolutionary communications network.

What the dignitaries saw at Bolinas that day was massive generators housed in a huge building and nine 300 foot steel towers, each supporting 32 wires that were 2000 feet in length, from which the messages would flash across the seas by Morse code. RCA (Radio Corporation of America) took over Marconi at Bolinas in 1919 and later opened the Point Reyes station. Local men and women kept RCA serving trans-oceanic communication through Morse code until the 1990s with the advent of satellite technology. With the help of the Maritime Radio Historical Society, today the KPH stations come to life on special occasions for visitors to experience the equipment and excitement of radiotelegraphy. A private tour of the site is schedule for August 2.

The Museum’s history room will feature local family and individual stories that illustrate how Marconi and RCA impacted and enriched our local communities. Curated by Elia Haworth, the exhibition shares how RCA people such as Gus Kovats in Point Reyes and the family of Annie Crotts in Bolinas became part of the fabric of our communities. In addition to the two history exhibitions, the Museum will feature two inventive contemporary installations inspired by wireless communications. Guggenheim recipient and SETI Institute’s (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) first Artists in Residence Charles Lindsay is creating Code Humpback, a surprising multi-media sculptural installation inspired by recent developments in interspecies communications and Morse Code transmissions between the Bolinas and Point Reyes stations–the last of their kind in the United States to maintain this once vital Maritime language.

Through sculpture, video, and sound Lindsay raises questions about possibilities of alternate modes of communication through space and time that merge his interest in analog technologies with SETI astronomer Laurance Doyle’s recent findings in information theory related to the Humpback whale song. Lindsay is an explorer of art, science and the world. He was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship for inventing a carbon- based imaging process, which he transforms through sound and sensors to create immersive installations. Lindsay and Doyle will discuss their stimulating ideas at a public forum on June 14. With both his writing and metal fabrication skills, Bolinas sculptor Wayne Campbell’s installation Swept/Up is inspired by his father’s experience as a World War II prisoner of war under the Japanese and evolved from a true story of human innovation in the face of unspeakable brutality.

Growing up in Jack County Texas in the 1930s, his father and his brothers and friends were radio enthusiasts– competing with each other to make radios out of unlikely materials. Together the young men joined the National Guard on a lark, not foreseeing being shipped out to Java as a field artillery unit, only to be captured and joined with 200,000 other allied prisoners as slave labor in Burma who were forced to build a strategic railroad in record time through dense jungle despite starvation, disease and the cruelty of their captors. Using scraps of paper, wax, barbwire-whatever they could find or steal, and risking vicious reprisal if they were caught, the Jack County boys started making radio receivers to catch word from the outside world. They hid their radios in mundane implements like the brooms used to sweep their ragged barrack—a story Wayne Campbell will powerfully interpret through steel brooms, bamboo, and his own text.

Transmit/Receive exhibitions open Saturday June 7 with the 2 pm preview talks with the artists and curators followed by the opening reception from 3-5 pm, co-hosted by the Point Reyes Nationals Seashore Association. Everyone is welcome. Visiting the Museum is always free. For more information about these exciting exhibitions and related events please visit

These Women Are A Team

(L)HowsBusinessAnd you can’t miss it if you have any dealings with them. Martha Howard owns the law practice behind the gorgeous roses next to the Inverness post office. Dakota Whitney works with Marty about 12 hours/week, perfect for a mom with two young boys. Dino Williams, the office manager and legal assistant, greases the wheels and complains only that those climbing roses seem eager to climb through the front door. Dakota describes Dino as the backbone of the office and “the best math-mind” among them.

Marty is our local attorney in estate planning which means wills, trusts, associated taxes and probate. Sometimes, she does elder law, addressing the needs of older adults, some of whom cannot afford nursing home care without qualifying for Medi-Cal. How these specialties emerged, how Marty went to law school to become a criminal lawyer but ended up with a Masters in Tax Law had to do with too many drunk drivers and the wish to work more at home to be with her young son. By 1980, she was firmly ensconced in West Marin. The rose-adorned building she’s occupied since 1986 came to her when an upscale dress shop decamped. Marty points out that most of their clients are in their 60’s and 70’s. (According to a Forbes survey, 35% of adults actually have some form of estate plan.) Marty loves the intellectual challenge of her work and really doesn’t love the unavoidable feeling of never being completely finished. There is always more work and more detail, and yet another pressing problem to address.

Dakota went to law school at a time when women were more and more present, in class and in practice. For seven years, she worked for a big firm in the City where she felt very content, even walking to work from Telegraph Hill. When she got pregnant with her first child “everything changed in a second.” So, the growing family came back to Inverness where Dakota was raised, and she’s never looked back. She reflected about life at that big law firm where she worked on complex business litigation: how the young associates worked together with real joy and friendship; and how you hoped not to be assigned to work for one of the partners who were notorious task masters. For women, even then around the turn of the last century, after so much discussion, after such big cultural shifts, the majority of young women associates did not choose the path to partnership. Dakota looked at the lives of both male and female partners and just didn’t want those lives for herself. She agrees with Marty that intellectual challenges are important and adds that the inevitably personal interactions also make her very happy to be doing this work which is often critical to clients’ well being.

Marty and Dakota and Dino are aware that women’s lives in the legal profession continue to change. Big firms still have few women at the top, but no one any longer says, “Oh, you’re a lady lawyer, huh?” The days when judges and lawyers all “knew each other” and were all male, are past. And women often run our bar associations, and they fill 46% of law school classes. All-female law firms are no longer unheard of, and in West Marin, we have one of our own. So stop by and smell those gorgeous pink roses!

Chariot Of The Gods

Do I deserve my dream horse? I have been pondering this. Does it help that I am concerned about my neighbors and gather signatures? Deserving requires measurement, sufficient amounts of having been good or tidy or obedient or silent or respectful or whatever else grown people want from children. The accomplishment of these brings pride; which, as Freud said, is the consciousness of deserving to be loved. How many signatures do I need to become deserving? Magic travels in different company.You can’t earn it or deserve it, there’s no one to impress in order to get it, it is never owed to you and does not respond to bargains or negotiations. There’s something capricious about it, can’t be predicted, tends to show up when least expected.

Does magic happen to people who don’t believe in it? Definitely not. Does believing in magic bring it about? Probably not. You get something you’ve always wanted; it happens unexpectedly for no particular reason. There it is. It has arrived. What are you going to do now? When magic happens, to believe in it is a form of gratitude. I’ll never get what I want through deserving it. I’m simply not the kind of person who deserves things. If I am to get them there will have to be magic. But what kind of magic? In the traditional kind, If you want to catch an animal you draw its antlers on the walls of a cave, put on its skin, lie down in a clearing and wait for it to come to you. Or, if you want it to rain you punch a few holes in the bottom of a pot and walk through your fields watering vegetables, suggestively hinting.

When I was a kid in Los Angeles I used to gallop around slapping my thighs and making tock tock sounds with my tongue. This behavior was meant to work magic and persuade my hard-working parents to get me a horse, with no questions asked about where we would board it or how we could afford it. I am aware that my neighbors here in the village might look at this behavior with the same expression I see in their eyes as they converse with me.Therefore, I’ve been lecturing myself: “Conversation needs a vigorous editorial function. This you say, this you imagine, this you confide, this you shut up about.” It’s crucial to avoid situations where these hesitations might be compromised but this is not easy in a village where lines are constantly forming, where I might be tempted to hold forth about magic.

Next door to us we have cows, young heifers who come running when we walk by their corral. We have nothing to feed them and they must know by now so I assume this is a friendly, even neighborly gesture. As the mist and twilight come in over the hills the heifers frisk and frolic, kicking up their hind legs in what I thought, when we first moved out here, was a most un-cow-like way. Many animals, I have learned since, grow frisky as it gets dark. The deer leap and bound through our garden as if they were celebrating something; our cat, usually lazy and docile, races up the oak tree. We know the universe is full of mysteries that bring great joy until you try to explain them. I call this natural magic, the kind that is there all over the place if we bother to notice.

I talked about the magic of nightfall to our Village Clipper while she was cutting my hair. I knew she had some twenty different animals on an acre of land behind her house. In exchange, she told me about her cow who used to push the neighborhood kids on a swing tied to a tree, gently of course, using her big head. This same cow took care of the neighboring horses. Whenever their owner didn’t drive out to feed them she would push hay under the fence. When Catherine whistled the cow came, fast as a cow could, across the pasture. This is the magic of interspecies love. Imagine a doubled universe—ours, where things go haywire, are chaotic, force people from sheer terror to believe in the omnipotence of gods. In our world no one ever gets used to the suffering of the innocents, genocide, ethnic cleansing, wars, mass murder, the things we tend to bring upon ourselves in (almost) every generation and in every generation blame on god.

Now imagine the other universe, a light to our darkness, where there is no omniscience and therefore no being to hold accountable or blame, no reason to grow bitter or curse life. Things happening the way they happen; apples growing on apple trees and not on fig trees, for example. There is a simple order to things, rain falling on our heads not up into the sky, babies starting out new-born, growing older and not the other way around. This magical order is a kind of intelligence, far beyond any we’re likely to achieve for ourselves. All we have to do is align ourselves with it by stating our desires. This is spokenwish magic and reveals a perfect faith in the goodness of the universe. I started hanging around at Morgan Horse Ranch. I looked, I stared, I stirred up dust with my toe. I watched Black Mountain turn black on an overcast day and pronounced my wishes. I gazed at the horses and their straight-backed riders coming in off Bear Valley Trail and made myself stand straighter. I frowned, I narrowed my eyes, I came closer, I retreated to a distance, muttering my wishing- words. None of this worked until one long darkening afternoon, as the wind was rising, he was there. Right smack in front of me, burnished in the long light, exactly as I had imagined Plato’s horse, tossing his head to make the tiny bell on his bridle announce him: a copper-colored horse with a long flaxen main and tail and four perfect white socks and a diamond blaze on his forehead. I ran over as the rider was removing the saddle.

“I just had to touch him to believe he was real.” “I know what you mean. Same thing happened to me.’ “What is he? Is he one of a kind? I mean, the only one like him here on earth?” “Don’t worry. There are others. Horses of this breed come from Kentucky. They’re called Mountain Saddle Horses and the fantastic things you hear about them are true.”

I had never heard anything about them but I was ready to believe in the fantastic. “The breed doesn’t trot, it ambles. I mean, as fast as most other breeds cantor. You just sit there and relax as you go on your way because the walking-gait doesn’t change. No posting, no nothing. No one believes it until they’ve tried it.” Here was a horse even the most severe realist in the village could approve for me. She handed me the reins.

“Walk him around a bit. You’ll get a feel for how gentle he is. The breed is magical, I don’t know why anyone rides anything else.” The breed is magical? She had actually said it. “Do I have to give him back?” I handed her the reins. “I love Sinbad, I mean, I got him on my 12th birthday so of course. But honestly there are, you know, the dark brown horses with flaxen manes and chestnuts and whites and palominos, and reds and sorrels and all of them with two-foot manes and long tails that brush along the ground. If you’re looking for a horse, you’ve found him.” A fleeting thought of young Cooper, now suddenly discarded. How fickle could I be? All those months of pining and I had thrown him over, just like that? But maybe that’s how magic works. You cut yourself free from one obsession before you start wishing on another. I watched the trailer drive off, not sure if I was saying goodbye forever to the most beautiful horse in the world, or had been pointed in the direction of the right horse for me. My intended. Not that I deserved him. How could anyone deserve Plato’s winged horse who guides the chariot of the gods?

Oenophile Junction

HOBO 2013 Parts & Labor Red – Clare’s pick! The California version of a French Bistro wine! Fun and easy to drink, great with food, won’t make you cranky on a hot day! Light to medium bodied. It has flavors and nuances of violets, pink peppercorns, red berries, and is just absolutely delicious. This wine is great at picnics! The talk of a party, because its incredible quality totally over delivers, versus it tiny price point of just $13 a bottle! Look for a case stack.

Come taste with us tomorrow afternoon, Friday, May 23rd 4pm- 6:30pm, while we discover just how far along boxed wines and have come! We have ten wines in total.


Art Review

Tobias BernardiGallery Route One, May 11-June 14 The visual poetry of Geraldine Liabraten is an exhibition of urban photographs, coupled with contrasting writing by well-known authors such as Robert Frost, Henry David Thoreau, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Jane Hirschfield, Langston Hughes, Omar Khayam, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Also the Bible. The oblique relationship between the quotes and the close-up images of walls, lights and other objects presents objects for thought. Her work forces us to see light and shadow, diagonal lines and patterns that we miss if we do not look closely at things. This is the first time she has engaged with poetry. Sometimes the images came first and sometimes the poetry. The result is a success that deserves sustained viewing. Liabraten says, “Things are not necessarily how they appear…my intent is to make the viewer wonder what this is.”

In Gallery Route One’s Project Space/With the Earth Gallery, two artists share the space for Disappearing Act: Our Role in Species Extinction. Marie-Luise Klotz’s work is concerned with bees and the colony collapse disorder over the past eight years. This is an urgent threat to plant life, agriculture and our food. Her sepia-toned photographs are covered with gold and presented on black backgrounds. They beautifully depict bees, almonds, seeds, flowers, raspberries and a stalk of broccoli, all equally endangered. Klotz tells us “I want to imply that something so seemingly mundane as the honeybee is something that we should value as much as gold…” One wall of the space has a shelf holding a 30-foot book of stencil paintings by Xander Weaver-Scull of turtles, lizards and birds. His process starts with free hand drawings with markers on acetate that he then cuts out shapes. The stencils are then spray-painted on the paper or hand-painted in watercolor and ink. The GRO Annex Gallery shows Suzanne Parker’s small painted photographs. The photographs serve as a beginning for paintings that move from exterior views to interior views of thoughts and feelings. These exhibitions will close with a salon at 4 pm on Sunday, June15. GRO is open daily except Tuesday, 11-5. Spring Art Show, May 10-18. As I entered the gallery at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center I was greeted by a colorful group of paintings by Anne Faught covering one panel. On another wall was a highly textured painting of fish by Tobias Bernardi. And in the other room of this annual spring show of work by over 100 artists who live in the San Geronimo Valley was an entire wall of big colorful paintings in different styles and techniques by Sherry Petrini, Harry Cohen, Deanna Pedroli and Alexandra Adeir. Among the smaller paintings Barbara McLain’s oil painting, Solo Performance, stands out. Oils and watercolors were predominant but there were some fine pastels by Sandy White of a very relaxed pig, and Connie Smith Siegel of a flowering plum, one of her recurring themes. An unusual tile work was Animal Nature by Justine Tot Tatarsky. This was a show for everyone who lives there, and for everyone who wanted to see a variety of artistic creativity in all media. As there was no theme to this exhibition I cannot comment on its meaning other than to say what I found interesting on the afternoon that I visited the gallery. In addition to the paintings there were a number of fine prints. I enjoyed the lifesize faces of Fred Berensmeier’s Coho Creation Dance, a collagraph; Elan Kamesar’s untitled stone lithograph; Jean Berensmeir’s linoleum block print of formalist images of the torso, Physical Therapist’s Delight in Stability; Geoff Bernstein’s serigraph, Rio de Janiero; and Dan Getz Corporate What? a beautifully made image with 12 cubicles in perspective containing shirts, collars and ties. An intriguing mixed media work by Gaetano de Felice showed a predatory bird flying through silhouetted trees at sunset. The exhibition offered a number of mixed media works and assemblage and only one traditional carved sculpture, Pele, an earthwoman of alabaster by Cornelia Nevitt. This show deserved a much longer run so that more people could have seen the creative work being done in the valley.

Art People

Inez Storer is having a solo show, Hidden Agencies, at the Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum, Idaho, May 21- June 27. Emmeline Craig’s painting graces the May cover of In Marin Magazine.

Send your information and comments about local artists and the arts, along with high-resolution images to i n f o @ c c h a p l i n e . c o m <> with Artswell in the subject line.

Supreme Court Amicus Briefs Support DBOC

In an impressive show of support, four strong amicus briefs have been filed
with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s petition
to have its case heard. The briefs show that farmers, environmentalists, scientists,
chefs, agriculturalists, conservationists, and historic preservationists all support
the historic oyster farm.

At stake is whether the government, in making countless everyday decisions,
can be taken to court when it abuses its power, misinterprets the law, or misrepresents
science. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a federal
court does not have jurisdiction to review a discretionary agency decision for
abuse of discretion. Drakes Bay Oyster Company petitioned the U.S. Supreme
Court on April 14, 2014 for a writ of certiorari to review that judgment.
Because Drakes Bay showed that there is a “reasonable probability” that the
Supreme Court will take this case and a “significant possibility” that the oyster
farm will win, the Ninth Circuit has allowed Drakes Bay to remain open while it
takes its case to the Supreme Court.

The amicus briefs filed in support of Drakes Bay make compelling arguments
for why the Supreme Court should take the case.

And the very fact that there are so many amicus briefs is a positive indicator
for the oyster farm. A 2008 study published in the Georgetown Law Journal
showed that amicus briefs make a big difference. With no amicus briefs filed in
support, the odds of certiorari being grants were around 2 percent. With at least
one amicus brief filed in support, the odds of certiorari being granted were around
20 percent If, as in this case, there are at least four amicus briefs filed in support
of the petition, the odds jump much higher, to 56 percent. This means that the
oyster farm may have a better than even chance of having the Supreme Court take
its case.

This story provides a detailed report of one of the briefs, that of William T.
Bagley et al. Future stories will discuss the other three briefs, filed by the Monte
Wolfe Association, by the Pacific Legal Foundation and the California Cattlemen’s
Association, and by Dr. Corey Goodman and Dr. Paul Houser.
Elder environmentalists and farm-to-table chefs support aquaculture
Former California Assemblyman William T. Bagley and former Congressman
Paul Norton “Pete” McCloskey (co-author of the Endangered Species Act and cochair
of the first Earth Day) are two of the elder environmentalists joining the
brief filed by San Francisco lawyers Judith Teichman and Alexander D. Calhoun.
The brief underscores the overwhelming support for the oyster farm in the West
Marin community and beyond. As the brief points out, “The oyster farm is a small
presence in the Seashore’s marine wilderness but a large presence in California
and a critical source of fresh shellfish for the Bay Area.”

Additional elder environmentalists joining the brief are Phyllis Faber, noted
wetland biologist and co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, and the
Tomales Bay Association, a 50-year old West Marin County environmental organization.
Tomales Bay Association supports DBOC as “a critical component of ongoing
habitat restoration projects for Threatened & Endangered species,
especially native oyster restoration projects in SF Bay and elsewhere in the State.”
Emphasizing the importance of DBOC shellfish to the menus of the farm-totable
restaurants in the Bay Area, the brief is also joined by a number of distinguished
chefs and restaurants: Patricia Unterman, chef-owner of the Hayes Street
Grill, a San Francisco Civic Center restaurant that has specialized in fish since
opening in 1979; Sheryl Cahill of Station House Café in Point Reyes Station, celebrating
its 40th anniversary, where oyster stew is a signature dish; Christian
Caizzo of Osteria Stellina, Point Reyes Station, an Italian restaurant “with an unwavering
commitment to local organic products” that serves DBOC oysters raw
and on pizza; and Luc Chamberland, whose Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness
features oysters shucked “moments after they leave the bay.”

Producers in California and around the country are unable to meet the growing
demand for shellfish. On behalf of the Hayes Street Grill, and the many Bay Area
restaurants, including other amici, amicus Patricia Unterman confirms “The loss
of oysters produced by DBOC would have a devastating impact on our mission,
our menu, and the expectations and pleasure of our customers. We cannot replace
the fresh, local, shucked oysters from DBOC.”

Survival of the oyster farm is vital to the survival of the ranches
The brief argues for the support and development of innovative, ecologically
sound and sustainable agriculture practices, and points out that the fate of the
oyster farm is entwined with the fate of the ranches here. “Survival of the oyster
farm is vital to the survival of the ranches in the seashore,” the brief states, and
the ranches in the Seashore are an essential component of agriculture in Marin
and Sonoma counties.”

Amicus Dr. Stephanie Larson, Livestock and Range Manager and Director of
the UCCE, Sonoma County, develops and implements projects that integrate dairy
and livestock production with rangeland management in Sonoma and Marin. She
has extensive experience working with Seashore ranchers to develop individual
ranch plans, which address water quality issues in the Drakes Estero watershed.
Dr. Larson is concerned that despite these efforts the ranches in the Drakes Estero
watershed may be held responsible for declining water quality in the Estero and
required to take additional cost prohibitive measures if the filter feeding oysters
are removed from Drakes Estero.

Underlining the importance to the oyster farm to the future of agriculture, the
brief is also joined by a many agriculturalists and agriculture organizations in addition
to Dr. Larson:
• The Sea Grant program of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San
Diego, which promotes the wise use of coastal and marine resources and sustainable
aquaculture development
• Mike and Sally Gale, Owners of Marin ranch where they raise apples and
grass fed beef;
• Peter Martinelli, a third-generation Marin farmer
• West Marin Compost Coalition, a group of individuals working to divert all
organic wastes from landfill disposal to composting for the benefit of Marin
farms, gardens and ranches
• Agricultural Institute of Marin, a nonprofit corporation that operates Certified
Farmers’ Markets in Marin, Alameda and San Francisco
• Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture, an unincorporated association of
“environmentalists supporting and promoting local sustainable agriculture
through education, research, conflict resolution and advocacy”
• California Farm Bureau Federation and Marin and Sonoma County Farm Bureaus,
nonprofit membership corporations whose purpose is, respectively, to protect
and promote agricultural interests in the State and in their Counties and to
find solutions to the problems of their farms and rural communities
• Marin Organic: Founded in 2001 by “a passionate group of farmers, ranchers
and agricultural advisors to put Marin County on the map as a committed organic
county,” Marin Organic fosters a “direct relationship between organic producers,
restaurants, and consumers” to strengthen commitment and support for local organic
farms, such as DBOC.

To learn more about the interests of these amici and their arguments for the
continuation of Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, read the brief at:

Letters – Week of 06/05/14

Thanks for the Fund Raiser

West Marin Community Services so appreciates the community’s support for our big fundraiser, THE Talent Show, a red carpet and local talent spectacular! The event was a big success – well-attended, full of talent and fun – and we couldn’t have done it without the many sponsors and volunteers as well as the local businesses who continue to donate generously to our nonprofits. All the performers brought something special to make the show a unique West Marin experience A few thanks to single out: Pine Cone Diner, Station House Cafe, Zuma, Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes National Seashore Employees Association, Osteria Stellina, Saltwater, Hog Island Oyster Company, Marshall Store, Perry’s Inverness Park Grocery, Point Reyes Light, West Marin Citizen, Sir and Star, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Marin Sunshine Realty, Inverness Secret Garden Cottage, Horizon Cable, Maximum ITSM, Art Rogers, Christine Vanderbeek, Connie Mery, Lazuli Whitt, and Whitman Shenk. And, of course, the great staff at WMCS (Socorro Romo, Jane Vait, Cynthia Manzo) and the Dance Palace and MC Extraordinaire/musician/auctioneer Stephen Horvat.

The funds raised will be used to support programs that help our most vulnerable residents get through the tough moments in their lives. Thank you, everyone!

Pamela Campe, Board President
Wendy Friefeld, Executive Director
West Marin Community Services

Congrats to Shoreline Trustees

Congratulations to the trustees of Shoreline Unified School District who, at their May meeting, rescinded their earlier decision not to renew the contract of Superintendent Tom Stubbs. The board worked diligently last year to recruit and interview candidates whose expertise, character and vision might be a good fit for our public schools; they made the right choice in hiring Tom. This time, they have taken another wise if difficult position in heeding the voices of teachers, staff, parents and community members: reversing their decision to apply, in their own words, an outmoded and flawed evaluation process in reviewing Tom’s first year on the job.

I hope that, as I shall do myself, our community, Latino and Anglo alike, remains engaged, communicating and volunteering alongside the board in support of continued reform of our schools. West Marin’s students deserve a bright future brimming with options, opportunities and the best education that our investment can provide.

Marc Matheson

Plea for elk management

To: U.S. Secretary of the Interior- Sally Jewell
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20240
RE: Elk Forum and Ranch Comprehensive
Management Plan/Environmental assessment, Point Reyes National Seashore

Dear Secretary Jewell,
I am writing to you and others to show my support for the ranchers and their desire to relocate the elk safely off the Pastoral Zone, located in the Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes, California that is intended for cattle grazing and to preserve historic ranching for future generations. The elk, as of now, are seriously impeding the livelihood of the ranching community, which has worked hard to be great docents for the park and keep healthy businesses local, and in most cases, organic. They help draw tourists and educate them, they send their children to our local schools, keep our stores and local medical facilities open and support many other local businesses, thus keeping a healthy foot print and not out sourcing and keeping local what is a basic food group.

Elk are large creatures who have taken over the organic grazing fields and clean water intended for the dairy and beef cows. The ranchers have worked very hard to create a healthy and low impact supply for their animals and the elk are literally depleting this balance and is some cases, killing the live stock as they are not intended to live side by side.

Roaming elk ideally should be moved to an area for public viewing enjoyment, permanently, that is well sectioned off, with stable fencing that the park can maintain, not to mention provide an area where they have enough food and room to grow into given their quick reproduction rate. Doing this ideally with stop elk damage and their negative impact on working ranches and ranchers who then ideally with be able to continue their historic best management practices that they have practiced for over 100 years. Local ranchers just want to continue ranching the way they have done it for years using their updated and healthier practices. Ranchers take care of the land or the land will not take care of them. They are stewards of the landand have a love for their animals and a passion for raising a quality product to feed the world.”

I hope you expedite this process as you are in grave danger of loosing some of your best docents who potentially cannot wait another year or two for a lengthy deciding process. The ranchers are there, love the land and take good care of it, plus create another great draw to an area already struggling with the Park and its own ability to maintain what is already on their watch. Please support the ranchers, their homes, lively hoods and their futures.

Thank you,
Brahna Stone
Sausalito, California

Dance Palace Camp has space

We are getting the 2014 Counselor in Training (CIT) program up and running for 13 to 15 year olds at the Dance Palace Camp. We can take no more than 8 teens in this program, which I happen to think is a really wonderful opportunity for teens. The director of this program, Colleen Conley will be returning from Japan with renewed energy having had a visit with her grandbaby and will then be ready to start off with the chosen 8. This program really gets kids ready for life, responsibility, and yes, and a lot of good fun.

Teen team building between the 8 seems to develop quickly as they learn to help each other, help out in the camp and work with the kids and their leaders who will show them a lot of skills they’ll later use to great advantage when they are either looking for a job, doing a job or just being great citizens and friends. The CIT’s are responsible for making the great punch that we serve on tropical day, creating the treasure hunts, taking part in the talent show and news paper preparation and setting up a lot of games and other things that campers love. CIT’s also set an example for the campers of what it’s like to be a teenager. They learn CPR, which is invaluable and basic first aid. Then they have a fun day away from camp doing kicking or paddleboard. Colleen is an artist and art teacher and there’s always an art component I am very proud of The Dance Palace Camp (voted the best in Marin by the North Bay Bohemian readers poll) We have spaces and some scholarships available and I am trying to spread the news.

Vickisa, Bolinas
Director of the Dance Palace Camp

Yes on Measure B for a Permanent Marin Farmer’s Market

On the ballot June 3, 2014, is Measure B, which will help the Marin Farmers Market take root in a permanent home at the Marin Civic Center – at no cost to the public. In 1992, Marin voters passed a measure requiring a vote of the people for any changes to the Marin Civic Center site. Yes on B will give permission to the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), the non-profit that runs the Civic Center Farmer’s Market, to negotiate with Marin County to create the permanent home.

The permanent home for the Marin Farmers Market – “The Farmers Market Canopy and Market Hall” – will be a community hub for agriculture and will benefit our West Marin farmers and ranchers as well as the community at large. “The farmers market project is an essential contributor to the future success of agriculture here in Marin as well as our entire Bay Area food shed”, states Julie Rossotti of Rossotti Ranch. “It will provide a permanent place for farmers and ranchers to sell our locally grown food directly to our community, for decades to come. To have a permanent “home” to sell our meat gives me inspiration and encouragement to continue my family’s tradition of ranching in Marin County.”

For more than three decades, the Marin Farmers Market, operated by AIM, has provided a direct market for local farmers, jobs for hundreds of people and a place for thousands of Marin residents to shop for local farm fresh goods – helping launch the farm to table movement. Each Sunday and Thursday, this town square at the Marin Civic Center brings together more than 200 farmers, specialty food purveyors, artisans and thousands of patrons to celebrate a vibrant local food movement.

For the past 31 years, the Marin Farmers Market has operated on parking lot tarmacs, moving around according to available space and lacking consistent electricity for refrigeration, access to running water, and always vulnerable to weather. AIM, with its dedication to sustainable food production and consumption, understands that this transient lifestyle is no longer sufficient. “The Marin Farmers Market is ready for a permanent home,” states Brigitte Moran, AIM’s CEO. “Measure B will allow the Marin Farmers Market to continue as an invaluable resource and gathering place for future generations – a landmark dedicated to local food, farming, and families in Marin…forever”. AIM and the County of Marin have worked in close conjunction to determine the optimal site, with design concepts from architect Buddy Williams, and a business model that supports both social and economic benefits. The project’s main features will include:

– The Market Canopy: The expanded Farmers Market will operate two days per week, with a possible third day added later, much of it under the shelter of a light-permeable cover that will provide for year-round access.

– Education and event facilities: The project will allow AIM to offer new and expanded programs – convening of national and international seminars with local agricultural leaders, facilitating donations from farmers to local food pantries, expanded WIC and food stamp programs, cooking classes, cultural events and an array of educational opportunities such as AIM’s highly popular Diggin’ the Market program for local schoolchildren.

– The Market Hall & Plaza: Central to the new facility will be its retail center where locally grown food, including cheese, meats and artisan-prepared foods, can be purchased seven days a week, directly from local producers. Day tables will allow farmers to sell local produce on off-market days.

– Eco-friendly design. The entire project celebrates natural resources, minimizes energy utilization, uses recycled materials, collects rainwater and is part of the bicycle and pedestrian master plan. AIM is both committed to providing the community with healthy food and to being a responsible steward of our environment. One June 3 Marin voters will have the opportunity to help make this a reality with the next step in the Marin Farmers Market’s journey. The Farmers Market is a treasured resource in Marin. With more than $15 million in goods sold each year, the Farmers Market is an engine of the local economy that supports our farmers and provides our community with fresh, local food.

Yes on B will help the Marin Farmers Market take root at the Civic Center.