It’s hard to believe, but we’ve now been in California for the past five days or so, and gosh – it’s good to be back on the West coast.
I will admit, as someone who has spent a great deal of time in the Bay Area and leading trips in Yosemite, I’ve often been dismissive of southern California and what it has to offer. I’ve visited LA a couple of times now, and have left with thoughts in gridlock: the sprawl of Los Angeles and the absurdity of the traffic has a way of rapidly bringing my brain to a melt.
Lately though, Than and I have been hanging out in Santa Barbara, and it’s changed my opinion of what SoCal has to offer. This place is beautiful, and the community here has been incredibly welcoming. I mistakenly slapped someone’s ass in yoga the other day (it was a packed studio, I swear!), and we ended hanging out at the beach later that day. It also happens that she is super connected with the wilderness and permaculture communities in Santa Barbara – go figure! It’s November, and everyone here is barefoot and in t-shirts, and sunsets have been breathtaking.
Our East to West adventure culminated in Hollywood with a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live, where Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros made their broadcast television debut. Than, for those who don’t know, is an incredible fiddler, and for a short time he toured with Edward Sharpe after his friends propelled him on stage during a concert at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco. That takes chutzpah, and a heck of a lot of talent – one song was all it took, and soon Than and his band of buddies were opening for. The Jimmy Kimmel concert was awesome (despite the humorous contrast between the hyperactive announcer and the complete chillness of the band), and we got to hang out with Christian, Edward Sharpe’s guitarist, at his killer pad in LA afterwards. Check out photos and videos below.
After the intensity of the past couple of weeks, Than and I have decided to chill out a bit, and to explore what Santa Barbara has to offer on the farming front, as we sort out our next couple of weeks. We visited a small garden CSA high up in the hills of south LA, went to an amazing farmer’s market on Saturday, and took an amazing walk through the Learning Garden, an incredible garden program being run on about one acre of land next to Venice Beach High School. The photos speak for themselves, but they don’t capture the underlying struggle the Learning Garden has faced, trying to convince city officials and developers that farming is an integral part of education. For us who live and breath this stuff, it just makes so much sense, but it’s easy to lose sight of how difficult it can be to push forward an organic agenda when budgets are small and attitudes are stiff, and priorities are elsewhere (read: standardized testing). The Learning Garden, similar to Berkeley’s Edible garden, is a wonderful model for what could be at high schools across the nation.
Most recently, Than and I got back from the Ojai Foundation, a spiritual community rooted in values of permaculture and sustainability. We both were blown away by the power of the land, and sadly my iPhone didn’t do it justice.
We met a wonderful woman there named Suzette, who went out of her way to welcome us with blessings and kindness. After we had toured the land, we found out that she had just arrived to Ojai a year and a half ago, after having spent seven years in Las Vegas where she had worked as a professional body builder. As she put it, coming to Ojai was her “coming to consciousness” – a realization that she hadn’t been walking the path she had meant to walk, and that she had the power to make of her life what she wanted, even after a lifetime of distractions and disjointed pursuits. Our conversation with her and our time at Ojai was very reminiscent of Hummingbird, and its palpable “present-ness”. We left Ojai with three persimmons in hand each (courtesy of Suzette), and a feeling of lightness in our steps.
We’ll be visiting some cool farms and permacultures in the coming days, and in the meantime, the plan is to soak in the sun, enjoy the sound of the waves, and to digest all that’s happened in just the past couple of weeks. I feel very grateful right now to be where I am, and can feel the nostalgic kick of my Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale about to kick in, which means I should sign off before things start getting too sappy here.
Always working on love,