After a nice break between semesters, the 2016 spring semester kicked off for Saybrook University with the January 2016 Residential Conference (RC).
Last semester, our RC at the gorgeous, intimate Cedarbrook Lodge in Seattle was a small gathering of the Organizational Systems (OS) doctoral students and the Master of Arts in Management, Specialization in Global Workforce Collaboration (referred to as MAM) students (all under the auspices of the Department of Leadership and Management). This semester, it was the large gathering of the various Saybrook departments, such as Mind-Body Medicine, Humanistic and Clinical Psychology, and Counseling.
Since we were so many, of course we needed to be at a larger venue, plus the conference alternates locations every semester. The 5-day RC was held at the Westin San Francisco Airport hotel in Millbrae.
It’s a nice enough hotel, but not a special place, like Cedarbrook Lodge. The conference didn’t have the same personal feel as last semester, but it was great to see my cohort and get started on my OS courses. The humane education part of my program (Ph.D. in Organizational Systems, Specialization in Humane Education), taken in a partnership program with Valparaiso University’s Institute for Humane Education, started a couple of weeks ago. I’ve already turned in my first assignments for Animal Protection and for Environmental Ethics. At Saybrook, I will be continuing the second class in the basics of research module, Disciplined Inquiry 1B: Research Foundations, as well as taking Dealing with Complexity: The Foundations of Systems Thinking.
Living just across the Bay, I didn’t want to spend the money to stay at the hotel (I need the money to buy books!), so early on Day 1 I headed over bright and early to register and get started.
Luckily, coffee was plentiful and the breakfast buffet was still going. To my surprise and delight, there was a special vegan/vegetarian section.
Our first morning forum for OS started with an introduction icebreaker. Being nervous, I had to refer to my prompt sheet to remember my name and where I live!
Then we launched into a “world café”. For those unfamiliar with the concept (which I was before Saybrook), when I Googled world cafe this is the definition I got:
“The ‘World Café’ is a structured conversational process intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion, and link ideas within a larger group to access the ‘collective intelligence’ or collective wisdom in the room.”
With the question of what makes Saybrook and the OS program unique, we spread around the room to talk about topics including education, health care, systems thinking and practice, and organizational transformation. For each topic, a host student stayed at each “café table” while the rest of us made the rounds to all of the tables to add to the discussion, with the host student presenting a summary of the talks to the larger group at the end. It was a great way to bring the new students into the group and for the returning students to reconnect.
That worked up a pretty good appetite! Lunchtime (and more coffee).
In the later afternoon, a few of us had an open block and attended the Clinical Psychology department’s screening of the 1985 Swedish film My Life as a Dog. We just wanted to see the movie (and it has a dog in it), but it was fascinating to hear the psychology students’ discussion afterwards. Analyses I would never have thought of were debated; I was mainly sad that (SPOILER ALERT) the dog doesn’t make it to the end of the movie.
Lest you think we are not a fun crowd, look: grad school humor!
By Day 3 we were tackling some serious world problems with another world cafe. This time our morning icebreaker, lead by the intrepid Mike Johnston, was an activity called That Person Over There…during which we mingled in a group, introducing our fellow students by trading and sharing “my passion is ” sticky notes. It was surprisingly fun.
Then we divided up into groups to apply systems thinking to various pressing global issues. We stayed with one group rather than circulating, and I chose the group looking at environmental degradation.
I don’t refer to myself as an artist. When I was much younger I wanted to be “an artist”, yes, but as I have worked in the arts for many years now I have realized that a lot of the game of becoming a “successful” artist is knowing how to market yourself. And that’s the rub. I have no desire to develop that side of my personality. But I do love to draw still.
We recently started an art group at Direct Action Everywhere, and I was amazed at the wonderful artists in the group. It’s an honor to have been included.
Here is an artist statment I wrote not long ago when I was approached by art group organizer Leslie Robinson Goldberg, aka the Vicious Vegan of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) about a series profiling activist-artists.
As a shy and anxious kid, drawing and animals were two of the ways I connected to the world. My mother was always very tolerant about taking in the strays that my siblings and I brought home. At one point, we had 4 dogs and 7 cats sharing the house with Mom and the 4 of us. I drew a lot of pictures of cats, needless to say.
In college getting my design degree, drawing classes were always my favorite. My first job out of college was as an archaeological illustrator with a company in Sacramento, working on environmental impact reports and historic building surveys. After a couple of years, I was being phased out by computer applications, so I went back to school and shifted careers into arts administration. My love of drawing had really suffered, but never my love for animals! By finding a community of artists with the animal activism world, I’ve finally felt inspired to get out my sketchbook.
The project that I am contemplating working on focuses on the animals I meet and love during my volunteer shifts at the East Bay SPCA. I plan to do a sketch a week, picking the animal that most touches my heart during my shift. I mostly volunteer in the cat adoption area, but I’d love to start including dogs as well. The challenge will be finding the best way to include their stories with the sketches.
I think what bring me back to drawing is the personal connection I feel when I am with the animals at the shelter. My heart is involved, not just my eye-hand coordination and attention to detail. Someone suggested that I offer the shelter animal drawings to the eventual adopters of the animals, and I really like that idea, if I can bring myself to part with them!
I went through all of the work I have accumulated over the years, and was surprised at how little of it involved animals. I included an older piece (the endangered Smith’s Blue in the DxE blogpost, link below) because it is a drawing I am still happy with years later and it was one of the rare chances I had as an illustrator to draw something that made me feel like I was doing something important (plus it made me happy).
The other 4 drawings, all unfinished, I included are of animals I recently spent time with at the The East Bay SPCA, the wonderful shelter where I have volunteered sine 2009. I plan to keep doing a sketch every time I go to the shelter, focusing on the animal that day who most tugs at my heart.
Tofurkey, the sad-eyed chihuahua mix, has since been adopted! Yay, Tofurkey! I can’t decide if I hope they changed her name or not.
I started a new piece last night, of my newest foster kitten Babou. He is the sweetest, funniest little guy. He makes me laugh and I know he will find a wonderful forever home, thanks to the East Bay SPCA.
As I get older I get nostalgic for more and more things from my youth. There are certain books I carry in my heart; I read and reread them. Thinking about them brings back sense memories of the time and place in which I read them. The Wind in the Willows takes me back to the den in our house in Atlanta, in the green nubby-fabric wing chair, with our cat Whiskers and a sunbeam coming through the windows just so–it’s keeping me warm and cozy and I can see the little dust motes floating in the light. The Borrowers I associate with reading in bed; Mom would let me sleep in her bed when I was afraid to sleep in my own room. I read The Borrowers propped up on pillows while she read her book next to me.
In no particular order, here are some of the books that helped instill my deep loving of reading. Of course my mother gets credit too; she was a voracious reader and was very open minded about giving me free rein to decide what to read. There was a time when instead of an allowance, she would take me to buy a new book every week at Rich’s department store (now a Macy’s). The book section was directly across from the candy counter, so I would sometimes get a little bag “fruit slices” if I had been especially good that week. Many of the books, like The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, were already on our bookshelves.
The books that touched my heart and imagination:
Amelia Bedelia (by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Siebel, 1963)
Of course I have my own story that goes with this book. I forget what grade it was, but my best friend Leila Greiff and I used this book for a class project in which we were to present a book to the class. Leila played Amelia Bedelia, we made props (somewhere we managed to get a rubber chicken), I was the narrator, and I think my mother contributed one of her delicious lemon meringue pies. Our teacher liked it so much that she had us go with her to her university to present to a class she was taking. She played Mrs. Rogers (who gets to eat the pie).
The other thing I adored about this book is how it teaches about the different meanings of words and phrases, the concept of taking something literally (Mrts. Rogers did say to draw the drapes), and not to make assumptions. Bonus lesson: being a good cook goes a long way toward getting you approval!
The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (by Margaret Sidney, illustrated by Hermann Heyer, 1881)
As the youngest of 4 children in a house headed by our young, widowed mother, I was understandably drawn to any stories of hard-working widows and their spunky children. And there would pretty much always be a dog and a cat, too. Mrs. Pepper, called Mamsie by the children, works hard to make ends meet, with the help of the children Ben (Ebenezer), Polly (Mary), Joel, Davie, and little Phronsie (Saphronia). Joel is the one who always gets in trouble. Davie is the quiet one. Ben is ultra responsible. Polly is sweet and pretty and tries her hardest to help Mamsie. Phronsie is only 3 at the beginning of the book, but she’s a little blonde cherub who everyone adores, of course.
Little Women and Little Men (by Louisa May Alcott, 1868 and 1871)
These were in combination in a flip book; the bookshelf in my older sisters’ shared room contained a complete set of the Companion Library flip books, a set of children’s classics published in 1963. I’m pretty sure I read them all along the way, but this was my particular favorite.
In my usual way, I tried to assign a sister from Little Women to each of the Cottraux sisters. There are 3 of us, not 4, but it kind of works. Cathy was clearly Meg, the beauty, the eldest and the one most set on a life as a wife and mother. And Ellen was so obviously Jo, the smart, funny, irrepressible sister. My brother Steve didn’t really fit into my scheme here, but I doubt it bothered him. That leaves kind, shy, musical Beth and the artistic, spoiled youngest, Amy. Which am I? I think a bit of both. I’m not musical and of course I wasn’t sickly like Beth, but I hope I am not so thoughtless and narcissistic as Amy.
The Borrowers (by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth Krush and Joel Krush, 1952)
This is the book that I read snuggled under the covers in Mom’s bed. I was afraid to sleep in my own room for some period. There was a metal fence post outside my window and a light somewhere glinted off of it at night. The twin gleams looked like eyes to me and even if I pulled down the shade I could see them through the gap. I would crawl in Mom’s bed, where the dog Tripp was always asleep too. It was probably kind of crowded but I only remember it being cozy and safe.
The Borrowers so spoke to my imagination. I wanted there to be a family of Borrowers like the Clock family–Pod, Homily and their daughter Arrietty–living under the floorboards of our house. Their matchbox beds and thread spool tables and their distrust of the “human beans” who they borrow from seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I hoped to see things that Borrowers could use slowly disappear from the house, but I never did find a family like the Clocks.
The Wind in the Willows (by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Paul Bransom, 1908)
Perhaps my favorite of all time, the adventures of Mole, Rat, Mr. Toad, Mr. Badger and the sporty Otter are at times sad, frightening, and heartwarming. Mr. Toad tends to get a lot of attention (as he would say is only right), but it was always Mole who tugged at my heart. He has a kind of innocence and a longing for something, but also a sense of nostalgia that make him so much more of a real character to me than the incredibly silly Mr. Toad.
Heidi (by Johanna Spyri, 1881; pictured 1929 edition translated by Philip Schuyler Allen and illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright)
Set in a place and time that I had no comprehension of, this children’s classic will forever be associated with the Swiss Alps in my mind. If I ever go there, I am sure I will be disappointed that it’s not all beautiful meadows, goats, and hay lofts. The first night Heidi is at her grandfather’s and makes a bed in the sweet-smelling hay and looks out at the stars; oh, I wanted to be Heidi. And I loved a cute dress with a pinafore back then. I would tuck my Crayons in the waistband and forget they were there and then they’d get run through the washer and dryer…Heidi would never do something so careless.
Daddy-Longlegs (written and illustrated by Jean Webster, 1912)
The letters of spunky orphan Jerusha Abbott, who calls herself Judy, to her anonymous benefactor who she nicknames Daddy-Longlegs, was probably the first book I read that really had a clear sense of romance (between people, not cartoon animals like Lady and the Tramp). Even though I know the book and its ending by heart, I’ve read it at least 50 times and it makes me happy every time. Her adventures at a women’s college also put the seed in my head that I wanted to go to Mount Holyoke to college when I was a teenager. That didn’t happen. And again, would 1970s-1980s Mount Holyoke have been remotely like the college depicted in early 1900s Daddy-Longlegs? I think not. But I can still wonder how different my life would’ve been if I had been able to follow that dream.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Tomorrow Will Be Better, and Joy in the Morning (by Betty Smith, 1943, 1947, and 1963)
I couldn’t choose one so I listed all three. There is a fourth book that Betty Smith wrote in 1958, Maggie Now, that I haven’t read. I’m not sure why! Much of her writing is based on her own life experiences. Side note: when she was a girl in the tenements of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, it was a very poor, hard place. I wonder what she would think of the hipster culture there now.
Queenie Peavy (by Robert Burch, illustrated by Lerry Lazare, 1966)
I have a feeling this is one not so many people will be familiar with. Queenie is growing up in rural Georgia during the Depression; her father is in jail and her mother is always working at the local canning plant. Poor and with a chip on her shoulder, Queenie’s temper tends to get her into trouble. I remember being particularly struck by a scene in which there is very little to eat in the house; I had never thought before about children going hungry.
The Summer of the Swans (by Betsy Byars, illustrated by Ted CoConis, 1970)
Lest you think I only ever read really old books or books written about the past, I did read contemporary books as well. One of my favorites, probably attained on an aforementioned trip to Rich’s, was The Summer of the Swans, about sisters Wanda (19) and Sara (14) Godfrey, their brother Charlie (10), and dog Boysie (old). It’s essentially Sara’s coming of age story during a difficult summer. When mentally-challenged Charlie wanders off, Sara, as the one closest to him, must set aside her angst while learning about the nature of love and family. The illustration of Sara and Charlie also influenced my artistic sensibility.
Harriet the Spy (written and illustrated by Lousie Fitzhugh, 1964)
I still like to imagine I am Harriet. Among my takeaways from this book (maybe not what Louise Fitzhugh intended): a period when I wouldn’t take anything in my school lunch but tomato sandwiches, just like Harriet. And a to-this-day unaccomplished desire to try an “egg cream” in New York, which I understand contains neither eggs nor cream. I think a lot of people focus on Harriet as a spy, but what Harriet wanted was to be a writer and her spying was a way to fill her notebook with observances. You go, Harriet!
I could keep going (Nancy Drew, anyone?), but I’ll leave you with Harriet.
On the first Sunday of every month, rain or shine, crowds make their way to the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, or as we fondly call it, “The Flea.” This is not your junky flea market; this is huge, with lots of stuff, ranging from the, yes, junky, to high end antiques. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning, and I count it as exercise. And there are food trucks; who doesn’t love a food truck? If you have time afterward, the town of Alameda is fun to explore, too.
The entrance fee goes down as the morning goes on; early birds pay more! Your strategy will depend on several things: e.g., how badly do you need coffee and do you want to start at the way far back in the low rent district or start at the front in the high rent district?
The food options vary; on this January day there weren’t quite as many trucks to choose from, but you can get “state fair food on a stick”, falafel, pizza, Chinese food, Indian food, Greek food, baked goods, and of course, kettle corn (it’s everywhere).
One of my favorite activities is looking for the “art” (note the quotation marks).
Then there are the specific categories of art, such as clown art. The stuff of my bad dreams.
Weird sculptural things also make an appearance.
If you have any interest in old family photos and other people’s ancestors, there are always lots of stacks and frames of interesting, usually stern people’s faces. It does make me sad that they end up at the flea market though.
Interesting yard art opportunities abound. Someone purchased both of these and was wheeling them out. I title it The Bear Thinks About Eating The Thinker.
For the bookworm, there are children’s book, books that don’t really seem old enough to be at the “antiques faire”, and cookbooks, to name a few.
For the clothes mavens, there are plenty of “vintage” clothing vendors. Birkenstocks are vintage now?
Unfortunately, there is a lot of fur among the clothing items. My animal activist side gets riled up. Maybe I can get my activist friends out protesting with me some Sunday.
I will allow the purchasing of a tiara or two, however. You can’t have too many of those.
One of my very favorite categories–cat lady (or cat guy) merchandise!
I am also fascinated by the extremely expensive French road and building signs. I can’t guarantee they are genuine; “faux French” is a thing.
Here are a few of the fun things I saw on this January visit:
Maybe Misty will have a chance to be impressed next month. And maybe I’ll see you at The Flea!
Our holiday travels this year consisted of a 2-day trip to the coast of Western Washington, specifically, the Kitsap Peninsula.
There was a reason for this trip other than needing a getaway after a very busy year. Bob’s brother Jack, planning ahead for retirement, bought a parcel of land outside of Belfair, on the Hood Canal. He’d been there in nicer weather and wanted to see it in the winter. When he asked us if we wanted to tag along on a short trip, of course we said yes! I love the Pacific Northwest, and have my own daydreams of settling in that part of the country. So we packed our carry-on bags and headed out, flying in to Seattle.
The rental 4-wheel drive SUV (I hate SUVs but in this case it seemed prudent), skillfully piloted by Bob, got us out of Seattle and over to the peninsula, where it was snowing! I grew up mostly in Georgia and California, so any amount of snow strikes me as wondrous and beautiful. And cold and wet, best viewed from indoors or on Christmas cards.
This is an area with a much larger population in the summer; in the winter off-season it is very quiet. Which is fine with me! But it would be fun to spend some time here in the summer too.
The route for the next day: morning in Poulsbo, then to Bainbridge Island, and finally the ferry back to Seattle for a night in the city.
Poulsbo is a charming town on Liberty Bay. Its historic downtown, referred to as Little Norway, is popular with summer tourists. On the way in, make sure and stop to see the 12-foot tall Norseman who stands at the intersection that leads into town.
First things first (well, second; seeing the Norseman was first), the search for coffee. I was not dissappointed. Viking Brew to the rescue!
A very welcoming town, Poulsbo, and quite proud of it’s Norwegian heritage.
And there is the beautiful view of the bay and a quite large marina.
Next up, Bainbridge Island, a place I’ve wanted to see for a while. Winslow Way seemed to be the main drag and center of all things commercial.
I’m not sure what the deal with frogs is, but like Chicago has its cows, San Francisco has its hearts, and Atlanta has its peaches, Bainbridge Island has its frogs.
I’m honestly not much of a shopper, but I can say shopping opportunities abound! We did make our way into a travel store, which included a great book section. I had no idea you could get Dr. Seuss in French. What happens with the anapestic tetrameter in which he wrote when translated?
We also made our way into one of the many art galleries, Roby King Galleries, to look at their show of contemporary works based on Alice in Wonderland in honor of its 150th anniversary. Some fun, some weird, some a little scary.
The highlight was a visit to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, a really beautiful space with several well-curated exhibitions on view.
The first exhibition you enter, on the ground level, is Steven Maslach: New Light. Maslach does amazing things with glass and color. The museum space, with its light, open spaces, makes a good backdrop for his work.
I was particularly struck by the display of his casting jacket and the burned arm; I am in awe of people who work with the heat and fire of glass.
Also on the ground floor is Nancy Thorne Chambers: A Story Place, a whimisical ceramic installation that I found to be quite lovely and nostalgia-provoking. I was transported back to a childhood of reading books like The Wind in the Willows and my lifelong love of books and animals.
Moving upstairs, the group exhibition Thought Patterns features regional artists working in an array of media but with a commonality of working in patterns and repetition.
Some of my favorites:
The most beautiful exhibition, to my eye, is the gallery of artist’s books. As an art form, these can be difficult to display and interpret for an audience. They can best be understood up close and personal (i.e., by handling) but are too fragile and vulnerable to allow this kind of contact. I think the specially fitted gallery allows for close viewing, safe exhibition, and a quiet, reflective space befitting this kind of collection. The particular exhibition on this visit: Artist’s Books: Chapter 6: Regarding nature…or disregarding it (Collection of Cynthia Sears).
The introductory wall includes this painting that a book-loving girl can’t bypass.
And as at all well-run museums, please exit through the gift shop!
There is a children’s museum next door that looks quite fun, but no time to stop other than for a bit of silliness.
Time for the ferry to Seattle.
We made it to the University District, but given that it’s winter break, not a lot was happening there. But the Hotel Deca was quite nice.
For dinner, we headed over to the Wallingford neighborhood, which reminded me a little of the East Bay with its Craftsman Homes. Through the guidance of Open Table, Bob found the restaurant Tilth, one of the restaurants of executive chef and James Beard award winner Maria Hines.
I don’t drink, but Bob was intrigued by the craft cocktail menu. I had a sarsparilla soda, which I didn’t know was a thing outside of cowboy movies. Bob’s not a vegan; he said the fish dishes were excellent.
I was pleased to see a vegan tasting menu. That’s not easy to find! I had the vegan cassoulet; it was delicious, smoky and mushroomy. And for dessert we shared the vegan cashew “cheesecake” with cranberry compote and pomegranate.
All good things must come to an end (must they, really?), so we were up early the next morning to get to the Seattle airport and home. I had no idea it got so cold in Seattle!
And now we are home, and it’s 2016. How did that happen? Happy New Year, everyone!