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  • Jennifer Jewell





There is an ancient association between the natural and botanical world and the inspiration it provides to the visual and dimensional arts.

In October, we celebrate this long-standing interplay by hearing from different artists each week about their botanical journeys, processes and purpose. This week we’re joined by Obi Kaufmann is the artist and author of The California Field Atlas, and curator of the online presence known as Coyote and Thunder.

Obi joins us from his studio in Oakland, California.

In this first book of what will be a series of books diving into the intricacies of the natural history of the physical region we now refer to as California, Obi writes: “by writing this book, I seek to participate in the wild Reimagining of this place, past the scars inflicted over the past 200 years , to reveal a story about what has always been here and what will remain long after our human residency here is through. It is a book about the beauty of the most essential elements of place and how we view it....a new portfolio of invented geography that balances ecology and aesthetics as driving and orienting forces."

And: “I am a poet and a painter, and my work is based on a mode of naturalistic interpretation that builds from hard science to focus on the inner lens of truth.” He describes his journey work documenting the physical and metaphysical nature of the being he knows as family: California - as a "Family Album."

"California is not a thing that belongs to us, in fact we belong to it - you know there’s this new narrative - this nature-first narrative that’s emerging and asking what the 21st century needs -how we can best tend to the better stewardship of this place."

Obi Kaufmann, Artist

"The California Field Atlas was awarded the 2018 Gold Medal for Notable Contribution to Publishing by the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. I am so proud and grateful to receive and share this award with my excellent publisher, HEYDAY BOOKS. My great hope is that this book stands with the larger vanguard of inspired voices rising across California and beyond, that share a vision for an emergent culture built on values of ecological restoration over reclamation and resource replenishment over endless extraction. United, we can usher in a new age of greater abundance while preserving the superlative portfolio of biodiversity that California enjoys for generations to come. (obi)"


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If you're interested in buying The California Field Atlas, and you buy it through the live link in the title of the book in green - you will support independent book stores, artist/writer Obi Kaufmann, AND your favorite podcast, Cultivating Place.

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So many of our Cultivating Place guests come back to this sense of a love story, a reciprocal relationship with their gardens, lands, plants - born of heritage or a lifetime of experience or of recent experiences that demonstrate to them that this relationship builds them up. I really Like how Obi refers to this first book of his – The California Field Atlas as "A Family Album of sorts." I really hope you enjoy his artwork heer and check out his website and the book – his watercolor maps and sketches are lovely – and you can feel that they are loving too – like a family album is.

I'm not sure if Field Atlases as a genre will or won't take off – but wow, I like the idea. I really like kind of rolling around in thinking about and looking at all the different ways we know a place – and how we see our places and value them – all the different levels of information and meaning our places hold for us.

THIS, in some cool ways, is #metagardening or #quantumgardening at its best: when I look at my little garden and its environs, I can see the way water flows off of it and into it in a rainstorm – my own little watershed, I can see the shadows moving through the day as the sun rises and moves directly over my house – which faces directly north south – I know which season I am in by the shadows on the wall at given times of day which I don’t always pay attention to, but its cool to consider that I know it when I see it – it's a marker that my body and mind absorb without my thinking about it; I can visualize the prevailing wind moving across my house and garden – from the south to the north – a greater force, a louder song in spring and fall; I see the pergola that John built for me to create some shade in my south facing courtyard this year – the fourth full year I have inhabited this home and its space, a home that embraced me and my daughters after a disorienting divorce. From my office window, I can look through this loving pergola all the way to the open space field beyond - we are right now fighting to protect this very open space in our city council.

Between me and that view is a row of houses – seven on each side of the street that radiates south directly from my house and office window. Of those 14 houses – there are just three that don't have front yard lawn. Two of those houses have only recently replaced their lawn with some form of garden.

So in this "cartography of self," as my friend Christin Geall recently termed it, I hold onto the vision of those houses and lawns in front of me and when days come that I think I am only speaking to the choir, that I am saying the same thing over and over, and everyone must know this same sense of sense of and love for place, I think: nope – we still have plenty of work to do – plenty of people to awake to this same value and joy we share.

Here in the fall, in our Mediterranean climate, this October and later into the fall season is a season of planting – with the return of rains here (we got our first rain this past week Hurray!) It is a second kind of spring. We plant trees and shrubs, bulbs, and seed, we feed the soil with compost and mulch. Which brings me to the quote I read in the beginning of the program. Did you ever see Hello Dolly? I can still picture the inimitable Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi uttering the phrase with her dramatic, slight drawl: Money, pardon the expression is like manure…..haha

North State Public Radio has just launched a support page and campaign to create longterm and sustainable funding to support Cultivating Place and for the first time I ever I come to you to invite and ask for your help with this. I know - on an urgent daily basis many projects, causes and important work we are asked to support. So I thank you in advance for considering adding CP to possible list.

FUNDING is the beautiful and fragrant and full of life composted manure we need to dig into the soil bed that is Cultivating Place, and which will allow for optimum root growth this winter and full flowering and fruiting in the seasons to come. You can make your tax deductible contribution through the SUPPORT button below, or at CultivatingPlace.Com – just follow the links at the top of any page! And if you prefer to call in your support through the phone number there, please make sure to SPECIFY that the donation is in support of your favorite podcast – Cultivating Place.

And good lord - Thank you in advance for any level of support and as always - for listening!

I’m fully enjoying Botanical Artober so far – how about you? I know there are so, so, so, many artists out there I wanted to host in this series – if I follow you on Instagram or Facebook or interact with you about your art in any way - in person or on-line way, please know I wanted to invite you. You know who you are! Over there in England in Australia, in Japan, in Ireland, and Africa. Your work is beautiful and powerful and meaningful. Keep it up. And I will hope to keep adding to this series every year.

You all reflecting the magic of the world of plants back to a world that needs it - in your gardens, in ALL your art.

For information on upcoming episodes in the series, to read more about wrapping up the unbelievably gratifying Seeds of September Series – make sure to read this month’s A VIEW FROM HERE newsletter that went last week. SUBSCRIBE to it -that helps me stay in touch with you, too!

If you ever want to connect more directly to me – or to one another – comment on weekly posts on Instagram and Facebook – I always enjoy hearing from you and connecting back.

Enjoy the Cultivating Place Podcast? If yes, SHARE IT WITH FRIENDS.

The value of conversations like these is powerful action for positive shifts in this world.

And thank you....

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