Starting Where You’re At

January 25, 2011

When I started this Point of Sail project one year ago, writing briefly about my friend Piper’s advice, “Start where you’re at”, and estimating that 2010 would be a “good year”, I had only a few simple ideas of what the year may hold. I love this about our universe: It takes such simple looking seeds of information and intent and develops intricate ecosystems of ideas, story, and living forms.

Now, reflecting on all that grew out of a year of uncertain floating (ship log), securely docked 20 miles south of San Francisco, swimming in ideas, imagining, despite some harsh realities the possibilities for an emerging ecological era, all-the-while still searching for meaningful, gainful employment, I am often bewildered as to where to start. The exercise of writing here is like trying to write down a wild dream, mid-dream, in order to remain lucid. And like an index finger may revolve around it’s nearest ear, I have come full circle.

The notion of “starting where you’re at” and two other notions my friend Piper relayed to me, have rooted, blossomed, and re-seeded since last year. These notions and the generally accepted dynamics of living systems and ecology (namely Positive Feedback, Self Organization, and Emergence) have bubbled up to the surface of my attention. Starting where I’m at means more than “looking to the moment”, it also means looking to the place.

Thomas Berry, in his book, “The Great Work” talks about this as the importance of understanding our “ecological geography”. I am attracted to this idea both as body of work I can contribute to (e.g. drafting ecological geographies), as well as a guide to being present on the Earth, as Thomas puts it, “in some mutually enhancing manner”. The idea of ecological geography is where I’m at.

This geography shows us more than the structure of the planet, it provides a basic understanding of the interrelated systems in which we find ourselves. It is an art which has been centuries in the making, and may now finally be coming to fruition- just in time.

A 14th-Century nautical chart of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Opte Project’s “graphing” of the internet (see lead image) offers a broad sketch of the immense complexity, and familiar beauty of our fledgling informational ecosystem. The maps the project produced have captured many people’s imaginations. As a part of the Creative Commons, they have been presented in a variety of contexts and are part of the permanent collection at The Museum of Modern Art.

Creative processes and technologies are emerging to describe ecosystems of all kinds, in all kinds of ways.

Ecosystem model of Caribbean reef foodweb- from the Pacific Ecoinformatics and Computational Ecology Lab (foodwebs.org)
 To fully embrace this art however, to give it meaning in our lives, consideration must be given to the structure, function, and interrelations of all ecosystems: living, informational, and industrial. It attempts to tells a deeper story while allowing us to derive our own meaning- our own true sense of place.

Conceiving of ecological geography in this way, I have been looking for signs of it in the world around me as well as on the web. It’s popping up everywhere, and developing rapidly.

A Google Images search for “Ontology” will open the door into a state of the art. Ontology- the study of the nature of being- is currently merging with the field of Computer Science…

The beauty is that the information age, a product of the industrial age, may be what allows us to properly understand the controls and impacts of our societal systems- enabling us at an individual level to collectively and effectively steer this ancient vessel of human presence. At least, that’s the dream.

So, I’m left to wonder: as a humble drafter with 6-years experience drafting, modeling, and rendering architectural bits of the industrial ecosystem, how can I help?

Until that point when employment marks my place, I will be splitting my time living aboard the Bruja Dulce in Redwood City and living in the Sierra Foothills at Skyline Eco-contemplative Retreat Center. In both places I find myself amidst a sea of possibilities. I feel open to following whatever trails beckon me into this emergent ecological era; whether graphical or physical in nature, whether by hire, by further study, or by my own rambled blazing.

Karisa will be moving to one of these areas in the late Winter. We’ll be together, somehow, and maybe we’ll begin some collaborations of our own.



  1. Alway glad to see a new log entry! You have a knack for bringing a fresh perspective to my world and helping me stay true to my bearings.

    When you walk through the neighborhoods of San Francisco…check out the trees:


    The informational ecosystem has a growing forest!

    Take care,
    Ian (Able Seaman)

    • Urbanforestmap.org, so cool! It’s like social networking for city trees via people.
      Karisa and I discovered date palms in the palm desert (CA) driving to NY this winter. We bought about 20lbs of dates as gifts.
      There are date palms in SF! I wonder if trees like this one produce edible dates. I’d gladly climb it to harvest.
      Come visit, Ian, Sabina, Natalie, and Shoshi. By the time Ris gets here, we’ll be hitting 80 degrees. Angel island, ho!
      Cheers mate.

  2. Tim!

    So nice to hear your wheels turning- your optimism is always infectiously inspiring. It does seem like the dream is starting to form. Can’t wait to see you guys in the coming months!

    much love,

    • Kim!
      Thanks, yeah, weary of cynicism. Looking forward to seeing you too. Sorry we missed you out east.
      It’s crazy here, 68 degrees and dry everyday for a week. More of the same coming.
      Can’t wait to pull the Bruja out of the mud and go sailing.
      All the best and safe travels!

  3. Ahhhh – there you are! I’ve missed your blog and am so glad to “see” you here again. And to listen to your amazing thoughts, dreams and the wonder you bring to both. I marvel at the way your mind and heart work….and look forward to following along on your journey as it unfolds! I know both you and Karisa will be glad to be on the same coast again soon! I’m hoping we might be able to come for a visit maybe in late summer or early fall. We’ll see….keep me posted and I’ll be in touch soon. Love you so much!

    • Thanks, Ma. Let’s hope my sanity doesn’t unfold in the process ;).
      Would love to have you and Doris here this year. Winter spring summer or fall.
      I think this one’s gonna be good too!
      Love you!

  4. I’m late catching up with you. Didn’t know whether you had started writing again or not. You continue to amaze me, young man. I’m intrigued by how your mind works. It just doesn’t get much better than to be able to follow your dreams. It was so great seeing you and meeting Karisa when you were here Christmas. A repeat visit can’t come too soon.

    I love you,

  5. Sorry about the double posting. My computer is doing weird things and I didn’t think the first one posted. Then I couldn’t remember exactly what I said so you got a double posting of the same thing – nearly. Oh well, I’m old and don’t speak computereeze so what can you expect?

    Love you,

    • You’re super savvy Grandma, and hip to boot.
      I hope Ris and I will be out there again soon. We’ve got to teach the girl to ski on unfrozen water.
      Love you,

  6. Hey, I will likely be out in the SFO/Sunnyvale area again likely in July to do some certification testing. I will let you know to see if you are nearby and I will try to build in some time. Am hoping to bring out KT and AB as well and make a mini-Family vacation out of it. So we’ll have to hook up, see if we can find another skunk on our return from In-and-Out!

    BTW, if it helps to get you guys out to OK in the summer, if you and Ris need airline tickets let me know. I can fly you both from SFO to Tulsa pretty easily. I don’t know where she is though so how easy it would be to fly her from her current location may be tougher.

    • Hey!
      Yes! Come. If Ris and I aren’t in the Bay Area, we’ll likely be up in Gold Country.
      Either way you all are more than welcome.
      There are skunks and burgers in both places.

      Not sure how much we’ll be able to travel this summer. Future….cloudy.
      Thanks for the silver lining! We’re taking it a week at a time right now.
      Wish I had a zeppelin.

  7. Wow.

    Exciting to read your thoughts and meanderings. So you’re in SF?

    Collaborations with a significant other _can_ and _do_ work. 🙂 You have to have patience, tend to it, keep disciplined, and a kind of stay-with-it-ness is required, too. Kind of like having a kid.

    Did I ever tell you about the ‘We’re Going Sailing’ song? John Spillane, Ireland. Grand stuff.


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