the most precious thing there is

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”          ― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

photo by elizabeth birnbaum


Lately, I have been thinking about stories as a constant. I’ve been musing about the tales I tell myself, and about how I am often wrapped up in narratives that I can only grasp with the benefit of space and time.

I am feeling more image-driven at the moment, and thus, I will present some of these stories in a series of images. These are images of what is constant in my present, future, and past.

I live in a story where I am never empty handed:

Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 11.47.06 PM

I also exist in a world that extends stories of disorientation:


And meanwhile, I seek the stories of magical nature and sacred seeds:


These three stories are present with me.


t r e e s

Image“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” — Hermann HesseImageImage

ImageImageImageus, ImageAll photos in this post were taken by Elizabeth Birnbaum.


When I think of “the most wonderful time of the year,” I find a male voice crooning a christmas classic has launched into some synaptic connection. The voice buzzes around my brain. But when I sit outside, close my eyes, and tune out the music between my ears, I hear birds, a gentle rustle of wind, and I feel the cooling damp air and warm sun. I am so grateful that we are on the cusp of spring here on the Central Coast.

1780666_685932883386_631961046_nI am bursting with energy and love and light, and so are the buds. This must be why I fall in love in the spring. This spring, though, I will fall in love with myself. I will appreciate the people in my life who offer me their love and support—their ears, their time, and their hearts. I am so lucky in this life and I have had a whole month of taking in the most amazing wave of support I have ever felt. I am swept off my feet by all the people in my life who provide a kernel of faith in my abilities and my soul. I am feeling this dry spring bursting through me.

Here is what is bursting in my world:

Gratitude for support from friends and colleagues who lent me their ears for the exhibit I have up in San Jose right now. The show is called Lend Me Your Ears and it delves into the human relationship with corn as experienced by several artists, activists, and farmers. Contributors to this exhibition use sculpture, photography, and the crop itself to portray an intimate glimpse into the human-corn relationship. Corn has spanned the territory from sacred mythology to mindless consumption, and yet so many stories about corn are still waiting to be told. This exhibition traces corn from proverbial seed to silk, following the history of this extraordinary grass from ancient worship to modern ubiquity.

IMGP6889I feel really good about the show, and am deeply grateful for the community of support who helped me pull it together. And I also just saw that the San Jose Museum of Art, who I collaborated with on this show, has a photo of me on their main page right now!

Screen shot 2014-02-20 at 10.06.00 PMMy mailbox is also bursting. I’ve gotten books and seeds and letters in the mail which warm my heart and are themselves bursting with synchronicity. Heirloom corn seeds and a lovely note from Mark of An Organic Conversation, Seedtime from its author Scott Chaskey (sent on behalf of a mutual friend), letters from an old and dear friend from college, DVDs about soil, and books from gardeners who want to connect about how to bring their great works to light. (You know you’re a corn nut when people send you heirloom corn seeds in the mail.)


All of this and the gift of loving words from so many members of the EcoFarm community which I am honored to be considered a part of now. In the last year and a half here, I have landed in a sweet spot. I did not land here alone or without the support of a community.

And yet there is time to be better, and to grow from these moments. I look forward to the cultivation of growth from the seeds that I am sowing.


photo by elizabeth birnbaum

rose hips • photo by elizabeth birnbaum

There is a synergy happening—one that has grabbed me in the gut. Tomorrow night opens my joint photography show called Gather & Grow. The show description is as follows:

As we gather, we grow as a community. Photographers Lisa Bunin and Liz Birnbaum became inspired to collaborate on this exhibit through their work at the Ecological Farming Association—Lisa is Board President and Liz organizes the annual EcoFarm conference. What began as an image sharing conversation between two photographers deeply committed to celebrating organic agriculture and food, blossomed into an exhibit that expresses the love of nature and the intrigue of foodscapes. Their photos showcase the beauty, bounty, and biodiversity of ecological agriculture where farms transform nature into an amazing array of food.

Gather and Grow, the show’s title, echoes that of California’s oldest and largest ecological food and farming gathering—the EcoFarm Conference. Like a conference workshop, the intent of this exhibit is to invite people to engage in conversations about food and farming and in doing so foster community in the intentionally created space. Our hope is that visitors will become energized to extend their conversations beyond opening night and to consider becoming a more active participant in forging a sustainable food future. So drop by, have an organic conversation, and leave with an appetite for food system change.

photo by elizabeth birnbaum

fresh cut • photo by elizabeth birnbaum

And so, on the eve of my show, I am watching a delicious film: Babbette’s Feast. The film has—as one character puts it as he describes the decadent cailles en sarcophage“the ability to transform a dinner into a kind of love affair, a love affair that made no distinction between bodily appetite and spiritual appetite.” There is something about that line which echoes in my own body and spirit, tonight.

BabettesFeast_PUB04Earlier I listened to Chef Dan Barber on This American Life. He was on to explain what he lays out so delectably in the TED talk, “A Foie Gras Parable.” The way Barber traces the infamous dish of foie gras is tantamount to a romantic quest. He starts skeptically, begins to see the light, develops depth in his reverence of this new biophilic foie gras, and finally has a full conversion experience to the extent that he would now evangelize to the world. And it all seems valid because biophilic/animal welfare oriented foie gras is nothing short of a culinary god-send. And the confluence of this story and of Babbette’s Feast both re-entering my world on the same night have stirred up some romantic notions of love and life, for me now, too.

I was once fortunate enough to have dinner at Barber’s restaurant Blue Hill, part of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York. On that night I dined with incredible company and we spoke of Babette’s Feast. I also saw geese when I was back at Stone Barns in February. These are Dan Barber’s (and farmer Jack Algiere’s) geese. IMG_7557IMG_7558 This sensory-memory-romantic onslaught reminded me of a poem I read recently which was published in this Summer’s issue of the journal Gastronomica. It is called Exposition on Baking Baklava, by Hillary Fogerty. The full text is not available online; I could only find this from a preview of the first page on JSTOR: Screen shot 2014-01-05 at 12.34.43 AM

The poem takes you on a journey around the world, propelled by love, to procure each ingredient to make baklava. From honey gathering to “the flowering place of orchids” which refers to the vanilla bean, this is one of the most romantic, charming, and memorable poems I have read in a long while.

And as is said by the General in Babette’s Feast:

“For tonight I have learned, my dear . . . that in this beautiful world of ours . . . all things are possible.”

fig drop • photo by elizabeth birnbaum

fig drop • photo by elizabeth birnbaum

While, /(h)wīl/

photo by elizabeth birnbaumnoun: while; plural noun: whiles; noun: the while
a period of time.
“we chatted for a while”
for some time.
noun: a while
“can I keep it a while?”
at the same time; meanwhile.
“he starts to draw, talking the while”

photo by elizabeth birnbaumliterary
during the time that.
“beseeching him, the while his hand she wrung”

IMGP5613conjunction: while
during the time that; at the same time as.
“nothing much changed while he was away”
whereas (indicating a contrast).
“one person wants out, while the other wants the relationship to continue”
in spite of the fact that; although.
“while I wouldn’t recommend a nighttime visit, by day the area is full of interest”

IMGP5620 adverb: while
during which.
“the period while the animal remains alive”

IMGP5656verb: while; 3rd person present: whiles; past tense: whiled; past participle: whiled; gerund or present participle: whiling
pass time in a leisurely manner.
“a diversion to while away the long afternoons”

Shuffling the Deck

Shuffling the Deck

To my knowledge, the Earth has been spinning as usual, but somehow a lot of the core things in my life are — or feel — different. Even though these October days in California are mostly warm and sunny, there … Continue reading

My Ode to Amagansett

My Ode to Amagansett

This blog post serves to mark a time long ago—the Spring of 2010—which was the occasion of my first visit to Amagansett. At the time, I was still a very greenhorn photographer. Still, somehow, when I look back at these … Continue reading

So long, Summer.

Although California’s Central Coast is relatively season-less, I still have the urge to mark what my circadian rhythm expects of the seasons. I miss the the leaves changing from green to rainbow in one coordinated dance come September, but am … Continue reading