Extending Residency

Today has been…phew…what has it been? On top of being creative in all sorts of other ways, I am, most unfortunately, also a writer. Not like a famous writer. No no. I assure you. I am the worst kind of writer. I am the kind who has to write in order to process things. It’s like a curse. Always having to write to figure things out. Grab some coffee, this is gonna take a minute.

First of all I like to listen to Kpop when I write. Also you will probably enjoy reading this more if you turn off your punctuation and grammar filter.

Right now I am listening to “EXO 엑소 ‘으르렁 (Growl)’ MV (Korean Ver.)” You are welcome for that link. Enjoy.

Okay so…the podcast. Right? The whole big thing I have set aside this month for. From April 30th-June 4th I had (notice the past tense usage there) set aside this time to finish Season One of Salmonfolk Radio. The remaining content beyond the 5 episodes already released has been languishing on hard drives. Some of that content has been dusting over since 2018…some of it newer content from 2021. I have good reasons for why so much dust but that’s not the point of this post. I am only looking forward.

I know when I am onto something good. I know when I am in possession of something that changes people’s lives. I am not bragging because I am not talking about myself. I am talking about the people who gave their time to me. To be blunt, they are brilliant human beings. These are people you need to know about. They are just looking at the intersection of the natural world and global capitalism and human nature in such relatable and unusual ways. I am so humbled that they spent time with me, a relative stranger (and my cameras and mics) towards the cause of getting fish farms out of the water.

Most of the material I have gone over since April 30th is material I have not heard since the day it was recorded-in 2018. And it’s just…GOD…it’s SO good!! I had no idea until now. I had forgotten how rich it all is. I find myself thinking “holy shit…people need to know about this!”

I have Episodes 6-8 done! I am not releasing any of the new episodes though until I have full funding for sound mastering. So done…but sorta not quite done. My side of the job at least is done there. I am working on Episode 9. I think Season One will end up having about 16 episodes. And everyone dang one of them worth your time.

I have been a veteran now of many enviro campaigns. I have interviewed so many other long haul enviro folks. They all have one thing in common: longevity. It takes years or even decades to make change happen.

I look at the calendar and see June 4th looming-and I know that’s not long enough.

I also know that after June 4th I currently have no idea where I will be living. Money isn’t awful. I have some small amount in savings and I have some very small side jobs trickling in. To keep my costs down, so that I can run off my savings for as long as possible, I am housesitting and petsitting. It’s how I can afford to do what I am doing this month.

I can mostly finish Season One by June 4th…(minus the sound design and mastering) but that is not what it takes to have this podcast be heard by enough change makers. What I need is time for these things to happen:

  1. How to best market and gain listenership for a podcast that has global implications. Seeking someone who has experience connecting with larger players in the world of podcasting.
  2. How to best approach companies for sponsorships, build alliances. This podcast has interviews with fisherman, eco philosophers, scientists and activists from around the world. A lot of outdoor brands I think would want to be a part of the positive messaging. Oh..and it’s also a travelogue, so lots of outdoorsy explorations.
  3. Finding fiscal sponsors for this ocean conservation work so I can attract more donations.
  4. Network with fish farm fighters around the globe.
  5. Tie in the online world wide premiere of Being Salmon Being Human the movie on 11/3/2023.

My current dedicated $$ on hand? $0

My current committment to making all this work happen? 100%

Without an investment made in time spent, Salmonfolk Radio will not be able to do the work it needs to do.

I need longer than a month to make this all happen.

My plan now is to keep this “conservationist in residency” mission going for longer. My kids are grown. I am single. I am relatively healthy (no serious health care costs currently). I have a working car that is paid off. I have nearly zero debt. I am going to continue housesitting and petsitting gigs at least until the end of August. I just locked in a gig that will last most of August. Now to fill in June 15th til July 26th somewhere on the East Coast.

It’s kind of a big deal for me to let go of applying for “real” jobs…to hope that this all works out and I don’t end up broke.

It means not having employer sponsored health care. But when I consider the opposite of this…that is how the world doesn’t change. When we are all on that wheel of having to have the job, having to pay the rent, having to live that way and have those jobs that just don’t make anything of actual value—we unmake the world that we don’t have time to value any longer. And eventually it will be gone. So I am sort of jumping off into really embracing trying to do this differently. I am, for however long that I can, trying to restory my role here.

I am not special. There are thousands of people, probably millions, who would absolutely dedicate themselves to doing similar work. But this isn’t the kind of “work” that our culture values with $$. I just happen be free enough in my life, right now, where I can attempt this approach.

Well thanks for listening to my TedTalk. #rantover.

If you would like to help me stay on this path here is my Patreon.

Here is a screenshot of Episode 8’s timeline after I was done today!

New Video Series

Something I have also been doing while on my residency in VT is making a series of videos related to saving Bolin Creek. I tried to wrap it all up before my Salmonfolk month began but I didn’t quite make it. It’s okay though. I made the time. I had to, because the notion to pave along Bolin Creek keeps coming up. I won’t go into all the details here because I am tired and have been editing Salmonfolk Radio Episode 8 while also trying to figure out where on Earth I am going to live next after I leave my current housesitting gig on June 4th lol.

I am just stopping by to drop this link https://bolinforestclimateaction.org/videos/

All the videos on that new website about saving Bolin Forest are ones that I put together. It’s always tempting to stop there…with the words “the ones that I put together”. But we all stand on other’s shoulders. All of our knowledge and hopefully some wisdom, usually is on loan from those who came before us. I don’t have a video if I don’t have an interview subject. All the ideas that I worked into the video series you see there, all came from locals who worked hard to acquire their knowledge. There is also deep institutional knowledge about the topic that only folks who have been around for decades can bring to bear. I am the one that synthesizes and streamlines all that into a single video or three…but when working with non-profits…on an important cause, I find that I get to see that village that everyone keeps saying is required.

I am quite proud to have been able to make videos that the group felt strongly enough about to place on their website. I hope the vids make a difference in the fight to Keep Bolin Creek Wild.

Screenshot of a portion of the page below:

Salmonfolk Radio Ep 6&7 Done!

My “conservationist in residency” is going amazingly well! It’s hard to find the time to do all the editing to the Salmonfolk Radio podcast AND to also post updates on a budget of $0 and doing everything solo. But I wanted to at least say something here. I have brought Episode 6 and 7 to life. The only thing they are missing is the sound design and mastering.

This means that I could technically release them now. But I feel committed to the path of having high quality sound mastering done by Jay Siebold. More and more I find that this process of podcasting is the story, the fuller story. Originally designed as a film project, I would have had to cut 95% of every single interview in order to fit it into a film…or even a film series. Stumbling into making my filmed interviews into a podcast has breathed unexpected life into every single person I met with…all the nuance is revived and made new. It’s the full story that I always wanted to convey. And mainly…it provides impact. It just fucking delivers and I can’t wait to get the funding to have these 100% completed soon.

6 and 7 wrap up my Day 3 on Van Isle in 2018, when I was there filming. What’s fun is that I have great images to go with social media drops for every episode. So once I get more organized I plan to have separate show pages with descriptions and visual for each episode.

Here is Martin, Torgeir and Georgiana…at the end of Day 3. After touring salmon habitats all day long, we enjoyed a fresh caught salmon (from the Eve River) and roasted corn in the husk. Sitting at Harmony Shores Campground on Malcom Island. Such a beautiful way to end our day. This story is so rich! I can’t wait for the world to hear it.

Switching Over to Conservation

To support my podcasting for conservation work then check out my Patreon!

September 6, 2021 was the last time I published an episode of Salmonfolk Radio, my podcast that is a critical part of Salmonfolk. This was not the last episode of the podcast, but it was the last time I had the energy, space/creativity/mindset required to work on this. What happened after September 6th that has so delayed more episodes? I was a full time caregiver for my father then. In November of 2021 Dad moved into a retirement community. I was tasked with and sold the family house. I dealt with massive amounts of accumulated “stuff” my parents had in tow after 50 years of marriage. Also, I was still wrestling with my mother’s death in 2020. Before I was looking after Dad, I had been a full time live-in nurse for my mom as she died from cancer and dementia. Needless to say…I needed a break. I had been a full time caregiver for my parents for 2 years. The first 5 episodes of Salmonfolk Radio were my only creative output in all of that time. And honestly, I don’t even know how I had the energy to do that many.

By November 2021, I needed to have fun for a change. I needed recovery. Also…that’s an understatement! I desperately needed recovery time and space, and lots of fun. So that is what I did. I traveled the country starting in November 2021. I visited friends. My focus was on enjoyment, laughter, good times with good friends.

We all were just coming out of the pandemic. For most friends I was the first in house visitor that they had received in nearly 2 years. I had to relearn what normal felt like. Most of us did at that time. I eventually landed a job at the University of Vermont in Burlington VT. in Spring of 2022. I was teaching students how to become outdoor trip leaders. In my free time I could be found on the inland sea known as Lake Champlain. Crystal clear water with 20 feet of visibility. A former part of the Atlantic Ocean now marooned and freshwater. I did a lot of open water swimming and stand up paddle boarding. All the while I was aware of how there were landlocked salmon swimming in those waters. I then took a job that I had been dreaming of for about 30 years. I worked at a family owned ski resort and spent the better part of Winter 2022-23 on top of a VT mountain. I taught skiing and snowboarding, helped run the Rentals shop…I even worked as a lift operator. The season wrapped for me on April 2nd.

For the entire time I was driving cross country, or teaching map and compass to sophomores at UVM, or teaching hilarious kids to snowboard at the mountain…one project was tapping on my shoulder; Salmonfolk. When would I get back to it? When would I hit the magic recharge status for creativity? I am happy to announce that I am finally there. Conservation work stretches out before me and feels more critical than ever. After years of pondering Salmonfolk what became clear to me is that having an open runway would be important. I needed to find an artist in residency program…if possible. I targeted the end of the ski season as my start point for a program and set about self designing one. My goal? An entire month of Salmonfolk Radio work.

From April 30th – May 30, 2023 I am beginning a self designed artist in residency in Montpelier VT. I will be staying in a cute cabin on the edge of town, dog sitting some cute dogs and nothing but Salmonfolk…and the occasional morning yoga or SUP outing to clear my mind. I kind of can’t believe that I am finally doing this or that life saw fit to allow me to do so many wonderful things to recover from such a difficult past. But I am filled with gratitude that I am here and about to embark on this project once more.

The month will be focused hard on editing the already recorded content from 2021. I interviewed so many important activists and thinkers back then. And their voices and perspectives need to be heard. The relevancy of these interviews is likely even more poignant today. I have also had many new listeners report back to me about how much they enjoyed the first 5 episodes that have been out there since 2021. This has also been very encouraging. I have had 18 year olds tell me that after listening…they will never eat farmed salmon again. One day I walked into the Rentals shop at my ski resort, after wrapping up an on snow lesson…and the entire staff was listening to Salmonfolk Radio over the main speakers while working! Their reaction? “I had no idea!” And that’s really the point. No one who isn’t doing the research would know the truth about how salmon is farmed. What’s also true is that once people learn how…they never want to eat farmed salmon again. As well they should not.

So it’s off to the races once more. After May I will still keep going on Salmonfolk. My goal is to find angel investors of some kind who believe in the work and the goal…so I can keep highlighting this globally important topic. This is obviously my first post in a VERY long time. I have a lot of catching up to do here in Salmonfolk world. This website, for example…woefully out of date. Old links to old Gofundme initiatives…missing information. The salmon farm map! Egads! That salmon map!!

Onwards! For Wild Salmon!!! If you would like to help me keep going on Salmonfolk 100% then at least one link still holds relevancy…you can be my patron. That’s the best way to keep me on task.

On another note, I have had a LOT of fun in general. And now I feel the imperative to do one thing…to only for work for conservation causes. From here on out my position is that conservation is where my writing, filming, podcasting and photography will be zeroing in on.

Plans

Musings from a coffee shop sun splashed window in Lambertville NJ. I spent the night at a friend’s house here. In one week he is starting the move to Prescott, AZ. Which is wild. Because that is where we met, in 1993. He’s on the move now with his family of 4. I am on the move with…me. My camera gear. A head full of poems. A mind packed with coalescing strategies for how to make more online content and films regarding conservation issues. I just wrapped up a 30 year dream of working full time at a ski resort. It was heavenly and worth the wait. As of now I am gainfully unemployed. Roaming. Visiting friends and family up and down the east coast of the USA. That will last most of April. Then in May I embark upon an artist in residency where I will work on nothing else but editing the remaining 10 episodes of a podcast I started 1.5 years ago. Season One of Salmonfolk Radio will finally be out by June. After May, I have no idea of what I will be doing, where I will be living, what income will look like. If most knew how little I had in my bank account, they’d not think me sane for this plan. But life has plans. You know? I have been working 60 hour weeks nearly every week since May 15th. I am a tired boy. Sometimes you have to go with it. There is an open space in front of me and I need that. Everything is pointing in this direction. When that happens you won’t realize the reward unless you trust and go forward. You can’t obliquely trust. It has to be pointed or life isn’t worth it at all. A lot of this is informed by pragmatism. I have been on food stamps. I have been upper middle class. I have been handed huge sums of money. I have asked for money. I have seen fortunes come and go in my life and felt the tide ebb and flow enough to recognize when the tide is coming in. So perhaps this isn’t trusting of me at all. Perhaps I am just surfing this wave in nice and easy. 

The last time I was in this coffee shop was in December of 2021. Feels like a decade ago. When here last I had just completed taking care of my father, who has dementia and he had moved into a retirement community. I had my son with me and I was driving him to start his new post pandemic life in NYC. This was all about a year after mom had died of cancer and dementia. I had wrapped up being a full time caretaker for my parents for nearly 2.5 years when last sitting right here. 

Now it’s 2023 and that means that I have spent about 18 months free of that. I never thought I would make it out of my caretaking role. And yes, I am working on a book about it. And yes, it’s a worse reality than you are imagining if you haven’t been there yet. Indeed, surviving it and coming out on the other side of it and celebrating being alive again is better yet than anything I have experienced…besides the joy of having kids.

As I get closer to NC, where I used to live and made Bolin Creek Unpaved, the picture frame of my week there is filling in quickly. Things are heating up all over again. The town council (most of them) are hot (so hot!) to pave through Bolin Forest. Yes. In our time of runaway global heating and runaway deforestation…the self anointed environmentalists of Carrboro NC are trying to claim that paving through the forest is literally the best thing for the environment that they can imagine. It’s fucking…just fucking wild. So I have brought my mics, 3 cameras and am already storyboarding. When I am down here I will be teaming up again with old friends and non profits and creating content to help educate the locals. Which is frustrating. It’s honestly bizarre that you have to find a way to explain to your fellow human beings why paving through a forest is bad for the planet…but in this age of disconnection, that’s where we are at as a species somehow.

I will also be premiering Old School Stone while there. OMG. So stoked for that! John, the 84 year old star of that film will be with me in attendance. Or rather…I will be in attendance with him. He is the film. Though this film has conservation themes for sure, the joy of this film is that it’s all about the joy of exploring outdoors. I am not selling an idea. There is no call to action. It’s just pure outdoorsy fun told from a wise man’s perspective. This will mark my 4th feature length film premiere.

John is not young. Neither am I lol. We began filming in 2018. I am grateful that we are both alive for the premiere. Even if it only shows once in front of a live audience, I am grateful to have that chance. So excited!

Well…that’s about it. I am about to hit the road once more. More driving time means more thought time to plan sequences to film along Bolin Creek. More ways to inform the layperson about science in ways that makes them choose things that are good for themselves in this bizarre time of the disappearance of common sense and self preservation.

I am ready

So, enjoy the freeform brainstorm. Writing is part of my process now…which is not something that was involved in any of the other films that I have done. 

It’s weird okay? Coming “back” to making a movie on any topic, after a forced 3 year hiatus for any filmmaking, it’s super strange. I am super excited, but yeah, it’s super strange also.

I just finished watching “The Offer” on Paramount+ as inspiration. I want to try things in this movie that I have never tried before. But before I really start cutting things down on the timeline I need to have a mantra. I need to know what it is for. Why am I about to spend about 80 hours making this thing when I could otherwise be outside, doing yoga, paddleboarding, swimming, hiking, making new friends?  Why? What’s it all about anyway…you know?

Taking stock, by the numbers:

-I have about 6 hours of footage on the timeline in the sequence everything was shot. 

-The 6 hours is the combination of 5 separate days of filming in 5 different locations.

-All the footage involves myself and John solely, with different natural areas playing the other characters. 

-It’s a straight up documentary, no acting, nothing is staged, complete non-fiction. 

-I began filming in 2017.

-My last day of filming was May of 2022.

-I never thought that this film would take 5 years to make. I planned on having it done in 2018.

I can’t really start unless I write down why it has taken 5 years. Other projects of immediacy came into play…my favorite forest was about to get cut down…so I made a movie against that. Another favorite forest connected to my family was about to be turned into a 400 foot deep stone quarry forever, so I made a movie to raise awareness about that one as well. I discovered by accident what was going on with factory scale farming of salmon in the oceans around the globe and then began a big project on that topic. I wanted to have this film daylighted and seen…but the timing wasn’t right. Then came my mom’s dementia and cancer and my sudden move to where my parents lived to help them out. All film work ceased for 3 years. Oh…and there was a worldwide pandemic. While everyone else was finding their inner creator and launching podcasts…I was living in a very tough situation as a full time caretaker as my mom lost her mind and her life…not a good time to edit a movie. 

Everything happens at the right time. Even when we don’t want it to be the right time, when it happens, is when it is right. I am glad that this movie has taken so long to get to. Because now I have a fully different approach to what this footage means to me. The outdoors, it saved my life. While being a caregiver, being outside and furthermore, bouldering- (rock climbing without ropes or gear) was what helped me hang on to sanity. Wildness saved me. The feel of stone under my fingertips and the pinched toes in my La Sportivas helped me remember what is good in life. And that is what John was telling me back in 2017. He was always holding the museum quality pitons or other gear from the late 1960’s…sure. But what he was always talking about was how climbing was about friendship and sharing the adventure, and being in beautiful places and protecting the places you love to recreate in. His message makes so much more sense to me now than when we began. 

I will admit that I feel no small amount of pressure to get it right. I want this movie to communicate clearly to a climbing and non climbing audience, what is good in life. How does one make a film about climbing that doesn’t have any actual climbing footage in it…and keep the audience engaged? For me, to my way of thinking…that is my task. I have to choose which parts of John’s illuminations and ruminations rise to the top. It’s a bit daunting. I think also the pressure is on because this movie is the first one I am working on since my life had that major 3 year detour. But also it’s on a topic that is near and dear to me. If any label describes me thoroughly, it’s “climber”…more specifically “boulderer”. I have been climbing now since 1991. Check the calendar. 30 years ago I started bouldering and I haven’t stopped yet. It matters to me a lot. And so, this film is quite special to me. My hope is that those who watch it either discover or rediscover how bouldering or climbing is such a rarified and special undertaking.

The transcripts are done and marked up.
I have post it notes splayed out all around.
I am ready.

Follow the journey on https://oldschoolstone.wordpress.com

Me. June 2022. McKenzie Pond Boulders, ADK, NY. Doing research for the film lol.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today has been busy! In the interest of saving my fingers from even more typing…here is what I posted elsewhere about my day so far…

Okay! So…progress was made today! This is a screenshot from the newly updated Youtube Channel! And for the sake of saving my fingers from even more typing…here is what I just posted about this on my IG.

It’s Mother’s Day. And in honor of #mothersday I committed to completing #caregivingtheuntoldstory vis a vis the Youtube Channel content. I have broken out the full interview into 19 separate bite sized chapters for easier viewing. It’s all live now on the Youtube Channel. Link is in my bio!!! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSYml4DxCKUbV5SV0MZErmA

Thanks 100% to @ftdalovestory for being willing to be interviewed. And thanks to @l8rmr for being there to ask some of the best questions ever. 

I did this today in honor of my mom, who lost herself in the world of dementia. She didn’t have #ftd but the impact was the same in terms of trying to manage the situation. 

Take a moment to watch some of the videos. What you may not know about #frontotemporaldementia#frontotemporaldegeneration will surprise you. 

This is for all those #caregivers out there. #caregiversupport#dementia#dementiacaregiver#dementiacaregivers#dementiaawareness#caregiversrock

Yo, Where is Charlie?

Right now I am listening to Hwa Sa “TWIT”. If you don’t currently watch Kpop, and the way that they edit and light videos in South Korea, you are really missing out. This week I was also blown away by an intro for Season 1 Episode 8, “The Widow” on Amazon. The music featured a song by Cage The Elephant. Even if you don’t watch the episode, just watch the intro until the music starts. What I appreciate about it, is that without a single word of narration, the visuals and the music show the true cost of where the materials inside of our cell phones come from. It’s ugly. It’s true. It’s powerful. It’s beautiful. It’s a good use of video.

Right now I am working and temporarily still bouncing around houses in Warren, VT. But (drumroll!) I have finally acquired housing in Plattsburgh, NY. Why? Why Plattsburgh? I admit, it’s not exactly a place people are flocking to live. It’s got an odd post industrial vibe for sure and needs a lot of work. But the rents there are so much lower than in Burlington. And Burly is where I will be mainly working on my non video stuff. From June til November I will be working at the University of Vermont full time on a very fun project. I will still be doing video work, consulting and non profit stuff. But I am very excited about finally having a place to put my feet up for a while. It also gets me closer to Saranac Lake and Mirror Lake. Two fantastic winter destinations that I adore.

The best part about living in Plattsburgh is the commute to work. I have to take a ferry to cross Lake Champlain. I like ferries almost as much as I like skiing.

Anyway, I have been busy working on making connections for my Caretaking: The Untold Story . I had a great convo today with a woman who has been working on the topic of dementia for decades.

I have also been starting to slowly envision where I want Old School Stone: A Climber Looks Back to go. I have a deadline…the Carrboro Film Festival is accepting submissions until August 1. My old mentor Bradley Bethel is the organizer. He helped me get my start in making a living by making short films and video editing. I don’t expect any special favors though lol..he’s a tough critic! But this is yet another film that has been on the backburner for far too long. John, the subject of the film, lives in Carrboro. If I can finish the film, and it gets accepted into the festival…and he can go and sit in that audience and watch it, that will be totally amazing. To be blunt, John is over 80 years old. I want to get this thing locked in while he can still totally enjoy it.

Finally I am working locally on a gig where I am helping someone do a major overhaul of all of their digital assets. They have roughly 50K images in their iCloud Photos. Yep. A lot. And they have images on various older phones and laptops and SD cards and so forth. What the mission is, is to take all of these images and organize them by year and then park them on a new 18TB NAS drive. NAS stands for “Network Attached Storage”. I have had to do so much with file storage and management during my time editing videos and photos, that I have developed a real knack for this kind of thing. I understand drives, all storage media formats, and can switch back and forth easily between Mac and Windows. It may sound like boring work, but I like it. And honestly tons of people are in my new client’s situation right? Who hasn’t lost control of where all their photos and videos are located?

Another highlight from this week was when I was interviewed for a podcast. Pic below…

Howard’s podcast is called Plant Yourself. We had a really great conversation. The interview isn’t live yet, but it’s coming! I will definitely post it here once it is ready. I think it may also be included in video format as well. He asked me a lot about process. About how and why I got into being a documentarian. It was really rad.

Soon I leave my housesitting gig here in Warren. Then I head south in early May to visit my dad. Then I will be in NC for nearly a month, visiting friends, my daughter. I will also be doing a bit of additional filming for Old School Stone.

I will also be taking a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course with Landmark Learning. I am so so so psyched to be taking this class. The reason most of my work is centered around the outside world is because I spend so much time there. Just check out my Instagram for the proof of that. Being a WFR (again) has been a long time dream of mine. With the WFR I can be on ski patrol, lead outdoor trips, volunteer at medical relief shelters and be well informed for all my own trips, which are often in wilderness areas.

It’s hard to describe the relief of knowing that I will l finally have housing for 4 months. Yeah I am excited about having a place for only 4 months. That’s what happens to you when you are out here in this housing crisis madness…even 4 months in one apartment seems really exciting and miraculous.