Photo Credit: Sonoma Hills Farm

I’m writing this on a scorching mid-August afternoon, the peak of naked ladies season here in Sonoma County. Those lovely leafless bubblegum-colored flowers bobbing along the roadsides always remind me of the bittersweet transition from the freedom of summer vacation to the routines of going back to school. I love a fresh notebook and sharpened pencils, all that promise and possibility. 

This afternoon I went back into the classroom for the first time in 18 months, which felt like jumping hot and sweaty into a cool river. My JC students were also invigorated and refreshed, so happy to be back. They listened and responded to each other by name, phones tucked away, engaging in the lively interchange of ideas that creates a classroom community. I could see glimmers of what is to come in this critical thinking class—dissent and nuance, pushing boundaries, transgressing to discover, a certain organic messiness—a big part of what I’ve missed so much about face-to-face teaching. 

In that same spirit, this issue celebrates the subversive, from embracing new frameworks to bending rules. I profiled my first incognito subject, the female street artist known as The Velvet Bandit, a 40-something year old mom like me. We talked about parenthood and privilege, surgery and dating, the intersection of gender and race as it pertains to her identity as an artist and the way people perceive (and receive) her work. 

In the Grow feature, Evan Wiig explores the contours of cannabis cultivation, from its potential for upscale tasting experiences to helping local vegetable farmers achieve economic stability. Wine aficionado James Knight takes us on a bona fide adventure, as he attempts a self-charted walking tour of watering holes, and guest columnist Erin Axelrod cooks a meal without any fossil fuel. Recording artist Tru Lyric infuses hip-hop with self-love, and local activist/nonprofit queen Chantavy Moon Angel answers The End Bit. 

Photo Credit: James Knight

Moving away from summer into fall has always been emotional for me, a confluence of anticipation and loss, moving inward after all that expansive sunshine and warmth. Now there’s the new reality of smoky skies and another wildfire season with all of its attendant fear, grief, and disruption. Like many of you, I’m sickened by the new UN report on climate change, but I’m also heartened by the conversation thrust into the mainstream, the solutions and innovations that exist, the momentum building—much like the urgency I see in my students, writing away in their new notebooks, so many pages left to fill.

Jess D. Taylor EDITOR


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Story by Jess D. Taylor

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