Mind, Body, Soul

Mind, Body and Soul, published in 805 Living, July/August 2019.

Click here to read these stories as they appeared in 805 Living magazine, July/August 2019. 805 Living MBS Jul-Aug 2019

Cheers for Wildlife Conservation

This story as it appeared in 805 Living, July/August 2019. Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Zoo.

This story as it appeared in 805 Living, July/August 2019. Photo courtesy Santa Barbara Zoo.

Something cold, refreshing, and eco-friendly is brewing at the Santa Barbara Zoo (sbzoo.org) this summer. Sales of Zoo Brew, a custom California pale ale produced by Ventura Coast Brewing Company (vcbc.beer), have already exceeded expectations, says zoo culinary programs manager Emily Largey. While the zoo gets the profits, the beer serves an even more important role as a vehicle to educate adults about animal conservation efforts. “Learning isn’t just for the kids,” Largey says. “The conservation messaging on the first can is ‘Drink beer, save wildlife.’ Each season we’ll roll out a new beer and a new label featuring an endangered or protected animal at the zoo.” 

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of 805 Living.

805 Living Pulse Jul-Aug 2019 (click here to see the story as it appeared in 805 Living)



Local Lowdown: Ambassadors of the Environment

Sara Welsh and campers at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara's Ambassador's of the Environment program. Courtesy photo.

Sara Welsh and campers at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Ambassador’s of the Environment program. Courtesy photo.

Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s and Ocean Futures Society’s new educational program engages all ages. 

By Leslie Dinaberg

It was one of those “I have to pinch myself to make sure this is really happening” experiences, walking beside environmental legend Jean-Michel Cousteau on an “ecohike” along the beautiful Gaviota Coast that borders the Ritz-Carlton Bacara. The impressively spry 80-year-old explorer and founder of the Santa Barbara-based nonprofit Ocean Futures Society has joined forced with the Ritz-Carlton Bacara to bring a new Ambassadors of the Environment program to the property.

Jean Michel Cousteau, courtesy Ritz-Carlton Bacara.

Jean Michel Cousteau, courtesy Ritz-Carlton Bacara.

Based on four principles—everything is connected, everything runs on energy, there is no waste in nature, and biodiversity is good—through various adventures and activities, the Ambassadors of the Environment program allows participants to discover the Gaviota Coast’s natural wonders both on land and sea, including kelp forest, a diversity of birds, the intertidal zone, and traditional Chumash culture.

The Ocean Futures and Ritz-Carlton relationship is longstanding (with programs in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Catalina Islands, Polynesia, and the Cayman Islands, among others), but the local program is new. 

“I am very excited to have our newest Ambassadors program here at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, in my backyard,” says Cousteau, who lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Ocean Futures Co-Founder Nancy Marr. “This region is among the richest and most interesting in the world, with amazing natural wonders. With our great team, guests will have an amazing experience that both enriches and educates them.” 

Sara Welsh and campers at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara's Ambassador's of the Environment program. Courtesy photo.

Sara Welsh and campers at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Ambassador’s of the Environment program. Courtesy photo.

The activities—led by a team of naturalists personally trained by Cousteau and his longtime chief scientist, the charismatic Dr. Richard “Murph” Murphy—include options specially tailored to elementary school age children, young adults, families and adults. The onsite program supervisor Sara Welsh and her team are clearly stoked to be at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara. Having witnessed their infectious enthusiasm very clearly engage an often-jaded cadre of travel journalists, I can only imagine how excited the lucky kids and their families will be when this group leads them on new environmental adventures with programs like “Whale of a Tale,” “CSI: Coastal Scene Investigator,” and “Creatures of the Night,” among others.

“Having the advantage of being near Santa Barbara, there is a coastline there which is pretty unique on the planet,” says Cousteau. “We are helping people because of the knowledge that we are able to share, exploring and seeing what lives there whether they are birds or fish or kelp forests. … For me it’s a privilege not only to live here, but to make sure that the Ritz-Carlton is sharing all our knowledge and information with the young people, and their parents.” 

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara is located at 8301 Hollister Ave. For more information, visit ritzcarlton.com and oceanfutures.org.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 1, 2019.

Visions of the Gaviota Coast

Beach Shack by Kevin Gleason. Image courtesy SCAPE.

Beach Shack by Kevin Gleason. Image courtesy SCAPE.

Enjoy beautiful art and support a good cause at “Visions of the Gaviota Coast,” the Sixth Annual SCAPE Art Benefit for Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Naples Coalition. Held at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort and Spa (8301 Hollister Ave., Goleta), the art sale goes from Friday, March 30 at 2 p.m. through Saturday, March 31 at 5 p.m. The two-day exhibit features a reception on Friday (5-8 p.m.) with live music, silent auction, appetizers and wine with donation.

More than 150 Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment (SCAPE) artists and fine art photographer Reeve Woolpert will participate in this benefit art exhibition showcasing the stunning Gaviota Coast. Painter and exhibit juror Richard Schloss has many years of collaboration with the renowned Oak Group artists. The funds raised will assist Gaviota Coast Conservancy and the Naples Coalition in continuing their successful efforts to protect this majestic 72 miles of open coastline, providing a pristine habitat for over 1,400 species, including the endangered snowy plover. Forty percent of all art sales will benefit the two nonprofit organizations.

Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Naples Coalition have recently achieved big victories towards the protection and preservation of the Gaviota Coast. Ritz-Carlton Bacara Resort and Spa is hosting the event, and donating an overnight stay and spa treatment for the raffle (no need to be present to win). “We consider it an honor to call the Gaviota Coast our home,” says Shashi Poudyal, general manager. “Bacara will continue to partner with the Gaviota Coast Conservancy to be a great steward of this land.”

Free parking is provided (follow the signs), or you can valet park.

To donate directly to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy: http://gaviotacoastconservancy.org/donate

To donate to Naples Coalition: http://www.savenaples.org/donate

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on March 28, 2018.

Local Lowdown: The River’s Journey

Paintings in the Wildling Museum show The River’s Journey: One Year, Six Artists, 92 Miles include work by (clockwise from top left): Holli Harmon, Pamela Zwehl-Burke, Nicole Strasburg, Nina Warner, Connie Connally and Libby Smith.

Paintings in the Wildling Museum show The River’s Journey: One Year, Six Artists, 92 Miles include work by (clockwise from top left): Holli Harmon, Pamela Zwehl-Burke, Nicole Strasburg, Nina Warner, Connie Connally and Libby Smith.


By Leslie Dinaberg

SIX LOCAL ARTISTS have pooled their talents around one very big idea—our communal connection to and responsibility for our water resources—uniting their unique points of view in a new exhibit, The River’s Journey: One Year, Six Artists, 92 Miles, on view at the Wildling Museum of Art & Nature through July 9.

Initially joining together to experiment with the lesser-known medium of gouache (an opaque watercolor paint), the group— which includes Connie Connally, Holli Harmon, Libby Smith, Nicole Strasburg, Nina Warner and Pamela Zwehl-Burke—is united in a quest to use their art to inform the public about how the Santa Ynez River and the watershed functions and our indi­vidual responsibility to protect its viability.

Rose Compass artists (L-R): Nicole Strasburg, Connie Connally, Libby Smith, Holli Harmon, Pamela Zwehl-Burke and Nina Warner. After the exhibition ends in July, it will travel later in 2018 to Santa Barbara City Hall and Sullivan Goss Gallery. Photo by Monica Wiesblott.

Rose Compass artists (L-R): Nicole Strasburg, Connie Connally, Libby Smith, Holli Harmon, Pamela Zwehl-Burke and Nina Warner. After the exhibition ends in July, it will travel later in 2018 to Santa Barbara City Hall and Sullivan Goss Gallery. Photo by Monica Wiesblott.

“Originally, I was just enthralled with the medium of gouache,” says Strasburg, who saw the potential through the work of artist Thomas Paquette, who had a wilderness-themed show at the Wildling and also has some paintings in The River’s Journey. As Strasburg dug deeper into the subject matter of the watershed, “it became about so much more than painting the landscape.…I just keep reading and researching and discovering new connections.”

The group, now known as Rose Compass (named for the flower-shaped figure on a map and “like the compass rose, our work reflects our individual points of view”), is very dedi­cated to the project. “The three devoted plein air artists have gone out every single Monday for the past two years to paint the water in the area,” says Strasburg.

Libby Smith, Measuring Stick, Alder Creek.

Libby Smith, Measuring Stick, Alder Creek.

They routinely post their musings and progress on the project on the website (rose-compass.com) and are working to secure additional venues to showcase the breadth and depth of their work on The River’s Journey, which visually brings to the forefront questions of stewardship, preservation and conservation.

“Art starts the conversation while providing education and information that can change behavior and expectations at a pivotal moment in our new paradigm of water resource management,” says their collective artist statement. “When artists, scientists and water managers work together, we create a powerful and compelling message that moves the community to make better ecological and civic choices. Awareness, conservation, stewardship and collaboration will all be key to the new paradigm of protecting this resource and ensuring the longevity and viability of our entire community.”

Wildling Museum of Art & Nature is located at 1511-B Mission Dr., Solvang. For more information, call 805/688-1082 or visit wildlingmuseum.org.

Connie Connally, Turkey Vultures.

Connie Connally, Turkey Vultures.

Nicole Strasburg, River Path, Santa Ynez.

Nicole Strasburg, River Path, Santa Ynez.

Holli Harmon, Yellow Kayak.

Holli Harmon, Yellow Kayak.

Nina Warner, Gibralter Dam.

Nina Warner, Gibralter Dam.

Pamela Zwehl-Burke, White Rock.

Pamela Zwehl-Burke, White Rock.

This story was originally published in the spring 2018 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

SB County Food Action Plan Meeting

Come to a free community listening and activation session on Wednesday, October 25 from 6-8 p.m. at the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Public Library (40 E. Anapamu St.) where participants will explore the vision, progress and next steps planned for the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. This is a great opportunity to share what your neighborhood, business, or organization is doing, and connect with others engaged in making a secure food system for our county.

Come learn about the goals of the plan and hear about successes from the organizations and individuals actively pursuing these goals. Attendees, including individuals, businesses, schools, and organizations of all types, will also be encouraged to inform the process by sharing about their own regional work to create a more secure, sustainable food system. A networking session will provide time to seek out new partnerships and opportunities to support each other.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 24, 2017.


UCSB Arts & Lectures Presents Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour

Mountainfilm Tour Poster, the Accord.

Mountainfilm Tour Poster, the Accord.

Film and nature collide when UCSB Arts & Lectures presents Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour on Thursday, October 20, at 7:30 p.m. at UCSB Campbell Hall.

Telluride Mountainfilm was launched more than 30 years ago by a group of climbers and friends dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth preserving and conversations worth sustaining. Still true to the core idea that friends, adventure, passion and powerful ideas are as tantalizing as ever, this 134-minute program offers a six-senses experience of art, adventure, culture and the environment in an eclectic and exciting program of nine short films. 

The show is emceed by a Mountainfilm presenter who guides the audience through the program, often sharing personal stories from his or her interactions with the filmmaker or the film’s subjects.

An image from Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe's film "Nascent," courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

An image from Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe’s film “Nascent,” courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Films in the UCSB program will explore the struggle to reach the highest peaks on the planet; marathon life lessons; a BASE jumper’s dream; the triumphs and tribulations of surfing in Iceland; the near-impossibility of skateboarding on the wild, cold Norwegian coast; the power of hope to overcome the greatest differences; discovering a lifeline in the unlikeliest of pursuits; the mental and physical strain of pushing a sport to new heights (literally); and a skier who takes delinquency to new limits.

Here is what to expect:


Wasfia Nazreen doesn’t just climb for the thrill; she climbs for a cause. The first Bangladeshi to scale the Seven Summits, Wasfia has made it her purpose to brave these climbs for the sake of something larger – for the women of Bangladesh. Lyrical and poetic, this short documentary is a reflective character portrait that takes us from the depths of Wasfia’s struggles to the highest peaks on the planet, as we explore what it means to pursue the unknown (Sean Kusanagi, 2016, 11 min.)

Mile 19

Since the inception of the Los Angeles marathon in 1986, 178 runners have completed every race. They’re called “Legacy Runners.” Johnnie Jameson is a member of this special group, but he’s not an elite runner: He’s a working man, a postal employee. But what he lacks in speed, he makes up in creativity. He ran his first marathon backward, finishing in last place. He dribbled a basketball the next year. Each race, wearing his signature Payless shoes, he stops and talks and takes his sweet time. And over the years, the marathon has become a form of therapy for Jameson, who was scarred deeply from serving as an infantryman in Vietnam. The annual challenge of running 26.2 miles has helped him cope, grow and recover from those traumatic experiences. “It’s not about how long you out there, it’s about completing the race,” he says. “You gotta grind it out, because life ain’t nothing but a grind.” This poignant film from Vincent DeLuca conveys a lifetime of lessons in 10 short minutes, spinning a powerful story of resilience, humor and healing. (Vincent DeLuca, 2016, 10 min.)

A still image from Vincent DeLuca's film "Mile 19," courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

A still image from Vincent DeLuca’s film “Mile 19,” courtesy UCSB Arts & Lectures.

The Mysteries

The vision came to Krystle Wright in a dream: a bird’s-eye view of BASE jumpers in flight over a stark desert landscape. When she awoke, the adventure photographer resolved to make that vision into reality. And with that, the dream turned into an obsession – one that led her on a four-and-a-half-year journey of failed attempts, uncooperative weather, disappointments and inward examination. The Mysteries follows a tenacious, and perhaps crazy, quest to chase down an elusive image and provides a glimpse into the kind of singular passion that drives people to reach their goals, regardless of what stands in the way. (Skip Armstrong, 2015, 8 min.)

The Accord

Iceland is an island in the very north Atlantic where the wind is unpredictable at best, where perfect waves are almost as rare as albino elephants and where frigid temps require a full wetsuit arsenal. In other words, being a surfer in Iceland requires a particular mix of hardiness, patience, passion and insanity. And more than anything, it requires befriending that mercurial, capricious, wildly drunken and occasionally benevolent wind. (RC Cone, 2016, 18 min.)

Mot Nord

Ice, driftwood, foamy waves and … skateboards? In this poetic short film by Jørn Nyseth Ranum, four skaters head north to the cold Norwegian coast, applying their urban skills to a wild canvas of beach flotsam, frozen sand and pastel skies. The result is a beautiful mashup – biting winds and short days, ollies and one ephemeral quarterpipe. (Jørn Nyseth Ranum, 2016, 10 min.)


Nascent is proof of how short films can impart big messages. It’s a simple premise: two children, a Christian boy and a Muslim girl, give their perspectives on growing up in the divided and desperately poor Central African Republic. Despite differences in their upbringings and religious backgrounds, the pair share a hopeful vision of peace that would allow them to be friends. This could have been an awkward film or, worse, a treacly one. But in the hands of director Lindsay Branham (who attended school in Telluride in 5th and 6th grade), the result is a thoughtful and powerful documentary that asks the simple question: Why can’t we all just get along? (Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe, 2015, 7 min.)


Growing up in East Baltimore surrounded by poverty and violence is hard enough, and Coffin Nachtmahr had the added challenge of being different. He stutters. He never quite fit in, and he was picked on. Then he discovered a lifeline in the unlikeliest of pursuits: yo-yoing. In the subculture of “throwers,” he found purpose, acceptance and community. Today, Coffin is the city’s best, transforming the simple activity of yo-yoing into a transfixing dance of creativity, innovation and connection. (Darren Durlach and Dave Larson, 2016, 10 min.)

High and Mighty

The no-fall zone: It’s what makes highball bouldering the new cutting edge of climbing, where miniscule holds and overhanging routes can stretch more than 30 feet above the ground with no protection beyond a pile of crash pads below. But the thing about pushing bouldering to new heights – literally – is that the consequences also rise. Broken bones, concussions and trips to the hospital are among the more unfortunate results. And sometimes, the mental toughness required is even more strenuous than the actual climbing. This documentary from Sender Films follows the wild personalities who are pushing bouldering into high and mighty places it’s never been before. (Nick Rosen, Peter Mortimer and Josh Lowell, 2015, 20 min.)

One of Those Days 3

A manhunt is underway in the Alps to arrest French skier Candide Thovex. His crime? Where do we start? Dude skis over a helicopter, into camera vans, hits trees, interrupts races and busts through barns. In One of those Days 3, he takes his POV delinquency to new limits. (Candide Thovex, 2016, 5 min.)

Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour is presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

2016 Intro by Stash Wislocki from Tour Screeners on Vimeo.

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for UCSB students and youths 18 & under (Current ID required). For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805/893-3535 or purchase online at ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on October 15, 2016.

Editor’s Pick: Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival

Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival by Jessica Roy.

Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival by Jessica Roy.

The longest-running Earth Day celebration in the U.S., Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival (Apr. 16–17) is a weekend of live music, educational speakers, sustainable food and hundreds of exhibitors eager to help you reduce your carbon footprint. This year’s 46th annual festival theme, “One World,” is a reminder that we must work together to keep global warming well below two degrees, the level at which scientists say climate change will have seriously detrimental effects on the human population.

For more information visit sbearthday.org.

—Leslie Dinaberg

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

My Santa Barbara: Unseen Santa Barbara

Photograph by Patricia Houghton Clarke

By Leslie Dinaberg

Photograph by Patricia Houghton Clarke.

Photograph by Patricia Houghton Clarke.

At first glance, it is unclear if you’re viewing an impressionist painting or simply a captivating reflection, which is exactly what drew Patricia Houghton Clarke to take this intriguing photograph.

Clarke was wandering along a path at Arroyo Hondo Preserve, on her way to the birthday party of Phil McKenna, a longtime friend and one of the founders of Naples Coalition and Gaviota Coast Conservancy. The reflections caught her eye as she was standing in the middle of the creek, recalling a conversation about the preservation efforts with J.J. Hollister, whose family once owned the 782-acre Arroyo Hondo—sometimes called “Jewel of the Gaviota Coast”—and later sold it to Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, which now runs the preserve.

“That was the first time I went to Arroyo Hondo, to see the homestead they have there, and J.J. (who passed away in January 2016) talked a lot about the preservation of the creek and the steelhead and what they’ve done on that…I’m sure that was part of my fascination with that creek,” says Clarke. “Then, obviously, the image was just right there. It was like a Monet painting.”

She continues, “The photograph is untouched, not Photoshopped at all…I didn’t take it with a great camera or anything—it was just one of those things, a little point-and-shoot I had with me to take pictures of Phil’s birthday. Just a moment in time.”

Incidentally, McKenna is the only person with a print of this image, part of Clarke’s “Unseen Santa Barbara” series.

One of the things I love about the photo,” she says, “is that you really can’t tell what it is unless you look into that lower right hand corner and see a little stone in the water, so there’s a little giveaway of what it is.
For more info about Arroyo Hondo Preserve and the steelhead trout preservation efforts, visit sblandtrust.org. For more information about Patricia Houghton Clarke and her work, visit patriciahoughtonclarke.com.

This story was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

The Art of Getting People Back to Nature | Yarnbomber Stephen Duneier

Stephen Duneier with one of a series of yarn-covered boulders he created at Lizard's Mouth. Photo by Scott London, ScottLondon.com.

Stephen Duneier with one of a series of yarn-covered boulders he created at Lizard’s Mouth. Photo by Scott London, ScottLondon.com.

By Leslie Dinaberg

Artists often use their work to provoke discussion or emotion, but Yarnbomber Stephen Duneier’s colorful creations are site-specific installations designed to get people out to the middle of nowhere.

In this case, “the middle of nowhere” is Santa Barbara County’s plethora of hiking trails. Duneier’s seven projects to date include creating an Alien Campsite on Davy Brown Trail; a series of covered boulders at Lizard’s Mouth; a reflective starfish above the pools at Seven Falls; a spider web at Sasquatch Cave in the playgrounds of Lizard’s Mouth; an enormous boulder on Saddlerock Trail; an ongoing Guinness Book of World Records attempt to create the world’s largest crocheted granny square; and creating his first project—cloaking a 40-ft. tall eucalyptus tree on the Cold Spring Trail’s east fork with a gigantic knitted sweater—which took place in 2012, just 82 days after he picked up knitting needles for the first time ever.

All of Duneier’s projects are done in a way that doesn’t permanently disturb nature, with permission from the U.S. Forest Service. “The forest service has actually been really supportive, now that I have a track record with them, and they know that I’m not just some guy who wants to use the land for my own purposes,” he says.

The other consistent element in a Yarnbomber project is that the installations stay up for just nine days. “The first weekend is all about people just stumbling onto it, then there are five days during the week, when nobody goes hiking very much. The second weekend is all about word–of–mouth. It sort of builds…but I don’t really want crowds; I just want it to be on people’s radar. And having it for nine days, you can’t procrastinate. You’re either going to go see it and make the effort today or you’re just not going to see it,” says Duneier.

The projects, many of which are done in collaboration with artists from around the world, have opened up a world of new experiences for Duneier, whose day job is writing about and managing investments, as well as teaching Decision Analysis at UCSB’s College of Engineering.

“I’ve always been speaking on macroeconomics; talking at big conferences…but now I’ve started talking about making dreams come true; this has been a little offshoot of the yarn bombs,” he says. The audiences vary, but the idea is “how do you have these grand visions and actually make them happen?”

His next “grand vision,” launching sometime this summer, incorporates metalwork and gemstones. As to where and when it pops up, the website yarnbomber.com is the best place to stay tuned.

Says Duneier, “I’m kind of a yes guy…I really don’t know where it all will lead.”

Originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.