Monthly Archives: January 2010

Catherine Sutton Has Died

Catherine Sutton, founder of Transition Albany and a beloved member of many communities in the Berkeley/Albany area, died unexpectedly on Monday, December 5. All of us who knew her are in shock and mourning.

Following is a brief description of Catherine’s life. It’s followed by a second post with information about her upcoming funeral and memorial celebration.

Please feel free to use the website contact form to pass along any memories or thoughts–I’ll make sure they get to Catherine’s husband Leonard.

Bob Spies
Transition Albany Webmaster

Catherine Ann Hildegard Sutton was born in Oxford England in 1949 to German refugee Margo Müller and British aeronautical engineer Peter Sutton. Her parents met during WWII, as Peter was sent in to discover the Nazi’s secrets. They say Catherine was born during a thunderstorm.

She is survived by husband Leonard Edmondson, sister Sally Sutton, brother John Sutton, two half-sisters, Peggy Sutton and Annora Sutton, son Robin Breathe, daughter-in-law Alice Breathe, and the joy of her life, granddaughter Hazel Breathe.

Living in England until she was almost 40, Catherine never drove a car there. She lived in some 50 places in her lifetime, and particularly loved living in Wales on some land with a group of 7 or so friends. She came to the United States in 1988.

Catherine was a Russian major at Leeds University. Studying Bulgarian as her second language, she was forever infected with the magic of Bulgarian music and dance when she came upon a wedding while living in Sofia, Bulgaria. (She was cluck-clucked by the old Bulgarian women when she wore her mini skirt on the bus.)

Using her gifts of language and cooking, for livelihood she has cooked, waited table, worked as a janitor, sold knives, written resounding resumes, played in a Balkan band, taught dance and guarded crossings. Her job was always what was right in front of her calling to be done and working for the ideal of right living and social justice. In the early 80’s, her business was called
Sunshine Biscuits. She would bake flapjacks and deliver them to local businesses by bicycle with her son Robin also riding in the trailer, and people called her “Cathy Sunshine”.

Catherine’s first stop in the U.S. was Campbell Hot Springs in Sierraville, California, living with Leonard Orr’s radical rebirthing community. She lived in Reno for a time and then in Penngrove, where Leonard found her. In the late 90’s, they were both involved in a company called Cell Tech which network-marketed super blue-green algae health food, yet another controversial and radical venture. They connected on a sunny Sunday on the green grass at the Cell Tech August Celebration in Klamath Falls, Oregon where she was playing with a baby. She came to live with Leonard in about 2001 and they were married in 2005. He added stability to her life, rooting her in Albany and giving her support, and she flowered in place like nobody’s business. They were continuously setting new records for her longest relationship and longest residence of her life.

She believed fiercely in non-institutional, community-based birth, life, and death. She had her own son Robin at home and would have preferred to die that way. She was stubborn, determined, fiery, and idealistic. She is the founder Transition Albany with its delightfully generic mission, which both spawned and assisted many other local projects. There is a pattern here of living on the edge, sometimes associating with controversial, shady but dynamic characters with idealism and determination to fundamentally change the world for the better.

With fabulous energy, she juggled many balls at once, daily, in a way that few can emulate. Around the bulging micro urban homestead she and Leonard shared, she cared for fruit trees, bees, chickens, worms, compost, and flowers, and did solar cooking, preserving, fermenting, drying, washing, conserving, with water tanks, a grey-water system, whole house water filter, solar water heating, solar electric generator, line drying, and the list goes on.

Leonard says,

I lost my life companion, wilderness backpack travel buddy, and my cryptic crossword co-puzzler. Catherine had an astounding command of language, often teaching me new words. When she built things it was always by the seat of her pants.

She is her mother’s daughter in that she survived and thrived, living by her will and her wits, holding strongly to her principles even when there was nothing else to hold onto. She was a challenging person to love, with the operative principles being continuous forgiveness and renewal. Now I’m working on forgiving her for dying.

Posted in Community Building, Economy, Edible Landscape Project, Energy, Food and Agriculture, Health and Healing, Housing, Local Activities, Resources, Social Justice on December 10, 2016

The Work that Reconnects


Joanna Macy is a Buddhist teacher, writer, activist, and scholar who has been developing teaching tools to help us respond to the perils and suffering of our world for three decades.  She is giving a one-day workshop on The Work That Reconnects on February 14th at Common Circle, Berkeley, from 10 to 6pm. This is a very special opportunity to spend time with one of the elders of our age, someone whose life has been dedicated to helping people feel connected to the world they live in, fully in touch with their own emotions, and warmly connected to one other.

A group of 15 of us, mostly from Transition Albany and Transition Richmond (the Richmond Rivets), had a touching day experiencing some of Joanna’s tools on January 24th, courtesy of Pam and Tatyana at Sarana Community Acupuncture Center, 968 San Pablo Avenue, Albany. Anne Symens-Bucher, an accomplished workshop leader in her own right and assistant to Joanna Macy for four years, introduced deep and inclusive exercises designed by Joanna to put us in touch with the power, liberation, and solidarity that come with owning our collective grief.

Joanna’s work has been embraced by the Transition community, which is well aware that, as we let in the information coming our way about climate change and the end of cheap oil, we can be sideswiped by fear, grief, anger, helplessness – the whole gamut of emotions. If we have no place to air these feelings we are likely to stuff them and gradually deaden our response instead of letting our creativity and resilience come up with solutions.

Joanna is leading a day-long workshop in Berkeley on February 14th, 2010 – sign up at The cost is $95 before Feb 10th, and $145 thereafter. I attended a weekend workshop on The Work that Reconnects in Bolinas with Joanna in December 2009. I was thoroughly impressed with the potency of the simple exercises we did. I’m usually rather skeptical of workshops but I “warmed up” in the room of mostly people I hadn’t met before very quickly.

Every Transition Town has a “heart and soul” element, and we are starting our own group for airing feelings and lending mutual support during challenging times, on Thursday, February 18th at 943 Madison Street, Albany. Come for a potluck at 6:30 pm if you would like, and please RSVP to or call 510-528-2261.

“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world – we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other”. Joanna Macy

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Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2010

Making Money Work for Our Local Community

Buying local products at locally owned businesses keeps money circulating closer to where you spend it. This creates a ripple effect as those businesses and their employees in turn spend your money locally. Corporate chains send most of your money out of town.

If everyone in a community spends a greater percentage locally, the multiplier effect turns that into big bucks for the local economy. For example, increasing local spending from 50% to 80% more than doubles that local effect – from $200 to $500.

© 2009 Yes! Magazine

How Resilient is Our Local Economy?

What is our local wealth based on? Is it our own hard work and productivity? Or does our local economy depend on major corporations? How much of our wealth comes from and stays in the community? How much of it is outside financial capital, which eventually leaves our community? How can we build resilience? Learn about the underpinnings of our current economy by viewing the film The Money Fix free online

Find it in Albany!

The Albany Chamber of Commerce has launched a new campaign and user-friendly website to help you find what you’re looking for right here in Albany. has search and mapping functions, a color coded map of Albany businesses, and a directory by category.

Gift Certificates for a commercial district, like the Solano Avenue Gift Certificates, are a form of a local monetary system. When you use local dollars, you make a statement of support for our local economy. The local dollar is only accepted within a community, so it’s harder to spend that wealth out of the community. Show your commitment to our local businesses by using those $10 cards like $10 bills that can only be spent to support local businesses. Learn more about where you can get and spend the Solano Ave. Gift Certificates at

The scrip available at Albany schools is another form of alternative currency. Complex flow networks such as our economy work best when they imitate the “complex flow network” on which our life depends, the planetary ecology. Such networks are strongest when their constituent elements are diverse and interdependent. The more ways we have to exchange goods and services, the stronger we will be!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 1, 2010