Monthly Archives: April 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

Awakening the Dreamer – Changing the Dream

Awakening the Dreamer – Changing the Dream is a masterfully compiled multimedia collection of video excerpts, music, photographs, quotations, animation, live presenters, dyads, group processes and wisdom snippets – from Joanna Macy, Thich Nhat Hahn, John Robbins, Paul Hawken, Wangari Maathai and Vandana Shiva, among others – that, in only four hours, clearly distils the facts and elicits and presents answers to four questions:

earthsun

Where are we?
How did we get here?

What is possible for the future?

Where do we go from here?

When I first experienced Changing the Dream, I had just watched the climate docudrama, Age of Stupid, and was keenly aware of the precariousness of our position on the edge of collapse, as cheap oil, the fuel behind our consumer society, runs out and its effects on our climate grow more severe. The symposium helped me connect my heart to the issues and see things through a wider lens.

A key concept is that we in the West have been “entranced” by years of marketing to believe that we need something outside ourselves to be satisfied, and that ever-increasing consumption is the answer. Although it is clear that our addiction to manufactured stuff is driving climate change, perhaps we are not so much “stupid” as hypnotized. Stores and manufacturers seduce us with brand images and logos and condition us to feel we cannot live happily without them.

Achuar RafaelThe Awakening the Dreamer Symposium was put together several years ago by the Pachamama Alliance in response to a heartfelt plea from the indigenous Achuar people of Peru/Ecuador, whose shamans had predicted that the world was on the verge of a terrible catastrophe, which only industrialized countries could avert. The version I experienced was a recent improvement that is taking the Bay Area (and beyond) by storm as more and more attendees are inspired to become facilitators and bring the symposium to their own groups and associations.

At the crux of the event is the revelation of one simple assumption under which we have been operating for centuries, the reversal of which will make it inevitable that we reduce our consumption, care more for the earth and each other than for profit, and rebuild our lives in resilient communities. Can you guess what it is?

The Symposium offers a beautiful, compact introduction to the Transition concept, so I am delighted to announce that the Pachamama Alliance and the Transition Network are currently formalizing a partnership. You can experience Awakening the Dreamer – Changing the Dream yourself on June 6th at the Albany Senior Center (see calendar). We are asking $10 – $20 for the event, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Please invite friends and be prepared to be moved.

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Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2010

Albany Arts & Green Festival

Join us at the first annual Albany Arts & Green Festival where we celebrate both the arts and the environment!

Sunday May 2nd, 2010

11:00 AM – 3:00 PM (Transition Albany presentation at 2:00 PM)

Memorial Park & Veterans Hall

Performances |  Green Workshops

Food  |  Art  |  Green Orgs

Free Bike Valet Parking  |  Free Bike Tuneups

Kids’ Zone  |  Floor Lamp Exchange Program

Free Small E-Waste Collection

Albany today is developing a reputation for having a vigorous public arts program and being one of the greenest cities in the country. So it’s not surprising that this year we are celebrating “arts and green” together! Art helps see and appreciate beauty, and protecting the environment helps create a beautiful world!

Read more about the event on the City’s website.

Transition Albany presents at 2:00 PM

Inside the Veterans Hall workshop room.

Building Community Resilience, the Best Preparation for an Uncertain Future: An introduction to Transition Towns and Transition Albany

Transition Albany invites all of Albany to create a positive transition from fossil fuel dependency to vital, engaged, resilient, and interdependent community. Catherine Sutton will be presenting the principles of Transition Towns, with updates from her recent visit to some original Transition Towns in England.

Come visit the Transition Albany table inside the Veterans Hall!

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Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2010