Monthly Archives: January 2013

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

An Ecology of Mind – coming on March 21, 2013

(Event Sponsored by Transition Albany)
March 21, 2013 @ 7:30 pm - Event Details

Thursday March 21, 7:30pm 

A Daughter’s Portrait of Gregory Bateson  

bany Twin Theatre, 1115 Solano Avenue, Albany, CA
Tickets $10 /$8 from the theatre in advance or at the door   
Film website, trailer    Facebook   Ticket Sales (or find Albany Twin, then Buy Advance Tickets)

Winner: Media Ecology Association John Culkin 2011 Award for

Outstanding Praxis

Winner: Audience Choice BEST DOCUMENTARY The Santa Cruz Film Festival 2011 
Winner: BEST DOCUMENTARY The Spokane International Film Festival 2011
Official Selection: The Vancouver International Film Festival 
Official Selection: Bioneers Film Festival
Official Selection: Cinema Pacific Film Festival
Official Selection: Haida Gwaii Film Festival  
for the American Museum of Natural History NY Premiere.

We are very fortunate that Nora Bateson, the filmmaker and his daughter, will be present for this screening, the official public release of her documentary. The documentary leaves me in a clear, expanded and joyful state, of heart rather than mind. It is a testimony to the universal relevance of Gregory Bateson’s thinking and the skill of Nora’s film making that everyone I have shown it to has loved it. 

I first came across the film in Oxford, England, where Nora was screening it to a largely academic audience. At the end she asked for questions and comments but people were sitting in a kind of altered state, so she simply continued to weave the magic beautifully as she spoke for another 20 minutes.

This kind of experience is rare but has never had more relevance. Unless we find a new way to see the world and our place in it, there may be little hope for the human race. Gregory Bateson is a compelling thinker and teacher who might be able to help shift the balance from ‘me’ and ‘mine’ to ‘we’ and ‘ours,’ in the native American sense of  ‘all our relations’.

Here are a number of reviews that demonstrate the broad reach of Bateson’s teaching.


Posted in , , , , , , on January 28, 2013

Home Herbalism

(Event Sponsored by Transition Albany Health Group)
February 17, 2013 @ 2:00 pm - Event Details

herbal-remediesWe have already held several events on the subject of getting healthy and staying healthy without the use of pharmaceuticals. This kind of information used to be widely held but has gone underground from disuse. It’s time to resurrect it, and luckily we have many talented people in our community who have been relearning these old skills and are willing to teach them to the community without asking for a fee.

In the latest in the series, Claire Norris, who has a certificate in the Science & Art of Herbalism from Sage Mountain Herbal Center and has studied various alternative healing modalities for many years, is sharing her knowledge of herbal remedies that can be grown and prepared at home.

Claire lives in El Cerrito and is also Wellness Coordinator at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

On Sunday, February 17, come to the Edith Stone Room (Albany Library, 1247 Marin Avenue, Albany) for a presentation that will teach how to identify and use common medicinal plants growing in our area. It will include the medicinal uses of some kitchen herbs and garden herbs and you will learn a variety of methods to extract the healing properties from the plants to make your own herbal remedies.

Claire will also demonstrate how to make an all-purpose healing salve and participants will be able to take some home.

A Transition Albany Health Group presentation

Posted in , , , on January 28, 2013