Tour Notes from the Dry Winter of 2018

It is hard to know what to think of the weather. The warm and dry weather has us Californians fretting over living in a place that we have tricked now for over a century to think it is not truly the desert landscape that it is. We hope that March and April will give us all the precious preciptation we could use to make up the deficit that the last few months have failed to afford us. That being said, the first leg of this, my most recent book tour into Los Angeles and beyond, has been met with enthusiastic and attentive souls, all of whom seem so ready for this nature-first narrative that I present. I could not be more grateful for my reception again and again. I see our electric network and I can sense the paradigms shifting among our populace.

The book, my California Field Atlas climbed its way back to number one on the Northern California Nonfiction Bestseller List just in time for the latest printing to sell out again. The next printing is on its way although I’m now having to ration my own copies for the upcoming tour dates. I have removed the book for sale from the website, but if you are having problems finding one, I can be afford a few copies to send. Please let me know via email if you would like one: /// Obi


As I write these words, I am half way through a week of tour dates – please read on for a brief synopsis and some updates to my calendar. For a complete list of my calendar, please cruise over to I would like to thank the tremendously generous and insighful Lanny Kaufer of HERBWALKS for inviting me as his special guest this past Saturday as we surveyed the Ventura River two months after the monumental Thomas Fire. My notes of the scene: “This morning you could feel the sweet rain on its way. I was so happy and ready to spend it meeting an unprecedented network of connected spirits, now monitoring how all this dynamic, new-green is pushing up through the broken gray of a terrible fire two months back. The Ventura River watershed will recover and this precious place will regrow under the careful stewardship of all those capable hands and hearts I’ve met determined to make it so.” /// OBI

Let’s celebrate this triumph of restoration! The spring-run Chinook salmon may yet be returning to California’s San Joaquin River. I donated this painting to the @friendsoftheriver raffle-event one week ago in Coloma, where I’ll be presented the #californiafieldatlas at, at the Gold Trail Grange onHighway 49. Let us now, always work to restore the San Joaquin River, the second largest river in California. We are seeing promising signs that salmon can thrive in the river as hatchery fish are attaining new milestones. For the first time in sixty years, in 2017, spring-run Chinook salmon created their nests in the colder parts of the river below Friant Dam. By diverting most of the San Joaquin River for irrigation, since its building, the Friant Dam has caused about 60 miles (97 km) of the river to run dry. The fish last year successfully spawned, laying eggs that incubated and hatched into tiny fry as the sexually mature fish died. Biologists working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s San Joaquin River Restoration Project have now begun to catch in order to study and release the juvenile fish in traps for the first time in November and December. These critically endangered, spring-run Chinook are successfully reproducing in the embattled, and itself endangered, San Joaquin. The desiccation of the river has caused the degradation of large stretches of riverside habitat and marshes, and has nearly eliminated the historic chinook salmon run that once numbered “possibly in the range of 200,000 to 500,000 spawners annually”. Now as we glare at our ability to destroy we see an new road, a new dawn toward our ability to participate in creation and preservation across new vistas of restoration and conservation.

to continue now, the tour notes – On Saturday, I was welcomed at one of my very favorite motor inns in California, the Ojai Rancho Inn by my dear friends Chris and Chelito (pictured on either side of me, above) and their small retail space in the motel’s lobby, called Eskina. Masterful purveryors of style and grace (both social and design), Chris and Chelito have in Eskina, a retail-habitat that I could not be more proud to present the Atlas in.

Yesterday, I brought the #californiafieldatlas to @2ndhandrevival in Eagle Rock. I’m so proud to be included among this excellent creative community and to have been asked by our host @hodism to once again paint the invitational poster.

Tonight, I will be presenting at the Audubon Center at Debs Park.

I am so proud to support my friends at the @mojavedesertlandtrust. The MDLT works hard across a whole spectrum of conservation activism. Their agenda includes not only affecting policy change by defending the California Desert Protection Act from the thieving attempts of the executive branch of our current, federal government – they work every day at restoring the natural features and habitats of the Mojave: planting desert plants which they grow themselves and tearing up roads on private inholdings that they have purchased, remediated and plan on managing for public use. I will be there on Saturday the 17th to help kick off the #desertlovers campaign with the #californiafieldatlas. The original of this painting will be raffled off then as well, again as always – to support the great work they do.

I have a new map of the watersheds and watercourses of the San Francisco Peninsula – please go check it out now at In collaboration with the @peninsulaopenspacetrust, the map will be printed as a poster in the next month or so. As with all my maps I see it as my duty and my honor as a painter, a cartographer and a naturalist, to present as clearly as I can what is effectively an inventory of conservation. We have to know what there is to defend in order to conserve it at all. I am sure that by presenting this information in a beautiful, simplified, graphically-efficient manner, the well-rendered, handpainted map can be a vehicle for what is certainly no less than a fundamental, consciousness shift. By familiarizing ourselves with the larger geography of the natural world and its living systems that support and sustain us, our value perceived towards those systems begins to warp into a more organic paradigm; a new paradigm that the stressed and exploited resource-systems that we rely on need for us to immediately adopt. In that spirit of geographic literacy and with assured hope that simply by learning, by naming and by apprehending how and where these local, living networks interact, our love and respect for them grows.

In my most honest moments when my eyes become birds with tiny wings and big songs and when the roots of the friendly oaks find my heart and wrap it in paper for the wind, I throw off the rest of my skin with the leaves and take to the raccoon trails. The mushrooms pop up through the earth with bassoons burping as I count the fallen willow flowers with coyote’s nose, from one to the next, I sailed past the abandoned math on a broken bit of lichen thread with only the assurance that I got from blatherings of the silver creek that the best of use of all language is given to the winter mud where the seeds inside can bake and wait until they’re damn good and ready.

Categories: PAINTINGS