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Obi Kaufmann  Author of the California Field Atlas. Tracking thunderbirds across the California Wilderness.


I am feeling the pull again; the deep gravity that feeds all my work and that always threatens to overwhelm me. It is a wave, it is also a fire, it is also a river, it is also the sweet, spring wind. I am now working on a couple of books that will be my follow-up to the #californiafieldatlas and dawn can not come soon enough for this map farmer. Colors bounce me from one end of my private California to the other as I dance and cut the million-faced diamond. If my correspondence is lacking, know that I am between here and somewhere beautiful and that I am hoping you are well and I will get back to you as soon as I can and thank you for your love and patience.

Only the tallest redwoods remember the first morning of the first spring when the snake and bobcat were married. The rivers of the day asked that it rain for weeks so they might fully sing the honor of their unity. Their children, a million dancing fruit trees rose before summer was through. The noisy parade of men to come was still a thousand-thousand years off. These were the days when the flowers were free to not know their own names and the Bay could hardly breathe from under the weight of all the life that suckled from her giving green. In perfect freedom, the king cat and his queen snake were able to enjoy all that the world wasn’t. Their simple, ancient and original tragedy will always be remembered by the good earth as a bittersweet time when all the mountains grew in circles and the sun and moon gave equally to the light and to the darkness.

The three R’s have been parading around my mind, as good little soldiers, affording both hope and direction: Resistance, Restoration and Romance. Resistance is a political posture towards a backsliding into a dark age and an antidote to the poisons of rhetoric and ego in the age of the myopic din of social media. Restoration is a vision across the landscape of habitats again secure enough to hold the resources of the watershed; sanctity against extinction treading on a region and global level. Romance is the connection to the natural world that we foster on all levels of self: the emotional, the physical, the spiritual and the mental.

Weaving clouds thread silken ties from my voice into the thin fingers of the budding oaks in their waking moment at the end of the California winter. It is inevitable, living inside the music as composed by the birds, the creek, the ridge line, and the breathing green as it wrestled my happy, wind-beaten heart into the soil. We are never more awake than we are just before we shed the dreaming for wakefulness, when we are wildflower seeds just ready to unfurl our color and announce to the savage peace our boundless willingness to joyfully participate in the horrendous, uplifting push of spring.

I dreamt last night of San Francisco blanketed in a green cloak. All the buildings were made of the roots, shining with oily life in the endless twilight. As I approached from where I was in the sky, I saw that all the leaves where actually emeralds and the windows on all the structures were diamonds reflecting rainbows across the eyes of a thousand ravens who seemed to rule the city. See you tonight #sanfrancisco @greenapplebooks

/// my painting as displayed on the new promotional tote bag for @kswildlands \\\ I am proud to stand with the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and their agenda for bioversity protection and habitat conservation across Northern California and Southern Oregon. @kswild is 1) opposing the Shasta Agness timber sale on the Rogue-River Siskiyou National Forest near Gold Beach, stripping the old-growth oak forest of its protections, 2) working to protect Oregon's wolves by petitioning Oregon governor Kate Brown to protect the endangered population, 3) stopping the old-growth logging of the Chetco watershed near the Kalmiopsis wilderness, 4) fighting to halt the 1,700 acre Siskiyou clear-cut in the Klamath National Forest, and 5) resisting any attempts by the current head of the Department of the Interior to shrink the boundaries of the #cascadesiskiyou National Monument. I am so appreciative for the kind of grass roots leadership and front-line Resistance that they offer, that this landscape of unparalleled biodiversity needs to defend and protect itself againtst the short-sighted, extractive interests who seem to not be able to see beauty but for the promise of the quick, unsustainable, greasy buck.

The #californiafieldatlas is the number one nonfiction paperback again this week across Northern California. Thanks to you and the greater community for your continued support of my work. We've only just begun. I will see you tomorrow @greenapplebooks #sanfrancisco

It has been a hundred years that my heart has been buried in the still water. Every evening at sunset I see thousand cranes rise from the reservoir and on their wings, the valley empties. In the morning, the bear’s dream of their return with sapphire eyes uncut on the salmon’s tooth. In a thousand years, the liquid granite will begin to forget the thirst stains marring the holy bowl across the outstretched song of the river, beneath the arboreal pulse of the restored place that was meant for sky, not flood. @restorehetchhetchy @yosemitenps

I am both the coyote and the roadrunner. I like to torch both ends of the candle and this week, I paid for it. I've had to adjust my tour schedule because of this very real condition that I am thinking of as either exhaustion or over-stimulation - I am sure now quite sure it is both. The goodness and openness of my whole California family that has welcomed me again and again over the past few months that I have been on tour, has indeed made all my dreams for the #californiafieldatlas come true. I'm positively brimming with gratitude and I feel lost in a momentous cycle of community-nurtured voice towards this proselytizing, nature-first narrative I've got that keeps me up at night, and is vividly there even when I do find sleep. This week my body rebelled and I have come home, with my tail between my legs frankly, ready to accept the possibility of rest. I was supposed to be at the @mojavedesertlandtrust today as they had again so graciously welcomed me to present my work there, but alas as I hope you've seen by now, I won't make it... but my art will! The original paintings that they are auctioning to support the acquisition of Tortoise Haven, a key piece of habitat in the Mojave, are there to launch their #desertlovers campaign. A campaign that could not be more dear to my heart. Please check my website at www.californiafieldatlas.com to see how my tour going forward has been modified to a more sane pace and note that the book itself is again available for purchase there. Thank you all so much for your continued support. Obi

@mensfilemagazine in their most recent issue featured me and the #californiafieldatlas along with my collaboration with @indigoferajeans and the photography of @paulnemirahcollins. This thick and always impressive periodical is the new standard for the international, creative community interested in new yet classic veins for men’s style and apparel, and I could not be more proud to be in the ranks. Also pictured here are the recently produced, leather coaster set produced by @mulecarry that featured my wildlife illustrations. I had the pleasure of collaborating with this San Diego based company, when I attended @outdoorretailer with them last year and by auctioning off my paintings, we raised a few thousand dollars to support #publiclands defense across the West. The entire collaboration which includes T-shirts that feature my work, can be found and purchased at mulecarry.com.

This is the original work that has now been printed for the @mojavedesertlandtrust as its new poster. The MDLT is auctioning this painting right now to help raise the money to buy a little corner of the California desert called Tortoise Haven, and to protect that valuable tortoise habitat from development forever. To bid on the painting, please go to eBay and search “original painting by Obi Kaufmann.” The auction ends on this Saturday, the 17th, at 3:30. I am sorry to announce here that I needed to cancel my scheduled appearance, along with the #californiafieldatlas, that afternoon at the MDLT headquarters in Joshua Tree. I will reschedule. Thank you for your support of this oh so worthwhile cause.

I’m locked in a daydream. I spent the past several hours scouring, in rapt joy, the La Brea Tar Pits site and museum - a thing I’ve not done since I was a boy. The mammalian universe of Pleistocene California comes into a living focus here unlike anywhere else - in all its terrible, strange and thoroughly beautiful albeit surreal glory. A dark pit of bubbling death in the center of Los Angeles that has spelled doom for hundreds of thousands of animals for at least the past fifty thousand years, La Brea ironically presents a kind of portfolio of immortality bestowing invaluable insight to the ancient fecundity of this land. Just a couple of animal deaths a year here drawn out over five dozen millennia accounts for the millions of fossils that are still being excavated from the site. Standing before the wall of over 400 dire wolf skulls is about as religious an experience that has ever been offered to this poet. Pictured: detail of one of the several complete fossil skeletons in the dramatic, dire wolf diorama.

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