Sheri Ritchlin – A Farm in Marin: Portraits in Time from Pangaea to Point Reyes

marin“Magnificent… A thing of beauty…. I think she has written something that could become a major work for our time.” ~ Brian Swimme, author with Thomas Berry of The Universe Story and of the award-winning documentary, “The Journey of the Universe” with Mary Evelyn Tucker
A Farm in Marin: Portraits in Time from Pangaea to Point Reyes is both funny and thought-provoking as it mingles the whole of Earth history and the cosmos itself with our day-to-day moments and relationships. It combines memoir, history and fiction to produce a new genre which reflects a nascent twenty-first century shift in perspective. I call it a “deep history.”
The work travels across this deep history as if it were a vast continent of the mind, creating a different kind of Present, even as a telescope brings into our current moment a scene not otherwise accessible to us: A distant planet or the rings of Saturn; an island in the sea or a rare bird on a branch. Our personal present expands richly from this experience and so does our own “presence” on the planet.
 
A Farm in Marin is a story of migrations—of continents and of people; migrations born of desperation and upheaval, as we see today, but also of hope and ambition. An Earth Calendar is introduced at the outset in which the Earth’s history is condensed into a single year. This forms the foundation of the entire book as the underlying story; Gaia’s story. Above this, geological, cultural and personal histories are layered in a narrative that combines the writer’s experience of the present with portraits of people from across the reaches of time. Each portrait stands alone as a humorous, serious or informative cameo, followed by a background of the times and places. You will meet Homer and Aeneas, Augustine of Hippo, Tariq ibn Ziyad, Petrarch, Jefferson, Franklin, John Sutter, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir and many others.
Throughout the book, the land itself has been a main character and it comes to the fore as the theme in the last section as San Francisco and Marín meet the challenges of conservation and the future of agriculture, led by several of the families we have followed out of Ticino.
There is a memoir-like quality in the rhythmic returns to the Present in the author’s 1972 cabover camper, “Mr. Fields,” perched over the edge of a creek at Grossi Farms in Sonoma owned by Dominic’s grandson Ed Grossi and his wife Susie. These sections unfold as a layer with a story line of its own. Ed Grossi was born on the farm in Marín and was the first to tell me its story.
A Farm in Marin is a cultural riff through time; a tapestry of stories that present a new experience of the Gaia Enterprise—our planetary history viewed through the lens of Western culture and scientific discovery, given depth and breadth by these unusual perspectives. The stories around Dominic’s emigration from Ticino, Switzerland to the farm in Marin become the fractal of the larger emigration from there that would eventually dominate the dairy industry of Point Reyes; an emigration story that lies in the history of so many people on the planet.
                                                                                                                                 — Sheri Ritchlin, A Farm in Marin
To be published in Fall 2017 by TriS Foundation and distributed by Millichap Books