Michael Stusser

Michael Stusser

Oh my God, what a difference one inspiring (and violence free) inauguration can make. What a difference one remarkable poem (and poet) makes! 

If you aren’t already reading Heather Cox Richardson (“Letters from an American”),  consider it. She’s insightful and wise and does a great daily summary of what’s going on. Yesterday she pointed out that many of us seem to be sleeping better in just the last three days. She notes that word “slept” seems to be trending on Twitter, which has to be a good thing.

Before I get to this edition of Faces of the West County, I want to return to something that was printed in this column a number of months ago.

I hate to bring up something sobering during this newfound lightness of spirit, but the mob that stormed the capitol in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, was really no surprise. Though the various security forces didn’t seem to take the threat very seriously, it was obvious to many.  

We were fortunate to have Michael Schmidtman sit down and speak with us about his political perspective back in June, (www.sonomawest.com/faces-of-west-county-michael-schmidtman/article_8afe34cc-c00f-11ea-8aac-b70cafe43c7c.html) and his reasons for supporting the previous president. I really appreciated his candor and willingness to help those of us who couldn’t comprehend why someone would feel that way.

One question I had for Michael (four months before the election) was about the looming threat of violence, should the then president not get reelected. It seemed like a very reasonable threat well before the previous president egged his followers on for months before the election, after the election, and then on Jan. 6. 

Here’s what Michael said: 

“Are you worried that there’s going to be violence here whatever the outcome of the election?

Yes. They’re already showing us, in Seattle, how there’s going to be violence. The left is willfully splintering our country along racial lines. And I wouldn’t be surprised if on the right, the Three Percenters, or the Oath Keepers, won’t get violent if we lose and it’s obvious that it’s been a fraudulent election.” 

The notion that it was going to be framed as a fraudulent election, “rigged” if you will, was cooked into the recipe long ago. We all knew that some sort of violence was brewing. Whether or not we’ve seen the last of it, remains to be seen, though sadly, I can’t imagine. 

I remain grateful to Mr. Schmidtman for his honesty. 

Another Michael, Michael Stusser, is also someone who clearly speaks his truth. I was fortunate enough to go on lovely bike ride with him (West Dry Creek, Alexander Valley … it was gorgeous) a few days ago. It’s hard to believe that this man is really 74. Michael is the owner of the iconic Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, out in Freestone. He struck the trifecta; a youthful spirit, and body, and mind. 

Where and when were you born, Michael? 

Seattle, Washington, 1946. 

Where was your family from? 

On my mom’s side, they were from South Dakota, where I grew up in Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. We lived on the same block as George McGovern. We were friends with the McGoverns. Her family came from German Jews. 

On my dad’s side, her mother was from Kiev, Ukraine. They were Jews too, who fled hostile circumstances there. They migrated to Saskatchewan. 

How did you get to Sonoma County? 

I was living in a functional hippie commune in the Santa Cruz Mountains. By functional, I mean that we really worked the land, and managed to support ourselves. We were having a really good time, too. We were naked a lot of the time. Another neighboring commune was less productive, but someone in that commune inherited lots of money, sort of by mistake. Before the mistake was discovered, he decided to take his windfall of cash and create a society where people could be more self-sufficient. (A bit ironic that such a thing was reliant on a huge inheritance, but never mind.) That endeavor eventually led to the creation of The Farallones Institute. The guy with the money, invited me and David Katz to join his board. We went on a yearlong search for the right property. We eventually found a site just outside of Occidental, and soon after I was invited to be the first gardener there. I was there from ’75-’80. That’s how I got here. (The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center currently occupies the original Farallones site.)

Where did your gardening chops come from? 

I was in the first graduating class from UC Santa Cruz, together with Larry Robinson. My mentor there was Allen Chawick, a true visionary horticulturalist. The rest is history. 

I eventually went to Kyoto, Japan, for three years to study landscape gardening and meditation. 

Which led to the creation of Osmosis? 

Exactly. 

We opened the enzyme bathes in a recycled chicken coop back in 1985. Today, we’re up to 80 full and part-time employees, though COVID has shut us down for the time being. 

You’re quite the political animal. How do you feel 48 hours after the inauguration? 

Jubilant! Mostly because of Amanda Gorman. And sane leadership helps. 

How anxious does the changing climate make you? 

It dwarfs every other problem by magnitudes. 

So, what do we do? 

We should be composting everything possible and taking care of the top seven inches of the soil. That is the most direct and impactful action we can take. Everything that we can compost, should be returned to the soil. 

Are you getting the vaccine? 

As soon as possible. 

If you had one organization to give to today, which would it be? 

(He pauses for a while.) Save the Redwoods. 

What are you looking forward to this year? 

Smelling the roses. Before COVID I had been traveling quite a bit, but COVID has kept travels at bay.

Biking around our gorgeous neighborhood would be good. 

And I’m reveling in the joy of finding a greater level of collaboration, and a higher purpose. 

Wow. That’s ambitious. Good luck with that! 

Thanks, Michael. 

Osmosis is at www.osmosis.com

Save the Redwoods League can be found at: Savetheredwoods.org

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