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Out of the Blue: 'Kelp Lady' inspires Laguna Beach

April 17, 2013|By Billy Fried
  • Nancy Caruso’s The Kelp Project will take place Saturday, coinciding with Earth Day.
Nancy Caruso’s The Kelp Project will take place…

The estimable Jane Goodall was the Rose Parade grand marshal this past year. When speaking about our ability to save the planet, she said, "A million people doing the right thing are a good start." I mention this because in my last column I wrote of the need for the divine feminine to save the planet. This week I submit to you, my readers, proof.

A few years back, when I first heard of a woman called the Kelp Lady, I couldn't help but imagine a dowdy, eccentric widow, with stringy, unkempt hair swept around her torso. The kind that talks to one in particular.

My first encounter with the Kelp Lady was at her first annual Kelp Fest at Main Beach. I was curious about this little festival with the quirky name. Maybe I'd find patchouli, incense, some tie-dyed clothes and a "free hug" booth. Instead I met Nancy Caruso, and I have been inspired and awed by the Kelp Lady ever since. Nancy can not only galvanize an army, she can also draw up the battle plan, identify the obstacles and call the audiles. And thus Kelp Fest was born four years ago, Laguna's little eco festival that does!

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Nancy is a marine biologist and teacher who lives in Garden Grove with her quietly brilliant husband Tom. Tom understands the power of a woman to do great work in the world. The proverbial "guy behind the girl." Which is only possible because he is 100% actualized, and they are 100% equals. They both have a passion for the same things, like diving, skiing, hiking, and retracing the Lewis & Clark expedition — which they did one summer across America by boat — just as her granddad had.

Nancy's brilliance is the fortitude to believe that a small group of dedicated volunteers can completely restore the habitat in our coastal waters by replenishing the kelp, followed by white sea bass and abalone. Laguna has been a great beneficiary of her largesse. Not because we as a people possess some special charm. But because Heisler Park once had the densest kelp forest in Orange County.

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