December 4, 2018
Ah, yes, why is California burning up?  It makes sense because the majority of today’s humans have no natural sense of nature.  The Indians knew that periodic partial burning of brush, debris, and over crowded areas was healthy to nature and humans alike.  And they practiced it.  But, then came the white humans who have no sense of nature and its needs.  And they came in larger and larger numbers to California because they love warm weather and beautiful sights.
And so the human population of California expanded even after the gold ran out.  California’s gold became its beauty and gentle weather.  With no sense of mother nature’s needs, or their own inextricable connection to nature, they came, and came, and came.  They built houses where houses should never have been built.  They made sure for many years that every little spark or small fire was suppressed immediately because they needed to protect “their” property.
Grass and garden lovers that they were, they planted water hungry plants and trees in areas of very low rainfall.  To feed those thirsty plants, they captured water that should have run all the way into the waiting oceans.  Green lawns and huge trees grew where nature hadn’t intended as it wrung dry the rivers that were valiantly attempting to meet the ocean.  The rivers and ground water dried up as the trees and green grass grew.
While that was happening in southern California, the greedy humans of the world busily squeezed all of earth’s natural energy resources like there was no tomorrow.  And now, with global warming, that legacy may become all too true for our planet.
Five straight years of drought in southern California tried to bring attention to what humans were doing to the earth.  With no rain from the skies, and uncomfortably rising summer and fall temperatures, southern California half-heartedly and grudgingly made a few concessions to adding some wind power and solar power and grey water, and waited for the rain to return.  There was one brief year of celebration when snow returned in large amounts, (see, global warning is a hoax) once again filling reservoirs.  People delighted in the abundance of water again and returned to their wasteful water wasting ways.  Too bad about all the flooding that followed the rains and washed down huge areas of mud no longer held in by root systems of the trees that had burned.
And now we have arrived at a point in the world that the short-lived human species has not had to deal with during its existence.  Yes, there have been other times when our planet became too hot or too cold for human comfort, but that was before humans populated our planet.
I used to worry a lot about nature.  But, one day, it somehow became clear to me that nature would eventually survive.  It was humans that would have to adapt, or go extinct.
True, we have learned how to send people to the moon, how to kill cancer, how to design foods and babies more to our liking.  The hubris with which humans believe they can conquer all things is endless, and sometimes even endearing.
Are human nature and mother nature compatible?  Nature is running out of patience to show humans the error of their ways.  There’s a good reason why we call her Mother Nature.
June 27, 2013

I was curious.  I had never seen a grunion run and learned this is the time of year to witness the event in southern California and a portion of  the Sea of Cortez near Baja California.  The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, California, runs several programs every year to inform the public about the small, brave grunion — the only fish that can live 20 minutes on wet sand without water.

Grunion is the Spanish word for grunter.  On the second, third, and fourth nights after a full moon and a new moon during certain months of the year, those who are lucky enough to witness the event can see hundreds of squiggly little grunion making their way en masse from the water onto the beaches one to two hours after high tide.

The plucky six inch female quickly digs her way into the sand tail first.  She lays her eggs and is immediately surrounded by a male who releases milt that oozes down into the sand around the eggs and fertilizes them.  The female then spirals her way out of the sand and plops her way back to the sea.

The one and two year olds are the ones who spawn once every two weeks four to six times, depositing perhaps 18,000 eggs a season.  The parents long gone, the waves bring sand onto the beach, pushing the eggs safely further down in the sand where they can develop.  Three days after fertilization, the grunion forms.  In about 4 1/2 days, the heart starts to beat and blood carries food to the embryo from the yolk in the miniscule egg.  In 9 days, there is a baby grunion curled inside with two big eyes waiting.

Waiting for what?  The eggs must be agitated by wave action after 9 days for the infant grunion to burst forth and swim freely.  Their survival rate is not great, given all the humans, birds, raccoons, night herons, feral cats, worms, and sand predators waiting to eat them.  In fact, there are strict rules for humans who want to turn them into a deep-fried dinner.  In April and May, the law prohibits touching  the grunion.  In other months, humans can catch them only by hand, and require a fishing license.  Young children are allowed to catch them without a license.

After seeing a great film about their life story, and having the chance to agitate a small jar of eggs so that we could make them hatch, we trekked out to the beach bathed in the strong moonlight of a full moon at 10:30 p.m.  Everything was perfect — except that the grunion didn’t come on schedule.  My guess is that the shrieking, running, happy children carrying buckets to capture the grunion in made the grunion around there think better of coming up until most of the children had fallen asleep or left.

Our little group saw only one brave grunion dig itself into the sand, lay her eggs, squiggle out of the hole, and into the hands of an excited child.  I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed, but the whole adventure had been curiously satisfying.



September 5, 2011

I’ve always believed that surfers had to be in the best physical shape possible to get out there on a long, thin board, stand up, and ride on the wave.  So, I was surprised to read about Taylor Saige Ross of Irvine, California, who is passionate about surfing for many reasons — one of which is that it helps her breathe.  Taylor has cystic fibrosis, and surfing makes her cough incessantly.

In Taylor’s case, the coughing is life-saving because she is finally able to cough up thick and sticky mucus that coagulates in her lungs.  There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, but surfing has made her quality of life better.  Why?  According to doctors, “inhaling saltwater mist has a powerful effect on rehydrating the lining of the lungs, which allows cystic fibrosis patients to more easily cough up bacteria-contaminated mucus.”

Then there are the other beneficial side benefits of surfing.  According to her mother, Taylor, now 10, “feels a sense of peace and calm, and it helps her get connected with her body.  It’s a place she needs to be able to go.”  In fact, Taylor speaks publicly about Cystic Fibrosis to help raise money for CF research, educating the public to understand the disease and how it affects 30,000 children and young adults.  Huntington Beach (CA), where Taylor surfs,  recently held an annual Pipeline to a Cure fundraiser.

This perky 10 year old’s short term goal is to compete in her first National Scholastic Surfing Association junior competition.  Her long term goal is to become a marine biologist.  In the meantime, she surfs once or twice a week,  and practices mixed martial arts that brought her a silver medal in her weight and age class in a recent MMA tournament.  For 4 hours every day, she has breathing therapy and takes about 20 pills.  Her lung capacity is presently at 84% normal functioning.

I have a cousin who suffered from serious asthma as a child.  Her mother told me that the only place she could breathe well was at the beach but she couldn’t explain why the sea air was her best medicine.  In fact, in our family lore, I remember a story of how my grandmother was a very sickly baby expected to die.  When she was two years old, her mother took her and her other 7 children on the long boat voyage of immigrants from Eastern Europe to America.  Her father had expected his youngest daughter would never survive the trip, but there she was when the boat docked – healthier than she had ever been.  The sea had somehow cured her too.

The sea has always been an emotionally restorative part of my life too.  I was born by the sea, and found various places in the world to live within easy reach of a sea.  Now, living in my little patch of paradise in southern California, I often go to the sea at Laguna Beach.  I love the anticipation of my first sight of the ocean, etched in shades of gray or blue as it meets the sky.  I’ve spent hours at my favorite view over the ocean, happily entertaining myself with watching the variety of people who also come to see the sea, the wild sea lions on the rocks, the scuba divers practicing, the dolphins occasionally passing by, the gulls, cormorants, and pelicans.

Close to sunset, with my binoculars, I distort the gleam of the sun on the ocean into thousands of moving cell-like creatures rejoicing in a dance over the water.  Toward sunset, the shining, shimmering path the sun makes across the water and all the way to the cliff where I’m standing connects me to the sea and the sun.  Soon, the sun throws out flames of red and yellow across the blue sky as it sinks gracefully behind Catalina Island.  I feel at home.

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