Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reflections & A Tribute

We have a bit of a storm brewing to the South East of us that is “organizing” and could become a good sized tropical storm. Nobody seems to be particularly concerned and I have come to see why that is so at least here in the village. Life is simple here, people do not have very much and so are able to do without the amenities more affluent people miss in a disaster. They also have something extremely in their neighbors help and a feeling of community that runs very deep. They may lose a roof, a window, clothes etc but they know that there will be help in the village from somewhere and that no one will be without aid in case of trouble. I have been included in that community and have been told that I will be watched out for if there were a real bad storm. It is a good feeling that comes from knowing that and one that endears these villagers to me even more than before.

Those kinds of revelations are becoming more frequent in my long contemplations by the Sea and under my palapa.

One that I had the other day that I would like to share with you was how much I missed John Lennon. Now I was never really much of a Beatles fan. I knew their music was exceptional in every way but it just didn’t strike a chord in me as did the music of The Doors, Credence Clearwater, Iron Butterfly and many, many others. I liked many of their songs, indeed some of them had an extraordinary affect on me yet their music was not my chosen music as it was for so many.

There was something however very special about John Lennon. His mellow voice of course, his excellent guitar work and his poetry put to music clearly indicated a genius. It’s nice to have a genius as a contemporary. To know that out their in your own time there was someone like a John Lennon burning with a creative fire that simply had no limits!

But it was not these things that made me think of him. What made me think of him was the love that he carried in his heart for this planet and all of humanity. He was a really good man. He would have been a great spokesman for the planet and for peace had he been allowed to continue his creative life. Unfortunately he was killed by a “pig boy” who had probably been raised to have pig beliefs. There is a lot of that going on today, particularly in America.

The injustice of it is a profound statement of a society gone mad. So here are two pictures (not mine of course) of John Lennon that I happen to like. One is on the cover of a book written about him. I just like it. There is a quiet wisdom and love in his face that I find very appealing.

This second picture is of the deeper side, the intellectual side. If this were a painting from the middle ages one might see the philosopher scientist here. I have seen other pictures that I like even better than these but I couldn’t find them online. But I believe these capture some of the true intelligence and love that was John Lennon.

In December it will be 29 years since his death, I miss him.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

So this is a Baja scorpion (not my pic). My interactions with them usually end up with my obliterating them whether they have stung me or not. The reason I have chosen to put this picture in today is because upon getting up this morning and preparing to put on my shorts one fell out of them. Later when I went into town and needed to put on my shirt (one does not go bare chested into town....not courteous) damned if another scorpion didn't fall out of my shirt. No stings but this is now 4 times that I have avoided being stung by shaking out my clothes. I have been stung twice this year in bed at night but I do not seem to be hypersensitive so I'm far!
The other pics are mine of a neighbor who lives in my palapa. I believe it is a Baja California Brush Lizard but once again I am not certain.
Sea was very clear today so swimming laps was particularly pleasant. I swam by another of those beautiful jellies and stopped to get a really good look, very interesting. Also saw a Great Blue Heron at the end of the beach but I had forgotten my camera. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I went kayaking this morning. Not because the conditions were all that good (but certainly not bad), it is just that I hadn’t been for some time and I thought I should check to see what’s moving out there. From shore things have been looking very quiet for some time now. Quiet in the sense of Whales (of any kind), Dolphins, Mobulas, Swordfish, Sea Lions, Turtles etc.
However when one goes out to the “Whale Zone” you just never know what might show up, and of course it is always nice to cruise over the reef on the way in and maybe make a quick dive (a dive in this blog means a free dive, if I use tanks I specifically call it a SCUBA dive).
I got out early, 8:00 am, and paddled into the sun until I was the 2 miles out that puts me in the zone. Then I just wait. It is very quiet out there and extremely peaceful. Recall, I am the only gringo here so anybody going by will be one of the local fisherman who always wave and quickly pass on.
The sea was full of the fluorescent blue comb jellies common to these waters. As I looked underneath my kayak I swear it looked like stars in a dark, dark blue sky……very lovely.
The following pictures are not mine (except for the Mobula), nor the ones of the Boobies, but enhance the narrative and are true to the experience. I still do not feel secure in taking my good digital camera in the kayak, too risky. The jellies are two different species but the single shot is our local Comb Jelly and the pic with the multitude (an Atlantic species) I chose because it captures the mood.

I have found that a sight as simple as that is well worth the physical effort of kayaking out to the zone. Therefore I was already thoroughly satisfied when a small Mobula leaped out of the water and did a double back gainer right in front of me. No matter how many times I see that display I never tire of it or can keep myself from either cheering or laughing.

A bit later I saw about ½ mile away three large birds feeding. The were skimming the water at a low elevation (4’ ?) and then “crashing” into the surface. I am not being derogatory when I say crashing. This is their long evolved technique for catching fish and it has obviously been a successful adaptation because they are still here and doing well. I recognized them as my new found friends The Masked Booby. I tried to attract their attention because I have found them to be curious birds and I wanted to be sure of my identification. I was successful after about 10 minutes of paddle waving as the three together and in tight formation flew right over my head (6’) and took a real good look at me.

I was waving and laughing and of course talking to them and they replied back with a real squawking. Or was I squawking and they talking?? It was really funny and wonderful! Later on one additional Booby flew by and also took a good close look before heading after it’s mates.
I did come in over the reef and dove in the area that Alan and I have found to be particularly rich in sea life and I was treated to swimming with large schools of a number of species but the water was not real clear (at least to what I have now become to gauge as “real” clear) so I didn’t stay long, just long enough to be stung by some creature on my hand. It’s consistency was like that of the tentacles of a “Man of War” but the sting itself was not as potent. It was still on my hand so I thought I would take a closer look at it. I shook it off and it was again a creature of great beauty and one I have not seen before and now also not able to identify. The field guides for The Sea of Cortez are terribly inadequate for the more serious naturalist but it is what it is.
It was a good day on the Sea.
For those who wonder how I pass my days here besides my Sea going excursions, here’s a % by week of how my time is spent, excluding eating and sleeping. This is based on a 87 hr “work” week. This is not a sign of dementia or obsession, it's just for fun!

Revised (9/23):

24.1 %...............Reading
16.6 %...............Internet
13.8 %...............Contemplation/Meditation
12.6 %...............Exercise
12.1 %...............Field Observation (Zoology, Botany etc)
10.3 %...............Writing
04.6 %...............Spanish Language Study
03.4 %...............Travel
01.1 %...............Gardening (limited due to gnats, usually 3-4 %))
01.1 %...............Arts/Crafts

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Today, which will be yesterday by the time I post this, I decided to spend a day at the beach. It has been over a week since I have chosen to do that, well....because that’s what I felt like doing today. I went prepared with all those things that make it the most enjoyable and it appears that my camera has become part of my requisite beach toys.
This first pic is the beach of which I speak. At the present time and for the past month I have been the only one here to enjoy this incredible place. My trailer is only 150 yds from what you see here so it takes little effort to get there. You can see my yellow kayak at the point where the reef starts out to the right.
While reading yet another book I saw further down the beach a rather large bird and thought it might be a Great Blue Heron. Now I have seen many of them before but I have never been in a position to photograph one with a telephoto lens so I began walking slowly down the beach towards it. I could soon tell that I was mistaken and it was a California Brown Pelican. The thing is it was really large even for a pelican and I was curious so I kept approaching it. As I got near enough I could see that yes, it was an old, quite large pelican so I took these shots. Check out the wingspan in the second pic. I would estimate the span to be at least 5 ft, maybe 6.
The second two shots are of a butterfly that I can only tentatively identify as a Mimosa Yellow. I first saw this one and then realized there were dozens of them flitting all around me and as far as I could see up and down the beach. Once again the incredible evolutionary gift of sexual mating was taking place like a beautiful yellow ripple in space-time, increasing the variety of the gene pool and insuring the survival of the species....and to a very real degree you and I too.
As I continued back to the beach palapa I saw ahead of me this perfectly colored and structured sea gull. I have seen these before of course but again I now had a camera that could do justice to its beauty. The gulls down here don’t eat human trash; they are instead in perfect accord with a natural food chain that is sustained as much by them as for them. They are therefore very healthy. This happens to be a Yellow Footed Gull, closely related to the Western Gull found in The States.
The last pic is of yet another Sandpiper (?) but I am having a terrible time identifying it. I don’t think it is the same as the ones I saw the other day but I am not sure. I realized today that I have a very dear friend, Dolores Toivonen, who is a bird person and might help me with the identification. I will send her the pics and report back.

For those of you reading these posts I wish you all well and I hope my “critters” bring to you what they do to me...a profound delight and awe of this planets manifold expressions of the Life Force.


Friday, September 18, 2009

I was doing some early yard work this morning and came across this little critter. It was 5-6" long and obviously caught my attention with it's brilliant green skin. I checked into my reptiles field guide but no such critter....however, with further investigation I found that this was a very young Spiny Tailed Iguana. I've never seen one before, beautiful no? I should mention that the colors in this photo do not do it justice. The actual color was a vivid almost florescent green.
The desert continues to "green up".....truly extraordinaire! As one would expect there are also more insects. They have a small, very obnoxious fly down here (way smaller than a fruit fly) they call a BoBo. They have a predilection for your mouth, ears, nose and eyes. Yesterday I inadvertently ate two of them just breathing. Fortunately they don't sting, bite or cause indigestion.
Not much sea action lately due to a bit of afternoon winds and the turbidity created by them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The flag of Mexico

Today is independence day here in Mexico. It is a day that is comparable to America's 4th of July and is celebrated with passion by The People here. Many Americans, indeed most, incorrectly believe that Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexican Independence from Spanish rule. Today actually honors the peasant rebellion led by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla that began on September 16, 1810 at a parish church in Dolores. The uprising eventually led to Mexican Independence 11 years later. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a battle with the French 50 years after that.

In thinking about all this I looked up the word Expatriate to see if I was correct in using it to describe my present status. Here is the definition of Expatriate: "a person who lives outside their native country". Now what is the definition of a native? "A person born in a specified place or associated with a place by birth, whether subsequently resident there or not". That makes me an Expatriate even when I did live in The States because I was born in Estonia.

I am proud to be living with the Mexican people now. I honor their flag, I love their food, I enjoy the sound of their language (and slowly, very slowly learning it) and I respect deeply their sense of freedom and justice.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Check out the greenery. Since the rains from the Chubasco the desert has become a jungle! The first shot is off the top of my bodega looking SW, the second is "mi casa".

This morning the water was so clear I couldn't resist swimming laps even though I had other things to do. While swimming a beautiful, transparent jellyfish pulsed by. It was about 8 inches in diameter and appeared like some sinuous crystalline creature from another planet, very cool. I need to get an underwater camera!

Some of you may not believe this but I am actually contemplating going into Los Barriles tomorrow to watch the 49er's game. When I was a kid I used to watch them during spring training at Stanford sometimes. Of course those were the days of YA Tittle, John Henry Johnson, Joe Perry, Leo Nomellini, Gordie Soltau and Matt Hazeltine (my personal hero). I find it amazing that I should remember that but then I played football in High School (not very well) and even had Bruno Banducci's son as a team mate.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I saw my friend the Osprey again yesterday and I had my camera so here are some other shots of HIM. I know now that it was a him because this morning while kayaking his mate flew over. She is smaller and has "perfect" wing structure. She is beautiful! I didn't have my camera so you will just have to trust me. I'll get a picture of her one day, they live nearby. Check out their lunch!

Kayaking today was simply glorious! I've never seen it so clear and with so many fish. It was the first time snorkeling for me since my ear problem so it was very special indeed. I'm really looking forward to my dive partners Alan Pomeroy and George Sievers getting here in the fall so we can do some survey work. Had a low flying Booby check me out which was cool. The Whale Zone was not active but as pleasant as ever.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yesterday was yet again a most beautiful day. If this is what September is like down here (with the occasional hurricane) it is beyond delightful. The water is getting clearer everyday, the temperature of both water and air has dropped a bit (mid 90’s) and the skies are crystalline. On top of that the desert is beginning to turn GREEN and I mean green. There are plants in my yard that I thought for sure were long gone only to find that they too retain the spark of life….it is just their way. I drove to Los Barriles today and the desert was breath taking! Greens you wouldn’t believe. Once again I am reminded of my 4 years at The Univ. of Arizona in Tucson and how much and why I came to love the desert so.

I spent the whole day at the beach yesterday swimming laps (ear is OK again), running, reading, swimming and then these critters came along and a whole new activity began.
The first one is a Semipalmated Plover (referred to sometimes down here as The Collared Plover), then as I walked down the beach I heard the Osprey’s cry and looked to my left and there he/she was. Further on down the beach I ran into the threesome you see. In front is a Plover, to the left a Sandpiper (yet to be identified as to species) and a Whimbrel. Great fun for me because they are not only critters to hang with but these are all new ones to me.

I couldn’t resist putting in the picture of The Whimbrel and The Plover flying off together….so beautiful! The last pick is of two Sandpipers but I am not sure of the species still. I tried to figure which ones they are but even with two field guides to help I just couldn’t decide whether they were Common Sandpipers or The Solitary Sandpiper. Any Ornithologist (or amateur) out there that wants to help please contact me. I am always happy to be corrected.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Went out this morning for my first kayak trip since before the hurricane. The water was not clear enough to dive over the reef but I did have a nice time in the “Whale Zone”. Just the tranquility that’s all, no major encounters but a fairly close surface approach by a Mobula. On the way in a small group of Pacific Common Dolphins swam by but they didn’t seem to be interested in an encounter so I didn’t join them. Came in over the reef as I usually do but again the water just wasn’t clear enough to warrant a dive. Otherwise it is a gorgeous day. Clear, relatively cool, soft breeze, well what can one say, eh?

There are fewer birds now then 2-3 months ago….ah, springtime! As a matter of fact far fewer when I really think about it. This is the time of insects, arachnids and reptiles. All interesting in their own right but also less “embraceable” (literally and figuratively) than many of the other critters. For example when I started to put on one of my dive booties this morning a big 2 ½” spider fell out, one of those tough looking hairy ones (not a tarantula). I have to admit though once again that I am so thankful to those really excellent professors I had at San Jose State as a Zoology undergraduate. They instilled in me their fascination for their special “critters” and that has stood me in good stead ever since.

I have been watching some serious mating or feeding activity of a large number of Woodland Millipedes that happen to be carrying out their business right in front of my lounge. There must be hundreds of them within 30 feet of my palapa. They are black, thick, slow but occasionally very active (when 2 of them cross paths it seems that they either fight or are mating and I do not know enough about Entomology to recognize the difference).

Along with these critters is also an influx of large numbers of black beetles that I have seen before but not at all in these numbers. They mingle with the centipedes but only in a cursory fashion and I cannot detect any specific relationship between them. I hope they stay around for a while because they are both interesting to watch and I am learning more every day. Ain't nature grand!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I went out to the bluff to get these shots on Tuesday as a period of sustained wind and rain passed through. This first picture was taken yesterday when it was clear that the hurricane had passed. The power was out in the village but one could sense that the storm had spent itself. There is a 5000 foot mountain range between us and The Pacific side so when a hurricane slams into the peninsula it often looses some steam against these sentinels.
Jimena was threatening but crossed over the peninsula about 200 miles north of here so had little affect on us. Where it did cross (around Loreto) they were lucky too because the hurricane had lost a great deal of it's fury by then (winds down to 50-60 mph).
We had short periods of 10-15 min of heavy rain and strong winds but as I drove through the village yesterday there appeared to be very little damage. My trailer with me in it were secure and confident, for after all, it is an Airstream. Believe me when I say however that this was only a foretaste of really getting slammed so I am well prepared.
Today is calm, sultry and we are all thankful to Thor for being light on us this time.
I also wish to correct a mistake in a previous post. I did not see a group of American White Penguins fly by. We don't have penguins in this part of the planet, they were American White Pelicans. When I saw that statement just now while perusing my posts I cracked up. The image of a group of flying penguins going by was just too funny. What in the world made me write penguins I have no idea....or do I?