This picture gives one the idea of the awesome power of nature. The forces at work in this photo are ancient and absolutely necessary in order for there to be life on this planet. This is a veritable cauldron of chemistry and energy – repeated on the average a 100 times per second planet wide.
Speaking of nature and energy, I hope you all got out and greeted the Solstice Sun on the 21st of this month. Well, if not, perhaps next year. The return of the sun to the north each year IS the most reliable event that is directly related to your very existence every day.
Winter Solstice sunrise - 2013
This is a part of our Medicine Wheel and solar calendar here at Shangri-La. The center stone, referred to by the Huichol as Tatawari (Grandfather) is often represented by a fire. We have a stone in the center in order to sight as perfectly as possible the Solstices and The Equinox. The rock balanced on the top of the center stone has an ancient pictograph of the four sacred directions painted on it. The sword rests against the Winter Solstice Stone and is a reminder of the pagan origin of the moment and the fight to preserve this ceremony as the one Judeo-Christian God got carried to and then dominated the west. When sighting across the top of the center stone and over the solstice stone the sun will be seen to rise above the solstice stone and marks the suns southern most position before starting back north towards the Equinox. Of course the sun doesn’t really move it is the earth’s tilt that creates the appearance of movement.
As in all cycles there is life and death…..and renewal. Peter O’Toole died on the 14th of December. I will miss seeing him in yet another guise as he masterfully created the characters he played. He was himself, a real character! I would have loved to carouse with Peter and Richard, eh!
Peter O’Toole in "The Lion in Winter"
And then there is the renewal. Remember my posting this picture of the newborn daughter of a couple of my fine students (Melissa and Jesse) some months back?
Melissa and Layla
Well here’s Layla at her first Christmas.
Lyla's first Christmas
And on the theme of renewal, here’s some interesting astronomy.
A "LIFE" planet?
We are now certain that Mars had plenty of water at one time, perhaps it lasted for over 500 million years. If so, there could very well have been life on Mars in the past. This is an artists rendering of what Mars may have looked like if the “sea floors” still contained water - no need to think of Tharks, just LIFE.
Mars a long time ago
With the new Gaia telescope that The European Union just orbited we expect to be able to discern atmospheric composition on distant planets orbiting other suns – what a hoot!! Atmospheric content, particularly in terms of the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide will tell us much as to whether life may exist on that planet.
Here are two people really enjoying life. These are my neighbors Alex and Leslie Cook. Always a treat to have them in town - they are very sincere and generous supporters of my whale work. Looking forward to their next visit.
Alex kite surfed from El Cardonal to Los Barriles a few weeks ago – 15 miles, took him 70 minutes, hoohah! Leslie and I have had some of the most wonderful late night discussions ever. It’s all about staying in tune with The Earth Pulse and there is NO BETTER way to do that then to be embedded in nature as much as possible.
“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
Always having enjoyed the gift of a coordinated body and a love of sports I have engaged in them all my life. Here is a notice my daughter Kersti found in her files and a pic of the three young boys mentioned.
Urmas, Frank and John
Here’s a bit of good new info on humpback whale song. I had a “singer” under my panga a few years back (2005) and my two interns at the time, Lenee and Kristin, jumped right in to be with him.
Kristin (back) and Lenee - 2005 whale season
In the late 1960s, whale biologist Roger Payne and several colleagues did something a little unusual, and it paid off with spectacular results. The researchers dumped a microphone into the sea, hoping to listen in on the underwater conversations that Payne believed whales were having. But “some people weren’t sure we were going to hear anything — they said it was just a waste of time,” Payne recalled to a journalist at the time.
It worked better than anyone had imagined, however, capturing a remarkable array of creaks, groans, and moans produced by humpback and other whales. Recordings of the whale songs were soon selling out at music stores, and people around the world were debating the meaning of the haunting melodies. The discovery earned the humpback a new nickname: “Songster of the Sea.”
Today, scientists know more than ever about the song of the humpback. They know, for instance, that while both male and female humpbacks can produce sounds, only the males appear to produce organized songs with distinct themes and melodies, almost always on breeding grounds. As NATURE’s Humpback Whales shows, the males often sing while suspended deep below the surface, their long front flippers jutting rigidly from their sides. The songs can last up to 20 minutes, and can be heard more than 20 miles away. The male may repeat the same song dozens of times over several hours, and whales in the same geographic area sing in very similar “dialects.” Song patterns can change gradually over time, so that new songs emerge every few years.
Researchers still aren’t sure exactly how the whales produce the sounds. Whales don’t have vocal cords, so they probably sing by circulating air through the tubes and chambers of their respiratory system. But no air escapes during the concerts — and their mouths don’t move.
Scientists are also unsure about what the songs mean. Originally, observers believed they were a mating call, used to advertise the male’s availability to passing females. This idea was reinforced when divers observed other whales approaching the singers.
More recently, however, some researchers have come to believe that the singing humpbacks are actually issuing threats, not singing love songs. In part, that idea arose because scientists discovered that many of the whales approaching singers were other males, and the meeting would often end in a tussle. “It looks like the singing whale is telling the other males who is the boss,” says Gary Lyder, a whale biologist and whale watching guide.
Another recent theory is that the singing whales are simply finding out who is in the neighborhood, using the songs as a form of sonar for tracking nearby whales. But many scientists are skeptical of the idea, in part because the whales only seem to sing on breeding grounds.
Researchers may never be able to know for certain what the songs mean. But they continue to pore over recordings and replay the whale’s greatest hits. And in the meantime, the virtuoso whale singers continue to hit their high notes, serenading an unseen audience deep in the blue-black sea, returning again and again to the stage for haunting encores.
The local baseball team played Los Barriles last week and were soundly defeated but not humbled.
"Weekend Warriors" - love it!
"Weekend Warriors" - love it!
El Cardonal fans
Everyone gathered at the cantina after the game for beer and cows head soup. Yeah, a bit much for me but you know how one must try everything. The taste was not bad but the image of the cows head in the pot was too much for me.
Real good friends of mine - Roxanne, Frank and Darrell - not as of the above
Roxanne and Darrel are the only other gringos that live here as fulltime residents. By the way, today is my 5th anniversary of living full time here in El Cardonal and still the only resident gringo.
I introduced my neighbor Frank Gavin to the joy of kayaking while he was here last week and though we didn’t see any whales it was a great day out there – and he is hooked.
Frank Gavin - a convert to kayaking
I talk about my kayak a lot. It has been with me for over 12 years now and like a good horse it has never let me down. I have kayaked on “Haldjas” on The Mendocino coast, the county’s rivers, Hawaii and all over The Sea of Cortez – a friend.
My trusty kayak, "Haldjas"
This is the sailing ship that tested my heritage. I sailed on Dariabar (a stay sail rigged schooner) from San Francisco to Hawaii in 1998.
The Good Ship Dariabar
The Good Ship Dariabar
And this guy - is he cool or what!!
One last word: again about the courtesy and good will of The Mexican People. I had to pay my Fidiocamiso (land title agreement) the other day in San Jose – 60 miles south. All went well until I was told I could not pay my FC fee in dollars if I didn’t have my passport. I never carry my passport anymore because I have an FM2 and I keep three or four copies of my passport in my glove compartment. Whoops, used all my copies! I was told I could come back next Friday. I really don’t like to drive to SJ more than absolutely necessary and I explained that to the folks at the bank. AGAINST all rules they agreed to do it on the basis of a Xerox of my 2008 passport (EXPIRED) that they had on file. Paid my fees, sent an e-mail pic of my new passport and received a nice note besides. Thank you Adriana and Adolpho! As my good friend Pam in Los Barriles said, “you’ve got good bank karma”!