Moss

Moss
Michael Ellis

Recently I was on a California Native Plant Society field trip, the wildflower display was striking. There was much ohing and ahing and photographing of all the vibrant shimmering colors. I watched a fellow hiker – Ron – staring intently at a rock so I asked what was he looking at? “Moss” he said abashedly, “I like moss.”

Moss may very well be the Rodney Dangerfield of the green plant world. They get no respect. On this particular day all the attention was going to wildflowers with only a passing glance at the soft, vibrant carpets of moss. We do not eat moss, mosses have few medicinal properties, mosses are rarely used in landscaping, and they are usually trampled underfoot without a thought. In fact when I googled MOSS the only commercial link that popped up screamed STOP UNWANTED MOSS GROWTH!

But moss has played a major role in the evolution of plant life on land. We owe much to these overlooked plants. They are descendents of aquatic green algae that were able to grow on land, albeit damp land. From this tenuous foothold the rest of the land plants evolved – ferns, pines and true flowering plants. Moss colonies may cover 20% of the Earths surface and are very important in many ecosystems from the harsh world of the arctic to the lush tropics. They are pioneer plants often growing on rock or bare earth and contribute to soil formation, they absorb water and nutrients, they provide habitat for other plants and small animals and they are bio-indicators of pollution.

Mosses have stems and leaves but no true roots. They are totally dependent upon moisture for reproduction and survival, but they can survive long periods without water too. The only time I ever use the word “happy” in association with plants is looking at moss that has finally gotten rain after a long dry spell.

Ron it turns out is an avid amateur moss sleuth and even has one named for him. He knows it is a grand and diverse world out there. Try to give those subtle green mosses more than a passing glance on your way to the next wildflower.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

June Moon

JUNE MOON
Michael Ellis

Many years ago I was complaining to a friend that I never could see that so-called man in the moon. He pointed out to me that it wasn’t really a man, it was a rabbit holding a basketball and since that moment I have been unable to see anything else. And indeed most cultures don’t see a face, they see figures — rabbits mainly, but also toads, mice, cats, lions, bears, and foxes. On Saturday the moon is full, this one is called the Rose moon also known as the Honeymoon. The latter name according to the Dictionary because “The first month of marriage being thought of as the sweetest.” There is a second full moon in June, a rare event which we know as a blue moon. In July we’ll have the Thunder moon. And of course everyone knows the Harvest Moon, the one nearest to the fall equinox which gives additional light to those laboring in the fields.

Unfortunately in our modern age we tend to ignore the waxing and waning of the moon and think that it doesn’t really affect us. But really don’t you think it is kind of weird that we pay our PG and E bill according the cycle of the moon, on a “moonthly schedule.” The oceans rise and fall corresponding to the relative position of the earth, sun and moon. Even solid land bulges in response to the gravitational force from the moon. Human female menstrual (derived from the Greek for monthly) rhythms were perhaps once set by the periodical cycle of the full moon. Some people claim that more babies are born and more crimes are committed during a full moon (sorry but statistics do not support this). But we still strongly believe that human behavior is influenced by moonlight so we have werewolves and lunatics. And until a brief moment ago when Mr. Edison brought us the electric light, it was mostly moonshine that lit up what little nocturnal activities humans had.

The moon appears to be full to us for about 2 1/2 days. But I recently watched the movie, Moonstruck, I noticed that there seemed to be a full moon for an entire week! Hollywood has never let facts get in the way of entertainment.

Check out that rabbit, it is a silhouette with the long ears swept back to the right and the rabbit facing left. You really can’t miss it, though the basketball may be a bit indistinct.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Men's Group 20 Years

Men’s Group 20 Years
Michael Ellis

Twenty years ago this month I invited nine men to meet with me. I needed some male support. I was a new dad and completely overwhelmed by that responsibility. I also worked mostly at home by myself and was feeling very isolated. They were enthusiastic. And so for the last two decades we have been meeting once a month.

A whole lot happens through the years. One guy soon dropped out; it was way too intimate for him. One fellow moved away. And though many men have asked to join, we have only added Harrison to our group in all these years. We are exclusive. Not one of us lives in the same house and five of us have gotten divorced. Besides divorce we have dealt collectively with marriages, births of kids and grandchildren, loss of parents, failed businesses, career changes, lawsuits, affairs, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, and depression. Bill nearly died of a heart attack. But the most painful for us was the loss of not one, but two newborn babies by our dear friend Mike.

We have cried as hard as we have laughed. All through these things we have been holding each other. We have created a safe place to be vulnerable and honest. None of us are New Age male wimps; the testosterone drips from the wall when we meet. We tolerate little BS from one another and everyone speaks their mind.

When I mention my men’s group it invariably elicits a sarcastic comment about drumming. Well I confess we have drummed several times. But what we do not do is play poker, smoke cigars, drink beer and complain about women. We are perplexed, intrigued, amused, and totally committed to understanding the women in our lives. Mothers, daughters, wives and girlfriends are a continual topic of conversation. But we have also dedicated meetings to politics, children, money, and poetry. For us nothing is taboo. Thanks guys, I look forward to another twenty years of honesty and friendship.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

May Day

May Day
Michael Ellis

The Druids, the priestly class of the ancient Celts, divided the year into 8 parts. They had the usual solar divisions – the two equinoxes and the two solstices – but they also had what are called cross quarter days. That is, halfway between the solstices and equinoxes. For us June 21 is the beginning of summer but think about it. On the first of summer the days are getting shorter what kind of summer is that? To the Druids June 21st was the middle of summer. On this day they burned the bones from all the animals that had died the previous year. This bone fire is the origin of our bonfire.

From the summer solstice halfway to the fall equinox was the cross quarter day called Lamas. This word means loaf of bread. The first grain harvested was made into a celebratory loaf on the first of August. This day marked the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

The fall equinox was the midpoint of autumn and the next cross quarter day was Samwain. We know this today as Halloween and this was the biggest day of the Druid year – New Years Eve. So November 1 was the beginning of winter and the beginning of the next year. At the winter solstice was mid winter – now celebrated as Christmas. The next cross quarter day was Candlemas. This was the beginning of the Druid spring and recognized by us in the quaint custom of Groundhog Day. But to the ancients it was the promise of milk flowing in ewes and the sap rising in trees.

Next is the vernal equinox or mid spring and finally we get to the last cross quarter day in the yearly cycle – May Day. This day was devoted to the essential nature of male and female. The union of the sexes insured fertility of crops, animals and humans and many lascivious activities occurred then. I am always amused by the vision of innocent children gaily dancing around the maypole. I am sure their parents would not appreciate being told that they are celebrating the phallus and its union with Mother Earth.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

California Marine Life Protection Act

California Marine Life Protection Act
Michael Ellis

The near shore and intertidal region of the California coast is one of the richest in the world, probably exceeded only by coral reefs. California’s “ocean economy” –activities that derive at least some value from the sea – contributes $43 billion annually, more than the state’s agricultural sector. Recognizing this the State enacted the California Marine Life Protection Act in 1999 to protect and enhance our ocean environment. Last fall the Fish and Game Commission established the first section of the statewide network of marine protected areas between Santa Barbara and Half Moon Bay. The next area under consideration is goes from Half Moon Bay to Pt. Arena.

There are three different proposals under consideration on how to implement this important act. All share some important similarities but two of them provide crucial habitat protection.

Among the many highlights common to these proposals are protection for iconic places such as Pt Arena, the Farallon Islands, and Pt Reyes, but it is also important to protect the nearshore habitats such as Duxbury Reef in Marin and Saunders Reef in Mendocino County. These two biologically diverse areas especially need protection due to years of heavy fishing – their rockfish populations deserve a chance to recover to their former abundance. If they are not included, California’s rich ocean heritage is not adequately protected.

A Blue Ribbon Task force meets in April to recommend one of the three proposals to the State Fish and Game Commission.  They should choose the strongest possible option for the marine environment of Northern California.
 
More than one hundred years ago, our country had the foresight to develop a national park system. Some call it the best idea America ever had. Today, in California, we take places like Yosemite and Kings Canyon for granted and no one thinks they’re too big. But there are Yosemite’s and other treasures just off our shores in the marine environment. And now it is our turn to match the vision and wisdom of our forebearers and create a new legacy for our children and grandchildren.
 
With a Perspective, I’m Michael Ellis.

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