Motorcycles

Motorcycles
Michael Ellis

When I got just old enough I did two things that my mother would not allow. I parachuted out of an airplane and I bought a motorcycle. Unfortunately for me in the I-told-you-so department, I broke my leg on my first and only jump. I still have three screws to prove it in my right ankle. But I owned a half a dozen motorcycles over the next 15 years and had nary a scratch. In 1985 when I found out that we had a baby on the way I decided to sell my last motorcycle. It was one thing to be responsible for just yourself and quite another to have a child who depends on you for everything. Goodbye motorcycles, hello adulthood.

Now that my son is more or less grown up and on his own I began to have fantasies about buying another bike. Forget the classic sound of a Harley; there was nothing sweeter to my ears than the powerful rumble my 1968 Triumph Bonneville 650. There are a few of you out there who will know exactly what I am talking about.

So the other day when I saw a 2005 Triumph Bonneville for sale on a side street I decided it was time to hop back in the saddle. My wife was supportive and so we went together for a test ride. I had not been on a motorcycle in years and was really looking forward to sparking that open-road feeling again.

First thing I noticed upon cranking it up was the sound was not the same. California smog and muffler laws had taken care of that! But off we went through busy roads, stoplights, and finally up on a curvy country road.

Well that mid-life fantasy was thoroughly and completely burst. I did not like that ride and neither did my wife. The bike was too heavy and unwieldy. There were drivers talking on cell phones and slippery Eucalyptus leaves on the road. I was intensely aware that there was very little between that hard pavement and us.

Things both inside me and outside in that larger world had really changed in the past 25 years. I lost that immortal feeling I used to have while riding. I felt extremely vulnerable; the world seemed a more dangerous place.

We both realized with some relief that we are most content with mountain biking as our standard of dangerous activity and that just about as fast as we want to go on two wheels.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Mistletoe

MISTLETOE
Michael Ellis

Centuries ago on this night a procession led by white-robed Druid priests would visit a sacred grove of oaks. They would climb the blessed trees and with golden scissors cut the mistletoe. As the divine plant fell onto special white sheets spread upon the ground, two bulls were sacrificed. It is easy to understand the power our Old World ancestors associated with mistletoe. Imagine the bleak winters of northern Europe, the trees devoid of leaves, the earth under a cold blanket of snow, the rivers frozen with ice and the sun barely rising above the horizon. Darkness and death seem to be constant companions; it is a tough time to be alive. But there glowing bright green and high up in a desolate tree is mistletoe, vibrant and alive. The Druids believed that mistletoe came from lightening that struck the tree. Imagine the power of a plant that is believed to come straight from heaven, directly from the gods. It is literally holy light, manifested as mistletoe. The carefully collected plant was later used in elaborate fertility rites to insure that the crops and animals would produce abundantly in the following year. A tiny remnant of this ancient ritual is our custom of kissing under the mistletoe. This is nothing compared to what the Celts used to do.During this time of year we are actually celebrating the winter solstice, though we may call it Christmas or Chanukah. We acknowledge the power of the sun and its central importance in our lives. We gather with friends and family to drive away the darkness, death and despair of winter. We free the sun’s energy by burning the Yule Log, by lighting candles and even by plugging in electric Christmas lights. We surround ourselves with greenery holly wreaths, Christmas trees, and mistletoe. We owe our very existence to green plants because only they can capture and store solar energy. The sun, our savior, dwells within all of these plants.

Long live mistletoe, long live humans, long live the sun.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Meteor

Meteor
Michael Ellis

Last week was that much anticipated Leonid Meteor shower; the conditions weren’t that great but I did manage to see a few of them. These meteors appear to originate from the constellation, Leo, the ending, id, means a family member usually referring to royalty. So those so-called shooting stars were members of the Royal Family of Leo.

Meteoroids are small (usually) bits of sandgrain-sized cosmic debris that floats out there in space, waiting. Meteors are the flashes that occur when these particles enter our atmosphere and ignite due to friction. Rarely a big chunk will penetrate and not be burned up entirely but fall to earth. These are meteorites. Meteoroids, meteors, meteorites.

Only one person in the US has actually been hit by extraterrestrial debris. Mrs. Hewlitt Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama got a bad bruise on her hip when a meteor crashed through her roof, bounced off a chest of drawers, and hit her.

The winter rains have finally begun and that got me to thinking why are weathermen called meteorologists? What the heck do shooting stars have to do with predicting the weather?. Well the Greek root of the word, meteor, literally means to raise up.

Originally meteors referred to any and all atmospheric events that were visible above the horizon. There were aerial meteors; we now call this the wind. There were luminous meteors which would be rainbows, the aurora borealis, and the halos that we sometimes see around the moon. There were fiery meteors, that
would be lightning and shooting stars. And finally there was a separate category for the aqueous meteors, rain, hail, snow, and sleet. Now the only way we still use that word is in two entirely unrelated fields, climatology and astronomy.

Some TV weathermen have taken to calling themselves meteorologists but really now few of them have what I would call “star quality”.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

The Men’s Group

The Men’s Group
Michael Ellis

Ten years ago I started a men’s group. I was a new dad and completely overwhelmed by that role and responsibility. I also worked mostly at home by myself and was feeling very isolated. So I called nine friends and asked them if they were interested in getting together. They were enthusiastic. And so for the last decade we have been meeting once a month.

A whole lot happens through the years. One guy dropped out and one moved away. Of the core group of seven, not one of us lives in the same house and four of us have gotten divorced. Besides divorce we have dealt collectively with marriages, births of kids and even grandkids, deaths of parents, failed businesses, career changes, lawsuits, affairs, illness, and one of us nearly died of a heart attack. 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 literally drips from the wall when we meet. We tolerate little BS from one another and everyone speaks their mind. We have cried nearly as hard as we have laughed. One guys wife told him she wanted a divorce. Right out of the blue and not only that she wanted him to move out of their house immediately. It wasn’t a great marriage but still. We all took a day off and joyfully moved him into an apartment, celebrating his chance at renewal. It was the best thing for him in 20 yrs.

When I mention my men’s group to women 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 and they are a continual topic of conversation. But we have also dedicated meetings to our mothers, fathers, children, money, poetry, and we even had a focused discussion one evening on penises. Believe me that subject is as off limits to most men as how much money they make. But for us nothing is taboo.

Thanks guys, I look forward to another ten years of honesty.

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

Menopause

Menopause
Michael Ellis

What do short-finned pilot whales, African elephants and human beings have in common? Well, they all have a complex social structure and in all three species the females regularly live long past the age at which they can give birth. In other words they are all menopausal. What a strange concept. In all other animals males and females are reproductively active right up until death. There is of course a decline in reproduction as the animals age but there is no point at which they stop ovulating or stop producing sperm.

So why continue to live if you can’t have babies? Well the best guess is that in these three species the oldest females are the ones with the vital information, the knowledge and the experience to make the correct decisions that enable the entire family unit to thrive.

In Pilot whales both males and females stay with their mother through her life. And their offspring stays as well. These long-lived marine animals are difficult to study but it is appears that movements and hunting techniques are coordinated by the oldest female in a pod.

Much more is known about the African elephant. Mothers and daughters with their offspring may stay together for 50 or more years. The most important unit in Africa elephant society are these extended family groups of related females and their young. Activity, direction and rate of movement are set by the matriarch.
During crises such as prolonged droughts she is the one who remembers where to go to dig the water hole. All members of the group look to her for leadership and to maintain order. She helps raise the young and can even lactate in emergencies without being pregnant.

In human beings as well it is Grandmothers that are the glue that holds the family together. In many so-called primitive tribes it is the older women who consistently gather the highest quality foods, they are the ones that can find and use important medicinal plants, they midwife the babies. We only have to look at impoverished inner-cities to see how important grandmothers are in raising young children.

Though they can no longer have babies these three older females benefit their tribes in critical ways and enable their own offspring to successfully raise young. Long live grandmothers, long live the crones!

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.