Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Post Christmas Funnies

Waxing Gibbous Moon

I used to enjoy Christmas a lot when I was a kid living with my big family. It was magic and mysterious and fun. As an adult, much of the shine has faded, but I still get a kick out of some of the holiday rituals. With the advent (pun intended) of the internet and social media, one of my favorite things about the season is receiving Christmas cartoons and images in my inbox from friends. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order.

Peace, Love, and Tinsel,

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice Illumination

Waxing Crescent Moon

The beginning of something big.

The Mission San Juan Bautista was founded in 1797. Like many other structures and monuments around the world, the church was built with cosmology in mind, aligned with the path of the Sun on the Winter Solstice. At sunrise on December 21, the first rays of the winter Sun shine directly down the center aisle and through a large second tier window, brightly illuminating the pathway leading to the altar and projecting the light from the window onto the back wall.

The church has started to light up. Excitement is building.

Local indigenous elders Elayne "Laynee" Silva Reyna and Chief Sonne Reyna first brought this phenomenon to the attention of the community several years ago. In conjunction with parish priests, they have been leading a Winter Solstice Illumination ceremony for the general public ever since. On a clear, crisp morning like today, the Sun provides quite an entertaining and inspirational show. It builds slowly starting about 6:45 a.m. and by 7:10 or so, the altar and center aisle are bathed in brilliant light.

It feels like a visitation from an old friend.

Eventually, the beam is brilliant and the church is full of light. People are transfixed.

You would have to be pretty jaded not to be positively and happily affected by the illumination experience at the Mission San Juan Bautista. More people show up for this special happening than for any Mass, even Christmas and Easter. The intensity and quality of light is never exactly the same, but it never disappoints. This morning brought a welcome, much-needed, and brilliant dawn, the start of a new loop around Earth's star. 

Creator bless us all.

Peace, Love, and Light It Up,

Friday, December 15, 2017

San Juan Bautista Annual Bonfire

Waning Crescent Moon

Every year close to the Winter Solstice and Christmas, the town of San Juan Bautista stages a giant bonfire in an empty lot next to the Mission. It is a very big deal in a very small burg. There is a modern (last hundred and fifty years) historical significance that has to do with some local old timers whose names are not very familiar or interesting to me. And there is an older, traditional, indigenous ritual also associated with it.

The former is nice. It commemorates people who contributed to their community in positive ways in their lifetimes. The latter, however, is more to the point of the present moment and its relationship to eternity. The traditional winter bonfire at the end of the Earth's trip around the Sun represents letting go of the events and any associated drama from the past year as well as a renewal of energy and conviction for the next one. It's kind of a reset, a pause to reflect in the flames on the truth of the eternal present. I can dig it.

So here are some bonfire pictures. I titled them not so much out of any metaphysical purpose or nuance but more like momentary whimsy. Call them whatever you want if any of them catch your fancy.

Early On












Peace, Love, and Letting Go,

Friday, December 8, 2017

Elkhorn Slough

Waning Gibbous Moon

A twenty-five minute drive west from San Juan Bautista is the entrance to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Operated by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the 1,700 acre reserve has five miles of hiking trails within one mile of the Pacific Ocean at Moss Landing, CA.

On a good day, visitors on the hiking trails might see a harbor seal or a sea otter, a heron or a pelican, a turkey or a bobcat, any number of ducks or gulls, and perhaps an a occasional deer. Today on a four-mile afternoon walk, I saw everything but the seals, otters, and deer. See the turkey?

The bobcat did not let me get close enough fast enough to take its picture. It calmly stood up from its trail side sunbathing position and slipped away into the bushes. That bobcat  sighting was much more of a thrill than the turkey sighting was.

Heading past the barns toward the Main Channel, I just made it across the bridge on the South Marsh Loop before high tide covered it up.

From there I walked toward Whistlestop, over the tracks to Hummingbird Island.

Hummingbird Island is right on the Main Channel of the slough. The island is my favorite spot on the Reserve because it is the most removed from the busy, civilized visitor center. It has lots of trees and cool places to sit and watch the rising tide make ripples on the water's surface.

An energetic team of high school kids was busy collecting samples and taking pictures for their school research project on the South March Loop. I didn't disturb them other than to ask briefly a few questions about what they were doing. They acted like they had been conditioned not to talk to strangers and their teachers were so young I could barely tell them apart from the kids.They did not talk much either. I must have been a genuine fossil to them - it is sort of surprising they didn't try to collect me and stick me in a vial. They were more than a little shocked, though, when I passed them on the way back. They walk slow - like really old people walk.

I wish I had a picture of the bobcat. That guy was really cool.

Peace, Love, and Sloughs,

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Route 66

Waning Gibbous Moon

They say it's my birthday and I feel pretty good, having just completed 66 years on the big blue marble.

I feel like I have earned the right to do some more exploring and what could be more appropriate than to bicycle Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago?

So I am in the beginning stages of planning a ride. Get in touch if you want to come with me for parts of it. I am not looking for a partner for the whole thing, but it would be fun to ride and/or camp with folks for short segments. Probably a Spring time thing.

See you on the road.

Peace, Love, and Dean Moriarty,

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Parade

Full Moon

My favorite community event in San Juan Bautista is the annual Christmas parade and this year's rendition did not disappoint. In fact, it might have been the best one I have seen yet. There were more participants, both paraders and watchers, than I can remember from previous years and it seemed like every person I saw was in a great mood. I wish I had better pictures, but these few are the best ones I could get with my phone in the dark.

There were two marching bands, at least ten horses, innumerable antique cars and hot rods, the usual fire trucks and emergency vehicles, and lots of hay trucks, all lit up with LED lights.

My favorite "float" was the Brewery Twenty Five truck. I think it kind of looks like one of those animated trucks in the movie Cars.

The float with the Christmas dragon was pretty cool, too. I don't know if I have ever heard of a Christmas dragon before, but then again, I could be way behind the times. For all I know, Santa Claus could have traded in his reindeer.

This was the best car, I thought, but man, was it ever LOUD. Throaty. I named it The Guzzler.

Grupo Folklorico was a great dance group, but my picture of the best one didn't come out too clear.

Oh well.

The Christmas bonfire will be December 15. That will be wild and crazy. I hope I can get good pictures!

Peace, Love, and Jingle Bells,

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Moss Landing Respite

Waxing Gibbous Moon

About 25 miles west of my humble camp sits tiny Moss Landing, CA, a simple village in the center of Monterey Bay's crescent-shaped dent in the central California coastline. Directly offshore is the famed Monterey submarine canyon, deeper than the Grand Canyon, but underwater. In the diagram below,  the mouth of the canyon (the shallow end) points right at Moss Landing.

I like to go to Moss Landing State Beach to walk along the sand dunes and contemplate some or none of life's conundrums. Once in a while I spot a whale or two, frequently I see harbor seals and sea otters, and every time there are more pelicans, seagulls, and snowy plovers than I count. I love this place.

Yesterday, I met my walking pal Captain Chem for lunch on the harbor at a new restaurant owned by my friends Veronica and Bruce from San Juan Bautista. Called the Pacific House, it is perched just opposite the entrance into the harbor at 2420 Highway 1, with great views of the water and the dunes that form a protective jetty for sailboats and kayaks. Sea otters pretty much rule the waterway, but gulls pester them for treats when they surface with snacks on their chests. That must get to be annoying. The lunch menu is affordable and varied. I tried the catch of the day fried up as fish and chips while Mike opted for a Calimari sandwich. An overall pleasant experience and I will definitely return.

Poor ole Captain Chem is still recovering from a mishap with a step ladder and had to hustle over to his physical therapy appointment. I took a little solo stroll around the harbor to stretch my legs and get the full fresh sea air treatment. The dunes were looking good, as were the boats, the gulls, and a few shy otters.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is just south of this location, also in Moss Landing. Once or twice every year they have an open house event for the public to see what critters they are working with and to visit the submarine explorer vessels. That is one of my favorite things to do here. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would extend my education one more step to earn a doctorate in Oceanography and try to work at a place like MBARI. It completely fascinates me. Maybe in the next  life!

Maybe I will bring the real Rachel Carson back with me to coach me up.

Peace, Love, and the Pacific,