Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar eclipse

The first time I saw an eclipse, I was pregnant with my daughter. I, my husband and my son, lived in a small rented house with a lovely little garden. We had a cleaning lady who brought her adult daughter to work with her - the mother did not speak English very well and so her daughter translated.

The night of the eclipse, I sat out on the front lawn watching the night sky. My husband would peek out now and again to check on the progress of the eclipse. Our son was sound asleep and so were most of the neighbors. The moon seemed to loose its light, the dark spots of the craters took on the color of bruises, and then the entire planet turned dark red. I took pictures of it then, too.

The next day Angie and Melayna came to help us find the floor and clean clothes. Pattering after my son who always had a fist wrapped around a small toy car..."Did you watch the lunar eclipse?" I asked. Both looked puzzled. Then I explained.

Malayna looked horrified and then Angie asked, "Did you wear a metal belt while you were outside?" "No." I said. "Did you cover your belly?" Angie pantomimed wrapping something about her waist. "No. Why?" I asked.

Well, it seemed that the evil spirits from the moon would make my baby deformed at birth or be born without arms and legs. "Really!" I said. And the more I listened to their reasons I realized that Melayna, with great worry, was describing through Angie, how the sun god, 'Quetzalquatal ' had a fight with his sister, 'Tezcatlipoca' and cut her into bits.... "But, every month she re-grows herself. And if any to-be mother watches the night sky when the moon is dark - that child will be cut up instead!"

"Well," I said, "what should I do now?" .....We prayed and had some interesting food. They prayed to Jesus, which did not make any sense to me... Especially, when the culprit was an ancient Central American God....

My daughter, I am pleased to say, was born with all the proper parts. This isn't the first time I have participated in a ritual with divergent cultural mixes. I am always fascinated how mythology of the past persists into the mythology of the present.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Spring Fungus - and friend

The days are coolish and sometimes, warmish. This wonderful oak is calling for you to explore.

It has rained nicely this winter and will rain at the end of this week. My cherry tree has old blossoms and the bees are tired of trying to extract pollen from them. Both are looking sad.

My peach, plum, apricot, nectarine, apples, orange, tangerine, and pear are ready to burst forth with blossoms. The oxalis is everywhere in my garden, but because of the rains, fungus is lifting its various forms of fruiting bodies. I have not found any fungus as yet in my garden so I went with a friend to some remaining forests in the area.

Stirring under the leaf litter, on downed trees and limbs, slime mold slips through the xylem and emerges towards the light. Shelf fungus oozes out of cracks in tree bark and hardens into multi colored ruffles. Fat mushrooms without gills pop up from under the litter to dance on the forest floor. What must precede the amazing dance of new life is the recycling of the deceased.

The Morchella sp. is found in the woodland.

Cup fungi belong to the Ascomycetes, include yeasts, powdery mildew, morels, true flask fungi, false flask fungi, and truffles. The inner surface of the sup contains the spore producing asci.

The foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains is where the oaks dance. Their branches look as if we caught them waving their arms in some wild moment. So much of these wonderful mystical areas have been downed for the silly gated communities which sport grass, fancy cars, and palm trees. They are usually named things on their front wall like 'Secret Oaks' or 'Lofty Two Stories in the Trees' or 'We're Rich and Special and You Aren't' ...But, all of the wonderful trees are gone... and.. well... there is a subprime bubble going on. Perhaps, names like 'Money Gone Down the Tubes' or 'Take My BMW, Please' might be a better match.

These oaks create a quiet like no other forest. Under these trees are tons of poison oak. Many of the 'irritating hives' induced by the plants are still without leaves. Everything on the plant, dead or alive will induce and immune response that causes blisters.

This wonderful little mushroom has heavy gills. I have not found its name in my books.

This is a Hypoxylon sp. which grows on birch or alder.... and since birch (Northern California) does not grow normally here in the foothills this strange growth is on an alder.... which is a tree that grows in Southern Californian riparian areas.

Who knows who this little guy is... But, another will come up after the coming rain.

This is Coriolus versicolor. It is a common bracket fungus which grows on dead wood. When they first form, they look soft and velvety, but in a short time they dry out and become hard and smooth.

We went looking for these guys. They look just like the little fat 'shrooms' from the film, Fantasia. This fungus is in the order of Boletales which produce spores not in gills underneath but in closely packed tubes.

One thing that can be said that if you find lots of lichen about then the air quality must not be too bad.... The more varieties the better.

The best find was yesterday - a great horned owl in a pine tree. I hooted at her and she looked down to see the silly sounding animal below. Such fine creatures!