The Fungus is Among Us

With all the rain in San Diego over the last couple of weeks, the fungus is among us. I have plenty of pictures to prove it, which of course I will share with you, whether you like it or not. Judge for yourself, whether you think they are as photogenic as I do.

The many forms of the fruit are as interesting to find and to photograph as it is to contemplate the underground life of the mycelium, each organism growing to discover its particular culture of symbionts and competitors, limited in size only by the geography of nutrients and underground structures.

Mushrooms close the loop on nutrient cycles and are far more capable than we of turning waste streams into the gift streams that keep all plant and animal life alive, a task we should and sometimes do literally partner with them on, and metaphorically, we could strive to achieve.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1n6CET976wwpSd9oL0DC84Pb3yrUEHnnf

Refuge at the Salton Sea

On a perfect day in April, I rode out to the Salton Sea to escape the coronavirus for an afternoon with Chris, on my GS1200, the bike I was supposed to use on our ride to Prudhoe Bay. The motorcycle is the perfect vehicle for travel in these days of CV. Nothing is shared between you and other riders other than the experience, and maybe not even that, riding in our little shells of helmets and gear.

For a destination, or more accurately a turnaround point, I chose the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge on the southwest corner of the Salton Sea. I had to look up the reason Sonny Bono would get a refuge named after him: he did a lot of work trying to save the Salton Sea in his stint as a congressman before he had his unfortunate encounter with a tree while skiing. The refuge is the perfect distance for a ride, about one tank of gas in either direction. A refuge seems like an appropriate place to go to hide from the onslaught of the pandemic, perhaps the way the birds feel all the time. I selected this particular refuge because it is part of the pacific flyway used by migratory birds in the spring and fall. I wanted to score some pics and be part of the great migration.

At the refuge itself, my Salton Sea experience is consistent with all my other visits: it stinks of decaying fish. The trail is a squared-off dirt and gravel road leading to the uncreatively named Rock Hill. Little spurs off the trail road are marked “Birds only beyond this point.” The path is lined with the yellow blossoms of Palo Verde and the whitish catkins of the Mesquite tree, which is really more of a large bush. Desert quail cackle in the underbrush and desert rabbits crisscross the trail in the distance. A flock of white pelicans takes off overhead in a lopsided V-pattern. Ducks and other water birds hang out in the distance on an island in the middle of the large rectangular pond.

Grampa, showing us the way.

The view from the top of Rock Hill to the northwest features a flattened sea in the foreground, browned-out mountains of the desert in the midground, and the still snow-covered mountains around Palm Springs in the background. To the southeast, the backdrop to the refuge is steam-venting smokestacks, fields of agriculture, and the Glamis dunes in the distance. According to Chris and confirmed by Wikipedia, the plants are part of the Salton Sea Geothermal Field. I counted nine, but Wikipedia claims eleven. The fields are green and the stacks of bailed alfalfa are high. Nine miles south of the refuge is Westmorland, a town of about twenty-five hundred people, living at almost 200 feet below sea level. The Salton Sea is an interesting mix of industry, agriculture, and nature.

Chris points out something my camera can’t capture, pristine blue skies from horizon to horizon without so much as a single contrail to split the sky or single-plane engine to break the silence. Ironically, I’ve had plenty of silence at home over the last couple of weeks and use the opportunity to unload all my insightful observations and takeaways during this rare direct human contact. I also find out that Chris is about to become a grandfather twice over. Of course, I give him a hard time about suddenly becoming older than myself instead of congratulating him, but isn’t that what friends are for?

After the hike, it’s back into the motorcycle capsule to smash a few bugs with my faceplate and ride through the chill of the mountains. The ride out to the desert ends with a return to my house capsule to ride out the rest of nature’s storm.

A Parable of the Starfish Moment

Kimmy, a young Filipino woman with a 6-year old daughter, lives at the poverty level by any definition someone living in the U.S. could think of, living off of an income of less than 5K a year. Her dad makes a living with a trike as a taxi driver of sorts, optimistically making no more than a thousand pesos a day. With the coronavirus, he has been out of work for a month living on the goodwill of his daughters.

On Easter, her own needs for groceries satisfied, Kimmy’s wish is to help the poor people in the barangay she lives in, on the island of Cebu, near the town of Bogo. She wants to do something. Something for her neighbor, who needs a loan to buy basic supplies. Something for out-of-work locals, who can’t work because of the coronavirus quarantine. Something for babies, who don’t have access to a fresh supply of milk.

With a little outside support, chump change as one called it, she wraps up fifty care packages of rice portions, bread, pancit, and canned goods in pink bubblegum-colored plastic bags. Each care package contains enough food to last a person for one to two weeks. For babies, she buys powdered milk and disposable diapers. She hires a trike driver, loads up all her packages, and distributes them to those in need, the people squatting in barong barong housing, makeshift-dwellings with plywood sides, corrugated rusted roofs, extension cord electricity, and bottled or communal well water.

For her out-of-work dad, Kimmy provides him with something more substantial: a 25kg bag of rice, canned goods, a generous supply of protein in the form of various cuts of meat, and fresh eggs. For herself, she has the happiness of making a difference.

Feeding all the needy people in a time of crisis is a parable of the starfish moment. But the middle of a crisis isn’t the time to start asking for root causes and ferreting out systemic deficiencies. It’s the time for those who are fortunate enough and are able, to put a starfish back in the sea.