Lichens!

I was just recently introduced to the fascinating world of lichens! So much complexity in such little packages. They are often needlessly vilified and still not fully-understood.

I was also recently introduced to InDesign and since starting the class, I’ve not found much time to blog. I combined lichens and InDesign today [trying to get a feel for upcoming homework] and here is the result:

Nerd-dom on a sizable scale!

lichen Lichen is a complex relationship of different parts. Fungus is one of the parts of a lichen. A photobiont, a living organism that can create food like plants do, completes the partnership. Photobionts can be an algae or cyanobacteria. In most cases, the fungus and photobiont can exist outside the lichen form. Occasionally, multiple species of fungus can exist in a lichen ‘co-op’.New lichen, depending on the species, starts from a piece breaking off and establishing in a new area or the fungus part of lichen releases spores through disc-shaped structures [see right]. These spores, once established on a surface, hope to entangle a photobiont partner already living on that surface. After entrapping a photobiont, a lichen forms!   Lichen can take many forms, from powder that can be removed just by touching it [dustose or leprose], to crusty growths that are completely attached to their growing surface [crustose], to lobes of growth only attached at one point [foliose], and even forms that look like miniature branched trees or dangling bunches of thread [fruticose]. See if you can spot some of these forms in the photos.

Feel free to use at your will.

The Flood of a Century

We walked alongside the newly-flooded field, watching a person with a work vest hunt for vantage points matching the ones in the binder of photographs he was carrying. As he took pictures, we asked what he was up to in order to satisfy our suspicions of his task. He happily confirmed, throwing in that the dike they broke allowed an area to  naturally flood that had not seen briny water for over a century – 1888, I believe is what he said. Water surged in, pushed by a high tide. Birds fed in the water and hawks terrorized the flocks sending them swarming over dikes and marshgrass.

Usually I loathe areas too heavily trodden by human feet and shovels. Trails with too much use, reservoirs, perfect lawns of fescue, and concrete pathways strike chords in my heart that sound like the pounding opening phrase of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony [you know it – bom, bom-bom-bom, bwaaaaaam]. These areas remind me of how much work we have to do as humans to overcome our domination-laden tendencies toward nature.

Near the newly flooded area

The Arcata Marsh is one of those places that could have been an industrial wasteland, but

One of the human-introduced nuisances

instead someone with forethought and ingenuity turned it into a multi-use haven for people and wildlife alike. Nature and human needs meld as waste water is processed. Runners hoof past retention ponds as birders gaze at belted kingfishers hovering overhead. As glamorous as it all sounds, there are of course the reminders of past human activities that weren’t so kind. Pylons from mills protrude out of the marsh. Artificial dikes like the one recently broken segment the area, choking water away from areas that were once marsh.

Despite the reminders of past transgressions, every stroll through the marsh quiets the eulogy for human coexistence alongside nature. It seems possible, just with a little more work and creativity on all our parts. At least, that’s what I’m hoping! We’ll all benefit in the end if we can manage the extra effort; I’d hate to think what would happen otherwise.

Open Eye to the Sky

I’ve been reading a book by Richard Louv called The Nature Principle.  Louv, adamant about reconnecting society with nature, describes how our identity as people in communities, as well as individuals, isn’t just based on names of towns or states, but also the natural world that we are a part of. He starts his point with “While most of us recognize where we live by its cities, buildings, places of business, even sports teams, how many of us identify with and understand the beauty, wonder and actual functioning of the natural ecosystem which supports us, and of which we are a part?” He continues and gets to the heart of the matter: “…the natural world connects people to their authentic selves” and proclaims “You can’t know who you are until you know where you are.”

Yes!

Humans love labels. We label our selves according to profession, hobbies, what we wear and eat and watch on TV, all so we can categorize each other and find like-minded individuals. But according to Louv, our picture is incomplete. We are much more than our artificially-fabricated, meticulously-crafted selves, part of us is the nature around us.  Without it, we aren’t grounded; we aren’t a part of the bigger picture.

The lamentable part is that most people will never realize that a piece of them is missing, that they are actually a part of this natural world! Louv suggests many ways to reconnect with that part of ourselves, making the book worth reading for anyone.

I haven’t lived here long, but the newness of this place has long worn off, for a while leaving me feeling blah about my surroundings. Recently, I’ve found just paying attention more has helped this reconnection. So has reading Louv’s book. I also decided to freshen my perspective by stepping out of my comfort zone and attending local walks and talks on a variety of nature-related subjects. The knowledge and passion others embody is just amazing! While I may not understand all they speak of, the new information [and new worlds!] they share helps cure the “post-newness blues” of someone who is used to moving every six months!

Below, the photos show that lately the grey skies have opened up and are showing signs of seasonal change over our heads here on the coast:
Eye to the Sky

Orion, a winter constellation, is just starting its nightly trek across the sky. Here it climbs just above the horizon at midnight or so.

A sun halo in high clouds from yesterday. Oddly, the last time I photographed one, ravens flew past, too.

Aurulent Autumn

Autumn around here isn’t necessarily something that leaf peepers would come flocking to, as they do in my hometown in Indiana, but the season has its own charm.

Devils Punchbowl

Bigleaf Maples in Prairie Creek

The top photo is in the “high country” around 4,640ft or so just before Devils Punchbowl in the Siskiyou Wilderness. While it’s not the most dramatic hike in regard to fall color, it is amazing for the conifers.  It almost looks like a botanical garden set in granite peaks! Somewhere around 15 or 17 species are found up here, some left from the last glaciation period. Speaking of glaciers, the little lakes up there were carved by them. Worth a visit to this sensitive area–just tread lightly!

The second photo is from [of course!] Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Bigleaf maples are one of the few species in the redwoods that throw color into the forest during the fall. I’d assume that the prominence of yellow is one of the reasons banana slugs might be yellow. Pity, since that crunchy yellow leaf wasn’t actually so crunchy…more on the smooshy side…[a tip if you’re like me and have to move all banana slugs off the trail–don’t use water to remove the slime off your fingers, scrape it off instead!]

You’d think with all the yellow around, people would get sick of it, but October is odd here. Along with a scattering of blue-sky days, the thickest fog comes around during this month [9 days straight of fog, 3 minutes of sunshine on the 9th day, little over an hour on the 10th day, and about a half an hour this morning, the 11th day]. The golden yellows of autumn serve to remind us that we don’t live in a world of grey tones.

Surfer at Houda Point

Flower Flurries

Nothing marks Spring’s arrival like flowers do!

Here in this part of California, even though we are not warm, we see a long growing season, like that of the Deep[er] South. Flowering starts in February and doesn’t often end until November or some such month, but it is possible to find flowers all year long, especially since we have a huge selection of non-natives that love this area. Out of the native group, the trilliums, currants, and Cardamines [toothworts] are the first to pop up.

Below are some of the current bloomers around the redwood area: [Click to enlarge]

Anchored for A Spell: Ode to My Dog

My husband and I have been thinking about the process of moving lately–or to be more specific, NOT moving. It would seem, with the way our offices are shaping up, we might be sitting tight for a while [until his office closes, perhaps].  Oddly, this is almost a relief: I hate the application process, the waiting, the research and “what ifs”. California is our seventh state [not counting home states or natal states], I guess moving is less enticing the 12th time around [if you count trips to and from parks at the beginning and end of each season]. While I don’t find this area to be a perfect fit for us, it is beautiful, dramatic, and entertaining. On top of that, something is different this time around.

We were walking the dog the other day and spoke about the fact that I’ve been a little more content, in a sense, here. It seems that in the past, if I felt that I wasn’t being productive job-wise, I threw my frustrations at the location [Kansas got a lot of hate from me, even though, looking back, it really wasn’t Kansas, it was me]. Unemployment doesn’t sit well with me, I guess. But it was also more than that. Reading Richard Louv’s book, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder, it seems that perhaps I had nature-deficit disorder!

We had a park close by, a pond near our apartment, and we took little trips around the area [not to mention, tornado chased], but it was like I was not getting enough nature somehow. Or perhaps, I just felt out of place, a self-conscious shadow following me as I poked plants and frogs. Moving to South Carolina, we went to the beach a lot, watched alligators, and even tried to take up running. Still, something felt off. While I have yet to test my theory in other locations, I hypothesize that having a dog was what was missing.

Happy in the Park

Happy in the Park

I don’t mean to suggest that the dog equals nature, but that the dog forces me outside at least a couple times a day and offers an excuse to poke at a plant or bug for a while. Instead of “What is that crazy girl looking at?”, I feel more like it’s “She must be bored waiting for her dog to finish sniffing.” And while this dog is not the ideal athletic partner [getting her to run? Ha! I’d have better luck winning the lottery! She’s bred to sit with sheep, not herd them.], I lost all the weight I was trying to run off in South Carolina just milling around with her.

wpid-DSC_2955.jpg

Haha, it’s funny, I didn’t set out to write a post about my dog, but I guess she’s got a spell on me! I look forward to our future walks, and if we move anytime in the next few years, exploring a new place with her. Eventually, I know we’ll have children to share our love of nature with, but for now, an old ranch dog does just fine.

Being Bashful

Being Bashful