Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Kelp Beds......And I Will Give You Rest?

Kelp Beds…And I Will Give You Rest?

Ever wonder why they’re called kelp BEDS?  Anyone sleeping here? 

No, this habitat teems with action: hundreds of different vertebrates and invertebrates, swimming, diving, feeding, hiding.  And the kelp plant itself, always in motion, waving, teaming, bobbling, and just plain growing – kelp can grow a foot a day in springtime! I tell Aquarium guests that kelp beds are like California - rich, productive, diverse.  No quiet nighttime bed.

Maybe it’s like “raised beds” in your garden, a place more for fecundity than snoring.  Feeling creative? – let’s go to bed!

I was struck by this description of the Point Sur State Marine Reserve, a no-take area off the Big Sur Lighthouse: “This Marine Protected Area contains a wide diversity of habitats that support a range of fish, seabird and invertebrate species.  The site encompasses a large kelp bed which provides a shelter and nursery habitat to rockfish and other species.”

More bed images: shelter, nursery, support. 

That’s what kelp beds do: they break the crushing crash of ocean waves and provide a shelter space to tiny crabs and fragile sand dollars. 

Like a baby’s crib, they offer baby rockfish a safe and cozy nursery away from predators. 

And more bed action: the kelp forest really is like a singles bar; an easy welcoming hangout for flora and fauna to find a mate or at least improve the odds that those broadcast sperm and egg will meet and grow fecund.

I’ve always liked the Psalmist’s phrase, “God, you are our resting place.”  Now I know a resting place is about more than sleep.
On our Blue Theology retreats and service trips on Monterey Bay you can spend time in cheap beds on the floor of our church or nice ones in local B&Bs, and then go out to experience the fabulous kelp beds.  All these beds will give you rest, and more.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and at Facebook.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Getting There Early

Getting There Early

Early last Thursday morning, an hour before the Aquarium opened, I got the rare chance to see our two old lady green sea turtles in their “sun therapy” pool on the roof.  It reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote about getting to church early.

A perk of being a volunteer guide at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is we arrive at 8:30 AM, get a weekly marine biology lesson, and then sometimes the staff takes us behind the scenes, before the visitors show up at 10.

These 60 year old reptiles, who usually swim inside the million gallon Open Sea Exhibit, need regular Vitamin D exposure to keep their shells hard and protective.  So early Thursday is their time for fun in the sun.  Sort of like taking my calcium pills - us oldsters need extra vitamins to stay strong.

Emerson wrote “I like the silent church before the service begins……”  I have seen this quotation in nice calligraphy on signs at church entrances, meaning, “Shut up already before you go into the sanctuary.”

My husband the Unitarian Universalist historian (and great preacher) reminded me that the whole Emerson quotation is, “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”

I am very fond of the moment when the Aquarium doors open and hundreds of visitors stream in.  Feels like the prelude, call to worship and opening hymn – I was glad when they said, let us go into the house of the Lord.  Anticipation, discovery, connection, gratitude, community. 

But that quiet moment before the rush, when it is just us few staff and volunteers and the animals, a small moment behind the scenes – precious, priceless, prayerful, peaceful. 

I almost feel like a verger or a deacon, scraping off the old wax from yesterday’s candles, setting out chairs and orders of worship.

In those moments before all those worshippers arrive, we are glad to see the acolytes, the choir, the deacons, the old mother turtles, blessed worship leaders.
__________ When folks come on retreat and service at our Blue Theology Mission Station on Monterey Bay, we often get up early and walk by the sea.  Lovely prelude and call to worship.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  Photo: NOAA

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Collecting Shells

Collecting Shells

Do you collect seashells?  Each one is a happy memory of a day at the beach, wondrous search and discovery of beauties big and small, bringing a few home.  Shine them with baby oil, put them in a bowl, so beautiful, precious, fragile, strong, broken, whole. 

These shells I just found last week in an old box high on a back shelf, carefully wrapped in 1977 pages of the Daily Cal newspaper.  I was living in Berkeley then, in seminary.  In the 40 years since then I have moved 5 or 6 times, but I never unpacked the box.  Some of these shells I recognize from Martha’s Vineyard, others the Jersey shore, and I think some are from my mother’s extensive worldwide shell collection, Florida, Africa.   After she died, age 54, in 1979, we donated all her shells to the American Museum of Natural History, where she had worked in their shell department. 

But if these are from 1977 or before, I now have a few of Ma’s shells!  There is no greater joy in heaven than when the lost is found – rejoice with me!

Wondrous circles of beauty, survivors of mighty surf, memories of a day of exploration, legacies of barefoot walking on the sand beside my mother, from the 1950’s to her death.  She taught me their names – moon shell, mussel, conch, sand dollar, periwinkle, oyster, scallop, razor clam. 

To find them again was like finding her again.

These days shell collecting is discouraged by the good folks at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and Point Lobos State Reserve, – leave them on the beach so they can make more sand, which is actually tiny pieces of shells.  Remember you are shells and to shells you (sand) will return.  They are skeletons, legacies.  They are subjects, not objects.  I get it and I agree.  I no longer bring shells home.  Nor buy them in tourist shops.

But I am grateful to find these ones again, and I will treat them with honor and gratitude.  Thanks, Ma.
________________ – come for time on the Monterey Bay, on your own or with a group, and learn about how God loves the ocean and wants us to love it better. Youth group service trips, adult pilgrimages.  We will see lovely shells, and leave them alone.  Read these Wednesday devotionals on ocean stewardship and spirituality here or at