Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Fleshy Algae

Fleshy Algae

“God seems especially fond of diversity,” we often say on our “spiritual tours” of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Animals come in so many different sizes, colors, how they find dinner, strategies for not being someone else’s dinner, techniques for finding a mate or making babies.  If there was one best most efficient way, everyone would do it.  But no, we see such diversity in all creation.d

We try to make this key theological point with our Blue Theology youth service groups and adult pilgrims along the Monterey Bay. 

Usually it’s the fish I point to make this diversity point, but it works also with plants and algae.  This past week the fabulous algae/seaweed expert Dr. Judith Connor taught us Aquarium volunteers about “fleshy algae” before we went on shift.  (She gave this half hour presentation to 19 different shifts throughout the week – thanks!)

Fleshy algae!  Just the term got our attention.   Turns out in Monterey Bay there over 700 different kinds of fleshy algae (which means they are the ones that are not calcified, like coralline algae.)  They’re fleshy.  700.

Here was the best part – her descriptive adjectives.   Maybe it’s just me, but these are some fabulous adjectives.

Dr. Connor says that fleshy algae comes in five different textures or body types. (I’ll give just one example of each type.)

-Delicate  - feather algae

-Velvety – dead man’s fingers

-Leathery – giant kelp

-Bumpy – cow’s tongue

-Corrugated – sea palm

Some obvious advantages – if you are bumpy you have more surface area to absorb food, like our intestines.  If you are velvety/slippery it’s hard for an animal to land on you and eat you.  Diverse adaptations to find dinner and not be someone else’s dinner.

Dr. Connor, who is also a master gardener, referred to these wet landscapes, with hundreds of Monterey Bay algae, as gardens, or meadows, all growing and thriving diversely together. 

“Consider the fleshy algae of God’s ocean meadows, how they grow.  They neither spin not toil, but Solomon in all his glory is not arrayed as one of these.”
Come and sea our fabulous fleshy algae along the shores of Monterey Bay, half a block from our Blue Theology Mission Station at the Pacific Grove Christian Church,  or on a spiritual tour of the Aquarium.  Blue for info on day trips, weekends, a week doing ocean learning and serving.  I post these ocean devotions every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  (Ask to join the FB Blue Theology Mission Station group and you’ll get a notice of every new post.)

Fabulous photos of sea palm and dead man’s fingers by NOAA’s Steve Lonhart.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

And This Shall Be the Sign

And This Shall Be the Sign. 

God gives us all kinds of signs, and our job is to pay attention to the signs of our times.  God said to the Hebrew prophet Habakkuk, "write the vision, make it plain."  Here’s our new Blue Theology sign, outside our church, to make plain for all to see our fabulous ocean ministry.

Let us pray.

God, you are blue and wet and you love the ocean. We dedicate this new sign to you.  May this sign call your people far and wide to love your ocean and care for it.  May youth come on service trips, adults on pilgrimages, because of this beautiful bold sign.

And dear God, make all of us signs of your love of all creation. May we boldly and beautifully show the world how much you love the ocean and how we follow your call to us to love it better. 

This is a sign for our times.  May it invite, welcome, educate, inspire.  Bless us, and bless this sign.
_________ Our new sign will help you find us in Pacific Grove, on the shore of Monterey Bay, for youth service trips (this pic shows youth from Montclair Presbyterian Church this past week) and adult pilgrimages.  We all blessed our new sign on Sunday with sage dipped in Pacific water, as Keith Brown does here.  I post these ocean devotionals every Wednesday here and on Facebook.  Come and Sea!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Readers Send Me Seahorses

Readers Send Me Seahorses!

When two of my faithful Blue Theology readers, Michelle Tonozzi and Michael Lipson, both sent me stories of seahorses on Tuesday, I knew that God or the universe or the spirit of the ocean or my muse wanted me to write about these adorable fish. 

Yes, fish, vertical fish.  Not horses.  And yes, the males carry the babies, and are almost constantly “pregnant” – really it’s more like incubating.  Fertilized females do the initial work and then hand the embryos off to the guys, thereby gaining some time and greater freedom of travel until the next round– why is this the only species that has this great arrangement?

Michelle’s fab pic of the storm drain reminds us that the sea starts everywhere.  Any and all plastic, or auto oil, or pesticides, whether in California or in Kansas, they all eventually flow to the sea.  The sea starts in our own homes, businesses, schools.  Think of those marine gallopers – don’t hurt them.

Mike sent a link to an LA Times story about Roger Hanson, a retired school teacher and avid scuba diver who discovered a small community of Pacific seahorses just off the coast of Long Beach. 

For three years now he has visited the 4 seahorses, who live in just 15 feet of water, every 5 days and logged detailed information about their behavior, informing and impressing seahorse scientists from Canada to San Diego.  When he saw some high school kids frolicking near their habitat, he created an artificial home for the fish out deeper, made of palm fronds and seaweed, and gradually the fish moved there.
After three years of observation, Hanson has collected new evidence about seahorse mating practices. His research suggests that although most seahorses are monogamous, a female will mate with two males if there are no other female seahorses around.
“He also found that males, who are in an almost constant state of pregnancy, tend to stick to an area about the size of a king-size mattress, while the females roam up to 150 feet from their home during a typical day.
“Eventually, he may be able to help scientists answer another long-standing question: What is the lifespan of Pacific seahorses in the wild? Some researchers say about five years; others think it could be up to 12.”
Warmer sea water had brought these fish farther north than they are usually found, another effect of climate change.

Hanson is happy to show other divers the seahorses and share his passion, but he keeps secret their home location, requiring photographers turn off their GPS. 
Hanson says that getting to know these strange, almost mythical beings has profoundly affected his life.
““I swear, it has made me a better human being,” he says. “On land I’m very C-minus, but underwater, I’m Mensa.””
Blue Theology lessons from seahorses:
-The sea starts in our sink and trash can.  Our habitats are all connected.  No one is, or lives on an island.
-God seems to love diversity – so many different ways to live, love, reproduce.
-“I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide, is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.”  If the sea is calling you, go there, even dive in!
-Pay attention wherever you explore.  Hidden treasure and fellow creatures linger nearby.
-Protect, build new homes, study, share – all good stewardship.
-The sea makes us better people, from C- to Mensa, from dry and hard to fluid and free – let the sea make you better!
Come and Sea! for info on our youth service trips and adult pilgrimages by the Monterey Bay.  I post these “Blue Theology Tideings” every Wednesday here and on Facebook.