Manannan mac Lir

Manannan mac Lir

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Day 96: 9/29/13: Between Breaths

Back to the pool today to review some safety procedures after last week’s debacle at sea.

Thoughts I had while trying to achieve neutral buoyancy at the bottom:

1. Tried to remember the name of the guru who said, “My religion is breath.”

2. Yoko and John’s fabled first encounter at the Indica Gallery in 1966: She handed him a card that said “Breathe.”

3. What my brother told me about coming home from a recent road trip to Vermont with a bushel of sweet “wild apples.” The beauty of those two words together healed something in me.

4. How the peace one feels underwater is a kind of addictive silence, like the silence of meditation. So many kinds of silences, far more than there are kinds of apples.

5. What a strange honor it is to be with someone while they take their last breath, their last taste of the world.

6. My father and I used to race our horses through an apple orchard. The horses had white apple foam on their lips. At a certain point, I crossed some invisible, unspoken line and he stopped letting me win each race.

7. The fundamental law of diving and of life: don’t hold your breath.

8. The curved forms of the free divers that swim with sharks. They know how to move so as not to appear threatening. Their bodies are lithe, beautiful. They are seeking, it seems to me, some impossible form of communion.

9. Manannan mac Lir is an Irish sea deity. He is a clown, a beggar, and a psychopomp who guides souls to the underworld.  He’s associated with the Isles of Apple Trees in the next world.  In a painting I saw once Manannan mac Lir took the form of a breaking wave of horses. I remember the fury of the foam.

10.  My dive teacher takes the regulator out of his mouth. He lies on the bottom of the pool and blows these crazy rings of air to the surface–huge and perfect. They shiver and break apart. I immediately think of my father smoking cigars while he watched 60 Minutes–the hazy rings, not weird and futuristic silver water rings, but earthly like the rings of a tree. What good does it do to remember so much? My teacher gives me the signal: Are you ready to ascend? I have almost forgotten where I am. I nod. Yes. I am ready. I look to the surface.  I breathe.

Day 95: 9/28/13: The Price of Existence

Check out the trailer to Skyler Thomas’s new film “The Price of Existence” about the complicated world of white shark preservation, research and exploitation. You can help Skyler’s project by purchasing one of these fun shark shirts or making a tax-deductible donation. I purchased this super eerie-cute image of a surfacing white shark.

An intelligentShark Snob film that helps sort out the pseudo-science of OCEARCH from the efforts of true shark advocates is long overdue.

Can’t wait to see this!

Day 94 9/27/13: In Praise of The Condemned

I just noticed how dusty my bookshelves have become and this saddens me. Writing a blog while bemoaning the changes technology hath wrought, seems sort of hypocritical, but I guess what I am really bemoaning (if that’s the right word) is that my attention is so much more fractured than it used to be. I almost need to teach myself to read for sustained periods again. I find myself trying to download something, sign a petition, comment on a post, and I always forget what I am doing, where I am going. Several windows obscure my desktop. Tabs abound. Yet in my mind I see the same simple images: a blue road snaking into the woods where I grew up. A kind of automatic pilot mourning process that unfolds while I am busy typing and clicking and forgetting the myriad tasks and distractions of the present.

For weeks, I have been talking about doing more for sharks, for the environment and today I signed up for some lectures to learn more about using blogs and social media, so that is a step forward. I feel like I am on the verge of understanding how to combine literature, writing, activism, etc. into some sort of non-profit project. I talked to some man just as I was leaving campus today. We stood on the pedestrian bridge. Below workers and machines excavated a new construction project. He pointed out two native oaks–I believe they were 100 years old or more—that were condemned. Diseased. “It is sad, but they must come down.” I understand that trees get sick. I still dream of trees that perished from Dutch Elm and the salt damage from winter roads.

But as I gazed at the distant pair of elms waving slightly in the breeze near the duplication office, I wondered how any tree could really be condemned. And I thought of all the things those trees had seen. All the history that would die with them. After so many months of heat and stillness, I am alert to the breezes and to the wind and how they animate the trees and people alike. I don’t know what this has to do with taking classes on blogging, or with sharks except that sharks, I believe, are older than trees and that this project has sharpened my sense of all that is beautiful and all that’s vanishing and how intertwined those two things often are.

English: Dutch Elm Disease strikes Badingham O...

English: Dutch Elm Disease strikes Badingham One of our larger trees a couple of years after being struck down. Now (2008) hard to see where the tree was. (Photo credit: Wikipediat

Day 93: 9/26/13: Befriend a Bull Shark

Bull shark populations have declined up to 90% from finning pressures. You can donate as little as $10 and get various perks: a shout-out on  Twitter or FB,

Bull shark

Bull shark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a personalized certificate all the way up to an autographed vintage JAWS t-shirt.

Click here to adopt!

The Unexpurgated Estuary of “Jaws”

The Edited Estuary Scene in JAWS

Deemed too gruesome for the final film, I’ve only glimpsed a bit of the original estuary scene in “The Making of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws” doc available on the Jaws Anniversary DVD.

The hapless boy scout leader (played by stuntman Teddy Grossman)  has fallen out of his little rowboat, been dragged under, lost an athletic (and still sneakered)  leg.  In the unedited version, we see him propelled by the shark, pushing  Michael Brody out of harm’s way as the fish pushes him out to sea.

Excessive gore aside, I read somewhere that Grossman was a bit too hammy in this scene which could be another reason Spielberg axed it.

It’s still my favorite part in the movie, even its edited form–the, sweet oblivious Grossman (“Hey, you guys need any help?)  trying to tell the boys how to tie a knot while the fin speeds toward him is full of pathos and terror.

I remember staring at a photo included in the JAWS log, (a childhood bible of sorts),  that showed Grossman with blood pouring out of his mouth as thick and dark as chocolate syrup, his eyes cast back at that towering fin escorting him to oblivion. There’s something weirdly religious about the martyrdom and the blood in this scene–the Christian sacrifice in the mouth of the  pagan God.

Day 92: 9/25/13: Afternoon with a Shark Legend

I am still ecstatic from Ralph Collier’s lecture this afternoon at Glendale College this afternoon. Great turn out–students, teachers from all disciplines, and people from outside school–including one dazzled shark nerd in a Jaws t-shirt who sat in the front row, and my dear friend Lisa and her fellow shark fanatic pal, Jack.

Ralph covered some fascinating stuff about shark behavior including “spy hopping” in which white sharks (and apparently oceanic white tips) stick their heads out of the water to check out what’s happening on land and sometimes startle random seals off the edges of rookeries. They also spy hop to calculate which group of seals in the haul-out area might be easiest to sweep into the water via a giant breach. Essentially, I learned that white sharks ain’t dummies. Not by a long shot. They have memories. They make calculated decisions. Ralph doesn’t believe in calling shark encounters “accidents”–he gives the animals volition—whether the intent is to investigate or to launch a predatory strike.

I learned two more disturbing consequences of shark finning:

1. When the discarded bodies of finned sharks are thrown overboard, they sink to the bottom where ammonia leaking from their ravaged bodies destroys coral communities.

2. Increasing numbers of people in Asia who consume shark fin soup are developing neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and A.L.S.  Researchers have proposed that the high concentrations of mercury in shark fin and flesh bind with other neurotoxins and create a lethal toxic compound. Could this new health concern become a powerful force in stopping finning?

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