On a Beach Walk: #71 (Homeostasis)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Recently thinking about balance caused me to wonder toward a related word – a very important biological concept. A word that is often mentioned and defined in biology textbook’s Chapter 1 or 2 as an important term – then seldom resurfacing. Teachers knowing its importance will regularly reinforce the concept throughout the course. Textbooks stressing this important concept are rare, therefore outside the mainstream.

The word – homeostasis – isn’t one that pops into everyday conversation. We don’t hear it on the news broadcasts or read it in news articles. Homeostasis has probably appeared as a Jeopardy answer in the form of a question, but doubtfully as a full category.

Homeostasis is that word that many do not know, but one that people know examples while not associating the examples to the word. Homeostasis has to do with balance, but not in the same sense as the actions when trying to walk a railroad track or balance beam.

Although our body is constantly producing heat, homeostasis is that mechanism keeping our body temperature relatively the same by releasing heat. If the body temperature lowers, a homeostasis mechanism adjusts to keep heat in and possibly produce more heat. After all, have you ever shivered?

Because reptiles don’t have an automatic mechanism to regulate body temperature, they adjust by responding with behaviors –  sunning on a rock to increase body temperature, or seeking  cool shade or a hole in the ground to keep the body from overheating.

In order to maintain a body temperature, the organism must have senses to detect external and internal temperature, plus ways to transmit those information/signals to bring about a response to maintain the balance – that’s homeostasis.

We take in water – most commonly through food and beverages. Our cells also constantly produce water. Our blood, over 50% water, continuously passes through our kidneys, which constantly removes water from the blood so it is released from the body as the key ingredient in urine. That’s homeostasis.

Water moving in and out of our body – yet, a mechanism is in place to keep the water level within us relatively constant. Making us thirsty when necessary – retaining water when needed – eliminating the excess if necessary. That’s homeostasis.

Many cells have water continuously entering, yet they don’t explode from over-swelling because of a mechanism for removing water is in place. That’s homeostasis.

Plants take in water through their roots, but also release water through their leaves – so plants must have a mechanism for regulating the two. Who would have imagined a similarity our kidneys have with plants – That’s homeostasis.

All living things require constant energy to survive, and regardless if caught, prepared, or made themselves, that energy comes from food – That’s homeostasis.

Our cells are constantly using food from the blood to make the energy required to sustain life. After we eat, our digestive system prepares the food so cells can use it. The final products of digestion move into the blood from transport to the cells for their use or to storage cells for later use. Insulin plays an important role in maintaining the sugar level in the blood – that’s homeostasis.

Living things have many examples of homeostasis, and maintaining body temperature and water and food levels are a few examples – but there are many others.

Yes – homeostasis is an important concept in biology and in life because it is important to all living things – birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, single cells, insects, worms, sponges, jellyfish, clams, crabs, plants, and more – all living things.

My teacher side came out for this walk – but maybe my thoughts have given you something to think about. After all, I like walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: #66 (Communities)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Community is an interesting word – a word with multiple meanings – a word used differently by biologists, sociologists, and the general population.

I’m confident the initial thought for most people fits into the sociological word. In the biological world, a community is a group of different populations of organisms living and interacting together. All the small mouth bass in a specific lake form a population – not a community.

The lake community made up of different fish, turtles, insects, frogs, algae, single-celled organisms, plants, and more – all living and interacting together in various food chains interwoven into a more complex food web.

There is a biological community on this beach that I walk, although I don’t know enough about the organisms here. Another community exists within the shallow water that refresh my feet. Different communities exist with changing depths and distance from shore.

Whereas in terms of biology, we humans are one population of the same species – Homo sapiens – yet we relate to sociological communities – a group of people identifying themselves in a common spirit.

I think of the main (but different) communities in my current life – my neighborhood, my dance friends, my church, the golf club where I work, my golf league – all are groups of different people with common interests. Work and hobbies also unite people into communities.

I grew up in a small town that would be more of a community than a small city – yet the town had neighborhood communities: Sugar Run, Mulberry Heights, Lincoln Heights, Naylor’s Run, and more.

I think about the community of my nearby neighbors in my small town. We kids within a few streets who played together – and the parents who knew each other. Parents who would watch over all of us while we played – or even provide a snack to the group. It seems those days are not only gone, but I question if they will ever return.

A college campus is a distinct community within a municipal community. The two interact in a variety of ways, yet are quite distinct.

I think about the wave of immigrants who left their homeland to find a new life in America and other countries throughout the world. Many live in the same neighborhood, some of which live on today as areas known as Little Italy, Germantown, Chinatown, Greektown, and others.

I think about other types of communities today where people gather for support around a common interest – LGBT, a variety of personal support groups, like hobbyists as knitting, modern trains, Civil War reenactments, wine and many more. Let us not forget the political communities – groups of like-minded people around an ideology.

Technology has created electronic communities. Facebook connects a social network as a way to keep in touch with people you know. Blogs have fostered new connections of people who didn’t know each other and may never meet – yet join together to form a community of common interests, support, and genuine respect – so yes, technology and travel have brought the world community closer.

As I walk the beach on this day, I can’t forget the snowbird communities found here and throughout the southern US. Snowbirds – mainly retired people from northern locations who migrate to the south for warmer temperatures during winter. Snowbirds know that no matter how cold it gets here, it is warmer than home.

Being a snowbird is good because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: #63 (Mars)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Good morning. The day is bright. The sky is clear and blue. The only clouds I see are on the distant horizon. Not many hours ago, stars filled the dark sky. Ancient civilizations thought of stars as twinkles attached to a dome that vanished by day, but today we know they are present behind the sky’s blue veil.

Probably everyone has wondered if life is elsewhere in the seemingly vast, endless void we call space. After all, our sun isn’t the only sun in the universe. Earth is located in the sweet spot of our solar system – but with many other suns, other sweet spots exist for life as we know it.

On the other hand, we humans are self-absorbed with ourselves thinking we are the center of everything. Let us not forget that at one time we said the Earth was the center of the universe with everything revolving around us and our planetary home. That was the prevailing thought of the time until new knowledge changed that view – although acceptance took time. Yet, some still embrace this notion.

Yes – today I want to think outside of Earth’s atmosphere. As my feet travel on this soft sandy, I wonder about the surfaces on other planets. Whether looking beyond the wild blue yonder or wondering as we watch the twinkling in the night sky – we wonder.

Although the song is not about this topic, the Moody Blues’ lyrics, “I know you’re out there somewhere” makes me wonder about life elsewhere. Does it exist? If so, is there any commonality with life on Earth? Then again, we could be the only life in the universe, and wondering about space is a gift for being human.

Life as we know it needs food, water, shelter, and something to breathe. Our needs are based on carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorous, which are the key substances (but not the only) that compose not only us, but all life forms.

I think about these needs in terms of space travel to a neighboring planet. Venus had water at one time but no longer does. Besides, it’s too hot. Mars is another neighboring planet – and those beyond it are too cold.

Mars – the red planet – a visible star with a reddish tint. Mars – 250 millions miles away – an eight-month journey. The technology to get there exists, and is being further developed. Technology for recycling materials during the journey and on the planet exists.

Technology to use the frozen carbon dioxide of Mars exists – as is protection from the solar radiation. But I wonder: Can the human body endure the journey? Can the human body endure that planet?

Some say the human trip to Mars is inevitable – even by 2040. Others say it’s a dream. Yet, we cannot forget these three important factors: 1) Earth is our most suitable home; 2) Colonizing Mars will not save us from ourselves here; and  3) Exploration is in human DNA.

From our migratory ancestors to early explorers; from the Vikings to European explorers as da Gama, Magellan, Hudson, and others of their time – from visiting the North Pole and the South Pole to climbing Mt. Everest – from diving deep into the sea to landing on the Moon – Yes, humanity wants to explore because humanity wants to know.

While we dream of Earth serving as the home base for that futuristic trip into the sky I see above, let us not forget that we also have the opportunity to appreciate what we have and take care of it.

On this day as I walk the beach, I dream – even fantasize about a possible future. Thinking about Space – the final frontier – “To go where no man has gone before.”

Earth is my home – actually our home. Earth is where we find the flat plains of grain, the rolling hills of green, and the tall mountains with majestic peaks. However, my feet are moving on the fine sand of this coastal community. After all, I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: #61 (Beauty)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

It is beautiful here – so today I wonder about beauty. What is beauty? Why is it different for everyone? Why is beauty in the eyes of the beholder?

We apply beauty to people, places, and things as events, music, arts, architecture, and more. The bottom line: Beauty is a state of pleasure; a specialized level of satisfaction.

For me, I think the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Nā Pali coast on Hawaii’s island of Kauai being the most beautiful uninhabitable place. But where people live, Italy’s Amalfi Coast grabs me with an irresistible force. Through my heritage, the valley setting of Bagni di Lucca on the Serchio River in northern Tuscany touches my heart.

The beauty of events etch a memory forever. Watching a sunset behind the Pacific from a plateau above the sea on Kauai was spectacular. Approaching Venice on a cruise ship, then going through a canal to dock streetside is a memory stuck in my brain. The colors of the sunrise I see here on this coast are inspiring. The tear that rolled down my check when I saw my wife walk down the aisle at our wedding.

Beauty is the peace delivered by a different messenger to different people – maybe a baby’s smile, a gentle touch, the togetherness of family, a ray of sunshine, or even a personal walk on a beach.

Nature’s beauty shows through its seemingly infinite design. Snow-capped mountains, sandy beaches, brilliant flowers, colorful fish, a herd of wild animals on a distant slope of grass – let alone the mathematical brilliance of a Fibonacci pattern or the brilliant geometrical designs seen through electron micrographs or even a spider’s web – or how common life processes are accomplished by a range of organisms from a single cell to plants to the largest animal.

The colors displayed by the Grand Canyon’s rock layers is one thing – but how the sun’s angle changes them throughout the day is inspiringly beautiful.

Although beauty can vary across time and cultures, through nature and behaviors, beauty is also timeless. The beauty of a person’s actions as sincerity, goodness, charitableness, helpfulness, and kindness are just that – timeless and not limited by cultural boundaries – as are the empathetic heart and listening ear.

Beauty is that combination of shape, color, and pattern that we find in art. Certain pieces and styles move a person – they stir the soul – but to others, their teeth hurt because their tastes and preferences differ. They see beauty elsewhere.

We can hear beauty. From the babbling stream, to the roaring water of a grand waterfall, to the calming waters of a walk on the beach, or a walk in a serene meadow. The physical beauty and natural sounds can capture the soul.

We hear the beauty of words. Some inspire, while others honor. Some words transform us, while others deliver peace and comfort through the right place at the right time.

The beauty of music can transport us to another place. Rachmaninoff delivers love while  Copeland brings pride through instrumental compositions. Many others do it through their voice that sings the beauty of the lyricist’s phrases.

I look across humanity to see many physical beauties: the glow of Nordic beauty – the exoticness of Middle Eastern beauty – the sensuality of Mediterranean beauty – the kindness in Oriental beauty – the steely and mysterious nature of Eastern European beauty – the regal confidence of African beauty – the uniqueness of Indian beauty that perhaps comes from cultural blending through genetics over many years.

Beauty is something we can see in cultures – through dress, customs, language, and actions. Each of our cultures do something for ourselves, while other cultures may be different, one can find beauty there.

Beauty is not limited to the eyes and ears. Aromas from the kitchen ignite a bountiful of beautiful thoughts and memories. We notice the beauty when our fingers pass over the smooth surface of a fine sculpture or the soft skin of our lover.

Let us not forget the beauty beach shells provide as I walk. From the physical designs to the combination of colors – from the small to the large – the smooth to the ridged. There is beauty in those shells for those taking time to look.

Yes, each of us determine beauty through our own lens. More importantly, life is full of beauty for those who not only take time to look and listen – but also to engage all the senses.

This beach is a beautiful place providing a collection of various beauties. Thinking about beauty is a reason I like walking the beach, which is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: #60 (Havens)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

My time on the Alabama coast is not only time away from the multiple blasts of winter, it’s also my time away from the regular routines of daily life at home. A respite from the normal. A time as my alter ego. Sort of a haven – so I wonder about havens.

I grew up near a New Haven, visited another to see Yale University. Even spent a series of days in Grand Haven. The latter that seems to best resemble the meaning of today’s keyword.

Haven – a place of safety – a refuge – a retreat, shelter, or sanctuary – a harbor, oasis, or sanctum.

To some, a library is a haven. Those repositories of information that can bring alive the past or fantasies. The place where one can grow in knowledge. The community resource space that is for everybody. Thinking of all the information available in a college library is a profound thought on its own. Maybe that’s why I stand in awe of the information while within a college library.

To others, home is their haven. A place where they feel the love and safety of family. Home – the place possibly symbolizing the most memories of life. Both leaving home and coming home stir emotions. Home is definitely a haven – but not for everyone.

Havens can be a place to remove oneself from the regular world – a quiet space as a park, a church, a meadow, a library, a beach, or even a room within one’s home. It can be sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree, relaxing on a deck, or reading in your favorite chair.

Havens are a place one relieves stress by seeking tones of harmony and peace. That place away from the negative energies of the world. That place of no anger, no pain, no discord, and no irritation. Havens are a place of content.

Havens are a chance to close one’s eyes to the world, but not sleep. A chance to enjoy the solitude – to decompress – to reflect – to wrap themselves in thoughts of comfort.

Havens can involve an action – reading, writing, listening to music, creating a craft, gardening, meditating, practicing yoga, sitting, sipping tea, and yes – even walking the beach. Some find their haven when running or during other forms of exercise – so havens are personal.

My winter time at the beach is one of my personal havens. I spend much of my time walking and thinking, listening to podcasts, and writing. I see others who find a haven in many hours of fishing. Some sit to talk with others. Some just sit in the chair feeling the warm breezes that deliver comfort to their soul as time passes while seeming to stand still. They may daydream or even fall asleep.

Listening to the sounds of nature is a haven – the sounds of natural silence that are void of the hustle and bustle of daily life. No passing cars or honking horns. Just the sounds of the surf to soothe the soul.

I walk because I get restless sitting. Reading in the bright of day is not easy for me.

I want to use the salty air, the tides, the sun, the clouds, the breezes, the sand, the sounds, and the water to serve as the grains falling in the hourglass of time. This is one of my havens – and walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: #59 (Sunsets)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Although the sun is high as I walk toward the west, the sun will set in a few hours.

Personally, I favor sunrises over sunsets – an event that only we early birds see. Whereas the sunrise appears as the faint music we hear arising from the quiet that continues crescendoing until its midday peak, the sunset is the corresponding decrescendo that fades away into the silence of the night.

Sunrise is a time when we patiently watch the sun without squinting – without worry of harm – a time when we are taken by its peacefulness and feeling of comfort.

However, now I wonder: Will today’s sunset be brilliant? Time will tell, so now I think of the time of day that captures many hearts – sunsets.

Sunset is a time when blues, pinks, yellows, and oranges paint a beautiful picture that is also unique. A time when colors depend on the presence of particles, water droplets, and just enough clouds in the sky to display the day’s final brilliance.

Sunset is a time when the shadows are long and point to the east – but they will soon disappear into the dark – very soon.

Sunset is a combination of fascination and melancholy that says goodbye to the day, then hello to a new evening.

Sunsets mark the end of the day and the beginning of a time to rest. But for the night owls, the day is young as they will embrace the dark.

Sunsets over the water our sensual as we watch the lowering sun softly and slowly kiss the sea. The sun appears as a candle drip that disappears while leaving a brilliant light in the west while darkness is engulfing the sky from the east.

Sunsets symbolize the end of one’s life. Starting at the birth of sunrise, our life is the sun’s arc across the sky. A life full of ups and downs – happiness and sadness – successes and failures – a journey when we interacting with many – even influencing some. As our sun disappears, our memories live on in those who remain – yet in time, most of us will be forgotten – simply fading away as the sun that never rises again.

The sun is gone, but the bright sky of dusk remains as a distant bonfire celebrating the passing day that is now a memory.

While the sunset is full of wonder, mystery, and symbolism, I will watch today’s sunset with a renewed sense of its meaning – all because I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: No. 56 (Wisdom)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Wisdom conjures many thoughts. What is wisdom? What does it mean to be wise? How do we become wise or achieve wisdom? How do we share wisdom? Does wisdom prevents us from seeing what needs to be seen? But it’s hard to imagine wisdom getting in the way. Regardless of the answers, there is no doubt that wisdom does not mean one as all the answers.

I think about how a baby transitions into a toddler.  The time from squirming to rolling over to  crawling to walking to running with accidents along the way. Isn’t wisdom similar? Doesn’t wisdom allow us to get our feet below us over time?

Looking at the transitions we go through in life – from the confined childhood to the pains of adolescence to the growth in adulthood to the resignation as we age. Think of all the wisdom gained during life. The mistakes that become experiences allowing us to be smarter today than yesterday as we turn the pages of life.

Gaining wisdom requires an awareness of the here and now that allows us to experience life and gain wisdom. But each of us do it differently because life affects us differently. Afterall, we range from the hard headed to the heavy hearted.

Every person is a collection of stories – some positive, others negative – a collection that we pass along through conversations at work, among friends, and within the family. A few people pass along their experiences through biographies. Others do so through a fictional book based on personal experiences or someone else’s life.

Experience is a history one shares with others – a history involving wisdom. However, humanity has a way of repeating the mistakes of others by proclaiming, “this is different.”

Experience allows us to deal with the unknown corner – to discover what’s around the corner or to avoid it – now that’s using wisdom!

Life has a way of slapping down past experiences with hopes of shedding a new light – a new way. After 12 years of teaching I discovered I had done a great job of doing it wrong. That internalization allowed me to step into a new frontier with confidence and gather new wisdom. At least I saw the light that the majority of my colleagues did not see – or chose to ignore it.

Wisdom – that process of thinking about our experiences, knowledge, understanding, and sensibility to make a choice.

Wisdom – the criss-crossing of interacting brain cells one uses for the betterment of both self and the many.

While much wisdom may comfort some, can wisdom get in the way? Can wisdom prevent us from seeing the reality or the vision? Experience and wisdom can block a fresh view – so we need someone to look at the situation through a different lens; a move that could move us to a different paradigm.

I look at the sea and wonder how many stories it holds. Then again, wisdom tells me that I’m thinking metaphorically.

Wisdom – something that comes from discernment while promenading the sand; after all, I like walking the beach for it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.