A Bizarre Realization

A Bizarre Realization

Face up, under the belly of my son’s car, my husband was elbow deep in a repair. Suddenly I leaned over the bumper and asked, “Hon, don’t you have one good adventure left in you? ”

That  was 9:00 Sunday evening, August 20th.

An hour later, my hubby came inside:  “Alright! You’ve got me,” he spouted.  “I guess I’ve one adventure left.  But, only one and we leave early as dog-dukers!”

That, my friends, is how we began the adventure to totality!  It was a quest to see the corona.  It was a journey skyward and westward.  It was a cosmological expedition that confirmed what we already knew and what we were yet to know.

Next morning at 7 am, we traversed the entirety of north metro Atlanta to access the 100% eclipse zone on the morning of August 21.  Now, that was an adventure in itself. With the help of a Spotify playlist, 3 1/2 hours later we arrived at the meadow of what was once Lake Hartwell.  This dehydrated field marks the border between Georgia and South Carolina and would be the perfect westward-facing location to view the sun and moon as they crossed paths.  It would also be in the bulls-eye, the 100% coverage zone.  We would have 2 minutes and 20 seconds to view the corona and just maybe, we would be lucky enough to see Bailey’s Beads.

Upon arrival, we gathered our ragged chairs, an umbrella and drinks and settled in for the spectacle not fully understanding  the magnitude of what we were to witness.   At about 1:10 pm, Anna broke open her solar shades and yelled, “Its starting!”

I fumbled in my backpack and found my own protective glasses.  After fidgeting a few seconds with the cardboard folds I managed to place them correctly over my eyes and look sunward.  Behold!  A large black sphere had entered the frame of the sun.  An Oreo-sized bite was missing from the right side.   OMG!  This is it!

Everyone got into place and some friends arrived.  We took measured glances at the advancing black moon covering the solar surface.  My camera came out.   Someone hummed “Black-Hole Sun.”

 

Ever so gradually, the light on that field reduced as the moon approached. Great white egrets flew across the darkened skies towards a dusky roost.  A  chorus of frogs started chirping their evening songs.   Dark shadows cast by human forms  were projected by the diminishing sun onto the dry lake floor.  The atmospheric color changed to sepia.

Then, it happened.  At first, there remained the tiniest sliver of sunlight.  Then, that the blackness slid over and the sun was blotted out of the sky!  The moon would have its say for the next 2 minutes 20 seconds.

Darkness and coolness settled over the field.

The protective glasses came off.

“The Corona!” someone blasted.

Comments ranged from “It’s a Corona, Extra Light!” to “Oh my Gosh!”,  “Wow!”  and finally,

“This is literally the most amazing thing I have ever seen!”

Then, at the mathematically appointed  millisecond, the sun’s rays literally burst forth on the other side.  In a flash, the lake bed was ablaze with light and color.

How do I describe an event so brief and surreal?  A time when  clouds, life and the sun seemed to stand still?

I cannot do it justice.  But, there is something I can surmise.

A collective, “what just happened?”  appeared on the faces of all present.

What just happened was that we became aware, at that brief moment, that we are actually on a giant sphere that is being orbited by a smaller sphere and together these two spheres are orbiting an even larger, blazing sphere.   Humans are absolutely minuscule in this whole process.  Yet, we are in the hands of God and He controls the sun, moon and stars.  It was a bizarre, yet comforting realization.

“And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”  Amos 8:9

Then, we packed this adventure up and went home through the traffic to our mundane lives, pondering what we had just witnessed.

 

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Cheap Field Trips # 1

Cheap Field Trips # 1

kiosk

In the spirit of  stop-and-smell-the-roses, we’ve been making an extra effort to take cheap field trips this year.  Cheap could be free, or just cheap!  The best thing…these are fun little outings that get us off our routine and don’t require any preparation or great expenditure of funds.

I will be sharing these experiences in a series called Cheap Field Trips.

Cheap Field Trip # 1:  Visit a local Recreation Area

We happen to live near the Chattahoochee Recreation Area on the “beautiful” Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, GA.  There is a place called Powers Island which is an access point for folks “putting in” their canoes or rafts to float the river. Mr. Powers was a blacksmith and gunsmith here on the edge of civilization in the 1830’s.  He ran a ferry right from this island.

From I-285, I’d seen this parking lot and trail head for decades and never stopped.

“We’re going there today,” I told my youngster, one recent Wednesday in February.

Silence came from the back seat.

“It’s supposed to be in the 60’s today. We are doing something outside,”  I snapped, hoping he would catch the fever.

We pulled into the empty parking lot. The grey lot blended with the barren trees.  A solitary, work truck could be seen in a space by the restrooms, occupied by a man eating a sandwich from a wrapper.  His windows were up. A medium roar could be heard from the interstate a few hundred yards away.

“Hmmm. This does look a bit sketchy,” I thought as we unloaded ourselves from our truck. I grabbed my wallet and shoved it into my camera bag.  Then, I looked westward.  Through the dormant trees, the sparkling, greenish waters of the Hooch drew us thither.

The Chattahoochee

 

For these cheapie trips to be memorable, you’ve got to take a slow pace.  Don’t go on a cheapie trip thinking you’re going to get some exercise.  If you get fresh air, that’s a plus!  These excursions are about slowing way, way down to see and observe.

A rust colored bridge formed the entry point of the trail and drew us toward the island.  There, on the banks of this mighty waterway, we saw our first point of interest.

bridge to Powers Island

 

“What is flotsam and jetsam?” asked my inquisitive boy after I called out the words.

“It’s floating stuff that has come to rest between these downed trees,” I gestured toward the logs forming the clog.

“Flotsam are things which float up…like things that have washed away from the shoreline and into the river.  Jetsam are things which have been flung off boats and float from the river to the shore,” I continued, pulling out my zoom lens.

beauty along the hooch

basketball heaven

“I can sure tell people like to play basketball and tennis in this town,” he deducted.

“What about football?  See that black one over there?” I pointed.  He tip toed lightly across the colorful trash and grabbed it. The treasure secured, he squeezed it, heard the leaky hole and then threw it back into the pile.

This multi hued wedge of trash kept us busy for a good fifteen minutes.  There were a bazillion water bottles, every sort of ball, numerous plastic toys, various sized cups, some milk jugs, and a few unidentifiable things.  A pungent, earthy smell hovered over the place.

plastics

Not far from the trash heap was a rock island that needed exploring.  I took a picture and then my guy said, “Mom, you come out here.”  I hesitated a minute and then this middle aged mamma hopped the swift current to make it safely to the rock, camera equipment and all.

on the rock

Sycamore balls

Then, we saw the trees.  They were mammoth!  Who would think there would be giant trees on an island like this?

“Must’ve been here when Mr. Powers was working the ferry,” I concluded.  We looked up and saw their tips touching the deep blue winter sky.

One had a crevice two feet taller than my child.  A quick flash of the cell phone light illuminated a couple of creepy, glowing eyes.

 

the granddaddy

bat eyes

As we walked the trail, each successive tree seemed to be larger and larger.  Finally, we reached the granddaddy of all the trees!  Easily it was five human wing spans across.  Against the blue sky and with sun shining brightly behind, the size and shape of this gargantuan took my breath away.

“What a great way to spend 60 minutes,” I said as we merged back onto the interstate.

“It was pretty good,” was the recap from the back seat.

This trip cost $3, which was paid at the kiosk by the trail head.   It was a great day.

the granddaddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hypnotizing a Chicken

Hypnotizing a Chicken

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Have you ever hypnotized a chicken? I hadn’t either until we became urban poultry farmers.  Although I’ve hypnotized a few fowl in my day, it’s the kids who love it most!  There’s something entertaining about holding a soft, fluffy living thing in your hands, massaging it on the wishbone and then watching it blissfully melt into a heap of uninhibited slumber.   Hypnotized chickens drop into a sleep not unlike a one-year-old would in a car seat on a road trip to grandmas.  Sometimes you will see a partially opened eye.  Sometimes you will see a beak opened, which is the chicken equivalent to a drooling, napping baby, mouth opened, head slumped in relaxation.   The sight of an hypnotized chicken is something to behold and I’ve captured it here for you to ponder.  Apparently, this is an addictive past time that doesn’t get old, even with the surliest of teenagers.

In case you are over easy about the process, here’s how you do it.  First, you have to hold the chicken in your warm hand or on a flat surface.  Usually, the hen will stop squirming after about 20 seconds and then you can easily manage her into the hypnotic state.  Regardless of your pecking order, you can do this!

 

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Next, find the breast bone of the chicken and gently rub the muscles on both sides of this bone for about 20 – 30 seconds.  You will find that your bird will begin to relax and fall out.  This is the best part!  You can literally lay your chicken down and it will remain in this spellbound state for a minute or two until it comes to its senses.  As the Japanese proverb goes, “It is better to be the head of a chicken than the rear end of an ox.”   This wisdom applies here as the chick awakens refreshed and ready to work as hard as a hen hauling wood!

Be patient!  This may take a little practice.  But, you will soon be able to feather your nest with visions of hypnotized chickens slumbering silently in the setting sun.

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This happy hen above looks like she is still a bit groggy!!  Ah, the joys of hypnotizing chickens.

The Missing Mushrooms

The Missing Mushrooms

We’ve been  looking for mushrooms for weeks!  No mushrooms! 

Not good, since we’ve been trying to study them this semester.

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Talking with my young student a couple of weeks ago, we got on the topic of the missing mushrooms.

“Could it be because of the drought?” I asked.

He shrugged, “They need moistness.”

“I guess you’re right,” I nodded.  There had been no moistness, no rain, no mist in weeks.  We hadn’t even seen a cloud in weeks.

The subject was dropped.

Then, one morning last week, it was mentioned again.

“Mom, there is a mushroom over by the big swing.”

“Really? I asked disbelievingly.  There had been no rain.  But this was the mushroom season… so perhaps he has made a real sighting.  Maybe a ‘shroom has pushed through, I thought.  

Quickly, we gathered our mushroom observing paraphernalia: a field guide, tweezers, magnifying glass, a plastic bag, cameras, and set off for our adventure.  We walked a little ways over the creek and along a grassy path into a field.  Cut up apples and flies were scattered in a little ring near a tree. 

“Look, that’s where Jared is feeding the deer,” my boy pointed as we walked by the green and red pile, flies buzzing between the fruits.  Then, we turned right and walked out of the field into a small sloping wooded area.  Pines and oaks dominated the landscape.  Sure enough, right there in front of the big swing, in the dappled midday light grew a single white mushroom.  Like a light house on a dark coast, its stark, white beacon drew us hither.

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Non poisonous mushrooms

We stooped down to take a closer look, dropping our gear.

“What kind is it?”  I asked. 

“It’s not a Destroying Angel!” returned my son.

“How do you know? ” I inquired as I tried to keep his hands from touching.

He thumbed through the guide.  “Here it is, a Smooth Lepiota,” he indicated, touching the laminated page.   “It isn’t poisonous.”

mushroom field guide

“Good.” I sighed, thinking that he’s really mastered this art of nature study.  He’s gotten pretty good with woodland fungi identification.  The mushroom field guide shows the underbelly of the mushroom, the shape, the color and other features to help us newbies along in discovery process.  

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There is something so gratifying about these brief nature moments with my youngest.   

Selfishly, I just love being outside and taking pictures.  But, more than that, I think something is happening here, where this boy really likes stopping to appreciate what’s growing around him. Hopefully, these experiences will stick and he’ll be a lifetime appreciator of nature.  

As we left the scene and walked toward home, we spied a striking rotting branch covered with pale colored turkey tails.  Already, we are getting the mushroom lingo!  Turkey Tails are shelf mushrooms that grow on rotting trees and look like little fanned out turkey tails.

“Those will be cool to sketch,” I suggest.

Carrying these forest treasures back to the house, we plopped down on the deck to sketch and identify and make a spore print.  And, for mom to take pictures!!

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Away from media and cell phones and schedules, the quest for the missing mushrooms became our classroom.

All this talk of mushrooms has got me thinking about Sylvia Plath, one of my favorite poets! 

MUSHROOMS

by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

 

 

 

 

Stop and Feel the Foam

Stop and Feel the Foam

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Here comes the foam moving up the beach, first in flat white sheets,

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then piling up into cloud-like banks!

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Sometimes you gotta stop and feel the foam!

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This egret was headed down to see the foam piling up… so we followed.

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What at first seemed kinda gross ended up being, in the words of my 9 year old, “squishy, sticky and fun!”

Plus, it gave me a chance to practice my photography skills at high noon, something I haven’t been very comfortable with before now.

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Since there are no August roses down here in this part of Florida, were feeling the foam instead.

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I’m hoping I can hold onto this beachy mentality when we start school in a couple of weeks.  I hope to keep feeling the foam regularly!!

Clouds!

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Clouds are the spice of our outdoor lives.  Clouds bring shade on ridiculously hot summer days.  They bring rain sometimes.  They bring interest and color to your day as you gaze upon them from your yard.  They give you a medium to work with to imagine monsters and animals in their cotton ball – like shapes.  In spring, they move quickly along with the wind.  In fall, they rush upon you in a front of cool air.  

What if every single day was filled with just blue skies?  That would be the most boring thing! 

This spring, when I discovered that my 3rd grader would be studying weather, I got excited and remembered a cloud poster we had stashed away that labeled the various cloud formations.  We studied it. And that was it.  Clouds had become boring!  How could this be?  Then, an idea came…

 Hey, we can paint the clouds, I thought.  I love clouds portrayed in art.   With acrylic there is the texture; with watercolor there is the softness.  But, wait!  That’s a whole lot harder than it looks.  People like Winslow Homer and Renoir paint clouds.  This will be over our heads.  Then, I recalled a recipe for making shaving cream paint.  Shaving cream paint actually goes on and dries puffy and textured.  You can also add any variety of color to it. That would be an interesting approach for these various cloud  types we’ve been studying, like cumulonimbus and stratocumulus.  Painting the various cloud formations may actually help us to associate the cloud type with the shape, I thought.  Possibly, we might remember that association  a few months from now. 

Use your typical shaving cream

 As it turned out, painting the clouds with the shaving cream paint was really fun. The colors turned out beautiful .  Working with textured paint helped us to develop the cloud shapes in our minds and connect that shape with its altitude and name.  Adding tempera color gave a softness and richness to the picture.

eight cloud types

And now, a month later as we are driving along, my son will say, “Look at the cumulonimbus clouds mom!”  And I will say “You are a cloud-boss! What a great memory!”

Here’s how we did the project.

First, we washed an 8 1/2 x 11 water color weight paper with sky blue water color paint and let that dry.  The next day, we mixed up the shaving cream paint.  I started with a Styrofoam tray and sprayed some shaving cream, about a cup.  Then, I mixed in about a teaspoon and a half of white school glue.  That was stirred, and divided into four piles for four different colors. For light grey, we used a couple of drops of black and stirred.  You can add more black or mix in a little blue for a tint change.  We had a darker acrylic blue paint and added a few drops of that to one pile.  We kept a white pile and made a darker grey pile.

the paint

Next, we divided the painted water color paper evenly into 8 spaces.  Each space would be painted a different cloud type.  I told my 9 year old to select which 8 cloud types he wanted to paint, and he, in pencil, wrote the name of the cloud at the top of each space.  We used the cloud types poster that I mentioned above as a guide.  We also consulted with our science book and a library book on clouds.  As you can see in the picture, we had the visual resources sitting right in our workspace.

Then, the paining began.

painting clouds

cumulonimbus

eight cloud typesIt was a fun project!  I hope we can try this with some other science topics next year.  As a tip, definitely use a sturdy paper, like water color or Bristol paper.  Let me know how it turns out if you give it a try.

Breathing on the Tugaloo!

Breathing on the Tugaloo!

 

Breathe!  Deep breath… in.  Deep cleanse…out.  When school has wrapped up for the year and baseball season is over and the last end-of-the-season party has finished and the final honors night has been attended, breathing is something you can do again. It’s not like you couldn’t breathe before, its just that you had to do shallow breathing! Shallow breathing may oxygenate your body and keep you going, but its the deep breathing that enables you to rest and enjoy life again.

My husband fishes so that he can do his deep breathing. There is something about being out on a little boat in a big river that helps him recover from the daily grind. My boys have been hooked by this pastime too.

fishing on the Tugaloo

fishing on the Tugaloo

This group doesn’t have to catch a fish to get that ship-shape, deep-breath feeling.  Just being out there on the river is good enough.

Jazzy loves it too!

Jazzy loves it too!

This dog loves a good into-the-wind jaunt on the boat.  Tongue hanging out, slightly panting, all excited about what may happen out there on the water… she reminds me that I need to be taking some deep breaths right now.  This is the season for deep breaths!!

A crappy from the crappy bush!

A crappy from the crappy bush!

With all the inhalation, I’m setting my sinker on the idea that I can actually post to this blog once a week.  One could say that I’ve been giving this blog too much breathing space.  Thanks for not giving up on me during my lull these past months.  With the fresh air and a little fish and grits for breakfast,  I’ll be blogging like mad this summer.

See you soon,

Angelina

crappy