The Best Shower of All

Every year, I mark my calendar for the Perseid Meteor Showers. They arrive on August 12th, like clockwork, and of all the meteor showers we are treated to, this one is usually the most spectacular. And it takes place in the warmest part of the year, which is a handy little side benefit. I think of it as a free show put on by the universe.

What I like to do is go somewhere with very little ambient light. I pack a lawn chair, mosquito repellent, snacks, and sometimes cardboard to block out what light I can’t seem to avoid, and then I sit, preferably with friends, and gaze.

It’s always quite amusing when one of us sees a meteor and the others don’t. This year one of us saw one that was so spectacular it caused him to drop his beer bottle. But there were many gorgeous ones to make up for everyone else’s massive, albeit bemused, disappointment at that moment. In fact, this year I saw some of the largest ones I’ve seen in my life.

Unfortunately the smaller ones were all but impossible to see because the moon was nearly full. Nothing like a giant spotlight in the sky to block out everything else. (Next year the moon will be much more cooperative.)

But I did see something I’ve never seen before. On three separate occasions, the meteors were angled directly toward us. Because of that, instead of seeing them streak across the sky, what I saw was a large bright dot that appeared out of nowhere and was gone just as quickly. That was cool. And it made me wonder what this event looked like from the International Space Station. (Of course, there’s a video for that. You can see it here.)

I love stargazing with friends. Looking at the night sky makes my problems seem so tiny and insignificant. And it also reminds me of the glory of the natural world.

So, if you take (in) only one shower a year, make it the Perseids. It’s the best shower of all. And you don’t even have to add water.

meteor-shower-calendar-en-2019-th

Like this quirky little blog? Then You’ll love my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Let There Be Light. Not.

I love the dark. I think that started because I was a chronic migraine sufferer from an early age. Even though I rarely get migraines anymore, somewhere in my brain light will always equal pain.

I almost never turn lights on unless I have to read something or am unfamiliar with my environment. I think of darkness as a blanket that comforts me rather than an unknown that scares me. In the dark my imagination can run wild. Fortunately it usually runs to positive places.

My brother-in-law is just the opposite. He has night lights in every single room in his house. Even when you turn out the lights there’s light. I can’t imagine what his electric bill must be like. If I visit, I always have to remember to pack something to use as a blindfold or I get no sleep at all.

To me, the night holds mystery, potential and possibility. Nights are usually less predictable, and I love that. While I admit that life requires a certain level of balance and moderation, and I understand that everything is a matter of perspective, I’ll pick the moon and stars over the great scareball in the sky any day.

love-the-stars

[Image credit:  gagthat.com]

Environmental Meddling

Anyone who lives in the Southeastern United States is familiar with kudzu. This amazingly insidious vine was introduced to this country by the Japanese at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, and since then, according to Wikipedia, it’s been spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres annually, which seems really intimidating until you realize that that’s roughly equivalent to the amount of rain forest that’s chopped down every day.

A great deal of time and money is spent attempting to keep the kudzu invasion in check, and nothing seems to work. It has been known to suffocate acres of trees, pull down power lines, and crush abandoned houses under the sheer weight of its proliferation.

Like it or not, we need to accept the fact that kudzu is here to stay. And since that’s the case, we should try to turn this negative into a positive. Most Americans would be surprised to know that kudzu is edible. It’s a great source of starch and is eaten regularly in Vietnam and Japan and other parts of Asia. It also makes great grazing fodder. Goats, in particular, love it. The vines can be used in basket weaving, and its fiber can be made into cloth and paper. Some people use it to treat migraines, tinnitus, vertigo, and hangovers.

In light of this, I say, why not let kudzu run rampant? Help feed and clothe those in need, and reduce the cost of feeding grazing animals. Even better, if we really let it take over, think of the time we’d regain by never having to maintain our lawns again. Each time we fertilize our lawns, more harmful nutrients are entering our water table, causing algae blooms in our rivers and doing untold amounts of damage to the environment. Kudzu is the perfect solution for that. All we’d have to do is cut new holes where our doors and windows should be every few weeks, and voila! No fertilizing, no other yard work.

We wouldn’t ever have to paint our houses, because no one would be able to see them. Also, as our ozone depletes, skin cancer is on the rise. Kudzu would greatly reduce this problem because it’s an excellent source of shade. In fact, if given half the chance, kudzu would ensure that we never see the sun again.

I also have a theory that if we introduced kudzu to the moon and mars, they’d both be lush and green and producing oxygen within a year. All thanks to a pretty little plant that never should have been here in the first place.

We humans are just sooooo good at fiddling with the planet. Why not go for it? What’s the worst that could happen?

kudzu

Yes, that’s a house.

kudzu-online-pic

Kudzu gone wild. Every Southerner in the US has seen this somewhere at least once in their lives.

Spiders, Spiders, Everywhere

I dreamt of a village in a desert out west. The people had gathered around a campfire to listen to an old man tell stories. He traveled from town to town to recount the tales of their people. He told cautionary tales to teach the young ones how to behave. He told the stories of how the people came to populate this land. He sang songs to honor the ones who had gone before him. He also carried important news from one village to the next.

On this night, after the storyteller spoke for a long time, a young girl stood up. “Storyteller,” she said, “what news of my sister, Desert Flower, who went north with her husband last summer?”

Storyteller replied, “I have not seen your sister, young one, but I have heard…”

Suddenly, instead of words, hundreds of tiny spiders issued forth from his mouth. The young girl cried and ran to her mother’s arms.

The people had no words for this. The spiders ran in all directions and rapidly disappeared. The old storyteller acted as though nothing had happened.

The next morning the old man was gone, but the little spiders remained. They would show up in unexpected places, and would often pour out of the mouths of the people themselves. They went with the men on the hunt. They crawled among the corn being gathered by the women. They scampered with the children at play.

The people tried to kill the spiders, but for each one that died, it seemed as though three more tiny spiders would show up and scurry away, sounding like whispers as they went.

Finally in desperation the people went to their leader. “What should we do, Wise One?” they asked.

She told them to remain silent until the new moon became the full moon. Only then would the spiders disappear. This was hard on the people. They loved to commune with one another.

As the days passed, they began to focus more on the hunt and on the harvest, forgetting the spiders entirely. Thriving on attention but no longer receiving it, one by one the spiders disappeared.

Finally, the full moon rose, and the people came together to celebrate their freedom from the spiders. They spoke of how much they missed each other and valued one another.

There were no spiders to be seen. Oh, they would come back to visit from time to time, as spiders do, but now the people knew them for what they were, and could stop their spread through silence and neglect.

The spiders, you see, were gossip.

storyteller

[Image credit: globalneighbourhoods.net]

My Prayer

I am grateful this day for the rain that sustains me

    for the sun that nurtures me, for the wind that buffets me.

 I wish to give back more than I take from this world,

value more than that which is has been given me

and shore up that which has always endured me.

May I always gaze at the stars and feel joy

for my minuscule part in the limitless universe.

MilkyWayRoad_landolfi

(Image credit: apod.nasa.gov)

Happy Earth Day!

It’s Earth Day, and that has me thinking about the intimate encounters I’ve had with nature in my lifetime.

  • I have swum with manatee, dolphins and stingrays.
  • I briefly dated a guy who could imitate a barn owl so accurately that every owl in the region would respond to his call. He also taught me how to walk through the woods at 2 am without a flashlight. (Lift your toes to avoid tripping, and hold a stick ahead of you to thwart spider webs, and you’ll be amazed how quickly your eyes adjust to the lack of light.)
  • Working graveyard shift for 10 years, I’ve probably seen about 2000 sunrises, enough to know each one is as unique as a snowflake.
  • Many times I have watched that moment when the moon expands and turns orange just before it sinks below the horizon.
  • I’ve hiked beyond the overlooks at Yellowstone Park, and was told by a ranger that less than 5 percent of the parks visitors bother to do so. I find this astounding, and a bit disheartening.
  • I’ve rescued wild birds with my bare hands.
  • I’ve pulled my car over to remove lizards from my windshield.
  • I have reclined in a mountain meadow and watched bats fly overhead.
  • I’ve ridden horses through national parks.
  • I’ve seen solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, shooting stars and comets.
  • I have snorkeled above a coral reef.
  • I have danced in the rain.

But perhaps most importantly I have looked skyward and thanked the universe for allowing me to live on this planet and feel the wind upon my face. I hope everyone will take a moment today and do the same.

earth day

Image credit: mauiearthday.org

Cool Science

Wow! How did I not know about this before? Thanks to the power of the internet, little old me (and little old you, for that matter) can help scientists make some pretty amazing breakthroughs.

Seriously, you have to check out the Zooniverse website. From there, you can link in to any number of amazing projects.

  • At Galaxy Zoo you can help scientists classify the bazillions of galaxies in our universe. You might even be the first person to actually see a picture of a particular galaxy. EVER. This is my favorite.
  • At Moon Zoo you can help visually classify features of the moon.
  • At Solar Stormwatch, you can study explosions on the sun.
  • At Planethunters.org, you can help find planets around stars.
  • At the Milky Way Project, you can help scientists understand how stars form.
  • At Planet Four, you can help them learn more about the weather on Mars.

Are you hooked yet? I am! But wait. There’s more.

  • At Old Weather, you can help scientist study past weather observations made by Royal Navy Ships.
  • You can classify over 30 years of tropical cyclone data at Cyclone Center.
  • Help identify texts and documents to study the lives of the Ancient Greeks at Ancient Lives. (This one is fascinating, but I wish there was a way to get the translation once you’ve helped decipher it.)
  • Help marine researchers understand what whales are saying at Whale FM.
  • Study images of the sea floor to create a library of ocean habitats at Seafloor Explorer.  (This is one of my other favorites.)
  • You can even help characterize bat calls at Bat Detective!
  • And perhaps most impactful of all from a human standpoint, you can help find a cure for cancer at Cell Slider.

Honestly, I can’t believe every home-schooler and every student for that matter, every retiree, every unemployed person isn’t glued to one of these websites! You can learn so much and actually have an impact. How can you resist?

star solar mixed_cancer_cells_color cluster

Dog Wisdom

I had just settled down to write this blog entry, and was feeling rather stressed out because I couldn’t think of a topic, when my dog brought me his toy. It is Blue’s philosophy that no one should ever be too busy for a rousing game of tug-o-sock. How right he is. Once we have lost our sense of fun, the joy drains completely out of our lives. He’s very wise. Both my dogs are, actually. Here’s what I’ve learned from Blue and Devo, and their many predecessors, over the years.

022

  • If you need attention, put yourself right there until you get it.
  • Once you’ve learned how to relax your entire body with one big heavy sigh, all your problems will seem to melt away.
  • Sometimes you have to bark to be heard.
  • Put yourself right in the middle of the bed and let the rest of the planet adjust to you.
  • Sleep is the most wonderful thing on earth.
  • Learn how to look cute and the world will beat a path to your door.
  • If you really want to maintain a healthy body weight, eat the same boring thing every day, but do it with enthusiasm.
  • If you don’t talk, people will usually assume that your motives are pure.
  • All you need is love. And kibble.
  • If your natural instinct is to tell the truth, someone is bound to call you their best friend.
  • Everything tastes better with gravy.
  • It’s usually best to keep your opinions to yourself.
  • Every once in a while, howl at the moon.
  • Never go for the jugular when simply baring your teeth will do.
  • Be comfortable with who you are.
  • Allow yourself to be hugged.
  • There’s nothing quite like a good back scratch.
  • Squirrels are highly overrated.
  • If everyone around you believes you can’t do housework, then you’ve got it made.
  • If an artist catches you playing poker just once, you’ll never live it down.