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Post-apoc-eclips-ish

22 Aug

I had intended to write a post about how I sat, eclipse glasses on, knitting  my 2018 Back-to-School socks with my eclipse yarn, during yesterday’s eclipse.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

I started planning weeks ago. I bought my eclipse glasses on the way home from Bend in the first week of August. I tested them Sunday, just to understand what I would see.

I preordered my “Total Eclipse of the Sun” yarn, picked it up on Saturday and cast on my 2018 Back-to-School socks Monday night. I wanted to be ready.

 

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Yesterday, I made sure Lucy took a potty break just before 9 a.m.  Her tummy has been a little off and I didn’t want  any accidents (cosmic or biological proportions) while the eclipse was going on.

A little after 9, I heard on the radio that the event was beginning. I donned my glasses, opened my front door  and took a look. A  nibble appeared on the sun’s upper right edge. I felt more excited than I thought I’d be. No one else was out and we still had at least an hour before we made it to the 99.2% eclipse we were expecting in Portland. I had joked earlier in the day that we were in the Path of Totalitish.  I puttered happily in the house, then decided to pop my head out again. And that is when my glasses slipped.

It was a mere, momentary flash in my right eye, but that was enough. I quickly entered the house and tested my vision. I was OK, but when my eyes were closed, I could see the residual image of the eclipsing sun. I had heard on the radio that such an accident probably wouldn’t cause blindness, but I was spooked. I stayed in the house for a while testing my eye, relieved that, within about 20 minutes, the residual image had disappeared. But I was done with my ill-fitting glasses.

I heard my neighbors setting up in the courtyard popped my hatted head out the door again, facing away from the sun. They had eclipse glasses and pinholed paper plates.

I had found these directions on-line earlier in the day and sent them to my brother-in-law who had no glasses. He had made one, tested it and said it worked, so I knew I could be safe and experience the eclipse.

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I had a box I’d been planing to use to for the classroom books I’d collected over the summer.  I grabbed it and got to work.

I almost gave up when I realized I had used up the last of my tape that morning on a package I planned to mail today. Of course, I could find no glue. Fortunately, I have a “can do” attitude and found some stickers I could use as tape.

I made sure the foil was well secured.

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Then I attached the paper that would capture the image,

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Voilà! I felt safe to join my neighbors.

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Feeling more confident, I had a great time in the courtyard with my neighbors, who were also a little skittish about blinding themselves.  They mostly used their pinhole devices, but, from time to time they put on their glasses and quickly turned to look at the eclipsing sun, then back again. We laughed at how much more excited we were than we’d expected to be.

We noted the darkening world, the dropping temperatures, the strange color of the light as the moon moved across the sun. When we got to the point that was as close to 99.2% as we were getting,  the light seemed almost orange and we noticed strange patterns that I later learned were called shadow bands. It was fun to go into the street and, back to the sun, and doff my box to see all the people who were home and excited by the eclipse.

“The sun is still frowning,” my neighbor James commented.

“It was a smile inside my box,” I joked, realizing the pin-hole camera had given me a reversed image. My near disaster had turned into a community event. Everyone was amazed.

When the process started reversing itself,  I donned my box once more and saw that the smile was getting bigger. People started slipping back in to their homes and, before too long, the sun was fully back in the sky. I brought my box back into my house, and set it back near the stack of books I will take in to school later this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baby Bird

19 Jul

 

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The baby bird fell from a tree we had just gathered around before beginning the set up. It landed right at the feet of our group. Startled, a few of us jumped back, and more than one “Oh” was heard. The wee thing cheeped loudly as it hopped in the grass, clearly unable to fly. We looked from one to another, no one quite sure what to do.

“We’ll need to get it to some place safe before we begin setting up and before the people and dogs arrive,” someone finally said.” Let’s get it in a container without touching it. We can try to figure out how best to return it to its family once they’ve all gone.”

The rest of us agreed and we all looked around for a suitable container, finally settling on an empty pop can box , which was placed behind the registration desk that I was to man for the Oregon basset Hound Games, the cause that had gathered us at the park that day. As I organized papers  and other materials, I could hear the little bird chirping and scratching  in the box. I talked to it as I got the registration desk set up, imagining its chirps were responses to my queries and comments. I checked on her occasionally (I had come to think of her as a her), as people began registering.  Once things got busy, though, I forgot about my tiny companion sitting on the table behind me.

The registration table got quiet as the events began and I had time to check on my little friend once more. At first, I thought she was sleeping, finally relaxed in her temporary home. And then, suddenly, I realized my error. The baby bird we’d tried to save had died. Was it something we had done, I wondered, tears filling my eyes? Had she been fatally wounded by the fall? Maybe she had been pushed out of its nest.

Thoughts of my little friend kept a hold on my mind as I enjoyed the antics of the basset hounds participating in the Games. When the Games and the clean-up were over, I took her in my hands for the first time. She was so light, she felt weightless! I looked around the park for a suitable burying place and found one, away from the paths and in a secluded  area. I found a sheltered spot at the base of a tree and buried her there. I said a little prayer for my little friend before I turned and made my way back to my car for the drive home.

 

Maybe a Newbery?

6 May

It is funny that two excellent books, both told in alternating stories and featuring  a fox in one of those stories, were released within a month of each other. Pax was released in February. Maybe a  Fox, written by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee was release in March, though I just read it this week.

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Oh my, this book is wonderful. It took me a couple of chapters to get into it and the book certainly didn’t go where I expected it to go, but this one has a Newbery feel to it.  Senna, the fox was my favorite, even though Jules is the real main character. This book certainly destined to be on some Best of 2016 lists.

Publisher’s Summary: Worlds collide in a spectacular way when Newbery and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Pulitzer Prize nominee and #1 New York Times bestseller Alison McGhee team up to create a fantastical, heartbreaking, and gorgeous tale about two sisters, a fox cub, and what happens when one of the sisters disappears forever.

Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.

Writing in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st7OaBfSyA8

YALSA’s 2016 Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check-in #2

27 Dec

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The rereading of the Morris Award finalists continues. I can’t believe it is only 12 days until I go to Boston.

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I finished Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War  by Steve Sheinkin. It is interesting that it all took place during my childhood. I remember bits of it in the news, but never really put it all together.

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I also read This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon by Nancy Plain.

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I never really gave Mr. Audubon much thought. Although I’ve read a few novels in which he is featured, I just sort of imagined him in a studio, painting. This Strange Wilderness really sheds light on the struggles he had to simply make the paintings and what it took to get the book published. This book feels much more like a  traditional biography than Most Dangerous, but it is very well-written and researched and, reading it, I got a real feel for the times in which Mr Audubon lived.

I have two of the other three books checked out from the library.I’ve already read these, but will reread them with a more critical eye. The third is on hold ad, of course, it is the one I haven’t read. I’m hoping to get it this week.

Fields, Lakes & Gowganda

10 Sep

My mother was born in a town called Field, in northern Ontario. We used to joke that she was born in a field. Let’s just say I got my sense of humor from my dad.

She grew up speaking French and was told she’d go to Hell if she played with English kids. She started learning English when she started school. Fortunately for her, her oldest sister, my Aunt Yvette, married and English-speaking Protestant, to Mamère’s horror. Mamère had softened  by the time my mother married an English-speaking Protestant.

I got thinking about my mom’s young life as I read Out of the Woods by Rebecca Bond. It is a retelling of an episode from her grandfather’s life, and is set not far from where my mother gee up.

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Publisher’s Summary:Antonio Willie Giroux lived in a hotel his mother ran on the edge of a lake. He loved to explore the woods and look for animals, but they always remained hidden away. One hot, dry summer, when Antonio was almost five, disaster struck: a fire rushed through the forest. Everyone ran to the lake-the only safe place in town-and stood knee-deep in water as they watched the fire. Then, slowly, animals emerged from their forest home and joined the people in the water. Miraculously, the hotel did not burn down, and the animals rebuilt their homes in the forest-but Antonio never forgot the time when he watched the distance between people and animals disappear.

The book has a magical feel. Perhaps it is because of the quality of the art, which feels like old sepia photographs. Perhaps it is the quiet voice that tells this story. I just which i had been there, to see the humans and animals, gathered together in the lake.

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Although this isn’t really a personal narrative, it is the retelling of a family story, so I will set it out during my erosional narrative unit for kids to browse if inspiration is needed.

F is for fantastic

10 Aug

I don’t often post about books for adults, but when I do, it is because it is something really noteworthy. And H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald is worth noting.

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The publisher’s summary describes the book this way:

As a child, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer, learning the arcane terminology and reading all the classic books. Years later, when her father died and she was struck deeply by grief, she became obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She bought Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and took her home to Cambridge, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals.

H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald’s struggle with grief during the difficult process of the hawk’s taming and her own untaming. This is a book about memory, nature and nation, and how it might be possible to reconcile death with life and love.

It is all that, but it is so much more. I’ve been listening to it in my car since sowing back from my dad’s funeral. I love listening to books in the car and this one is read by the author, who is also a beautiful reader.

In her NYT review of H is for Hawk, Vicki Constantine Croke describes Macdonald’s writing as “words that mimic feathers, so impossibly pretty we don’t notice their astonishing engineering”. You will be swept into the tale yourself without even realizing the marvelous way it is happening. Although the author is telling a tale that is sad and honest, there is a beauty to it. We watch Macdonald recover from ruin as she heals from the shock of her father’s unexpected death. It isn’t always pretty and her honesty, though painful at times, helps the reader see that the process is truly transformational.

Teacher friends, there are only a few weeks left before we go back to school. If you don;t have a chance to read H is for Hawk before you go back, perhaps you could read it during the school year, because every new school year is a transformational as Macdonald’s experience with Mabel.

An infinite capacity for storytelling: Hilary T. Smith

3 Aug

What do you do when your  all planes are grounded and your flight is delayed 2 hours due to thunderstorms and lightning? Read of course.

Fortunately for me, I had planned to read Hilary T. Smith’s new book,  A Sense of the Infinite,  on the plane ride home.

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What a stunningly beautiful book.

Publisher’s Summary: By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith’s second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

While it is not uncommon to see YA books deal with the collapse of a friendship, Smith has written one that does it in a fresh new way. I don’t want to give away too many details, but there are layers of complexity here that you don’t always see. I really enjoyed the way this novel was structured. Some chapters are long and complex. Others are very short and poetic, but pack an emotional or philosophical punch, like meditations on identity, loss, and friendship.

There are a lot of trigger topics in this book –  eating disorders, abortion, rape, suicide, depression- but the book never feels like an issues book. Annabeth is very likable, but she can be frustrating in the way she lets Noe make decisions for both of them. It was encouraging, though sometimes heart-breaking, to see Annabeth gain strength to become more independent. This os quiet, but powerful book.

Here some really exciting news: You can hear Hilary T. Smith speak at Powell’s in Beaverton this Wednesday, August 5th at 7 in the evening . I am planning on being there and I hope you can be too. She will be sharing the evening with two YA debut authors I can’t speak about but I am excited to hear! You can find more details at this link.  I hope to see you there!

 

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