Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!!!! 2011

Parting shots from 2010--our White Christmas in Alabama (click to enlarge if you wish)

a frosty leaf

two shots from a drive along Hobbs Island Road a few days after the snow

calling this one Mt. Baldy (along Hobbs Island Rd)

snowy farm and mountains in background (along Hobbs Island Road)

early morning snow sparkling on car rooftop

A new day and a new year (glowing cloud bank, bright area in center, highlighted by rising sun to the right out of frame)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Eclipse Parties

Still having computer difficulties, so I'm getting behind on reading blogs. I was just doing a little catching up and while visiting Crafty Green Poet was reminded of the lunar eclipse that I did not get to see last week. My comment on her eclipse post prompted me to post this.

Eclipse parties. The two younger kids and I used to enjoy watching lunar eclipses and meteor showers whenever possible. We would put sleeping bags and pillows on the ground in the front yard (our best spot for viewing), get some snacks together, and settle in for the show. We've been doing this since they were in kindergarten or maybe even in preschool. Summer or winter, if the sky was clear or even partially clear, we'd lie out on the front lawn and watch. It was great fun. Admittedly, when they were younger they often fell asleep before the big show and I would have to wake them up for a quick look before putting them to bed, but the anticipation, preparation, and time together lying out on the ground were as much a part of the experience as the viewing. Their dad usually preferred to stay inside and just peek out now and then to see how things were progressing, but he did his part in the family experience by bringing us hot chocolate when the weather was cold and inquiring as to whether we needed anything at other times of the year, then helping me get the sleepyheads to bed and clean up our viewing site. Our outside cats would join us and sometimes we'd be treated to visits by neighbors' cats as well as the occasional non-domesticated critters such as raccoons or 'possums crossing the yard to get from one neighborhood foraging spot to another.

I remember one eclipse party when Robert was in kindergarten. It must have been a total eclipse because of the amount of publicity beforehand, but I don't really remember (guess I could look it up if I felt like taking the time to work out the year). At any rate, I allowed him to stay up well past normal bedtime to watch with his sister and me, all the while thinking that he was probably going to be really sleepy at school the next day and the teacher would admonish me for allowing him to stay up so late. His sister, only in the third grade, would probably have to endure the same chastisement from her teacher and I would get it from both teachers. My defense would be that this was a wonderful educational opportunity that doesn't happen that often and one that I did not think they should miss. I hoped to instill in my children a love of the natural world and astronomy, so they would be allowed to stay up for the eclipse. We watched the event and the kids were awake most of the time, catnapping now and then. We made it to school just fine the next morning, but I dreaded afternoon carpool when the teachers for the early elementary grades gathered to monitor and assist the boarding of their students like mother hens herding their chicks to safety. I could just hear the teacher's remarks: "Mrs. Lehman! What possessed you to allow Robert to stay up so late to watch the eclipse! He has been off task all day and a complete sleepy head. Maintaining a regular schedule and getting enough sleep is essential to one's well-being. Please do not do this again." Oh, well. I'd face the music when the time came. In the meantime, we were watching the eclipse.

The next afternoon as I waited in the carpool line, I saw Robert's teacher, Mrs. Souvenir, heading straight for my car. Uh oh. I was in for it. I cringed in anticipation. Wait. She was smiling. This is not what I expected. Perhaps she thought to catch more flies with honey and approach with a sweet demeanor before telling me how irresponsible it was that I let my children stay up until nearly 2:00 in the morning to watch a lunar eclipse. To my surprise and great relief, she commended me heartily for allowing them to stay up to have the opportunity to view this rare phenomenon of nature. She told me that Robert was the only kid in the class who could make any reasonable comments about the eclipse, even after their classroom discussions the previous days, and the only one who actually got to see it. Whew! I was relieved. Mrs. Souvenir was a wonderful teacher, but a stickler for schedules, so that kind of positive reinforcement was quite a surprise. However, even if she had figuratively given me detention for depriving my children of sleep, I would have still made a point to try to get them out to watch eclipses whenever weather and visibility allowed. They can always sleep, but they can't always view an eclipse.

We were hoping for another eclipse party last week. We'd had several consecutive nights of very clear skies, even though the temperatures were quite low. I was anticipating snuggly sleeping bags and Dad delivering hot chocolate now and then. Unfortunately, cloud cover had set in early in the day and never cleared during the night. It didn't look as though there would be any possibility of viewing, so we didn't even try to get together for it. Now and then I would go to the front porch to see if there was a break in the clouds, but no luck. Because it seemed that the cloud cover was light, I hoped that it might be possible to see a faint red glow through the clouds at totality, but I think the cloud cover increased as the night wore on.

We missed the eclipse. And our eclipse party. Robert is now 20 and Joanna is 23, so this might have been the last chance to get together for an eclipse party before the kids leave the area and go their separate ways. We should have had a party in honor of the eclipse, lying out in the cold on our sleeping bags, snacking, drinking hot chocolate, and talking of past eclipse parties while viewing the lovely blanket of clouds. I can only hope that they will continue this tradition of family eclipse parties and have them with their children with the time comes.

And who knows, maybe we'll have a party to commemorate the eclipse, complete with sleeping bags and hot chocolate on the front lawn, before the new semester begins.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas

First look out the window Christmas morning.

Looking out the front door

Backseat photographer making pictures on the way to daughter's apartment on campus

Even though it continued to snow throughout the day, the streets weren't too bad, mostly just wet,

thanks to temperatures hovering right around freezing

and these hard working Alabama "snow plows"

Not many folks on campus during Christmas; all quiet at the fitness center

and even on Greek Row

Later temperatures dropped and streets began icing over. Several were closed, including I-565, Memorial Parkway, and other roads at higher elevations, but we got home just fine after a fun Christmas Day with the family on campus.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sundog (Parhelion) Information

For those of you who want more information on sundogs (parhelia, Latin for "beside the sun") check out the Atmospheric Optics website Look for the topic "Ice Halos" and also try "Search-Index." The site features many kinds of atmospheric optical phenomena with explanations and wonderful photographs. If you decided to search for sundogs, be sure to shield your eyes from the sun.

As astronomer Jack Horkheimer ( and used to say, "Keep looking up!"

Friday, December 17, 2010


(sundog, Dec 17, 2010; as usual, click to enlarge)

Still having computer woes. No relief in sight. Saw two more sundogs this afternoon. Too cool. Took bad photos of them with the cell phone. The weather is much milder here today--anything is better than 12 degrees. Cats, rabbits, and dogs are doing well and trying to find mischief to get into. Finally got new glasses to replace the ones I broke last year. They look just about like the pair before the last ones. Liked the last ones best, but these have magnetic clip-on sunglasses. They are supposed to be the new generation of Transitions lenses, too, but I can't tell any difference. The clip-ons are handy when in the car because the tinted windows inhibit the darkening function of the Transitions lenses. Christmas is rapidly approaching and I'm not ready.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

3 in 30

Driving home from Guntersville this afternoon, we were treated to three different sundog sightings in just over thirty minutes. My apologies for the poor photo quality. Colors are washed out because of the brightness of the sun and the camera quality. Although sometimes I get pretty good photos with the cell phone, I didn't today.

No. 1, sighted about 1:50 p.m. when we were atop the hill near River Ridge Road at Gunter's Landing. The little bright spot is the parhelion (sundog). The colors don't show up in the photo. The bright sun to the left washed everything out.

No. 2 spotted about 2:05 p.m. on the highway between Grant and New Hope is a good example of what atmospheric phenomena are not. The bright spot in the center of the pink column is the parhelion; sun to the left out of the frame.The pink column and the tiny white spot above and to the left are photographic. Reflections in window of interior of vehicle are definitely not atmospheric phenomena. This sighting was neat because the entire cloud dissipated as the sundog faded with the movement of the sun.

No. 3 made about 2: 35 p.m. driving east on Weatherly Road. Despite the bright sun, you can see a little color in this photo. The horizontal rainbow line above the sun is photographic.

A shot of the cirrus clouds that often contain the hexagonal plate-shaped ice crystals that make sundogs possible.

Sunday's Snow and Beyond

Snow Saturday night and all day Sunday, into Monday. Not much accumulation, but fun to watch. Here I was driving to Guntersville on Sunday around noon to pick up Robert. The foggy stuff in the distance is the snow really beginning to come down. Not much detail. Never sure how these aim-and-shoot photos will turn out, since I can't look at the view screen and drive at the same time.

Stopped at the Shell Station in New Hope to get some shots of the snow flakes aka giant snow blobs.

On the way back, Robert got this shot of accumulation on a field. The dark spot is standing water. With daily temperatures not getting above 30 and down into the teens at night it has been frozen now since Sunday evening.

Today snow is only left in shady spots and on icy surfaces like this little frozen pond just down from the Gunter's Landing gatehouse.

Monday, December 13, 2010

One of My Favorite Photos

Daughter, Joanna, and big ol' kitty, Pants (Pascal)

(laptop still not fixed)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Tired of the tech problems, so here are some old photos that I hope you enjoy.

Matilda shows off the bun nose

Periwinkle shows off his good luck charm

LillieBun in a favorite spot

Pester checking out the truck

Unknown sheep ladies

Football Bun

Twink learning to spin

Kids check out kids at the museum

It's Always Something

Yesterday, cold and rainy, the heating unit died. Called the repair guy. Won't come until the rain stops. Probably today. He called this morning. New unit is in the works, but not until the big boss comes out and looks things over to give the final verdict and estimate. Probably have it in by the end of the week. Gee. Just as we go into a cold spell. Currently 38 degrees outside and 56 inside. Might have to break out a space heater.