Friday, August 17, 2018

Time Travel, Truth, and a Tens Machine

Wupatki National Monument Near Flagstaff, Arizona

Not eager for the future (health insurance, disability hearing, unemployment for my sweetheart), I've tried diving into the past. Two time periods are in my sights--June's wonderful vacation and the 1000-1300 AD time period when the Archaic Pueblo sites we visited were thriving towns. I'm trying to reach both by reading Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest by Stephen Plog. 

So far, it is a struggle. Although not technically academic writing, this book sure feels that way to my addled and idled brain. I feel like I'm getting lots of information on climate patterns and dating techniques. These are important to understanding how and when people where able to thrive in this difficult area, but I''m wanting to know more of what archaeology has a hard time telling--what was daily life like for people? I want to know what they wore and ate, how they spent their time, what their religion was like. 

The book is only beginning to describe the time periods of sites we visited, so there is a lot yet to learn. I will need to seek out newer books as well. This one is from 1997. I keep forgetting that the nineties were a long time ago, back when my now-adult babies were born.

I've found a source for very current archaeological topics through the Archaeology Podcast Network. The shows are intelligent and there is one focused on Native American perspectives, so I can hope they will eventually cover topics I want to learn about.

For future travels, I probably need to investigate Hopi tribal information to seek web pages and museums sponsored by the living descendants of these people who may be qualified to speculate. 

The Museum of Northern Arizona, which we hope to spend lots of time visiting in the future, may be able to link me up with some good sources of information as well. They do a better job than the federal parks themselves at describing both the history and the geology of the region. They also seem to be working with Native Americans to obtain information on the past and the present.

One issue from the past that may require a time machine to resolve is the purpose of the ball pits at some of the Southwestern sites.

Sadly not the germ-ridden ball-pits I let my kids drool in, these are actually ball courts similar to ones found as far north as the Colorado Plateau and as far south as Maya areas in Central America. Since so many pueblos had them, Archaeologists think the game had to have deeper meaning than just a game. Maybe there was a religious, status, or trade element to the ball games.


I'm a Mormon. Most of our church buildings in the US, and many world wide have basketball courts inside. The courts fill one purpose of a large multipurpose room we call the "cultural hall." This room is used for wedding receptions, talent shows, scout meetings--anything that requires a big room. It also serves as overflow space for our chapels. 

As back-row worshippers, my family has been praying under a basketball hoop for years. I would love to travel to the future and see what archeologists guess about the religious or community status purpose of basketball may be .

Though I keep trying to make things up, I have yet to find the relationship. 

If there is anything sacred about basketball, BYU is sinful in its emphasis on football. 

While reading, I have been playing with my brand new tens-machine to see if it can do anything to help my locked-up shoulder muscles. Throughout my first three 80 minute sessions, I wasn't sure anything was happening at all. I didn't feel anything resembling a massage, but thought maybe the electricity was doing something. Finally I dropped the machine. accidentally changing the setting, and actually felt something. 

I can now program in 8o minutes of pounding and vibrations. It is at least distracting from pain while the program runs, but I'm not sure it is any more effective than stretching. 

THE PODCAST this week is on a poem called, "Before I got my eye put out." It is about how cautious the speaker is now about the vision that remains.

THE KNITTING consists of a sweater made from most of the rest of the recycled yarn from my Shakespeare adventure. 

I'll need to work up a Christmas inventory soon, but will probably start the fuzzy goat sweater first .

I also need to get a lot of stuff listed in my shop.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hope is a Non-native, Invasive Species

In her famous poem, Emily Dickinson paints hope as a positive, necessary life force. But I've found hope can also be dangerous. For me, hope can easily grow into wishful, even magical thinking.
Supposedly, a Shakespeare fan imported starlings.

We married young and poor and made money mistakes that made things worse. My contribution to those mistakes was mostly hoping that a check would come in the mail, maybe even a winning sweepstakes check. I entered all the sweepstakes, surely a small win was inevitable. We don't have enough money to buy this right now, but surely a check is on the way.

To save our budget and our marriage, I had to pull that sort of hope out by the roots. I now consider it a nuisance, something unwanted and out of place, like starlings, raccoons or kudzu.

Butter-and-eggs, pretty wildflower supposedly out of place.
Magical-thinking hope troubles everyone living with health problems or caring for someone with such problems. Everyone hopes for a miracle cure.

Each new biologic I try might be the one that doesn't only allow me to function a couple hours a day with a lot of pain meds, but really turns my life around, a miracle.

But miracles are miraculous precisely because they almost never happen.

I'm on this topic because something unusual happened at my latest rheumatologist visit. As usual, I gave a run-down of my aches and pains. The definition of both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia is that everything hurts and always will, so I wasn't expecting anything new.

But after I described the shooting pain I'm having in both shoulders and arms, my doctor said that wasn't caused directly by either of my issues. Knowing we are facing employment/insurance changes, he booked me for the soonest possible MRI appointment.
My sweetheart said "no" to the goat. Maybe a cane toad?

Apparently I'm not horribly claustrophobic because the MRI wasn't bad. Lying still with my head and legs slightly elevated is one of my favorite hobbies. The room was pleasantly cool in contrast to the cozy heated blanket that covered my feet.

It was noisy, and not the whirring sorts of noise I expected, but a lot of irregular pounding, like someone was using a sledge hammer to test the acoustic properties of different parts of the machine. But I taught middle school for 25 years. Noise is fine if I don't have to control it.
Dyer's woad makes pretty blue dye, but takes over range land. 

The next step was to wait and try to stomp down sprouts of unrealistic hope. My worst fear is the most likely answer. I have one more painful situation that there isn't a cure for, but hey, aspirin helps some people.

My first extreme hope was the MRI would reveal something so weird and obvious that the imaging tech would say something, but he was a total pro.

Magical thinking hope was that something could be done to allow me to sleep without having to choose which pulsing shoulder to lie on. Ideally something that won't involve surgery on or near my spine.

I've always wished someone would discover a rare deficiency that causes all of my problems and if I simply took some supplement all would be well. (It happened on House all the time.)

Possums: okay in Australia, invasive in New Zealand.
But continual hope comes with repeated disappointment. I do best with acceptance. Acceptance and a gentler type of hope.

I can safely hope to feel a bit better after a nap. I can hope to have a good day after a bad day. I can hope there will always be one more biologic that will slow my disease and prevent the extreme crippling that once happened to people with RA.

Actual results are worse than my worst fear--no  answer. My spine is fine but there is some narrowing of the nerve corridor at C5. After I answered the nurse with a hesitant, "Okay?" She clarified that if pain continues I should see a spine specialist and they will forward the MRI data to him. (I assume they think I know that doesn't mean chiropractor.)

There isn't time on the current insurance to see a specialist. As pain continues, I'll figure out how to navigate the new insurance.

In the meantime, I've ordered a tens machine. My sister recommended some exercises that helped her for tennis elbow and I followed them to exercises that should help with rotator cup issues. I'll try to help myself for a while.
Ballerinas were once non-native. I'll let you judge whether or not they are invasive

THE PODCAST is, surprisingly, about joy, which Emily Dickinson portrays by seeing herself as a ballerina. I've taught enough ballerinas (in my English class) to know how hard they work to look light and effortless, so if I was to imagine myself joyous, I'd probably be a golden retriever chasing a ball.

A much sweeter non-native invasive than I am

THE KNITTING consists mainly of secret presents, and my arms haven't allowed much progress otherwise, so I don't have much to show you, but I did finish spinning my goaty yarn, I should just have enough for a short sleeved sweater. It will be fuzzy and very warm. Dare I hope for winter this year?

Friday, August 3, 2018

My World's on Fire; How 'bout Yours?

All fire photos available at KSL News

Goose Creek fire in Utah
The American West is burning. Strangely, this is to some degree normal. Range fires and forest fires, usually started by lightning, burned large dry patches of the west every summer before Europeans arrived, maybe even before people arrived.

But it's getting worse.

Human negligence has long contributed to the problem through untended campfires, dropped cigarettes, fireworks, and heat and sparks from machinery.

But a more collective form of human negligence is increasing the problem--global warming is becoming a big factor. Cold places like the Arctic and Antarctic are getting warmer. Wet places like Ireland are experiencing unusual dry spells.

Millard County
Part of our fire problem is heat; summer is longer and hotter now. But the biggest factor is drought. Much of this country has always been a desert to begin with, but the dryer the vegetation is, and the sooner the landscape turns from green to brown, the more susceptible to fire everything is.

We had almost no snow and until March last winter. Little rain has fallen since. The reservoir  above our neighborhood is the lowest I've seen it in forty years.

California fires dominate the news every summer but we have them throughout the Rockies too. On dry years like this, they start before July and burn constantly well into the fall.

Remains of a fire at a wild bird refuge (wetland!) near the Great Salt Lake
I haven't personally seen any of this-year's fires. Though the mountains above me and the equestrian park next door often burn, we have been lucky so far.

We did have family camping plans cancelled because the area where our reservations were caught fire.

I'm happy to say that most of my neighbors observed the fireworks restrictions this year. I didn't see anything lit up near my home on the 4th or the 24th. The fact that a nearby home was severely damaged last year may have helped people realize that the restrictions are necessary.

Though we haven't seen fire, we are breathing the smoke. Every day for the past two weeks the haze has increased. The Salt Lake Valley is a huge bowl that seems to suck in and store pollution, especially when the air is relatively still in summer and winter. What weather we get comes through California and brings more smoke.

Today (Thursday) is overcast and there are predictions of scattered showers, which are good, and thunderstorms, which are bad. So far the clouds are high and pale, so I'm not counting on either, but the lower temperatures are appreciated.

There is an odd silver (or golden) lining to the smoke. Sunsets are more colorful.

Unfortunately this is not where I worship--Pinterest picture
THE PODCAST is about two perfect summer days. It is also about worshipping in nature instead of formally in church. As a church goer, I can see the appeal of Emily's argument. Unfortunately for Dickinson, neither worshipping in church nor in her own garden eased her anxiety about the afterlife.


There may be a solution, or at least a diagnosis coming for my arm and shoulder pain. My rheumatologist signed me up for an MRI this coming Monday night.

I was surprised because I assumed almost all pain fit into either the RA or fibromyalgia slots, for which I am already taking whatever drugs are recommended. I'm not sure what can be done about pinched nerves,  or alien parasites, or whatever else may be causing the pain, but it is nice to be taken seriously.

Due to the arm pain and the blues they cause, I've been working on fiber prep and have four colors of yarn blended and ready to spin.

I also have two scarves finished, the first made on the loom during Shakespeare when I couldn't handle not knitting. I'll probably keep it because the ends are too raggedy to put up for sale and because it''s very neutral. I'm working on a sweater for myself from the remaining recycled yarn--using knitting needles.

The second,  I feel like I've been working on forever, though I started it on the way home from my vacation. I was getting totally sick of knitting it, but now it is finished, I'm falling back in love. The yarn was spun from a blend of wool, silk, and flax. The color is great. I had initially planned to put it up for sale, but I'm thinking of keeping it now.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Getting My Goat Out of the Closet

An Angora goat, part lawnmower, part yarn store. He's what I'd call an investment. If you agree, talk to my husband.

I am in a funk.

I don't know if my biologic or my antidepressant is failing me, if it's the combined stresses of upcoming changes, if it's this never-ending shoulder pain that migrates between and up and down both arms, but I'm definitely not well.

In a practical sense the why doesn't matter as much as the what. What this does is leave me tired, apathetic, and peevish, not the sort of person I want to be around. And I'm pretty much stuck with being around myself.
Look up "adult coloring" on Google images--it's safe, and cheaper than coloring books

I need a pick-me-up. Careful calorie counting eliminates the ice cream option, though I could have some in place of lunch. Consumer therapy (shopping) is also off the table because due to all the future job/benefit/insurance/life changes potentially looming, we are being careful with money.

I tried the coloring thing. This last month I've colored my way through half of two different coloring books. It beats eating while watching TV or playing computer solitaire, I'll keep doing it. But it isn't distracting enough.
I'm only sure two of these bags are goat. Labeling things is important.

 I need a project--something I can get excited about, something more frivolous than all the cleaning and organizing I should be doing.

And in one of the cupboards I've been organizing is a frivolous project I've been postponing because there are so many other things I should finish first.

I have a several bags of washed, but not combed hair/wool from an Angora goat. I have no idea when/where I purchased this. Angora goats are supposed to be the source of mohair, which itches me to work with, but this goat fiber is soft and lovely. I've only used it for one project because it needs to go through the whole combing and maybe dying process before spinning and knitting. This is the complexity I need.

I'm serious, order anything from Created by Elsie B on Etsy. I'll work it up for you.

My plan is to combine the goat with some already dyed and ready to spin fiber I have from Created by Elsie B. (If you buy me anything she makes, I will joyfully spin and knit it into an item of your choice.)

clean, combed goat hair
 Fortunately, I even have some goat hair already carded. I need 12 ounces of goat to blend with 4 ounces of wool, which will give me a pound of finished fiber, enough for most projects. Now I just need to finish this blog, eat breakfast (?11:35 AM? I spend too much time in bed.) and clean off the drum carder.
dirty drum carder

THE PODCAST is about the music of the wind, which Emily Dickinson can hear, but I can't. Maybe Amherst is windier than Sandy. Most places are. Maybe one of us is a little crazy.


Hats, so many hats, I think six of them, in need of photographing and listing in my shop on Etsy.

I don't know why it is hard to do that final step. I don't know why it's hard to return emails or make phone calls. Sometimes I just get stuck and I'm stuck right now. Here is a picture of the only hat I haven't already posted on the blog. 

And here is a darling new dinosaur I met yesterday at the museum of natural history. He is a Utah native who was hiding in the politically controversial Grand Staircase Escalante Monument. His story is worth reading. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Was the Bard a Bigot?

Opera singers have long played Verdi's "Otello" in dark makeup? How did Shakespeare present his Othello?
I was excited to plan my second annual excursion to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, but less than thrilled with the choice of plays. Why did they present the two racist plays on the same year?

Fortunately our only comedy came first, "Merry Wives of Windsor." It was sweet and silly, set in turn-of-the-century America and punctuated by barbershop quartet numbers. This Elizabethan Drama actually passes the Bechdel Test, with two middle aged female leads who talk about their children as well as about the greedy, lecherous drunk they work together to bring down.

There are jokes at the expense of the French, in the form of a doctor who can't pronounce words understandably, and the Welsh, through a clergyman who often uses the wrong word. But apparently I haven't been raised to feel sensitive about the feelings of those groups, despite a good dose of Welsh DNA.

"Othello" worried me most. I had read it in college and found it too painfully tragic to cope with. I also saw a film version of the opera "Otello" with Pavarotti in what could best be described as "red face," really bad makeup that made him look more like all the blood had rushed to his head than like he was from Northern Africa. So armed with expectations of racism and domestic violence, I tentatively entered the intimately-sized theater chosen for the performance.

Despite this photo, Iago is rarely in the shadows. He controls the show.

I think it was the best of the three performances we saw. Wayne T. Carr brilliantly portrayed the charismatic Othello, a confident soldier slowly goaded into tortured insecurity and murder.

But the star was Brian Vaughn as the villain, Iago. We spent most of the play inside Iago's head as he plans to manipulate everyone around him to accomplish his ambitions of military advancement and his personal vendetta against Othello.

Because I was watching for it, I noticed that all the racial slurs in the play come from Iago. Everyone refers to Othello as "the Moor," but it doesn't seem to be out of disrespect.

The other character who showed dislike for Othello was his father-in-law. Apparently Desdemona's father suspected nothing until she eloped. We don't know if race, rank, or money was the reason the couple didn't ask for permission. When Brabantio complained to the Duke about his daughter's marriage, he was told to accept the couple because Othello was crucial to the safety of Venice.

Shakespeare doesn't give Desdemona enough lines to explore domestic violence and why women stay.
When Othello begins to suspect and mistreat Desdemona, everyone who knew him shows absolute shock because the behavior is so contrary to his nature.

The ending was as horrible and sad as expected and I left the theater wanting to wash the evil scheming of Iago out of my brain.

"The Merchant of Venice" is a weird blend of comedy and racism.

When I first read the play in college, I assumed Shakespeare created Shylock, the Jew, from old folklore. Jews had been expelled from England several hundred years before, maybe they hadn't come back yet.

During the pre-play introduction we learned that "Merchant of Venice" may have been anti-Jewish propaganda. Queen Elizabeth had a trusted Jewish physician. As she started preferring his advice over that of some of her official advisors, they took action against him by paying popular playwrights to stir up anti-Jewish sentiment. Eventually, when the queen went out of town, they quickly arrested and executed the doctor. Some scholars think Shakespeare was already writing the romantic comedy side of "Merchant of Venice" and added the Antonio/Shylock conflict to fulfill a commission.

Whatever Shakespeare's intention, the director, Patricia Anderson, made the Jewish characters in the play completely sympathetic. We see Antonio's friends (played by a multi-ethnic cast) violently abuse Shylock on the streets. His anger at these people who abuse him and steal his daughter is understandable.

The audience is torn between our expected sympathies for main characters and feelings of repugnance toward their words and deeds. Although no one in the audience wants Antonio killed, I think most of us would have been happy to see Shylock get away free after his claim is denied. Instead he is jailed and forced to convert to Christianity.

All the while, Jessica, Shylock's daughter is shown regretting her choice. Conversations with her husband quickly turn into arguments. She tries to pray by crossing herself and finds the gesture unsatisfying. While Shylock is stripped of traditional Jewish clothing and a cross is put around his neck, Jessica, far away in Portia's house, is in a quiet corner rocking and reciting a Jewish prayer.

An image search shows Tarah Flanagan in many roles
The casting of this play was interesting and fun. Bassanio, Portia's successful suitor, is played by Wayne T. Carr, star of Othello the night before. Portia, Tarah Flanagan, is one of the Merry Wives from two days ago. These are professional actors, but my mind spins at the thought of remembering two leading Shakespearian roles at once. And they likely appear in in some of the plays I didn't see.

Casting characters with more thought for talent than race has long been the tradition in Opera and Shakespearean performances, but Anderson also cast some parts contrary to gender. Just as Shakespeare used boys and men to play women's roles, Anderson cast three women in men's roles, including the title character, Antonio. I noticed, but it did not at all distract from the story.

Next year features Macbeth, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night, all plays I know and love well. I'm looking forward to it, but wondering if I can find a less painful way to travel or a better recovery plan.

So as to my title, was Shakespeare a bigot? To some degree he probably was. We are all raised with the prejudices of our environment, surely he was not too unlike other Elizabethan Englishmen.

But because Shakespeare gives all of his characters depth and motivation, it's hard to tell simply by his words. We would probably have to see Shakespeare direct these problematic plays to get a sense of his feelings.

THE PODCAST--I am back on track and talking about a poem that sounds like Emily Dickinson is ready to march into battle. It was written during the beginning of the Civil War and probably caught my eye because I am currently listening to the Civil War podcast  (which I would highly recommend).

The likely agoraphobic Emily is all talk in "Unto like Story--Trouble has enticed me," just like I am when it comes to politics. Neither of us are physically able to march into trouble for a good cause. I am thankful that, unlike women in the 19th century, I can at least vote. And unlike Emily, I am not afraid to publish.

THE KNITTING remains slow because I am not supposed to do much of it if I want to get my aching left arm back. I've reluctantly taken up coloring to pass the time when I want to knit. I've also finished another hat. Like the previous hats, it will be in my shop when I get on the ball and get Etsy caught up.

LIFE is stressful. We have a date for my disability hearing now--October 2. Our family has to change to my husband's insurance on September 1 and we may have to go on COBRA in January because his layoff is scheduled for December 28. With that much up in the air it is hard not to feel stressed and stress exacerbates all my symptoms. I'm not sure when I'll be back to normal or if I need to accept current levels of pain and lack of energy as my new normal.
My normal range is 3-8. I've been spending a lot of time at 7 lately.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fun is Too Expensive

I went to a Shakespeare festival this week with one of my retired teacher friends. It was fun while it lasted. It will be fun in my memory possibly by the end of next week. But right now is not fun.
I've fallen and. . . you know the rest.

Whenever I use an unusual amount of energy, which is still very little by a healthy person's standards, my brain and body need a lot of time to recover.

Part of me is already composing next week's blog with insight into the performances I saw, but thinking in whole paragraphs, staying upright to compose full paragraphs will have to wait.

I left planning to write my podcast for Thursday while resting in my hotel room, then record and post it after I got home. Didn't happen.

At least I knew knitting was out of the question. Though I cheated a little. We spent some time at a second-hand store where I bought a sweater for $4 to pull apart and a scarf loom for $1 to fake-knit on. (I would have bought needles if they had any.) That movement is not repetitive enough to add to the pain in my arm and shoulder which haven't seemed to recover any with rest. I'll share photos next week.

When I was still trying to teach and live a normal life in spite of illness, I had a few songs that helped me through. Pain is very individual and very lonely, but the songs made me feel like someone understood. A lot of people probably misunderstood. A young teacher asked with great concern about my mental state. I'll leave it with you, but also leave it to you to find links to the songs. Any recommended additions are welcome. I need to lie back down and cry for a few minutes.

Valley of Pain by Bonnie Raitt
Everybody Hurts by REM
Hurt (originally by Nine Inch Nails) cover by Johnny Cash

Saturday, July 7, 2018

New Tech, Distant Journeys, Deep Time

This Studebaker is a marker for Route 66 in Petrified Forest National Park.

Before I escape back into vacation memories, a personal update.

Based on current information from my husband's company, we have chosen not to move. That means instead of a relocation upending us right away, we are looking at unemployment beginning with the new year. I'll keep you posted.

When my husband relaxed into this choice, I was able to drop the high energy supportive wife  mode and collapsed into a flare. That meant I was radiating heat from my whole body and pain pills didn't make any real difference.  After a week of mostly resting, I am back to my definition of normal.

But neither of us are well. My husband's coworkers are facing the same issues, so the conversation at work is constant and stressful. He nervously over-exercised yesterday and is now suffering. I channelled my own nerves into knitting, so my shoulder is back to bad. I'm going to be a good girl and leave the knitting behind when I go out of town for a Shakespeare festival next week. I've packed two fidget spinners and will bring high-tech distractions. I might have to find a yarn shop in Cedar City.

Back to travel memories:
We are serious science fans. For my husband, anything involving space exploration and the technology involved with it attracts him like a magnet.

Due to this obsession, he has long wanted to visit the Very Large Array in New Mexico. It is a series of 27 radio dishes (and one spare) that have been picking up signals from space since the late 70s.

Though it includes a museum and visitors are welcome, the VLA is not easy to visit because it is, intentionally, far away from everywhere. For us, this was a top priority on our journey.

You might be familiar with the VLA from Contact, a movie starring Jodie Foster as a scientist looking for radio signals from alien civilizations.

We like and recommend the movie, but it creates misconceptions about the purposes of these dishes. If the aliens sent a radio message, VLA would "hear" it, but it's real purpose is to look deep into space.

Radio waves are a form of light waves that we cannot see, but the satellite dishes can detect them and give scientists usable data. The antennas are on train tracks and are moved into different positions for different types of focus, like the iris of an eye contracting and dilating to adjust to differing light.

The VLA has captured a view of material spinning around the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy. It has added to understanding of how stars and planets are formed. Because it takes billions of years for radio waves from deep space to reach Earth, scientists are using the data to try to understand the early days of the universe.

Each antenna weighs 230 tons. The diameter on top is 82 feet. They are 90 feet high. It was fun watching my husband run around the tourist area to get as up close and personal as they let us get to these amazing machines.

We now know that they post information on their web page on when the antennas will be in each different formation. I'm sure we will plan another trip back when they are closest together and therefore most photogenic. (Ideally it will also be in cooler weather.)

Our other astronomy visit was almost an accident. We planned a couple days in Flagstaff, Arizona because it was central to several locations. When I went online to find out what we could do in any spare time, the Lowell Observatory appeared. I expected something like the planetarium in Salt Lake, but this was better. Real discoveries have been made there. The observatory was built in 1894 above what was a small town in the mountains because it offered clear skies and darkness.

Newly restored, this 117-year-old telescope is now used for public education.
Percival Lowell was looking for evidence of life on Mars. Although he was disappointed in that search, important discoveries have been made at the observatory.

Pioneers in infrared astronomy found evidence that universe is expanding.

More famously, in 1930 Clyde Tombaugh used infinite patience and a telescope designed to photograph space in order to discover Pluto.

In 1961, the newest telescopes were moved further from town, where discoveries, such as the rings around Uranus, continue.

Now the Lowell Observatory's original site is used primarily for public education. When we visited, they were hosting an enthusiastic and loud science camp for elementary school kids.

We attended two tours, one about the founding of the observatory and another about the discovery of Pluto. When we left, they were setting up telescopes so people could look at the sun.

The Pluto Telescope--the wooden part on the bottom is where photographic plates were put.
We had seen quite enough of the sun already, but wished we had the energy to go back and look through the big telescopes at night.

When life settles down a little, and days get shorter, we will go back to Flagstaff and the Lowell Observatory. The hope is to visit when one of the planets is up at a good time for viewing.

We have a little back yard telescope and have looked at Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. Our telescope isn't powerful enough to show much more than bigger dots of light, but we can see more than Galileo did.

With the right conditions, we can see that Venus has phases like the moon. Four moons are visible by Jupiter as well as some sense of color on the planet. Saturn shows us its rings and and its largest moon.

Seeing these things with my own eyes somehow brings them closer. It feels like a miracle. I'd love to look at Mars with a telescope large enough to show the "canals" that excited Percival Lowell enough to invest his fortune in an observatory.

All of the photos for this blog (except for the knitting) are by my husband. Here is a rather miraculous photo he managed to take by lining up his cell phone with the eyepiece of our telescope--Jupiter and the Galilean moons--so clear and close you can almost touch them from our overly well-lit yard in Salt Lake City.

THE PODCAST is a Dickinson tribute to summertime. Summer seems to ease her obsession with death. She's not sure whether it is God or magic that deserves the credit, but is thankful to wake to yet another summer day.

Despite 100 degrees yesterday, so am I.

THE KNITTING consists mostly of two hats.

The all grey one is inspired by Ancestral Pueblo pottery I saw white traveling.

The floral and striped one is a doodle I made up, then hurt my arm to finish.

Both will be available in my shop eventually, but I probably won't get them listed until next week. If you want to reserve one of them, send me a message.