reconnected with friends,
I learned about ZOOM school,
and met our new grandpuppy, Roger.
Still basking in the afterglow.
See you here next week!
--stay curious! (and safe)
I had a wonderful long weekend with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters,
reconnected with friends,
I learned about ZOOM school,
and met our new grandpuppy, Roger.
Still basking in the afterglow.
See you here next week!
--stay curious! (and safe)
I copied that BEST
and hung it on my
right over my bed
where I can
see it when I’m
Maybe you could
copy it too
and hang it
on the wall
in our class
where we can see it
when we are sitting
at our desks
doing our stuff.
from Love That Dog
written by Sharon Creech
(ebook, pub 2014)
[Poetry: a] literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature. (definition from Google on-line dictionary)
In April 1996, the Academy of American Poets instituted National Poetry Month to remind us all that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. In 2021, we are celebrating the Academy’s 25th anniversary of National Poetry Month.
Since 2008, the Academy of American Poets has called attention to poetry in all 50 states with Poem in Your Pocket Day, this year on Thursday, April 29. If you don’t have a favorite poet, try one of mine. Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Allison Pitinii Davis.
Here’s how you can participate:
You can sign up for A Poem A Day in lots of places, too.
Poetry Foundation https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/154719/april-1984
Academy of American Poets https://poets.org/poem-a-day
Cuyahoga County Public Library https://www.cuyahogalibrary.org/Services/William-N-Skirball-Writers-Center/Poetry/Read-Write-30-Days-of-Poetry.aspx
Why even do it?
Sara Letourneau, https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/07/25/five-reasons-daily-poem-reading/ has five reasons. Her reasons, my comments.
Sometimes it is a poem’s sound, its visual look on a page, or a stand-out image that gives me a smile, a nod, or an a-ha.
Here’s a poem I wrote about not being able to write a poem. And I had a deadline.
When a palm, potted and rootbound
pursues the clouds,
its fronds clatter applause.
When a ship, bottled and corked
dreams of tides,
its sails luff in song.
When this poet, soft-brained and pliable
explores the past,
her synapses spit encouragement.
When a pen, ink-heavy and uncapped
sits impatiently, full of promise,
a poem appears.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorites.
Keep A Poem In Your Pocket
Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.
The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed.
So - Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.
stay curious! (and think spring)
…Ramona thought vaguely of all the exciting things she would like to do—learn to twirl a lariat, play a musical saw, flip around and over bars in a gymnastic competition while crowds cheered.
“Ramona, clean up your room!” Mrs. Quimby raised her voice.
from: Ramona Quimby, Age 8
written by Beverly Cleary
illustrated by Alan Tiegreen
(newer reprint editions with various illustrators are in print.)
The world of children’s literature lost a shining star last week. Beverly Cleary passed away Thursday, March 26, 2021, at age 104.
Her books were filled with what she called “the minutiae of life,” those details that make a work of fiction feel real and universal. She wrote stories of regular kids (and Ralph S. Mouse and Ribsy, a child-like mouse and a dog) for regular kids.
In a 2006 interview for her 90th birthday, Mrs. Cleary was asked how she wrote for children so well. She told an NPR interviewer, “I do have very clear memories of childhood. I find that many people don't, but I'm just very fortunate that I have that kind of memory.”
She was fortunate and so were her readers.
Cleary published Henry Huggins in 1950, two years before I was born. Ellen Tebbits came along in 1951, and Henry and Beezus in 1952. Ramona, Beezus’s little sister appeared in Beezus and Ramona in 1955. Her real name is Beatrice, but Ramona had a hard time pronouncing it correctly.
In between and until she was in her 90s, Beverly Cleary published about one book per year, over 40 different titles in her 50-year career. Her books have sold over 85 million copies. Most of her titles starred children in about third or fourth grade, but she published picture books and books for young adults, too. She wrote a short story collection and two memoirs. She was the definition of prolific.
Although I might have grown up with Ramona and her crowd, I did not. I wasn’t much of a reader growing up, although I loved to spend time at the library. (I still do!) It took me a long time to read a whole book, and during the school year I mostly used my time for homework and playing outside. I found Beverly Cleary’s books when my girls read them and loved them.
I have since become an avid reader.
Sometimes I read to learn. I’ve been on a non-fiction binge the last few weeks.* Sometimes I want to experience someone else’s point of view or imagine what might have been. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Viking, 2020) is a new favorite.
I read picture books for new ideas and to study the craft. I also read lots of Middle-Grade books, written for kids from about 8-12 years old. I study them, too, and read them because I like them.
Last week I began a 4-week on-line course with Tricia Springstubb called “Using Personal Experiences to Write for Children.” Writing from memory feels nostalgic. The trick is to capture the emotion without being sappy. Tricia’s an excellent teacher who is continuing her successful writing career with a new book coming out June 1, 2021, The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe.
Like Beverly Cleary, Tricia mines her childhood for ideas to include in her books. She’s teaching us to trust our memories and find our own good ideas. Of course that’s not all. Writing is a craft, but it’s also an art.
Mrs. Cleary spoke of her art and craft. She said “Nothing in the whole world felt as good as being able to make something from a sudden idea.” I’m pretty sure not all her ideas were sudden, but she sure made the most of them.
When she was asked, “What year do your books take place?” her answer was always, “In childhood.”
She saw in children’s books “there are more and more grim problems, but I don’t know that I want to burden third- and fourth-graders with them.” Although she recognized that the world changed since Henry Huggins, and continues to change, she didn’t think children themselves have changed that much.
Beverly Cleary’s stories about Ramona and her big sister Beezus ring true for me. My big sister knew everything. Her friends were cool. She wore all the right clothes.
Sometimes it was a pain being the little sister, though. I’m sure having one must have been a challenge, too!
Thank you, Beverly Cleary, for helping me remember what it was like to be a child. Thank you, Tricia Springstubb, for helping me use those memories for something good.
In an interview with author Reyhan Harmanci, Judy Blume mused about Mrs. Cleary. “Beverly’s books have touched generations of readers and I can’t imagine kids growing up without them," she said. "What kind of world would that be?”
While Mrs. Cleary is no longer with us here on Earth, her shining star lives on in her many delightful characters and in all the children (and adults) who read their stories.
I found this quote from Beverly Cleary which has become my favorite. “I wanted to be a ballerina. I changed my mind.”
Thank you for making our world a little better.
One light, one sun
One sun lighting everyone
One world turning
One world turning everyone
from One Light, One Sun
Written by Raffi
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 1988
Here’s the truth. Daylight Savings Time puts an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.
And here’s the whole truth. We pay for that hour of daylight with the loss of one hour. At 2:00 a.m. March 13, we all rolled the hands of our clocks around one full turn to make them say 3:00. a.m. March 14 was a 23-hour day.
Personally, I moved the hands of my clock at 9:30 p.m., before I called the day over.
Don’t get me wrong. I like daylight as much as anyone. It’s just getting harder and harder every year to make the switch. We’ve just passed the one-week mark and I’m still adjusting.
I expected Wilson, the cat who lives with me, would wake me up at 5:30 instead of 4:30. I was wrong. He probably mis-counted the hours since his evening snack.
So, what happened to that hour? Does anyone really know? Does anybody even care?
Well, the way I see it, that hour is in limbo until the first Sunday in November when we all move the clock hands counter-clock-wise and re-place that lost hour in a 25-hour day.
Representative Vern Buchanan of Florida introduced The Sunshine Protection Act of 2021 (HB 69) on January 4. Fifteen co-sponcers from ten different states and both political parties signed on. The Act would make DST permanent, so we’d all stay sprung forward. No time changing in November. It’s in the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce now, either being discussed or waiting to be discussed.
But introducing permanent DST is nothing new.
Benjamin Franklin sent a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris in 1784 suggesting Parisians move their clocks back one hour in the dark days of winter while they slept to better enjoy the short daylight hours more fully. He proposed the money saved in buying candles would be enormous. Nothing came of his suggestion; most people think it was said in jest.
Congress has been debating the idea since adopting the Standard Time Act of March 1918. It set summer DST from March 31, 1918, to October 27. The idea was unpopular, especially with farmers. More daylight at the end of the day meant more darkness in the early morning hours when they did their milking and other morning chores.
After WWI, Woodrow Wilson abolished the law, leaving the option to continue fooling around with Time up to individual localities.
Franklin Roosevelt established year-round DST in 1942. He called it “War Time Hours.” It lasted until the last Sunday in September, 1945.
From then until 1966, it was up to the various states or cities to follow DST or not and establish their own start and end dates. As you can imagine, that led to a complicated patchwork of chronology. Imagine truckers, shippers, and railway engineers delivering goods across many states. Or the arrangements you’d need to make to phone friends and loved-ones who lived far away.
In 1966, the transportation industry asked for federal legislation to sort out the mess and in 1967, the Uniform Time Act became the law of the land. Clocks would spring ahead one hour at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in April and fall back one hour at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in October. The Department of Transportation was charged with enforcing the law.
States were allowed to exempt themselves. Arizona and Hawaii do not observe DST. Neither do the US territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands.
Turns out DST is more than an inconvenience. I checked with some experts.
According toThe Sleep Foundation, even though the effects of DST subside gradually after a few weeks, the move has been linked to a higher risk of obesity, depression, and cardiovascular disease. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm/daylight-saving-time
Studies have also linked the time change to increased car accidents and workplace injuries.https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/daylight-saving-health.html
They also say the nighttime crime rate diminishes. We enjoy a 7% decrease in robberies.
Pedestrian fatalities decrease by 13% in the dawn and dusk hours.
I wonder, could these decreases be attributed to more daylight in general? After all, the hours of daylight will continue to increase until the Summer Solstice, Sunday, June 10, 2021.
I don’t plan to move to Hawaii, (or Arizona or any of the US territories, for that matter) but I would like to stop fooling Father Time.
-—stay curious! (and enjoy an evening walk)
Just when it seemed things couldn’t get bleaker,
The Mouse-jority Leader agreed with the Squeaker
To gather the brightest on Capitol Hill
To figure out how they could rescue this bill.
House Mouse, Senate Mouse
written by Peter W. Barnes
illustrated by Cheryl Shaw Barnes
Little Patriot Press, 2012
When I thought I would not be home on Election Day a few years ago, I early-voted. I had to travel a little farther, but my county Board of Elections proved efficient. The poll workers were courteous and knew how to do their jobs. I felt secure that my vote would be counted. I have early-voted since then, but prefer to vote in person.
That changed last May. I did not vote early in our Primary and I did not request an absentee ballot. I planned to be home and wanted to vote in person, until I didn’t. COVID-19 was ramping up. The governor decided at the last minute to close the polls and allow any registered voter to vote by mail in the Primary election. That’s what I did. I felt pretty sure my vote would be counted.
I planned to vote absentee for the 2020 November General Election. In Ohio, we have a two-step process. As soon as I could, I requested my application for an absentee ballot. I completed and mailed back the application on the day I received it. My ballot came, I filled it in, and drove it back to the Board of Elections. (We know what the US Postal Service was like by then.) I put it in the dedicated drop box. Ohio’s Board of Elections has a page on its website that tracks when your ballot was received, when it was processed, and when it was counted. I checked back often and was delighted when I saw a check in the “counted” box.
The process was not without controversy. How many drop-boxes should be permitted in each county? Where should they be placed? What would happen to the huge backlog of ballots being mailed to citizens and mailed-in ballots being returned, due to lack of foresight and mismanagement (the nicest way I can say it) starting at the highest levels of the Post Office? You know. You were there, too.
What about voter fraud?
Well what *about* that? For all intents and purposes, there just isn’t any. It doesn’t matter who’s using the system, who’s accusing, or who’s scrutinizing. From the BBC to the US Department of Justice, it’s been determined that voter fraud is about as common as a snowflake in August. Yes, it happens, but it’s very rare.
To fix this non-existent problem, President Biden signed an Executive Order to “promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.”
John Sarbanes, a Representative from Maryland, introduced the "For the People Act" (HB 1) on January 4, 2021. It passed on March 3. Some senators are crying "foul." It is sitting now in the Senate, languishing.
The For the People Act is really a bill. A bill is legislation that has been formally introduced in the House (HB) or the Senate (SB). The numbers are consecutive beginning at the start of the new Congressional session. An Act has passed both houses of Congress and either been approved by the President or passed by Congress over his veto.
According to https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/117/hr1/text/eh, the purpose of the bill is [t]o expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and implement other anti-corruption measures for the purpose of fortifying our democracy… You can access the text of the bill at the above website.
In 2019, a bill of the same name sought to correct damage that was done by the Supreme Court’s decision of Shelby County v. Holder in 2013. In short, Shelby County, Alabama, sued US Attorney General Eric Holder over the part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required certain states and local governments to obtain federal pre-clearance before making any changes to their voting laws or practices. These certain states and local governments were subject to a formula to investigate their histories of discrimination in voting.
Shelby County, argued that the county’s environment was "totally different" in 2013, than when Section 5 was first enacted in 1965. Which was true. Since 1965, more voters were registered and voted. A more diverse slate of officials was elected.
After the Shelby decision, nearly 1,000 U.S. polling places closed, many of them in predominantly African-American counties.
In her dissent of Shelby, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that “[t]hrowing out pre-clearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
The 2019 bill passed the House along Party lines but languished in the Senate. This year, with a Democratic Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, the 2021 version of the bill may be brought to the floor. It might be discussed and voted on. It might even move on to the President’s desk. But it is highly unlikely.
Apart from setting the date for a Federal Election, each state has lots of leeway in the governance of the polls. Some of the opposition to HB 1 claims Federal over-reach into States’ Rights in determining how accessible the whole process of voting should be.
According to the Washington Post, at least 250 new laws have been proposed in 43 states. They would limit mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting. These restrictions could affect tens of millions of Americans. Not surprisingly, these are states run by Republican lawmakers.
The opposing Republican Senators want to limit hours and days of early voting, make the process of voting by mail cumbersome, require photo IDs at polling locations. All those proposals restrict access for people with limited mobility, jobs with no paid time off to vote on a typical workday (Tuesday), family caregivers and others.
Republicans deny the bills are aimed at suppressing turnout. They say the bills are essential to improve public confidence in the integrity of elections.
But voter fraud is so rare as to be non-existent. So what are they really saying?
The wheels of government turn slowly. Maybe that’s a good thing.
-—stay curious! (and Think Spring!)
President Biden signed an executive order last Sunday, to “promote voting access and allow all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.” His Executive Order is in response to the For the People Act, (HB 1) which has moved on to the Senate.
I got my second COVID-19 shot last weekend and gave in to unexpected lethargy. No Blog Post this week, but I’m paying attention.
See you here next week.
--Stay curious! (and safe)
You’re on your own
And you know what you know
And you are the one
Who’ll decide where to go
from Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1990
A raging controversy (in some circles) about the appropriateness of Dr. Seuss’s work has recently come back to my attention. Here’s my defense. Dr. Seuss single-handedly moved children’s literature from a focus on morals and values to a celebration of children’s innate curiosity about themselves and their world.
And today is his birthday.
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield MA of immigrant parents on March 2, 1904.
In many ways the world was a different place. In many ways it is the same. Immigrants were flocking here from eastern and southern Europe and Russia. Now people are coming here from Central America and South America. In the 1920s, activists were fighting for civil rights for women and Blacks. In the 2020s people are fighting for civil rights for women and Blacks and people of all colors, commonly abbreviated BIPOC: Black; indigenous; and people of color.
Here’s a very short (over-simplified, maybe) timeline focusing on children’s literature:
1693 John Locke. Some Thought Concerning Education. Locke
wanted to make reading fun for children, but stay firmly
based in reality.
1865 Lewis Carroll. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Children
were moving from an economical asset (farm help, factory
workers) to an emotional asset. Parents, and society as a
whole, sought to protect the innocence of childhood through
the development of their imagination and creative play. Mark
Twain was also publishing during this time. So was Jules Verne.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri was published in 1880.
1954 John Hersey. Life magazine, May 24, 1954. “Why Do
Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds
Light on a National Problem: Reading.” Hersey blamed poor
reading scores on boring reading texts like the Dick and Jane
series by the Scott Foresman Company. I learned with
Alice and Jerry, published by Row, Peterson and Company,
which later became part of HarperCollins.
1955 Rudolf Flesch. Why Johnny Can’t Read. A response to
Hersey’s article, Flesch’s book was an immediate best seller
and stayed on the list for 37 weeks.
1957 Dr. Seuss The Cat in the Hat. Seuss’s first commercial
success. William Spaulding, director of Houghton Mifflin’s
Department of Education, asked Dr. Seuss to “write a
story that first-graders can’t put down.”
Spaulding's Bet With Dr. Seuss. He was allowed 225 unique
words chosen from the 348 words on the standard first
graders’ word list. The good doctor lost the bet. The Cat
in the Hat came in at 236 words. He lost a bet, but gained
a career. The commercial success of his book allowed
Dr. Seuss to quit advertising and write children’s books
But the controversy is real.
In 1998, the National Educational Association founded Read Across America. They chose to celebrate on March 2 every year, Dr. Seuss’s birthday. From its inception, RAA has been linked with Dr. Seuss. Three years ago all that changed. In 2018, the national reading celebration moved away from the Seuss canon to highlight different authors and diverse and contemporary titles.
While the move to emphasize more diversity and to be more inclusive in reading choices and recommendations is a step in a good direction, demonizing the Dr. is a step too far. Does the Cat depict stereotyped minstrel shows? Is “The Sneetches” an historical narrative that impacts present-day power structures? Or could these analyses be over-reactions to a Learning for Justice article, the educational arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center, It's Time to Talk About Dr Seuss and quoted in School Library Journal SJL: Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? ?
The American Library Association presents The Geisel Award annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. The winner(s) are recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading. The award was established in 2004, and first presented in 2006. The award that year went to Henry and Mudge and the Great Grandpas written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Suçie Stevenson.
Dr. Seuss was not a sociologist. He was not an historian. He was not an environmentalist. He was not even a doctor. He took the title doctor to honor his father who wanted him to earn his PhD. He did not, but held many honorary titles. Seuss, actually pronounced to rhyme with “voice,” is his mother’s maiden name as well as his own middle name.
Detractors point to the beginning of WWII when Geisel contributed political cartoons to a liberal magazine. Since he was too old for the draft but wanted to serve, he made animated training films and drew propaganda posters for the Treasury Department. Some were racist depictions of Japanese immigrants. Most were not appropriate for children. Some of his books command an adult audience, too.
Dr. Seuss taught us to take care of our earth in The Lorax, to take care of each other in Horton Hatches the Egg and “The Sneetches” and so many more, and to allow ourselves and our children to Hop on Pop, put a Fox in Socks, and have fun with a Cat. He encouraged language-play by making up words.
Dr. Seuss was aware of his world and aware of his missteps. He advised us in Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
So be sure when you step,
Step with care and great tact.
And remember that Life’s
A Great Balancing Act.
His books will live on. American kids will continue to read.
Thank you Dr. Seuss. Happy Birthday!
-—stay curious! (and read to a child)
…I’m starting to wonder--
could anything possibly live here?
It’s dark. It’s cold.
I’ve brought this gift of chocolate cupcakes.
I don’t think I’ll find anybody to eat them.
from Life on Mars
written and illustrated by Jon Agee
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017
I’m not that much of a science fiction fan, but a short story by Ray Bradbury, “Dark They Were and Golden Eyed,” has stuck with me all these years. I remember it being about the necessity of accepting change and the inevitability of assimilation. I mention it now because it takes place on Mars.
I grew up when Ray Walston played a wacky Martian neighbor in the sitcom “My Favorite Martian.” The song “Telstar” rocketed to #1 on the music chart in 1962. The Space Race pushed reality toward the boundaries of Science Fiction. And it seemed like the whole human race was obsessed with outer space, space flight, and space travel. Reaching the moon was certainly do-able. Could a trip to Mars be far behind?
Even after the Challenger disaster in 1986, NASA continued to do its work, astronauts continued to make discoveries, but it seemed like our heart wasn’t in it. In February 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia broke up as it returned to Earth, killing all seven astronauts on board, NASA suspended space shuttle flights for more than two years while it conducted an investigation. Another successful shuttle flight was completed in 2006, but when the International Space Station was complete in 2011, the shuttle missions ended and funding became harder to get.
But just three months later, November 2011, the Curiosity rover launched its 293 million mile journey to Mars. It landed safely about seven months later.
In 2016, Elon Musk headed his SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station to resupply the astronauts. The world noticed.
Then on Saturday afternoon, May 31, 2020, NASA astronauts launched a commercially built American ship operated by an American crew from American soil. It was the first all-American mission in nine years.
Meanwhile, Curiosity has quietly been exploring the surface of Mars all this time. As of February 21, 2021, Curiosity has been on Mars for 3038 sols, or Martian days (3121 Earth days). Here’s Curiosity’s home page. https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/home/ where you can see what it’s been up to.
The goal for Perseverance, to land in the Jazero Crater, was tricky. It needed to avoid the rocks at the bottom that would surely damage the craft.
Perseverance’s safe and careful perfect landing on Mars last Thursday (February 18, 2021) at 3:55 pm EST, got the ground crew at NASA’s jet propulsion lab cheering.
Scientists think the crater is the site of a lake bed that dried up 3.5 billion years ago. There's a chance that before it dried up, it was home to some form of Martian microbial life. There's also a chance the rover instruments will be able to see a signature of that life in the rocks in the crater, like a fossil.
While NASA’s Insight rover is already probing deep into the surface of Mars, Perseverance will look for those signs of life. It will also collect and bring back rocks and soil with the intention of returning it on another mission. Scientists can study the Martian material with equipment too large and too heavy for easy transport. Perseverance's mission will last about one Martian year, about 687 earth days.
Here’s Perseverance on Mars! https://www.enterpriseai.news/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Perseverance-Mars-rover-NASA_600x.jpg
According to National Geographic and mars.NASA.gov Several spacecraft are already transmitting data from orbit: NASA’s MAVEN orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Odyssey. The European Space Agency (ESA) operates Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission is also still orbiting and transmitting information.
The United Arab Emirates launched its probe called Hope on July 20, 2020, from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Their goal is to provide scientists with a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. They promise to share the data. As of last week, Hope is on a two-earth-year orbit around Mars.
China’s spacecraft also arrived in Martian orbit last week. It's preparing to send a lander and robotic rover to the surface later this year.
Everyone is working to help us Earthlings learn about the Martian atmosphere, its landscape, seismic activity, how the planet has changed over time and if life has ever existed there.
Maybe we’ll even learn a little more about ourselves along the way.
Here are the first pictures sent back by Perseverance. https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/multimedia/images/ Hover over the image to get a description. Click and see a larger image and the narrative explanation written by NASA.
--stay curious! (and look up)
… You make me want to be the best ox I can be, so I thank you again. You are the unflattering light of my life.
from XO, Ox: A Love Story
written by Adam Rex
illustrated by Scott Campbell
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
I’m not unfamiliar with the lunar year. Jewish holidays are based on the lunar calendar and each Israeli month begins with a new moon. Each month in the twelve-month year is 29 or 30 days long. To compensate for the shorter year, a leap month is added seven times during a 19-year cycle. This adjustment ensures the holidays fall during the correct season, making them seem to come “early” or “late” in the Gregorian calendar we are all used to.
The traditional Islamic calendar is also tied to the lunar cycle. Like the Hebrew calendar, the sum of their twelve lunar months is eleven days shorter than the solar year. Without the use of corrective mechanisms like leap days and leap months to synchronize the lunar calendar with the solar one, Muslim holidays occur earlier and earlier in each solar year. But that is not important. Time is time. A month is as long as a month is. Holidays occur in their appropriate month, no matter what the season.
Chinese years are based on the lunar calendar, too. The New Year begins on the first new moon after the Winter Solstice. Like the Hebrew and Islamic calendars, the traditional Chinese calendar uses a twelve-month cycle of 29- or 30- day months and compensates by adding a whole month when needed to keep the months in their proper seasons.
We recently (February 12, 2021) entered the Year of the Ox. Knowing the name of the year is only a small fraction of the complexity of the Chinese Zodiac and the astrology determined by it, though. Stars are aligned or not with each other. Particular signs can be auspicious or not, depending on many factors. The Feng Shui Institute offers an overview of how to read the Chinese Zodiac. https://www.feng-shui-institute.org/Chinese_Astrology/interpretation.html
It would be interesting, but more complex than I’m willing to consider right now, to compare a reading using the Greek Zodiac we are familiar with along side the traditional Chinese Zodiac. Just sayin’.
According to https://www.chineasy.com/the-characteristics-of-each-chinese-zodiac/, in Chinese culture, oxen are symbols of wealth, prosperity, diligence, and perseverance. They are quiet, steadfast, and methodical.
The five elements, metal, water, wood, fire, and earth, contribute to our understanding, too, and help determine how we will all fair during this Year of the Ox. This being a metal year, we celebrate the Metal Ox. Attributes of metal include firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength, and determination, self-reliance, and sophistication.
Combine the qualities of an ox with the qualities of metal, and people who are metal oxen are said to be hardworking, active, always busy, and popular among friends. Barak Obama is a metal ox.
Looking ahead to our Metal Ox year, we might expect an emphasis on metallurgy (Jewelry? Cars? Hammers, nails and I-beams?) and a focus on diligence, wealth, and a quiet, methodical movement forward.
Many traditions help usher in the New Year. Preparations begin early. On the 26th day of the previous month, festive cakes and puddings are served. They symbolize wishes for improvement and growth in the coming year. A thorough cleaning is done on the 28th day of the previous month, and welcome banners are hung on the 29th. Family reunion dinners take place on New Year’s Eve. The menu is important. Foods associated with luck, like fish and puddings as well as food that mimics gold ingots, like dumplings are often served.
Some families stay awake past midnight to welcome the New Year as soon as it arrives.
Parents give red money envelopes to their children.
People parade in the streets.
Here in the West we say “Chinese New Year,” but the holiday is celebrated in many Asian nations including Viet Nam, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia.
The New Year celebration culminates on the fifteenth day of the holiday (this year February 26), when the Lantern Festival is celebrated. Many cities around the world still put on massive lantern displays and fairs on the final day of the festival. Some cities shoot up fireworks.
In this year of COVID-19, most festivities both in cities and families have been cancelled or curtailed.
On February 26, I won’t wash or cut my hair. I could be washing or cutting away my luck in the New Year. I won’t sweep my house or clean anything. That might destroy the good luck that arrived just after midnight. The Chinese word for "book" (shū) sounds exactly the same as the word for "lose" so giving a book as a gift or even reading a book yourself is an invitation for loss. That will be hard for me. I wonder if reading on my tablet counts?
I’ll will wear red, a lucky color, and some jewelry to honor the metal in my life. I’ll ponder my many gifts that make me feel grateful.
-—stay curious! (and celebrate)
But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water.
And then, one day, a carrot came up just as the little boy had known it would.
from The Carrot Seed
written by Ruth Krauss
illustrated by Crocket Johnson
Harper and Row, 1945
My grandmother saved her seeds from year to year and planted her whole backyard, part of her front yard, and that little grassy strip between the gravel on her driveway with vegetables and flowers. I don’t know what happened to her seeds when she passed away. I’m pretty sure neither of my aunts took them. I know my mom didn’t. So they and their progeny are lost to obscurity.
On a grand scale, forward thinkers devised a way to protect the world’s food crops from falling into oblivion. In 1996, the first Global Plan of Action for conserving and using crop diversity was adopted by 150 countries. In 2004, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was put into place to help support this global system in a sustainable way. The Crop Trust was born and its Seed Vault opened in 2008.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault houses seeds of over one million crop varieties from over 5,000 species. The seeds arrive from countries the world over and are catalogued and stored deep inside a mountain halfway between Norway and the North Pole in a $9,000,000 structure. The permafrost, thick rock, and low humidity ensure the safety of the seeds, even if the Vault loses power.
From their website, “The Crop Trust is the only organization whose sole mission is to ensure humanity conserves and makes available the world’s crop diversity for future food security.” https://www.croptrust.org/about-us/
The Crop Trust and the International Rice Research Institute signed a long-term partnership agreement in 2018. In it, the Crop Trust agrees to fully fund the essential operations of the IRRI genebank forever. From their website https://www.irri.org/our-work “IRRI works toward finding solutions for the world’s biggest challenges and contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” They fight hunger, poverty, and inequality while working toward responsible consumption and production, climate recovery, and good health and well being.
Besides working with the IRRI and governments around the world to develop crop conservation strategies, the Crop Trust studies how we can sustain ourselves in light of population growth and the changing climate. Their Crop Wild Relatives Project is a global long-term effort to collect, conserve, and use wild relatives of cultivated crops to develop food crops that will thrive during the changes our climate is undergoing.
Crop diversity ensures food security, helps adapt to our changing climate, reduces environmental degradation, protects nutritional security, reduces poverty, and ensures sustainable agriculture. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an insurance policy of sorts, to back up the many seed banks all over the world serving to ensure crop diversity.
My daughter sent me one of the most interesting sources for seeds. It’s not a seed bank or a warehouse. It’s a seed lending library. Located in the Concord, MA Library’s Fowler Branch, patrons are encouraged to check out a packet of seeds (5 packet limit) and grow them. They encourage, but don’t insist the growers reserve a couple of their best plants, allow them to “go to seed” and return their harvested seeds back to the library. This will help the seed lending library become self-sustaining. https://concordlibrary.org/resources/concord-seed-lending-library
Another website lists seed lending libraries from all over the world. Unfortunately, while over 80 locations are listed, you can’t search by location to easily find one close to you. https://www.seedsoftimemovie.com/find_seed_libraries It’s an interesting browse, though, and while you’re there, you can watch the Seeds of Time documentary.
During the Cold War years of the 1950s, my dad thought it would be a good idea to dig a shelter in our backyard, just in case. He didn’t do it. I’ve seen enough apocalypse movies and read enough books to know that if someone dropped a massive bomb, I would not have to worry. I’d be dead along with everyone important to me, probably.
But even if the ice melts and sea levels rise, the Global Seed Vault, at 426 feet above sea level, is high enough to be out of the water, even in a worst case scenario. And the permafrost will keep the seeds cold.
Seed samples sent to the Vault stay in possession of the country that sent them. The first withdrawal was made in 2015 by Syria who had been storing seeds since 2012. Thirty-eight thousand seeds were removed by researchers and sent to Lebanon and Morocco. The Syrian non-profit organization that contributed the seeds moved to new quarters after rebel forces took over their area of Aleppo. The organization, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) continues to deposit seeds, coming now from their new locations. They also continue to withdraw seeds, as necessary. https://www.croptrust.org/press-release/vault-continues-prove-value-world/
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is "owned and administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food on behalf of the Kingdom of Norway and is established as a service to the world community." https://www.wur.nl/en/show/CGN-seeds-in-the-Svalbard-Global-Seed-Vault-FAQs.htm In case of famine due to war or natural disaster, we'll be able to start over.
Good to know.
-—stay curious! (and plan your garden)
I'm a children's writer and poet intent on observing the world and nurturing those I find in my small space .