Thursday Round Up

Here’s my round up of interesting items I came across this week…hope you enjoy!

Science:

It’s crazy what we don’t know until we do. And then sometimes we think we know and we don’t. How about a new body part?

Nature:

On Monday I posted a blog about my travels in Bayou Teche and I talked about how much I like the landscape in the South—I really do think it’s some of the most beautiful in the country. The next day, an article on the Neversink Cave in Alabama popped up on feed. In addition to my love of swamps and bayous, I’m also a little obsessed with caves—the Son Doong cave in Vietnam is in the top five of my bucket list. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to Vietnam or back to the South first, but now I have one more place to visit.

Humor/lifestyle

Back in April, I went to Vegas with some girlfriends and saw Amy Schummer live. Yes, I was living under a rock and didn’t know who she was until my much more with it friend told me all about her. Since then, my husband and I have watched most, if not all, of her shows. I love her. I love her honesty and I love that she goes places most people don’t in a way that is real and humorous. A few weeks after I saw her live, a colleague wrote this article about mommy-hood and Amy Schummer…I hadn’t thought of things quite like Jordan, but after reading this, I definitely agree. Now if someone could just convince Amy that Jordan and I should be her new best friends.

History:

Francis Perkins was the first woman cabinet member in US history. She was also a graduate of my alma mater, Mount Holyoke. She’s being considered as one of the potential new faces of the $10 bill. I think it’s about time we started honoring some of the extraordinary women the US has been lucky enough to call their own and while I’ll be happy to just see a woman on the bill, I’d love to see Ms. Perkins’ image.

Literature

And since we’re talking about new faces on money, did you hear the announcement made recently by the Bank of England? Jane Austen will be the new face of the £10 note. Think what you may about her writing, but there’s no denying her influence on literature.

 

Wanderlust, Wonder, and Bayou Teche

Last week I participated in a Facebook Launch Party for a book called Uprooting Ernie. One of the things “Ernie” and my books have in common is that they both take place in small towns and so one of the questions I asked the attendees is what some of their favorite small towns were. There were so many great answers that spanned the country, from Washington to Maine, that it gave me a severe case of wanderlust.

I have to hold tight for another week and a half before we’re off on some summer travels but the party made me want to revisit some of my favorite areas, of which there are many. For no other reason than to add some order to my thoughts, I decided to write today about Bayou Teche in Louisiana (since I wrote about the Aegean last week, I figured I could start working my way through the alphabet of places I love).

Now, anyone who knows me knows I have a thing for swamps, or really, I suppose I should say I have a thing for the landscape of the southern waterways because the bayous have just about the same effect on me as the swamps. (And if you’re curious about the difference between a bayou and a swamp, generally speaking, a bayou will have some water flow through it whereas a swamp will not.) In short order, Bayou Teche was stunning. Of course I didn’t see all of it, but below are some pictures I took from my boat ride outside Breaux Bridges as well as some from Avery Island which sits a bit further down the bayou and is home to the Tabasco factory.

 

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I think a lot happens in these quiet groves

Cool, not cool. So it *is* kind of interesting to see snakes just hanging out on trees. But, well, snakes....

Cool, not cool. So it *is* kind of interesting to see snakes just hanging out on trees. But, well, snakes….

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Avery Island. I kind of want to drape my room in Spanish Moss. Or at least my driveway.

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One of the members of the family who started the Tabasco dynasty was very involved in working to preserve egrets – their numbers had been severely depleted by the use of feathers in hats way back in the day and so he built these nesting platforms and offered a protected place for them to thrive again.

Much like the orchid in Croatia, the bayou was a place that made me wonder. But unlike the orchid, that made me ask why it was sitting there in the window, the bayou made me think about just what this waterway has seen in its thousands of years of existence…Native Americans, the arrival of the French, the Civil War, the birth (and sort of death) of the sugar empires, the evolution and growth of the creole culture, and now, hopefully, preservation of some of the most beautiful and unique land/waterscapes in the US. The possibilities are nearly endless.

I love visiting the south, I really do, and I think visiting that part of our country is something that more people need to do if they have the chance. There is a lot of history, both good and bad, that is deeply and irrevocably a part of those states, and thus, part of our history regardless of where we live. Aside from that, it is also just an area of the country that effortlessly takes my breath away with its natural beauty and grace—from the silent gator making its way through water, to the Spanish Moss swaying in the breeze, to the stately oaks that have seen more of life than you or I, there is a lot about the south, and about the mystique of the Bayou Teche, that can make you wonder.

Thursday Round Up

So I’ve decided to try and get a little more consistent with blogging. But the thing is, between writing, working, blogging on Mondays, being a mom, a wife, a daughter, and you know, having a life, I decided that one more blog to write on Thursdays was just a little much. BUT, I read. I read a ton. Mostly books, but I do read articles that come across my FB feed or that friends send me. I’ll also scan the news and various journals when I have a spare few minutes here and there. So, I decided to take advantage of that and create a Thursday Round Up series. On Thursdays, I’ll post some articles or images that caught my attention during the prior week. I come from a good, solid liberal arts background, so I’ll try to hit a broad cross section of topics, but you’ll likely see at least something having to do with nature, science, and literature. You may or may not find them interesting, but I do hope, on occasion, that you find something you like. If you do, let me know!

Nature – Someone posted pictures of these monkey orchids this week, right after I posted a blog about the white orchid I spied while traveling in Croatia last summer. I love my white orchid, but these are pretty fun.

Literature – I had no idea so many people studied romance literature. One of the things I especially liked about this article (written in response to a critique of the genre) was the recognition that the romance genre is one of the few that consistently acknowledges emotions and the emotional life of men.

Science – Venice is getting ready to install flood controlling gates. I was reading about them and came across these interesting images of past floods. People who love England are called Anglophiles, I love Italy but not sure what I’d call myself—Italophile? That just doesn’t sound right though…regardless these pictures are both fascinating and heartbreaking when you think of all the damage over the years.

Music – So next week we’re headed out to see Dustbowl Revival. Some friends invited us and I have to admit, I’d never heard of them. And then in true coincidental fashion, right after I bought the tickets it seemed everyone was posting about them. Here’s a fun video they did with none other than the famous Dick Van Dyke. Enjoy!

History – This was news last month, but I’m a sucker for lost treasure stories. I didn’t realize that William Kidd seemed to think himself innocent of piracy nor did I know he had to be hanged twice. I know pirates were generally nasty and cruel, but there is still some romantic allure to the freedom of the seas.

 

 

Aegean Orchids Whispering a Story – Summer Travels

As we head into the summer, thoughts (or at least my thoughts) often turn to travel. Last year, we took a fabulous trip to Rome and Croatia. While in Croatia, we spent a week sailing the Aegean Sea, visiting large towns, like Hvar and Korcula but also several smaller ones like Sucuraj.

Mark Twain once wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I happen to agree with Twain, but I also have a more selfish view of the benefits of travel. Travel isn’t just about killing prejudice or bigotry or even about opening one’s views. I happen to think it’s also one of the most powerful instigators of awe and wonder, feelings too little valued or encouraged in this day and age.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a writer or if it’s just part of my make-up (or both since being a writer is part of my make-up), but there is a magic to exploring somewhere new (or newly exploring somewhere familiar) that can, in rare, quiet moments of the soul, be breathtaking. I’m not talking about the majesty of a castle or a world wonder. I’m referring to the little things, the tiny moments that make you wonder about who, what, and why. And even if we never learn the answers to those questions, as we often don’t, just simply asking them has a way of connecting us—perhaps to others, but certainly to our own imagination and creativity.

On our second night in Croatia, we docked at a small town that had maybe a handful of restaurants. After dinner, the kids went back to the boat to drink coke and play cards and my husband and I walked around town. We wound our way through tiny alleys as we walked up a few hills and down again. We past empty lots and houses hundreds of years old—houses untouched by the war of two decades ago.

After walking for about thirty minutes, we came around a corner and I was quite taken with a small balcony that appeared romantically medieval. I was snapping a few pictures the sounds of a little boy caught my attention. We both turned around to see this church. So small and unassuming, it’s possible we might have walked right by it had it not been for the family that had stopped to eat their ice cream and play in the (very) small cobblestone area before the entrance.

Lily

In size, it was probably no bigger than twenty feet across and in all honesty, I’m not even sure how it could have been used for any service attended by more than ten or twelve people. But what really caught my attention was the orchid. Can you see it? At first, I wasn’t sure what it was, but as I zoomed my lens in, it became clear that a single, white orchid had been placed in the darkened window.

Who placed it there? When? And Why? Was there a nun in charge of ensuring the visible flower stayed in bloom? Did the flower, or the fact that it was a white orchid, have a meaning? Was it even real?

I know it probably seems strange, but a year later, I still think about this orchid. I still wonder if it had a meaning, if it was there for a reason, or if maybe, I’m just over thinking it. And this is why I love to travel—while I adore all the flowers in my own garden, I can honestly say that I don’t find myself thinking about them at odd hours of the day. I don’t find myself building stories around them, or wondering if they are still there. But I do think about that orchid and on some of my quieter nights I can feel the whispers of a story beginning to vibrate softly in my mind—not yet strong enough to have its own voice.

But I think it will one day. I don’t know what that story will be or when it will come to me but the curiosity and wonder sparked by that single flower in a church window thousands of miles from home isn’t something that will stay silent forever.

And that is why I love to travel, whether near or far from home—because when we’re open to the subtlies of real life, it can open our eyes, and our minds to endless wonder.