Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...



The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you heard about the upcoming celestial event? I think it's going to occur next Monday, and it's some kind of eclipse or something...? Of course you have! We've all got eclipse fever, and even those of us not flocking to squeeze in among the crowds in the narrow strip of totality are looking forward to seeing as much of the eclipse as we're allowed from our current location (here in Seattle, we're expecting to see about 92% of the sun eclipsed). Whether eclipses, meteor showers, northern lights, or supermoons, any phenomena gracing the skies above has the mysterious power to draw us outdoors in numbers, captivating our imagination and commanding our attention.

While we're in the mindset of gazing heavenward, let's take a look at a truly marvelous sight filmed recently by astronaut Jack Fischer on the International Space Station: the green lights of the aurora flickering and undulating through Earth's atmosphere. Surreal and eerie when viewed from Earth, the aurora is even more so when seen from above!



Has that gotten your "ooohs" and "aaaahhhs" tuned up for next Monday? I'll be at work, as I assume most of us will be, as the moon passes in front of the sun and plunges the world into midday darkness, but I think this once-in-a-lifetime event deserves an extended morning break! Be sure to get outdoors to watch the event unfold, from whichever vantage point you've been given, but do so safely! Protect your eyes and check out these safe viewing tips from NASA.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Raindrops on Barclay Lake, May 2016. Lainey Piland photo

We've certainly been feeling the heat here in the Puget Sound region, with temperatures this week in the mid nineties - or hundreds, if we're unlucky - and a dry streak that's on pace to break the all-time record for continuous days without rain.

Am I the only born-and-raised Washingtonian who's been having rain hallucinations? Squinting out at the Olympic mountains and swearing I see clouds out there, and is that a hazy curtain of rain I see? Nope, just smog. Or, awakening in the middle of the night, convinced I hear rain dripping from the gutter above my bedroom window (no, that can't possibly be the rain-shower white noise machine next to my bed that I hear) and upon rushing to the window finding that the street outside remains dry, and the stars are blinking in a disappointingly clear night sky above.

If you're missing the rain and despairing of the sweltering forecast, join me in soaking up the film below. Titled Pursuit, this film by Mike Olbinski captures spectacular footage of storm clouds and that blessed rain! Although I can certainly do without the tornadoes, I'd rejoice over a good rain storm right now.


Pursuit (4K) from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.


I named this blog A Day Without Rain because such a day is generally rare and a cause for celebration in Western Washington. That seems not to be the case anymore, at least in summer time! Perhaps I should consider a name change... A Day With Rain? A Very Rainy Day? If that would entice some precipitation to head our way, I'd do it in an instant!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...



We are well into the long, lazy days of summer now, and enjoying some very comfortable and sunny weather here in the Seattle area (although if I'm being honest, I've been desperate for a nice rainy day lately, for the familiar sound of water gurgling in the gutters and leaving the world all green and fresh and drippy).

Nothing says "lazy summer day" like a blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds that just beckon us to pull up a patch of grass and get lost in observing their slow procession across the sky, moved by winds that we cannot feel in the soporific warmth and stillness below. If you're lacking the time or access to view such a blue sky and fluffy clouds, take a look at the Nature 365 film below, which will be a nice stand-in for the time being.




Now, let's put into practice the "word of the day" shared recently on Twitter by writer Robert McFarlane:
Apricate - to bask in the sunshine.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...


The photo above brings peace to my soul. Rolling hills of grass slope down to a pond obscured by leafy willows and reverberating with the deep croak of a bullfrog. A resident red-trailed hawk wheels overhead, just a tiny speck high in the blue sky above. Closer to ground level, the air is thick with chattering barn swallows and violet-green swallows swooping low through the humid morning air, catching a belly full of insects to take back to the hungry young mouths waiting in their nests. The ground below is still damp with dew, warmed by the morning sunlight and emanating the sweet scent of blooming clover buzzing with fuzzy bees.

Where did I have to go to find such a scene? It wasn't a remote wilderness hike or a special protected natural park. It was at the barn where I keep my horse, a place I visit several times per week. This is one of the many reasons I'm grateful to have been a lifelong horsewoman... since they live outdoors, my horses force me to go outdoors to care for them, and as a result I get to be immersed in scenes like the one pictured above. Most of the time I go gladly, knowing that I'll get to spend quality time outdoors, but other times, perhaps in the midst of a freezing spell in winter that forebodes frozen water buckets or a particularly rainy and dismal day in autumn that promises thick mud, it's a bit more of a chore to get myself out there.

We all have one of these places where we encounter nature not by choice but by necessity: a place we visit or pass through regularly because it's part of our schedule, our life's routine. It might be our own yard as we stroll to the mailbox; the walk across the parking lot into work; our drive home through a particularly scenic area; the ball field where we attend practice or watch games. Although we may be "all business" as we visit and pass through these places, it's worthwhile to also take advantage of the opportunity they offer us to connect with nature, and all the benefits it provides.

Here's a short video of my morning at the barn. My horse is a bit of a camera hog, but you can still pick up on some of the sights and sounds!



Where is the place you regularly encounter nature?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Fireweed... how's this for nature's fireworks?

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, a holiday that is perhaps more well-known for blowing things up than it is for actually celebrating the independence of the United States. I've never been a fan of the holiday, because of the fireworks with their loud blasts, spent shells littering the street, and the smoggy air the next day. Not to mention their penchant for setting homes on fire and causing the loss of various bodily appendages.

Who would want that when we can just look outside and see natural "fireworks" far more spectacular than any set off by a fuse? We can point to the wildflowers bursting with color in yards, on trails, and along the roadside. When night falls, we can look up to the dark skies overhead and appreciate the stars twinkling silently, the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, or the occasional meteor flashing through the atmosphere.

Take a look at the film below from Wild Northwest Beauty Photography, featuring plenty of natural "fireworks" in the Oregon skies.




Again, the line from the Christmas carol comes to mind, as "the silent stars go by." Rather the silent spectacle of stars than the jarring explosions of sulfurous fireworks! But then I got to thinking: are stars silent? If we were to stand right next to the sun (without burning up, of course), what would we hear? I imagined that the fiery furnace of hydrogen fusing into helium would sound like the roar of a rocket booster, or perhaps it sizzles like an egg being dropped into a sputtering skillet. Perhaps it was a quiet whoosh like a furnace igniting, or maybe it was loud and explosive after all, like an entire fireworks stand going up at once. After doing a bit of googling, wouldn't you know, I discovered there are researchers aplenty studying the sounds of the sun. Researchers at Stanford University have compiled several different audio recordings of the sun. Take a listen!

The sun is much quieter than I had expected! As it turns out, the low grumble of fusion in our closest star is at a frequency too low to be heard by our limited human ears. With the assistance of technology, we find out that the sun sounds more like the murmur of an idling engine than exploding fireworks... a sound that I discovered is excellent white noise for fussy babies, as I listened to the solar audio recordings with my two-month-old son on my lap.

Now if only we could celebrate the Fourth of July by pulling up lawn chairs in the gathering dusk, tilting our heads heavenward and relaxing to the murmuring stars twinkling above. And maybe throw in some ice cream. Who's with me?


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Foxglove and daisies blooming in the Cedar River Watershed, late afternoon in summer 2016. Lainey Piland photo

It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside. ~Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, 1941

Summer began yesterday, June 20th! Farewell to the damp days of spring, and welcome to the warmer, drier, long days of summer. The quote above speaks so well to the ambiance of summertime. While it might not smell of roses outdoors (Nootka roses, perhaps...) those in the Pacific Northwest are well acquainted with the heady smell of fir balsam; of alder sap and cottonwood; of warm, damp earth and ripening salmonberries; of a grassy field warmed in the golden sunlight of late afternoon.

These are just a few of the fragrances that perfumed my walk around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon, and how refreshing they are! What smells say "summer" to you?

Blooming fireweed: a sure sign of summer! Lainey Piland photo

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays, your mid-week nature break to reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature. Take a deep breath and enjoy...

Stormy evening captured from my deck a few years back.

Waves exploding against a rocky shoreline, a windstorm howling through treetops, snakelike tongues of lightning flickering across the sky to the deafening rumble of thunder... we encounter the raw power of nature in many different forms. Those in western Washington may recall the unusually potent thunderstorms that rolled through our region at the end of April.

I just love a stormy day, and these storms were especially vivid for me. That afternoon I'd left work early for an appointment at a nearby hospital. Parked on the roof of the parking garage as was my custom, I looked out over the freeway, over the distant treed hills and was astonished by what I saw as the forefront of the storm approached with a miles-high wall of purple-grey clouds dragging hazy curtains of rain across the landscape as lightning spit from their bellies. It was a transfixing sight. My appointment ended just in time for me to jump in my car and hurry home with the storm close on my heels, then hunker down in my living room as the storm overtook us and illuminated the evening sky with those electric flashes of plasma and window-rattling thunder.

These moments where nature shows its powerful and dangerous side are exhilarating awe-inspiring to witness, when we can watch from a place of safety! And what's safer than experiencing those storms from behind your computer screen, and miles above Earth's surface?  Take a look at the video linked below, featuring that stormy Seattle evening captured by NASA's GOES-16 satellite. (Hint: the entire United States is shown in the frame... hone in on the upper left corner for "our" storm!)


Watching those lighting strikes from a distant perspective really shows just how potent those storms were!