Sunday, May 26, 2019

Well, Well, Well...

So much for New Year's Resolutions in regards to "blogging every day".  I haven't been idle.  During the school year, I substitute-teach in local elementary, middle, and high schools.  Quite the adventure, for the sake of "doing something" and earning a small paycheck.  Sometimes it is enjoyable and sometimes it's maddening.  (I have another part-time job, as well, though it is on a quarterly basis.)  And when time, spirit, and circumstances permit I have been involved in several writing projects (to be recounted below).  And writing projects, also recounted, below).

In its own way, 2019 is proving itself to be a momentous year, giving me much pause to reflect.  Some of the numerous considerations:

1) Turning 65 and outliving my Dad.  Almost three years ago, I posted on my Dad's 100th birthday and how he influenced my life, in so many ways.

2) Realizing that anniversaries just keep zipping by, especially decadal (and half-decadal) anniversaries, as we age).  Two important "crossroads events" happened in 1974 and 1977, both of which involved travel and new experiences, when I was 20 and 23.  And as each event approached its respective 40th anniversary, I felt the desire to write about it and at least produce a spiral-bound narrative, if only for my adult kids or nieces and nephews (if they someday care).  

[I am now in the 40th anniversary year of another "crossroads event" (more accurately a "crossroads year" (1979)), which is a mixture of good and bad.  That being the case, though it would be shorter, it is much more complex and must wait for one or the other of the 1974 and 1977 projects to reach some sort of fruition.]

While I am still working on writing projects I began in their respective 40th anniversary years, the rapidly-passing subsequent years have necessitated updating and somewhat changing the original goals.  My "1974 Project" and my "1977 Project" were both begun with the realization that those "crossroads" years were 40 years ago, in 2014 and 2017, respectively.

In that first 40th anniversary year (2014), to induce myself into a "writing mood", I reread the excellent "Blue Highways", by William Least Heat-Moon.  [Proclaimed by many to be the best American autobiographical travelogue, especially noteworthy as Heat-Moon was an unknown author - at the time.  As William Least Heat-Moon (the Osage penname for William Trogdon) was unknown as an author, editing and finding a publisher was a Herculean task, as recounted in the book "Writing Blue Highways"]

[To briefly recount the events leading to Heat-Moon's 1978 journey, having lost his teaching job as a college English teacher and being separated from his wife, in his "low point", he disposed of many of his possessions and outfitted his Ford Econoline van with a bed, a portable toilet, and other travel supplies, he set out to "find himself" on America's back roads on a solo 13,000 mile journey.]

After rereading "Blue Highways" in 2014, I did start an Introduction, roughed-out a Table of Contents, and started several chapters for the "1974 Project", but then "life events" intervened later in the year and into the following year, culminating in my first wife's (Marla) passing away on May 1, 2015, due to a stroke and other health problems.  In the wake of that event and following several job losses (one of which was an adjunct teaching position, after 12 and 1/2 years of part-time teaching, thinking I was "paying my dues" towards a full-time position that never happened).

So, by that point, I understood the melancholy that probably followed William Least Heat-Moon on his 1978 journey.

By the time the 40th anniversary of my 1977 moving from my Georgia hometown to El Paso for Geology grad school rolled about in 2017, I had met my second wife Mary Alice (and was thus occupied).    

When time, circumstances, health, and mood permit, the first goal is completion (for each) and at least getting it spiral bound for posterity, in case any descendants care about some of the events and how they influenced my life.  If I am satisfied with the final results, I might go the "e-book route", for one or both.

The 1974 narrative largely centers on a Western U.S. road trip with my college roommate, wherein we covered approximately 8,800 miles in about 4 weeks.  It was preceded by a 1973 family vacation to visit relatives and numerous Western U.S. National Parks and other points of interest.  [Note: college-age young men don't do "vacations", they do "road trips".]  During the 1973 family vacation (my first crossing of the Mississippi River), my sister (almost 17) and I (19) each got in some driving practice in the wide-open spaces.  

There was an "event" during the 1973 family vacation that largely inspired the 1974 road trip, but perhaps I will save that for a later blogpost or maybe the hoped-for "e-book".

Unknown to me at the time, the 1973 vacation was the last family vacation including Dad, Mom, my sister, and me.  After that, it was just a matter of my sister and me having both "left the nest" for college, 1972 for me and 1974 for her.  Without the influence of my parents during the 1974 road trip, it was a mixture of more new experiences and some youthful caution.

Other than passing through Missouri, Kansas, Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone National Park, crossing through a sliver of Montana, Idaho, and the SE corner of Oregon, most of the 1974 road trip revisited the National Parks my family visited in 1973, with some minor variations.  As it was latest-July through mid-August, my college-roommate Dave and I were somewhat constrained by time, needing to be back in Statesboro, GA in time to get settled and registered for our Junior year of college at Georgia Southern in early September.

In order to maintain a frugal budget, we generally camped at KOA Campgrounds and lived off of sandwiches, pizzas, fast food, and beer.  [We were both 20 and 1/2 years old and we not of "legal age" in all of the states we visited.] 

3) My first grandchild (a grandson) turning 10.  One of the ways I am blessed.  Two feisty grandsons (10 and 6).  I wish my Dad had gotten to meet his four grandkids (two boys and two girls), now all adults.  I think he would have been a good grandpa.  Hope my health holds out so maybe I can demonstrate gold panning and other neat things about being outdoors.

4) Other aspects of getting older.  As you proceed through your 40's and 50's (and beyond), you expect the passing of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, but when it starts including folks "your age" (classmates, friends, spouses,...) and younger, it becomes distressing and thought-provoking.  Aside from that, your own approaching mortality leads to thinking about "Bucket List" items (which is another subject).

[Editorial note:  After being relatively inactive for a few years, I am unfamiliar with any current Blogger quirks, such as random changes in font size.  I will endeavor to figure these out.]

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A Few Tips for Identifying Ferns

Towards conducting more inclusive field trips and nature hikes (as some people have interests beyond Geology):

Contained herein: "Identifying Ferns the Easy Way".

In the blogpost are photos of some ferns seen in the Southeastern United States.  Useful for improving your general knowledge of ferns.

If you wish to avoid the giant, monopolistic retailer, here is a useful link.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

My Favorite 40+ Year-old Specimens - #2


From internet searches, the Graptolite specimens in this unidentified northern Utah shale appear to be of the Didymograptus genus, of the Ordovician Period.  How I acquired my first Graptolites follows.

During the summer of 1974, my then-roommate (Dave) at Georgia Southern and I embarked upon a multi-week 8,800-mile road trip across the Western U.S. (the subject of an ongoing writing project - before we forget all of the details).  The primary reasons were; 1) To buy Coors Beer, and 2) Visit Yellowstone National Park (as well as some other National Parks visited the year before with my family).  Without delving into further details, at the time, Coors was only sold in 11 Western states.

[Without realizing it, this 1974 road trip was a "watershed event", in that - at age 20 1/2 - it was my first "big journey" without my parents and it gave me the confidence to leave the Southeast and move to El Paso for graduate school in early-1977 and engage in future solo road trips.]

As Dave and I had to keep "an eye on the calendar" (we had to return to Statesboro, Georgia to begin our Junior year), there was a need to cover as much ground as possible on those days we weren't visiting relatives or National Parks.  Thus Geology/Photo stops were kept to an absolute minimum. This was also necessary to "keep the peace" as Dave had no interest in Geology and Photography was only for taking scenic shots at National Parks and such.  [I myself had not yet been "bitten by the photo bug".  That being the case, asking to borrow my Dad's 35mm Minolta camera for the trip slipped my mind, to my eternal regret.  We had to "make do" with a Kodak Instamatic.] 

I have written elsewhere about the "angst of the traveling Geologist" (including here and here), not in reference to traveling for work, but when we travel by car on family vacations or road trips with non-Geologist friends (as was the case in 1974).  As the hundreds of miles clicked away on the odometer in our 1968 Pontiac Catalina wagon, once every few days, I "had to stop" to satisfy my curiosity.  [Another of my regrets is that I don't like keeping a diary or even a road travelog (though I have made some efforts towards keeping travel notes during my 2015 - 2017 western travels).  When I did stop, it didn't occur to me to make note of landmarks or locations.]

After leaving Yellowstone National Park on U.S. Hwy 20, we passed through a small sliver of Montana, then on into Idaho, towards Idaho Falls and then Pocatello.

On the previous year's family vacation, we had visited Salt Lake City and though it was off our planned route from Yellowstone towards southeast Oregon (then south into California), for some reason I wanted to revisit the Salt Lake City area.  Though other details are forgotten, we headed south from Pocatello, Idaho on I-15.  One of the times that Dave gave in to my sporadic requests to stop and look for fossils was somewhere on I-15 in northern Utah.  I was desperate to find any fossils amidst the roadside shale outcrop and when I found the Graptolite slab, it was enough of a "Wow! moment" for me to be satisfied. 


    

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

My Favorite 40+ Year-old Specimens - #1


The above-pictured fossil sand dollar is the probably the first "good fossil" that I collected on a Georgia Southern Geology field trip in late-1972 or early-1973.  The locality - at the time - was known as the Medusa Cement Co. quarry, a few miles southeast of Perry, Georgia on U.S. Hwy 341. To the best of my current knowledge, it now operates as the CEMEX quarry.  I intended to visit there on another field trip in early 2016 (I think), however heavy rains in the area discouraged visitors that lacked a good 4x4 vehicle (including tthe person with whom I was supposed to carpool with. 

The host formation is the Late Eocene Tivola Limestone, described by some as a "bryozoan hash".

The slightly darker portions of the sand dollar surface were naturally exposed by weathering and erosion and the remaining matix was friable enough that I was able to carefully clean it by way of a toothbrush, a soft paintbrush, and careful fingernail scrapings.  I didn't want to risk damage by attempting a complete matrix removal.  So, it is probably 90% as it was when I found it.

[References will be posted later.]

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Upcoming & Planned Posts

Sort of "New Year's Resolutions", as "normal" routines resume after the holidays.

Carrizozo Basalts (NM)

Verde Fm. (AZ)

Basin and Range Primer

Revisiting Elephants Feet (AZ)

Index for "What a Geologist Sees" posts

Revisiting the Geo-Bucket List

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

False Purple Thistle

Just a few thoughts on how we mature as field scientists (pardon my biases).  Partially due to my being an avid photographer, over the years of wandering about the great outdoors, I have become more observant of things besides rocks and other Geology-related things.  Having some working knowledge about plants, fungi, animals, etc. can help keep students attentive during field trips.  (After all, we ARE Earth Scientists.)

False Purple Thistle (Eryngium leavenworthii), I call it "a flower with an attitude".  I first encountered this plant on Caverns of Sonora Road, south of I-10, west of Sonora, Texas in 2016.  

It looks like a thistle, but it isn't.  It is native to KS, AR, OK, MO, TX, and WI and it seems to prefer limestone-based soils (as seen by this specimen on the Edwards Plateau, west of Sonora, TX).  It is usually found in rocky prairies and open woods.  The nectar is good for pollinators and the seeds serve as food for birds.
Resources:

False Purple Thistle - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
False Purple Thistle - Weedin, Waterin, Watchin Blog

A Two-Part Post...

Over at Itinerant Geologist on "Road Food", based upon my travels between Georgia and Arizona in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Part 1 - Today

Part 2 - November 14

Part 3 - TBA

As we have to eat, while we travel, right?