The long and the short

It was cloudy all day Monday, but when we left the hospital that night, it was clear. Not much cooler, but clear enough. The sidewalk was wet and the street looked black and slick. The gravel in our driveway was dark, and water was dripping from the metal roof. It’s easy to understand why people say that dew falls, because the areas under the trees were dry, as if the dew had not fallen through the pine needles. But, of course, dew doesn’t really fall, it condenses on surfaces that have a clear view of the sky. To the infrared eyes of the Earth, a clear night sky is a very cold thing, so the surfaces loses its heat quickly and the moisture in the air condenses on the now-cold surface.

Tuesday morning was still warm. Fog hid everything below the mountain, but we were clear, at least until I took the dogs for a walk.

Zeke and Lucy

Zeke and Lucy

There was a little fog here and there, but it was mostly clear.

Lucy, my mother’s little dog, accompanied Zeke and me. We call her Lucy, Lulu, Lucille, or sometimes Lucifer, but she’s not really a bad dog at all. She has been a true friend and companion for my mother for probably 10 years. We started encouraging Mother to get a dog for company soon after my father died, and eventually she gave in. It’s a funny thing to watch, if you know my mother. She was never a dog person. All our childhood pets had to stay outside, and she never did much more than touch their heads with her fingertips. And now Lucy sleeps on her bed, tucked right up against her back. And she lies on Mother’s lap when Mother reclines and watches NCIS reruns.

Lucy is staying with us until Mother goes home. And then Lucy will go back home with her and keep her back warm until the end.

Friday Felines

Sylvester the joker

Sylvester is many things. He is the sleeper. He is the creeper. He is the midnight peeper.

Sylvester the cat, bolding going where no cat is supposed to go.

Some people call me the gangster of kitty treats

Here he is, along with the treats, my dark beer, the cat corrector (squirt-squirt-squirt), the catnip, and my husband’s wimpy wheat beer. He fears nothing. Except the cat corrector.

There’s the shy Sylvester.

Peek-a-boo, you with the camera

People keep talking about me

And then there is Sylvester the slob.

Fat Albert?

Space cowboy or pompitus of love?

He’s the cutest thing I ever did see.

Our Alaska trip — Part 2

In the first installment of our Alaska trip remembrances, we had reached Denali National Park. There we saw the first of many waves. In this case, they were in the air.

Waves over Denali

Waves over Denali — click to enlarge

After leaving Denali National Park, the train took us down to Whittier, south of Anchorage, where our cruise ship waited. The weather was nice on the trip down. The railroad has to pass through a tunnel to get to the port, which is on a narrow inlet. The mountain seemed to be holding all the dreary weather over the port.

The port of Whittier

The port of Whittier

Some people have their own cruise ships. We had to settle for a room with a view on the port starboard side. Apparently modern ships are not required to dock with their port side actually to the port. I think they parked that way so they could make a quick getaway, because once we were aboard the ship, it left. It may be that others boarded at or near the same time, but we’re a clannish sort, and took no notice of them.

The weather remained dreary, but the scenery improved.

The ship was big, but the mountains were bigger

The ship was big, but the mountains were bigger

And it wasn’t long before the weather improved.

It takes a large state to hold all that sky

It takes a large state to hold all that sky

It seems that Alaska has a flair for dramatic scenery.

Opposite of sunset

Sunsets can be dramatic and colorful. Those are hidden from us behind trees and the mountain. But we have a good view to the east that lets us see not the sun going down, but the dark coming up. It’s the shadow of the Earth.

We spend every night in the shadow of the Earth.

This is the view directly to the east on Sunday evening, just before sunset.

The east is blue, with a hint of pink.

The east is blue, with a hint of pink.

The sun is still up, illuminating everything we can see to the east. But as the sun drops, something else rises.

Sunset starts

Sunset starts

There it is. Just a hint, right below the pink, the shadow of the Earth.

A little while later, the Earth’s shadow creeps up into the sky.

The shadow of the Earth rises

The shadow of the Earth rises

Near the horizon, just above the shadow, the sun’s rays are passing through as much of the Earth’s atmosphere as possible, and most of the blue is filtered out. So we see what’s left, the red part of the spectrum.

There’s something about that shadow that’s not quite on the level. Can you see it? Here it is a little later, zoomed a little.

The sky darkens

The sky darkens

Can you see the slope? We’re looking almost due east here, and the Earth’s shadow slopes up from south to north. That’s because the sun is setting towards the south, and the near-cylinder of the Earth’s shadow points towards the north, where the sun will rise about a month after the first day of spring summer. That slope is the curvature of the Earth.

Shortly after this, the shadow of the Earth moved up into the sky as the sky darkened everywhere, and it was no longer possible to differentiate the Earth’s shadow from the dark sky.

If you lived on a high mountain with a good view in all directions, you could watch the dividing line between daylight and night, which is called the terminator, as it speeds across the landscape. The terminator moves at a little over 1000 miles per hour at the equator, and at about 850 miles per hour at the latitude of our house (about 35 degree north). That’s fast. Sometimes we can see to Kennesaw Mountain, just outside Atlanta, so let’s say we can see 40 miles on a good day. At the speed of the terminator, it would take less than three minutes to cover the distance from where we are to that point.

But there are too many hills and valleys here to actually see the terminator move across the surface. We’ll have to content ourselves to watch the Earth’s shadow cast on the air itself.

January 12, 1923

Saturday, January 12, 2013, was my mother’s 90th birthday. We had planned to take her out for dinner at one of those Japanese restaurants where they cook right at the table, but she didn’t feel up to it. So we took her last Saturday.

Most of the Paris family at the birthday dinner

Most of the Paris family at the birthday dinner

This is all but one of the existing Paris family. Henry, my brother, is on the left. Terry, his wife, comes next. Then Thomas, his son. That’s my mother, Doris Lynette (Kennedy) Paris there, finishing up her dinner. Next to her is Leah. The only one missing was Russell, Thomas’s brother, who lives up the East Coast way too far away.

The chef did the usual things with knives and fire. Rice was grilled. Chicken, steak and scallops were eaten. Fun was had.

Apparently it’s a popular place for birthdays, because the staff gave drum and gong performances for several tables. But not ours. It was probably just as well. It was a long, strenuous night for my mother, and I don’t think she was really up for the traditional Japanese restaurant birthday song.