Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Thursday, May 31, 2007


Learning to Swim

Swimming is a very useful skill. If you can swim, you might be allowed to learn to paddle a canoe, to sail a boat, or to try a snorkel and mask in the water in Hawaii.

When Evelyn had just finished kindergarten, she signed up for swimming lessons at the park near our house. She was not very lucky, because that June was a very cold month. She had to go in the water every morning even though it was very very cold, but she learned to swim. Since she could swim, Evelyn enjoyed sailing little boats when she was at camp.

When I went to camp, I wasn't a very good swimmer, and I missed a lot of fun. Now I love to go snorkeling and see lots of fish. I had to learn to swim while I was also learning to snorkel, and it took me a long time.

Miriam and Alice are taking swimming lessons. Their teacher's name is Mr.Daniel. He helps them learn all about the water in the pool at the George Mason sports center. They get dressed in the locker room before the class, and then they get to see what everyone is doing in various rooms of the building. They watched some wrestlers practicing, and some pilates classes, and some other swim classes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Giant Sequoias

At Big Basin Redwood state park in California, we took a walk to see the giant sequoia trees, also called coastal redwoods. This is one of the very good places to see redwoods as they have been growing for several thousand years. The first two photos show the largest tree in the park, "The Father of the Forest." One picture shows the base of the tree and the other shows the top of the tree. The "Mother of the Forest" is taller, but not as big in circumference or as old.
Many of the old trees have become hollowed out by fire and by decay. Because they are so enormous, you can walk into the hollow part, which in some cases is as big as a small room.

The bark of the trees can grow in a variety of patterns. Sometimes the bark shows the black soot from fires that burned long ago. A fire burned in Big Basin just over 100 years ago, yet many trees are still blackened. After a fire, the trees grow in new ways from the base of old trees, and redwood seeds begin to sprout. The forest comes back to life.

The redwood forest is very peaceful. In the morning, the clouds were low and mist and rain were around us as we drove down the winding road into the park. During and after our walk, we saw much more sunshine.

When we were young, Elaine, Arny, our parents, and I took a trip to California. We saw the redwoods that grow in the mountains in Yosemite National Park. We drove over a very steep, narrow, and winding road called the Tioga Road, which goes from Yosemite to Nevada. The road into Big Basin was a little like that, but not as long.

At that time, one hollow tree in Yosemite was so big that you could drive your car through the hollow part of the trunk, and we did that. Driving or walking too close to the trees turns out to be bad for them, so now you can't drive through the tree any more, and you can't walk into very many of them. I think the tree that many people drove through became so weak that it fell down.


The Bottle-Brush Tree

The bottle-brush tree comes from Australia. The flowers look so much like bottle brushes that I think most people find them funny the first time they see them. I saw this tree in the special Australian plants area of the Arboretum in Davis, California.

A lot of people have planted bottle-brush trees in their gardens in California. We first saw them in the garden of our house in Santa Barbara when we were there years ago. Dan says he too remembers first seeing them when he visited us there. Many bottle-brush trees grow in Dan and Lara's neighborhood now, and we also saw them when we were visiting.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Birdwatching at Shoreline Park

We went birdwatching with Lara, Theo, Tessa, Joel, Aparna, and Delia at Shoreline Park near their homes. Shoreline Park has many paths around several ponds, which are attached to the San Francisco Bay. We saw a cinnamon teal swimming in the water. We saw many terns -- the one in the photo is about to dive down and get a little critter to eat. We watched an egret display his plumage.

All the birds were very beautiful.

We saw an avocet with two little chicks.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Bird Watching

Today in the park we were watching the birds. I took this picture of a barn swallow sitting on a bird house. We also saw a Baltimore oriole, robins, red-winged blackbirds, warblers, a goldfinch, Canada geese, a dove, an ordinary pigeon, song and house sparrows, a swift, a grackle, and a mallard duck. Sometimes in the park, as we walk along the river, we also see bluebirds.

Lenny has been a birdwatcher since elementary school. He has always liked to see how many different species of birds he could find on a walk or in a park. He used to go on walks with the Audubon Society when we lived in Berkeley a long time ago, and he likes to take photos of birds. Maybe we will see some birds in California next week when we visit with Theo and the rest of the family.

Friday, May 11, 2007


The Daffodil Mile Again

Evelyn and I went back to the Arboretum to take a walk and look at the last of the daffodils. Some of them are hidden by high grass. A few still have flowers, and yellow dandelions are all around them, adding more bright yellow to the greenery.

To see how they looked in full bloom, but before the grass came up: "The Daffodil Mile".

Saturday, May 05, 2007


Stone Buildings Around the World

Stone has always been a very important construction material, from the time people first began to make buildings -- especially big buildings. In England around 5000 years ago people built circles of huge stones. The most famous stone circle is called Stonehenge, shown above.

The huge pyramids of Egypt are also about 5000 years old. The next picture shows one of the pyramids -- the people nearby look like little dots. Nearby is an enormous stone statue called the Sphinx.

The next picture shows a stone wall in Jerusalem, Israel. It was once part of the ancient Jewish Temple, and was built more than 2000 years ago. Like the pyramids, it is made of enormous blocks of stone that were cut and moved into place with great difficulty.

The Maya people of Chichen Itza, Mexico, built many large stone buildings, including pyramids. The next picture shows the dome of a building that was probably used for looking at the stars and planets. It is more than 1000 years old.

Finally, this is a stone building in India that's around 400 years old, named the Taj Mahal. Some people think it is the most beautiful building in the world.

Now I'm finished talking about stone.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Arches National Park


Stones in the Landscape

Stones and rocks are everywhere on our planet earth and on other planets too. When a little piece of stone from outer space falls to earth it's called a meteor. If you see a meteor fall, it looks like a light swooshing through the sky, and it's called a shooting star. So a shooting star is a little piece of stone from space, burning up as it comes into the air around the earth.

Under the dirt and trees and grass, if you dig down, you will find stone. Mountains are made of stone too. Sometimes the wind and rain and frost create very beautiful landscapes from stone. In Utah, wind and frost has made tall columns of stone. People call them hoodoos. The stone is very colorful and strangely shaped.

In Bryce Canyon National Park we saw large numbers of hoodoos, and we walked around on trails up and down the stony landscape. In Arches National Park, the action of frosts, rain, and wind has created huge natural arches of stone, as well as hoodoos and many other shapes. All these stone formations take millions of years to develop.

In Hawaii, volcanic activity causes liquid stone, called magma or lava, to come out of vents in the islands and create new rocky places. Lava comes from very deep inside the earth where it is always very hot.

In this picture you can see how the lava crossed a road and buried it under a new layer of very hard stone. Now cars can't go on the road any more.

The stone arches and hoodoos in Utah take millions of years to form, but a vocano spouting lava can change the landscape in a few hours. When we were in Hawaii, we saw the road as it is shown in the picture. By now, more lava may have covered still more of the road and made this landscape entirely different.

We walked a long way after we took this picture. We went to see the hot lava still flowing into the sea and making new land.

Gardeners try to make small landscapes with trees, flowers, and bushes, and sometimes with stones. In Japan, gardeners have used very carefully chosen stones for many years. Here is a picture that Tom took in Kyoto, Japan. In this garden, are large stones under trees and small stones raked into a flat surface.

Finally, we have a few stones in our garden:

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Useful Stones

Stones are everywhere, big and small. People use stones for all kinds of things, or they collect stones because they are pretty or interesting, or they make statues out of stone. Scientists who study stones are called geologists or chemists or materials scientists.

Carriage Stones: Before people rode in cars, they used to ride in carriages pulled by horses. A carriage was very high up off the ground. If you wanted to get down from a carriage you had to take a very big step, and if you were a lady this was especially hard, because in carriage days, ladies wore very long dresses that got in the way. A carriage stone was like a step that you could use to get out of your carriage. The carriage stone in the picture is not too far from our house. It still has a metal ring where the carriage driver could tie the horses to keep them from running away. No carriages have been there for a long time.

When I was a little girl, horses and carriages were long gone, but when we took a walk, we often saw a white carriage stone near the street, somewhat like the one in the picture. We called it a wishing stone, and sat on it to make a wish.

Millstones: Long ago people discovered that you could use a very hard rock to grind grain or crush other types of foods to make them easier to eat.

At first, people tried to find stones the right size and shape, and would put some grain on the stone and grind with the other stone. But people always try to improve what they find. After a long time of using the stones that they found, people began to make millstones: special round stones that were good for crushing and grinding hard food, especially for grinding grain into flour or for pressing olives to get olive oil.

In the picture is an ancient mill that has been rebuilt in a museum in Israel. You can see the basket where the raw grain would have been held and the stone trough for grinding. Some ancient mills were turned by a person. Some were turned by animals like donkeys or oxen. A water mill uses a rushing river or stream to turn a mill wheel, which makes the grinding stones turn and grind the grain. Now people don't usually use stone for grinding: they use steel blades, which make very fine flour.

Gemstones: Beautiful stones that sparkle and reflect light are called gemstones or precious stones.
A diamond is a very hard stone made of carbon atoms. It's called a crystal. In the picture is a very famous diamond called the Hope Diamond. It is very large and blue in color, which makes it very special.

We have seen the Hope Diamond and many, many other gemstones like rubies, emeralds, and sapphires in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington. We have walked through the large exhibit of precious stones. Do you remember the geodes and jewelry and other types of stones like quartz?

Lodestone: A long time ago, people noticed that metal would stick to certain types of stones. They named these stones lodestones. How does a lodestone work? Well, Grandpa studies the science of materials like this. He says that the force that makes these paper clips in the picture stick to the lodestone is called magnetism.

Magnetism is a force inside some rocks or some kinds of metal. All things like stones are made of extremely tiny atoms. The important thing about lodestones is that iron atoms are lined up inside in a special way. This makes paperclips -- also made of iron -- stick to it.

Here's a really interesting thing: rocks with iron inside them sometimes are hit by a lightning bolt. The lightning bolt lines up the atoms. That's what makes them into lodestones. Most of the magnets we have (like refrigerator magnets) are made of iron without any stone in it, but they work the same way: the atoms are lined up. The atoms inside a refrigerator magnet get lined up in a different way -- not by lightning.

Remember: atoms are so small that no one can see them except with a special microscope.

Skipping Stones: Here is a way to have fun with a stone. Throw it across still water in a special way so that it skips up several times and makes a whole lot of ripples.

It's not really easy to get a stone to skip across the water. Some people can do it really easily, and some never get the feeling of how to make the stone seem to jump up over and over. If you find that it's fun to skip stones across a pond, you can stand there for a long time, trying again and again, and counting how many times it skips up and makes a new circle of ripples. Different people pick different kinds of small, flat stones for skipping. Do you know anyone who is really good at skipping stones?


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