"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘Long Weekend’ Category

A Nature-Made Mental Health Day

 

IMAG0761My friend and I had gone to Springfield to spend the day with our college-aged kids, but no definitive plan had been decided. Icy drizzle limited us to an indoor activity for our visit, so we crossed off an outing to the World’s Largest Fork. (Yes, this is an actual attraction in Springfield, and yes, I would love to see what it looks like).  After weighing our options for the Saturday afternoon before us, we decided to visit the Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium at Bass Pro Shops.

The Wildlife Aquarium at the museum has a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium that features 35,000 live fish, but there are also quite a few reptiles and birds sprinkled into the galleries.  Coming out of the swamp exhibit, I saw the above quote displayed on a sign.  The words are attributed to John Muir, known as a Scottish naturalist and preservationist who lived during the late 1800s.  As I wandered with our group throughout the exhibits, this quote stood out to me.  I loved the visual of how all of nature is knitted together, as if connecting everything with a single thread.  Just a little tug, a little awareness, and all things come together into focus.

Who knew puffer fish had such cute little teeth to smile with?

I’d had my phone out the entire visit, and even though it was being used as a camera, it made me realize how even the simple joy of witnessing nature was connected to some kind of technology for me.   There are times I am trying so hard to document an experience that I forget to actually live the experience as it’s happening.  I continued to take pictures for the rest of the galleries, but I made it a point to try to make the photography secondary to what I was seeing and who I was with at the moment.

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IMAG0731It was nice to not have a packed schedule for the day, just a late breakfast with the kids, an aquarium visit done at a leisurely pace and plenty of good conversation.  The weather wasn’t getting any better, and we didn’t want to get back home too late, so after a coffee stop we called it a day, gave the kids hugs and headed home.

I like to believe that the “single tug at nature” process had begun.  I suppose that once Mother Nature decided she had my attention with her beauty, she decided it was time to show me her power.  That Saturday, Nature was the one that had the power to make me quit rushing through things and stop to take a breath.

The freezing drizzle continued for the first part of the trip, but the roads were drivable.  As we continued down I-44, the windshield wipers were having a hard time keeping up with the precipitation.  Even with the temperature and the defroster blower on high, layers of ice began creeping across the windshield.  Then there were a couple of patches on the road that were sketchy.  Tractor trailer trucks either blew past us at normal highway speed or crept slowly along on the hills as the daylight started to fade.

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Any Missourian will tell you that snow is something a driver can reason with; ice is not. With this in mind,  we decided to listen to nature and stopped to spend the night at hotel rather than risk the ice.

Sometimes the To Do List needs to balance with the To Live list.  Instead of a white-knuckled drive home, I was able to spend time with a friend, enjoying a meal and relaxing with a bottle of wine, talking and laughing over YouTube videos and even getting a little work done, too.  (Yes, technology manages to be a part of my nature-scape.)

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This was one of my favorite exhibits of the day.  The jellyfish looked like floating creatures in a lava lamp.  So mesmerizing to watch.

I’m not sure John Muir envisioned the world as a place where getting a glimpse at nature takes as much effort as it does, but surely he saw how appreciating it needed to be intentional.   I doubt he would have guessed how much competition would be out there in our modern-day lives.  On most days I must admit I am guilty of being more dependent on my phone to get me through my day than a spectacular view of mysterious-looking jellyfish.

Thank goodness there are some fantastic nature screen savers out there.

The St. Louis Zoo

Love the Zebras!  So unique.

Love the Zebras! So unique.

Here lately, it’s a pretty amazing feat any time that all five of us in our family manage to do any family activity together besides the occasional meal at the dinner table. But a few Sundays ago, it happened to fall into place-the girls wanted to DO something besides hanging out at the house and Tyler happened to have the afternoon off when we had a Sunday afternoon at our disposal. So we went to the St. Louis Zoo.

Normally when we're at the Zoo, it's too hot or too cold and the cats are hiding somewhere.  It was great getting to see them out and about.

Normally when we’re at the Zoo, it’s too hot or too cold and the cats are hiding somewhere. It was great getting to see them out and about.

Out and about today!

If you’re not from St. Louis, let me tell you our Zoo, located in Forest Park, is absolutely amazing. Though you have to pay for parking if you choose to park in the Zoo’s lot, admission to the Zoo is still free. And our Zoo has a rich history (as does Forest Park in general). It started with the walk-thru flight cage, originally part of the 1904 World’s Fair. The City paid $3,500 for it back in 1917. You can check out the Zoo’s history at http://www.stlzoo.org .

So this guy in the Walk Thru Bird Cage was friendly.  He was mugging for the camera...even playing peekaboo!

This bird in the Walk Thru Bird Cage was friendly. He was mugging for the camera…even playing peekaboo!

Peek a Boo–A little blurry, but this little guy was a hoot!

Ask anyone who grew up in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, and they will probably recall school field trips as well as family visits to the Zoo. I remember in first grade we went there and when my kids were in elementary school they always did a Zoo field trip in third grade. Both of my Girl Scout troops participated in Snooze at the Zoo, where we spent the night at the Zoo participating in fun educational activities, including a night hike. They also hold this event for families as well—you can read about it on their website. My favorite part was being able to go through the herpatorium at night with flashlights covered in red plastic film as to not disturb any reptilian eyeballs. Seeing the snakes and amphibians poised in the eerie light had a certain creepiness factor unlike when you see them in the normal light of day. We learned a lot about how the Zoo operates and works with other Zoos in how they choose to breed the animals. Hint: Sometimes the females and males that would make great offspring do NOT like each other. Both times our troops went it was winter, so we slept inside the buildings (with Erin’s troop we slept right under the stuffed display of world-famous Phil the Gorilla) but they have these events in the summer, too, where you can sleep outside under the stars.  As a Girl Scout leader, it was one of the most enjoyable trips we have done…and there have been several.

The rhino seemed to be in a little bit of a bad mood.  It was hot though.

The rhino seemed to be in a little bit of a bad mood. It was hot though.

He must have felt better getting in the water.

He must have felt better getting in the water.

When we went as a family, we were able to see the Sea Lion show. The sea lions are my favorite. Even Tyler made the comment that they seem so happy, it just makes you happy to watch them. They re-opened the Sea Lion exhibit a few years back and now you actually walk through a tunnel that goes through the water tank where the sea lions are swimming around. I was a little bummed that they were off eating or something when we walked through, so we didn’t get to see them up close in the walk-through tunnel. But I have some great pics from the show.

The sea lion pups really know how to perform.

The sea lion pups really know how to perform.

Check out Mandy getting her treat.

Check out Mandy getting her treat.

I took some pictures with my phone camera and thought I’d share some of my favorites. Have a great weekend!

Owl pose for you.

“Owl” pose for you.

Oh, how dignified!

Oh, how dignified!

Lemurs are just hilarious to watch.  They were behind glass, so I didn't get the clearest pic, but he just looks SO relaxed!

Lemurs are just hilarious to watch. They were behind glass, so I didn’t get the clearest pic, but he just looks SO relaxed!

Check out his face! I’ll bet he was just DYING to say something about it being hump day, but couldn’t as it was the weekend.

The hyena didn't seem to be laughing...he was stalking something while we were watching him.  Very intense dude.

The hyena didn’t seem to be laughing…he was stalking something while we were watching him. Very intense dude.

Again, behind glass, so a little blurry.  However, he just looked "cozy" or something all curled up like that!

Again, behind glass, so a little blurry. However, he just looked “cozy” or something all curled up like that!

Labor Day: What is America Celebrating?

As a kid, Labor Day meant the end of summer and the beginning of school. Even though the kids start mid-August now, the first Monday in September still feels like the Last Hurrah before we go full speed into school and all their fall activity schedules. Today’s Labor Day doesn’t even dictate fashion choices as it once did. Fashion gurus and etiquette experts (Emily Post’s Etiquette, 17th Edition, published in 2004) now say it’s even acceptable to wear white after Labor Day, but I still don’t. Call me old-fashioned (I prefer traditional) but I like to think some things just belong to summer—like homegrown tomatoes, flip flops and Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy beer.

So why do many of us have the day off for Labor Day? I’ve often wondered what the full history was to this holiday and found out there’s a lot more to it than I realized. This is my attempt to put together a brief summary of what Labor Day is about without boring the average reader silly. The date-specific information I gathered was found on the US Department of Labor’s website (www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm) as well as some information from good old Wikipedia. If you want even more in-depth information, I also found some good information on About at http://usgovinfo.about.com/bllabor.htm.

To start, we can thank the early Labor organizers for wanting to rally the American working class back in the late 1800s. The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882, with a parade that apparently looked more like a protest. As far as who masterminded the idea is disputed. Some credit Peter J. McGuire, who was the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), while others attribute it to Matthew Maguire, who was part of the Central Labor Union (CLU). I found it ironic that they had similar names—no wonder there was confusion! Some people claim that Matthew Maguire got slighted for the honor because he ran for office for the wrong political party and made people mad.

The holiday started out being recognized at the municipal level, but the first state to sign Labor Day into law was Oregon in 1887. Later that year, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York also signed the holiday into law. It wasn’t until 1894 that President Cleveland and Congress signed it into law in an apparent move to do some damage control to his re-election campaign after the Pullman Strike.

The Pullman Strike was basically a boycott that railroad workers had against running trains pulling Pullman cars in response to the Pullman Palace Car Company cutting worker wages when the company’s bottom line was losing money. George Pullman, the company’s owner, didn’t lower the rents on company housing the workers lived in, so many of the Pullman factory workers joined the American Railway Union. As more workers and strike sympathizers got involved, rail transportation was interrupted, prompting intervention by the federal government, and things got ugly. Federal troops were called in, and you can guess how that ended—in a violent mess.

Six days after the Pullman Strike ended, Cleveland signed the observance of Labor Day into federal law in 1894 to honor the working man. By the way, this attempt to smooth things over with the various Labor parties didn’t work—he didn’t get the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1896.

Another interesting thing I learned about when researching this holiday was that September was chosen to celebrate Labor Day in an effort to not commemorate the Haymarket Massacre that happened in Chicago on May 4, 1886. The Haymarket Massacre was another situation where what started as a peaceful protest ended in violence and death when someone threw a bomb. President Cleveland and Congress did not want the federal holiday to be associated with that event. As a national holiday that is celebrating the American worker, flags fly proudly at full staff for Labor Day. (So please don’t call your local municipality the day after Labor Day and scold them for not having it at half-staff. I work for the City of O’Fallon, and was told we get phone calls complaining about this every year.)

Even though today’s notion of Labor Day doesn’t have the Labor Movement as a primary focus anymore, I like to think the people who originally wanted to celebrate the achievements of workers in America would be happy that we’re doing exactly that. Having a day off to spend with friends and family seems like a fitting reward for the everyday working person. Happy celebrating!

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