I made a bad call. The backpack was in one hand, the laptop bag in the other. Small plane, limited room under the seat in front of me...I tossed my larger piece, the backpack, in the overhead compartment. And thereby lost a chance to take some of the most beautiful photos of my life.
Rule one about cameras: They don't take pictures if they're not in your hand. If your camera is back at home, or in the car, you will not be able to shoot the omygod beautiful scene ("Where's the camera!") or the rare bird ("Didn't YOU bring it?") or the unexpected Jane Goodall-walking-past-you-arm-in-arm-with-George Clooney-and-Lady-Gaga moment ("I can't BELIEVE I forgot it!")
In my case, if your camera is in the backpack that you toss in the overhead bin, and you end up trapped in your window seat with a large dozing man sitting next to you, and the seatbelt sign remains on, and you look out the window at the most gorgeous, late-afternoon, brilliantly illuminated, white, puffy, cotton-candy clouds you've ever seen, clouds so close you think you reach out and touch them, clouds that are the most startlingly vivid whipped meringue confections anyone has ever imagined, then you silently agonize, ponder the challenge of climbing over the man, consider the prospects of being arrested by an air marshal for creating an incident, and then surrender and just stare at the clouds and try to burn them into your memory.
And you vow never to stow your camera again.
That happened as my plane took off from Bangor, Maine, en route to New York and the next chapter of my 2012 summer: the Olympics. Even as The Naturalist's Notebook keeps rolling—along with the blog—you'll find me not in Seal Harbor and not with my head in the clouds but in either New York (now) or London (soon) with my head in the Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte swim rivalry, the U.S. women's gymnastics team's attempt to win its first gold in 16 years and a few zillion other stories involving the 10,000 athletes and 30 (or more, depending on how you count them) sports that will be part of the London Summer Games.
Stay tuned to the blog for more on nature, science, the Notebook, and the occasional kookiness that ends up in this space—I'll do my best to keep those coming in these busy weeks ahead—and apologies in advance if you hate the Olympics and don't want to read a word about them. Because I'm going to mention them a lot, especially when I'm in London.
Getting to the Point This is actually a word challenge for all of you. It is inspired by the British newspaper The Telegraph, which, as part of its Olympic preview coverage (I warned you) is doing country-by-country dossiers that include a fun category: The Country's History in Six Words. Here are a few of the entries:
Libya: Sold oil, bought arms. Gadaffi out.
Spain: Moors, Armada, Conquistadors, Franco, ETA, tiki-taka
Japan: Shogun to Sony, still not sorry
Russia: Tsars, revolution, Communism, perestroika, Oligarchs, tennis
Australia: Men in chains, Men At Work France: Losing wars, losing heads, still smoking
Great Britain: Your boys took a helluva beating
So that's the game. Sum up something in six words: The Naturalist's Notebook, Einstein, a famous author, a type of animal or plant, your home state, your dog, your life. All submissions welcome. As always.
Notebook Flash Three bits of good news from Seal Harbor: First, we were wise to keep the Notebook open on July 4 because many of you came in. Second, we are on track to launch our summer art workshops on Thursday, July 12, led by Elisa Hurley, whom a number of you know from her photography, her art, or her work at the Northeast Harbor Library. She'll lead art workshops for children (sometimes for all ages) every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Notebook.
And third, one of the Notebook's greatest supporters, our friend Sarah—who last summer became the youngest person ever to run one of our art workshops—visited for the first time this season. In an amazing coincidence, she wore a shirt that perfectly complemented the new 24-color, history-of-the-universe spectrum theme that we're developing. Two photos:
Answer to the Last Puzzler If Gertrude the rhino fund-raiser had 50 coins in her pocket that added up to one dollar, she would have either:
a) 40 pennies, 8 nickels and 2 dimes or
b) 45 pennies, 2 nickels, 2 dimes and 1 quarter
How about a riddle to please all of you herpetologist:
Why did the turtle cross the road?