Last week I heard on the news that a lake not too far away had frozen over. I remembered going to see it during another frigid blast and decided to go again. Not only did I want to refresh my memory about how beautiful it was, I also thought it would be a great opportunity to gain some experience with my new DSLR.

I hadn’t been there often since I was a child. Back then we went every year for a family reunion picnic, and sometimes just to walk around and enjoy the water views. So, of course I took a wrong turn and wound my way around the entire lake, before eventually arriving at the familiar picnic site. I stopped to take pictures of many beautiful spots and intriguing details as they appeared.

Farther out the ice was smooth as glass, as seen in the image above.

Close in it was made up of a giant sheet of circles. The surface of individual circles was concave, which gave large areas a rough textured look.

Along the shore thick ice settled on various types of vegetation. As time passed, it grew brittle and shattered. Shards resettled to make new formations that could look like milk white broken glass.

Trees near the water wore ice dresses that seemed to flow and freeze, according to the direction of the wind, until the rippling mass was captured in place like vertical waves.

Reelfoot Lake was formed during a series of massive earthquakes, in 1811 and 1812, when this huge area of land collapsed. The Mississippi River flowed backwards to fill in the depression and the lake is the result. Cypress trees like the one above are the tops of the original trees jutting out of the water. The cypress knees capture the ice and make a platform for it to build into oddly shaped clumps.

The bases of the cypress trees near the shore look like the feet of some animal not of this world, dipped in ice and frozen in place to await the coming thaw.

I’m very pleased with how my camera performed. It’s a real pleasure to use, though I’m sure I’ll be discovering new aspects for a long time. It was nice of Mother Nature to provide me with such a gorgeous subject to start my DSLR journey.


​Forget writer’s block. I’ve got writer’s freeze!

I don’t remember another stretch of frigid weather that was so long, annoying, and time consuming. There probably was one, but it’s easy for a difficult winter to slip right out of a person’s mind, after the spring warmup brings an early round of short sleeves, lemonade, and selective amnesia involving anything to do with the winter endured.

My area is prone to frozen water pipes. The worry starts when temperatures creep below (or as in recent weeks, drop like a rock) 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The best preventative is to run the water in all faucets in a steady stream the size of a pencil lead. The moving water helps prevent freezing of said water. My pipes get air in them periodically, so I have patrol the whole house day and night for the duration to make sure the streams haven’t become  sputters or stopped altogether. Leaving cabinet doors under sinks open helps keep the pipes warm. That is such fun. Who doesn’t enjoy whacking their knees on forgotten jutting cabinet door corners? I think…everyone, community wide, but it’s a necessary evil. 

I have a heat pump. I’ve never understood how the things work, how they pump heat, and why they also provide air conditioning, but are not called cold pumps in summer. Their most fun feature is that, inexplicably, the air conditioning comes on as part of the defrosting process, so that for every two degrees the heat may gain, it loses one during defrosting. Otherwise, they want to run all the time, any time there is even a hint of extreme temperature. I want to make them stop occasionally, since one I had before overworked itself and started spewing mystery fumes nobody else could smell that tried to kill me. Weather like the current Arctic Blast leaves me no choice but to turn it way down, let it do its thing, and worry. 

Thankfully, we’ve avoided freezing rain, since that is a particular bane to my existence. If I don’t time it perfectly and it’s not running when the rain starts to freeze, strands of horizontal icicle grow alarmingly fast, and the big motor fan blades just inside the top under a metal grill get locked in place by deceptively fragile looking lines of ice. Then it must be turned to the mysterious setting called Emergency Heat, until the thaw arrives to release normal functioning from the icy grip of whatever winter storm descends from Elsa’s summer home to the north. 

A few years ago I heard a weatherman say heat pumps weren’t made for weather like we have. Um, then why, pray tell, are there so many of them attempting to do a job with a built in uphill battle under conditions they aren’t meant to handle? Sometimes I feel like baking bread, brownies, and cookies in my own personal Great Ice Station Zebra Baking Show to supplement the heat, but don’t dare shut myself inside with that many treats. I wouldn’t want to emerge in the spring with powdered sugar in my hair, and bounce down the street from sugar overload.

Ah, yes. The writing angle. Well, I was on a roll there for a while. I had a slugghish story that was fun to write, but trying very hard to drag its heels…and mine along with it. I  couldn’t quite get it to go where I thought it needed to be. It still hasn’t. What it eventually, suddenly did was go where it knew it needed to be. New imagery triggered by a single phrase. New direction. Partial new title. Then complete new title. It was cooking hot and fast in my head, some back corner of my brain finally finishing what it was doing to burst the results forth with renewed energy and excitement.

Before I could sit down and get all of the new growth organized and into story form, the four icebergs of the coldpocalypse paraded into my sky and my attention was siphoned off into the tasks of keeping a functioning safe and comfortable-ish environment…safe and comfortable. Still, though in the midst of feeling like a walking slushie, trying to stock up on groceries between frigid blasts, not being amused to find that Walmart’s cold food section had been stripped literally bare by ravening hordes who beat me to it, and listening to water hissing and gurgling as it streamed down the drain like so much literally liquid money, that back corner of my brain keeps opening its door to let the words and images and bits of dialogue out. 

Anybody who tries to tell you that plotting isn’t writing has no grasp of the persistence of the will to write. It may not be physically tapping keys or plying a pen, but thinking is the basis on which the big, beautiful world of writing is built. It’s part of the process. In fact, a case could be made that the thinking part is the actual heart of writing, while the physical part is the product of that process. It’s where the ink meets the page and makes visible the thoughts and images and words that become creative art.

That mental endeavor is so important a part of a writer’s existence that it does its thing in the back corner of the brain called the subconscious​, even when real life actively tries to freeze it out with mind numbing cold and stress and sometimes fear. It’s a gift really, that we can write with our minds, when conditions try to tell us otherwise. Pen and keyboard and paper can, and sometimes must, wait. The urgent need to create another world through the sheer power of firing synapses, thankfully, doesn’t have to.

Before we stray too far from the holidays, here’s an article about Dickens and food. Not just the Cratchit Christmas table, Oliver asking for more, or how Magwich’s hunger may have influenced his temperament, but also bits about the life of the author after his father was sent to debtor’s prison when Charles Dickens was only twelve years old. No wonder his writings about poverty were so authentic feeling. He was an ultimate example of the words that have long urged writers to write what we know. Though that idea is debated as much as it’s​ adhered to, Dickens is an alarming example of where such practice may lead. 

His type of experiences were common in harder times even in our own century, and even still in the small dark corners of modern day poverty. When my grandfather was killed in a car crash in a time when cars themselves were in their adolescence, my father had to leave school at twelve years old and shoulder responsibility for his mother, sister, and young niece. His sacrifice made it possible for his family to carry on much as they had before. Without a father to run the farm, but left with a man grown up out of time to provide for them. Hardship​ was and is common in the rural south, though lacking in one thing that made Victorian England stand out as a stark example of poverty​ and injustice…the class system.

While there will always be harsh instances of have and have not, the Victorians across the pond made a life’s work of it. Many of the very wealthy would have stepped over a starving child lying in the gutter…if they ever stepped close to a gutter in their entire life. Even in their own insulated world of high society, they lived lives of pampered excess. To the starving guttersnipe the clean, beautifully dressed people who lived physically nearby would have been as alien to them as if they’d landed from Mars. 

Food was a vivid demarcation line between classes. This wonderful Guardian article gives intriguing examples, the very reading of which leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those fortunate to be only reading about such a harsh way of life.

​I’m a bit burned out on sequels, prequels, and in the case of The Huntsman, Winters War…prequel/sequel/whattheheck? However, certain names will pull me out of mega franchise fatigue. The big one, of course, is Anthony Hopkins. 

I saw the pictures of him roaring along the London cityscape in the lowslung sportscar of carlovers’ dreams. Intrigued, I looked forward to the movie. Not forward enough, unfortunately, to remember that if I waited until Black Friday I could probably get it way cheaper than the full price I paid for the DVD + Digital version the week it came out. Turned out it was worth the extra $7.99. It was also worth the leap back into the Transformer franchise.

I’d actually skipped the reboot, so everything  but some of the Transformers that hold it all together was new to me. That’s actually a good thing. The sense of unfamiliarity added a freshness that I didn’t see coming. I ended up really liking the new normal of a manipulated Optimus Prime, who agressively clambered his way through the film, like he was hopped up on a robotic version of ‘roid rage. Mark Wahlberg is a welcome addition. His character brings the heft of grit and pluck necessary to face off against Transformageddon.

Sometimes, when a movie reminds the viewer of another movie, it’s annoying. Other times it’s cool and endearing. I found this one to be the latter. Squeeks has R2-D2ish cuteness, while Cogman is like a wilder, less prissy C-Threepio…who has taken up Olympic level athletics. There are also moments reminiscent of Star Trek, Tomb Raider, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Even a touch of Downtonesque charm. Yet, all of these elements generate enough uniqueness and originality to keep it fresh.

Anthony Hopkins’ Sir Edmund is great fun, made even moreso by his metal sidekick in the form of faithful manservant, Cogman. I could watch both or either of those two all day, as that aspect strikes me squarely in the quirky, off from center Anglophile funnybone. That the movie can also carry off the gravity of WWI and the misty moments of Camelot makes it extra enjoyable.

An aging franchise rebooting itself into something fresh and fun is a great idea, when it works. Transformers: The Last Knight has done it with fun, coolness, and a dash of panasche.

Transformers: The Last Knight Official Trailer

I’ve been sick for most of the past month. Thus the neglected Purple Koala. I’m starting to feel better, but for the moment I thought I’d drag a few posts I’m particularly fond of to the present. Ranging from the recent to the way, way back, slices of what was on my mind at different times 

Stories From My Mother–Flying High
Will Our Future Be Worth Knob Fearful?
Door To Another Time

Random Images — Wuthering Heights

​I saw an article about several tour companies ceasing to offer elephant rides as part of tours overseas. This is such good news for animal lovers…and of course the elephants in question. Apparently incredible cruelties are used to make elephants docile and submissive enough for tourists to ride them, as well as other ways they are used for entertainment. Though I didn’t know anything about methods used to make elephants suitable for human “enjoyment” until I recently read a little about the subject in passing, I formed strong feelings about elephants in captivity a long time ago.

It was a typical American zoo. Many fascinating exhibits showcasing animals most of us would never see in person, if these exhibits didn’t exist. The animals seemed well cared for and content.

Except for one.

There was one special place that was a magnet for the eager and adventurous zoo goer. Elephant Rides! A relatively large enclosure was set up in a dry, dusty area. It reminded me of the horse riding rings many small towns had when I was a child. People would trailer their horses in, so they could ride around and around a churned dirt field, essentially showing off their horsemanship to anyone interested enough to sit on bleachers in the hot sun, eating popcorn and drinking sweating cups of what was colloquially known as “co’ dranks”. The horse riding rings were enclosed in fences made up of posts and rough planks. The elephant riding dust pit was ringed by a fence made of metal poles and bars.

Like many people I love animals and want to be as close to them as possible. So I went with eagerness, excitement, and a modicum of fear to check out the elephant ride area. Several people waited in line, as a woman who looked like she couldn’t decide whether to laugh or throw up was assisted in mounting the very large lone elephant who waited to be humiliated yet again.

Yes, humiliated. Elephants have very expressive faces, oddly since their features aren’t as mobile as ours. As this female elephant, who might have been a proud matriarch in another time and place, stood stoically waiting for the signal to move, I was drawn to her eyes. They were the saddest eyes imaginable. I didn’t notice how she was handled or treated. It was as if I had fallen into a deep, sucking well of quiet dispair. She looked my way and I felt guilty for even standing near her static torture. I wanted to hug her. To whisper in her great, flopping ear that she was loved. Respected. A subject of awe. 

All I could do for her, as she was urged into motion, her passenger gaining the thrill of a lifetime at the expense of a lifetime of captivity, was make absolutely sure that she would carry one less person on her regal back that day. Very near tears, I turned and walked away. 

Obviously, the memory of that brief encounter has never left me. I had loved zoos and wildlife parks up until that day. Honestly, I still do to an extent. However much I dislike even the idea of wild animals in captivity, I also recognize the value of often rare opportunities to see living, breathing gorgeous-even-if-they’re-ugly creatures in habitats as close to their natural environments as possible. I don’t know how many people actually appreciate and understand the privilege of seeing an elephant’s eyelashes sweep across the orb of its gaze, a baby giraffe’s delicate spotted neck, or the rippling muscles beneath a zebra’s stripes, but if even one in a thousand zoo goers left a conservateur it would be one more person who understands the sense of responsibility and respect that needs to accompany admiration, even adoration of wildlife.

Some might say I think too much. I say many don’t think enough. Elephants are intelligent creatures, loving and loyal with their families and friends. They mourn their dead and sacrifice for the greater good. I will always remember the nobility of that gaze, the dignity of her stance, and compare her visible innate qualities so favorably against the conduct and demeanor of her passenger. There is no doubt which one I’d rather have for a friend.

Being rather fond of koalas, purple or not, I just had to share this People article about a koala that accidentally took a car trip in Australia. In a wheel well. Clinging to an axel. I love the Mad Max headline. It was the picture that caught my attention. The poor thing looked singed and stunned, but still adorable. Made me want to hug it, though I learned at Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Blue Mountains that you need to be kind of wary of them. They get eucalyptus oil on their claws, which can be bad for us nonfurry types if they scratch our skin. Thus the way they were handed over to eager huggers perched on a pillow they clung to instead of their human admirers. Apparently, they can have a bad day like we do. A popular one wasn’t allowed into the public area when I was there, because it was cranky. On the upside they smell slightly of eucalyptus and are generally just as sleepy, sweet, and adorable as they look in pictures. Sometimes I think the best life possible would be to live in New South Wales and have a tree full of koalas in the back yard. As long as you check your wheel wells before driving off.