A Tale of Turning Hearts

A tale of turning hearts

Yesterday, November 18th, I attended my Aunt Lugene’s funeral.  She was 11 days shy of her 93rd birthday and had been in ill health for a while.  The service was a celebration of her life.  She had been a patient Army Wife, mother, grand-, great grand-, and great-great grandmother.  “The best grandma ever”, was a phrase used by more than one grandchild.  Warm, loving, accepting were among the many descriptions.  Tears were shed, and she will be missed, but no one was inconsolable or hopeless.  This was partly due to the feeling that a wonderful woman was finally out of discomfort and in the arms of her sweetheart again and part of a unique biblical prophecy.

Malachi chapter 4 verse 6 speaks of a last-days turning of “the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”  I have been to other family funerals, with the same batch of cousins and sisters, but at no time has anyone suggested a family reunion.  Oh, yeah, the basic “we only get together for weddings and funerals” comment was made at least once, but this time, the suggestion of a full family get together was made and agreed upon.

Perhaps this was because Aunt Lugene was the last of the “parents”.  The last of my paternal grandparents’ children/children-in-law.  The generations officially moved up in ranks.  Death is closer to the now “old folks” (my level) especially since a cousin on that level has cancer.   I think more so it agrees perfectly with the trend to know one’s roots.  Several companies exist in many countries, to help one with genealogy.  I can think of at least two popular television shows in which people are helped to research ancestry.  Even my co-worker was bitten by the bug and has been researching her and her husband’s lines to find out just how German they are.  Turns out they better like Sauerbraten and Pumpernickel.

There can be something elevating in finding out about one’s ancestors.  My co-worker discovered she has two relations who were published poets.  They have works in the Smithsonian Institution and hob-knobbed with noted poet John Greenleaf Whittier and showman P.T. Barnum.  Pretty Cool.  Beats being related to the cheap schnook who snuck into the circus!

One can find mysteries in genealogy.  My father-in-law used to claim that the Stams were descended from royalty.  One day, we took a good look at my sister-in-law’s pedigree chart.  The father/son chain was interrupted with a mother/son link.  Her father was a Stam.  King’s mistress???

And one of these days I may find out if my dad was right when he told me one of my great-greats was an employee of Napoleon Bonaparte, who changed his name when he hightailed it to England after his boss got “fired”.   I know which great-great grandfather was a Scottish Seaman, but not which was a Knight in England’s Wars of The Roses.  And, there’s probably a horse thief in there somewhere.  Hey, they had children too.

I suppose this summer the first Hebert James Morris Family Reunion will be held.  That will be good.  Thanks for reading.

A Kettle full of Stories Part 1

Story 1—The Yellowstone Caldera

My family and I spent last week, Monday, August 7th to Friday, August 11th exploring Yellowstone National Park.  Once upon a time, oh, 640,000 years ago a hot spot, of magma from Earth’s core built up enough pressure to blow its way to the surface.  It turned everything above it in a 35-mile (56.33 km) by 50-mile (80.47 km) ragged oval to ashes and took the ash up with it.  Scientists have identified deposits of this ash in California, Iowa, and Louisiana.  Then the hot spot “cooled down” to power geysers, mud pots, hot springs and meadows that are warm enough to grow grass in the winter.  What’s that?  The perfect area for a Spa?  Well, okay, if you like bathing in superheated, boiling water, sipping on a sulfuric acid cocktail or enjoying a heat loving bacteria mud pack.  If however, you value your health (and life!), it is a Spa for the spirit.  To be enjoyed with the eyes, not with the hands.  (Or any other body part.  Except the hearing, there are some wonderfully interesting sounds made as steam and gas blast out of rock tunnels.  You might want to leave your nose home though.  Rotten egg gas is not the most enticing perfume.)  The depression remaining after the explosion is called the Yellowstone Caldera.

Caldera is the Spanish word for large pot or kettle.  Instead of Grandma’s stew or 5-Alarm Chili, this kettle cooked some of the most fascinating acreage on Earth.  Interspersed between verdant green Lodgepole Pine and Fir forest are rock meadows, thinly crusted earth between “bottomless” holes spewing forth demonically scented gas and steam.  Some of these holes contain crystal clear water bubbling with both heat and more gas.  The colors in this Hades inspired place are heavenly.  Sapphire, emerald and beryl describe the ponds and waterfalls.  Yellow orange and ochers decorate the pool edges and follow the runoff rivulets.  These vibrant, larger than life colors are made by microscopic, heat loving, or thermophilic, bacteria.                                                                     As the bacteria ages, dries and dies, the color fades into the grays and white of the surrounding rock.  A few places have bacteria and mineral combinations of dark brown and black.  Elsewhere in the park are sub-alpine areas filled with gorgeous red, yellow, blue and violet flowers.  The North swath is carpeted by a silver-green Juniper-Sage forest to rival anything Southeastern Idaho or Northern Utah has to offer.

Small warm water lakes and their accompanying rivers dot the park.  The central Southeastern portion houses the very large, very blue Yellowstone Lake.  It is 7,732 feet (2,357 m) above sea level, has 110 miles (180 km) of shoreline, and covers 136 square miles (350 km2).  The lake bed has just recently been explored with camera containing robotic craft.  The deepest areas are about 400 ft (120 m) and contain gray, white and green rock        pillars made of fossil diatoms, single celled aquatic creatures.  Cutthroat Trout are the native fish.  From a bird’s eye view, it looks like a hiker, a hitch-hiker with one arm and a huge fist and thumb.  (The area is called Thumb Point.)

Bison, Elk, Mule Deer, Trumpeter Swan, Pelican, Canadian Geese, Ducks and lots of friendly Squirrels can be seen in and around the Caldera.  If you travel to the Northeast Range, away from lodges, hiking trails, boardwalks, roads, in short, away from people, you will also find Wolves, Coyotes, Pronghorn Antelope, Bobcats, Cougars and yes, Bears.  The days of feeding the Bears garbage as a crowd gathering spectacle are, thank heaven, long gone.  The rule of thumb now is “you have your spot, we have ours and with 100 yards between us, we’ll be just fine.”  There were also the largest butterflies I have ever seen with orange and brown colors to rival the rocks.

(photo credits = 1-4, 6  Evelyn Stam vacation photos, 5 Yellowstone Lake as seen from space, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Lake

Story 2—The only thing constant is change

One day, in the galactic timeline, Earth’s crust will have floated itself over the magma hot spot and Old Faithful, the most celebrated geyser, will be just another cold-water spring.  Until then, the interaction between inside and out constantly changes the look of the park.  Two examples:  In August of 1959, when I was just over two years old, an earthquake rocked Hebgen Lake, 15 miles (24.14 km) away in Montana.  The shock caused a plot of grass to spew forth red mud and earn the name Red Squirter.  Since then the area has doubled.  It spews mud mostly in the spring when there is the most water and whistles “scented” steam as the area dries.  Dragon’s Mouth, a cave out of which used to come a stream of hot water shot out to the outlook boardwalk a good 30 or 40 feet (9.14 m or 12.19 m) away.  In 1994 the Dragon must have found something to be happy about and he quit “flaming”.  Now the water simply pours out, bubbling up and down to be sure, with a spray that mists the platform now and then.  He expresses his opinion though.  As the gasses, water and air flow through the underground tunnels, they make a growling, howling noise like, well, a dragon.

I wish I could be there when the mud pots plop their last sulfur spewing plop to see what other wonders Mother Nature has made.  I could too, if I could figure out how to live for another 640,000 or so years.  Until then (if ever) I’ll have to return to see what else has popped up.