First Day of Spring

Oooooh Mann Does that feel good. I can’t believe I’ve been wearing this coat for like five whole months. We need a bigger clothing allowance if the honchos here at Yellowstone want us to look good when the season starts. I cannot wait to get this raggedy old thing off. It feels like my fleas have fleas.

It’s the first day of Spring and people are gonna be coming around looking at us and I feel like I just crawled out from under a bridge. Oh yes, right there. That spot has been making my teeth itch since the middle of February. Oh,k,k,k,k. I’m going to do this until June maybe even July.

The first day of spring is a time for celebration as it usually means good weather, new stuff to eat, time to look around for some of that winter kill. I am famished. Humans have it made. They can just take off their winter coats with a quick pull of a zipper and put on tank tops. Not us, I got like 12 more hours of scratching just to get the tangles out and then who knows how many days of squeezing through the oak brush to get my comb on. But I will look good. After all check me out. Even looking like this you know you want me.

Alright, the first day of Spring. I’m out of that smelly den.  After five months that’s enough to gag a man’s hinder. The suns out. I got the scratching tree first, looks like it might be a good year after all. Gotta run, well actually I gotta scratch and I need to concentrate here. Catch you later over on the flip side of Mt. Washburn. Where all the cool bears hang. I’ll be the one with the shiny new coat. Have a good one. Write if you get work.

P.S. Yeah I know I’m a little fuzzy in the picture but the guy taking the picture kept getting in my space so I had to back him up some. Apparently he was a little nervous after I ate his wrist watch and he didn’t hold the camera steady. And he was quite aways back and under his truck so I guess I can cut him some slack. You can decide how you want to handle it.

A Path Not Entered Lightly

This path we’re on, the one that gets you from one day to the next, one year to the next, one decade to the next and beyond is a convoluted, meandering trail that you can’t get off of. It’s filled with shadows and bright spots, twists and turns, only showing us a small glimpse of what’s in store for us and that murky at best.

During the dark parts of the journey you’re constantly gazing to the right or the left, always on the lookout for whatever may be lurking there, if anything. There must be something hidden in the shadows, waiting to come out. That’s where the things that growl softly and bare sharp teeth lie in wait. The three o’clock in the morning demons that call softly to you. The places where you just keep moving, move along folks, nothing to be seen here, yet you know there is. Those dark times when all you can hope for is that bright spot just down the trail doesn’t go away.

The bright spots are there, they’re always there and when you get to one you want to stand still for a while. Not moving, not going ahead and certainly not going backwards. Wanting to keep that feeling of the pure light of promise that something good lies ahead. Ignore the darkness down the path a bit, those shadows just past the beautiful place. We can deal with them when we get to them. Right now let’s just feel the warmth of this place. The darkness can wait. Let’s bask in this light for a while.

This odyssey we partake of, this long journey, is filled with marvels and tragedies, lightness and the heavy weight of sorrow. Goodness, sadness, love and the darker emotions that hide in the shadows, the pure joy of life when all seems well, all combine to make our journey incredible and terrifying. One in which if we had the choice we would certainly heed the muse when we’re advised to beware of the path not entered lightly. Of course we don’t have the choice, so travel on, perhaps the next bright spot will be a very wide one. If so stay there for as long as you can.

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Just Past Full

Phases of the moon. For the uninitiated this is the naming nomenclature for how the moon appears to us as we look at it from our lowly perch here on Earth. For years people have looked at the moon and yelled out its name or phase so they and everyone else were clear on what time of the lunar calendar it was. “Hey it’s full moon! Don’t be leaving your Mother-in-law out on the porch tonight or she’ll turn into a real …. “(insert the expletive of your choice here). Naming the phase was important so they wouldn’t accidentally kill their chickens or maybe the sacrifices they were holding from another tribe, or plant their rutabagas too soon and screw things up. There is a system to all things and you could really screw the pooch if you weren’t in phase with the moon.

Luckily for us and actually for you too if you think about it, we have a department here at *The Institute that keeps track of the phases of the moon just in case something weird might occur and upset the balance of things. If you do not know the names of all the phases of the moon, and how could you actually, our staff here at The Institute, all trained Moonies by the way, have developed a short list that states the names of the different phases of the moon in their auspicious, propitious, timely, yet seasonable order. Here they are.

None : no moon, just darkness deep and scary, anything can happen

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty: A little rhyme that our interns use to remember this phase

Quarter Moon in a 10¢ Town: 1st Quarter of the moon. Thanks Emmy Lou for your help in naming this phase.

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad:  This is the phase after Quarter Moon but not yet close to the next phase. Kind of like the Turkish moon with that star near it but not quite. Need training to spot this one.

Half Moon: This is the phase where the moon is exactly half way through its cycle. Half the moon is visible and half is not. This is up to the viewer to decide which is which but usually the brighter side is the one half visible. Some disagree with this but then they also believe that the earth is still flat after all these years, people actually care when they ask you how you are, and that there is some reason for things being the way they are now. Like a plan or something. Yeah, right.

Half Moon Plus a Bit: This is another ticklish phase that is difficult to recognize. Our Moonies can do it because they spend a lot of time sitting around singing, banging on tambourines and thinking about this stuff. If you’re not sure if you’re in this phase or not, Ask a Moonie.

3 Quarters no Dimes: This is another little mnemonic used by our interns to remember what comes after Half Moon.

Full: This is it, The Big Kahuna. The one all the crazies wait for. The one lovers like. The one that shines up the night like Nature’s own Klieg light. This is the full moon. Nearly everyone can recognize this phase with little or no help. Except the Half Moon people of course, they’re still working on that deal about the Earth being 8000 years old.

Just Past Full: This one often slips by without recognition because it looks so much like a Full moon. We have illustrated this phase with the image above taken just a day ago from the Lunar Imaging platform up the West Tower right below the eaves, way the bejuzus up in the air. It is in the Just Past Full phase. You can see it looks pretty much like a full moon and as we are usually still dealing with the crazies that come out to howl at the Full Moon we easily miss this phase.

3 Quarters on the other side of the Full moon: See explanation of 3 Quarters no dimes above and just reverse it.

Back To Half Full: Ditto

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad The Other Way: You’re starting to get the picture here. Things are going backwards or reversing if you need a more lunar-like term.

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty but on the Flip Side: Just flip the picture of this moon left to right and you’ll be able to see it. This is often difficult for people with dyslexia. If you have this problem call our 1- 900 number Can’t tell which Sliver of the Moon it Is Hotline, and we’ll straighten you right out. Additional charges may apply. Consult your CPA or Personal Banker to determine if you can afford to make the call. Se Habla Espanol.

None: Yup, you’re back to the scary time again. We recommend staying indoors and bingeing on your favorite HBO series during this phase. Eat lots of carbs, drink lots of water. Lock your doors.

So…….There you have it. The complete skinny about the Phases of the Moon. Feel better? We know we do.

As always we want to remind you that this unsolicited bulletin educating you on the phases of the moon has been a Public Service of The Institute, a non-profit, non-existent, totally motivated organization dedicated to bringing you, our readers, the newest and most comprehensive information available. Remember we’re the Institute and we’re here to help.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Wind Minnows of The High Plains Grasslands

If you’ve ever spent any time in the high prairie walking slowly through the waist-high grass you may have noticed out of the corner of your eye a brief golden flash amongst the greenery of the waving stems of grass. If you quickly glance over trying to catch a glimpse of what you saw, all you see are what appear to be the shining golden seed heads moving slowly back and forth in the wind. You may have even run your hand over them and felt the velvety softness along their sides. But those are not seed heads. They are instead a little known species called Wind Minnows.

Exclusive to the high plains as they run up against the base of the foothills leading to the Rocky mountains Wind Minnows are a rare but necessary species that have evolved to take care of the injured and damaged stalks of grass that occur due to predation by grazers, high wind, careless travelers that may have plucked the seed head from its place at the top of the grass stem, and any other natural misfortune to befall the delicate prairie growth. They may look like seed heads but they are something else entirely.

Most people viewing the grasslands for the first time see it as a strong vibrant lush expanse of foliage as far as the eye can see. But what is not generally known is that the grass itself is a delicate mechanism at risk of injury and death when parts of it are removed before its time. If for instance the seed head is removed prematurely it leaves an open wound at the end of the grass stem and the grass will then react much like a “ringed” tree where its bark is removed around the circumference of the trunk so the nutrients the tree needs to sustain life cannot reach the leaves and branches and the tree dies. The life force drains out of the grass stem through this open wound at the top of the stalk much the same way as the hapless tree and is carried away by the wind and lost forever. The grass unable to stem the flow of its vital nourishment dies.

That’s where Nature in its infinite wisdom has stepped in and provided a solution to this problem in the form of the Wind Minnows. Mimicking the appearance and feel of a seed head exactly, but free to move effortlessly through the canopy and the slender forest of grass stems by using the wing like fronds along its sides to propel it through the air, much like minnows use their fins in the water, they can move quickly from one stalk to another. When they find a damaged stalk they affix themselves to the top of the stem and placing their specially formed mouths over the wound they exude a substance much like an adhesive that seals the opening at the top of the stem thereby saving the grass from dying.

That’s why occasionally, if you are very fortunate, you will see the flash and the abrupt spiraling of the schools of Wind Minnows as they dart and swirl quietly through the tall prairie grass. Their flashing color catching the sun and reflecting their golden shapes as they twist and turn in great golden spirals until they find an area where the grazers have recently been feeding. They are looking for the hundreds if not thousands of damaged grass stems produced by the grazing animals as they forage through the tall grass. When found they spring into action, each Wind Minnow seeking out the nearest injured grass stem and beginning its life saving efforts to save the plant.

The next time you visit the high prairie take a moment to walk through the grasses, watch for the telltale glimpses of brightness as the Wind Minnows go about saving the grasslands. And thank Mother Nature for her foresight in creating Wind Minnows. An unusual solution to an unusual problem.

Coming Soon To A Season Near You

Coming Soon to a season near you! That’s right! It’s the color green! Always a crowd pleaser, green is the most asked for color in Spring, that busy little season that pokes its head out behind Winters gray, wind-stained skirts and says “Hey! whatchew doin’ ? How ’bout a little green?”

It’s been months now of cold blustery weather, grey skies, and bitter cold, and according to a random sample from over three of our neighbors, everyone is pretty darn tired of it. “Where’s the green?” is heard in sometimes strident voices. “Where’s the warm weather? I gotta fish!” is another. “When can we go out in skimpy clothing?” is one we hear from the college set. That doesn’t have much to do with green but we heard it said anyway, so we’re going to repeat it in the hopes that it happens sometime soon.

Since there has been interest in the color green mentioned we went back through our files and found this particular shade of green. Well several shades in fact, and decided to put it up today for your enjoyment and gratification. No need to thank us, this is a public service we provide for our viewing public at absolutely no charge to you. Yes, I know, It IS kind hearted but then look who you’re dealing with here. Nothing is too good for our readers. So enjoy and seeya soon.

Young Boys and Old Dogs

Young boys and old dogs are one of those special relationships that can only happen under the most auspicious circumstances. Timing is everything. The boy is at that perfect age for a canine companion and the dog has the perfect temperament for a rambunctious boy. The circumstances are especially important because you need room for both boy and dog to roam and something to do that makes roaming worthwhile. This is usually never a problem with young boys or old dogs either, for that matter. They also need a place to return to that completes that most special time period in childhood. And that, of course, is home.

After a full day roaming and doing stuff that young boys have to do to complete their boyhood and old dogs have to do to accompany them to make sure they witness and confirm in dog style that the tasks are done correctly, it’s time to return to the home place. Maybe find a place to settle down and take a rest. Sleep or even a small nap is totally out of the question as boys unlike old dogs, do not give in to weariness. One might miss something. But every so often, when the boy is lying still and the warmth of the old dog begins to seep into his back and neck as he rests against that perfect pillow, his eyes might droop a little and his breathing quiets and the dog lies still knowing that if it remains quiet it might get a little rest too, a short nap may occur.

The boy is a man now with a grown child of his own, and the old dog is just a memory of sun-filled days and tall grass to run through and the whole world to see. But memories remain and the further back out the past they come the more precious they are. Especially when they bring back those feelings of seeing a young boy and an old dog doing what they do best. Being together and loving each other. And maybe catching a stray nap now and again.

Moonset On Storm Mountain

The Mummy range is a mountain range located within Rocky Mountain National Park and is visible from the third tier observation and weather monitoring deck here at *The Institute year round. Storm mountain is particularly visible due to its prominence on the horizon. Normally it is surrounded by other snow caps, well in fact it is always surrounded by other snow caps, and keeps its mantle of white till late into the summer. However in the summer things change. The wet storms begin and they arrive with gale force winds and driving rain. Lots of rain. The lightning and the thunderous sounds of its strikes rending and tearing its way through the sky can be heard for miles. The flashes of the lightning strikes themselves can be seen for minutes and sometimes days after the flash having burned their image indelibly onto your retinas. Which is why you want to always wear welding goggles when looking at lightning or welding too. Remember you only get one set of eyeballs. Treat them as if you’d like to see out of them for a long time. Just because lighting is fun doesn’t mean you should stare at it like a dumb person.

It is during these storms that some of our best pictures are taken of the immense power and magnitude of these storms. Capturing these moments is not for the faint-hearted. To get the full effect of the drama that occurs we have set up an open to the elements, semi-permanent photographic station out on the third tier, cantilevered deck, high up on the West Tower. We have fastened our metal tripod and waterproof cameras to the floor with non-conductive fasteners rated for two billion Joules of electricity in the unlikely event that lightning strikes the setup during one of these photographic sessions.

However lately we haven’t had that much luck in the not getting struck by lightning category. In fact the last three interns we’ve had chained to the tripod have come close to sustaining serious injury and third degree burns from hanging on to the metal railing around the deck when lighting struck the metal collars they were wearing. Some of them find this unsettling and begin screaming uncontrollably and leaping about. Luckily the doors are thick enough to cancel most of the noise. We think maybe the two billion Joules fasteners we used might be faulty.  It’s because the interns tend to run away or even jump off the deck when the lightning strikes get too close, thereby missing the better shots, that we’ve had to resort to the light chaining and padlocking the outer doors to make sure we get all the data we need.

During the last Super moon that occurred our fail-safe lightning rod system broke down in the middle of the torrential storm and let a small amount of lightning slip through to one of our interns who had unaccountably wrapped his chain around the legs of the tripod, tripped and was hanging over the metal deck railing when the lightning burned through his chain, allowing him to slip rather ungracefully over the edge. Apparently he fell down onto the tall timber next to the foot of The Institutes massive stone foundation. We say apparently because we can’t see him in any of the treetops so he must have crashed on through to a lower point. We hope to find him when we do our annual spring pruning next month.

Unfortunately he managed to break off the camera mount and the camera during his struggles losing the images we desperately needed for this post. One of our staff illustrators was able to create a facsimile of the image of the Super moon setting over Storm Mountain in the middle of that fantastic storm that you see above, so we were able to complete the post thereby saving the day. There always seems to be a bright side to these things for which we’re thankful of course. Anyway here you have it such as it is, Moonset On Storm Mountain

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.