Friday, August 30, 2013


 On a recent overnight stay in Flagstaff, Arizona, I had an opportunity to visit the campus of Lowell Observatory ( ).  One reason I was interested in visiting an observatory is because when I was going through the papers of my deceased grandparents, I came across some antique postcards, dated from the early 1900's, and mailed to my grandparents' remote, mountain settlement in Marion County, Arkansas.  They were from some acquaintance of theirs that had visited Mt. Wilson Observatory ( )  , in Los Angeles County, California.  It must have seemed like worlds away to get a missive from such a distant and unfamiliar location, as a mountain top, on the Pacific coast---almost like getting a post card today,  from someone on the moon, comparatively speaking!  Anyway, I surmised that if my grandparents thought a record of an observatory visit was important enough to keep for almost a century, the least I could do was to take advantage of the opportunity that I (as their descendant) had, to make a similar visit!
 Lowell Observatory (established in 1894), like Mt. Wilson, is a National Historic Landmark.  Both locations have the distinction of being two of the oldest astronomical observatories in the United States.   Lowell Observatory is located on Mars Hill, one mile west of downtown Flagstaff, at an elevation of 7200 feet.
 One of Lowell Observatory's main "claims to fame", is that it was here, that in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered the dwarf planet, Pluto, using the 13 inch telescope, now called the "Pluto Discovery Telescope".   The Pluto discovery was probably a factor in the 2011 decision where TIME magazine named Lowell Observatory "One of the world's 100 most important places"!   One of the reasons that the name "Pluto" was chosen for the new planet, was because the astronomical symbol for that name, would be "PL", which would also be a "silent salute" to the observatory's founder, Percival Lowell.   The Discovery Channel logo on the sign signifies  that Lowell Observatory has partnered with the Discovery Channel, to build a $53 million facility at a "dark sky" location 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff. The founder's goal of being "the people's observatory" is definitely being accomplished, as the Discovery Channel images will reach millions of viewers via television and the Internet. 
 Despite the fact that the mission statement of Lowell Observatory says that it is a private, non-profit institution, dedicated to excellence in research and outreach, I was struck by the beauty of the campus, with its towering pine trees and manicured lawns.  It seemed like a perfect location for an early morning stroll in the woods!
In addition to the observatory being founded by Percival Lowell, it was managed for a time by his third cousin, Guy Lowell, of Boston's well-known Lowell family.   Relatives of those early founders continue to be involved in the operation of the facility, and its multi-million dollar budget.  ( It is interesting to me that a family who had the word "low" in their name, spent so much of their time, talents, and finances, on looking up "high", rather than "low"! )  The East Coast connection also continues, through the partnership that Lowell Observatory has with astronomer researchers at Boston University.
 There are  permanent exhibits, live presentations, telescope viewing, and rotating/visiting exhibitions that one may see on the Lowell Observatory campus.  One of the newer attractions is the totally immersive "space theater".   So, even if one has been to the campus in the past, there are always new visual delights to capture your attention, as the curators work to bring new scientific discovery information to the public.
 This is called the "LIVE" van, which stands for Lowell Interstate Vehicle for Education.  Based on the art work on the side, it looks as though it could also stand for "Intergalactic" !  This is just one more attempt at making this truly "The People's Observatory".
 A repository of astronomical history can be seen at the Slipher Rotunda Museum.  There you will learn, that in 1912, V.M. Slipher discovered that the universe was expanding.  As you can imagine, this is a popular place to bring  students on those ever-memorable "school field trips".
The "observatory-shaped" structure in this photo, is actually a mausoleum, containing the remains of Lowell's famous founder, Percival Lowell. 
 The "barrel shaped" Clark Telescope Dome was the location of much of the early research done at Lowell.
 This photograph shows the sun illuminating the structures, and casting long shadows, early in the morning--shortly after "first light", on the day of my visit.  One might surmise from the photo that it was wintertime, because the deciduous trees have not yet leafed out.  However, the time was mid-April, and reflects the colder temperatures and high elevation of the location.  The website says to bring a jacket, even in the summer, when attending night-time star-gazing activities.
 The Steele Visitor Center welcomes 85,000 visitors per year, for guided daytime tours, and night activities.  In the past twenty years, more than one million visitors have seen through the famous 24" Clark Telescope.  Some of these visitors, include youngsters who participate in "Uncle Percy's Kids Camp" each summer. 
 The custom-made arch on these iron gates pays homage to the association of Lowell Observatory, with the discovery of Pluto---complete with a ring around the spherical planet!
 This was the view I saw, as I was leaving the Mars Hill mountain top above Flagstaff, where Lowell Observatory was located.   The snow-covered summit in front of me, combined with the Lowell telescopes being nicknamed "the eye on the heavens" according to their website, are a great visual aid for my FirstPlace4Health ( ) memory verse.   Colossians 3:1-2 says,  "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." .  I am thankful  there are scientists using telescopes to study "things above", as well as those who study God's word that talks about "things above".  Both views will provide "Miles of  Starry, Starry Smiles"!  Tricia
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013


 When we say someone is going to "walk down the aisle", we usually mean they are getting married; that is precisely what this photo represents---the wedding aisle of my cousin Monica, as she married her beloved Adam.
 The setting was in Lafayette, California, at a place called Wildwood Acres Resort ( )
 The photo on top of this collage shows the wooded canyon location of Wildwood Acres.  I took the canyon photo from my comfortable seat (shown in lower left), where the actual outdoor wedding ceremony was held.  Although it is just 45 minutes from San Francisco, it is an entire world away from the hustle and bustle of big city sprawl and noise.  The antique brass bell shown in the lower right, is located at the back of the ceremony area.  Once Adam and Monica were pronounced wed, the harmonious peals of the bell, echoed down the canyon, signifying the joyous occasion.
 Since I had attended a Project Learning Tree ( ) conference earlier in the summer, I was delighted to see that the bride and groom had chosen to use "tree cookies" as their guest book register.  The HEART-shaped center mark that shows the date, will be a great reminder of this important milestone of their lives in the future.  They told me that their plan is to put shellac over the front of each tree cookie (aka, guest book page), put a hanger on the back, and use it as a wall decoration in their home.
 Another personal touch I liked, was that Monica and Adam, with the help of Adam's father, had made up a giant batch of strawberry jam (which came from their family farm), and put it into individual glass jars, complete with fancy top, twine, and personalized label.  The title "Spread the Love" is exactly what the couple did, as each guest was given the homemade treat to take home with them!
 Yet another fun activity they planned for the guests at this outdoor event, was filling out a crossword puzzle (printed on a very useful fan), with questions based on their courtship!
 Wildwood Acres had a large, paved parking lot, with plenty of free parking, which is something of a rarity in a place of such population density as the San Francisco bay area.  They also had an electric cart available to bring guests (such as the bride's mother and father, shown in this photo), who were loaded down with items needed to make their daughter's wedding complete.
 There were many helpful signs from start to finish of this event.  Since the venue is somewhat remote, there were numerous signs (with accompanying balloons, as shown in far left photo) at strategic street intersections along the way.  Everyone in the car I was riding in to get there, was very relieved when we entered the mile-long private road that delivered us to this shady, secluded canyon!  I also liked the sign giving us permission to sit wherever we wanted (middle chalkboard sign).  The chalkboard was very appropriate, as the bride's father had been a teacher in the SF Bay area for many years, and was well known to the peers of BOTH Adam and Monica.  And who has not wanted to toss of their high heels after a wedding, so they could dance?  They even provided souvenir flip-flop shoes for those who wanted them, to better navigate the outdoor patio dancing area!
 Wildwood acres has a lovely garden area, complete with brush arbor, fountains, orchards, agave, flowers,and numerous seating areas/paths within its shady domain.
 The top photo of this collage shows the table where the "official" wedding cake was located, underneath the redwood gazebo.  In keeping with the "back to the earth" theme, the cake was wrapped in burlap ribbon/twine, surrounded by burlap roses, candles/fresh flowers in Mason jars, and HEART-shaped decorations of all types! After they open the wedding gift that I gave them, they will have one more HEART-shaped item to add to their collection:  It is a wooden box, made by the bride's Great Uncle (photo of heirloom can be seen on February 14, 2013 blog I wrote about it).   Later on in the evening,  it was fun watching Adam and Monica "feed" each other for the first time, as shown in the photo on the bottom of the collage.
 Yet another detail at this event that I really appreciated was a giant glass dispenser of ice water (garnished with citrus slices from their on-site garden), where guests could access all of the water they wanted, without having to ask a server, at the beverage station (left side of collage).  When it was time for the wedding banquet to begin, we all enjoyed sampling the delicious California cuisine, accented with fresh herbs right from the Wildwood gardens!
 As if our HEARTS were not already glowing enough, the wedding party was passing out "glow in the dark" jewelry to all the guests.  The father of the bride (who also performed the wedding ceremony) is shown on the left, with a glowing necklace that matched his vest, tie, and handkerchief.  The bride's niece and nephew were having a great time, dispensing the jewelry, and taking photos with the disposable camera they were given.  (Hope I get to see some of those photos taken by "the kiddies"!)
 The night of my cousin's wedding had weather that was absolutely perfect for an outdoor event!   We certainly did not need the outdoor patio heaters, but as you can see in this photo, they are available, if necessary.
 The gardens and outdoor terraced dining areas cover 4 acres, and are scenic from any angle.  I took this photo from one of the upper terraces, as it looks down on the various levels of the wedding banquet dining tables.
 This photo shows the head table where the wedding party "presided", and illustrates how the area is set among ivy-covered trees of alder, bay, and oak, as well as moss and fern-lined planters/urns.
 We made good use of our pink cloth napkins  as "banners of happiness", as the bride and groom (shown in upper section of photo) prepared to make their way to their seats in the dining terrace.
 The noise we made in the dining area, was in stark contrast to the "so-quiet-you-could-hear-a-pin-drop" scene, when the father of the bride (who was performing the ceremony), turned off his microphone to say some private words to his daughter and future son-in-law.   However, as quiet as we were, we still could not hear his private advice to them!  Fortunately, he turned the microphone back on, so there was ample volume to hear the "I DO!" spoken by both Monica and Adam.
 The picturesque gazebo at the very top terrace was the "staging area" for the mandatory post-wedding photos of the family and members of the wedding party.  In addition, Monica and Adam set up an account on Shutterfly ( ), so that any of the guests who wanted to download photos from their own devices, could do so, as well as see photos taken by other guests.  Isn't technology grand??!!
 And here is a photo I took of the happy couple, after the ceremony.  CONGRATULATIONS ADAM AND MONICA!!
When I was sitting in the wedding ceremony area, waiting for the bride and groom to walk down the aisle, I looked upward into the canopy of mature bay trees and majestic oaks above me, and I saw the pattern of this HEART-shaped opening, made by the overhanging trees and branches.  It was the perfect visual aid I needed to help me (fondly!)remember one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses from Psalm 37:4, that says "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."  This Wildwood Wedding Expedition was definitely a delightful desire of my heart, and brought me MILES OF SMILES!  Tricia
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Saturday, August 24, 2013


 This week I accomplished my goal of getting my memorial stone ordered, produced, paid for, and set in the ground---which called for a visit to Maplewood Cemetery in Harrison, Arkansas ( ). 
 This pyramid-shaped pavilion, with the U.S. flagpole beside it, is a good place to start your visit .
 Under the roof of the pavilion, you will find the names of individuals who have made donations and memorials to the cemetery fund, to help shape it into the serene and majestic setting, that you see today.
 The steeple of the pavilion contains this bell, and you can listen for the melodic notes of hymns played, using bell tones, at the beginning of each daylight hour.
 The Twentieth Century Club, organized in 1901, has been an important factor in the life of Maplewood Cemetery.  This organization has been critical to the maintenance and beautification of Maplewood Cemetery over the last century.  A list of all the members of the Twentieth Century Club can be found engraved on a plaque, under the pyramid pavilion.  The marker shown in the photograph, pays tribute to their efforts to complete the lovely and functional pavilion, in 1986.
 Another of their major projects was the survey and assessment of all the maple trees in the cemetery, following the devastating ice storm of 2009.  The tiny, unobtrusive silver dot you can see on the tree trunk in this photo, shows an example of its "name tag".
 A closer photo shows that this tree, numbered 688, has been assessed by a professional arborist, and records of the results are on file, under the number "688". 
 There is also an enclosed box under the pavilion, that lists the names and locations of all the graves within the boundaries.  Note:  If you are looking for a specific name, be sure to take a pen and paper, so you can record the long list of names/numbers you will need to achieve your goal.
 There is a glass-enclosed map that shows the "Google Earth" view of the cemetery, as well a detailed diagram showing the identification numbers of the entire cemetery.  However, the individual, grass-covered grave sites do not have numbers, which is why paper and pencil will be handy to assist you in making a sketch of the map.
 The corner locations of the major intersections have numbered posts (see the #8 post in this photo), which can be of some assistance in locating a specific grave.
 The newer sections of Maplewood Cemetery have also been planted with maple trees, which are doing well, and provide nice borders to the car trails throughout the area.
 In the older sections of Maplewood, the stately maple trees have grown to form a canopy of unequaled beauty in the area.  They are famous for their fall colors (see the blog I wrote about them on October 20, 2008).  You can go to the website to get weekly fall color updates on the color progression at Maplewood Cemetery, and other locations in Arkansas that are famous for their "flaming fall reviews".
 My parents and grandparents are buried in the family plot at Maplewood, as well as all but one of the siblings of my parents, that grew to adulthood.
 The exception is my uncle, who is buried in northern California, in a cemetery that is even older than Maplewood Cemetery.  According to records, in 1874, James and Sarah Sanford purchased some of the land (where the cemetery is now located) from the Loney family.  They planned to build a church, but James Sanford died before church construction could be started, so his wife buried him on the property to start the cemetery.  The land was later deeded to the Nevada County Cemetery District.
 The Loney-Sanford Ranch Cemetery ( ) is described as a historic, natural cemetery---in contrast to a cemetery designed to be like a lawn.
 Since it is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, famous for their granite outcroppings, it is not surprising to see that this ancient oak tree has adapted its growth pattern  to peacefully "coexist" with the gigantic boulder by its side. 
 I was reminded of time I have spent at cemeteries, when I was trying to think of a visual aid to help me recall one of the memory verses for  my First Place 4 Health class ( ).  It says "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:4).  The cross of Jesus Christ that stands at the entrance of Maplewood Cemetery, is a wonderful reminder of this important verse from God's word, and it is a promise that  gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia
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