Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Space-Land Nexus: a Chanced Encounter

While CY (our D at Oregon) and Dan were here vacationing recently, we had plans to bring them to the nature trails at Lettuce Park off Fletcher, just next to the Hillsborough River. But somehow we never got around to doing that (somehow is a very powerful and convenient English word. Used judiciously, it can convey a sense of "while many things are left unsaid, somehow (that word again) the reader will understand and empathize"). So was their plan to amble to the USF campus. So two rain checks.

Yesterday evening we decided to pop in at the Lettuce Park, bringing along WJ (our elder S), a kind of vicarious experience for CY and Dan if you will. While coursing through the entrails of the Park, we learned that the Park closes at 8pm at this time of the year, and the boardwalk, 7.30pm (seems kind of early when the sun does not set until past 8pm), is inhabited by venomous snakes (after all it is the wild, but there are posters to help visitors recognize these species), that Sheriff’s Vice Squad has a occasional presence (perhaps a caution to the passionate?), and that the speed limit is 13mph, not 10, not 15, but 13 (sounds ominous?).

We took one of the entrances to the boardwalk, elevated about a few feet off the ground, winding through trees covered with Spanish Moss, with sparse undergrowth and not a whole lot of canopy compared to that at Alice Lake, Gainesville. Perhaps it was the season of summer drought, the ground was dry, evincing some dampness because of some rains in the past days.

While promenadng on the boardwalk, we skirted a shallow wide creek in which several birds were feasting themselves (the sign by the boardwalk railing shows a picture of blue Heron, but we doubted that’s what we saw as they looked like turkeys). Then we came upon the Visitor Center, which is built like a timber lodge like those seen somewhere in the thick wood on a postcard. It features vertical timber panel walls and deep upstairs windows that jut out like tubes (see the pictures that say much more than my bald pen (a Chinese expression) can do justice.)

The bunch of "rowdy reptiles" (the term was inspired by an inscription on WT (our younger S)' T-shirt that he wore yesterday. Obviously that is in reference to the Gators, but it would do as well here).

A pavement path lined with plants with needle-point leaves leading to a resting shed.

Just to show that I'm not making this up ...

Approaching the start of the timber boardwalk.

The relatively dry terrain, sparse undergrowth, gnarled and knotted tree trunks ...

Shallow wide creek teeming with roosting avarian kinds.

"Plane, it's a plane ..." Seems reminiscent of a WWII movie with a lone bomber plane roaring through the sky over a lush forest ... But it's just a shot through the tree canopy with what looked like a cargo plane gliding by.

The timber lodge that is the Visitor Center with vertical wood wall panels and deeply recessed windows upstairs.

Then wify pointed excitedly to the sky, exclaiming “rainbow, rainbow”. Sure enough, a band of colors arcing across the sky, blocked partially by the tree canopy. Wify said this is the first time we were able to witness this natural phenomenon, a result of light refraction by the water droplets in the atmosphere, scattering the normally white spectrum into different colors in accordance with their wave lengths.

Then outside CVS, our favorite place to shop for non-food grocery (Publix would hold a similar distinction for food items), we had a complete view of the colorful sky bridge, set against the overcast sky. View the picture and marvel at the rare glimpse of the natural world at work.

My feeble attempt at a rainbow composite. Somewhere, over the rainbow ...

While we were back at the CVS car-park after our shopping around 8.30pm, we saw another contrails-like smoke column extending from the darkened edge of the overcast sky zigzagging back to earth. Several thoughts went through my mind: smoke from burning on the ground, a burning plane falling off the sky???

Back at home, I was looking for clues from the TV night news. It reported a million dollar home on fire at St. Pete, possibly due to lightning. But direction-wise, it did not seem right as we were facing east at CVS while St. Pete is to the west of us.

It was not until this morning when I saw the picture of the rainbow and the smoke column side by side on the St. Pete Times, and the caption, that it hit me that I had shot the evidence of a successful liftoff of the Atlantis shuttle launch. Cape Canaveral is east of us, albeit at more than 100 miles away, and the launch time was 8pm. So that explains it. Unwittingly, fortuitously, and imbued with an uncanny sense of placing ourselves at the right time and the right place, we were able to catch that historic moment of man’s quest for space, a gargantuan one at that. “Next time we can have our own private viewing gallery for a shuttle launch right here,” wify quipped.

The space-land nexus, through the billows from the Atlantis Shuttle.


Anonymous said...

come on, on my space land

Say Lee said...

Thanks, for visiting. Unfortunately, I don't know French.