Category Archives: environmental issues

I Saw a UFO

When the children and I returned to our campsite overlooking Lake Raystown in the scenic Pennsylvania foothills, it was already dark and my husband was pacing back and forth.

“Where have you guys been?” he asked me. “I was about to send out an APB.”

“P-Dawg,” I said solemnly as I took a seat by the fire, “I just had a transcendental experience.”

“Did you see a UFO?” my husband dead-panned.

“How did you know? Did you see it, too?”

Here the P-Dawg rolled his eyes. “It was just a wild guess. But go on,” he continued, in what I couldn’t help but notice was a patronizing tone of voice, “Tell me what you saw.”

“Well. You know how sometimes a person will tell you about seeing some kind of weird luminous object in the sky that is definitely not an airplane or a hot air balloon or even a weather satellite?”

“Yes . . .”

“And what you tend to do is smile and nod. Maybe you’ll say something like, ‘Wow! That’s incredible,’ but what you’re really thinking is, ‘This person is a total nut job who probably also plays D&D and goes to medieval re-enactment fairs.”

“Yes . . .”

“Well, I know how those people feel now, the ones who no one believes.”


“I took the kids for a walk down by the lake and while they were having a blast with the playground all to themselves, I sat down on a nearby rock and watched the sun set between the mountains. It was a gorgeous sunset, all salmon and coral blending into lavender gray within this perfectly balanced frame of water, mountains, and clouds around it.”


“And I felt totally content. The sight of that beautiful sunset completely eradicated those first few not so great days of our vacation, when I had to adjust to living in squalor and taking public showers, and when our reunion with our friends got rained out and when our side storage compartment opened up on the turnpike and we lost some of our stuff.”

“Go on,” said the P-Dawg.

“And just as I was thinking about what a perfect ending that sunset was to our vacation, this ORB OF GOLDEN LIGHT came up over the top of the mountain and started moving towards me.”

“Sounds like Ball Lightning.”

“It was about half the size of a full moon, I’d say. At first I thought it was a hot air balloon or something because the edges seemed like they were burning, but as it came closer I could tell it obviously wasn’t that. It was a glowing ball of fire. And I’ll tell you something else, P-Dawg. I saw it right there in front of me plain as the nose on your face.”

“I bet it was Ball Lightning.”

“It was moving towards me, but I felt no fear. Instead I got up from my rock and started walking toward it. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen in the sky and I just had to find out what it was.”

“Ball Lightning” the P-Dawg said.

“I did not feel as though I was in any danger. It was one of those times when you think, ‘If this is the mothership come to take me home, well then so be it. I stared at it for several minutes and just when it got close enough that I thought I’d finally be able to make out what it was, it suddenly receded into a tiny pinprick and disappeared.”

“Look up ‘Ball Lightning’,” my husband said to me.  “Also, ‘Foo Fighter’,’Saint Elmo’s Fire’ and ‘Will o’ the Wisp’. I hear it happens pretty often when the conditions are right.”

“Have you ever seen it?”


“Well. If it’s so common, how come they never mentioned it in my Earth Science class?”

Some of you are probably wondering if the Ball Lightning had a message for me.

It did not. But on that last night of our camping trip, in the tranquil breath between day and night, in front of misty mountains against a canvas of pink light, I felt for a moment as though all was right with the world. It made our whole trip worth it.

And now whenever I walk past the microwave, it starts going automatically and my hair stands on end.

Just kidding.


Of course, I didn’t have my phone or camera with me. But the Ball Lightning looked something like this:


You can look at some of the more mundane photos from our trip on my Flickr page here. One of the kids deleted most of the photos from my camera, so I have very few pictures from the inside of the camper and the three days we spent in DC.

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It’s Elementary

Not Pluto. (It's a picture of the sun I took with my iPhone. Don't worry, I didn't look.)

This afternoon I had a disturbing conversation with my 5-year-old.



“Neptune is da coldest planet.”

“Really? Are you sure about that?”


“Actually, I think Plu-Toe might be a little colder” I said, annunciating the word in case he’d never heard of it before. “Because it’s farther out.”

“Pluto’s not a planet, Mama” my son said, insulted.

“Says who?”

“My teacher.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah!” my other kid, age 7, chimes in.

“And why is that?” I prod.

I want to know because I suspect they won’t be able to tell me.

And because I like to set traps, I mean, “segue into teachable moments”, for my kids.

Also because I don’t know.

I mean, I heard about this Pluto business when it first went down, or was it in Earth Science? But somehow the reason for its expulsion from the planet club evaded me.

“Because its orbit is all wrong” the V-meister informs me matter-of-factly, like when she’s showing me how to use the TV remote. “Pluto is just another object in the Kuiper Belt.”

“You mean the Milky Way?”

“No, I mean the Kuiper Belt.”

“Well I’ll be darned. What else are they teaching you over at that school?”



I have to say Pluto’s demotion to space junk still rubs me the wrong way. Sure, it’s old news, but it stings.

Because one day as they’re beaming themselves there, my kids will say to each other using mental telepathy, “Can you believe Mom and Dad used to think this was a planet?” Then they will high five each other and explode into riotous laughter.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must fetch my loincloth out of the dryer and put some more logs on the fire. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my cave, drawing.

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