Saturday stroll

On the weekends I get to spend a lot more time with my son than I can during the week. There’s no rush to get out the door; no meeting to prepare for; no freeway traffic to fret about. The morning stroll can last quite a bit longer; we can take more than one, if the fancy strikes us, as it did today. Even during the week, though, when time is at a premium, Eric and I always find the time to go for a morning stroll, unless it’s pouring down rain. It’s usually just down to the corner and back, but we have to do it.

I’m not sure why I’m so rigorous about getting the boy outside whenever I can; maybe I hope that some of my love of nature will rub off on him. Maybe it’s just to give his stomach time to settle in and take care of the medication (his GER is getting better, but we’re still dosing just to be sure). Maybe I just want to be outside myself, and since I’m in charge of the lad, he gets to come along, will he, nill he.

This morning, though, as we went out for our predawn (yes, daylight saving time lasts into November now, so dawn comes late to south Florida) stroll, I saw something that, after the typical fruitless attempts to get the boy to look at something so far away (he might have seen it, he might not have…), made me run back into the house and set the boy up in his pack and play: …the prettiest moon I’d seen in a long time: the waning crescent moon. Not too many people get to see this phase of the moon; you have to be up pretty early in the morning. Its younger cousin, the waxing crescent, is quite a bit more popular, because it shows up much more conveniently: right after sunset. I’ve always wanted to try getting pictures of the old moon in the new moon’s arms; this is a bit different, but the principle is the same: earthshine lights up the unilluminated part of the moon, while the thin crescent reflects the sun’s glow. With my new digiscoping setup, I was pretty sure I’d be able to get some decent exposures. And I think I was:

Unfortunately, despite 7 or 8 attempts, I wasn’t able to convince the camera to show the earthshine. The closest I came was the first, autoexposed, image:

While that shot has a nice, old-timey feel to it, with today’s modern technology I feel sure I can do better than this. The only question is when? This moon only occurs 12 times a year, and I rarely have the leisure to put the boy down and do my own thing for 10 minutes on a weekday. But I have hopes. And there are lots of discussion groups on the web devoted to astrophotography; I’m sure I’ll be able to find some good advice on how to solve this little technical difficulty.

So, after I put away the scope, I scooped up the lad and strolled around the neighborhood. It was a hot, muggy morning, despite the official demise of the rainy season last Monday. Our predawn stroll didn’t last very long; just long enough for his tummy medicine to kick in; then it was back inside to enjoy a bite of breakfast.

After breakfast, though, it was back to the outdoor action. It turned out to be a pretty bright morning, bright enough that I had to shield the boy’s eyes from the hot hot sun. We wandered over to the shady side of the house to check out the Aristolochia vine; the one with the flowers that look (I suppose) like a Dutchman’s pipe (hence the common name, Dutchman’s pipe; Wikipedia tells me that there’s a whole unrelated set of plants with flowers, inflorescences, or stems that look like a pipe, of which our non-native but very butterfly-friendly specimen is one. In case you’re wondering, an inflorescence is basically a cluster of flowers).

Inside one of the huge bowl-shaped flowers this morning was a giant Polydamas swallowtail caterpillar (another of my photographic goals is to get a picture of one of these butterflies; we see dozens of them throughout the year on this vine, but they fly so frenetically that we’ve never succeeded in getting a decent shot of one). I’m not sure if this larva was munching the tender blossom, or just enjoying the spa-like atmosphere, as though it were in its own personal jacuzzi bowl, but it seemed to be having fun, whatever it was doing:

And there, in the space of two hours, was my morning: from the giant bowl of the moon to the much smaller bowl of a single flower in my yard. And Eric got to see some of it with me. Maybe someday he’ll be able to actually appreciate it with me.

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