Writing and Riding Fill My Days

With the pandemic, I’ve been dividing my time mostly between two activities: riding and writing. I’m either at the stables with my two horses or at home writing, surrounded by my reptiles. It’s working out well since I’m getting fresh air and exercise with Button and Exuma, which stimulates my health and well-being for the writing. My household full of reptiles provides the inspiration.

Currently, my young gelding, Exuma, pictured above, is having his first lessons carrying a rider, while I take lessons to be able to ride him. You see, my first horse, Button, is a Missouri Fox Trotter, a gaited horse. A gaited horse moves more smoothly than a non-gaited horse. This is due to a unique natural broken gait that allows at least one foot to be on the ground at any given time. Gaited horses are desired for pleasure riding which is what I want to do, trail riding around the Sonoran Desert. Non-gaited horses when trotting move a front foot and the opposite rear foot at the same time. This creates a jarring, bouncing-rider, motion.

Since I came to horseback riding late in life (a few years ago), I’ve only had lessons on a gaited horse.  My new boy is a quarter horse, a non-gaited breed. Riding Button is not going to prepare me for riding Exuma. Therefore, I’m taking lessons on an amazing mustang named Napoleon. I’ve learned how to trot, both sitting and posting (which is when the rider rises from the saddle in time with the horse’s gait, which isn’t necessary on a gaited horse). Recently, I rode for my first free canter—which is faster than a trot—but unlike the trot, it is more of a scooping motion, sort of like riding a wave.

To prepare the horse for the signal to canter, I’m supposed to scoop the saddle with my hips. My first attempts were a bit over-enthusiastic. I was apparently envisioning the Geico insurance commercial that features the hip hop group Tag Team, scooping the ice cream. I scooped big! The cantering did not go well.

I was told I needed to scoop less, more like sliding a chair under a table. So while I sit writing, I roll my chair back and forth under my desk. I can improve my riding while writing! Back on Napoleon, when I scooped less, using the easy, chair-rolling motion, the cantering went much better. Every successful lesson takes me one day closer to riding both my horses.

photo of author Elaine Powers with Button, a missiouri fox-trotter

Here is my mare, Button, a Missouri Fox Trotter.

At the top of the page is Exuma, a quarter horse. Quarter horses are so-called because of their sprinting ability. They can beat other horse breeds in distances of a quarter mile or less.

I’m glad I can work on both my activities, writing and riding, at the same time!

Scoop, there it is!

Back to work on all my fun writing activities. You see, I weave science into poetry books and adventures tales, hoping to make learning science fun for the reader. And, I’m also writing murder mysteries, which I tremendously enjoy. If you’re looking for some fun science books about Sonoran Desert wildlife, here you go:

book covers Dont Series
These best sellers are written in rhyme, making learning science fun!

 

Singing While Wearing a Mask? I Can Now!

I have a music degree along with my science degrees. I’ve enjoyed singing and performing on stage throughout my life. People on stage or in concerts are often told to sing out, project to the audience. Singers are extolled for singing to the last row or to the balcony, so that everyone can hear them.

Today we have a new direction: Sing through your mask.

With the pandemic, in-person performances have been severely curtailed. But humans are a creative species who will adapt to changing circumstances. Even though the need for masks was apparent, singing in them was less than ideal. Every time I took a deep breath to sing, I’d inhale the cloth and the sound was somewhat muffled.

Today, clever designers have created “masks for singing.” These have sufficient space and stability for proper singing, enabling the singer to get good inhalation and to drop the jaw.

photo 2 of singers' maskphoto of singers' mask

Of course, merely wearing a mask isn’t sufficient protection, so the chorus I sing with rehearses outside, maintaining six feet of distance. It’s nice for us to be able to hear the other singers and make harmony. Sometimes, the local wildlife even joins in, like Great Horned Owl and coyotes. Everyone deserves the opportunity to join in song.

Sing safely!

Book Note: The musical side of my brain is also the side that loves poetry. The other side of my brain is where the scientist/educator in me lives. The two sides combine in my “Don’t Series” books, in which scientific information is woven into fun, rhyming stanzas. “Don’t Series” fans tell me the rhymes make learning fun and the knowledge sticks with them. So, if there is a person in your life who wants a fun and colorfully illustrated book about the differences between tortoises and turtles, or to learn all about the fascinating roadrunner bird, or the very interesting rattlesnake, I’ve got the book for you!

Click below to see their book descriptions.

graphic of three books in The Don't Series

Horse Care, Sirens, and a Desert Singalong

One afternoon about 3:00 p.m., I heard sirens on a nearby main road.  The sirens went on for quite a while and included several pitches. The vehicles probably included those from the police and fire departments, and perhaps an ambulance. I listened as I brushed my horse, Button.

Photo of a Missouri Foxtrotter horse
Button, my 1000 pound friend!

She turned to listen to the noise, too–not that she hadn’t heard sirens before, but these did seem to be excessive.

Then, voices nearby were raised in a chorus that matched the pitches of the sirens! The large pack of coyotes in the area joined in the song. I usually hear the coyotes’ chorus at dawn or dusk, not mid-afternoon, but they added spontaneous flourishes and harmony to the sirens that midday. One ran up and down the scale in an amazing arpeggio. It was a magical choral moment.

They typically call to each other in greeting to help them stay in contact and reunite. On that afternoon, did they believe the sirens were pack members calling hello, or did they simply grab an opportunity to enjoy a musical interlude in the afternoon?

Book Note: I live in the Sonoran Desert and enjoy the wildlife immensely. I have written three books on Sonoran Desert wildlife, one for little ones about desert tortoises entitled Don’t Call Me Turtle; and two others for all ages, called Don’t Make Me Fly about roadrunners, and Don’t Make Me Rattle, about rattlesnakes. They are written in rhyme and vividly illustrated to make learning the science throughout fun.

These books make excellent gifts and can be used for school projects, too. Check out my ‘Don’t Series’ today.

What Would You Write?

A friend sent me Tom Gauld’s cartoon about an autumn walk’s inspiration.

The poet thinks,  “I’ll write a poem about the melancholy beauty of leaves falling in the autumn sun.”

The detective novelist thinks, “I’ll write a story about the autumn winds revealing a headless corpse hidden in a pile of leaves.”

I’m a member of a local poetry society, so I might briefly consider writing a poem about leaf loss. However, my poetry tends to the kind that ends up in science-based picture books. That’s because I believe picture books should rhyme.

Consequently, I probably wouldn’t write an autumn-based poem. I am confident that the members of the Tucson Poetry Society will write exquisite autumnal poems. You can see their work at Desert Tracks: Poems from the Sonoran Desert.

However, I do like mysteries and horror stories, so yes, I would definitely write a story about a headless corpse being found in a pile of leaves! When I started writing books, I wanted to write murder mysteries. Even though most of my time is taken up with the children’s books, I am working on a couple of mystery series.
Maybe one will include a headless corpse . . .

image of MY Books Page

Desert vs. Island Temps by Curtis Curly-tail Lizard

illustration of curtis curly-tail lizard
It’s me, Curtis Curly-tail Lizard! Don’t you just love my perfectly curled tail?

Since I’ve been staying in my den more, I’ve been tuning in to old TV shows. I enjoy the old Westerns set in the US Desert Southwest—maybe because that’s where my good friend and author, Elaine A. Powers, lives! The dry climate there is so different from my humid island weather. Where I live in the Exuma Island chain in The Bahamas, the temperature only varies between 28.0° Celsius (82.4° Fahrenheit) and 20.0° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit).

I mention this because I was watching the show, The High Chaparral, which is set in the Sonoran Desert, outside of Tucson, Arizona. In one episode, the character Manolito complains that the desert is very hot during the day, but so cold at night. Summer temperatures can exceed 40°C (104°F) during the day, but fall to around 20.0° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit) at night!

That’s a huge drop! I wondered how that happens, so I asked Elaine, of course. It’s due to the lack of water. No humidity! The sun warms the ground during the day, which raises the temperature. The lack of water in the ground means all that heat is lost after the sun sets; and the lack of vegetation helps in the loss of heat from the ground, too.

I realized it’s the humidity here in the islands that helps maintain our temperatures, so we don’t heat up too high during the day and lose as much of the sun’s warmth at night. Our temperatures stay within a narrow range, while those in the desert swing wildly.

photo of ocean wave coming in, below an orange sunset
Image courtesy of RUBEN EDUARDO ORTIZ MORALES from Pixabay

I’m glad I live here, in this perfect place, here on Warderick Wells Cay in the Caribbean. It could be the most perfect place in the world. Well—except for one thing. The hurricanes. I’d love it if you picked up a copy of my latest adventure/survival story, Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away! The kids will learn all about how my friends and I work to survive the hurricanes and how the people of The Bahamas help each other to rebuild. It’s an adventure tale with a happy ending—and environmental and weather science woven into the story. That’s Elaine’s specialty: making science books fun! Check her books out here and click on the amazingly fun workbooks to see the educational supplements associated with her books, published by Lyric Power Publishing, LLC.

children's book cover about Curtis Curly-tail lizard and a hurricane in the Bahamas
In this story, I join Allison Andros Iguana to warn the iguanas of Beach Cay about the impending hurricane. Low lying areas are particularly vulnerable to the storm surges, high rainfall and powerful winds of hurricanes. Small islands or cays here in the Bahamas can be completely washed over. Beach Cay, the setting of Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, has entire populations of endemic animals, such as the iguanas like Allison. One powerful hurricane could wipe out her entire species.

If you’d like to learn more about the science of islands, check out the complete Curtis Curly-tail Series. If your children need to learn more about desert science, they should read Elaine’s Don’t Series, as well as the amusing How Not to Photograph a Hummingbird, which shows how dangerous that can be in a desert (in a humorous way) and includes a glossary of flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.

Really! Check out Elaine’s books! She loves making science fun to read, in the hopes budding scientists will be born. And don’t forget about me! I have my own YouTube channel, where you can learn about Everything Reptiles! Come visit me today at Curtis Curly-tail Speaks. See you next time!