More than 60 years later, I often think about Mrs. Naomi Weller, my eight-grade English teacher.  (That’s when we still called it “English” class.)

Mrs. Weller was a stickler for grammar.  Of the many things that I can remember about her class, she taught us how to diagram sentences, a skill which I use to this day.   When I have to decide whether to use “who” or “whom” or if I have to decide if it’s okay to dangle a participle, I think about those classes.  Those grammar lessons have even helped me teach my wife Spanish or in my own foreign language conversations that I have on a regular basis with friends in Argentina and France. 

Most of my classmates fell asleep during her lessons or were totally bored.  I happen to have had a mother who until the day she died would wink at me when she heard people committing heinous grammar errors such as “between you and I” or “me and my wife.”  So I have always considered myself a “grammar snob.”

This past week I was reminded about Mrs. Weller once again. Early in the last few mornings, our backyard lake was enshrouded in fog. 

Our backyard in Florida

I have always been fascinated by the particular weather conditions which create fog.   According to my internet search, it happens when the “lake water is heated by the sun and stays warmer than the air temperature during the cool night.  When the cold layer of still air settles over the lake, the warm water vapor from the pond evaporates and enters the cool air above it.  The cool air then traps the concentrated water vapor,” thereby forming the fog.

Now you ask, why did this make me think of Mrs. Weller?  In addition to her grammar lessons, she also taught us to appreciate poetry.  She posted a daily poem on the blackboard and we would analyze it for its use of different parts of speech or how new words were strung together in a novel way to convey a special thought. 

Carl Sandburg’s “Fog” was one of those poems.

 For some reason, I remember exactly where her class was on the second floor of the Henry B. Whitehorne Junior High School in Verona, New Jersey.

Henry B. Whitehorne Middle School, Verona, NJ

 I found out recently that Mrs. Weller is no longer alive.   She would probably have been happy to know what an impact she has had on me for over 60 years!

Our Daily Wildlife Show

Sitting at our breakfast table every morning during the pandemic, we think about the many opportunities we have had to travel over the past ten years.  As I look back on the places we have visited, I realize that sometimes the best place to be is at home.

Following our hour-long walk, we prepare our breakfast and sit facing our backyard lake.  Within minutes, the nature show begins.  On a typical morning a lone roseate spoonbill flies onto our lawn. He spends a good half hour enjoying the vegetation on the lakefront.  A wood stork , a noisy limpkin, a two-foot-long iguana and a couple of ibises often join him, oblivious of one another.  A mother duck and her brood of 12 newly hatched ducklings wanders across the lawn and makes their way down to the lake. 

On other days, a gaggle of Egyptian geese flies onto the lawn, squawking away.  We often see egrets, herons, anhingas and an occasional colony of tortoises.  Once in a while, we see a group of playful but aggressive lake otters.  

More than once, my wife has reminded me of the times that we have paid for expensive excursions while traveling so that we could witness the local wildlife.  Most of the time, we are disappointed because by the time we finally arrive at the location late in the morning, the animals have already escaped the hot sun. The only time that I can recall seeing a truly amazing animal show was in South Africa where we would go out before sunrise in order to capture the early morning activity of the wildlife in search of their food. 

I have to say that this has been an enjoyable summer for our bird and animal viewing.  From the comfort of our early morning kitchen table inside our air conditioned home, we have witnessed some of the best nature shows.  The price is right, our view is completely unobstructed and we don’t even have to dress up for the occasion!