Caves! What Lies Beneath Thursday, Sep 23 2021 

From the mountains to the forests and sky to the seas, nature’s masterpieces are on display for anyone who takes the time to notice. Plant life from moss to oak trees, clouds, sand, waterways, prairies, soil, hills, insects, birds, and land animals show off their hues, shapes, music, and fragrances.

Go deeper, and we also can find nature’s magnificence below ground level. My boyfriend and I recently took a trip to Blue Mound, Wisconsin to experience the treasure of Cave of the Mounds. The natural structures, textures, and colors left me in awe.

The area’s history dates back more than 400 million years ago when warm waterways covered it and the discarded calcium carbonate seashells compacted into limestone. Over the next few million years, carbon dioxide created in rain and melting snow, and then becoming diluted carbonic acid, seeped through the surface soils, dissolved the limestone, and created cavities. Simultaneously, the water table lowered causing streams to deeply erode the stone and allow air to fill in the developing cave.

Water droplets and dissolved calcium carbonate and minerals continued, and still continue, to drip though the cave and build on each other forming structures called speleothems.

Stalactites are speleothems growing down from the ceiling.

Stalagmites are structures forming from the ground up.

Helictites grow sideways and downward. And round oolites are considered cave pearls.

The rate of growth of these speleothems is tremendously slow taking 50 to 150 years to build one cubic centimeter of cave onyx, depending on the speed of the dripping water and the amount of calcium carbonate it contains.

The colors of the trails of crystals formed by these droplets varies with the minerals they carry. For example, reddish brown crystals contain rust—oxides of iron; black, purple, blue, and grey contain manganese compounds; and those with calcite appear as translucent or white crystals.

Nearly all of the more than 400 known caves in Wisconsin are privately owned. Cave of the Mounds is noted as a National Natural Landmark in a public-private partnership with the National Park service. It is located on a family owned property that was used for dairy farming. In 1939, the family also contracted out a portion of the land for quarry blasting. The cave was discovered when one of those contractors blasted an opening to the hidden world below.

Cave of the Mounds is open year-round and maintains temperatures in the 50s. Located outside of Madison, Wisconsin, Midwesterners have easy access to this natural gem. Guests can meander through the cave on their own, spending as much or as little time as desired. Typically, it takes about an hour to view as it is only about 1/5 of a mile long and from 40 to 57 feet below ground. Guides are on hand at the beginning of and about half-way through the tour to answer questions. At this time, tickets for adults are under $20. Trails surround the cave and also are open to the public.

I expected the cave to be dark, dank, dirty, and buggy. Instead, it was quite clean without visible creatures, well-lit, and had a smooth, concrete pathway on which to walk. The air quality varies with the barometric pressure but also was comfortable. I understand that water drips in the cave on rainy days and those with melting snow.

If you aren’t able to visit Cave of the Mounds, check out their virtual tour. You lose the close up experience of being surrounded by nature’s sculptures but will get a sample of what to find there.

*Pilgrimages offer countless benefits, and you don’t have to travel far. Find out how in this post, “Stillgrimage-Taking a Pilgrimage Near Home“.

*Looking for gifts for caregiving friend? Check out these books: Inspired Caregiving, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Navigating Alzheimer’s.

Luck and Faith of the Shamrock Monday, Mar 15 2021 

Oh The Shamrock

Through Erin’s Isle,
To sport awhile,
As Love and Valor wander’d
With Wit, the sprite,
Whose quiver bright
A thousand arrows squander’d.
Where’er they pass,
A triple grass
Shoots up, with dew-drops streaming,
As softly green
As emeralds seen
Through purest crystal gleaming.
Oh the Shamrock, the green immortal Shamrock!
Chosen leaf
Of Bard and Chief,
Old Erin’s native Shamrock!

  -Thomas Moore

See a shamrock, think of Ireland. The most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle since the 18th century, shamrocks are used in emblems of state organizations, clubs, flags, and companies such as Aer Lingus airline. It’s even a registered trademark of the Government of Ireland.

The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic Seamrog, meaning little clover. Clover is commonly referred to as any number of plants belonging to the genus Trifolium in reference to their three leaves. Most botanists agree that the white clover is the original shamrock of Irish heritage. However, white, red, and hop clovers, and the clover-like black medick, are often used as shamrocks, all of which are members of the pea family. The sprigs are believed to have been consumed by the Irish people in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The four-leaf clover is a mutation rarely found in nature, which lends itself to the universal connotation of being lucky. The plant, oxalis deppei with its four leaflets is widely sold as shamrocks, but in reality, it is not clover.

The plant’s religious connotation has ancient roots. Celtic holy men, known as Druids, believed the clover to be powerful against evil spirits, and the number three found in clover to be mystical. Surrounded in legend, Eve is said to have carried a four-leaf clover out from the Garden of Eden. Most notably is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock to explain the teaching of the Holy Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.

The three leaflets of the shamrock also represent faith, hope, and love. When a fourth smaller one is present, it represents luck due to its rarity.

Today, clover is considered a nuisance when it pops up in our lawns but once was included in lawn seed mixes. Until the 1950s, clover was considered a beneficial addition to the overall look and feel of a lawn as it is inexpensive and maintenance-free. Clover is easy to mow, fills in thin spots, tolerates compacted soil better than grass, doesn’t require fertilizing as it captures nitrogen from the air, and attracts honeybees. It is also soft to walk on.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever)

Do You Believe in Leprechauns?

* Take a dose of self-care with my newest book, Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Moral Builders.

(Political) Climate Change Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

(Venice, Italy)

As I noted in my last post on my Mary K Doyle Books blog, the recent pilgrimage to Israel and Italy with my daughter, Lisa, was the perfect trip at the perfect time for us. The saying is that “Timing is Everything,” and that’s certainly evident with recent events in both countries we visited.

I’m grateful to the many loving friends and family who covered us in prayers. No doubt, their prayers helped keep us safe and make a holy pilgrimage. Our trip was peaceful and in perfect weather.

(Bethlehem, Israel)

Cross-border violence began this week between Israel and militants in Gaza and continue after an Israeli air strike that killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that their campaign is directed at Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza. Israel holds the group responsible for 100s of rocket attacks from Gaza since fighting began.

(St. Mark’s)

In addition to the troubles in Israel, Venice is under water. Water levels are at their highest in more than 50 years peaking at about 6 ft. St Mark’s Square was one of the worst hit. The square has flooded six times in 1200 years, according to church records. The crypt is now completely flooded. Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed the enormous damages on climate change.

One of the greatest gifts of travel is the bond that develops between differing peoples. Once we’ve met and connected with someone from another society, we become more aware of their daily situations and concerns and understand them better.

The trauma to the people and their land in both countries saddens me. Lisa and I were privileged to see Israel and Italy in their glory. May all of Israel and Venice return to peace and tranquility very soon.

***

(See all posts from both of my blogs on my author Facebook page.)

Jerusalem. City of Sensual Overload. Thursday, Nov 7 2019 

DIMG_3985.Old JerusalemStalls packed with brightly colored scarves, carpets, and clothing. Whiffs of olives, spices, and humanity. Ancient art and centuries of architecture intermixed with current signage and walls of graffiti. Heavy military presence controlling the massive crowds. Narrow cobblestone streets streaming with people from all over the world. Arabic, Hebrew, and English along with Russian, French, Italian, and countless other languages ring through the air.

DSCN6415.Jerusalem

I just returned from a pilgrimage to Israel and Italy and the impact of the trip has left my head full of images, sounds, and smells. As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz, Americans such as myself quickly realize that in Israel, especially in Old Jerusalem,  we’re not in “Kansas” anymore, an expression that indicates things are very different than our norm.

Jerusalem is the largest and poorest city in Israel. Located between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, it’s also one of the oldest and perhaps, holiest, cities in the world. The first human settlers are believed to have arrived in the Early Bronze Age around 3500 B.C. In 1000 B.C, King David conquered Jerusalem and his son, Solomon, built the first temple.

 

DSCN6462

In only about a third of a square mile, numerous locations are considered significantly important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims which has resulted in a long history of conflict.

DIMG_3975.Via Dolorosa

  • For the Jewish community, Jerusalem is recognized as the site of Mount Zion, the traditional site of King David’s tomb, and the Western Wall.
  • Christians hold the city sacred because it is where 12-year old Jesus impressed the elders in the temple and later spent the last days of his ministry, was sentenced, scourged, taunted, crucified, and resurrected.
  • Muslims also are religiously connected to Jerusalem because it is where the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven from what is known as the Temple Mount.

In adition to being emotionally and spiritually moved, Israel was fascinating for me because I’m intrigued with other cultures and religions and appreciate the opportunity to learn from them. Personally, I never felt unsafe but often did not feel welcome by the majority of Israelies. When traveling, I strive to be a good guest and representative of my home country. I’m not sure how much this mattered to most people I encountered. Greeting Jews in Hebrew rarely resulted in anything other than a blank stare. Currently, more than 60% of its residents are Jewish, 36.5% are Muslim, and only 1.8% are Christian. (The other 1.2% are unspecified.)

The religious tension in the country is evident, even among the Christian denominations. Everyone vigorously defends their sacred site and appears to be reluctant to allow others to visit. Without the assistance of our experienced and knowledgable guide, navigation through the country and entering sites at the best times would have been difficult, if not impossible. Our guide also protected our money by pointing out where we could safely use a credit card and deal fairly with merchants.

DSCN6420.Jerusale,

Most of our meals were prearranged and buffet style. Typical meals consisted of stews, fish, grilled vegetables, salads, and breads. My favorite foods were those common in the region including falafal, schnitzel, shwarma, hummus, olives, herring, and dates.

Breakfast.IMG_3937

Stay tuned for more to come on this adventure! Faith-related posts will be posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

 

 

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