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Natural Disasters and Me: Mauna Loa by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Mauna Loa

When I was in high school, I participated in a summer study program on the Big Island of Hawaii. While studying animal behavior, we also had the opportunity to visit incredible sights on the island. One of our adventures was to camp on the side of Mauna Loa in a cabin. During the day, the entire island had been rocked with multiple earthquakes, 26 in the previous 24-hour period. All the volcanoes monitored on the island were “swelling,” so everyone expected something was going to erupt. The most likely candidate was the currently active volcano, Kilauea.

We arrived at the cabin after a day of visiting the historical sites only to discover that not all of us fit in the cabin. There weren’t enough beds or even space for on the floor for sleeping bags. So, some of us “heartier” students volunteered to sleep outside under the stars. It would be chilly, but we were from states that had winter, and we would be okay.

The stargazing was incredible, and we couldn’t settle down to sleep. There, at the top of the summit of Mauna Loa were flames! It started as a narrow line. Then the flames filled to the top of the volcano.  Mauna Loa was erupting. It had not erupted for 65 years.

Hawaii, Mauna Loa volcano erupting, fiery lava flow and smoke down mountain of hard rock
Courtesy of USGS: 1975 Eruption of Mauna Loa

We pounded on the cabin door to wake our classmates. We ran around the campground yelling, “Mauna Loa is erupting!” Some campers came out to look, but most told us to, “Shut up!” Boy, were they mad the next morning when they realized that Mauna Loa had erupted and they’d missed it.

Our camp leaders thought about driving up to the top of the volcano for a closer look. Hawaiian volcanoes have a caldera that fills with lava before it slops over the side. But the van was nearly out of gas and lava flows at 30 mph, which is faster than we could run (if necessary).

That 1975 eruption burned the observation platform on the side of the caldera and added one more foot of land to the island.

This was my first up-close natural disaster–but not my last.

Elaine A. Powers loves island adventures. She has written fun, adventure-based science books for children set in the Bahamas.

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Countries Across the World Work Together to Conserve the Natural World through the IUCN

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is the global authority on the state of the natural world and the measures that are needed to protect it. The IUCN mission statement is:

Governmental and civil organizations (1300 altogether!) work to enhance economic development and nature conservation—the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The IUCN provides a neutral forum for member organizations to be heard, and members vote democratically on resolutions concerning global conservation initiatives. Thousands of experts are involved in their important work, and author Elaine A. Powers is part of the Iguana Specialist Group of the IUCN. Many iguana species are among the most endangered animals and this group looks after the big lizards.

“Influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.”

You might have heard of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Animals whose existence is threatened are listed in the IUCN Red List.Information can be found on those animals, including how endangered the species is and why. Is it threatened or nearly extinct? The IUCN works to see the populations of these animals recover so they can be removed from the Red List.

Iguanas are important for ecosystem health due to their role as seed dispersers for many native plants. These large lizards are threatened by habitat degradation, by human development and the introduction of invasive species. In addition, iguanas are hunted for human use.

The ISG recommends and enacts immediate and effective measures to conserve iguanas globally. The IUCN is a wonderful example of countries around the world working together for conservation.

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Ever Seen Salt Shoot Out of a Nose? by Elaine A. Powers, Author


window shade with salt sneezed on it from an iguana
Window shade has been “Snalted”

Have you ever seen a video of marine iguanas sneezing?  They’re usually perched on rocks after their feeding swims, basking in the warm sun. Suddenly, iguana after iguana starts sneezing.  A narrator explains this is how the marine iguanas rid their bodies of salt.  Humans get rid of extra salt in their urine, but iguanas, all kinds, expel extra salt by sneezing it from nasal salt glands. Now you know: When you see an iguana sneezing, he doesn’t have a cold.

The sneezed salt is called “snalt.” It comes out as a spray that covers everything in its way. It dries as crystals around the iguana’s nostrils and is easily brushed off—of them. On other surfaces, however, it can be quite difficult to remove. Glass requires a glass cleaner, soapy water, and sometimes, a sharp blade to scrape it off. Snalt corrodes metals just like saltwater!

One of my favorite iguanas, Algae, would stick her nose into my ear to sneeze.  (I think she was trying to clean the wax out of my ears.)

One more cool fact: It’s not only iguanas that sneeze salt—roadrunners do, too!

Display case with salt sneezed from an iguana
Snalt is very hard to get off of every surface but the iguanas themselves.

Lyric Power Publishing offers workbooks for teachers, parents and tutors to supplement student education. Here is a link to our fun and interesting Unit on Iguanas.

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Our New Category: Living with Reptiles

We’re starting a new category for posts at Tails, Tales,Adventures, Oh, My! today. We’re calling it Living with Reptiles.

I Live with a Menagerie of Reptiles, by Elaine A. Powers, Author

People think living with mammals or even birds is perfectly normal, but tell people you live with reptiles and they look at you strangely. I don’t understand this. Dogs bark, cats meow, and birds squawk. Fish might seem quiet but then you have the noise of the bubbler. Reptiles make the perfect, quiet pets and most sleep through the night right along with you. What could be better than that?

I do have stories to tell.

Tortoises Noises are Targeted—At Me!

I know I just said reptiles make quiet pets, but there are always exceptions to the rule.

I have a creep of red-foot tortoises roaming around my home. (Creep is the collective noun for tortoises.) You can hear the slik, slik, slik sound of their feet moving on the tile, but red-foots are known for being noisy breathers. And I don’t think it’s just breathing—I think they are talking to each other. When I get home after along trip, when I’m travel-tired and trying to fall asleep, they gather beside my bed and whisper to one another for . . . hours. I’ve decided that means they’re happy I’m home. I am happy to be home—I miss them, too!

On a typical day, they allow me to sleep peacefully through the night—until dawn, that is, when they decide to scratch their apparently itchy shells on the metal frame of my bed. Back and forth, back and forth. This is a very effective way to encourage me to get up and prepare their breakfast salads.

A Red-foot tortoise crawling around inside a paper grocery bag
Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise at home

The other day I was on the phone for an important business call.  I hear this loud, scrunching sound behind me.  Myrtle Tortoise had knocked over my paper grocery bag filled with other paper bags. She crawled inside, crunching the bags, crushing them, sliding them about, etc.  Needless to say, it was quite noisy. Because I had to focus on the call, I couldn’t go and grab her until the conversation was over.  As soon as I hung up the phone, Myrtle ceased her excavation of the bags.

“Just a coincidence,” I thought I heard her think as she strolled away. 😊

Elaine A. Powers is the author of Don’t Call Me Turtle, thanks to Myrtle, who asked her to write the book. 

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Mindful Betta Care by Susan Glynn Mulé, Author

I am taking a little break from tales of Moira and Kismet to discuss a completely different, but very important, topic.  It occurred to me recently that I had broken one of my own rules and, as a result, I’d become a serial killer. 

“It takes three,” I thought to myself as I buried my third betta fish under the statue of Saint Francis in the backyard. I had killed three and a fourth was on the brink of death. I doubted he would live the night. I was done with betta fish.

A dying betta fish

I had not researched betta care because, after all, everyone knows how to take care of a betta, right? And hadn’t my late husband and I both kept betta fish alive for years in a beautiful decorative vase with pothos and other plants growing out of it?They had made such beautiful display pieces and the fish thrived and even made the occasional bubble nest. Right up until they died. Sadly, these last three had each lasted just past the 30-day health guarantee the pet store offered. It wasn’t something the pet store had done. I was murdering my fish.

So I typed “betta fish care” into my search engine and started reading about everything I was doing wrong. My fish needed more room.They were too cold. They really didn’t like the water *that* stagnant. Waves of guilt ran over me.  I had been so happy when I’d purchased a nice one gallon “Betta Bowl” from Amazon and was now devastated that my beautiful fish died just a month later. I had thought one gallon was practically a betta mansion. I sat at the kitchen counter, staring at my last betta, Kronos, as he lay on his side and gasped. I had just cleaned his bowl, the same way I always did.

Was the water too cold? Was he dying or just in shock? Should I euthanize him?  I started to, but couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. The next day, he was still alive and no longer on his side. He still didn’t look good, but I was bound and determined that if he did die, he would be the last betta I ever killed.

I ordered a small aquarium, complete with filter and heater. If he was still alive when it arrived the next day, I would set it up for him.If he was gone, I would still set it up and give caring for betta fish one last try.  After all, the one I had at work still seemed to be doing well. I’d brought him one day for Story Time when we read The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfifer and never brought him home. (It was true, though, that his predecessor at work had died.) I ordered a second tank. 

Kronos moved into his new tank today. I set it up yesterday, used a good water conditioner and let the pump run over night. It isn’t huge, but it is a definite upgrade and I am working towards bigger and better things. Keshet, the fish I have at work, will need to wait until after the weekend to move, but I made sure the room was warm enough and aerated his water before I left.

turquoise green beta fish happily swimming in his aerated, algae-free, warm tank
Kronos, happily exploring his new home, just the way a betta fish should be.

I cannot wait to move Keshet because in the few hours that Kronos has been in his new tank, he has become a different fish. He is happily swimming all over the tank, exploring the alien skull that sits on the bottom. He has a variety of live plants, including a floating moss ball to keep the water oxygenated and a snail companion named Mystique to keep the algae under control. I don’t think I’d ever realized just how beautiful Kronos is. I’d never seen him with his fins and tail so fully extended. The poor fish had always been too cold. I am sure all of this has been a big shock to Kronos and, as he was not doing well previously, I hope he survives the transition and goes on to live a long and happy betta life.

 Susan Glynn Mulé is the author of Princess Tien, now available at Amazon.

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Scripts or Books? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I’m often asked how long I’ve been writing books. I have been writing mostly science-based children’s books–which I like to make fun to read with fantastic illustrations or by writing in rhyme. I’ve been creating mystery stories, as well, for a total of about five years.

One of my Audio Scripts.

Before that, I wrote scripts. I was involved in several community theaters that often needed original scripts. I wrote a variety of them, many of which were performed locally.

Curtis Curly-tail comes alive at my page at You Tube.

Then my employer transferred me to Tucson, Arizona, and my mother came to live with me. I no longer had time for theater, but the need to write had awakened in me. I met little Curtis Curly-tail on a beach in the Bahamas and my book writing adventure began.

I am greatly relieved to get the stories out that have been cluttering my mind!

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Why is there a Gnome in Grow Home, Little Seeds?

Why is this Gnome in a book about seeds?

When you read the tale of the adventurous seeds of the Leon Levy Preserve, Grow Home, Little Seeds,  you learn all about real plants of the Bahamas. The fabulous illustrations by Monique Carroll bring the seedlings to life in a fun way.

When you turn to the Acknowledgements to learn who helped bring the book to life, you see a gnome. Yes, a gnome in blue clothes with a red hat. Why is there a gnome in Grow Home, Little Seeds?

When the author, Elaine A. Powers, researched the plants of the Leon Levy Preserve, she asked the Bahamas National Trust Botanist, Dr. Ethan Freid, what his favorite plants were. 

Dr. Ethan Friede, Botanist at
the Leon Levy Preserve 
Photo Credit: Melissa Abdo

He replied that they were all his favorites.

 “Well, which plants would you like to see in the book?” Elaine asked. He couldn’t decide, but there was something that he did want: A gnome.

Dr. Freid provided valuable information to Elaine as the book was written, and she decided he deserved his gnome. She learned that Dr. Freid had dressed up as a gnome for Halloween and there were photographs! Thus, the gnome who appears in the book—who looks a lot like Dr. Freid—honors him for his work to conserve the plants of the Bahamas.

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The Story of One Tough Iguana: Demo, by Elaine A. Powers, Author

iguana resting on a branchHaving an iguana rescue, I met a lot of iguanas. Some came from people who couldn’t or didn’t want to care for them. (Iguanas come with a lot of responsibilities.) I also received calls about iguanas who had been found in leaf piles, in the middle of the road or worse, from NJ and PA.

One day, I received a call from a crew demolishing a building. They had found an iguana who had been left behind in a tank. Think about that. This iguana had been abandoned long enough for the building to be condemned , for the permits for its demolition to be obtained, and for a crew to be sent over to knock it down.

When the man arrived at my door with the iguana in a box, I didn’t have much hope. The large lizard was listless and very thin—starved—and covered in mud. I didn’t expect it to survive overnight. Sometimes all you can do for an animal is give it a safe place to die in peace, not worrying about predators.

I washed the iguana, gave him a warm, comfortable place, with food, if he wanted. The next day, he was alert and ready to eat and drink! I named him Demo, short for demolition. Demo recovered amazingly quickly and became quite socialized. The young man who had brought him to me came by to check on him and asked to adopt him. I happily agreed. His twin brother adopted his own iguana from me a little while later.

I meet truly wonderful people because of iguanas.

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Why Are Two Books Titled Ship of Sneakers? By Elaine A. Powers, Author

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding the waves in a red sneaker
Curtis, the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells, decides to see where the tourists come from. He sets sail on his adventure in a ship of sneakers.

My book business started with the publication of Curtis Curly-tail and the Ship of Sneakers. In this story, a Curly-tail lizard named Curtis travels from his home island of Warderick Wells to the big city of Nassau to see where the tourists come from. When he gets homesick, Curtis must figure out how to get home. Not to worry—Curtis is a smart Curly-tail lizard and he would be bored if life didn’t get exciting from time to time.

Then—and how fun for me!—several people in the Cayman Islands requested their own Curly-tail adventures, and the Lime Lizard Lads, Gene and Bony, were born. The first book in their series, The Dragon of Nani Cave, explores the animals, plants and sites on Cayman Brac, as the two adventure off to find the island’s dragon for themselves.

But, “One is not enough,” the people said. I was asked if could I adapt one of the Bahamas books for the Cayman Islands. Yes, I thought. I can adapt Ship of Sneakers fairly easily. Ha! It turned out I had to rewrite the entire story, but it was worth it. In The Lime Lizard Lads and the Ship of Sneakers, Gene and Bony leave their home on Cayman Brac, one of the Sister Islands, and travel to the tourist sites on Grand Cayman. And since the only way in or out is by airplane, they have quite the adventure!

The Lime Lizards of Cayman Brac, Gene and Bony decide to see where the tourists come from. They set sail on their adventure in a ship of sneakers. Will they ever see the Brac again?

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Kismet: The Love of my Little Dinosaur, by Susan Glynn Mulé, Author

My mood was dark. My birthday had just passed. It had been another birthday alone and it would be another set of holidays alone. Not alone in the sense of not being with anyone. Thanksgiving had been a lovely celebration at the home of my daughter’s future in-laws and I had felt totally at peace. But still a certain loneliness.

The day before my birthday, my daughter, her fiancé and I had attended a Knights of Columbus Memorial where, for the fourth year in a row, my late husband’s name would be called. Could it really have been my fourth birthday since he died? I thought about what he might have given me. Roses, of course — and dinner at our favorite little Italian place. There would probably have been something tangible as well; an article of clothing or earrings perhaps. He would have ordered me wine, smiled, and taken my hand across the table.

a Ctenosaura similis iguana on furniture
Moira, a Ctenosaura similis iguana

Trying to brush my sadness away, I open the cage sitting on the chest of drawers in my living room. I place my hand inside and little Moira climbs down from her branch and settles on my hand. I study her intently – all 16 grams of her. Perched on my fingertips, I marvel at how tiny she is.  And I wonder: How is it that my heart is so stirred by such a tiny creature whom I barely know? How is it that holding this tiny creature has just turned my day around and cast a ray of sunlight into my dark mood? I have only had her a month, this tiny Ctenosaura similis that I brought home from IguanaFest, despite reminding myself again and again that I did not need another lizard. She cocks her head, looking up at me and there is so much depth to her gaze – as if she is looking into my very soul. Only one other lizard has ever looked at me quite this way. Kismet. Kismet, who will always be loved and never be forgotten…

It had been another horrible day. It wasn’t long after my father’s unexpected death and our daughter was away, probably spending the night at a friend’s house and I did not have my motherly duties to distract me from my sorrow. All I can remember is feeling as though the earth had been pulled from beneath my feet so that my stomach lurched and my head ached. I was lying across the old worn couch that had been my husband’s grandmother’s. It had looked like new when he brought to our Texas home from Norco, Louisiana. One year in our house, with animals jumping on it and a plethora of roving teens plopping on it, and it looked every bit of its ninety years. It smelled old and the dampness from my tears accentuated the musty odor. I had been crying for what felt like a century. I could hear the clicking of the keyboard as my husband, Michael, worked in the other room. He had been unable to console me and had abandoned the task and returned to working on his project. I knew he ached at not being able to help me and I felt guilty for pushing him away — which only made me cry all the harder.

hand of a nine-pound iguana
Kismet’s hand.

When I opened my eyes, I could see Kismet under her basking light. She was perched on the shelf we built for her. Her head was cocked. She was studying me. I closed my eyes again and returned to my tears. The kerflump of her body hitting the floor as she jumped down from her roost and the click of her toenails on the floor until she reached the carpet opened my eyes again. I watched as she moved toward the couch. She cocked her head again, and then jumped up into the space between my body and the edge of the couch. Snuggling close to me, she reached over and with her right paw, gently stroked my cheek with her claws. The touch was more soothing, more calming, than I would have thought possible. A wave of affection for this nine-pound lizard washed over me and I stroked her back. As I marveled at the intuitiveness of my little dinosaur, a slow smile found its way to the corners of my mouth – and even to my eyes.

Michael, who also heard the kerflump and the clicking toenails stood in the doorway between the office and the living room and just watched as I scratched the scales along both sides of Kismet’s spines. He smiled slightly, shaking his head.

a nine-pound iguana on tile floor
The beloved and loving Kismet

“How did she know to do that?” he asked.

I shook my head. “I have no idea.”

He crossed over and sat down next to us. He stroked Kismet under the chin and looked at me. “No one is ever going to believe this, you know.”

I smiled at him. “I know.” I paused and looked into his warm and gentle brown eyes. “I’m sorry, I pushed you away, Mike. I was just too far away to let you in.”

“It’s okay,” he said, reaching over and stroking my cheek in the exact same spot as Kismet had. “I’m just glad she brought you back.”

I look back down into Moira’s soulful eyes. The expression is the same. Moira’s tiny tongue licks my fingertip, perhaps hoping that I have a tasty morsel. I don’t, but she licks my fingertip again and cocks her head to look at me. Her tiny claws wrap around my fingertip. I look back down into her soulful eyes that are so different — and yet somehow so very familiar.

No, I did not need another lizard. But I needed this one.

Susan Glynn Mulé is the author of Princess Tien: A Mountain Horned Dragon Tale.