We drove to a spot I’ve been meaning to visit for years – “Dinosaur Footprints”, just outside of Holyoke on Route 5. I’d heard it was a great place to see fossilized dinosaur tracks and that there was a trail, so the kids and I were pretty excited.
However, the “hike” wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. The website I’d visited had described the trail as “easy walking” and suggested visitors allow thirty minutes for their trip. So that’s what we did. We parked, got out, and hit the trailhead, right behind a French couple who were fully kitted out for hiking – sunhats, water bottles, the works.
But here’s the thing. The walk took us all of two minutes. It was literally around the bend from the start point. We were so disappointed. (And I think the French couple was too).
Even so, the fossils were definitely worth the trip.
Signs posted along the trail say that the entire Connecticut River Valley was once a region of subtropical lakes and swamps. The 130+ footprints, fossilized plants, and ripple marks you can see at “Dinosaur Tracks” today were made in mud millions of years ago, covered with sediment, and then finally uncovered in 1920 when workers were building Route 5. Later studied by a Yale professor, the tracks were the first to document the idea that dinosaurs traveled in packs or herds.
We also learned that fossilized dinosaur footprints in the Connecticut River Valley were the “first known to science anywhere in the world.” Pretty amazing.
And, speaking of the Connecticut River, it’s just a stone’s throw from the tracks.
But, it’s also near a set of railroad tracks, and in Massachusetts, it’s illegal to cross railroad tracks anywhere other than at a designated crossing. There were plenty of signs posted on trees nearby to remind us of this law. The girls and I stood there reading them and dutifully obeyed. No river for us. (Meanwhile, as we read, a man, a woman, and a chihuahua calmly crossed the tracks in front of us and settled down on the riverbank for an afternoon of fishing.)
From the dining room table, trying to imagine what a subtropical Massachusetts would look like,
I caught the dogs sunbathing today. Normally, they fly around the backyard like hooligans, but this afternoon, the warm sun and comfortable temperatures lulled them into a tranquil state. They looked so sweet, I snuck down to the back room to photograph them.
Manny and Ursa make a striking pair. They compliment each other very well, I think – kind of like a ballroom dancing couple where one partner is tall and dark and the other partner is fair and…fluffy.
Sometimes we speculate about what sort of puppies they might have had. Purely hypothetical, of course. We never planned anything of the sort. But it’s fun to think about.
Meanwhile, there’s Kipper.
I don’t think Kipper is entirely convinced he’s a dog. Or if he is, he considers himself an elevated sort of dog. No lolling in the sun for Kipper! He remains on guard. In fact, there was no chance of sneaking a photo of him. He spotted me the moment I appeared in the window.
Kipper would have cute puppies, too, but we’d need to breed him with something relaxed and ponderous to tone down some of his doggie intensity. What sort of dog would we need for that? A Great Dane? A St. Bernard? A Newfoundland? I’ll have to ask Pepper. She’d know.
From the dining room table, hoping this pleasant summer weather continues (not exactly what you’d expect for August, though),
Pepper came up with a fun system for starting stories the other day. She made piles of adjectives, nouns, and numbers, then color coded and arranged them in piles, inviting Ginger and I to randomly choose from the piles to complete the “sentence” above. It was a bit like Mad Libs, except you had less control.
The results were pretty original and almost always humorous. But what struck me most was how interesting they turned out to be. Because of the randomness, each story start had at least one unexpected element – something that made it memorable. Here are three we produced:
Once upon a time, in a cool, haunted kingdom, lived twenty cold goats.
(Goats? Cold goats as main characters? Sure! Why not?)
Once upon a time, in a sunny, cool museum, lived one strange woman.
(Hmmmm. How did the woman get there? And just what makes her strange?)
Once upon a time, in a dark, Nazi theme-park, lived fifty dirty cats.
(Wow! Lots of possibilities with this one. I can already see it in my mind’s eye).
So, anyway, I think if I was teaching a writing course, I would introduce this as an exercise for generating ideas. Heck, you could even write an entire novel this way – using a similar system to generate traits for your characters and details for the plot. It would help narrow down your options and really force you to be creative. Oh, the possibilities!
Maybe now I can get that novel I’ve always wanted to write down on paper….
From the dining room table, wondering just what those cold goats are going to do about their haunted kingdom,