An Unrestrained Exuberance


We really like the National Audubon Society Field Guide series.  These little books are compact, portable, and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for.  Of course, their compact nature means that they are not particularly comprehensive, but we’ve been able to find in there most of the plants, animals, and minerals we’ve encountered in the natural world.

Above you can see the well-loved and well-used volumes we own.  The wonderful thing about the Audubon books is that, despite their small size, they are so much more than a dry listing of families, genera, species, and unpronounceable Latin names.  Their vivid, colorful descriptions really bring whatever you’re reading about alive.  (That is, unless you’re reading about rocks.  Then I guess you’d say the description really…um…solidifies your knowledge.  Or maybe you’d say “this book rocks!”  Or it is a…gem).
Anyway, the other day, I wanted to figure out the difference between a Monarch butterfly and a Viceroy.  They look an awful lot alike, at least to my untrained eye.  So I looked up Viceroys and found this very, very cool fact about their caterpillars.  I’ll quote it straight from the book, because I loved the wry humor inherent in this scientific fact:  “The irregular shape and color of the caterpillar produce a striking resemblance to bird droppings,  giving the insect considerable protection from predators.”

Ha, ha, ha, ha…I love that!  I also found, when I looked up Monarchs, that “The Canadians call this butterfly “King Billy” because its orange and black colors are those of King William of Orange.”  And, of course, that’s how the Monarch got its name.


So here’s where I deviate from talking about Nature to talk about a different kind of nature—human nature.  My nature, to be specific. I just really need to know.  When you out there in Blogland hear some fascinating, wondrous fact like the above, do any of you get excited?  I mean, like, really, really excited?  Like I-Just-Won-A-Hundred-Bucks-in-the-Lottery excited? 

I do.   When I read or hear something like this, my pulse quickens, my face flushes, and I can’t wait to tell someone else.  In fact, I cringe to say this, but when I read the fact about Viceroy caterpillars resembling bird droppings, I laughed out loud and…clapped my hands in delight.  Yes, you read that right.  I clapped my hands in glee over hearing that a caterpillar resembles bird poop.
I am particularly prone to this when it comes to word derivations.  For example, I just found out that the word “nice” comes from a Middle English word meaning “foolish,” which comes from a Latin word meaning “to be ignorant.”  Wow.  Incredible.  Now I know why so many people say I’m “nice.”

So, what I want to know is this:  Do any of you out there get excited like this?  Okay, maybe not “clap-your-hands” excited.  I know that’s probably over the edge.  *Cringe*  But maybe you just feel really happy about some quirky little fact?   And please don’t think this is a shameless attempt to bump up my comment count.  I really am curious.  Am I really that strange or am I just really easy to please?  Or maybe both?

And no, you don’t have to comment.   But it sure would be…nice.

31 Responses to “An Unrestrained Exuberance”

  1. June Says:

    Yes, I’m excited. I love knowing the why of everything. I can drive people crazy with asking. Anyway, it’s all fascinating to me and so I am ever the student…loving to learn. Too bad my brain “loses” a lot of what I do learn!!

    I just got the Audubon book on trees and will probably get the others. I’m tired of naming my pictures some generic title like “blue flower”! I’ll have to look again at my tree book, because I don’t recall any interesting comments…but then, I suppose trees might be less apt to have them.

  2. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Thanks, June, for helping me to feel less alone:) (And I’m afraid my brain doesn’t retain like it used to, either)
    About your Audubon tree book: the interesting facts are at the very end of each description. For example, in our tree book, on page 584, it says that “Pioneers carried a buckeye seed in their pockets to ward off rheumatism.” And on the next page, it says about the horsechestnut tree, “Turks reportedly used the seeds to concoct a remedy given to horses suffering from cough, hence the common…names.” That’s so cool.

  3. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Oh yes, those little factoids give me a little thrill. My students think I’m a nerd when I share with them some of the exciting tidbits I learn about the brain (did you know, for example, that when you learn something new you are maming a new connection between neurons in your brain and are therefore changing the actual physical structure of the your brain? Cool huh?). I can’t help it.
    The other day when I told Paul about the Harvest Moon and why it’s called that, he did the same thing. He just thought it was so very cool that farmers can harvest late into the night under this full moon. We kept telling Owen over and over about it (mostly because we kept calling it the harvest moon and she kept asking why we called it that).

    I have the Audobon books on: North American Trees, North American Wildflowers (well-worn), North American Birds (pages stuck together because we dropped it into a river), and North American Seashells. I love them!

    Thanks for sharing. Love the photo, too, by the way, especially the treasures nearby.

    Much to do before my trip. Can’t wait to read what you write about while I’m gone!

  4. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Sorry about the typo: I meant “when you learn something new, you are making new connections”. Thinking too fast for my fingers. Must be those darn neurons.

  5. Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl Says:

    Wow, Wesley, that is so cool about the neurons! I am really gratified to know now, that even if I’m kind of weird, at least I have lots and lots of neurons! 🙂 Yay for nerds! Yay for neurons!
    Have a wonderful trip! I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  6. Cathy Says:

    This is some pretty neat stuff you have here. But as a Canadian chick I have never heard of “King Billy”….monarchs are monarchs…lol …and what about your Audubon books…never heard of thoses either. I will have to head to a big book store tomorrow and look for these. Here in Ontario Canada our province wildflower is the “trillium”. I have been looking at all the garden centers for some to plant in my yard and they tell me that it is against the law to have them growing on your own property…what is up with that???? I am soooooo out of the loop…ha ha ha
    Anyway….have you ever heard of an “eggtooth”?? (this got me clap-your -hands-excited)
    “The eggtooth is a sharp, rasp like tubercle that forms on the tips of hatchlings bill. This sharp structure enables the hatchling to scrape away the inner lining of the egg allowing oxygen to enter and eventually helping the hatchling break out of the egg. Several days after hatched, the eggtooth falls out”. Birds, ducks and even turtles have them. So you can imagine me in the spring, climbing ladders watching birds nests with camera in tow,… but never to find an eggtooth. I am too excited about this to give it up, so I guess there is always next year. *wink*

  7. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Cathy, reading about eggtooths definitely was, for me, a pulse-quickening, face flushing, clap my hands experience! Wow. I didn’t know about them, but I’m so glad you told me! Thank you! But I’ve gotta say, I’m a little crushed to find out that Canadians don’t call the monarch “King Billy.” Maybe in some other province of Canada? By the way, I’m sure if you don’t have the National Audubon Society field guides in Canada, you probably have something equally good. The main thing for us has been to have something small that we can carry along on our hikes and identify things we see. And we always take a picture of what we find in case we can’t find it in the Audubon guide. We can often then find out what it is online.

  8. Shannon Hodgins Says:

    Oh, what a wonderful post. I always feel like I have this plethora of useless little bits of knowledge that are actually intriguing to me.

    I also love my job because I get to explore these interesting little information facts…..or to drift around as information is truly connected to other information.

    Um, I just learned a great deal about pillbugs (or Rollie Pollie’s in my mind) and what they are about. Are they truly a crustation? Inquiring minds want to know. I also just read an interesting book on guinea pig scientists and found it absolutly intriguing! I love these interesting little facts that pepper my day. Shannon

  9. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Shannon, you are so fortunate to be a librarian. That is a fact junkies’ dream come true! 🙂 So after I read your comment, naturally, I had to go look up pill bugs. Oh my goodness. They aren’t actually bugs at all! They ARE crustaceans! They are related to lobsters! That is truly amazing! *Beth claps hands in glee* Did you know that they breathe through gills?

  10. ronbailey Says:

    Aren’t Monarchs just the coolest? I look forward to seeing the migration start each year… seeing the first Monarch flutter by makes the day a special one to me – I note it on the calendar, just like I do the first robin each spring.

    Great picture!

  11. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Ron, we do the same thing on our calendar! We also make a note of the first hummingbird in the spring. That’s always a big event at our house.

  12. June Says:

    I’m back. I’m enjoying the conversation here as much as the post! I think maybe you’re on to something here…perhaps a factoid of the week post. Do ya think?

  13. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    June, that is a fabulous idea! Should we have a day of the week? Like Factoid Friday? Or Fun Fact Friday? Expand Your Mind Monday? You probably can think of a better title. Why don’t you be the first and then anyone who cares to participate could join in. I sure will. What a great idea!

  14. ronbailey Says:

    mmmm, I believe I smell a meme developing….

  15. lucky pennies Says:

    Fact Freak Friday! It even has assonance! I would most definitely join in.

    So pill bugs….I mean, pill crustaceans…if they breathe through gills, how come they don’t live in water? Or do they?

  16. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Ooohh, Lucky Pennies, I really like Fact Freak Friday! Gotta love that assonance (even though I had to look that word up.)
    What do you think, June?
    Concerning pillbugs (or pill crustaceans): They don’t live in water, but they must live in humid enviroments like compost piles and rotten, wet wood. In fact, they die within a day if the humidity levels drop. However, they can absorb moisture from the air if humidity levels in the air get above 87% So that means that Chapel Hill, where you are with it’s wilting summer humidity, would be an pillbug oasis, compared to here. (you can tell I’ve been spending entirely too much time reading about them!)

  17. jennifersaylor Says:


    As a teenager I read Stephen Jay Gould’s book The Panda’s Thumb. In it is an essay that describes a mind-blowing example of the shape of an animal body part serving as utterly elegant evidence of the action of natural selection, so convincing as to be all but irrefutable.

    I don’t know if I have ever been so overwhelmed by an encounter with the natural word as in that book. My heart raced; I had to put the book down. It wasn’t delight I felt but a profoundly spiritual reaction to the incredible complexity and beauty of the natural world.

    But I understand how the caterpillar fact made you feel, I understand completely. Knowledge is joy to some people, and it’s a wonderful thing to have in common with someone.

    I’m in for fact day, whatever it ends up being called. I vote for Factoid Friday.

    BTW only 2 animals can catch a cold, human beings and their closest genetic cousins, chimpanzees.

  18. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Jennifer, when I read what you said about being so moved by what you read that you had to put the book down, I was nodding in recognition. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me, where I am almost breathless with excitement about something I read and have to put it down until I can breathe deeply in and out and quiet my pounding heart. Or sometimes I sit and cry. That happened to me as a teenager or a twenty-something when I read “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dilliard. I’m going to have to check our library for “The Panda’s Thumb.”
    And, Wow, I didn’t know that about the common cold. Very interesting. I’m going to have to read more about that, if I can work it in with my neuron, eggtooth, and pillbug research:)
    About the Fact Day: June, I reckon, will be the one to come up with the name since it was her fabulous idea. Or it doesn’t have to have a name at all–whatever she decides. I, for one, can’t wait, although, Lord knows, once I read one small fact, I have to know more, so I’m certain to be spending way too much time Googling this and that.

  19. June Says:

    Well, it seems a lot of people are – like me – fascinated to learn about trivia, minutia, and other facts that we either have never learned or have learned and long forgotten. So…I’ve decided to start a weekly “Friday Fact” posting where I’ll report some sort of blurb of information on a variety of subjects. Of course, I doubt I’ll remember half of what I learn…but you never know!

  20. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    June, I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks for such a good idea!

  21. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Well, I must say I am a little surprised that none of you, being possessed as you are of an insatiable curiosity, asked about The Insect Of Unusual Size (IOUS) in the top right hand corner of the top photograph. I’m no entomologist, but I’m thinking it’s the rare Spurious Plasticus Humbuggus. It was NOT in the National Audubon Society guide, because…it’s an exotic species. From China, as a matter of fact. I know because, in the name of research, I looked on the bottom of its abdomen.

  22. Shannon Hodgins Says:

    O.k., I’m in. Did you decide on Fact Friday, Factoid Friday or Fact Freak Friday? Hummm……. Cool idea!

    Oh, Lucky Penny, what a wonderful place for you. I lived in Chapel Hill on Scarlett Avenue (the second house on the street right down from Wendys, the one with the graveyard behind the yard) for quite a while, and then I lived WAY out in Pittsboro in a wonderful cabin. I had to scope your blog after reading your posts. Um, post coming me things…..

    I used to visit the Cradle, The Cave quite a good deal. I was a bartender at Michael’s through college………if you visit tell them Shannon said hi. Probably way to long, and to many years, but you never know. I know that Taz Halloween still sings there, and she was a buddy of mine way back when. Try a visit out to Clyde Jones’ house, I think you will love his ART. And yep, it’s ART for ART’s sake.

    Anyway, back to fun freaky factoid facts! I think my Dad gave me a love of esoteric knowledge. It comes in handy every day! I’ll post my first fact this Friday. Beth, we developed a love of the Cicada this year with the 17 year Cicada emerging. Facinating little boogers. My kids adored them, and it’s funny to think that they will be in college the next time they see this cycle. Shannon

  23. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Shannon, June, who had the original idea, decided on “Friday Fact,” and she plans to post the first one this Friday, so I reckon everybody that wants to do it can do it then, too. Right, June? I’ve already decided which one I’m going to do, and I’m really looking forward to everyone else’s.

  24. fred1st Says:

    Oh you are such a naturophile of a familiar stripe: I wear it too, and my wife is no longer startled by my WHOOPS! of glee at the “silliest” things. The greatest reward as a teacher in the field was a great big WOW, so when I hear myself saying it, that too is part of the joy of discovery–of self and of the world it lives in.

  25. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Oh, Fred, yes! I am a whooper, too! And a wower, for that matter. But, how can one NOT whoop and wow at our weird and wondrous world?

  26. jennifersaylor Says:

    I’m in for this Friday. BRBCG, I actually don’t remember which Stephen Jay Gould book it was that blew my mind so (I really think it was Panda, though). I actually would love to try to find that passage again myself, and may try during winter break sometimes.

    But you can’t go wrong with that guy. He was one of the best science writers I know of, and his death was a ripoff for the human race.

  27. lucky pennies Says:

    BRBCG: That is an awesome fact. I’m not sure I’m thrilled by the idea of pillbug colonies nearby, though…

    Shannon: I definitely will stop by Clyde Jone’s place sometime. And I don’t usually go to bars, but if I do, I’ll say hey for you. 😀

  28. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    In case anyone is still reading the comments, I wanted to mention again that this Friday (that is, tomorrow) June of will be starting the first Friday Fact series (as she outlined above). It’s kind of an informal thing, but the more cool facts the better, so we hope you participate by having a cool fact on your blog. So let June know tomorrow in your comments on her site if you are participating. I, for one, look forward to a morning of great enlightenment and clap-my-hands excitement.

  29. The First Friday Fact: Suicidal Dogs « Lucky Pennies Says:

    […] excited to present my first Friday Fact!  This fabulous idea was proposed by June in the comment section of a post by Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl.  You can read more about it in my previous […]

  30. ben (aka guitar maniac) Says:

    Hey, I agree with you…I have that mega-bird over here, but I haven’t had cause to use it. I have seen quite a few chipmunks (???) and, of course, rocks. I would say that the rock book gives you little “grains” of knowledge.

  31. Fred Says:

    Hi blueridge
    You’re not foolish. You’re a delight. Your exuberance lifted me right up.
    Never lose that feeling. Joy from South Africa.
    We go into the bushveld to be with the animals. Just to be. Not to hunt. Then we come back strangely refreshed.
    Go well, Fred

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