By Marty Charbonneau
On a cool, brisk day in November, twenty-two OLLI members toured the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune. The site is the premier native plant conservatory in the southeast established as a living memorial to civic leader and philanthropist, L.O. Crosby, Jr., after his death in 1978. The arboretum provides for the protection of the region's biological diversity, educates the public about the environment and provides a place for the public's enjoyment.
Patricia Drackett, the Arboretum director, gave a short talk on the background of the site before leading the group to the Pinecote Pavilion. This impressive open-ended, native wood structure overlooking a lake has the appearance of a cathedral in the woods. It was designed by E. Fay Jones in 1990 and was awarded the American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal, its highest individual honor. The Pavilion is now a designated Mississippi Landmark.
Having fed the many turtles bobbing up in the Pavilion lake for their expected breakfast, Patricia led the group on a nature walk through each of the site's eco-systems: the woodland, savanna and aquatic exhibits. Interpretive signs line the path of the woodland trail, and Patricia answered the many questions asked about various trees and plants. She pointed out the prominent native azaleas in the understory and said to be sure to return in the spring when they are in bloom.
When the tour reached the savanna, the group was rewarded with the bright colors of the savanna plants, especially the yellow swamp sunflowers. These flowers are quite small on slender stems and look more like daisies. Patricia said this savanna area of native plants is a haven for butterflies in summer and early fall. Very intriguing to the group were the pitcher plants. Although most of these plants had peaked, there were enough bright green plants for the group to examine. Pitcher plants are carnivores and some in the group were cheering for a wasp to become the plant's next meal; however, he took flight!
Take a walk in the woods! Crosby Arboretum sponsors many seasonal events. Check their website event calendar at crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/event-calendar.
By Roger Anastasio
In October, 16 OLLI members took a seminar in glassblowing at Mohawk Steel and Glass, the only "hot glass" studio in Mississippi. Our instructor, Jeremy Thomley, has a background in steel fabrication and sculpture. He began working with glass in 2012 and opened Mohawk Steel and Glass in 2015. The studio is located at his family's Christmas tree farm in West Hattiesburg.
Our ornament-blowing seminar began with Jeremy explaining the process, equipment and supplies involved in glassblowing. In order for the oven to be hot enough to melt glass, it had been on for 12 hours before the seminar started. Under careful direction and supervision, each participant chose colored glass fragments and added them to semi-molten glass extracted from the oven. We then blew into the glass by means of a tube and mouthpiece which allowed us to maintain a safe distance from the hot glass as Jeremy spun the tube. Our breath and Jeremy's expertise created a uniquely-colored glass sphere for each participant. Jeremy added a clear glass hook to each sphere as it was beginning to cool, completing the creation of the ornament. Our group members have fond memories of the seminar and a unique, useful souvenir.
By Lynn Morris
The Making a Mask in Clay seminar taught by Mark Rigsby, Associate Professor in the Department of Art, was awesome. Participants started with a chunk of brown clay and, with Mark's guidance, changed what looked like dirtballs into works of art. Each mask was unique and creatively inspired. The hardest part was waiting for them to dry and be fired.
If Mark offers another seminar, be sure to sign up and see how the inner artist in you can develop.
By Dallas Gorbett
Ralph Bisland, who typically teaches Apple technology classes, brought to life a great untold story from our country's history. Beginning in November of 1889, two young women raced around the world in an effort to best Jules Verne's Phileas Fogg's record in the famous book Around the World in Eighty Days.
Elizabeth (Bessie) Bisland—yes, an ancestor of Ralph's—from Louisiana and Mississippi traveled west. Elizabeth Cochrane, writing and traveling under the pen name of Nellie Bly, went east. The two women were sponsored by New York City publications and left from Hoboken, New Jersey and New York City, respectively using common modes of transportation.
Bisland was a genteel, beautiful young lady who enjoyed literary teas and preferred to report on high society events. Nellie Bly was most commonly described as plucky and a go-getter who chased the limelight by doing investigative reporting on the dark side of New York City.
They both traveled unchaperoned and with a minimum of clothing changes, although Bisland had more than Bly's single large carry-on bag. They experienced freezing cold and broiling heat, sometimes with just of a few days between the extremes. Amazingly the two women never met each other, during, before or after the race.
As well as some family history, Ralph drew most of his information from Matthew Goodman's book Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History Making Race Around the World. His relaxed, antidote-filled presentation style made the two-session seminar fresh and entertaining.
Did the two young ladies best Phileas Fogg's eighty days' time limit around the world? Yes. Did the "plucky go-getter" defeat the southern belle? Ah, that would be telling. You need to get the book to find the answer.