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Once-in-a-Lifetime Sightings
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Mon, September 24 2007 - 7:48 am

Once-in-a-Lifetime Sightings

There have been a few things I have seen in my life that I have never seen before or since.  They were all interesting and certainly worth reporting. 

I would love to hear if anyone else has seen the same phenomena, or has beautiful, mysterious, or bizarre happenings of their own to report.  Here is not the place for sightings of the Taj Majal or an elusive actor.  This is all about natural phenomena.

January 9, 2014

Today on a walk along the Ohio River I saw something I have never seen before - icycle hula skirts on trees!

Since the river was higher than usual during weather that was colder than usual and ice storms coated trees,  the water formed skirts around the trunks of the trees.  Some of the icycles looked to be 18 inches or more.

The same phenomenon happening to a rope made it look as if it had a big ice tassel hanging from it.

I never have seen anything like them.  I have yet to ask any long-term Madison, IN residents if they have.

August or September, 1955

Last week I was with my mother at the Dunes Pavilion when I remembered something that happened there 55 years ago.

My family was camping at the dunes while my parents went house-hunting in Valparaiso.  One evening a bunch of us were at the beach when a thunderstorm began, and we were told to get out of the water (a very dangerous place to be in a thunderstorm!)

We climbed up the big dune east of the Pavilion and along a grassy ridge toward the campground.

All of a sudden I heard a zzzzzt!  Turning quickly, I saw at waist level a lightning ball the size of my (then kiddy) fist.  Not trusting my eyes, I asked the grown man behind me, "Did you see that?"


I thought that was pretty amazing, and I haven't seen a ball of lightning since.

My sons friends the Bell brothers told me about a lightning storm in which lightning was bouncing around their yard, a one-foot diameter ball of which bounced off their screen door.

I believed them at the time and definitely felt my story had been one-upped, but now I am not so sure they weren't just pulling my leg.

Anyone else have a good ball-of-lightning story?

Owl Story

Here is one of my college roomates and her husband's experience with a baby owl.  I don't know when this happened.

 We were walking through the woods one day when Bill spotted an interesting clump at the foot of a pine tree.  He went closer and discovered a baby owl!  He was afraid that if he left it there, the neighborhood dogs would find it before the parents could rescue it.  He was also unsure as to whether the parents could even get it back up to the nest at the top of the pine tree!


So we brought the owl into our living room and fixed up a little box for it.  Over the next few days we fed it pieces of chicken. One night we heard the parent owls hooting outside our window. We decided to put “Chris “Hooter” Byrd,” as he was now known, outside on the porch to see if the parents would make contact.  Sure enough they did!  They swooped down and spent the night bringing him food and keeping him company.


When morning came we brought Hooter inside again for protection.  That became our routine.  Every night his parents cared for him on the porch and every day he spent in our living room in his box.


Then one day, Hooter started to try out his wings.  We were worried about leaving him alone in our home during the daytime, lest he start flying around.  So we built a wire enclosure outside the house with the top only open and kept Hooter there night and day.


The parents continued to visit at night.  All was well.


We noticed that he spent more time stretching his wings.  Then one day he was gone – never to return.


We were just amazed that the parents had not been deterred by our involvement.  We were delighted that Hooter made it through the rough times and survived to go free.

                                   Susan Andrews Eissler


I've told in my September 11 and 12, 2007, Rumilluminations about my Albuquerque friend's strange bird sightings, so I'll just refer you to that article for his experience. 

Two of my once-in-a-lifetime sightings happened in 2007.

January 11, 2008

Well, I'm sure that seeing a hawk chase a sparrow has been seen by many, but I can't resist writing about it.  On an unseasonably warm afternoon a couple of days ago, I saw a small hawk chasing a small bird in a city park.  The bird dived into a low clump of vegetation but the hawk flushed it out.  They flew around in a circle or two, the hawk only a few feet behind the sparrow, who tried to take refuge in a very small conifer (maybe three or four feet off the ground.)  The hawk went claws-first into that hiding place and out came the sparrow again.

At that point the pursuit came straight towards me.  The sparrow dived down and to the left of me, the hawk up and to the right, where it alighted on a nearby tree.

Well, maybe my presence saved the sparrow.  Maybe it did not.  I was anxious to get home and kept moving.

If this is too common a sighting, let me know and I'll move it to another section of my website.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting for me, though! (corrected Feb. 3 - not a sparrow-hawk, which eat mostly insects!)

January, 2007

I was walking in the little Coffee Creek preservation area in Chesterton, Indiana on a really cold day in which Chesterton was experiencing heavy snowstorms.  The snow had stopped and I was walking along a path (I think paved (it was all under water, ice, or snow!))

Growing out of the layer of snow on the path were fern-like ice crystals.  They looked like the top inch or so of one of those lacy ferns like lady's fern. 

Darn! I had no camera!  But it would have been hard to capture their images in all that white, perhaps.  They were growing out of the snow at about a 45 degree angle and seemed to be directionally random.

I am sure they were not just ice-coated ferns!  Anybody seen anything like it?  I have lived where there is a real winter for at least half my life and I never have before! 

Spring 2007

Sorry I don't have the exact date here.  I was walking along Harrison in Valparaiso, Indiana near the entrance to the park when I saw a puffball mushroom at least thirteen inches long and thirteen inches high!  It was at at least twelve inches wide.  Incredible!  (It occurred to me while I was writing this that there might be a larger puffball listed in the Guiness World Book of Records.  Maybe this wasn't the biggest.  But it is a once-in-a-lifetime sighting for me!)

Summer 1965

I was with a church group working in Brooklyn, New York one summer when three of us went to the beach with a couple of lawyer friends of one of them.  On the way home, on a New Jersey highway heading east toward New York, we saw a double rainbow - end to end.  All five of us saw it.  No one had had so much as a beer.

Years later a physicist told me that it was impossible.  (Don't you love it when someone tells you something you experienced is impossible?  Other-universely!)

I've seen several lovely parallel (or concentric) double and even partial triple rainbows since in much more beautiful settings.  But I have never again seen an end-to-end double rainbow.

July 22, 2009                                   Valparaiso, IN

Today in my garden I saw something that at first I took for dog poop.  "And I almost stepped in it!" I thought.

But it was strangely vertical in orientation.  I took a closer look.  It looked fungal, but very gross, as if some dead man's hand was sticking out of the ground.

Guess what its common name is?  Dead man's fingers!  The very words that came into my mind!  Common names do have their virtues!

The scientific name (a less memorable Xylaria polymorpha) means growing out of wood many shaped.  To put it inelegantly.

This fungus, which I never recall seeing before in my life, can be anywhere from gray to a dark brown and grows out of dead and dying wood.  I can't imagine any other significant dead wood other than a redbud which was chopped down a few feet away a few years back, but maybe one of the nearby conifers is dying.  They are pretty old.

July 23, 2010

Yesterday we went to Mt. Baldy near the West side of Michigan City.  I guess it is part of the National Lakeshore Park.

After we climbed to the "summit" (greatly reduced, I understand, from its former glory) we took the path to the shoreline.

Almost out of the woods we saw a huge black squirrel!

I read in Wikipedia that black squirrels are a variant of gray squirrels.  Okay.  I have never seen one before in my life, but I will accept the assertion that they are common, especially locally.

But the squirrels in Valpo, some of which seem anxious to become skinny-tailed rats by evolutionary convergence, are to this squirrel as a chipmunk is to them.  Maybe not even that big.

This squirrel had a plume, not a tail, and from nose to tip of plume seemed to be three feet long!  I will concede he might have been as small as 30 inches long, but only reluctantly.

He was magnificent.

I hope you get to see him, too!


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