Tag Archives: nature

It Never Rains in California

It Never Rains in California

By Jada Ying King, grade 11, California


“There is no chance of rain. Zero, zip, zilch. Don’t worry!”

—Jada King, White Stag patrol counselor (PC) to the Tunde patrol. Afternoon of June 22, 2022. Approximately… two hours away from regretting those words.

4:30 P.M.
Light cloud cover hung over the sky. To anyone anywhere except the dry valley that is Piney Creek, Monterey, that signified rain coming. But as I, my nine fellow PCs, and the rest of middle to southern California knew, it does not rain in California in the summer.

Confident in my knowledge, I turned back to look at my seven sweaty little lieges. “Faster we make it up this hill, faster you can get cooking!”

Immediately, all the boys perked up, picking up their pace with shouts of, “Aw yeah!” and “Great!”

We remained ignorant of the coming storm.

5:45 P.M.
“Don’t the clouds look pretty dark?”

Ethan, a particularly persnickety 13-year-old camper, pointed up to prove his point. “The sky’s weirdly yellow. And I think I heard a grumble.”

“Where are we?” I chuckled. But more seriously, I added, “I talked with Tim. He said, and I quote, ‘In the past thirty years, it hasn’t ever rained here in the summer.’ We’ll be fine.”

At that exact moment, a BOOM echoed through the valley below, followed by the quiet patter of raindrops. My heart rate rocketed—we youth counselors planned for basically every situation except rain.

Mind whirring, I barked, “Get out the tarps and take cover; stay low as much as possible! Cover your packs and the cooking equipment if you can.” I took a deep breath, telling myself to remain calm. I trained for these moments; I was the PC here. I had control over the situation. So maybe the second leg of our hike was going to be delayed. But once the rain died down, we’d head for our outpost.

Thunder filled the sky. I shivered again.

9:30 P.M.
The rain continued to pour, although the barrage of lightning had stopped earlier. Unfortunately by then, the sun had already set.

“You sure you’re good with going down first?” asked Ethan, PC of the Attila patrol. The adult staff had called an emergency PC meeting, and because the Tunde patrol was stationed the closest to the route to the outpost, I nominated myself as the forerunner.

I rolled my shoulders and shook out my dripping, stringy hair. Although I wore my water-resistant staff jacket, I was soaked to the bone and freezing cold after standing around in the downpour for half an hour. “Not a problem,” I said. “Plus, it’s only gonna get darker from here on out.”

I trudged up the hill to the Tunde patrol. “Pack up, guys, we’re going down to outpost!” I said, maintaining my energetic facade to lighten up the situation.

But when I brought my seven kids to the pitch-dark, rocky, near-vertical slope down to outpost, my fake cheer faltered. No, I told myself. I could not let myself fall to self-doubt in this sort of situation. Behind me, my patrol whispered uncertainties to each other.

I turned around, my heart running a million miles an hour. “Okay, kiddos. I bet this is going to be the most difficult night of your week.” Murmurs of agreement. “But hey, we’re going to make it down, we’re going to finish this hike, and we’re going to do this together. So get out your flashlights!”

The trip down the hill was terrifying, to say the least. Quite a few times, my shoes slid and skidded on the muddy rocks. I caught one of my kids from falling over once, and figuring out where their patrol site was in the dark and the rain was an entirely different challenge, even with flashlights.

But by 11 P.M., in the utter darkness of the Monterey wilds, in the biting wind and my sopping clothes, I managed to get my patrol in bed, free of injuries, and now with an exciting story to tell to their parents.

Of course, the fact that the staff site was overgrown with poison oak was something we never told our kids. Nor did we tell them that we youth staff only crawled into our sleeping bags at 2 A.M. because we looked for somewhere to sleep for two hours. We just magically showed up at our patrols the next morning with as much energy as we did before, ready to make more enchanting outdoor memories for them.

After all, as a PC, I was there to give them the experience of a lifetime. And isn’t it more fun at summer camp when your counselor’s always giving everything their 110 percent?

Author’s Note:
I am a Chinese-American 11th grader at Palo Alto High School who enjoys drawing, writing, and hiking—which is why in 2022, I served as a youth counselor for the White Stag Leadership Academy, an accredited outdoors summer program dedicated to enriching youth from the ages of 11 to 17 in outdoorsmanship and leadership.

Our program is entirely youth-led. From September to May, youth counselors train in first aid, outdoors skills, and effective leadership, as well as plan a full week of summer camp for incoming White Stag candidates. Unfortunately, the one thing we didn’t plan for was rain!

I hope that my true story can both inspire individuals to go outside and experience the great outdoors, but also not feel disappointed when nature rains on us. Sometimes the most inconvenient situations that the sky throws at us lead to the most inspiring personal growth—and the most entertaining stories!”

Jada Ying King, grade 11, California.

A Straight Line: Simply Nonexistent

A Straight Line: Simply Nonexistent
By Sahil Prasad, grade 7, Maryland.

We cannot argue with reality. We cannot argue with science. Therefore, we simply cannot argue with the fact that there are no straight lines in the universe.

Let’s start with science. The science of a straight line falls under the subject of physics. It might seem like a complicated topic, but the theory behind it is pretty simple. Let’s say you are driving a car on a “straight road.” Your first thought is that you are moving in a straight line. But, in reality, the vehicle is traveling on a slight curve. Why? The Earth is a gigantic sphere, so whenever you think you are driving straight, you are actually driving along the slightest of curves as there are no straight lineson the circumference of a circle. If you start rowing in a boat from one place and keep sailing, the concept of the curved Earth will take you in a circle and you will end up where you started. The brain formulates the concept of a straight line to simplify what you see in nature. Consider it a tool for the mind to decipher reality.

Even light, an entity so fast that we might think it travels in a straight line, truly does not follow a straightforward path (See figure below). The concept of gravitational lensing can prove this fact. When you look at an astronomical object through a telescope, it might seem like you are looking at the object right in front of you. However, in reality it is likely to be in a different location entirely. Perhaps even billions of miles apart from your “straight” view. The gravitational influence of the bodies scattered across the universe can bend light rays so much that you will see a completely different object than the one in front of you. The gravity of massive objects can bend light to the point that it will curve backward into itself. This is a characteristic of a black hole! The universe is curved and continuously expanding. Thus, if a light ray were to travel in a “straight” pathway, it will ultimately return to the same place where it began its journey, similar to the rowing the boat example mentioned above.

Figure 1: The effect of gravitational lensing on the path of light. The orange lines show how light bends from the object to the earth.

Another field that is preoccupied with lines is architecture. The famous architect Antoni Gaudi pointed out that straight lines don’t exist. He said, “There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.” Gaudi states that buildings with “straight walls” are human interpretationsof nature. Gaudi’s buildings follow nature’s rules, as shown by the elegant curves of the Casa Batllo in Spain, his home country. The fact that Antoni Gaudi lived 100 years ago and that his buildings continue to inspire many across the world shows that something that abides by nature’s laws—with no straight lines—is likely to be an inspiration for years to come. As Ian Malcolm, the mathematician in the movie Jurassic Park put it “Nature always finds a way” (emphasis on nature, not humanity).

The concept of straight lines was controversial and heavily influenced the politics and society of Europe from the 15th to the 17th century. Hellenistic thinkers and scholars like Aristotle in the 5th century already proved that the Earth was spherical, but many Europeans did not believe in this idea! However, some Europeans during the Age of Exploration refuted this belief. Just as the famous Italian scientist Galileo Galilei was persecuted for advocating a heliocentric model of the solar system, many thinkers like Giordano Bruno were shamed for believing that the Earth was round. Many of these rebellious thinkers were executed and burned at the stake. Not even the rich and powerful European kingdoms could agree with reality.

Well, my friends, let’s move on to life. The concept of nothing going in a straight line can be associated with life as much as it relates to science and architecture. Whenever you do something, it never turns out to play out exactly as planned. I especially know that as a thirteen-year-old! Life is a bumpy road–every time you go forward, it is followed by two steps back or to the side. Just like how science explains it, life is a curvy path full of unexpected twists, turns, and adventures that nobody can ever predict. The fact that life isn’t a straight line is reflected even in the history of the Bible. The Bible was first preserved in the First Temple of Jerusalem, which was destroyed, and then the scattered remains were placed in the Second Temple—also destroyed by invaders. We can learn that even religion doesn’t proceed in a straightforward path—let alone human beings like us.

Who are we to argue with reality?


By Sahil Prasad, Grade 7, Maryland.





Words of Disbelief

 Words of Disbelief  

 Intently he listened
 Holding onto every word
 The yard was a thick tangle of
 Twigs lavender lilies, dandelions
 And grass
 He could not believe
 A month ago buds were just
 And now it was a jungle
 With clippers, rakes and a 
 We worked until our bones 
 Soon it looked like the
 Jardín Botánico in Mexico
 That night Paco whispered
 “I hear the crackle of plants
 Growing again”
 He was right
 In the morning everything had
 Shot up a tiny bit
 By Maggie d., African American poet, Washington, She adds: “The poem, Words of Disbelief, erupted from 
observing the stark contrast between winter and spring...” 

Amethyst Dream

Amethyst Dream By Haylee Woessner, grade 7, Missouri.

I stare in wonder as the honey bees fly from flower to flower
collecting and spreading pollen.
I scan the field and watch
the bees fly around, as the purple lavender
sways in the wind knocking some bees off course.

But this is OK.
This happens.
This is normal.
Life isn’t perfect after all.

After a long days’s work
the bees retreat home and I begin to drift back to consciousness
but I’ll be back.
One day I’ll visit the swaying lavender
and hear the buzz of the honey bees.
And I’ll feel the cool breeze as I just sit and watch.
One day I will be back
to visit this amethyst dream.