Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas

I blame Craig.

My brother, Craig, who lives in Wyoming, traveled here with his family for Christmas. Two days ago, he asked, "why is it so warm here?"

True, there was no snow, but when the wind blew down out of the canyons after sunset, it was very cold. Icy cold.

"Isn't this a little too cold for an evening outdoor excursion?" we asked.

"Whatever," said Craig. "This is nothing. You realize you're complaining about the cold to the people from Wyoming?"

So we sat through the traffic to walk through the the crowds to see the lights, trying to keep things positive for the sake of our pre-teen, who was more negative than all of the rest of them. Including Craig's three pre-teens all put together.

"It's cold! My toe hurts! Whose stupid idea was this again?"

I didn't take any pictures. But I thought about all the facebook posts I've seen with those lights in them, the hashtag "share goodness", and then wondered about adding our own soundtrack to go with that hashtag....

"Can we leave yet? There are too many people. I'm never doing this again!"

But instead, I didn't take any pictures.

I took pictures earlier.

Kim had the great idea to decorate Ugly Christmas Sweater Sugar Cookies. And we made some winners. 
Tim's sweater.

Kim's sweater.
Mine. That's a reindeer, not a dog.

Kendrick decorating carefully.
The final product.
Only Brent and Grace decided to do their own thing, and somehow Grace's hand got decorated instead of a cookie. Fail, Brent. Fail.

Christmas Eve at my sister Cynthia's house was lovely. Hence I took no pictures.

But the drive home was cold and windy. The wind fought back against the little electric car, and the car barely made it over the foot of the mountain, through the valley, up the last hill to roll into our driveway. Very low battery charge.

Cold, Craig. Cold and windy. 

And then this morning? Christmas morning?

I blame Craig.

I blame the snow on Craig, who wondered why it wasn't cold like Wyoming. Seriously, Craig?

We made the most of it, going sledding at Rock Canyon.
If you die, it is your fault.
Jonathan and Tim.

Boring old scenery.
I don't know what Craig and his family did with the snow. They were 50 miles north, staying with Brent and Grace. We'll call and find out tomorrow. And probably join them again.

Meanwhile, it was a lovely quiet Christmas day with just the three of us.
Goodness. Share it, guys.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Since last time

Last time I wrote, I had been here:

Then, over Thanksgiving, we went here:

And then the following week, I was here:

Flying back from that last place, I had a bit of a cough. The next day, my voice was a little scratchy. And then the day after that, chills and aches and fever and I was out. I don't know if it was the same virus that I took with me to Texas -- maybe the work and travel meant I didn't ever get to recover properly. Or maybe it was something entirely new, picked up in one of the different time zones I visited. But whatever it was, it wiped me out for over two weeks. I had to cancel the major trip, the one to South America that I had been planning the longest. And I have only recently been able to stop coughing. Mostly.

Just in time to attend this, yesterday:

Elementary school band. The kids are learning, and getting better. But don't tell anyone -- the performance was about what you would expect of 5th and 6th grade students. Can I say, I am glad that my child did not choose to learn the trumpet? Or any sort of string instrument? Can I say that? Probably not. So I won't.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I've been meaning to post for a while, but haven't gotten around to it. I blame it on a combination of travel, being ill, busy, too much thinking, and just downright laziness. Oh, and maybe sleeping well. I only write now because of the insomnia....

I have a few pictures I can share. Woo pictures!

When we lived in England, we found out that November 5th is a big holiday there. Bonfire night! In a large park near the University of Oxford, they held fireworks and then lit a huge bonfire. There was food, and carnival rides for the kids. Here, we are all about adapting other holidays for our own purposes.

So on November 5th this year, we built our own fire for bonfire night.

That's Jonathan basking in the warmth of our backyard fire. The fire pit has been a fun thing to have in the fall.

Although admittedly we've only used it twice.

Those two times have been fun!

As we were watching the fire, I realized my throat was a little scratchy. And then within a few days, I had the full-blown man-cold that I posted about earlier. So these pictures did not get posted earlier.

The following weekend, I was in Austin, Texas, at the University of Texas.

Our family lived in Austin for three years, starting when Jonathan was a baby, and this was the first time I've been back since we sold our house there.

Our second year in Austin, Jonathan's name came up on a wait list, and he entered the UTCDC -- the campus child development center. That place was so wonderful! I would put Jonathan on the bus with me, and we'd travel to campus together in the morning, where he would get to play with friends and toys and teachers who loved him all day (except for that 2 hour nap), and I would teach math and write papers. And then we would both come back together after a few hours, so happy to see each other, and ride the bus home.

Anyway, it turns out that the campus of the University of Texas is not as big as I remembered.

If you don't have a 2-year-old in tow, you can walk from the bus stop, past the fountain, to the turtle pond,
down the 25 steps to the statue, past the rocks at the geology building, over the bridge, to the stadium bus stop -- all in about 5 or 10 minutes! My friends, it is not really a 30-45 minute walk when you do not have the 2-year-old.

I found that to be both happy, and sad. *Sniff*

And the other news is that, here at home, my 12-year-old commuter bike broke. Broken broke. Kaput. The frame is cracked. While I have been traveling, and sick, and busy, and thinking too much, and just plain lazy, I have not figured out what to replace it with. So I have had to drive the car to and from work and school and other places I go for weeks. It makes me feel like such a slob!

On the other hand, we bought an all electric car in August. That means it costs only pennies to "fill up". There is very little wear and tear when I drive to work and park. No belts, no fluids. We paid almost all the costs for that car up front. And so I have been reminding myself that I do not have to feel guilty about driving. No guilt! No emissions! Sure, no exercise, either. But Reader, I have been sick. With a terrible Man Cold.

Here I am looking happy with my little electric car. (In September. The trees don't look like that anymore. Nor am I wearing T-shirts in the freezing temperatures. But I am equally happy with my car. I am.)

Anyway, I think I have found my new commuter bike, to purchase maybe even Today! So the electric car will stay in the garage more in December. Maybe.

That, Reader, is Some of the Exciting News from November. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Man Cold

I've got a cold. A nasty cold. The kind of cold that trails cough drop wrappers and used tissues around the house, and requires a fuzzy robe and slippers. And soup. Lots of chicken soup.

And someone needs to rub my head and tell me "poor little bunny". Someone.

And the worst part is, I have to go back to work tomorrow. Or at least, I can't see a way out of it. I have to get a batch of tests back, because tomorrow is the drop deadline. And I'm traveling on Friday, so I already need to find substitutes. And I rescheduled all my Thursday meetings for tomorrow when the cold knocked me over first thing Thursday morning. It was supposed to be gone by tomorrow.

Why is it Sunday night and my cold is not yet gone??!! I have rested! I have slept! I stayed indoors trailing tissues and cough drop wrappers around the house all weekend. Does this body not understand that I am on a tight schedule here? 

"Poor little bunny."

Say it.

"Poor little bunny."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I haven't written in over a month. That's partially because September was busy, and partially because there is more to write than can be written, in a public forum. And when the Things, with a capital T, Things that cannot be written in public, when these Things are not written, sometimes there is little else left to write about.

Today, I think I can say this much. It is interesting, the shape of life. I thought my life was a path, linear, stretching into the future. I've been driving down my own path, with those I love, watching the scenery flash by and talking about how it will be when we reach the hills and sometimes opening the windows to try not to get car sick. And then, in June, something happened, like an explosion on the side of the rode, precipitating a decision. And that decision precipitated others. And around me, the scenery began to crumble, and the path to flatten, until I realized I am not on a path at all, nothing so one-dimensional, but on a plane with options on all sides, and bright futures stretching like dendrites from a node, off in completely different directions. There are so many futures, and I didn't even realize they were there, until I decided to make a decision.

I read once that people who are depressed make better life choices -- the sole benefit of depression that I have ever heard about. I've been a little depressed on and off since June, since the initial precipitating decision. But after many sleepless nights, I am ready to embrace the depression. Those nights when I lie in bed trying to breathe, those nights are helping me to plan wisely. And it makes sense, too, doesn't it, that now that I can see so many bright futures stretching away like dendrites into the light, doesn't it make sense to mourn a little the futures that I do not get to choose?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Advice for coming back from sabbatical

I found lots of advice out on the internets and interwebs about going on sabbatical, and how to make sure your time is fruitful and productive, and how to make the sabbatical work for you.

What is lacking, however, is advice on coming back from sabbatical.

I am back from sabbatical. Unprepared. I spent a year on sabbatical organizing my time carefully, filling the hours and even folding the minutes into tiny packages and parcels, wrapped and labeled and crammed into the smallest corners of the days so I could work around Time Zones and Public Transit and School Holidays and be productive in a way that was fitting for a sabbatical, even if I remained stressed out.

And now? Today? My time has been hit by mortar shot. It has exploded! Splintered into thousands of tiny particles and scattered, and I cannot collect all the ideas and events into reasonable wholes. I don't even know where to find them. Isn't there anyone out there who can give advice on this?

I went from no teaching responsibilities, to teaching two classes, and sixty lovely students, and two continuing graduate students and four or five new undergraduate researchers and an untried grader. And I need to manage them all! And a new postdoc. The different groups all need their own meetings. And so do the elementary school children, whom I said I would continue to entertain mathematically on Saturdays in that grant of mine that was funded back when life looked very different. And if I'm entertaining those children, strangers, then surely I can entertain my own son and his peers mathematically at for just another hour each week. Surely?

And yet --

Where is the advice on going from a place where no one knows you, and no one expects your help, to returning to a place where everyone counts on you, and knows you'll step up and take the tasks that were yours back when you remembered how to stand on one foot with your eyes closed on top of tall buildings while patting your head and rubbing your tummy?

And the ideas! The sabbatical ideas! Where are they supposed to go now? Now that they have been cared for carefully over months, and encouraged to grow and develop and sing? And now that the cupboard where they were carefully grown and managed has exploded, and they have burst out and run amok around the building? Every few days I find another one huddling in a corner somewhere, making messes on the carpet or shredding the curtains. One idea that was almost a paper two months ago, I don't even recognize anymore. What am I going to do with it, now that I don't have the time to groom it and paint its toenails and teach it to play checkers? It has not gone away, just because I am back from sabbatical. If anything, it needs more time now than before. But the time is in shredded pieces. Where is the advice for the care and grooming of ideas once the sabbatical has ended?

Where is the advice to the person who used the sabbatical advice well, but returns to find herself only human? And lacking?

I will write my own advice, to myself.

Self, here is my advice. Take deep breaths -- it seems you'll need them. Keep the calendar open at all times -- you will need it. Smile. Work early mornings. Exercise. Lean on other people, when you can. And wait three weeks.

Just three weeks.

By then, either you'll remember how to swim again, or you'll have drowned and it won't matter.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Second first day of school

I found this photo on my phone, and had to post it.

This is Jonathan on August 19 2014, on his very first day of school this year.

Kind of.

It was technically his second first day of school, his first first day of school this year having been the 29th of January, which looked like this.

We also have a couple of pictures of the last day of school in 2014, from 29 July, although these were only Jonathan's last day of school, not his friends' last day, so more bitter than sweet.

The above photo is of Jonathan and me, walking home from school through the park in Melbourne for the very last time.  And here is Jonathan that same walk, with his dad.

You can see from the photos that it was clearly winter in Melbourne. I guess the sweet part was going from winter in July, above, to summer in August. Which is lovely.

To prove that summer in August is lovely here, I offer one more photo from my phone.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

In the week

It has been an eventful week.

We bought a car. Not just any car. We bought an electric car, a Nissan Leaf. So far, it looks like it will run about 90 miles on a charge. No more belts or oil changes or gas expenses. And it's a nice car. We have driven it once. And we are happy.

The goldfish died. Mr Fish, the goldfish Jonathan won on his 9th birthday, did not make it to Jonathan's 10th birthday. But when we got back from Australia, we set up the tank and bought a new goldfish from the big box pet retailer and named it Comet. Within a week, Comet's scales were infected with parasite, probably from the pet store. In spite of all our efforts, well informed by Google, Comet died last week. There were tears. And we were sad.

I won an award from Good Old Dude's University, which included a bit of extra salary money and some money for my research. And I was happy.

We picked the nectarines, because Tim waded out through the overgrown raspberry bushes and found that two branches on the nectarine tree were broken, laden too heavily with fruit. And we were sad.

I started volunteering at Jonathan's school. I will be teaching an honors math class to nearly 20 kids two afternoons during the week, 30 minutes each session. That will be interesting. The kids are wild and crazy and noisy and distracted and, apparently, actual kids. Not fake ones. We started Thursday's lesson with some multiplication problems, and they all complained that it was too easy -- they already knew how to do this. So I asked them to do the problem with letters representing numbers -- a bit of pre-algebra. And no one could do it. Mass confusion. I think we are all going to learn a lot this semester, but especially me. And we will all be happy. I hope.

Last night I dreamed that someone spoke my name, my full name, in a very disappointed voice. So disappointed. The voice woke me up, and I felt like such a disappointment. It was heart breaking. I don't know if I felt that way because I missed a work meeting to buy the car, or because the fish died, or due to an upcoming mid-life crisis, or the fact that I only got two stars on my Clash of Clans battle for the team right before bed. But I was such a disappointment. And I still feel sad.

Classes start Tuesday at G.O.D. University. My calendar, which was so free and empty through seven months' sabbatical 2014, is now nearly colored solid with orange work meetings and classes and blue seminars and green appointments. And I've been trying to prepare all week, to get ahead! If I could only finish two articles and three weeks of course prep, I would be happy.

And that was the week.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Great Salt Lake

When you know you are living in Australia, say, for exactly seven months, you think of all the things you would like to do in Australia, and plan various trips carefully over the school holidays, and you see a lot of great things.

When you are living in the Mountain West of the United States, say, for an indefinite amount of time, you think of the occasional thing you would like to do, but then you file it away somewhere in the back of your mind and you don't do it.  Because you will be living in the mountain west for an indefinite amount of time, so why not do it later?

Spending seven months seeing interesting things around Melbourne has inspired me.  I hereby resolve to see something new and interesting in the great Mountain West of the United States every month of the year until I have seen everything I want to see, or I get tired of this exercise and quit without saying anything more about it. 

So without further ado, the first of the Interesting Things in the Mountain West that our family has now seen and done is a swim in the Great Salt Lake.

As a teenager living in Utah, I found that one of the most interesting places to take visitors was Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake.  At Antelope Island, you could see spectacular views of the water, hike around the rocks, and wander down the beach to the salt water and swim!  The water was a little gross, with brine shrimp and brine flies near the shore, but the experience was truly memorable and unique. People loved it. 

And now, I live in the mountain west, a little further away from Antelope Island, but until last week, I hadn't even taken my own son out to the island to swim in the Great Salt Lake.  So we put it in the calendar, and went.

In case you are planning your own trip to the Great Salt Lake, Reader, I have a couple of suggestions.  First, don't go in May or June.  Apparently, the biting gnats hatch during those months, and swarms of biting flying insects can make the experience somewhat less pleasant.  We didn't go in May or June.  We went in August, and there were no biting gnats.  I am not saying that our visit was free of swarms of flying insects -- more on that later -- but I think there were fewer bites than there might have been in June. 

Second suggestion: check the water level.  In the 1980s, the water was so high that you couldn't actually get to Antelope Island except by boat. Otherwise there is a causeway. Last Sunday, as we drove along the causeway, dry salt desert extending to either side, I asked Tim if the lake wasn't supposed to be higher? We had driven a couple of miles before we even saw water.  And the boat harbor, where there used to be sailboats moored, was completely empty.  It was not until we returned home that I found out that the lake is actually six feet lower than average this year, due to severe drought conditions in the summers of 2012 and 2013.

Stuff is different when the water is low.  For example, you have to walk a long long way to actually get to the water.
See that green line way out in the picture where the bushes end?  The water used to come up to there.  We had to walk and walk and walk past that to get to the lake.

And then, near the lake, the sand was covered with flies.  Brine flies.  Harmless, but really really gross when they swarm. 

In the photo, the dark gray at the edge of the water is one massive swarm of flies, about six feet wide.  I just read all about brine flies and their life cycle at, thinking that I might add a little something educational to this blog post, but just reading about the billions of brine flies swarming the lake creeped me out, so I'm not even going to summarize here.  Go follow that link and learn about them on your own. I'll just say that when we left our shoes and bag on the lake shore, and went out to the water, and then came back, the bag and shoes were covered, and completely black with flies.  Gross gross gross! 

Anyway, the flies mostly live by the shore.  If you step over them into the water, they swarm around you in some confusion, but then go away and leave you alone.  And then you can enjoy the warm water.

The water was exceptionally warm.  Definitely in the high 90s (Fahrenheit) at least.  Bathtub warm.  To me, the unusual warmth of the water was not a feature, but added to the creepy feeling I already had from wading through a beach-sized swarm of flies.  But if you overcame that creepy feeling, and lay down in the water, you would float.

The Great Salt Lake is so salty that you cannot sink.  Your body pops up like a cork.  Your feet and hands naturally float out of the water, as does your head.  No reason to take your hat off -- it won't get wet unless you want it to. 

Tim floating with hat and sunglasses.
As we floated in the water, we occasionally drifted into slightly cooler currents, and then back to warm, and then back to cooler.  I don't know why the water was cooler in some places.  Decomposing bacteria made it warmer?  Less salty recent runoff floated above (below?) the denser salt water?  I am sure there is a very good scientific reason for why the water was hot with cool currents.  To me, it kind of felt like someone had recently been peeing in the pool.  And I was swimming in it.

And to add to the overall quality of experience, floating on the surface of the water were globs of slimy foam, with flies on the top.

After having read all about brine flies -- (if you haven't, Reader, you should go follow that link above.  It's educational.) -- after having learned all about brine flies, I now believe that these may have been masses of brine fly pupae, ready to hatch into flies and join the swarms on the shore.  Maybe it was their pee warming up the lake.

But really, aside from the flies and the slimy foam and the water that felt like urine on your legs, swimming in the Great Salt Lake was a really awesome experience that I ... ahem ... highly recommend.  I just don't know why I didn't remember it being so incredibly disgusting back when I was a teenager. I think the fact that the lake was six feet too low this year concentrated all the disgusting-ness in a smaller area, and added to the unique experience. 
In average years, whatever those are, this picture would have had more water.
When we got out of the lake, and shook the brine flies off of our sandals, and ran screaming up the shore until they stopped swarming us, we noticed that the salt water had evaporated and left rivulets of salt against our skin.

See?  That's more cool than gross.  Except that the widely out-of-proportion picture of my leg there, with the massive sized calf, looks a little gross.  It didn't look like that in person.

And then when we walked all the way back -- way way back over the dried out lake shore and past the green desert bushes and up the hill -- there were free showers.  And a package of oreos in the bag untouched by the flies.  We swarmed the cookies until they were gone. 

The view from the showers was desolate and lovely.

So there you go.  The Great Salt Lake, checked off of my bucket list.

Leave your suggestions for next month's Outing of Interest in the comments.  Meanwhile, I promise you that whatever it is, it will not involve flies. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stuff that is great about being here...

...and not in Australia.

Hummingbirds.  The morning after we returned home, a hummingbird flew up to the kitchen window and hovered there for several seconds while I was looking out.  Hummingbirds are beautiful, and they do not live in Australia.

Quail.  A family of quail has been living in our back yard, complete with mother, father, and about five little fluff balls.

Summer night breezes.  These sweep down from the mountains and send cool, fresh scented air everywhere. 


People.  I am finally home, finally.  And I spent a long time today talking to colleagues, talking to friends, and talking to neighbors, all of whom act very happy to see us.  We have also been able to see family again.  There are good people here, and we like them. 

Google fiber.  Self explanitory.

Regular work hours.  Actually, I haven't decided if this is good or bad.  I don't feel like I've accomplished so much in a day if I haven't already worked two hours before 7:30am. 

Full sized washing machine.  With a one-hour wash cycle.  I no longer have to wait 90 minutes for each half-sized load to finish.  And its companion, the Full sized dryer, is also lovely.  Laundry no longer consumes the day.

Fruit trees.  Aside from the apricots, which had become a rotten orange slime pile under the tree, much of our fruit was still in reasonable condition.  We have a refrigerator full of summer apples and cherries.  What should we do with them, Reader?

Things are not perfect here, or there.  Or anywhere.  But things are very good, in many places.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Iowa City

This is my first post since moving back to the US.  But not my first post at home.  I'm still not at home -- or again not at home. 

I spent a few days at home -- enough to turn on the water heater, have Tim find that it leaked, call the plumber to replace it, and then later, to flood the basement by running the washing machine.  The machine wasn't broken, the plumber had just forgotten to re-attach the washing machine drain after he used it for the water heater.  In any case, the water mainly spread around the tiles in the laundry room, so no real problems. 

I also spent an evening with Tim at his high school reunion.  And then I missed my own, to give 5.5 hours of talks in Iowa.

I've been to Iowa before, but this is my first time speaking in the state.  The university town is smaller than I expected, deeper into the cornfields as you drive from the airport. 

On Wednesday after the talks there was a farmer's market, and I purchased dandelion jelly and an ear of sweet corn -- because I'm deep into the corn states anyway -- and two apples and several small tomatoes.  That was dinner.

The city is small enough that no one had change for my $100 bill, nearly the only money in my wallet.  I couldn't change the bill until Friday night, when enough colleagues paid cash at a restaurant for me to exchange it for twenties. 

How is the jet lag? You ask.  I have been sleeping well since reaching Iowa, aside from one 2am to 4am period.  I'm sleepy by 9pm, central time.  But the 6am alarm still startles me awake.  The sleeping is apparently good, here in Iowa. 

My hotel is on the river, near the mathematics building.  On the other side of the river, across the university hospital campus and the golf course and student housing in several forms, lies a park named Mormon Handcart Park, two point five miles away by foot.  I can run two point five miles.  I think I will jog over there to see the park early tomorrow morning, before the sun rises too high.

My only problem is that I can't jog back.  I only do 5Ks.  It may be a long morning. 

If you don't hear from me again, Reader, look for my body on the Mormon trail.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

In the airport

Our apartment is clean, and empty.  Keys returned.  A woman from church hauled away our old sheets and towels.  We donated all the school uniforms except two.  And then we fit all our souvenirs and clothes and memories from seven months into nine bags, which we hauled to the airport. 

Aside from a 14 hour flight, followed by five hours in LA and then two more hours in the sky, and jet lag, and final reports, and weeding a neglected garden, and all that other stuff we have to do when we arrive, the Australian adventure is over.

Here are Jonathan and Bunny, on my left, awaiting the true end of the adventure.
We leave at 9:10am here.  We arrive, the same day, at 6:30am in LA.  Fourteen hours of travel to gain three extra hours of life! 

Here, for your parting enjoyment, is a picture of misty Melbourne in the morning.  (Not this morning -- it was too dark when we left.  Last week morning.)
Bon voyage!

Last weekend in Melbourne

There is some expectation that the final weekend one spends in an exotic location should be magical and memorable.  Or one should pack.

Our flight wasn't until Wednesday, so we decided to leave the packing for Tuesday.  For our magical memorable final weekend, we took a couple of long walks.

On Saturday,we walked from our house to the Botanic Gardens again.

Jonathan and Tim in the gardens.

The gardens are different in winter than fall, and different in fall than summer.  But now that July is almost over, we could see signs of spring.  The first sign?


From there, we walked a few yards to the Shrine of Remembrance, and climbed to the balcony one last time, for an overlook of the city.
And then we walked up the St Kilda Road, across the Yarra river, for lunch.  We ate fast food.  But Australian fast food!

Later that evening, we returned to the city for a meal on the town to celebrate Tim's birthday, the week before.  Here is the birthday boy in China Town.
There was actually one thing I had wanted to do in Melbourne for some time.  In January, we were told that the flying foxes roost in the Yarra Bend Park.  I wanted to see them.  However, the Yarra Bend Park is very large, and I wasn't sure where to find them.  I had given up on that adventure, until Friday, when a colleague told me he had been the previous weekend.  They roost near the Bell Bird Picnic area.  We found it on the map, figured out how to get there by bus, and on foot, and back by train, and invited some friends.

Here we are on the bridge near the Studley Park Boat launch, near the spot where the bus dropped us off.
From there, we walked east and north along the river.  It was a pleasant walk.  The grass was green, the eucalypts evergreen, and the wattle trees have finally begun to flower.
Me and a flowering wattle tree.
One of the friends we brought along is a botanist, although his specialty is fungi.  He explained that the Australian wattle tree, or acacia, is unique from all other trees around the world.  After the continent split from Pangea, the wattles developed in hundreds of different ways.  The golden wattle is the flower on the Australian money.  In addition to seeing regular golden wattles, like the one in the picture above, there were flowering wattles that had needles instead of leaves, some whose leaves were like ferns, one with white flowers and long thin leaves, and one with small leaves and spines.  And actually, none of them have true leaves -- some other part of the plant has developed to look like a leaf, but it doesn't count.  The botanist tried to explain this to me a couple of times, but I'll let you look it up on your own if you'd like.

Meanwhile, the take home point is, wattle trees in bloom!  Spring is coming!

But not for us, because we're leaving.

After a half hour walk around the river, we reached the Bell Bird Picnic area.  And there, indeed, were the roosting bats.
There were hundreds of them, sleeping in the tree near the picnic site.  Remember that the flying foxes are fruit bats, the size of sea gulls.  They don't eat any insects, only fruit.  And they kind of stink. 

We tell our families apart by the shapes of their faces and their voices.  Apparently bats tell their families apart by their smell. 
As we walked up the path toward a bat overlook point, we realized there were not just hundreds of bats.  There were thousands of bats.
Or more accurately, tens of thousands of bats.  In 2003, the colony roosted in the botanic gardens, and it was 30,000 strong then.  I expect the population has only grown, if anything, since moving north to the Yarra Bend Park.
Here's a photo of the whole group, at the overlook area.
 We continued walking north, along the river, seeing the bats hanging in the trees on both sides.
Until eventually, the bats were gone, but the walk continued.  Green grass, eucalypts, and the blooming wattle trees.  To the north, after crossing a bridge, we exited the park right at the Mormon stake center, and then took the train home. Total time: two hours from bus to train. 

(Maybe we should have done that walk last June, instead of the two hour stake conference....)