Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Folk Wisdom for Kids: Learning to read the Warning Signs of Nature (Third of a Series)

Folk Wisdom for Kids: Learning to read the Warning Signs of Nature (Third of a Series)
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) 
with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 Evening Class, Monday to Friday
1. Red and gray sunset is sign it’s going to rain - or a storm is coming.
Here is a verse about this belief.

“If the sun in red should set,
The next day surely will be wet;
If the sun should set in gray,
The next will be a rainy day.”

High relative humidity builds clouds.  Suspended water vapors reflect the rays of the setting sun red, orange and crimson in many shades and hues, while the thick clouds form a gray overcast.

Children learn to read nature, such as the coming of flood or storm.  

2. Ring (halo) around the moon means a storm is coming.
High humidity in the air causes an optical illusion of a halo around the moon.  It is also observed around bright stars. This means the air is heavily laden with water vapors, which is potential rain. Everything is still, not a breeze is felt. There’s an uneasy feeling.  Take heed if the barometer reading drops. 

2. Animals are uneasy before an impending earthquake.
It is because they are sensitive to the vibrations preceding an earthquake. They perceive the small numerous crackling of the earth before the final break (tectonic), which is the earthquake. As a means of self-preservation they try to escape from stables and pens, seek shelter, run to higher grounds, or simply escape to areas far from the impending earthquake. Rodents come out of their abode, reptiles move away from the water, horses neigh and kick around.   During the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, elephants defied their masters, in effect saving them from the disaster. We humans can only detect such minute movements through our inventions such as the Richter Scale. 

3. Ants on the move signal the coming of a heavy rain, if not a typhoon.  
The biological clock of these creatures responds to invisible signals, which comprise decreased atmospheric pressure, high relative humidity and air temperature. Their sensitive antennae and tactile hairs covering their body pick these up these changes of the environment. Thus we find ants in exodus, they move as a colony carrying their eggs and young indoors. Cockroaches become unusually active, flying about in frenzy, in search for a new place. There is a common message, that is, to escape to safer ground, an archetype engrained in their genes passed on to them by their ancestors through evolution.

4. When earthworms crawl out of their holes, a flood is coming.

This subterranean annelid has built-in sensors, a biblical Noah’s sense of a coming flood, so to speak.  Its small brain is connected to nerve clusters, called ganglia, running down the whole body length.  These in turn are connected to numerous hair-like protrusions on the cuticle, which serve as receptor. When rain saturates the soil, ground water rises and before it reaches their burrows, they crawl out to higher grounds where they seek refuge until the flood or the rainy season is over. The more earthworms abandoning their burrows, the more we should take precaution.

5The kingfisher (salaksak) is an emissary of death.
The kingfisher’s throaty voice is a call of death, so the old folks say.  Well, when ponds and rivers dry up because of drought, this fish eater will scour for alternative food outside its niche, poaching around farms and homes.    

One explanation of this belief is that the fire tree blooms to its fullest in the face of extreme drought, most likely due to El NiƱo, a condition that causes untold death and misery. It is the upland dwellers that are worse affected, forcing them to go to the lowlands in search for food or seek refuge, inevitably causing trouble.     

6. When the leaves of acacia fold it’s time to go home. 
It is time to fetch the carabao from the pasture and to start walking home before it gets dark. The fowls prepare to roast in their tree abode. The stew leaves a trail, as the western sky dims in the setting sun. By now the leaves of acacia (Samanea saman) have completely folded toward each other at the midrib, and the base of the midrib itself is bent on its attachment. This is also true with the leaves of sampaloc, ipil-ipil, kakawate - and more so with makahiya.  

These plants, among others, belong to the legume family and are equipped with a special organ – pulvinus – that controls the erection and folding of the leaves. The principle is like a balloon.  When turgid the leaves are erect; when flaccid, the leaves fold.  The pulvinus is controlled by osmosis, that is, the intake and release of water in the cells.

Reference of time among old folks is built through observation of the natural environment and a lifestyle where the amenities of modern living are absent. This triggers our biological clock, and while it may not be accurate, brings people to a natural sense of time and quaint living.     

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