The cat toy was designed to give endless hours of pleasure. The dissected ball wrapped in jute rope was capped by a lid decorated with three Koi swimming around three egg-sized holes. A red plastic ball with small jingle bell inside was hidden within. It jangled as it rolled about in its chamber.

The cat toy was designed to give endless hours of pleasure. The dissected ball wrapped in jute rope was capped by a lid decorated with three Koi swimming around three egg-sized holes. A red plastic ball with small jingle bell inside was hidden within. It jangled as it rolled about in its chamber. Cleo, the white and black spotted tailless wonder, played for a few minutes, amusing herself with patting and rolling the ball as the entire toy rocked on its base. Done. Off she went. Tabby Sammy gave the toy a try that night. After one whack with his paw, he snagged the ball with his claws and removed it from the housing. Much more fun to use the floor. Pretty amazing for Sammy to figure it out. Had to have been serendipity, so I retrieved the ball and dropped it back inside the toy.

Next day I discovered the red ball in the hall. Back in the toy. While standing in the kitchen I watched as Sammy peered inside, took his paw, lifted out the ball and dropped it to the floor. One hit and the ball disappeared behind a cabinet. This must be an interactive cat toy.

Charlotte, my #2 Orb Weaver, bit the dust. She detached from her web during the last cold snap and December 19th was quietly resting on the porch floor in the corner of the brick wall. December 21st she was gone. Two large egg sacks are attached high on the wall. Her legacy next spring.

University of Tulsa (TU) held their autumn term graduation on the winter solstice. TU has five colleges and a graduate school which offer degrees in more than 90 programs. The past ten years has been marked by construction of several new facilities. Last year the restructuring of academic coursework led to friction and tensions still being resolved with little cooperation from the administration. Seems to be an on-going battle.

Working and studying for years hopefully paves the way to graduation. This is usually an anxious but happy affair for graduates and offers a way for family and friends to show their support and cheer on their people.

The morning began with a buffet breakfast of fresh fruit, quiche, muffins, juices and coffee. People found chairs and tables in various classrooms where they clustered to talk with each other and many of the faculty. With most folks in their seats by 10 am in the Reynolds Center, the 144th Commencement began. The TU Symphony Orchestra began playing “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The Grand Marshal carried the mace as he led in the procession of academia. The four-foot-long mace is topped by an 8” engraved glossy pewter cylinder with inlaid semi-precious stones. A small TU seal was attached above. The shaft supporting the pewter barrel is carved from rich reddish-brown heartwood of the tropical Central American cocobolo tree. The mace was a symbol of academic authority and added authenticity and interest to the ceremony.

Greetings and presentations were made. The ‘Charge to the Graduates’ was given by the President of the Student Association. She talked of going home (as a student) for the holiday. Conversations were of clothes (mom) and how was the oil in the car (dad). The President of the TU Alumni mentioned TU has twelve chapters and 22 clubs spread across the world. Keynote speaker was the Deputy Mayor of Tulsa. A true University of Tulsa Grad, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Juris Doctor from TU. Her message was inspired by the University of Tulsa seal: Have faith, seek wisdom, give support and offer service to others. Learn how to sail your own ship.

After the conferring of degrees, the graduates moved their tassels from right to left, rose in groups according to their college and walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, shake hands and have their picture taken. Several had decorated their grad caps. The super tall Mechanical Engineer rigged his hat with a fan on the top to blow strips of shiny colored plastic upward. To maintain such greatness, he had run a thin wire from his hat down his neck, under his clothes to a battery.

After the ceremony ended it was time to ring the bell. The ringing of Kendall Bell is a tradition that goes back to 1949 and signifies the completion of the new graduates’ final exam. The bell had been mounted five stories high on the top of Kendall Hall, first campus building completed in 1908. The cupola and bell were later moved to the Bayless Plaza in 2006. Easier to reach, but still it took the student effort and perseverance to make the bell chime.

The Gathering Place was a good place to go after the morning’s event. Our middle-schooler chose to put on rollerblades and cruised to the skating park. Next thing we saw was her feet sliding out from under her as she fell flat on her back in a dip between two small concrete mounds. Her ego was bruised, but she picked herself up and skated away from the course to flatter terrain.

While walking back to the car on sidewalk nearly washed away into the Arkansas River, I saw a black fuzzy tube crawling along the edge. It turned and began a slow downward descent, clinging to the concrete, until it touched the ground. The caterpillar stopped to survey its surroundings. When it bent, I noticed the body between the thick bands of hairs was bright red. Many call these caterpillars wooly bears. Old timers say wide segments of black bristles (setae) indicate a mild winter but harsh weather if the bands are narrow.

The hairy winter caterpillar is the larva of the Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) found in the eastern half of North America. It has been dining on dandelions, honeysuckles, magnolias, sunflowers and other plants now in autumn mode. Quite soon this caterpillar should spin its cocoon and overwinter inside. Next spring a good-sized moth will emerge, its pure white wings dotted with black circles and spots. Sexual dimorphism is strikingly displayed by the Leopard moth. The males may exceed two inches in length but the females just over one inch. Don’t tell them they are good sources of food for small birds.

At the car we heard “eck, eck, eck”. In a cottonwood was perched a Bald Eagle. Spreading its wings, it took off over the Arkansas River.

Saturday night was chilly, but the lights on roofs, around houses and in yards gave warmth and beauty to the darkness. Some neighborhoods had little glow while others were power company delights. Large inflated Santas, snowmen and reindeer puffed up their chests. Simulations of falling snow and magical fairy lands were next to precisely edged roofs in white.

Although we had no snow, the mystery and atmosphere of a different time still prevailed. Hope your Yule was filled with magic.

Happy 2020!

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at