Mother Nature

The beautiful, Dena Dietrich, best known for her portrayal of Mother Nature in Chiffon commercials broadcast in the 1970s, is alive and apparently well, residing in Los Angeles. Good lord willin’ and the ocean don’t rise, she’ll turn 85 on Dec. 4.

Mmm. Not butter.

Mmm. Not butter, but close enough.

In a series of advertisements, Dietrich, adorned in a white gown and a crown of daisies, warned American consumers, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!,” after mistaking margarine for real butter. She’s still very attractive, having long ago been blessed by Mother Nature. Age is having a tough time catching up with her. I reckon one mother is returning the favor to another mother in appreciation for a brilliant, most memorable job of acting.

We best be heeding Miss Dena’s advice, especially before carelessly discarding paper, plastic, Styrofoam and cigarette butts while enjoying the beach, the big pond, canyons, forests, mountains, deserts, rivers, lakes..anywhere outdoors, essentially. The Lady around us is keeping her eyes open.

I’ll be writing much more about this lovely woman later in this piece, but first I offer these ocean and weather-related terms. I not-so-humbly suggest reading “Evacuate” and “Surf’s Up,” my own additions to a list that will continue to grow:

Bathymetry – The measurement of depths of water in oceans, seas and lakes and the information derived from those measurements.

Buoy – A float, particularly a floating object moored to the bottom to mark a channel, anchor, shoal, rock, etc.

Central Pressure Index (CPI) – The estimated minimum barometric pressure in the eye (approximate center) of a particular hurricane. The CPI is considered the most stable index to intensity of hurricane wind velocities in the periphery of the storm. The highest winds are associated with storms having the lowest CPI.

Continental Shelf – The zone bordering a continent and extending from the low water line to the depth (usually about 180 meters) where there is a marked or rather steep descent toward a greater depth.

Contour – A line on a map or chart representing points of equal elevation with relation to a datum. It is called an isobath when connecting points of equal depth below a datum and an isobar when used to represent atmospheric pressure.

Deep Water – Water so deep that surface waves are little affected by the ocean bottom. Generally, water deeper than one-half the surface wavelength is considered deep water.

Duration – In wave forecasting, the length of time the wind blows in nearly the same direction over the fetch (generating area).

Eddy – A circular movement of water formed on the side of a main current. Eddies may be created at points where the main stream passes projecting obstructions or where two adjacent currents flow counter to each other.

Evacuate (DBB suggestion) – Scat, cat. That’s what you do when told to do so by meteorologists, governmental bodies (don’t trust ’em otherwise), anyone else in authority or the locals, peeps. The ol’ bum is hitting the road with his rucksack on his back and his boonie hat on his noggin (as in former NO Mayor Ray Nagin’s gigantic head) when any storm categorized as a three or higher is headin’ his way. That’s what the residents of New Orleans, Louisiana and neighboring states should have done when Katrina was headin’ their way. Hit the road and don’t look back, Jack. Local shelters are available, but avoid the Superdome if at all possible.

Eye – In meteorology, usually the “eye of the storm” (hurricane/typhoon); the roughly circular area of comparatively light winds and fair weather found at the center of severe tropical cyclones.

Fathom – A unit of length equal to six feet (1.8 meters): used chiefly in nautical measurements.

Fetch – The area in which seas are generated by a wind having a fairly constant direction and speed. Sometimes used synonymously with fetch length. Also generating area.

Fetch Length – The horizontal distance (in the direction of the wind) over which a wind generates seas or creates a wind setup.

Gust – A brief, strong rush of wind.

Generation of Waves – The creation of waves by natural or mechanical means; The creation and growth of waves caused by a wind blowing over a water surface for a certain period of time. The area involved is called the generating area or fetch.

Gravity Wave – A wave whose velocity of propagation is controlled primarily by gravity. Water waves more than two inches in length are considered gravity waves. Waves longer then one inch and shorter than two inches are in an indeterminate zone between capillary and gravity waves.

Group Velocity – The velocity of a wave group. In deep water, it is equal to 1/2 the velocity of the individual waves within a group.

Hindcasting, Wave – The use of historical synoptic wind fields to calculate characteristics of waves that probably occurred at some past time.

Hurricane – An intense tropical cyclone in which winds tend to spiral inward toward a core of low pressure, with maximum surface wind velocities that equal or exceed 75 mph (65 knots) for several minutes or longer at some points.

Joint Industry Project – A project where multiple companies pool resources and data to produce a comprehensive study where all participants share in the results.

Knot – The unit of speed used in navigation equal to one nautical mile (6,076 feet or 1,852 meters) per hour.

League – A unit of distance equal to three statute miles (4.8 kilometers).

Length of a Wave – The horizontal distance between similar points on two successive waves measured perpendicularly to the crest.

Monochromatic Waves – A series of waves generated in a laboratory; each wave has the same length and period.

Nautical Mile – The length of a minute of arc, 1/21,600 of an average great circle of the Earth. Generally, one minute of latitude is considered equal to one nautical mile. Equal to 1,852 meters or 6,076 feet.

Offshore – Winds moving or directed away from the shore.

Onshore – Winds moving or directed toward the shore.

Radius of Maximum Winds – Distance from the eye of a hurricane – where surface and wind velocities are zero – to the place where surface wind speeds are maximum.

Refraction (of water waves) – The process by which the direction of a wave moving in shallow water at an angle to the contours are changed. The part of the wave advancing in shallower water moves more slowly than that part still advancing in deep water, causing the wave crest to bend toward alignment with the underwater contours; or, the bending of wave crests by currents.

Rip tides or rip currents – A strong, narrow surface current that flows rapidly away from shore, returning water carried landward by waves out beyond the surf.

Sea State – Description of the sea surface with regard to wave action. Also called the state of sea.

Shallow Water – Commonly, water of such a depth that surface waves are noticeably affected by bottom topography. It is customary to consider water depths less than 1/2 the surface wavelength as shallow water.

Significant Wave – A statistical term relating to the 1/3 highest waves of a given wave group and defined by the average of their heights and periods. Note that the composition of the higher waves depends upon the extent to which the lower waves are considered. Experience indicates that a careful observer who attempts to establish the character of the higher wave will record values which approximately fit the definition of the significant wave height.

Significant Wave Height – The average height of the 1/3 highest waves of a given wave group. Note that the composition of the higher waves depends upon the extent to which the lower waves are considered. In wave record analysis, the average height of the highest 1/3 of a selected number of waves, this number being determined by dividing the time of record by the significant period.

Significant Wave Period – An arbitrary period generally taken as the period of the 1/3 highest waves within a given group. Note that the composition of the higher waves depends upon the extent to which the lower waves are considered. In wave record analysis, this is determined as the average period of the most frequently recurring of the larger well-defined waves in the record of study.

Storm Surge – A rise above normal water level on the open coast due to the action of wind stress on the water surface. Storm surge resulting from a hurricane also includes that rise in level due to atmospheric pressure reduction as well as that due to wind stress.

Surf’s Up – Surfer’s term for tasty waves – as Spicoli put it in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High – on which one can hang ten righteously; or, a swell time to go huntin’ sharks’ teeth because Mother Ocean may very well leave some nice fossils behind as she ebbs. Both definitions are gnarly, dudes. Dudes applies in this case to both men and women ’cause dudette isn’t proper beach speak

Swell – Wind-generated waves that have traveled out of their generating area. Swell characteristically exhibits a more regular and longer period and has flatter crests than waves with their fetch (Seas).

Synoptic Chart – A chart showing the distribution of meteorological conditions over a given area at a given time. Popularly called a weather map.

Tropical Storm – Term applied if maximum winds of a storm are less than 33.5 m/s.

Tsunami – A long high sea wave caused by an earthquake, submarine landslide or other disturbance.

Wave Forecasting – The theoretical determination of future wave characteristics, usually from observed or predicted meteorological phenomena.

Wave Spectrum – In ocean wave studies, a graph, table, or mathematical equation showing the distribution of wave energy as a function of wave frequency.

Wave Steepness – The ratio of the wave height to the wavelength.

Wind Waves – Waves being formed and built up by the wind; Loosely, any wave generated by wind.

Miss Dena was born on Dec. 4, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a veteran Broadway performer and acted on television shows Adams Ribs, All My Children, Boy Meets World, Mad About You, Murphy Brown and The Ropers. What a gift from the heavens she is.

The forest matron – her Mother Nature role – continues to be inspirational to anyone who cares about the environment here on Mother Earth. Her series of 30-second commercials for Chiffon Margarine (1971-79), along with Keep America Beautiful’s “‘Crying Indian” ad campaign of the early 70s, stamped their approval on my love of nature and imprinted it in the souls of many fellow citizens in the United States.

As a country boy, I already had a deep appreciation for the outdoors. I was a river rat long, long before I was a beach bum, growing up on the banks of the Susquehanna River in tiny Winfield, Pennsylvania. The Susquehanna was 100 yards east of the cinder-block home built by my maternal grandparents. Our closest neighbors, a farming family, The Sholleys, were a half-mile away. Swimmin’. Fishin’. Pickin’ up rocks and snatchin’ crayfish behind the pincers. And, yeah, walking a mile down a winding dirt road — past cornfields and through the woods — to catch the school bus. Behind our home was a hillside, loaded with oaks, evergreens and most every kind of flora under the sun. Next to our home was a pine tree, which I distinctly remember pretending was a rocket ship with sappy ladder rungs. I won’t apologize for dreaming for a few moments of leaving Mother Earth and exploring the universe. Chalk it up to the wonders of a child.

An Army general had purchased those humble digs and my parents were renting from him. Eventually, he decided to move there. I can’t blame him for either reclaiming paradise or wanting to live along the river. We moved to Selinsgrove, a small town also built along the Susquehanna. I’ve lived three different places on her banks.

Mother Nature reigned over that realm and Dena Dietrich’s energy was there with me.

Ah, the early 70s. How well and fondly I recall that time. Those slices of heaven. The Coca-Cola ad campaign, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony),” was also spawned then, so the decade labeled the “Me” generation could just as easily have been called the “We” generation. I was a child and teen during the “We” generation, and I’m most definitely biased. Nature played a prominent role in the “Hilltop” series as well, having been filmed outdoors. That groundbreaking series of commercials, featuring a multicultural group of teenagers singing as one, “I’d Like to Teach…in Perfect Harmony.” offered a message of hope. Peace among mankind.

But I want to write a little bit more about Miss Dena. No, I need to write a little more about her.

Her personification of nature — the idea of embodying it in the form of the mother — was among the most popular personifications of nature worldwide since the Middle Ages and it was the most popular for my generation in the United States.

In those hugely successful commercials, Mother Nature addresses an unseen narrator who informs her, “That’s Chiffon Margarine, not butter,” then says, “Chiffon’s so delicious, I guess it fooled even you, Mother Nature.” The perturbed woodland goddess delivered her trademark catch phrase and summoned lightning and thunder to express her anger.

Indeed, Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with and nobody should be fooling with her.

Thank you for your contribution to humanity, Miss Dena. Have a most happy 85th birthday with many more anniversaries marking a great life to come. Sincerely and with highest regards, dharma beach bum, a child of nature who shares a bond with you after being blessed by our lady friend, Mother Nature.

You tell me. Does this woman look like an octogenarian? This is Miss Dena on her patio in June 2012. (Photo shared via Facebook by Richard J. Stone)

You tell me. Does this woman look like an octogenarian? This is Miss Dena on her patio in June 2012.
(Photo shared via Facebook by Richard J. Stone)

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