Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Elephant No. 117: From the Archives—Snowball Mural

I was going to post something else today, but given the snowpocalypse that hammered the East Coast of the United States and Canada yesterday, and an epic snowball battle I saw this morning on the news, I decided to repost one of my early elephants from the original Elephant a Day blog.

It's a snowy day here today, but also warmish, so for today's elephant I thought I'd try something I've been wanting to do for weeks: a snowball mural.

When I mentioned this idea to my husband, he thought it might be difficult, because you have to have good aim when you lob the snowballs. However, this girl didn't play four years of Little League for nothing, so I was willing to give it a shot.

I started with the same side wall of our house that I used in my green wall mural and my Christmas lights mural. The camera kept trying to focus on the fat individual snowflakes—I think it was actually beginning to have a bit of a conniption fit—so this photo is a bit out of focus.

I set myself a perpendicular toeline of about eight feet, which I discovered afterwards is almost exactly the toeline or "oche" (pronounced o-kee) used by the World Darts Federation. The other rules I set were that I couldn't remove any of the snowballs, and they all had to be thrown. (I can't deny that I was very tempted to walk up and just mash a few into the wall towards the end, but I managed to restrain myself.)

Once I'd figured out the rules of this particular game, I just started making snowballs and pelting them at the wall.

It was easy at first, because it didn't really matter where the first few landed, as long as they were in the general area I was trying to hit. I was actually quite proud of my aim, and rather enjoyed the very satisfying "splat" as they hit the wall and flattened out.

As I went on, however, I began to discover a few things:

1. The size and shape of the snowball is important. If it's not fairly round and fairly even, it's going to go somewhere you weren't quite expecting. If it's too big, it's going to drop lower than you expect; too small, and it's going to lob higher. I tried to make up for this by churning out fastballs, but without Major League velocity, precision tended to elude me.

2. The contents of the snowball are surprisingly important. Today's snow overlay an icy crust from yesterday. In snowballs where I accidentally included some ice, the snowballs had a mind of their own. Throwing them fast made very little difference, so I quickly learned not to include ice.

3. Overhand and underhand shots are very different. Overhand for me was far more precise. Underhand was next to useless, because the snowball always dropped several inches below where I wanted it.

4. Stance is important. When I stood head-on and threw like a child, the shot had a tendency to drop, although it still went more or less where I wanted. If I stood slightly sideways, however, and wound up the shot before throwing, I had much better accuracy.

5. Where you look is important. When I focused on where I wanted the snowball to go, it was far more likely to land somewhere nearby. I have no idea why.

I was rather pleased with how this turned out. Quite a few of the shots went wild until I got the hang of the properties of snowballs, and many landed directly on top of one another, but in the end, it looks more or less like I expected it to. I'm most proud of the way I was able to keep the eye area with a bit of empty space around it. I also like the way some of the vines peek through the snow, looking a bit like wrinkles.

This took me about an hour, mostly because I was mysteriously bereft of snowball-making lackeys. I can't believe I had to form all 127 snowballs on my own.

When I was almost finished, a construction worker stopped at the end of my driveway and said, "I thought before that you were only playing, but I see now that you're making art." That's just the kind of thing that makes my day.

Elephant Lore of the Day
At African Lion Safari in Ontario, Canada, it has been discovered that elephants like making snowballs—elephant-sized snowballs.

Like humans, elephants are pleased when the snow packs down well. Encouraged by park staff, they start with a small ball, then push it and roll it around like we do when making snowmen. Once the snowball is as big as they are, they lose interest and start another one.

According to park staff, the elephants' snowballs are so well made that they can easily hold a man's weight.

Elephants making large snowballs, African Lion Safari, Rockton, Ontario, Canada.
Photo: © Barcroft
Source: Daily Mail

Similarly, at the Rosamund Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York, a 33-year-old elephant named Romani was caught in the act of forming multiple snowballs with her trunk, which she then tossed over her shoulder. Other elephants at the Zoo made and tossed snowballs at themselves and at each other, popping a few snowballs into their mouths along the way.

To Support Elephant Welfare

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