We join Illyria and Sunny the Robot, as they talk about what they think is real and what they imagine…

Chapter 1. In which Sunny mistakes wind generators for a flock of giant white birds. Illyria explains convection to him. And some interesting conversation between them.

Our story begins with Illyria and Sunny camping in a forest clearing. We find them waking after sleeping under the night sky.

“Good Morning Sunny! How are you?”
“Better I could not stand, Illyria! Though I do not sleep, I am sure I would have slept wonderfully here in this deep green quiet . What an outstanding Dawn! Her rosy fingers already reach up and paint the pale grey sky with ribbons of pink and silver. And I think I can detect the glow of her shining hair just below those tree tops.”

Our heroes stretch and begin rummaging in their packs for breakfast. Sitting comfortably on the ground back to back, they observe their surroundings while they eat.

“Oh, Sunny! Look, the leaves clap as the wind passes through the trees!”

“ An ancient story of Native Americans tells us it is the giant bird Wuchowsen, who makes the wind with its wings.

“Hold on Sunny! I have read that wind is the result of an action called convection. A process that moves heat energy through fluids.”

“ I am certain the story is true. And I think that big bird is nearby, Illyria, feel how the wind picks up and gets chilly.”

“ There is science written on this subject, Sunny, and there is general agreement. Asserting that you know what you don’t, gets us in trouble, remember? I hope you have not forgotten our encounter with the garbage whirlpool in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?!!”

“No, I have not forgotten. That was unforgettable! How did we ever survive? Anyway, listen Illyria, I want to tell you about this storm bird.They say there were times when he flapped his wings so violently that he drove the water out of the shallows where the Indian families liked to fish for eels. Eventually they could find no more eels and they started to suffer from hunger. One brave Indian went to where the big bird perched on a large rock far out in the water and addressed him. “My Grandfather, you are cold; let me carry you ashore on my back.” “Do so.” was the answer. So he waded out to where the Storm King was sitting and took him on his back and carefully carried him from rock to rock toward shore. At the last rock he stumbled on purpose and dropped Wuchowsen. The poor bird broke one of his wings. The man pretended he was very sorry and bound up the broken wing. Then he directed the bird to stay where he was and not move so his wing would heal. As a result the wind died away. Eels became plentiful and the people ate well. But slowly a scum was growing on the water and the eels became less plentiful again. Wuchowsen was revisited and examined. His wing had healed. He was told to keep both wings going but the motion must be steady and gentle.”

“Thank you, Sunny, that was a very entertaining story and I am glad you told it to me. Now sit here on the warm ground, enjoy this clearing of wild flowers and breezes, while I tell you how science explains wind.”

The air that flows around us is made up of fine bits of chemicals and dust and quantities of the gases nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide and finally, water. Chemists define water in a special shorthand: H2O. Hydrogen (two atoms) and Oxygen (one atom) When these atoms join together they become water. We don’t think our sky has water in it because most of the time its water atoms don’t take on the watery look we are used to, like that beaver pond in the distance. Water droplets in the air around us can be extremely small and far apart. We don’t even notice them! Sometimes we become aware of them when we feel sweaty then say, “Wow, it’s humid!”

Wind happens when heat energy moves through the hotter and cooler water pockets in the sky. This is called convection. We live within this process. It is happening around us all the time. Water atoms that are lowest in the atmosphere absorb the heat of the sun warmed ground and react by moving further from each other. This causes their pocket of water to become lighter and start to rise. As this pocket rises it cools, which causes the water atoms in it to condense. This means that they bunch closer together and their pocket becomes heavier than the lighter pockets of water that are rising from below. At some point the weight of the cooler denser fluid overcomes the warmer lighter fluid that is rising and it sinks back toward the ground. This lifting and sinking action of warmer and cooler water pockets pushing each other around, causes wind. It is convection in action. It can make a gentle breeze, a violent storm or even global winds!”

“Well, if I have heard you correctly, Illyria, what you say is more fantastical than stories about a giant bird flapping its wings… How can it be that these atoms, as you call them, make all this happen? And, by the way, I don’t see them. After hearing your entertaining speech, I am even more convinced that the Native Americans were correct.
And I sense the bird is nearby because I feel the wind increasing. I think we will find Wuchowsen just over that ridge.”

Sunny suddenly stands up and grabs his backpack and starts in the direction of the ridge. Illyria rises to her feet.

“ I am afraid you are in for a disappointment, Sunny! And I’m sure we are in for an adventure. This means there is no way of predicting the outcome. Wait! I am coming with you. ”

Together they begin their slow progress up the ridge. A narrow recently graveled road makes their way possible. When they get to the top they realize there is a still higher ridge just beyond. Wide steep steps of bluestone are typical of the Heldeberg Escarpment of New York, where they are hiking.

“You know, Illyria, the Indians who lived here long ago made ladders of dead trees. By using the branches as rungs they could climb the steepest of these ridges. “Indian Ladder” is the name of one of the most magnificent of these giant ridge ‘steps’.”

“How come you know so much about Native Americans and their ways, Sunny?”

“I access that information in one of my programs, Illyria.”

“I wonder why you weren’t given a science program…”

“I think I can answer that. You see, I was built by two teenagers as a science fair project. They just used what they could get their hands on. As you see, Illyria, my torso is an industrial water barrel and my head is made out of metal buckets…but I am capable of learning.”

Now they are approaching the top of the ridge and Sunny declares, “Not much further, Illyria, you will see a magnificent view up here and I’m sure we will find the giant wind bird too.”

But, the sight they see is very different from what either expects and both see it differently.

“Oh Sunny, look! A magnificent line of wind generators! Their graceful white blades gently turn in the wind. They are providing electricity for thousands of homes!

“Illyria, calm yourself. You are out of breath from your climb and hallucinating, which means you experience something that does not exist. I see clearly that we are watching a flock of giant white birds perched on that ridge. They are drying their outstretched wings in the heat of the sun. Their slow flapping motion is creating the wind. What I did not expect was that there would be so many Wuchowsens! ”

“Sunny, It is your eyes that are hallucinating.”

“Wait Illyria! You will see them rise into the sky as I rush in on them !”

“ Stop Sunny! A brave robot saves his strength for a more equal test, don’t you think? So many giant birds are too much even for you.”

“ True, Illyria, there are many more birds than I expected… the story mentions just one… But, I see they don’t notice us. I will just creep up on this one that is closest and when I stand and reveal my full hight you will see all of them rise together, their magnificent white wings beating in glorious flight!”

Illyria has given up trying to change Sunny’s mind and settles herself comfortably on a warm boulder to await the outcome.

Sunny creeps up to the base of the nearest wind generator then rises to his full hight. This turns out to be just high enough for the slow passage of one of the blades to make contact with his head sending him flying through the air and landing him some yards away. There he lies helpless, legs and arms wriggling like a beetle on its back, while Illyria makes her way to his side. With some difficulty she manages to pry him onto his feet using a long, sturdy branch, as a lever.

“Now you think this is not what you thought, Sunny?”

“True Illyria, that Wuchowsen transformed just as I came close! Very clever. If I wasn’t so dizzy I would challenge him again!”

“Let’s start our decent and leave the wind generators alone, Sunny. Sometimes you have to accept that bad luck is the best luck you are going to get. I will entertain you with descriptions of the magnet at the center of our Earth while we descend.”

“ Maybe we can return another day? But, I do enjoy your lectures, Illyria. Yes, let’s hear that one about the magnet! The sound of your voice will help me forget the echoing in my head.”

And so ended the adventure of the enchanted wind generators and our heroes are safely back on the woodland trail. As they progress, the late afternoon sun lights their way, casting long shadows across their path.

“If I am not mistaken, Illyria, these shadows look like the silhouettes of monsters. They must be lurking at the edge of this forest…”

“Just keep going, Sunny. I think I see the glint of the setting sun on water. We can have a refreshing drink and set up camp for the night. Tomorrow is another day.”

“Now that’s something we can agree on, Illyria!”