Glowing 'shrooms, royal alms, and a town destroyed in the worst landslide in U.S. history

Today's post examines the former town of Thistle, the obscure ceremony of giving Royal Maundy, and foxfire.
Technically speaking, Royal Maundy is the name of the ceremony conducted by the Church of England, rather than the actual giving of alms. On the day before Good Friday, the reigning British Monarch (or a representative) goes to a cathedral and gives out silver coins (technically legal tender, but rarely circulated because of their unique numismatic value). Based on Jesus's mandatum, English monarchs in the Middle Ages would wash the feet and give alms to the poor near Easter, but gradually they began substituting money for food and clothing and stopped washing. In 1699, the practice fell into disuse as the kings chose to send officials instead, but King George V began it anew in 1932. Queen Elizabeth II began picking a new church each year, rather than giving only at Westminster Abbey, which allowed for new recipients each year. HM in particular earns my respect for having attended all but four ceremonies during her nearly 59-year reign (twice due to childbirth and twice due to being out of the country). While the actual coinage has only been unique since the late 18th Century, the actual face value is a pittance: one each of one, two, three, and four pence (one penny is worth about 1.5 US cents). However, the rarity of the Maundy Money lends it to be worth in excess of £100 for a set at auction, and some people regard the coins as a kind of touch piece with superstitious power.
Reverse of the 1985 series, the reverse typically features a profile of the current monarch.

Foxfire might sounds like some sexy weapons system or a popular web browser, but it actually refers to bioluminescence created by fungi. Why the definition is limited to just fungi, and not to flora or fauna, is beyond me, but one cannot deny that it is pretty. While most living organisms actually transmit electromagnetic energy, not many do this in the visible spectrum: 71 individual species, including most of the members of the genus Mycena. At the suggestion of Ben Franklin, it was used to illuminate the world's first combat submarine, the Turtle, which limited it to use in warm weather, when the fungi were capable of producing light. And of course, one can't fail to reference the spectacular display of foxfire in the movie Avatar.

A sample of Panellus Stipticus, a type of saprobe.

Thistle, Utah was the unfortunate victim of America's worst landslide, which became the first presidentially-declared disaster area in the state, in 1983. It transformed from a sleepy Mormon farm town to a moderate sized city when a railroad line was built, and became a service station to prepare locomotives for the steep grade passes between Salt Lake City and Denver, peaking at about 600 permanent residents in 1917, with many more transients. However, the prominence of the diesel locomotive rendered stops in the village obsolete, and it declined to a few families by the 1980s. A pattern of unstable ground necessitating repair on the railway and US-6 highway didn't prompt concern until sudden deformations on April 13, 1983, prompted immediate attention, and repair crews struggled to keep both open until the next evening. By the 16th, the paths were completely impassable, and the sliding terrain dammed the Spanish Fork River the next day. By the 19th, flooding had submerged all 22 residences, the road was under 50 feet of soil, and the mountain was sliding about two feet per hour. Though the town was wiped out, the main effect was the cutting of transportation lines, isolating much of eastern Utah from the rest of the state, devastating it economically. The new railway opened in July, while the US-6 reopened in December, but life has not returned to Thistle.
Parts of Utah County were isolated for months.

Hate to end on a bit of a downer... but I do wish you happy reading anyway.

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