A few weeks ago, I tried to explain what a mirage is to The Dormouse after she read about it in some school assignment.
"A mirage is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects or the sky."
I explained the whole thing, and talked about how people traveling through the desert thought there was water because it looked like water, but then when they got to the spot where they saw the water it was never there. She nodded her head in acknowledgement, but it was clear that it never really sank in and she thought all those people were just ijits.
So while we were driving through northern Nevada last week, and we kept trying to explain to The Dormouse what it was like for early settlers - the Mormon Pioneers, the California and Oregon Trail followers, Gold Rushers and the Donner Party, etc. - coming through this area for the first time, I suddenly remembered this discussion from a few weeks back.
Where we live now, one seldom sees a mirage unless you know what you're looking for, but both The KingofHearts and I grew up with them. It doesn't usually get quite hot enough in the D.C. area, but more importantly, there isn't enough flat road for the phenomenon to be obvious to the naked eye in most cases. So when I looked up and saw that familiar rippling on the road ahead, I pointed it out The Dormouse.
"See that water up there in the road?"
She acknowledged it, "Oh yeah, it must have rained."
"Keep your eye on that water, OK?"
Then after a several minutes of driving, she asked, "Wait, why don't we ever GET to the water in the road?"