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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, February 12, 2018

Vermont to Virginia

Hi Pond Pals, Well, we are on our way! To start, I had my hair done on Friday for a new look that would be sassy and also easy to maintain. Both Troi and I were disappointed that the purple did not take as well this time as last but overall, I am pleased. Shake my head, run my fingers through the hair and voila, looks good. Easy peasy and pleasies-me! For those of you new to our blog, I try each day, depending on how tired I am and how good the internet connection is, to send two emails--one of the pictures of the day as a link to Snapfish and one as an explanation of the pix and any additional musings that strike me about the whole day. Not sure what is the best way to deal with them--read first and then pix or pix and then read or somehow try to look and read at the same time. My narration is in the same order as the pix. Maybe the veteran virtual travelers can chime in with what works best for them. Anyway, Betsy came up to the house on Sat morning to have a farewell breakfast with us and I took the time to hug my baby cat, Attila, good-bye. Those who know me well will be amazed at my attachment to him since I'm really a dog person , but I've been smitten with the kitten from the start--have no idea why. Shadow was hiding out from Betsy somewhere upstairs so the farewells with him were prior to her arrival. We got on the road about 10:20 am --the temp was 34 degrees and there was a slight drizzle. Roads were fine and though the rain was heavy at times, it was a pretty good drive. When we reached Bridgewater I commented on the lines of cars headed toward White River and we were, for a short time, at a loss to explain the traffic in that direction. Then we noticed that most of the cars had Massachusetts plates so I've named my picture--Escape From Killington--like rats jumping ships, the Massholes, as I've heard them called by some, were making their way to the Interstate at White River to head home before the wet roads iced up. Skiing would have been pretty wet and squishy so an early departure for home made perfect sense. Long Trail was packed though! LOL So, some may have decided to just wait it out at the pub! Once we made it over the summit of Killington I sighed with relief but then we saw our first salt truck and checking the temp as we started down the mountain into Rutland we found the temp had dropped to 29! Still the road remained just fine, though the trees were covered with ice! I'd forgotten my meteorology and that temps in valleys are often colder than at elevation because cold air sinks! As we continued toward Fair Haven, a home protection company van joined us on Rte 4 and I was amused to see the license was from Kansas--a house call, perhaps? Between Whitehall and Fort Anne, my sister called to say that her driveway was treacherous with ice as was her porch and that she'd heard from my nephew that the roads in Saratoga and Clifton Park were quite icy. Although she was going out to salt her driveway, where her car was encased in ice, she wanted us to have a heads up. Fortunately, we had no icy spots and by the time we arrive at her house, the rock salt had done the trick. So by 1:45, we'd arrived safely in Saratoga Springs for the night. This stop gets us almost 200 miles on our trip, gives us girls time to exchange Christmas gifts, the three of us to catch up on the news, and just generally feel relaxed for the next leg. Barb had a terrible bout of the flu before the holidays and still is quite weak and so rather than cook, we order in Chinese take-out. That is really a treat for us, too, since we never go out for Chinese anymore and God knows there is no delivery of anything to Post Mills! We had a great time, watched some Olympics--biathalon and hockey with Bill and then figure skating once he went to bed --with a break for Victoria, of course. I retired at 11:30 and Barb sat up watching the Indian Doctor to the wee hours. Up at 6 this morning, who knows when Bill got up?, got Barb up at 6:30 and had breakfast together. After good-byes, including some fortune cookie bribes to get a hug from Damien, we were on our way by 7:30. Out through Ballston Spa and Amsterdam, Florida and Scotch Bush, took pictures of my favorite Church and farm. Then we reached I 88 and headed to Binghamton. Eventually, the dry but really cloudy gray day with 33 degree temperature turned partially sunny--so good to see the patches of blue, despite the fact it remained cold. Soon, we came to the Susquehanna on the outskirts of town and continued on I 81 toward the South--once more it became a bit drizzly and though the possibility of black ice was not far from our minds, the road remained fine. So, into Pennsylvania, easily by Scranton and Wilkes Barre which are sometimes congested with traffic and construction but clear this year. As we continued through Pa, the weather continued to clear and the snow cover diminished--and then, by Chambersburg, the ground was bare, with green grass spots and I found another farm to compare to the one in New York. In Harrisburg we crossed the Susquehanna, the same River from Binghamton! Soon, we were approaching Maryland and I saw a truck pulled over on the brow of the hill. I just knew he was obscuring the welcome sign--and guess what? Guess you don't need common sense to drive a truck. After just a few miles, it was into West Virginia for about a blink of the eyes and into Virginia. We called Choice Privileges and reserved a room at the Sleep Inn in Winchester. Then went to Chili's for dinner, where our barmaid spent a long time chatting with us, since she is from Keene, NH--small world. When her parents drive down to see her, they, too stop in New York State, Tarrytown, at her brother's house for the night before continuing on to visit her. Small world. So, at 6pm, filled with a Caribbean salad and Fajitas for Bill, we checked in and got settled. It is now 750 and Bill as already falling asleep. I'll catch the end of Jeopardy and then watch some TV on my computer since I forgot my book in the car and there is nothing on TV. So in two days we have left snow banks taller than Betsy and 29 degree rainy weather, for no snow on the ground, sun and 50 degrees. I'll take it. Until our next stop--take care and talk soon--KandB

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Nomadland by Jessica Bruder-a True Story About Middle Class Survivors in 21Century America

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First CenturyNomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not sure if it was the subject matter or the author's style but found it easiest to read this book in short servings--it seemed repetitive and padded at times, therefore, slow-moving. Still, the basic story of people who are either at traditional retirement age or close to it finding it impossible to stop working and survive is both disheartening and on some level, scary. Most of the people, vandwellers, whose stories Ms Bruder told, either as a one off encounter or a continuing saga, have worked all their lives and either did not make enough money to save, or didn't have a pension, or were laid off and unable to find new employment. They found themselves losing their homes to forclosure, if they owned a home, or used up all their savings as they searched for work and incurred more and more debt. As a final resort they have rid themselves of most of their possessions, found a portable home of some sort, and cut back drastically on expenditures. They travel from place to place picking up part-time low paying jobs, seasonally. They work in Amazon's Fulfillment Centers, campgrounds, Walmarts, concession stands and park the trailer, gutted out car or schoolbus, in parking lots, vacant lots, residential streets.

There are Facebook pages, blogs, websites etc that help to keep them informed about life on the road. Friendships are made at gathering spots such as Quartzsite, Arizona where an annual rendezvous occurs. And, of course, there is email and texting. Many are singles traveling the world alone though many do have families--siblings, parents, children --with whom they do not live, wanting to be independent and not a burden. They forge their own temporary communities and look forward to meeting up again in the future--they call themselves vamilies.

It is amazing to read the physical and mental strength of these people , some of whom are in their 70's and 80's. They do not consider themselves homeless but rather houseless and better off financially for it. They fall somewhere above impoverished and middle class and most have gotten there out of the diminishing middle class. The chasm between the affluent and poor is rapidly growing and the middle class is rapidly disappearing. Laws are being enacted throughout the country to impede the lifestyle of the vandweller and this begs the question, what will become of them??

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Killers of the Flower Moon--Another Example of the Abuse Shown the American Indian

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBIKillers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For most students of history the term Reign of Terror refers to the revolutionary days in France when mobs carted royals through the streets of Paris to their beheadings . In Oklahoma the term has a more personal meaning to the members of the Osage tribe. These were the Indians to whom Jefferson extended his hand and called himself their Father. These were the Indians who once held the land that covers Missouri, Kansas, parts of Oklahoma to the Rocky Mountains. These were the Indians who found themselves forced by settlers, like the family of Laura Ingalls, to occupy a small corner of Kansas and eventually to buy some land in Oklahoma from the Cherokee. Their chief felt that the rocky, hilly terrain was undesirable enough that the white interlopers would not want it. How they ever managed to sign a treaty that guaranteed them the rights to any minerals that might be found beneath this worthless ground is totally amazing, but in 1870 the Osage were finally at " home."

Within a few decades oil was discovered on the land and this provision was to be a double-edged sword. It created millionaires among the individuals on the Osage roll--each of them a holder of a headright that provided an annual payment of a percentage of the value of the oil on their allotment. Not being oil diggers themselves the people leased lots to prospectors who used geologists and maps to determine likely sites for a successful rig. People with the surnames Getty, Phillips, Sinclair arrived on private railcars to bid on lease sites. The headright owners were rolling in the money.

Naturally, the government who had confined these people to a reservation now devised a system to protect them--from themselves. A guardianship was set up for any individual deemed unable to handle his or her money competently. The guardian had total control of the money and so, even for food or medicine or supplies or education the person had to ask the guardian to release the funds. In one instance, a woman sick enough to require hospitalization was denied the funds to seek it and died. Another family required medication for a sick child, they, too, were denied and the child died. Obviously, there was no real oversight of how the money was spent by the guardian so a few fortunes were made through embezzlement. But the real money was to be found by owning the headright. This could not be sold and could only pass within a family through inheritance.

Along about 1918 or so mysterious deaths started to occur within the Osage reservation. Some people died of an undetermined wasting disease, others were shot mysteriously. One particular woman, Mollie Burkhart had three sisters and her mother--her father having died. Her youngest sister was taken by the wasting disease at the age of 27--otherwise healthy she quickly and mysteriously succumbed. Three years later, another sister, Anna, was found in gully outside of town shot in the back of the head. Within that same year, the mother, Lizzie, also died of the wasting disease. A few years later the remaining sister, her husband and her maid, died in a house that exploded when a bomb was planted in the cellar. All of these deaths left Mollie a very rich woman--for all of the headrights came into her possession. There were several other deaths within the tribe during this period as well and though the Tribal Council demanded investigation the level of corruption among the lawmen, coroners, doctors, etc was such that none of them led anywhere.

Finally, demands were made on Washington to get involved and a new government agency, the Bureau of Investigation established a crew of investigators under the direction of a man named Hoover, who put a former Texas Ranger, Tom White, in charge. At last the investigation went somewhere and several men were found to be responsible for this wave of murders. The motive was simply greed and the men were sent to prison.

Although the mystery seemed to be solved the author, David Gramm, wondered if the condemned men were responsible for ALL of the murders--at least the murder of two prominent white men did not seem to fit well into the story. As he researched these deaths he was led to the Osage reservation where he met relatives of the persons involved in a period of over a hundred years ago. His discoveries made the story even more gruesome.

As I read so many things swirled in my mind--disbelief and horror--no mystery novel could EVER be as awful as this true story. How could people have allowed these fellow humans be so abused and robbed? And at the end, in tears and heart-sick, I wondered why there are no marches, no demands that Native American lives matter, no mention of free education for them, or reimbursement to any of the tribes who suffered in one way or another at the hands of the white man. Where is the support for the dreamers among them? As I've seen the poverty of the reservations that still exist I wonder why the lack of care for the Indian hasn't changed much since the Osage Reign of Terror which was much longer than any one ever knew.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Story of Christina Olson--The Girl in the Grassy Field of Christina's World--A Novel

A Piece of the WorldA Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kline conducted many interviews with people familiar with the artist, Andrew Wyeth, and his model, Christina Olsen, forever captured crawling across a yellow field of grass, painfully distant from the farmhouse on the hill. Her face isn't visible, her arms are scrawny, her hair almost black. She is twisted at the waist in an impossibly awkward position, her arms holding her torso off the ground, her legs bent at the knees. One of her arms stretches before her, so it is obvious she is crawling toward that distant house and the observer of the painting searches, fruitlessly, the front of it, the area around the barn and other buildings, the stretch of grass between her and them for the presence of another person who might come to help her. The painting is, of course, the famous Christina's World and, though her dress is a lovely pink and her hair is youthfully blowing in the breeze, it produces a feeling of loneliness and sadness, of isolation and daunting hopelessness.

Here in the novel, Kline attempts to get into the person in the painting. She does not dwell at all on the relationship of artist and model, although she does suppose a kindredness of spirit between them. The book alternates between Christina's youth and young womanhood, in the early years of the twentieth century starting in 1896 ( a little 19th C but not much ) to about the 20's, and the mid-century until the finalization of the painting in 1948. She is only 55 years old then but you get the sense of a much older woman--I would have thought in her late 70's from the description.

From the start we are made aware of Christina's crippled condition. We first see her as a three year old and meet the parents and her siblings. From the start she is trying to do as much as all of them, refusing help so much so, she forces her father to take her home without visiting a doctor who might be able to help her condition. As the years go by she is given opportunities to escape the confining small town and isolated sea coast farmhouse but in one way or another she is prevented from taking advantage of them. The combination of place and her condition, which worsens as she ages, create the isolation evident in the painting. It also in time creates a bitterness which overwhelms her, causing pain to those few she keeps close and those she pushes away. In the end, it would seem, Andy's showing her as a young woman striving and enduring seems to finally give her peace for in it, she feels, he has captured her and, at last, she is truly seen.

I received a copy of this book from BookBrowse in return for an honest review.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

John Stokes and Osceola--A Man and An Eagle

An Eagle's Sky: My Life as a Birdman: How I Helped a One-Winged Eagle Fly AgainAn Eagle's Sky: My Life as a Birdman: How I Helped a One-Winged Eagle Fly Again by John L. Stokes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

" Always believe and never give up. Take care. John Stokes " It was Feb 16, 2017 and my husband and I had just attended a Wings to Soar presentation by John and his wife, Dale. We'd spent the weekend at Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama for the Eagle Awareness program. Having made reservations to return for this year's program, I thought it might be nice to have read John's book before attending his presentation once more.

In the Wings to Soar program, the audience sits in semicircular rows of seats or stands around the periphery of a large auditorium as John and Dale introduce us to various large and small birds, all of which for one reason or another cannot be returned to the wild. The highlight of the program is the flight of various magnificent birds from John to Dale and back again just slightly above the heads of the rapt audience. Owls, hawks, falcons, osprey. There is also the black vulture who thinks
Dale is his mother--he has imprinted on her--and follows her around like a dog looking for handouts. But the star of the program is a distinguished, sharp-eyed, white-headed fellow with beautiful brown-black plumage who stands upright and haughty looking out at us from his perch on John's arm--an American bald eagle named Osceola who is missing a wing. He is the star and I cannot wait to see him again this year--how I hope he is there.

Which brings me to this book--it is a biography of a young man, born in Mississippi and grew up primarily in Tennessee where he still resides. From his earliest memories he has loved the outdoors and its creatures but none more than its birds--of all kinds. As the story develops we find him becoming more and more enamored of raptors as he also becomes more and more enamored with the sport of hang gliding. Both interests occupy most of the narrative but they are interwoven with his personal growth and the relationships of his life, both familial and professional .

A great deal of his professional life was spent at the Memphis Zoo where he was influential in the establishment of a rehabilitation program for injured birds and, if possible their release back into the wild. The methods used, the birds encountered and the successes and failures are fascinating. He also used the program both at the zoo and on his own time to try to educate the visitors about the birds. This led to media coverage which in time led to what appears to be jealousy on the part of the Zoo director and unrelenting friction between the two men.

In time, John left the Zoo to establish a conservation group with a couple of friends--the financial
set back and subsequent personal poverty shows that John lives by the inscription he placed in my book. But in time, things straightened out and life continued and his work with the birds took a different and more successful path. Throughout the story he introduces us to so many interesting characters--both human and avian. Some of them --the humans--are involved in the life of birds and others are involved in the life of being part-time birds. Through these connections it came to be that John, who met Osceola when he was still an immature eagle, was able to bring that regal eagle back into the air. It is not until the end of the book that the description of the items devised, the training it took and the actual lift off of the first flight of man and eagle on a hang glider takes place , but if you read no other part of the book, this will make your heart soar!

John has wit, an incredible positivity, a joy in his work, and the ability to write in a way that you feel a part of the story. I'm terrified of height and would never be able to take off on a hang glider but as I read this book I rode those thermals right along with him. It was a quiet and peaceful and exciting as sailing on the gentle swells of Lake Guntersville. Just a wonderful book and I cannot wait to see the man and Eagle again next month! There is a video of the two at www.osceolabaldeagle.com, a FB page under Osceola,A Eagle's Sky and a blog at http://aneaglessky.blogspot.com

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Killing Season by Mason Cross Carter Blake #1--And I'll Be Reading More

The Killing Season (Carter Blake #1)The Killing Season by Mason Cross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

2:37 am --Late October--full moon --and a transport van with two correctional officers and two high profile convicts is moving along a deserted country road. It slows and then swerves around an apparent break-down of a late model sedan, its driver alongside it. As the van approaches a darkened barn, it is suddenly broadsided and forced off the road. It winds up on its side and two men kill the guards and pull the convicts to the side of the road. The car driver joins them and it appears they are there to eliminate one but will take care of both of them. That is until one manages to disarm and shoot them, then viciously bashes in the head of his fellow convict. He gets the keys to his cuffs from the pocket of one of the guards, picks up a high powered rifle and lopes off into the night! His name, Caleb Wardell. His crime, serial killer. His background, former US Marine Sniper.
And thus the story begins,broken into sections by the day and those days broken down into hours and minutes, it rushes headlong through 357 pages of intense action and theorizing detailing the man-hunt for this killer. The FBI are on it within 2 hours and call in a consultant--Carter Blake. He is to be attached to the lead investigative team whose two field officers are Banner, a single mother and Castle. Blake, when asked, says he is a man who" finds people who don't want to be found". The tension mounts as they try to predict where Wardell is headed and where he will begin his second killing spree. He always gets his job done in the morning, preferably by 9. It is already 5 and no one knows where he is or where he is going. I have found a new author and a new hero to follow!

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mary Handley Solves the Crime and Finds Love in THE Last Stop in Brooklyn

Last Stop in Brooklyn (A Mary Handley Mystery, #3)Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This third installment of the adventures of the intrepid detective, Mary Handley, is as exciting, funny, convoluted, interesting and engrossing as the first two. Once more, though the story is set in late 19th Century New York City, the surrounding social conditions of the time are as prevalent today as then. Racial bias, fear if immigrants, inequality in finances, crooked cops, greedy business moguls, unrest, all surround the case Mary finds herself investigating.

At the Last Stop in Brooklyn--the end of the subway line--Coney Island, a black prostitute has been brutally murdered and an Algerian immigrant has been found guilty of the crime. Neither the murder victim nor her convicted murderer are important to the police or the public. Yet, the man's brother has hired Mary to investigate and find the " true " murderer. Real persons such as Andrew Carnegie, Jacob Riis, Teddy Roosevelt, and Russell Sage all have parts to play in the story. Police corruption and moneyed manipulators keep getting in the way but in the end, Mary gets the man out of jail eventually and gets the killer, or does she?

I received a copy of Last Stop in Brooklyn to review from Blogging For Books

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