Book Review: High Hunt by Susie Drougas

High HuntAttorney Dusty Rose takes a break from his law practice to work as a hunting guide for his Uncle Bob, leading pack-horse trips into the Pasayten Wilderness at the crest of the Cascade Mountains. Dusty looks forward to his backcoutry vacation, but what should be an ideal get-away turns into a dangerous, deadly ordeal.

Cassie Martin, also a lawyer, is on Dusty’s mind as he manages his chores hosting hunters and tending stock. His worst fears become reality, and it looks likely that this could be his last wilderness adventure, and that what he had hoped to have with Cassie will never be.

Author Susie Drougas brings the reader into a wintery wilderness in this captivating novel. We view the rugged Pasayten country from the saddle. A guide’s job not only entails expert riding skills, but also tending to clients’ safety and comfort. Life slows down on the trail. Preparing a meal includes collecting wood for a campfire, patiently waiting for water to boil before making camp coffee, meanwhile fashioning an oven in the coals. We learn from experts the special care trail horses and pack animals need.

High Hunt is the third in the Dusty Rose Series. The first two, Pack Saddles & Gunpowder and Mountain Cowboys, also include wilderness pack trips.

Susie Drougas is a long-time active member of Back Country Horsemen of Washington and shares the work and struggles of that group to keep the wilderness available to everyone. To learn more about the author and her love of riding and writing, visit http://www.susiedrougas.com/

Book Review: Daring Greatly

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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

When author Brené Brown uses the term “daring greatly,” she refers to the phrase from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech, “Citizenship in a Republic.” In the speech Roosevelt encourages citizens to try to do their best, and that even though they may fail, they have dared greatly. It is a wonderful, inspiring speech, and throughout her book, Brown refers to the concept of vulnerability, of being engaged, of being all in, no matter the consequences. In other words, “daring greatly.”

Vulnerability is not a comfortable state. You’re exposed and open to scrutiny. But to live life, to be engaged, vulnerability is necessary. Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.

The book helps readers identify what is important in life and how we can connect wholeheartedly with our families, work associates, and friends. In order to live a more meaningful life, we need to step into the arena, rather than stand on the outside and look in.

Daring Greatly is an enlightening mixture of hard-core research (Brené Brown, Ph.D. is a research professor at the University of Houston) and kitchen-table chats. It’s a fascinating book about every-day living. Sometimes it is easy to get side-tracked when determining what is important in life. Our “never enough” society makes its demands, often pulling us away from the core of what we really want, what we really need, out of life.

Brown identifies shame, fear, and vulnerability, and encourages readers to embrace these feelings in order to live wholehearted lives. She doesn’t say it’s easy, but suggests that the way to a fulfilling life is to be fully engaged in all its aspects.

Daring Greatly is a remarkable book and fun to read. To learn more about Brené Brown and her work, visit http://brenebrown.com/

Book Review: The Memory Weaver

The Memory WeaverJane Kirkpatrick’s latest novel, The Memory Weaver, weaves a poignant story of the mid-1800’s in Oregon and Washington Territories. Based on true events, this historical novel reveals the life of Eliza Spaulding, the daughter of missionaries who worked with Native Americans at the time of the Whitman massacre, near what is now called Walla Walla, Washington. At the age of ten, she witnessed horrifying sights during the massacre.

The story begins when Eliza Spaulding, thirteen, is grieving the death of her mother in Brownsville, Oregon. Her mother was beloved by all, whites and Indians alike, and was known for her keen mind, her ability to speak in Native tongues, and for teaching the word of God in artistic, innovative ways.

Eliza’s memories of the massacre are full of dark thoughts of death and betrayal. The mission was seized by the Cayuse and Eliza was one of several who were held hostage. At ten, she, too, could speak Sahaptin, the language of the Nez Perce and other tribes of the region, and during the siege on several occasions was asked to interpret. After the British paid a ransom for the survivors, the missionaries were ordered by the Mission Board to leave, causing great bitterness and disappointment to the Spauldings and to newly baptized Native Americans.

Throughout the novel are excerpts from Eliza’s mother’s diary, a document Eliza wouldn’t have an opportunity to read until years later.

After her mother dies, Eliza is expected to take on the role of keeping house, cooking, and caring for her younger brother and two sisters. She manages the house and family well, but is often in mental turmoil with frightening memories of the massacre, and she still suffers from her mother’s death. When, at age fifteen she leaves to marry Andrew Warren, it is without her father’s approval. The newlyweds set up a homestead in Brownsville, Oregon.

Andrew acts on a ranching opportunity in Washington, near where the massacre occurred. Eliza is torn between staying on their homestead with the children or going with her husband, which would mean returning to the land of her captivity.

Later, when details of the massacre are revealed, Eliza is shocked to learn that her recollections are only part of the story. She remembers only what a child of ten could absorb.

I loved this novel. I found myself thinking about my own memories and wondering how distorted they might be. Kirkpatrick has a way of touching the heart with words and there were times I read through tears.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of many historical novels. The Memory Weaver is among the finest, but I’ve probably said that about all of them.

To read more about the author, visit www.jkbooks.com

Book Review: Write Within Yourself

Write within YourselfWilliam Kenower’s Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion is a precious little gem. As an author, I find it inspiring, but you don’t have to be a writer to gain helpful, insightful self-knowledge.

The book is comprised of short essays, pieces aimed at the heart, mind and spirit. William Kenower shares of himself in a way that opens the door for the reader to better understand the treasure that lie within. The book isn’t intended as a guide, but a companion. It’s a book you’ll want to keep handy so that you can take a few minutes to remind yourself where you want to go, and how to sift through information you need.

Kenower shares stories of his own life in a way that I could apply to my own experiences. Many of life’s incidences become fodder we can write about, and even change the ending to suit ourselves.

The book sparkles with fresh wisdom. At first I tried to devour the book as I do with much of my reading. But then I realized I would gain more insight by rationing it out, only reading two or at the most three essays in one sitting. By doling the stories out slowly, I could more readily absorb its lessons of passion and creativity.

I love this little book. Its 179 pages are crammed with life skills, wry humor, and wisdom applicable to every day living. It is indeed a companion, a little friend for writers, but also for those seeking to know themselves better.

To learn more about the author and his work, visit www.WilliamKenower.com.

Book Review: Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon_When two little children, twins Rose of Sharon and Jacob Welty, weary, bug-bitten and hungry, stumble upon Blake Harris’ camp in the Arizona desert, he feeds them. After hearing their tragic story of hiding in a cave while a gang of men murdered their homesteading parents, he takes them to the nearest town. It’s obvious they need a home, and Harris becomes their guardian.

Through the years, Harris plays the father role, and before long marries the local school teacher, and they became a family. Rose has an unusual talent for writing, as well as a gift for “knowing something without the usual ways of knowing.” But sometimes a gift becomes a burden.

An Apache Indian boy, hungry for knowledge, lurks at the school house window, knowing he is not welcome. The twins become friends with White Buffalo and he is a regular visitor in the household, and later a ranch hand. Through White Buffalo we learn the sad plight of the Indian as they become displaced in their own land.

The author vividly portrays life on an Arizona scrub ranch in the late 1880’s. As Rose and Jacob mature, other children are born into the family and at times life becomes complicated. White Buffalo’s presence becomes a serious issue as he and Rose become sexually aware of one another.

Author Arletta Dawdy’s love of the land is obvious as she vividly describes the wild Huachuca Mountains and surrounding wildlands, She beautifully portrays the different seasons, each with its own uniqueness and challenges.

A novel, Rose of Sharon is  the third of The Huachuca Trilogy. The first was Huachuca Woman followed by By Grace. To learn more about Arletta Dowdy and her work, visit http://www.arlettadawdy.com/

Where Eagles Soar

Photo by Dana Moos

Photo by Dana Moos

One of Washington’s most spectacular attractions is the wintering population of bald eagles along the Skagit River. Bald eagles, migrating from British Columbia, Alaska and the interior Northwest, come to the Skagit to feed on spawned chum salmon. Their haunting, creaking cackle splits the air as they go about the business of hunting for their food of prey.

The Skagit Eagle Festival is a month-long celebration during eagle-watching season in eastern Skagit County. Activities take place in Concrete, Rockport and Marblemount every full weekend in January. The Festival is devoted to public education on the bald eagle, as well as environmental and wildlife conservation.

The festival features a variety of free tours, walks, and educational programs where visitors will learn not only about these majestic birds, but also about a variety of wildlife and the beautiful areas along the Skagit River where eagles live or return each year. Festival attendees may also enjoy arts & crafts, wine tasting, river rafting, music and dance, plus additional indoor and outdoor activities.

Opportunities abound to view or photograph our majestic national symbol as they congregate along the banks of the Skagit River, typically between December through February. Eastern Skagit County offers one of the largest wintering Bald Eagle populations in the lower 48 states. Peak counts have been estimated at more than 500 birds.

For viewing by land, the Bald Eagle Festival committee recommends parking in the pullouts on Highway 20 at Mileposts 99 and 100. (Avoid parking on narrow highway shoulders which could obstruct highway traffic.) Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport also offers good eagle viewing.

If you would prefer viewing the eagles from the river, private raft companies with certified guides offer float trips on the Skagit and other rivers.

The North American colonists originally gave the bald eagle its name when “bald” or “balled” meant white. Bald eagles feed mostly on fish or seabirds, though they may scavenge larger animals such as deer and even whale carrion.

For its size, the eagle is surprisingly light, yet it is very strong, strong enough to swoop down on prey with incredible speed and carry it away. Eagles’ powerful wings allow them to carry prey that weighs more than they do.

Bald eagle nests, which can weigh hundreds of pounds, are typically six feet wide and two or four feet tall. Nests are often located very high in tall trees with broken or deformed tops, with a view of the water.

The nesting period in Washington begins around the last week of March to the first or second week of April. Although some eagles stay in the Upper Skagit River area, most find nesting sites around the shores of Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, or other coastal areas in Canada or Alaska.

The average adult bald eagle weighs nine pounds, with a height of three feet and a wing span of five-and-one–half to seven-and-one-half feet. It is presumed that eagles mate for life. They are generally ready to mate at the age of five. Females lay two to four eggs and the thirty-five day incubation duties are shared by both female and male.

Eaglets are fed by their parents for the first ten to twelve weeks and then sporadically while they learn to feed themselves. By the time young eagles emerge from the nest they are almost as large as their parents. The familiar coloring of white head and tail, however, does not occur until the birds are four or five years of age. Juvenile birds are mostly brown and gray with mottling on the underside of their wings and a black tail with some gray.

The average life span of an eagle is up to twenty years in the wild and forty years in captivity. The bald eagle was almost driven to extinction as the result of eggshell thinning caused by the pesticide DDT. DDT was banned in the 1970s and the eagles, as well as other birds of prey, have made an amazing comeback.

Having “eagle eyes” is a popular expression for someone who can see great distances. Few animals can match the eagles’ ability to see distant objects; in fact, the eagle can see tiny details three to four times farther than humans.

Eagles normally can be seen feeding on the gravel bars of the Skagit River during the morning hours between 7 am and 11 am. Or, later in the afternoon, you can watch the birds catch updrafts and soar overhead. At other times the birds are seen sitting on mossy tree branches along the river. This “quiet time” is an important period when the birds conserve energy.

The American bald eagle is protected by Federal law. Follow these tips for your eagle viewing pleasure and for the protection of these magnificent birds:
● To avoid disturbing eagle feeding periods, boats should not be launched before 11:00 a.m.
● On land, confine eagle viewing to the designated look-out points along Highway 20.
● Your car makes a great viewing blind. You will minimize disturbance to the eagles and you may see more wildlife by staying in your car.
● Maintain a 1,000 foot distance from eagles.
● Do not trespass on private property.
● Keep pets in your vehicle
● Move slowly, talk softly.
● Never throw objects to make the eagles fly.
● Use telescope, spotting scope, binoculars or a telephoto lens to see eagles “up close.”
● Dress warmly and prepare your vehicle for winter weather. Winter months in the foothills of the Cascades often bring cold rain or snow.

For additional information and for a full schedule of events, visit http://concrete-wa.com/skagit-eagle-festival-2016 or call 360-853-8784 or 360-853-8767. The Concrete Chamber of Commerce invites you to visit them at the East County Resource Center, 45770 Main St., Concrete, WA 98237

Note: the North Cascades Highway, which goes through the mountains to Winthrop, is closed every winter, but the road to Concrete is ALWAYS open.

Book Review: Time Lines: poetry and prose

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Gloria MacKay’s poems and prose are at their best in her latest book, Time Lines: poetry and prose. The freshness of her words engage and enthrall. The variety in this slim book is far-reaching and thought provoking.

This isn’t MacKay’s first book of poetry, yet her repertoire continues to grow and captivate the heart and mind with fresh, original topics,

Here’s a small sample of how this author’s mind can create a string of words that will keep on working in the reader’s mind:

A stanza from the poem “My Truth on the Loose”:

My truth on the loose
is as hard to control
as a kite and as risky
to grab as a spark

I am no poet, but I can appreciate poetry and its often hidden meaning. I read, then fashion them to fit my own heart, my own experience. Time Lines offers that opportunity in elegant style.

Christmas in Samoa

Pago ChristmasExcerpt from Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific

Christmas away from home is always a little sad. Some of our fellow yachties chose to fly home for Christmas, but we planned to remain in American Samoa where we were securely anchored for the hurricane season.

American Samoa is strongly Christian, so as Christmas approached, the Samoans definitely got into the spirit of the season with decorations and Christmas music on the radio. Apparently, separation of church and state wasn’t a high priority. Local business people, government employees and bankers were expected to take time off from work to rehearse for scheduled Christmas programs. On several occasions we went to a particular store, or even the bank, and found it closed for a few hours during this season because the workers were attending choir practice.

For two weeks before Christmas, wonderful outdoor concerts were held every night at a park near Pogo Pogo Harbor, with various church, school, business and government choirs. We attended a program one night and were so impressed. Four different groups sang traditional Christmas carols plus other pieces we didn’t recognize. Between choral performances, scripture was read, mostly the Christmas story from the four gospels. And the drumming! We could have listened to the drumming all night. The concert ended with Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the “Messiah.” The music resonated with me for hours afterward as we swung at anchor aboard Impunity.

Although we both felt pangs of homesickness during the Christmas season, we were glad to experience Samoa at Christmas. This experience enriched our journey and gave new meaning to community spirit.

Arrive Curious, Leave Inspired: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center

Photo by Michael Hansen

Photo by Michael Hanson

 

The late football coach Vince Lombardi said, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” A highly inspirational example of this is right here in Seattle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2000 by the Gates family, the foundation is co-chaired by Bill and Melinda Gates and Bill’s father, Bill Gates, Sr. As of November, 2014 the Gates endowment in U.S. dollars was $42.3 billion.

The Foundation is said to be the largest private foundation in the world and is driven by the interests and passions of the Gates family. Throughout the facility are thought-provoking quotes such as this from Melinda Gates: “If you can really believe that all 7 billion people on the planet are equal to you in spirit, then you will take action to make the world more equal for everyone.”

When you step into the large facility on Fifth Avenue North, you are greeted by a staff member. Visitors are free to wander at will, but we opted to be accompanied by a staff member for more detailed explanations of this complex philanthropic organization.

Each of the large rooms has unique displays that graphically describe the foundation’s goals and accomplishments. Beyond the reception area, the “Voices” room allows visitors to hear voices from around the world and to see portraits of the foundation family—employees, grantees, partners, beneficiaries, and co-chairs.

Moving on to the “Family & Foundation” section, we learned why and how the Gates family started the organization. Examples display methods used to work around the world.

In the “Partnerships” section, displays show how their partners are making progress on tough problems globally and locally. A note about the Gates Foundation’s “partners”: The Foundation doesn’t itself give money to causes, but rather donates funds to various partner organizations through grants, thus allowing far greater dimension to its recipients. On that same note, since the Foundation doesn’t solicit donations, visitors are encouraged to donate to causes that interest them.

The “Theater” features continuing short films about the large variety of projects, ranging from clips of Bill and Melinda to African scenes to agriculture projects in India to school children in the United States. Visitors come and go as they please, viewing as many clips as they desire.

Visitors are invited to solve real-world problems in the”Innovation & Inspiration” room. Computers and other tools are provided to give food for thought and promote ideas.

Connecting these various rooms is a long hallway with a child’s footprints imprinted on the floor. Those footprints demonstrate the distance people, most often women and children, have to carry water from the water’s source to their home, which could be a distance of three miles. Pails are loaded with the approximate weight of water. Visuals such as this drive home the desperate need many countries have for basics that we so often take for granted, such as clean water, sanitation, vaccines, and education.

The Gates Foundation works with partner organizations worldwide to tackle four program areas:

— Global Development Division works to help alleviate the poor from hunger and poverty. The partner organizations help identify and support innovative approaches to reach people’s basic needs for food, healthcare and education.

— Global Health Division helps to advance science and technology by delivering tools for basic health programs, such as vaccines, drugs and diagnostics, plus discover new solutions for on-going health needs such as clean water and sanitation.

— U.S. Program Division’s primary focus is that all students graduate from high school prepared for college. They also address issues of social inequity and poverty in Washington State, where the foundation makes its permanent home.

— Global Policy & Advocacy Division is dedicated to advancing the goals the foundation works to achieve through policy analysis, accountability, and strengthening government relations. Besides the Seattle headquarters, the foundation has a European and Middle East office in London, and offices in China, India, Ethiopia, Nigeria. and South Africa.

Every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is actively doing something about that. If you’re in the Seattle area, take time to visit this impressive visitor center. There is no admission fee. The center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.. For more information visit their website: www.gatesfoundation.org or call (206) 709-3100,

Book Review: Incommunicado by Randall Platt

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Twelve-year-old Jewels Stokes doesn’t have an easy life, but her spunk and determination at least make it interesting. Her brother Rex, a senior in high school and a nerd at that, takes life pretty seriously and mostly thinks his sister is a pest. Their mother hasn’t the best reputation in the small coastal town of Sea Park, Oregon, and the two kids are left pretty much on their own. Jewels has one true and faithful friend, Tommy Kaye, a respected resort owner who has contributed generously to the town.

When Pearl Harbor is bombed on December 7, 1941, people are shocked, but uncertain just what it means. Where is Pearl Harbor, anyway? But when the facts are uncovered and the townspeople realize the Japanese are suddenly their enemy, their rage is directed at Jewels’ friend Tommy Kaye, who is of Japanese ancestry.

The town erupts into paranoia and it’s obvious that Tommy Kaye is in danger. When the FBI gets into the picture, it’s clear that Jewels has to do something to save her friend from what they’re calling “internment” or even prison.

Incommunicado is a fun read, but more than that, it offers a glimpse of what life was like in 1941, and how people reacted to the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The author does a good job of describing mob mentality, of how people get caught up in rumors, and their fear of the unknown. Platt goes into some detail about the precautions people had to take during the war, such as maintaining blackout conditions in coastal towns. She describes gas, food and specific product rationing, and collecting goods needed during the war, such as scrap metal.

Although this book might be considered a coming-of-age story, I found it enlightening and enjoyed this spunky girl’s attempt to make things right during the turmoil of World War II.

To learn more about Incommunicado and author Randall Platt, visit http://www.plattbooks.com/