Thursday, September 30, 2010


Having spent 7 months crossing the United States, enjoying its parks, its beauty, great stretches of  barely inhabited land, fields full of grain, tree fruits, nuts, berries, beautiful lakes, bridges... what a great country this is. Puzzling, though, we sometimes  parked  near a pond or woods and did not see or hear a bird or an insect. Strange. Not even a mosquito.
 Sightings of wild animals in the South and West were better, but even then, mostly in protected parks. In the East where population is denser, we saw squirrels, chipmunks, foxes, and deer. Frogs only in protected gardens.

 Underneath all this visible beauty survival is precarious for jaguars, Florida panthers, many birds, whales, turtles...the list seems endless. But one danger, we can do something about easily. The Center for Biological Diversity offered this thoughtful science to hunters, and gun users everywhere. Lead ammunition puts humans and wildlife at risk. That surprised me.

California condors were brought back from the brink of extinction starting with efforts in 1996 at a tremendous cost. These majestic birds began dying at unusually high rates since their heroic rescue. Scientific studies traced it to lead poisoning from hunting and fishing. Condors are carrion eaters and just one abandoned lead ridden carcass or gut pile can poison several birds and cause death. Other scavengers, Owls, hawks, eagles and vultures are impacted. Small birds  mistake lead pellets or fishing tackle for grit or seed. Birds at risk  include pheasant, grouse, songbirds, waterfowl and wading birds, as well as golden eagles, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, peregrine falcons, all are poisoned by lead if they encounter it. People who eat deer and elk or other game shot with lead ammunition are ingesting tiny fragments of lead from shattered bullets. Fragments  too small for the human eye to see.  Lead is a neurotoxin that affects children at very low levels.
For hunters and fishermen, its an easy fix. Choose lead free bullets and tackle. Lead ammo has been banned in California. It doesn't ban hunting or fishing, just the lead. So, if you get a chance to support a vote for banning lead bullets in your state, support it. Then we can always appreciate these gorgeous beauties.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Growing up in the country gave me a deep appreciation for the critters we share the planet with. On our trip, I can't say we viewed a lot of wildlife, but we did run into these gorgeous pelicans in Venice, LA.
Our campsite was visited by this group of javelinas at Big Bend National Park in Texas.
Also this handsome coyote, fearless in bright daylight.
In Louisiana's Bayou Signette State Pk. a busy armadillo regularly passed through the campsites. 
At Jean LaFitte National Park, this beautiful fat squirrel. 
 This picture was also from Jean LaFitte. Its always a thrill to see wildlife. (More on this tomorrow.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


All of us have been victims of having medicine prescribed for us that turned out to be wrong or useless. Some of us have been prescribed medication that was harmful. So, does it surprise you to know that 115 million people are hospitalized and more than 100,000 people die each year from largely preventable adverse reactions to drugs? I was stunned by that number. How can this be?  Plus, many of those drugs should not have been prescribed in the first place.
 This information comes from the Public Citizen Health Research Group April 2010 Vol. 26, No.4. Their website is: 
Public Citizen is a well respected non-profit organization that tells it like it is. I'm surprised at the amount of misinformation I get in emails from well meaning friends about diets, herbal treatments, food supplements, politics, and any number of subjects we are all common to. Sometimes I think we are an anti-scientific people. We will buy into anything that sounds plausible without thinking about the science of it. I'm guilty as well.  Reading Public Citizen's Newsletter helps me stay on top of things.

Public Citizen regularly publishes products that have been recalled such as dangerous toys, items that crack or break when used according to directions, fuel pumps that leak, drug labeling mix-ups, drugs that have missing ingredients in them, tools that don't work as described, good drugs and bad drugs, contraband drugs that have been diluted on the black market, etc. They provide a wealth of useful, in depth,  information on many subjects. A friend once told me, Mary, you are so smart. Not true. I read smart.

Some years back, our local newspaper, the Calaveras Enterprise,  made National news because they published the names of sex offenders in our county. Apparently, it had never been done before.

I guess my wish list is this:

Major newspapers should publish the amount of money each political candidate running for election receives from corporations in bold print on a corner of the front page. And  those who have not fully reported where they get their money.

They should publish products that don't meet standards.

They should publish untruths passed as truth from their major competition-the broadcast news.

I could go on and on what I think the most valuable function of a newspaper is. But then, we have an alternative, publications like Public Citizen that do not profit from advertising and contributions from leveraging corporations.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Things can take a great juxtaposition in your life. These two crows sat side by side eating a piece of meat of some sort. After reading about a "murder of crows" and why they are named such as a group, (my blog of Aug. 28, 09)  I've been fascinated by them. These two sat side by side and shared their find companionably.

The photo below, from my new favorite artist, Chester Arnold, who confronts the exploitation of earth in his work, also provided a poem about ravens to accompany his painting entitled Two Ravens.  His two ravens are present in a desolated, destroyed, defoliated landscape, directly contributed to by the hand of man. He may be suggesting that man and raven are similar predators? My photo was taken the morning before I visited his exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art.
 In any case, I thought this old English poem quite an appropriate accompaniment to his painting. This painting is still for sale from the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco.


As I was walking all alane,
I heard two corbies making a mane:
The tane into the other say,
"Where sall we gang and dine today?"

"In behint yon auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight:
And naebody kens that he lies there,
But his hawk, his hound and lady fair.

"His Hound is to the hunting gane,
His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
His lady ta'en another mate,
So we may mak our dinner sweet.

"Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
And I'll pick out his bonny blue een:
Wi ae lock o' his gowden hair
We'll thick our nest when it grows bare.

"Mony a one for him makes mane,
But nane sall ken where he is gane:
O'er his white banes when they lie bare,
The wind sall blaw for evermair."

Sunday, September 26, 2010


One of the advantages of living on the road is less housework, no yard work and more time to read. And, I love it!  Even so, deciding to read a book like A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, takes a commitment.

 Its physically bigger than a normal novel in size; thicker, as well, at slightly over two inches. And, the print is smaller than a regular novel with a whopping 1474 pages. (Compared below.) 

Its the only book I've ever read that has the table of contents in poetic form. Also, his tribute and thank you is a delightful poem and I'm going to reprint it here.

     To these I owe a debt past telling;
     My several muses, harsh and kind;
     My folks, who stood my sulks and yelling,
    And (in the long run) did not mind;
     Dead legislators, whose orations
     I've filched to mix my own potations;
     Indeed, all those whose brains I've pressed,
     Unmerciful, because obsessed;
     My own dumb soul, which on a pittance
     Survived to weave this fictive spell;
     And, gentle reader, you as well,
     The fountainhead of all remittance.
     Buy me before good sense insists
     You'll strain your purse and sprain your wrists.

I said commitment because even in the motor home where I can easily read a book or two a week, this wonderful story is not a light read. Its a novel surrounding four families, Hindi and Muslim. But more than a novel, it is history, imbued with real people we know. It is set during the 1950's when India is experiencing Independence from British rule. You experience this book, the clash of generations, from the traditional ways to new ideas; both exciting and painful, exhilarating and difficult. It deals with the politics, religions, social hierarchy, and fascinating traditions of India with its biases, superstitions, varied religious beliefs, death, marriage, mixed marriage, money, laws, agriculture, food, clothing, manners, family relations, work, business, detail with great warmth and affection. Its a saga that is educational and exciting as you wonder who Lata will marry; the man she loves? Or the man her mother has chosen for her? Will India ever overcome the caste system? Will Muslim and Hindu live peaceably side by side in acceptance?  There is so much of the normal upper and middle class here that we never hear about. Its always the teeming slums of Calcutta, or the famous pacifist Mahatma Gandhi that we hear about.
I plan to visit India and I'm so glad I read this book first. Try it, to enhance your understanding and provide you with calamities, gossip, spectacles and excitement that will linger in the mind. Then watch The Slumdog Millionaire, which we did, last night.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Home has its responsibilities. Even though there are no lawns to mow, repairs are ever with us. My balcony surface was leaking and needed a makeover with a new product. It's supposed to last 15 years without re-surfacing. Hope it does. Rick Osmundson is sanding and preparing for the new product.
Each time I return after a long time on the road, I have tons of mail. I've switched to communicating everything on-line. For the first time, I was able to get through all of  my mail in one day. Hooray!  That is, without counting the magazines. I've promised to read one a day. Kind of like vitamins. They'll soon disappear.
 When I flew back to the Motor Home in July, this doe was fat and pregnant. She has since given birth and they decorate my senses while browsing through my yard. I don't mind that they eat my strawberries and petunias. They can manage a peach and ptuii, spit out the pit like old pros. I have plenty to share. Food comes easier to me than them, so we are not at war.
I expect to be home through Christmas and the New Year.

Friday, September 24, 2010


The road West of Reno had over a mile of narrow passage for roadwork and I was grateful that Jim was driving. The Sierra's are beautiful, the weather was balmy and nice for the last stretch to home.
There is a song with these words: Far away places with strange sounding names,
                                                   Calling, calling, me!
The strange soundings names disappeared as we entered more familiar territory on Highway 80. It occurred to me that what is familiar to me is just as exotic to someone else, like Sparks, Dutch Flat, Heather Glen, Blue Canyon, and flumes.
 The flumes hug the hillsides on the Western slope of the Sierras. Whenever we have out of state visitors, they are quite curious about the flumes. I've seen them in the wintertime around Truckee with icicles five and six feet long.
The snowshed is also visible in several different places. The sheds cover the train to make passage possible in the winter.
Another familiar sight, logging trucks with skinny logs these days. We saw one in Colorado as well.
My last stop before home?  Pick up my Prius from my daughter's house and visit with family. Grandsons Theo and Owen have two new family members, Lyra and Luna. Named for a star and moon.
I visited a couple hours before heading up to Murphys in the foothills above Sacramento.
The boys are now earning their spending money by collecting and selling owl pellets. Its a bit hard to relate to a Lemonade Stand, or walking the dog. But, science classes use them and they are glad to get them. The world is an ever changing place.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Yesterday, I visited the Nevada Museum of Fine Arts. Its changed considerably since my last visit. Bigger, new location in a beautiful modern building. No pictures are allowed inside but the roof sculpture garden and outside pieces will give you an idea of the quality of this museum.

This rock man seems to be doubled over in pain. A closeup even shows his rock fingers.
This beautiful sculpture is huge, as you can imagine. Remembering that outdoor work has to be weatherproof, it amazes me the physical work and ingenuity of pieces like this one.
I love the Inhale Exhale polished stone bench. You can sit on them and have lunch. They are of course best viewed without picnickers, but people enjoy sitting outside on this unique usable art.

The following piece was purchased and moved from Burning Man. (Not this year's event.) The docent explained to me they wished they could have purchased the stacked semi trucks sculpture but it was just too big. The semi's were open to climbing and kids were all over the thing. Makes me want to renew my commitment to attend  Burning Man some year.

An inside exhibit featured a metal artist named Bentson. He had his whole studio on display, with videos on  how he works. He calls himself a "blue collar artist" since he welds and hefts and brazes metal into pieces like this one from the roof top.

I liked it with the buildings as a back drop.
This stone sculpture, besides its uniqueness and beauty, holds water in a narrow rivulet and birds fly in and out to drink from it. .

A driftwood horse? It only appears to be driftwood. It is made of bronze and imitates driftwood. Driftwood for a permanent exhibit would be vulnerable to hands and weathering. 

Reno's downtown lampposts are artistically designed and beautiful. This one identifies the Arts District. Cool!

When I first looked at the indentation on this bench, it struck me as a spot for a shorter child to sit. Except, on looking closer, I see it was designed to miss the electric plug. Usable art design with an on the spot variation to fit,  tickles me.

From the roof, the views of Reno are refreshing, with the hills all around. Very enjoyable. Even so, the Museum has a Picasso, a Lichtenstein and many innovative and questing pieces. But one room was devoted to Chester Arnold. The exhibit is named, On Earth As It Is In Heaven. An amazing collection of mostly room sized paintings, vivid and thought provoking. His pieces have a message about America that  speaks to our proclivity for altering the natural landscape and questioning if we balance our exploitation with what is good for humanity. This exhibit is a must see.
His website has little icons that get bigger when you click on them. They don't reveal the power of his room  sized pieces, however.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Most cities are different during the day than at night. But the contrasts in Reno are greater. My goal yesterday  was the Museum of Fine Arts on Liberty Street. Since Jim and Randy went off to see what is left of Bill Harrah's Auto Collection, I decided high art would be my game. Unfortunately, the museum was closed.  I roamed around town, poking my head in here and there. The Spy Shop intrigued me. The owner told me he had surveillance stuff and self defense items of every kind for men and women. Not my cup of tea, but I loved the sign.
 Speaking of my cup of tea, this pretty blue teapot caught my eye in an Antiques Mall. There was so much stuff crammed in the place, with 180 vendors, you could hardly see anything, except in  the furniture section.
I liked these chairs, but, they don't fit in a motor home. Living in a motor home squelches your impulse purchases, which I like.
This steel sculpture resembles a giant fish and I liked it. Its better seen in its grand scheme as it sits in front of the Reno Court House.
I was tempted to visit Filthy McNasty's just for the hell of it. The name made me chuckle, but I wasn't in the mood for a brew just then. Instead I returned home to program  my new Digital Picture Frame I bought yesterday.
 Reno at night is another world. The strip, only a shadow of its former self, is still a wealth of neon glitz. There was a time when it was considered garrish, and rightly so. It fits the whole concept of risque mystique. The sideshows, gambling, girls, burlesque, high rollers, rich and famous headliners, music, cards, money, slots, dice, cheap eats, elegant dining, topless dancing... excitement. Reno called everyone before Vegas came of age.
The  arch was my very first view of Reno from the passenger train that moved our family from Milwaukee to California in 1954.
The adult caberets...
Betting the horses, the football games, you name it...
The best show...

The best food...

The best bet...

The best fun...
The best hotel...
A bank on every corner and in Reno, money to loan is "Lucky" money.
My husband loved to gamble. It was one of his favorite towns and I was surprised at how many cherished memories I have of this gutsy city of thrills.