Category Archives: explorers

Comparison: 2 Survival Movies


My family likes to discuss and analyze movies after we watch them.

There are two fine movies we watched where the theme was survival.

Both movies have been given critical acclaim and awards. They have

outstanding casts and performances. One is about man against the

sea while the other one is astronauts against the odds, up in Space.

My brothers, particularly, are science-oriented, while I am more into

character development and overall “impressions” or “feelings.” I liked

both of these movies, for different reasons. We agreed the following

movies are worth your time, if you have not already seen them:


1.  2013’s “All Is Lost,” with Robert Redford,  playing a man who has

decided to embark on an ocean adventure aboard a boat. It is directed

by J.C. Chandor, who also wrote the intensely fascinating screenplay.

This story is about a veteran and resourceful sailor lost at sea, in the

Indian Ocean, when the movie opens.

Having been a member of Mariner Scouts, co-ed sailing experiences

aboard sailboats on Lake Erie, I know I would not be fully prepared

for being stranded on a lake; let alone the barrage of challenges the

man is faced with in this film.

In most cases, the mariner (R. R.) is able to cope. For example, when

the boat fills up with water, he can use a hand operated pump to get

the water out of the boat. When he wishes to find his location, due

to loss of radio waves, he is forced to use a hand-held sexton. I was

amazed when I looked this navigational instrument up to find how

old this was. Before 1757, the sextant was built differently and was

called an ‘octant.’ Both devices use the angles of the sun’s position

to figure out location. It has to due with comparing two locations,

one can be ‘celestial’ and using the level of the water or the horizon,

as the other ‘fixed’ location. When the character is able to find a ‘busy

section of the ocean,’ which means it is a thoroughfare for water

vehicles, I am amazed.  But I believe this is possible due to his vast

knowledge about the sea. This is called ‘the shipping lanes’ in the

water of the ocean. He compares and measures them, using a map.

He is able to naviagate this way, which they show him carefully

calculating this procedure.


I don’t want to let you know any further details about this movie,

since you may sometime spend a few hours watching this great

actor, showing his ability to literally carry out many of the physical

tasks presented to him, as a strong, older man. Along with “carrying”

the whole movie on his shoulders, as an actor. My youngest brother

took it home from my Mom’s house, (where both brothers, Mom

and I had watched this) so that he could view this one more time.

This expresses something impressive to me. It means it was such a

powerful story, it captivated his interest enough to see it twice in one

weekend.  He will help ‘weigh in’ on the next movie’s review, too.


2.  2013’s “Gravity,” with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney

playing two astronauts with different levels of experience, while

out on a space shuttle proceeding through what was supposed to

be a routine journey.

This movie was co-written by and directed by Alfonso Cuaron. It is

“billed” as a science fiction thriller, but many scenes seem very real

and believable. The astronauts who watched the private screening,

were pleased, overall, with the emotions and the beautiful filmography.

They may have seen some imperfections and mentioned them, along

with flaws in the details. They probably were thrilled to have been

asked along for the ride, since there were not many complaints among


My brothers both had a few times asked to ‘stop the movie,’ to rewind

along with discuss something that seemed to be ‘far-fetched.’ They

really felt the scene where the debris was flying at the astronauts,

shuold have sent them to hide behind the sturdy Hubble spacecraft.

Also, one brother felt that Matt (George Clooney’s character) should

have not been using up his extra energy and jet packs by ‘playing’

and ‘tooling around the stratosphere.’ He is often characterized as

an easy going character, this is true once again in the action movie,

“Gravity.” He has the qualities of ‘laid back’ and confident astronaut

definitely ‘down pat.’ Matt is senior officer and experienced veteran

while Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan is on her first mission. She is

the medical engineer. There were ‘holes’ in her choices, not showing

a strong ability to think ‘outside the box,’ nor being aware of her

surroundings. (She passes some wires that are giving off sparks,

but doesn’t think about potential fire danger. I gave a sharp intake

of breath, with a strong premonition when she did this. It was very

apparent to me; so not sure why Ryan doesn’t notice them.)

There are a lot of loopholes in “Gravity’s” plot. Which if I mentioned

all of them then you may not be surprised when they occur. If you

are like I am, you prefer to hear a short synapsis and not be given too

many plot devices. I am sure that this would not be a good review if I

let you know too much ahead of time. Nor will I reveal the endings of

either movie I am talking about.


Summary of Mom’s and My Opinion on Both Movies:

The way Mom and I are, we were enthralled by the way Earth and

Space looked. The much played comment by Matt (George Clooney)

in movie trailers was (paraphrased), “Enjoy the view.” This would

be our strongest reason to suggest you see, “Gravity.” It is why people

leaving theaters would be so excited. There are many positives that

outweigh the negatives.

When Mom and I watch movies, it takes a major upset to get us

to give up on a movie. We would have probably let the problems

within the scientific and technical realm, ‘go.’

We sometimes sit together, leaning against each other or holding

hands. The excitement and danger in both “All Is Lost” and “Gravity”

seemed quite realistic. We held on tight in several parts of the man

facing eminent death upon the sea and when the astronauts kept

drifting away from secure holds on their positions. Both movies tell

engrossing stories, gripping and holding your attention.


We felt when “Gravity” was finished, (Mom and I) one must suspend

your disbelief and enjoy the adventure of the movie.

When we concluded our discussion about “All Is Lost,” we felt this

could have represented a real person’s experiences. At the end, we

wished we could learn his name. It seemed totally believable, which

makes this movie almost like you could be able to read an autobiography

of this man.




Roses, roots, and thorns


The letters in the word, “rose” can be rearranged to spell “Eros.” How appropriate

that one of the most beautiful flowers has the letters who form the Greek “God of

Love.” The Peace rose was named 50 or more years ago. It is a pale yellow-tinged

rose with pink tipped petals.  Thorns can also help you to reach another letter

combination: “sore.” You may be sore from the needle-like thorns or you may be

sore, filled with heartache. While the rose still gives us light and lovely radiance

in its flowering.


In the 15th century, Henry VI declared a War of Roses. How sad and upsetting to

label anything that is filled with death and killing, with the word, rose, in its title.


In Medieval times, a white rose suspended from the ceiling of a room meant there

would be ‘secrets’ shared or imparted. It designated conversations which must be

totally private. The term, “subrosa,”  means “confidential.”


Roses have been found much longer ago than Medieval times. There were drawings

of flowers on cave walls. Particularly, historically discovered on cave walls, was

a five-petaled “rose” drawing found in Crete during the period of 1450 B.C.


Traveling even farther back in time, roses have been discovered by archaeologists,

in fossilized form. The rocks have been preserved and photographed have come

from the beginning of Earth’s plant life, possibly the oldest ‘flower’ ever. This is

dating back 30 million years ago. One could almost, truthfully, exclaim that roses

have been around forever.


In 76 A.D., the Roman writer named, Pliny, included 30 different remedies and

medicines derived from roses. Roses were used in ancient times for healing wounds,

treating insomnia (rose tea), stomach disorders and “toothaches.” Rose petals also

helped to cover the awful smell of death or illness. By scattering rose petals around

enclosed spaces, you could tolerate the odor of diseases, including the Plague.




In the Talmud, it is written only pink roses were allowed to bloom in Jerusalem.

The city’s name means, “Paradise,” which makes sense the pink roses be there

to fill the air with their aromatic, floral scent. Visually and using senses of all kinds,

to be immersed in Paradise. This is how some gardeners feel in their gardens.


The 13th century rose was brought back to Europe, from the Holy Land crusaders.

This is considered “the Old European” traditional rose. Another ‘root’ history of

the rose is it may have come form Italian travelers, from the Gulf of Salerno. The

trail of the rose, also has possibilities with the Roman Emperors cultivating them

after bringing them back from their Middle East travels.


The Chinese have incorporated roses in their artistry and have been given credit

for those beautiful “tea roses,” since they have for 1000’s of years compared the

scent to the aroma of the hearty tea leaves.


Explorers of the 1800’s, also have been considered ones who brought the first

seedlings of roses from Asia. These explorers brought these to Europe, which

then American settlers brought seeds of all kinds of plants, including seedlings

of roses to our continent. While traveling across the ocean, in 1692, explorers

discovered roses prevented sea-sickness.


The belief of the rose as an aphrodisiac is more than just a romantic novel’s

idea. The appearance of this belief goes back centuries using rose hips as

part of a mood enhancer. The rose hips are also known to have Vitamin

C which is considered a natural way to help prevent depression. It is also

considered to be a way to prevent ‘apathy’ and ‘resignation,’ in books of

old folklore and medicinal texts.


Marie Antoinette’s good friend, Pierre Joseph-Redoute, was a wonderful painter

and artist, along with being one who enjoyed gardening. One of his famous rose

paintings is hung in one of the French Art museums. The artist is known for his

botanical paintings, which have become made into prints for decorating homes,

along with the Palace. In France, roses are included in 12th century cathedral

stained glass windows.


In the story, “Sleeping Beauty,” the rose vines with their thorny protection make

it very difficult for the Prince to wake Beauty from her sleep. The vines grow and

surround the castle while she is deep in slumber.


Withering roses mean that love is transitory and love can fade. There are many

ways the flower is used as a metaphor  in books, poetry and stories. Blue roses

come from a gene from a blue petunia injected into a white rose. I think you may

remember in the play, “The Glass Menagerie,” the brother calls the invalid sister,

“Blue Roses,” which indicate the possibility that she has pleurisy.  Australia was

the country given credit for having the clever horticulturalists and scientists who

managed to ‘create’ this blue rose. Symbolism of the rose would take many pages

of writing, along with intensive research.


When Carl Jung analyzed a rose depicted in a church stained-glass window with a

magical circle surrounding the rose, he described it in quite mythological terms.

Jung said the rose symbolized,

“Our mortal yearnings for Union with the Cosmos.”


Dreamers sometimes are accused of looking through “rose colored glasses,” which at

times, sometimes I prefer them.


The expression, “second hand rose,” may have its roots from the days when Henry II’s

mistress (who would have been considered ‘second class’ or less worthy of his time,

since the wife was given preferential treatment) died an early death. Poor Rosamunda.


Tough times or parts of our life that are challenging make our lives, “No bed of roses.”


“Rosy” cheeks may depict a ‘picture of good health,’ as the children in the Campbell

Soup advertisements display round, rosy cheeks  while they entice us to warm up with

their product.


The oldest living rose bush is the size of a tree. This may be found by a cathedral in

Hildesheim, Germany. There is a historic document which provides proof of it dating

back to possibly 815 A.D. It is considered, “The Thousand Year Old Rose Tree.”

The story or legend of the Lower Saxony, Germany tree, is that during WWII, the

bush caught on fire from Allied bombs. The root system was removed, undamaged.

It is still flourishing and flowering in Hildesheim, Germany.


From the history of roses through the ages, it seems that they are meant to continue

to grow against all odds. While we are meant to benefit not only from their beauty and

romance, but admire their longevity and endurance. The Peace rose radiates its power

of Hope to us all. The rose holds a special place in our lives and it is amazing to learn

from its very existence.

Roses have flourished from the beginning of time and will continue to do so,

until the Earth stops spinning.

~reocochran 2014










Traveling the Rails


My grandkids were ecstatic to have me over last

evening for dinner. Their parents were heading

to parent-teacher conferences. I had some little

‘goody’ packages that had to wait to be opened

until after dinner, of course!

The dinner, I have to brag, was made by my son

and it included hand-dipped chicken breast strips

that were coated in a combination of flour and

crushed French’s onion rings. I had studied this

recipe, part of French’s advertising campaign,

once Thanksgiving is over and all the French

green bean casseroles are off people’s menus,

you may wish to try this one!

We had a lively conversation, talking about

their decorated shoe boxes and how the two

youngest ones, one in a preschool that does

not celebrate any holidays and the other one

too young to head off to preschool, were not

going to get any Valentines’ cards. I smiled

and said not a word.

Psst…shh! I had already packed extra ones

for them, having shared the same thought!

After dinner, since I had worked 9 hours and

was a little tired, I had brought over the

“Cars 2” movie. We watched most of it while

I was there, but left the conclusion for

them to watch after school today. It goes

back to the library in a week.

They opened their cards, while the animated

“commercials” were on, some from me, some

from my family up north, Great Grammie O.

having sent them sweet messages, too.

The movie is set in France, has a spy car

and Italian ‘bully’ race car that is mean

to the main ‘favorite’ one, “Lightning

McQueen” (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his

rusty truck buddy, “Mater” (voiced by Larry

the Cable Guy.) The kids say that the name

“Mater” means how a country person would say

‘tomato.’ I had to ask, since that was a

rather questionable name for a character in

a children’s movie!

If you have not seen the first “Cars” movie,

it is equally delightful and clever. The

World Grand Prix Cup goes to the Italian

car. There are cute jokes, espionage and

the children talked about the country’s

flags, making them interrupt the movie,

we put it on ‘pause,’ to talk about the

Olympics. The Schulz Elementary School,

where Lara and Landen attend, have had a

lot of games in gym class, use of competition

in their spelling bees and also, watched one

Olympic event on television. That was a

skating event for Lara’s class and a skiing

event for Landen’s.

When we had made it to the part about the

Italian car winning, their attention was


We ended up sitting in the kitchen, with

Marley and Kyah (Makyah) sleeping on the

sofa. We talked about songs, sang some of

their favorites. One they had both learned

in school and said, “Nana, you sing this one


It was, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad!”

Well, I do usually sing the middle part, with

the verses that start with, “Someone’s in the

kitchen with …” and in the car, I replace

the word, “Dinah” with my name, then each of

theirs. We have done this for years, when

Skyler was a baby, my other set of grandkids.

In my classroom, I used to sing this after

the Greeting Song, I learned on Romper Room.

(Yes, this takes me back a lot of years!)

The Greeting Song, goes like this,

“Good morning to you, good morning to you,

We’re all in our places, with bright,

shiny faces.

This is the way, to greet a new day!”

Then, we would launch into the verse

of the Working on the Railroad song

with each of their names… This also

helped them to remember each other’s

names, plus the therapists, especially

the SLP loved this about our classroom.

The theme of railroads is a current one

with children and adults. There are trains

to take across the country, there are

short trains to see Santa Claus, and dinner

trains to go on in nearby Kentucky.

My grandchildren enjoy going to Cleveland

to see the trains in big stores and the

two small ones that go around their Grand

Uncle and Grand Aunt’s Christmas tree.

There is one in Cincinnati, I am sure

in a big collection but cannot remember

which location that my grandsons visited

with my first ex-husband, “Poppy” with

his wife, “Mimi.”

Here are four railroads that have been

given the label of “Most Scenic” and

have both comfort in their transportation

and inside cars, and excellent views of


This was taken from Peter Greenberg, who

is known as The Contrarian Traveler, in

AARP Magazine, (May/June, 2009 issue.):

Travel to the country of Norway to use

the Flam Railway. This descends from Myrdal

to the fjords of Flam! You will see waterfalls

and there are lovely scenes of farming

communities. The farmhouses cling to steep

slopes. The Norwegian State Railway is a

longer trip that takes you through glacier-

filled Hardangervidda National Park.

In Mexico, you can rid a longer trip of 408

miles that takes you through tunnels and

over 37 bridges. You pass over the Copper

Canyon (which is four times larger than

the Grand Canyon! Wow!) To stop in a town,

this guide recommends, Divisadero, which

will allow you to get off and view the

beauty and majesty of Mexico’s Copper


The 2,704 miles of Australian countryside

may be viewed on the Indian Pacific railway.

This is a 3 night journey and covers the

whole continent from Pacific to the Indian


You will pass the Blue Mountains, with its

historic mining towns. Another place, The

Ghan Line features views of the Outback’s

landscapes and numerous cattle ranches.

The fourth suggestion of a train trip is

to get on the California Zephyr. It will

take you over 2,438 miles between Chicago

and Emeryville, California. I have mentioned

this trip a few times, in conversations and

to my children and grandchildren, in that

“If I ever won the lottery or someone made

me rich, I would take all of you on this

marvelous trip across our United States!”

You will view the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada,

Mississippi River and Donner Lake. The spa

town of Glenwood Springs, Colorado was also

recommended to rejuvenate oneself and enjoy

your family together time. This is through


Hope your imagination soared!

When my oldest grandson was only 2, he made

a wish to ride a train like Thomas the Train

engine. It is still a popular dream of mine

and his, to take a wonderful family trip.

Get Out and Walk!


Nature and Parks are the best places to be when it is cold and there

is snow on the ground. Bundle up! Wear layers and boots, sometimes, if

they are not waterproof, I will wear two pairs of socks and a bread

bag on each foot, inside my boots! This really insulates and protects

your toes. Even the “best quality” boots can be water permeable, unless

you have the proverbial ‘rubber boots!’ Andrea Cambern, a former news

and television broadcaster initiated a Central Ohio program for the

parks here, aptly titled, “Commit to be fit!” hope this post will serve

you well, in its inspiration and getting you in an active frame of mind.

I went for a walk on New Year’s Day with someone I had not seen for

awhile. My schedule opened up after I dropped my granddaughters off,

and I had buoyed spirits, full of ‘bon vivant’ and jovial feelings.

Extra energy was pouring out of my pores! I answered the cell phone,

somewhat with trepidation, half with excitement. Yes, I would meet

at a park, half distance from his place to mine. We met at the Genoa

Township Park, walking fairly quickly, admiring the fact the temps

were in the ‘double digits’ and the sun was shining! What a great

sign of a wonderful new year in each of our separate, but somehow

connected, lives.

Conversation bounced from grandkids to work schedules, veering off

into our ongoing, continued friendships and relationships with the

opposite sex. I had not been able to see Bill today, I said, due

to his college football scheduling conflicts. He had promised me

“dainty treats at Starbucks café” and was going back on his word!

I was making sure the other party did not think I was ‘desperate’

nor lacking entertainment. I also mentioned I was going home with

an appetite later for my son’s pork roast, daughter in law’s baked

three cheese and macaroni casserole and the requisite sauerkraut.

All, to me, the best meal to begin one’s new year and give you a

bit of good luck, too. After walking, I would not feel guilty about

the large meal. I would be ready to consume it all, deliciously,

lounging on the sofa with a pile of movies rented from the library.

This man is in a relationship, not married nor engaged, but tied up

none the less, waiting for morsels of her time over the holidays.

Her ex-husband provides housing, you see, for her sister and brother

in law, therefore the fun after holidays game playing period, ends

up at his house. Also, for New Year’s Day, all had some kind of

dinner planned, again excluding the present boyfriend. I ‘tut-tut’

and give a few sympathetic ‘too bad’s’ but am secretly a little bit

happy, is that kind to say? I mean, we were broken up by this said

woman, now he did what my Dad would declare from time to time:

“You made your bed, now lie in it!” (By the way, one must not use

the word “lay,” since that is the word meant to be used as “to place

an object” somewhere, not a body! I learned this from my frequent

error of saying in front of my mother, the English grammarian and

teacher, “I like to ‘lay out’ in the sun!” Horrors! My Mom would get

all wound up with a lecture about that one, even to this forgetful

and feeble minded day! Huge smiles at that memory!)

We saw some birds take off in the woods, heard and saw some scampering

squirrels, along with my special bird of choice, several male red

cardinals, along with their yellowish, brown mates on our walk.

We breathed deeply, listening to the crunching sound of our boots

on the path, giving pauses in our lively conversation.

Anyway, here are some interesting historical facts about the parks

and recreation areas that make us all so lucky to be in our fabulous

United States!

In June, 1864, almost 150 years from this time, Abraham Lincoln signed

into effect, a bill creating the “world’s first public, government-run

park!” This was, of course, the beginning of the Yosemite Park.

Then, eight years later, (1872), Yellowstone National Park became the

first National Park! (It apparently was not government funded totally,

and the name National Park was added to Yellowstone.)

In 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed into legislation the federal organization

known as the National Park Service.

Wallace Stegner, Pulitzer Prize winning author, called this, “America’s

best idea.” Another great author and screenwriter/producer/director,

Ken Burns’ documentary, “The National Parks” can be rented and seen in

your home on several discs.

A couple of years ago, for only $80, one could purchase an annual pass

(or an even better purchase, for a person over 62 years, only $10 will

buy you a lifetime pass!) This pass will get you access to 395 national

parks and cultural highlights of our nation.

I watched, “Miss Potter,” an excellently written, portrayed and amusing

movie again recently. If you have not seen it, it’s a charming movie that

tells all about the naturalist, conservationist, author and illustrator.

Renee Zewelleger and Ewan McGregor do admirable jobs in portraying these

real people.

Beatrix Potter made a lot of money selling her books with her darling

drawings, with watercolors. This was rare for women in her day. You may know

her more from her drawings of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Squirrel

Nut-kin. The movie also has some whimsy, in that the drawings become moving

and wriggling animated creatures that Beatrix talks to. Loved this aspect of

it! After all, we all kind of coax our living animals and talk like they are

people, along with talking to our characters in our stories.

She also illustrated all varieties of nature, including mice, bats, insects,

and fungi. She left, when she died in 1943 her inheritance to the National

Trust, hundreds of acres of land to be kept as nature preserves in England.

These are located in the Lake District National Park. For years to come,

they will protect the land from construction and other forms of ‘progress’

ruining it.

I know every country, in the world, has beautiful landscapes, parks and

historical features to be seen and treasured. The birds and wildlife can

be observed, the paths usually kept walkable, so if you are not from the

U.S. go out, discover and explore your parks! Tell us about your favorite

locations, if you would like.

There is not many things one can do to get that exhilarating thrill of a

speedy, quick paced walk with a friend, sharing and catching up on each

other’s lives. The cold air on your face will not freeze it off, you may

even get some sun on it, so put protective lotion on with SPF in it!

I have only three books to recommend in this post today, I hope that by

taking them out at your library, purchasing them online, at a local book

store or one of my favorite ‘bargain places,’ Half Price Books.

1. Lonely Planet’s “Discover USA’s Best National Parks,” (500 pages). This

is a fantastic guidebook and a great coffee table book. It includes full color

photographs and important details, including costs, lodging and other neat,

helpful information.

2. “Ranger Confidential: Living, Working and Dying in the Parks,” (265 pages).

The author, an actual Park Ranger, Andrea Lankford, tells in both a humorous

tone and a serious one, all about her experiences. This non-fiction book also

gives you a scary statistic; that a Park Ranger has fifteen times more chances

of dying in his/her position than an FBI agent!

3. “Ansel Adams’ in the National Parks,” (344 pages). The famous black and

white iconic photographer, is featured with his pictures of the parks, dating

back from the 1940’s. You have seen the most famous photographs of Yosemite Park,

Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Tetons, but the ones that will be also

fascinating to you, will be ones of over forty other parks that he photographed.

Hope this post and its facts, books and thoughts about nature will get you

moving towards the great outdoors! Communing with Mother Nature may be the way

to keep a few of your resolutions and keep your sanity, too.

Follow Your Bliss


Andrew McCarthy was one of my ‘heroes’ in movies of the 90’s.

He was a quiet, unassuming young man in some of them, the

best friend in others, along with being the love interest

in “Pretty In Pink.” (My daughters grew up watching him and

I was always glad he kept his actions, for the most part,

clean cut and decent. There were several including “St. Elmo’s

Fire” where he was included in a group that was called the

“brat pack,” which was different by a generation from the

“Rat Pack” which included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

In both groups, carousing and drinking was an element, for

some, they were mostly going through a phase but Andrew

McCarthy admits to being an alcoholic and becoming sober in


Andrew made his ‘fortune’ in movies, then went on to become

a director, along with his new pursuit of being a travel

writer for “National Geographic Traveler.” It has been a

year since he had his book published, “The Longest Way

Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down.”

In this book, he uses an unusual approach with his travel

writing, going through his anecdotal life’s journey up

until he took off to explore the world. He uses his varied

experiences as actor, director and writing production

scenes to look at the way nature, history, and landmark

places fit into his world view.

He likes more the idea of the journey, rather than the

outcome. He likes meeting varied peoples, like when he

rode along with hundreds of Brazilians in hammocks,

their scenery the length of the Amazon River.

He enjoyed a two month long trip through 7 countries

to see, from South Africa through to Tanzania. There

are photographs, for readers that like visuals, in his

gorgeous book. In 2005, he took his 8 year old son to

the Sahara Desert. The vastness of the sand, his seeing

the distinctive mountains of sand, had an impact on his


Another wonderful and life-changing trip was on the

“Camino de Santiago,” which begins in France and crosses

the Pyrenees Mountains, and ends in Santiago de Compostela.

He felt that trip ‘changed his life,’ probably the most.

(Read more about this, and other travels in his book or

in book reviews!) His discoveries in Laos, Cmabodia and

Viet Nam ‘thrilled him.’

In a quotation that reveals Andrew McCarthy’s world view

and philosophy:

“People don’t travel because they’re afraid. I don’t think

it’s (about) time. I think it’s fear. If we traveled the

world, we’d be less fearful of people, and if we were less

fearful then, the world would react to us less fearfully.

My goal is to change the world, one trip at a time.”

Andrew’s “hero” and mentor for his trips goes back to Mark

Twain’s cross country, American journeys in his lifetime.

Here is one of McCarthy’s favorite Twain quotation:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”

Andrew McCarthy, also a husband and father, sometimes feels

‘lonely’ at home. He tries to explain ‘loneliness’ to others

by saying it is like missing opportunities and adventures.

Compared to being on the road, where he never feels ‘alone.’

Because of seeking and finding others in places that he will

learn more about, loneliness is different during his travels.

There is an expectancy and excitement to being away from home,

in an unfamiliar place. Although I did not see the word ‘bliss’

anywhere in his reviews or interviews, I feel Andrew McCarthy

has found just that.

How will you find your ‘bliss’ in this new year of 2014?

Be Prepared to “Weep” for Winged Creatures…


Have you ever heard of the Carolina parakeet, the only native parrot to

the U.S.? I hadn’t either. There is a sad story why you haven’t heard of

them. These birds have a small place in the our country’s history. They

were sweet, yellow-headed parakeets and their homes ranged from the

states of Florida to Michigan during Colonial days.

Lewis and Clark were ones who included them in their travel diaries.

They spied them on a tributary of the Kansas River. The birds flocked

in large numbers, sometimes up to 3o0! Imagine the shock or startled

expressions on the faces of the ones who were traveling in Northern

American and seeing what you might expect in the tropics!

The Conestoga wagons carrying people west and south, saw these

lovely winged creatures, bright and cheery in their appearance.

A report of a large flock on a southern Louisiana bayou was made

as far back as 1895. When the sun rose, the description details the

birds rose in a “clamor in a stand of black mulberries.”

Parrots and parakeets are considered “conures.” (Latin name:

conuropsis carolinensis.) Farmers, unfortunately protecting their

berry crops and also seeking food sources, shot them. They wanted

the fruit supplies and found them an annoyance.

Parrots are defined as a “bright colored tropical bird of a family

characterized by a strong hooked bill, by toes arranged in pairs with

two in front and two behind, often with ability to mimic speech.”

Parakeets (or parrakeets) are “any of numerous small slender parrots

with a long pointed tail. Spanish- “periquito” from Middle French,


Early European explorers were known also for killing, cooking and

eating macaws. Some gorgeous species were found in the Caribbeans

and on the island of Guadaloupe in the Lesser Antilles, their colors

being a gorgeous “hyacinth” (macaw) with a rich cobalt blue coat of

feathers and “Lear’s” macaw with an aquamarine variation have

been slaughtered into extinction.

Poor parakeets were the victims of firearms unfortunately and

sadly killed by the 100’s in the United States. They are known

for their curiosity and their comradely acts, sticking by ones who

are sick or felled. They showed no fear of the farmers’ aims and

sometimes stayed behind, getting themselves killed along the way.

John James Audubon, known for his books, the magazine using

his name and his exquisite drawings, killed dozens of the golden

parakeets. He would bring home bushel baskets of the dead birds

to provide the “models” for his beautiful and well recognized sketches.

The last Carolina parakeet on record was named “Uncas.” Using James

Fenimore Cooper’s Indian character’s name. This Uncas was known as

“The Last of the Mohicans.” How appropriate a name for such a fine

and lovely winged “angel.” Uncas was kept in the Cincinnati, Ohio zoo

and died in 1918.

As a person who has a bird name, Robin, I have held birds in my heart

for all my life. I have collected feathers, especially since my Grandpa

died and beat his beak upon my window in 1980. (Story is held in the

post, “Cardinals carry special messages”). I think this story emphasizes

once more how very self-centered mankind can be, sometimes not

thinking or looking ahead to the future of our world. The gifts given by

our Higher Being, God, Mother Nature or if you don’t believe in such,

even still we have gifts here to appreciate. I would have loved to see

flocks of Carolina parakeets, their golden brilliance shining in the sun-

rise or sunset! We are very short-sighted in so many ways, when you

ponder all the baby seals, buffaloes, big wild cats and other creatures

that are killed for sometimes just for their skins, leaving carcasses

behind. In the case of the wild parakeets, there were not even meals

made of the birds. Did we not also get created, made to have the finer

brain to help protect and guard all the creatures.

Thinking of the beauty of the Carolina parakeets and singing a sad

tribute in my head. What comes to mind is Michael Jackson’s “Earth

Song” with its mournful lyrics and eerie vocals.

I hope the birds found a lovely place and peace while flying with the other

winged angels in Heaven.

Reminds me of Psalm 91:4 in the Bible:

“He will cover you with his feathers.

He will shelter you with his wings.

His faithful promises are your armour and


There is absolutely nothing to fear about


For God is already there.”

November Story


“The First Thanksgiving” is more than a great book about Thanksgiving,

it is one that encompasses Plymouth Rock and how the area first got

settled. I read this with my oldest three grandchildren, one is 9 and

the others are 8 years old. It was written in 1993, by Jean Craighead

George and illustrated by Thomas Locker.

This book starts out with lovely and dark “paintings” of Cape Cod and

it describes how the mountains of gravel came from the Ice Age that

deposited along the coast of New England. It tells that above the top

of the gravel, the glacier deposited huge boulders from distant places.

This became known as Plymouth Harbor.

The unusual facts about the boulders, include how they are called

“Dedham granite” and they are believed to have arrived from Africa

over 200 million years ago. This is when the continents, scientists say,

broke apart and floated to their current locations.

The largest rock, all 200 tons of it, is described:

“It came to rest in lonely splendor, on a sandy beach in a cove.

This boulder is Plymouth Rock.”

Somehow, years later, this area became inhabited by the Pawtuxets,

a tribe of the Wampanoag:  “The People of the Dawn.”

Their customs included thanking Mother Earth for Her harvests of corn,

beans, squash and pumpkins. They hunted deer, turkey and fished the

ocean and streams. Their celebration annually was named the “Green

Corn Dance” which lasted many days.

In the 1600’s, Englishmen arrived on big ships killing animals with guns

and kidnapped some of the Wampanoag men for slaves. Indians were

afraid of the newcomers, white men, with their loud weapons.

On man tricked to come aboard a ship with the 17 Pawtuxet men, was

named Squanto. His life is complicated, being traded from England to

Spain to eventually Newfoundland, sailing back to London and then

finally back to New England (America) in 1619. When he arrived back

and saw his village, many tears were wept for the homes were merely

skeletons and the mighty crops were reduced to weeds.  All of his

people he believed were dead of European plague.

I thought I might “pause” in this devastatingly real and sad story to

tell you that the grandkids were fascinated. I asked if they were a

little sad, they said, “Yes, but Nana, tell us the rest of the story!”

Squanto traveled northward to Maine, where he joined the tribe

named Massasoit. They were a branch of the Wampanoag Indian

community where he felt accepted.

During this time, over in England, King Jame I was making everyone

join the Church of England. There was a group of people known as

the Puritans, who when they traveled across the ocean, became

known as the “Pilgrims.” Their great ship was called the “Mayflower.”

Their arrival to the New World, was on December 11, 1620. They

landed on Plymouth Harbor beach. The sight of Plymouth Rock.

Once ithe Pilgrims arrived,  they called the natives or citizens that

belonged there, “savages.”

Their Governor John Carver and the Pilgrims all struggled through

the winter, until they were able to plant the seeds they had brought.

The women planted English herbs in “kitchen gardens.” The men

dug deeper into the land, creating huge gardens of vegetables,

wheat and barley.

Samoset, a Massasoit Ambassador, traveled to greet the Pilgrims

in English. They formed a “Peace Treaty” and the Massasoits stayed

in Rhode Island, while Squanto stayed behind in Plymouth.

Squanto showed the men how to catch hibernating eels, showed

them where the herring ran in the Spring, and taught them how

to make “weirs” and nets to catch cod and salmon. He also showed

them how to put herring in the holes they dug for planting, along

with 4-5 corn kernels in the soil. This was not noted as “first use

of fertilizer” but I thought this was very interesting, as did the kids!

The seeds that Squanto shared were considered by historians, ones

from ancestors as far away as Mexico and Peru. These included corn,

squash and pumpkins.

Squanto also taught them where to hunt for the turkeys, showed them

leaf nests of squirrels adn the hideouts of skunks and raccoons. The

Pilgrims were shown where there were blueberry patches to pick from.

In the Late Spring, meadows were filled with wild strawberries where

the children could pick also, sweet roots of Jerusalem artichoke.

In the Mid Summer, cranberry bogs and gooseberry patches’ locations

were shown and shared.

In September, chestnuts, hickory nuts and hazelnuts were found on the

ground under their trees.

The boys were taught how to make dugout canoes and paddle out into

the sea to set lobster pots, made of reeds and sinew. There were all

kinds of edible creatures in the tidal pools to show the Pilgrims, too.

Philosophy of the Native Americans which is the tenet in why Squanto

shared his learnings:

“The Land did not belong to the people; People belong to the Land.”

Such a peaceful and meaningful message right there!

When the following harvest came, after all that Squanto had taught

the Pilgrims, they felt the need to rejoice and invite the Massasoits

to join them in a Feast. Governor William Bradford sent a message

of invitation and the response was 90 guests! For three days they

shared the Feast, played games and the Pilgrims shared their guns

in contests. The Native Americans shared their bows and arrows,

using targets to just enjoy the harvest.

When I heard of the games, shooting for pleasure and the many

dishes that they ate, I thought, WE should do this, too! How many

people sit down and watch football or some form of stationary

activities after they eat their Thanksgiving dinner? We all should

hike around, play games and enjoy each other’s company!

The end of the book summarizes that the Pilgrims called this day a

“Harvest Feast” and the Native Americans called it the “Green Corn

Dance.” They must have included dancing, but the book did not

mention it specifically, it did not show any dancing in the beautiful

painted pictures.

President George Washington declared and named the first national

Proclamation of celebrating Thanksgiving during his Presidency.

President Abraham Lincoln named the annual day of Thanksgiving

to be the last Thursday of November and called it a day of

“thanksgiving and praise.”

In my family, we include two types of meats, two types of dressings,

usually more grilled or fresh vegetables lately (not so many casseroles)

and our big splurges on calories and not so healthy food are lots of

pies and two kinds of potatoes, both baked. Sometimes I will drive

home from my brother and sister in law’s house in Cleveland missing

my Mom as I drive. She and my brothers and sometimes my sister in

law’s children will be there but the rest of my own family are back in’


After my “goodbyes,” I head directly to my son’s house, where Jamie

and Trista still serves green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, corn

pudding, hamburger mixed in with onions in the stuffing, sweet potato

casserole with marshmallows and pecans mixed in. We finish our meal

with pumpkin pie served with whipped cream in a can (not Cool Whip.)

We eat white rolls with real butter, too!

What are some of your favorite foods, your traditions and if you are

from another country, do you have a harvest time meal?