A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

This book has a lot of fascinating information about the complex lives, habits, and survival strategies of trees. The author makes very good arguments that trees learn and feel, that they communicate with and help each other—attributes that make them seem a lot more like animals than I'd ever suspected.

It's very detailed (for a layperson), and sometimes repetitive, which makes the pacing quite slow—much like the pacing of trees, I suppose. That's not to say it's dull. Just take it in slowly. The structure of the book makes this easy, presenting the information in short essay-like chapters that can be read alone.

It's very heavy on the type of trees that grow in the author's forest--so it's a little narrow--but he's an expert THERE, and doesn't pretend to be otherwise.


A very enriching book.



Sunday, December 24, 2017


I made traditional Czech Christmas dinner today (Czechs do Christmas on Dec 24). 

Okay...so it wasn't totally traditional, since I didn't keep a carp in my bathtub for a couple of days and then fry it up myself. But we did have fish and Czech-style potato salad. My family thought the potato salad (with peas and carrots) would be weird, but they all really liked it.  

The most traditional soup as an appetizer on Christmas is fish soup, but quite a few of my friends do mushroom soup instead.  Maybe the people in the region where I lived are particularly good mushroom hunters.  Anyway, I made mushroom soup with mushrooms I picked and dried myself in the Czech Republic.

Then we rang a bell and turned to the Christmas tree to see what Ježíšek (baby Jesus) had brought us.

It all reminded me of a lovely Christmas I spent with a dear friend in the Czech Republic.  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

My short story, "Foolish Promises," on Timeless Tales


My short story--a Rumpelstiltskin retelling with a twist--is available on Timeless Tales.  If you want to read it free, go here:  https://www.timelesstalesmagazine.com/rumpelstiltskin

They also did audio versions of the stories, and I thought the reader did a really good job with mine.  The voices are awesome.  If you want to listen to the story, you can get access to the current issue for $5 through the Timeless Tales website. 

Enjoy the story!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tubac Presidio Schoolhouse

The classic one-room schoolhouse at Tubac Presidio:


Here are some punishments for bad little boys and girls in 1848.  Notice how fighting and quarreling earn you 5 lashes.  The heinous offense of boys and girls playing together earns 4.  But the worst thing...the crime that gets you 10 lashes...is...gasp...playing cards.   Oh, the horror.


A stove like my dad remembers (he also remembers the chairs above):


The Tubac Presidio is an awesome place with all sorts of interesting history and juicy stories.  See my next couple of posts. 

Tubac is south of Tucson, just a few miles north of the border to Mexico.  The Presidio is a State Park, and the modest entrance fee is well worth it.  http://www.tubacpp.com/

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Butterflies in Tubac

These wild butterflies (and one bee) were practically posing for me on the grounds of the Tubac Presidio, southern Arizona. 




Friday, December 8, 2017

The Already-Built Wall--Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico

Here's the wall that divides the town of Nogales into two countries. 





Maybe not so beautiful, but some people might take comfort that at least it's big.  I, however, just think it's sad.  As the artists at the local art museum said, "the wall should be a bridge." 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sahuaro National Park--East

Here are some pictures from my little walk around the Cactus Forest of Sahuaro National Park East (Rincon District).  There were so many types of cactus! 

A giant chainfruit cholla, with prickly pear on the side and a youngish sahuaro hiding in the back to the right.

A barrel cactus with lots of fruit next to a palo verde tree with an old saguaro in the background
Funny Story...

I was impressed by the diversity, but I've lived in Arizona most of my life.  The car in front of us on the scenic loop was more than impressed.  More like flabbergasted. 

We came upon them when they were stopped, taking pictures madly from their windows.  Then they took off, driving at a breakneck speed of about 3 miles per hour.  Then they stopped again.  We figured they had to have seen some animal, but no...just cactus.  We weren't too annoyed, since their license plate said Florida and we felt proud to show off our state.  They finally got to a place wide enough for us to pass and we did. 

About 2 miles in, we came to the Mica View trailhead/picnic ground.  We took a nice little stroll, slowly admiring the cactus, inspecting plants, pondering different types of cholla and prickly pear, excitedly discovering blooming Christmas cactus, which we rarely see.  Then I took off on a somewhat faster walk around a loop trail. Almost an hour an a half later I got back.  Florida was just arriving!

They took an hour and a half to drive two miles!  Awesome! 

Take all the time you want, non-Arizonans.  Our cactus is super cool. 

A closer look at the chainfruit cholla

Some sort of purple cholla.  Buckhorn that's turned purple because of drought?

Christmas cholla--with seasonal red fruit

The newer spines of a young sahuaro

Barrel cactus with its wicked fishhook spines and beautiful fruit


Visit Sahuaro National Park:  https://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm