An Environmentally Friendly Tasmanian Book Group

Snip20181014_5Everything in Tasmania is about beauty of the scenery, excellence of the fresh food and wonderful experiences.  Now there is a book club in Hobart I had no idea about. I saw a flyer for it a couple of months back on the notice board at Fuller’s Book Shop.

I saw the poster, read the book at the time...The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. I was geared up to attend the Sunday meeting in a large reserve nearby and then something came up and I missed it. The next month came along and I was overseas.  I was determined to get to the October meeting.

This is their facebook page in case anyone would like to follow. Bushcare Walking Book Club – City of Hobart, Tasmania at https://www.facebook.com/groups/159587037917696/.

Okay, I’ll now explain.  This book club is an initiative of the Hobart City Council. Nicole, who works for the HCC organises it. She works in the area of Bush Care. You know, getting rid of noxious weeds, replanting and reinvigorating areas of neglect. It is a very ‘greenie’ department.  Each month she assigns us a book about the Environment.  When I saw the flyer about the Genius of Birds I thought I would see what it was about. I love birds. I downloaded the book on audible and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I learned more about birds than I ever thought I would. Their intelligence and habits are both amazing and endearing.  Such bright creatures.  If you love reading about birds then this is a great little book.Snip20181014_6

Before I left for the United States in September I downloaded the book Feral by George Monbiot, an author from the United Kingdom.

According to Wikipedia:   “Feral is a book about rewilding by the British environmentalist George Monbiot. It was published by Allen Lane (a hardback imprint of the Penguin Group) in 2013 with the full title Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding. The book has also been published as Feral: rewilding the land, sea and human life (paperback and American editions).

Monbiot looks at rewilding projects around the world. However, he pays particular attention to the scope for rewilding in the United Kingdom. He argues that overgrazing is a problem in the British uplands and calls for sheep numbers to be reduced so that areas can be rewilded.  Such ideas received criticism from organisations representing farmers, for example the Farmers’ Union of WalesOn the other hand, the book received favourable reviews, including in publications normally hostile to Monbiot’s work, such as The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph.  Many reviewers were impressed by the lyrical nature of the book’s prose style. According to the New Statesman‘s reviewer “something about the charm and persistence of Monbiot’s argument has the hypnotic effect of a stoat beguiling a hapless rabbit.”

Snip20181014_8I didn’t think I would find this book of essays very interesting but I have to say I really did.  The issues he brought up were fascinating.  He talked a lot about the environmental rewilding projects mainly in Europe but he also touched on Africa and the United States. I don’t remember there being any Australian content.

The format of the book group is also fun and interesting.  A beautiful location is picked in the Hobart area. One month it was on Mt. Wellington trails. One month is was in a large reserve near a water catchment area where they are picnic facilities and much birdlife.

October had us walking along the shore of Sandy Bay beach which borders the River Derwent.  We meet on the first Sunday afternoon of the month from 2:00 pm  4:30 pm. In the past approximately five or six people turned up but this month we had 18!  We had 13 women, three men and one child about ten or eleven. He attended with his mother.

We all introduced ourselves at the beginning in the carpark area. We had to tell everyone our name and our favourite Tasmanian animal. (How do you choose that?)

Then we began our walk about 20 minutes along the beach. There were lots of families on the beach and on the adjoining playground. Many were enjoying a swim or a picnic. The day was a beautiful warm day. It’s springtime here.

When we first stopped, Nicole asked us some questions about the book. A discussion then pursued about environmental issues in our locale. We talked for about 15 or 20 minutes. We then walked on.  Small groups that had formed on the first leg of the walk chatted and then the groups changed once we began the second leg of the walk.

When we stopped the second time, maybe another 20 minutes down the beach, we all sat in a circle in the sand or on rocks and chatted again. Some people drank from the water bottle or pulled a snack from their bag.  We continued to talk about the issues raised in the book and also about who we are and what our interests are within smaller groups. We were probably at that location 2o to 30 minutes.  The time went so fast it is hard to estimate how long we were there.

We then turned around and did a very long walk back the way we had come and beyond.  We seemed to walk quite a distance and it was becoming very warm.

At the last stop, Nicole produced a large container of hot water, coffee, various teas and lots of biscuits (cookies), even catering for any vegans that may appear.

This saw our conversations with new found friends to be much more social and Snip20181014_7personal. We talked about various books and experiences we have had. Nicole wants us to think of other books about the environment we could read for this group. So far most books have been non fiction. But the November book will be Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan who is purely Tasmanian and a Booker Prize winner (The Narrow Road to the Deep North). Death of a River Guide is a much earlier work of his and refers to the Franklin River dam dispute that began the Greens movement in Tasmania in the late 1970’s.

The Franklin Dam or Gordon-below-Franklin Dam project was a proposed dam on the Gordon River in southern Tasmania. The government wanted to build a dam for the hydro electricity it would provide but it is in a wilderness area of UNESCA heritage listing and it never happened. The protests were large, loud and often violent. It was the most significant environmental campaign in Australian history and the beginning of the Greens Political movement.

But back to the book group…..After a walk of about 3.5 kms and 2 1/2 hours of walking and book discussion our friendly group returned to the carpark to get their rides back home.

It was a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Next month we will be near the foothills of Mt. Wellington again, I presume on a bush trail and I look forward to it very much.

Here are more photos of our environment for the day.  I know…..very nice.

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Our group heading out.
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These were a very bright spot on the river.
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Everyone was out today. From a tall ship to kayaks.
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We have a lot of these things in our river. A bit of a nuisance but still pretty to look at.
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Another peaceful view of our River Derwent.

 

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A Weekend Wander through Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

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We also wondered what the significance of this cover was.

The Penguin and I are members of two separate book groups now.  One group is a monthly meeting at Fuller’s Book Group. Today I am writing about the October meeting with Fuller’s Book Shop in Hobart. We meet the first week of each month, February through November with a Christmas get together involving all their book groups in December.  Everyone in all the groups reads the same book each month.

The October book was Priestdaddy by American author Patricia Lockwood.

Wikipedia describes her career as:  “She married at 21, has scarcely ever held a job and, by her telling, seems to have spent her adult life in a Proustian attitude, writing for hours each day from her ‘desk-bed,'” according to a profile in New York Times magazine. During that period, from 2004 to 2011, Lockwood’s poems began to appear widely in magazines including  The New Yorker, Poetry and the London Review of Books.”

Good Reads comments indicate that:   “The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, (she was born in Indiana) the poet dubbed “The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas” by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI – despite already having a wife and children.

When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.”

First off all of the major publication reviews I read are glowing about this book. Mostly American sources, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker all glow about her work.

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This is one of her poetry books I have not read.

However in the everyday life of our six (or seven) book club members our views were vastly different. Our book group had different views about this book. One member loved it. She laughed at the family, enjoyed the quirkiness of it. (Of course I find quirky is a description of something that you don’t know how to accurately classify).  Patricia’s father had been a Lutheran Minister. Over time he became more and more interested in Catholicism and eventually was able to exploit a loop hole and become a Catholic Priest. Although he was married with five children he seemed to live in his own world that not many others could penetrate. Being a Catholic priest with a large family is not a situation we see often, if at all.  No one in our group liked this man. He could be crude, crass and cruel.

I must note I listened to this book through Audible.com.  It was a painful listen and may very well have clouded how I felt about the whole story.

My notes:  Patricia Lockwood’s narration could be loud and brash at times. I thought it was like fingernails on a blackboard.  Her narration reeked with sarcasm which annoyed me to no end. I wish she had simply read her book. This may have affected how I reacted to the book.

I could not connect with the family no matter how hard I tried. Neither could most of the others in our book group.  It is a family we did not enjoy being involved with at all. The mother would pipe up and say the most ridiculous things at time.
The siblings didn’t seem to do much. The father walked around the house scratching himself in very old, transparent underwear no matter who was visiting. He would often start playing his guitar when things got rough. Family members would ignore him in exasperation.   When he entered a room we just wanted to leave. There were many wisecracks about him from his children but no one really talked about any emotional connections they had with him except those that were negative.

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Source: Wikipedia

The book consisted of activity after activity as though it was a list of events. No laughter or other emotion was attached to much of it.  It was as if they were caricatures.

Now, I did not enjoy this book much but there were parts of it that did make me shake my head and laugh a bit. But not enough.   I did find the writing very good. She has a very creative mind and some passages I listened to again as they were clever and often funny.

However many critics in mostly American publications gave this book rave reviews. It could have been the narrative on Audible was so irritable it tainted my overall view. I’m sure that clouded my perspective of this book. Perhaps if I had read it in hard copy I would have appreciated it more.

I think it is a reasonable book for book clubs because it does polarise readers. There are many issues that caused discussion.  For example the church, how people should act as a Priest… or shouldn’t. What are our expectations?  Moving back home with parents after leaving home and being independent and finding yourself home again.  How we deal with family members we don’t feel connected to.  There is also mention of a rape Patricia endured a decade earlier, however that doesn’t seem to play a very big part and I almost forgot about it until someone in the book group brought it up. Not a topic I normally forget.  Maybe my reaction of it is because I am getting tired of Memoirs that seem to be in bookstores from everyone and their dog lately. I think I need to move on with my reading choices.

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Advertising more of her work.

I would suggest if this is a book that has a subject matter you find interesting then read some of the other reviews, that are better written than my little comments. You will also find they are quite positive.

Here are some links.

The guardian:     https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/apr/27/priestdaddy-by-patricia-lockwood-review

NPR Book Review:     https://www.npr.org/2017/05/10/527629781/priestdaddy-shimmers-with-wonderful-obscene-life

The New York Times:    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/09/books/review/priestdaddy-patricia-lockwood-memoir.html

I will talk about the other book group I belong to in my next post. It is a very unusual book club and I think people will enjoy hearing about and may even want to start one up in their own communities.  I will post the information up in the next day or two.

That’s it for now.  I would love to know if anyone else has read this book and what you thought of it. It is certainly unusual. That’s never a bad thing.

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I won’t need this scarf for much longer. Spring has sprung.

Library Loot and Miscellaneous Life…

Snip20180427_2The Penguin and I returned from California in one piece and it was good to get home. I had two dogs that exploded when they saw me. Love an exploding dog. It’s as though they forget you and then remember and then explode.    I had lots of well wishes for my travels. I always laugh a bit when people wish me a safe trip.  As if I can control what happens with the pilot and our plane. But I know their intentions are good.

Today I went into the city and picked up some library books I had on hold. I suspended my holds while away so of course once I returned and took the suspension off them they all came in at once.  I got two photography books that I won’t display here but I am enjoying them.

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The books I picked up today have a funny tale.  The one book I have been waiting for is The Totem Pole by Paul Pritchard. The Totem Pole is a very tall rock formation on the east coast of Tasmania. Here is the blurb.

“Climbing defined Paul Pritchard’s existence and signposted his horizons. From his Snowdonia base he gained a reputation for routes of extreme technical difficulty and meagre protection.”

“He’s climbed in the mountain ranges from the Hiumalayas to the Andes, Baffin Island to the Pamirs.  When climbing the totem pole in Tasmania a falling boulder inflicted such terrible head injuries that at the hospital they thought he might never walk or speak again.”  He spent the next year fighting his hemiplegia, his memory and speech disorders. This is his story. He does come back from all of this.

I was waiting in line for the bus today. A hippie type man was standing next to me also waiting to board the bus. He saw this book on the top of my pile and said, “He’s a good friend of mine. I was just at his place yesterday.  We actually like him more since he’s had his head injury. You’ll enjoy this book. It’s just been reprinted in a new format.” I was told I don’t have the ‘new’ one.

People in Tasmania get teased a lot because everyone is supposed to be related to everyone else and have two heads. Of course with the great rise in cultural events here now we don’t hear that as much now our state has been discovered by the world. However, you have heard the saying, “six degrees of separation.” Well Tassie has two degrees of separation and we do witness this all the time. So today I was only two degrees from meeting the author of this book.

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Red Dirt by E.M. Reapy. I saw this one in City Lights Book Shop in San Francisco and made a note to check our local library for it. The blurb from the back:

“Hopper, out of his head on acid, is left for dead in the outback.  Fiona has fled an abusive relationship that shattered her self-respect.

Murphy’s family lost a fortune when the Celtic Tiger collapsed. In Australia’s vast promised land, these three young people try to escape their past.”  This is the author’s debut novel and I’m hoping I don’t run out of time to read it.

The next book is Girl With Dove: A Life Built by Books by Sally Bayley.  It is a story of Snip20181004_5how one girl’s life was shaped by books.  I always love a book about books and reading. I think I heard about this from a fellow blogger but for the life of me I can’t remember who.

The last book is much more serious. Home: Drawings by Syrian Children edited by Ben Quilty and a Foreword by Tasmania’s own Richard Flanagan.

It is a very large book full of drawings by children who have survived the war in Syria, still reside in refugee camps or have escaped to other countries.  It is important to keep these issues in the mainstream especially when the Australian government treats refugees, many of them Snip20181004_3sick children, so cruelly in off shore detention centres   that are below third world conditions.  Shame is the main word I use to describe our politicians in leadership at the moment. I can’t print what I really think of them. I will put up a couple of drawings from the book.  If I had lots of money I would send this book to every politician in the federal parliament.

 

I have read several books over the past month but I will mention them another time in a list.  I have a book club meeting tonight at Fuller’s Book Store and will add that one to the pile. This post is long enough for today.  Let me know if you have read any of these books. I’m not sure which one I will begin with.

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I Made it to City Lights Bookstore..Fun!

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Sadly this is not my photo but a stock photo. The sun was too bright, the traffic both pedestrian and street was busy and too many reflections in the window.

Whenever I visit my sister in the San Francisco area I always drag her to City Lights Bookstore in downtown San Francisco.  It is one of the most wonderful bookstores I have ever been in. It is very hard not to buy everything on every shelf.  I did very well. I took a photo of a couple of books on the shelves to see if our local library at home has them. I know,  I know.  I was very discreet. I remember being in a bookshop in Ireland and took three pictures in order to feature the shop on my blog and the store owner gave me a scathing lecture, dripping with sarcasm. When I bought a journal from him and something else, I forget what it was,  he threw my change at me.  Needless to say I did not feature him or his shop in my blog as I don’t like to be negative here.  I often wonder if after two years how he is doing.

Anyway- I digress.  We spent an hour in the bookstore and then wandered back to a yummy looking cafe that had lots of Udon noodle dishes. It wasn’t busy when we first saw it on the way to the bookstore but upon returning the queue went out the door. We couldn’t wait as we only had a two hour meter.

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Front window

My sister, who is a military veteran suggested we go over to the veterans medical centre and eat in their cafeteria.  It is built on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and sets high above it with magnificent ocean views out the glassed wall.  We had a very good lunch of chicken, mashed potatoes, hot gravy and vegetables plus a bottle of water for $6.00 each and enjoyed the beautiful views for free. After lunch we walked along the trail from the back of the ocean and around a very large golf course back to the street where our car was parked.  A wonderful day in 80 degree temperatures with a slight breeze.

After our day out we only had energy to eat chocolate chip cookies on the drive home. A good way to deal with heavy traffic.

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoy sharing them with you.

 

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Before you enter the store  you must walk down the alleyway alongside the store to see the literary insets in the cement and the murals on the wall. I liked this mural. It represents the many authors who have been jailed in other countries for their written word.

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There is a bar next door and this is the mural near their entrance.  A good place to go and have a cold drink.

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Two of the literary tiles on the path down the alley.

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Then we went into the store and stood in awe at the wonderful selection and the variety of authors. There is the main floor, plus a basement and an upstairs.

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First stop was the shelves of periodicals and magazines.  I loved this periodical full of short stories, poetry and essays as well as some illustrations. It was big and I took note of it to see if our State Library has access to it.

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I am sure our State Library has this so I will check it out if it does. I have heard of it but never read it. It’s a long ways from Tasmania.

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These were the four magazines I did buy. They will slip into my carry on bag easily and should provide entertainment for the 24 hour journey home on Monday night.

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I noticed this Australian book by its title right away. I will definitely see if our library has this. It sounds like a great Aussie read.

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I was fascinated by this series of ‘Noir’ books.  I had never heard of them and don’t they look great, all together on the shelf. I would love to read these.  Have you read any of them?

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When I went down the stairs I saw this door that leads to another place.  I am glad it is spelled out to those of us who arrive from far away places and still get a bit jet lagged.

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I only include this book for a friend at home who I know adores squirrels, or “squiwwels” as Australians pronounce it. It is a long running private joke and you know who you are!!! The rest of you may  move on.

By the way, not having heard of John and Pamela, they were a couple of British playwrights who had an off and on love affair for 40 years and this is their tale.  It did look quite interesting but far too heavy and expensive to spend money on (at this time). Library??

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This is the area around the Veteran’s Hospital where we walked after lunch. A very lovely area. Beautiful day out.

I hope you enjoyed our day.   If you are ever in San Francisco be sure to go to this wonderful bookstore.

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The Penguin and I enjoyed a great Arts Festival

We spent the day in Mill Valley in the middle of a large redwood forest. It is situated north of San Francisco and each year they hold a very large arts festival. Lots of people attend with their families and dogs. Saw a few quirky outfits and there are food stalls set up. I enjoyed the photography exhibits but I didn’t see any street photography on display or much travel photography outside of a German photographer’s wonderful photos of wildlife from around the world. They were truly stunning.

Of course I could not photograph the exhibits so you’ll just have to believe me.  If you’re interested, scroll down to see my captioned photos. If not, close this post and wait for another post on books. I have finished a few.

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Lots of people everywhere

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It was all a bit too  much for some people.
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I sneaked a photo of this interesting, very shiny sculpture.
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This is the view when we looked up. Beautiful redwood trees.
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Colourful lanterns hung from the trees through out the festival grounds.
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We listened to the ‘funk’ band for almost an hour. Great band.
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I loved Mr and Mrs Hats sitting in front of us while we listened to the music.
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Then they moved to better seats and we could see their faces.
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This guy sang and also introduced the band members.
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This guy could really sing.

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The view when we looked up.
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She spend her time listening to the band and sketching them. I loved watching her.
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This woman was dancing and writhing around like a snake. A little off her head at times but fun to watch. Don’t you love people watching? !
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As we left the festival we passed the entrance to the children’s area where they had art and music activities for them.
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We met the Lovely Henry on the way back to the car. What a smoocher he is.

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Miwok Native American Festival

3N3A1863Today arrived and we had a couple of festivals we could attend. We narrowed it down to an Arts Festival and a Native American Indian festival.  We chose the Native Americans.  Hosting this festival in the lovely Miwok Park in Novato was the Miwok tribe. The word Miwok means “people” in their native language. 

As I knew nothing of this tribe and in fact had never heard of them I looked them up in Wikipedia and learned:3N3A1855

“The predominant theory regarding the settlement of the Americas date the original migrations of the Miwok tribe from Asia to around 20,000 years ago across the Bering Strait land bridge, but anthropologists claim that the Miwok and some other California tribes descend from Siberians who arrived in California by sea around 3,000 years ago.

The Miwok lived in small bands without centralised political authority before contact with European Americans in 1769. They had domesticated dogs and cultivated tobacco, but were otherwise hunter-gatherers.

The Sierra Miwok harvested acorns from the California Black Oak.  In fact, the modern-day extent of the California Black Oak forests in some areas of Yosemite National Park is partially due to cultivation by Miwok tribes. 

3N3A1858They burned vegetation to reduce the amount of Ponderosa Pine.  Nearly every other kind of edible vegetable matter was used as a food source, including bulbs, seeds, and fungi. Animals were hunted with arrows, clubs or snares, depending on the species and the situation. Grasshoppers were a highly prized food source, as were mussels for those groups adjacent to the Stanislaus River.

The Miwok ate meals according to appetite rather than at regular times. They stored food for later consumption, primarily in flat-bottomed baskets. 

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Miwok spiritual narratives tend to be similar to those of other natives of Northern California. The Miwok had totem animals, identified with one of two moieties which were in turn associated respectively with land and water. These totem animals were not thought of as literal ancestors of humans, but rather as predecessors.Snip20180915_4

 

Enjoy the photos below:

 

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Week I in California

After a more than 24 hour journey I arrived safely in the San Francisco area. It has been a quiet week of just mucking about with my sister and doing a couple of day trips. We enjoyed a day out at the Samuel P Taylor State Park. I wanted to see some redwood trees and as always am never disappointed by them.

I was not familiar with old Samuel P Taylor so I decided to see why he had a state park named after him. According to trusty Wikipedia I learned that-

The park is named for Samuel Penfield Taylor, who found gold during the California Gold Rush and used some of his money to buy a parcel of land along Lagunitas Creek. In 1856, Taylor built the Pioneer Paper Mill, the first paper mill on the Pacific Coast. In the 1870s, the North Pacific Coast Railroad was built between Cazadero and a pier in Sausalito where passengers could transfer to a ferry to San Francisco. The railroad passed near Taylor’s mill, and, ever the entrepreneur, he built the “Camp Taylor Resort” alongside the tracks. A destination for city-weary San Franciscans, the resort offered both a hotel and tent camping, as well as swimming, boating, fishing, and a dance pavilion.

My sister and I have also taken a few smaller walks around her neighbourhood so I could take some photos. I share them wih you below.

We thought we might do a bit of a road trip through northern California to Oregon but have decided against it due to the big fires around Redding and farther north. With evacuations most likely causing accommodation filling up quickly and heavy smoke in the air we have decided against it and will entertain ourselves staying closer to San Franciso. Enjoy the photos.

 

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On the bookish front we enjoyed watching The Great American Read program on the PBS TV app on her Roku box. It was fun to hear authors talking about the classic books they have enjoyed and made me wonder which of the mentioned books are currently sitting on my shelf. I would like to read more of the works of the classic authors mentioned and even better to take those from my shelf to look at. I have some of the lesser works from several authors mixed in with some of the Penguin boxed sets that set on the shelves looking at me. In any case, there is never going to be a time when we run out of things to read. What a comforting thought.