New Worlds: Rites of Passage

22 September 2017 02:00 pm
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Posted by Marie Brennan

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

You start out a child, you wind up an elder; in between, there are rites of passage.

These are the ceremonies that mark a transition from one social status to another. The iconic example is the transformation of a child to an adult, as seen in the Jewish bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah, or the Latin American fiesta de quinceañera. That particular threshold has more or less fallen by the wayside in modern white Protestant American society, but that doesn’t mean we entirely lack rites of passage; graduation is one, and a wedding is another.

Something like getting your driver’s license or the right to vote, however, is not — at least not according to the definition anthropologists use (laid out by a guy named Arnold van Gennep). A rite of passage, at its core, consists of three stages: separation, liminality, and incorporation. The first divides the individual from the social status they used to have; you were X, but now you are not-X. That puts you in a liminal zone, a term that indicates you are standing on a metaphorical threshold, neither fish nor fowl. Finally, incorporation removes you from your liminal state and makes you a member of the new group.

How is separation achieved? In a relatively stripped-down version like high school or college graduation, clothing is a major component. See somebody in a cap and gown? You know exactly what’s going on. Same thing with a bride in a white wedding dress. Other ceremonies, especially in other parts of the world, may incorporate other elements, ranging from body paint to an all-night vigil to the use of hallucinogens to induce an altered state of mind. The passage to adulthood in a hunter-gatherer society could be a multi-day affair, with tests of skill or religious ceremonies not permitted to be seen by people of the opposite sex. Basically, the more obviously an individual is marked out and divided from the normal world around them, the easier it is to tell that you’re looking at a rite of passage.

This puts you into a liminal state . . . and I have to say that, as a writer, this is the part that makes me sit up and take notice. Folklorically speaking, liminal things are powerful, and they are dangerous. Societies depend on organization for their stability, and so anything that slips free of the usual categories is at a minimum charged with psychological power. Past the minimum? Being liminal is literally magic. For example, women undergoing Shinto weddings wear a white hood over their hair to conceal the demon horns they supposedly grow. And if you’re writing fantasy . . . yeah. You can run with that “liminality is magic” idea as far as you like. Especially if the person undergoing the rite of passage gets separated from society, but never reincorporated (e.g. because something interrupts the ceremony).

But it would be a pity if they never got reincorporated, because that’s where the parties happen! There are probably rites of passage that don’t involve a big feast afterward, but it’s such a standard element of reincorporation that I just tend to take it as a given. More ceremonial stuff can happen, too, like the individual being formally welcomed by their new peers, or given their first chance to exercise the rights they’ve just gained.

Reincorporation especially matters if the separation and liminal stages were traumatic. Our modern rites of passage are usually pretty tame, but anthropologists have documented some pretty severe practices, with the person undergoing trials for which the word “torture” wouldn’t be exaggeration. Is this done out of cruelty? No — at least not in general, though it’s always possible that the individual in charge of the whole show is cruel and abusing their power. Rather, the idea is that the more you go through as a part of your rite of passage, the stronger a bond you feel to your new group when you join them.

I can attest to this, at least on a minor level. In college, our marching band had what we called “freshman cuts,” which was the point at which freshman who failed to measure up to a certain standard would (theoretically) be cut from the band. We all knew this wasn’t true — they wanted as many warm bodies on the field as they could get — and the college had rules against hazing anyway, so the various activities around freshman cuts were 100% optional, and everybody knew it. If you didn’t want to go through with them, nobody would say boo. Me? I was majoring in anthropology and folklore. Of course I went through it. And I came out the other side with the story of what the “Brown punch” was like my year, a story that got shared with the band members both senior and junior to me, just as they shared their own tales. I’ll spare you all the details, saying only that every component of the punch was perfectly potable or edible and utterly revolting when combined with all the other ingredients . . . and that drinking it, though in no way a “fun” experience, is one I don’t regret in the least. Because it did what it was supposed to: it created a bond, a sense that I had gone through a trial that had made me kin to everyone else who had done the same thing.

Because rites of passage are a two-edged sword. Colleges outlaw hazing rituals because they make people who don’t go through them feel excluded, and there have been excesses that leave people traumatized or outright injured. But such rituals also promote bonding and group identity, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And while having a rite of passage to mark the transition from one life state to another may result in you being thrust into a new role before you truly feel ready for it, it also makes it crystal clear what your role is. Do you have the rights, responsibilities, freedoms, and privileges of a child, or those of an adult? A single person, or a married one? A civilian, or a member of a military group? Muddying the waters between those things may cause difficulty.

What things have you gone through that you would consider a rite of passage?

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LBCF, No. 152: ‘In these shoes?’

22 September 2017 11:07 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

The misogyny is palpable, but we’ve had plenty of opportunity to explore that before now, so let’s set aside for the moment L&J’s warped understanding of gender and consider instead their warped understanding of footwear.
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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

 The tradition in Rome was to bury the dead outside the city. Christians developed the notion of burial in ‘sacred ground,’ which is to say in or around a church. This rapidly became impossible in cities, and led to creative solutions like the Catacombs of Paris. The great cemeteries of the 19th century, Highgate and other cemeteries around London and Pere Lachaise in Paris, were originally built outside the city. The expansions of the 20th century engulfed them.

So east of the great Roman regional capital of Arles was their Necropolis, the city of the dead. It was nearly as large and crowded as the city of the living. All the fine carvings and grand statues are safely socked away in the museum. All that can be seen today in the Necropolis (which, like all the other out-of-town cemeteries is now practically in the center of town) are rows and rows of stone coffins, some lidded and some not. In one space they are left as they originally were — set into the ground side by side so that the earth is a solid vista of stone lids. Vincent van Gogh famously did a painting of the space showing it very much as it is today. The students in this photo are a high school class, dispiritedly emulating the great painter.

 We had time before lunch to go see the Flavian bridge. This is notable for being one of the few that survive with the arches, on either side of the span. The old via Domitia is still visible, with its ruts worn by Roman wagon wheels, passing over the bridge. The arches are adorned with lions, who are not couched as in front of libraries, but posed with their butts in the air — clearly visible in the first shot. Which means that as you cross the bridge you always get a good view of a lion about to attack, and then the next lion’s rear.





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Posted by Fred Clark

We're continuing in Norman Geisler's 1975 discussion of "When Abortion Is Justified." Geisler, a conservative white evangelical, first wrote this in 1971. Two years before Roe and two years after, conservative evangelical views were the same.

Literal and Figurative Forest Bathing

21 September 2017 02:00 pm
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Posted by Nancy Jane Moore

Point Reyes

The point at Point Reyes


Forest bathing is supposed to be about the health benefits of walking in forests. The “bathing” is the soaking up of the sights and smells all around you.

But if you do your forest bathing on a foggy day at Point Reyes National Seashore, you can get a literal bath along with your figurative one. Fir trees soak up a lot of fog, but when it’s as thick as it was on Monday morning, it will drip down on you. (And when the fog is even thicker, which it was on Wednesday, it turns to drizzle and drips on you even when you’re not under the trees.)

We went out to Point Reyes to get out of the city, and set up camp at our favorite site at Sky Camp, which is about 1,000 feet above sea level and a couple of miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. That gave us a great view of the ocean when it wasn’t foggy, while surrounding us with trees instead of sand. (You can also camp near the beach at Point Reyes.)

This wasn’t quite a backpacking expedition. We had to backpack in from the parking area, but once we set up camp, we went day hiking. I had the illusion that we’d be able to hike all over the park if we didn’t have our heavy backpacks.

But the seven or so miles we did on Monday nearly did us in. I don’t know if it was the morning fog (it lifted about midday) or just the steep downhill of one trail we took, but we were both ready to drop by the time we got back to camp.

Which was just as well, because a stiff wind started to blow in the early evening. We added all our layers, but once the sun went down we decided that the only place where we’d really be warm was in our sleeping bags. Given how tired we were, collapsing into them solved two problems at once.

We did a more restrained hike the second day, which was sunny and delightful. Maybe next outing we’ll do the short hike the first day and try the more ambitious one on the second, when we’re warmed up.

The extent of fog on Wednesday morning meant that we packed up a lot of wet items for the trip home. But despite all that, we had a lovely time. And despite all the fog episodes, we saw the Milky Way every night — pretty amazing at a place just 40 miles from Oakland.

We also saw coyotes, bunnies, a skunk (who wanted to join us at our campsite), fence lizards, a garter snake, at least a hundred quail, hawks, crows, assorted other birds, squirrels, the nests of wood rats, butterflies, spiders, and banana slugs.

And trees, of course. Lots of Douglas firs. Some pine trees. Oaks. Redwoods, alas, do not grow at Point Reyes, though we went through some on the route out there.

And despite all the fog, we got a most excellent sunset on Monday night.


Sunset over Point Reyes


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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

We had not realized the Roman site at Vaison-la-Romaine was so enormous, so we went back. Most of the old Roman town is under contemporary construction, but a tobacco millionaire at the beginning of the 20th century invested a huge sum in buying land and excavating. Unfortunately the fashion in the period was also restoration, and much of the theater had handsome new concrete risers poured over the ancient (and probably un-sittable) stones. The section of the water feature in the first photograph is in suspiciously good shape. This, combined with the generally-less stupendous ruins available, has kept Vaison from getting that coveted Unesco or World Heritage designation.

The second photo shows the Roman bridge over the river, leading to the medieval city on the other side. Amazingly, this is still in daily use. Cars drive merrily across the stone pavement and zoom on away. Have a look at the quite ancient building to the left of the bridge. It too is still inhabited and has been updated for modern commerce; I believe if you go round the corner it’s a gift and souvenir shop. Someone has cut into the ancient wall and installed new French doors — see the workman’s ladder. I do not doubt that a little iron balcony will follow, perhaps with a cafe table and two chairs so the tenant can enjoy a pastis while watching the river run under a bridge 2000 years old.

 Finally, the obligatory cat shot. Two black cats live on the site of La Villasse. Cats are encouraged at French sites, to keep down the rats and mice; the ones in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris are welcome tenants and in the arena at Arles I spotted an ancient nook furnished with a dish of kibble. These two are clearly siblings, and not going to get buddy-buddy with a bunch of tourists. Instead they maintain a proper French sang-froid, refusing to be petted but willing to tolerate our adoration. We saw similar black cats at the Pont du Gard. Does this mean that all cats at French archaeological sites are black ones?





We Are Being Governed by Fools

20 September 2017 11:02 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

Even if your individual self-interest or the interest of your ethnic or religious tribe is the only thing you care about, that self-interest should compel you to ensure equal protection and full accommodation for people with disabilities -- because you could become one of them in the twinkling of an eye.

A Trip to France 8: Glanum

20 September 2017 05:40 am
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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

 Roman towns were often named after local dieties, who in turn were in charge of the water. Nimes was originally Nemausus, named after the Gauls’ Nemausus who presided over the artesian spring. And today we went to Glanum, high up in the hills behind St-Remy in Provence. It was a considerable town just off of the via Domitia, which meant that it was a lively place with bath houses, a theater and a forum. The town is named after the Gaulish divinity Glanis, and his backup band the Glanic mother goddesses, who collectively keep an eye on a deep square spring house. In this dry country if there is no spring the people have to catch rain water, a chancy proposition.

 Everything is fairly ruinous, although they apparently still have concerts in the theater. But the local authorities, annoyed by the lack of impressive stuff, restored just one pillar and corner of a building, one of the temples dedicated to the Imperial cult. Less is more — just this one glorious glimpse lifts the heart, and shows you how wonderful the entire town must have been.

The sacred spring is still there and full of water (and koi, which must be a recent addition). It has been pointed out to me that if I’m going to visit sacred springs I should add am offering to it. My husband suggested his own (broken) ball point pen, but I am certain that would throw the nymphs for a loop. Plastic! So I threw in a card with the cover of Book View Cafe’s DRAGON LORDS on it. I trust this will goose sales in a major way.


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Posted by Fred Clark

Norman Geisler's use of the term "therapeutic" in this section turned out to be unfortunate. Back in the early 1970s, when he was writing this summary of the common accepted "stance" for conservative white evangelicals on "When Abortion Is Justified," that term was entirely benign. He had no way of knowing that, decades later, it would become something of an epithet.

Late Summer Bounty

19 September 2017 03:50 pm
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Posted by Deborah J. Ross

It’s late summer and the garden keeps giving. This afternoon I picked a basketful of cucumbers: Russian Brown, English Telegraph, and lemon cukes. The Russian Browns are nice in that, like the lemons, they don’t get bitter. When they’re ripe, the skin turns rich brown and sometimes gets crackles. We will eat 1 or 2 per bowl of salad. (you can see a little container with purslane from the garden at the upper left.)

Then there are the pear trees. One is a Comice, the other a variety we haven’t been able to identify. It’s a little like an Asian pear but tastes terrible raw. When cooked, however, it is flavorful and intensely sweet.

I picked a couple of baskets, including bird-pecked ones, chopped and seasoned them with cinnamon, cooked them until just tender, and canned them in quart jars. I brought some extra to a gathering at the home of a friend, where they were much enjoyed. Some years I will slice and dry them, too — sweet as candy — but I still have some left from last year.

This process will go on for a while, many quarts’ worth, as the “Asian pear” tree bears heavily. I’ll refrigerate the Comice pears to eat fresh.

Then there are 2 apple trees…but those are fine when chopped, tossed with a little sugar and ascorbic acid, and popped into ziplock bags and the freezer. They are slightly spongey that way but go wonderfully in oatmeal, where the cooking softens the texture just right.


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Posted by News Editor

Artful DeceptionsArtful Deceptions by Patricia Rice
Love and Laughter, Book 3
by Patricia Rice

Eldest daughter of an eccentric art collector, Arianne Richards has become the caretaker of the family’s empty coffers and her irrepressible siblings. Discovering a hidden painting, she is determined to sell it to obtain the funds to send her ill mother into the country. But why does her aristocratic cousin’s suitor, the handsome and wealthy Lord Galen Locke, show so much interest in her humble person? And why does he so badly want the mysterious painting?

One question teased Arianne’s mind. The other troubled her heart. And both offered answers as startling as ghost from the past and the secrets of love.

The Regency Love and Laughter Series:

Crossed in Love
Mad Maria’s Daughter
Artful Deceptions
All a Woman Wants

Download an Ebook Sample:


Buy Artful Deceptions at BVC Ebookstore


The church of rock and roll

18 September 2017 09:23 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

This is, I think, a lovely story. It's about coming together to help bear each other's burdens, even when those burdens are unbearable. This is closer to what "church" should be than what we often see from the church itself.
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Posted by Fred Clark

"Biblical counseling" is a nasty bit of work that's going to get people killed. In the meantime, though, it will provide a bit of revenue for its fundamentalist advocates, while helping to isolate their followers from any source of truth they don't control.

The Cloisters Museum

18 September 2017 04:48 pm
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Posted by Kristine Smith

I’ve been quietly envious of my globetrotting fellow BVC’ers of late. I haven’t traveled outside the US in years, and there are so many places I want to visit that I can’t settle down to plan a trip to just a few.

Cloisters walkway along the Hudson


I have visited some lovely locations in the domestic sphere, however, including the western rim of the Grand Canyon, Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the Columbia River Gorge, and, on the manmade side, the Cloisters Museum in NYC.

The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art “dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe.” It’s located near the northern tip of the island of Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park, a lovely site that overlooks the Hudson River.



First view of the Cloisters



I rode the A train to 190th Street. Walked thorough the park and up a sloping road, and spotted the museum through the trees.





The museum is divided into multiple smaller cloisters, each of which contain halls, display rooms, and chapels. There is so much to see—I think even a medieval junkie would find it overwhelming to attempt in a day. There are stained glass windows, enamels, illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and statuary.

Grisaille panels, pot-metal and colorless glass w/ vitreous paint, French, Normandy ca 1265

Lion, fresco transferred to canvas, Spanish, Castile-León ca 1200

Reliquary busts of female saints, Brabant, possible Brussels, ca 1520-1530

There are also the Unicorn Tapestries, of which the Unicorn in Captivity is the most famous. I had seen color and black-and-white images of that tapestry in just about every book of medieval art or history I had ever read, so it was quite something to see the real thing.

Unicorn in Captivity, wool, silk, silver and gilded-silver wrapped thread. South Netherlandish, ca 1495-1505


One of my favorite exhibits was the Bonnefort Herb Garden. It is divided into sections: plants used in cooking, brewing, medicine, and magic. There was also a lovely shed where herbs were hung to dry, and where I picked up a list of the plants the garden contained.

View of Bonnefort Herb Garden

The Herb Garden Potting Shed. Drying herbs hung from the rafters

I took so many photos, yet missed so much. A return visit is a necessity.


A Trip to France 7: Vaison-la-Romaine

18 September 2017 05:26 am
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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

 Did I mention there are a -lot- of Roman ruins in southern France? The place is called Provence, which means ‘province’ — the Romans needed no other name for it. It was their main and favorite and first province, nearly as good as Italy. Many of the best-preserved and most major sites are World Heritage sites, or UNESCO Cultural Heritage designated. But almost better are the ones that aren’t so grand. They’re less crowded, less touristy, and are in towns that are therefore more pleasant.

Vaison-la-Romaine even has Rome in its name. The town itself revolves around wine, but back 2000 years ago it was the place where, if you were a rich Roman, you had your Gaulish estates. There you could park your wife and children, safe from the dangers and temptations of Rome, and while you were in the capital you could serve them wine from your estate in Provence. This house belongs to one of those worthies. He had a dynamite mosaic floor, as you can see. This was in the center of the dining room. All around the edge of the glorious square is a wide border of plain work, because that’s where the dining couches were placed. You’d all lie there, propped on left elbow, eating with right hand, and admire the bling on the floor.

We couldn’t finish touring the site in the time we had, and will have to go back!


The Reluctant Traveler Goes off-Message

17 September 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Jill Zeller

Do you have a tarot deck? I have three, but this in no way compares to friends of mine who own dozens—collectors, maybe, but definitely users of the fortune-telling cards.

I am a pure amateur, but my favorite is the Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini. I don’t know if users agree, even those with many beautiful and imaginative decks, but the Aquarian always seems to give me an understandable story, and feels good in my hands. Perhaps it’s because I have been acquainted with this deck for many, many years; it’s an old, reliable friend.

On a whim some years ago, I bought the Tarot de los Muertos deck by Monica Knighton based on the figures related to the Dia de los Muertos festival. The Minor Arcana are whimsically renamed: Wands become Plumas—Pens. Swords are Pistolas—Pistols. Cups have been transformed to Ataúdes, or Coffins, and Coins or Pentacles are Rollos—Reels, as in film reels.

I also inherited my sister’s Stuart R. Kaplan deck, the Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot, American version, printed by U.S. Games Systems. The tiny informational booklet tucked into the box with the cards nicely explains the correlation between the Minor Arcana suits and a regular card deck:

Swords – Spades
Wands – Clubs
Cups – Hearts
Pentacles – Diamonds


The Tarot de los Muertos deck gives even more information about the Four Signs with which each suit is associated.

Swords – Air
Wands – Fire
Cups – Water, and finally
Pentacles – Earth

I learned the Celtic Cross method of reading the cards. This, for an amateur, requires a guidebook. For years I used a battered paperback called The Tarot Revealed, by Eden Gray. When that disappeared into the Time Library—that is, books I’ve carted about with me for decades that seem to slip away into an altogether different Time-stream—I bought a used hard-back edition since it had long ago gone out of print.

Pamela Colman Smith

It’s simple, easy to follow, and demonstrates both the popular Tree-of-Life and Celtic-Cross methods. It gives quick meanings to the cards, both upright and reversed in the layout. I used it to give readings for friends and families. It means adding your own particular interpretation of a card and its meaning, in discussion with the one whose question has been posed to the cards. The card deck the book is meant for is the famous (to tarot card experts, I believe) Waite-Smith deck by mystic E.A. Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith. [link], but it can be used for any deck, in my opinion.

If you have a tarot deck, which is your favorite, if you have more than one, that is. And what do you ask about; what do you want to know or understand? Is it about love, or prosperity? Do you ask how to make a difficult decision? I would love to know.



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Posted by Steven Popkes

(Picture from here.)

It has been a while since I put up a post– nearly two months. A lot of things have happened in that time, including a two week vacation for the eclipse and a visit to Dinosaur National Monument.

There’s been enough discussion of the eclipse that anything I can say about it is probably redundant. People have asked me what I thought. I have said, “It’s an hour and a half of, hey, that’s really interesting, followed by a minute and a half of transcendental ecstasy.” But enough of that. Except to say if you get a chance to go to a total eclipse or the monument, don’t even think about it. Just go. The difference between totality and 99.999% totality is, literally, night and day.

Instead, I’m going to talk about what we did with the rest of the vacation: rocks and fossils.

Steamboat Springs was the center of our operations. From here we went north to Casper to see the eclipse but hung around Chalk Mountain in the afternoon looking for interesting rock. This is what we do: go some place and look at interesting rocks.

Chalk Mountain is a very strange place. It has land of the normal color surrounding a mountain made chiefly of black and white. It’s like a strange composite photograph. There we found jasper and olivine. Ben found a single piece of turquoise the size of the tip of my little finger. No crystal material to speak of but some fossils. Nothing terribly identifiable but interesting none the less.

Here I want to talk about the Bureau of Land Management, one of my favorite parts of the federal government.

The feds own a lot of land. Some of it is of obvious use: parks, wildlife refuges, etc. But the vast majority the feds just hold in trust. They let cattle graze on it for a nominal fee. Sometimes they let miners use. Mostly, they just leave it alone.

This is not to say the public can’t use the land. The public can and does. We have driven over hundreds of miles of BLM land, collecting minerals and fossils, looking at the views, taking pictures of the wildlife, watching the stars miles from any city.

There is some controversy about the BLM. It administers about 1/8 of the land of the country. There are a lot of people who don’t believe in public ownership of any land much less that much. I’m not one of them. The whole idea of sequestering land for future possible use means that the land must be sequestered: not developed. Not reapportioned. Not sold.

The land within a particular state is administered by that state’s BLM office and the rules change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We’ve explored land in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. The rules are significantly different between states. Some states allow collecting of petrified wood. Others do not. Nationally, you can’t collect vertebrates without a permit but this is somewhat elastic in that no state has a limit on collecting shark’s teeth and sharks are definitely vertebrates.

Anyway, so we collected on BLM land in Wyoming, looking for jasper and agates and found a few. Nice stuff that I might tumble.

Tuesday, we went to Dinosaur National Monument.  (And here.) This place is like the eclipse: if you get a chance, go. Don’t wait. Don’t think about it. Go.

No rock or fossil collecting is allowed in any national park. But that’s fine. We went to see the dinosaurs.


Picture from here.

Way back in 1909, the dinosaur fossil beds were discovered by Earl Douglass working for the Carnegie Museum. There were three rough pinnacles and they excavated down, exposing one bed after another.

Eventually, they decided (and possibly lost funding) that they had excavated enough. The bed reflected what looks like a massive death of dinosaurs from a flood. In 1915, Woodrow Wilson declared it a national monument. When he did so, a whole wall remained unexcavated. It is still unexcavated. But the entire wall is housed. It’s about 70 feet long and about forty or so feet tall: a solid wall of dinosaur bones. Stegosaurus. Apatosaurus. Allosaurus. All right there for you to just observe.

Which we did for about three hours.

Afterwards, we drove across Echo Park Road, which is not for the squeamish. It was only chance that we ended up with a 4wd vehicle. At one point I looked down and there was a chunk of road missing beyond which was a 90 foot drop. Supposedly, it’s one way but we met a Honda Fit coming the other way later in the trip. I have no idea how they navigated the road.

One should question one’s mortality every good trip.


(Picture from here.)

The next day we went from the big vertebrates to the big invertebrates. We explored the ammonite locality in Kremmling, Colorado. (Also, see here.) Ammonites are extinct molluscs that resemble nautilus.

That vaguely spiral shape in the picture is about two feet across. It’s the imprint a the ammonite shell. The Kremmling site has the largest fossil ammonites in the world.

This is a protected site with a fence all around it. But it is surround by BLM land. So we walked around the edge of the site but safely on BLM land and found a few good fossils to take home. The rules say we can take a small amount (a 5 gallon pail’s worth) which is far less than what we collected. Thank you, BLM.

(For a really good artistic perspective of ammonites, see “Night of the Ammonites” by Ray Troll and can be purchased here.)

This is a wonderful country and there are wonderful things in it. Turns out 1/8 of them are on BLM land.


Blessed Are the Poor

16 September 2017 08:07 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

Most of the time in the actual Bible, the poor are already saved. All of them. They just are. That's a given. It's rarely stated outright because, throughout the actual Bible, it goes without saying.
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Posted by Sara Stamey

As you read this, I’ll be winding up my long-anticipated return trip to Greece. It will be very different, I’m sure, from my months-long backpacking adventure in the 1980s, but I’m also sure it will once more be magic. It’s the word–Magic–that Greece conjures for so many. Layered with history and myth, the landscape and culture can hardly help generating wonder.

I’ll be revisiting some special places, and exploring new ones as I research settings for my novel-in-progress THE ARIADNE DISCONNECT, sequel to THE ARIADNE CONNECTION. Here are a few of the books I read or reread that capture the flavor of the country:

Lawrence Durrell, THE GREEK ISLANDS. These musings by Durrell on his long love affair with the islands is a sensual delight, with beautiful photos to stir the imagination.

Also by Durrell, REFLECTIONS ON A MARINE VENUS. Another Durrell memoir takes us to Rhodes, which I’ll be visiting for the first time.

About the recovery of a statute of Aphrodite (Roman name Venus) from the sea off Rhodes: “She rose as if foamborn, turning that elegant body slowly from side to side, as if bowing to her audience. The sea-water had sucked at her for centuries till she was like some white stone jujube, with hardly a feature sharp as the burin must originally have left it. Yet such was the grace of her composition–the slender neck and breasts on that richly modelled torso, the supple line of arm and thigh–that the absence of firm outline only lent her a soft and confusing grace.”

About a visit to a traditional celebration: “I am reminded, as so often in Greece, that dancing is never a performance so much as a communal rite–the transmission of an enigmatic knowledge which the musician has summoned up from below the earth.”

Henry Miller, THE COLOSSUS OF MAROUSSI. This is Miller’s exuberant, nearly hallucinatory love poem to all things Greek: “At Epidauros, in the stillness, in the great peace that came over me, I heard the heart of the world beat.” And at Phaestos on Crete: “The rain has stopped, the clouds have broken; the vault of blue spreads out like a fan, the blue decomposing into that ultimate violet light which makes everything Greek seem holy, natural and familiar. In Greece one has the desire to bathe in the sky. You want to rid yourself of your clothes, take a running leap and vault into the blue. You want to float in the air like an angel or lie in the grass rigid and enjoy the cataleptic trance. Stone and sky, they marry here.”

Richard Geldard, THE TRAVELER’S KEY TO ANCIENT GREECE. The author discusses the history of several ancient sacred places, including Delphi, Knossos, and Epidauros.

Patricia Storace, DINNER WITH PERSEPHONE. I had mixed reactions to this collection of essays by the American poet who spent a year in the 90s living and traveling in Greece. Her observations are acute, if often rather negative, and she provides a cultural and historical context to contemporary Greeks.

This is only a small sample that I hope might whet your appetite for travel! Since many of you enjoyed my blog series about my earlier Greek travels, I’ll start a new series about this trip on my return. “Chairete!” (Rejoice!)


You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.



A Visit to France 3: Nimes

16 September 2017 03:44 am
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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

 The town of Nimes is spelled with a cironflex over the ‘i’, but I can’t persuade this Ipad to do accents, so you’ll just have to live with it. It was the center of Gallo-Roman culture, a true blend of the native tribes and Rome. All the buildings in Nimes were apparently built by Gauls, in tribute to or imitation of their Roman buddies. This beautiful structure was the temple of Augustus, and is now known as the Madison Carre. Alas, it is all exterior, with nothing historical left within, an so they’ve converted it into a theater to show educational films about the Gauls and Rome.

These two photos are of the great Arena of Nimes. It is still use, as it was in Roman times, for bullfights, but they no longer do gladiator combats. (That’s tommorow!) In the second shot you can see how much of the arching out front looks its age; the authorities have started to clean and primp up the facade and have done three sections so far. I calculate the entire arena will be done after the middle of the century. I took this shot from my lunch table, BTW. One of the most delightful customs for he country is its outdoor quality. You eat outdoors, hang out of the open windows, drape your laundry on the sills.

Finally here is the temple of Diana, ruinous but still standing, an the Great Tower, which served no real expensive function but, built by the Romans on the highest point, served to tell the world who was who around here. At the foot of the temple is a very active an bubbly spring, artesian in nature, which is sacred to the Gaulish god of the city. I do love a sacred spring.


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