Understanding the Elephant
I know a Good Story / January 10, 2017

Does anyone remember the story of the blind men and the elephant?  Six blind scholars all try to discover what an elephant looks like by touching one part of the animal.  Because an elephant is composed of many shapes (trunk, ears, legs, tail, etc.,) running your hands over one part of it doesn’t give you an accurate picture of the animal, but it does show what a limited perception can discover.  And, when it comes to some episodes of history, we’re all blind folks trying to survey an elephant. Val McDermid tackles this idea in her mystery novel, The Grave Tattoo.  On the surface, it’s a modern day story about the discovery of a body near the Lake District of England.  Although the corpse has been underground for awhile, it’s easy to see this is neither a recent death nor the discovery of an ancient caveman.  What’s interesting are the number of complicated tattoos still discernable on the decedent’s skin.  And therein hangs the link to a historical debate and the mysterious elephant in the room. The debate is who was at fault for the mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty, Fletcher Christian or Captain Bligh?  The popular opinion has switched back…

The Best of People, the Worst of Times: Number the Stars
I know a Good Story / January 5, 2017

Nobody likes to think about kids being in the middle of war. Kids are a vulnerable population in the cross-fire of that adult insanity, and when they get wounded or killed, innocent lives have been taken. So, those of us lucky enough to live in peaceful countries try to raise our kids in a cotton-wool world where everyone is kind, and children are never in danger. Still, it’s good for kids to know about those who have been brave, even in the worst of times. That’s one reason to read and share Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. Number the Stars documents the Danish Resistance’s effort to save the Jewish citizens of Denmark after Nazi Germany invaded their country.  Officially, Denmark’s ruling government agreed to collaborate with the Nazi invaders; this allowed them to stay (nominally) in control so they could protect the citizens as much as possible.  Unofficially, Danish citizens all over the country developed resistance cells to spy on and sabotage the invaders.  After three years of fending off Resistance attacks, the Nazis decided to crack down Denmark.  First, they took over Denmark’s government and policing authority; then they issued orders to deport all of Denmark’s Jews. In the…

Getting Rid of an Ugly, Dead Tree
One of My Stories / January 3, 2017

There’s an ugly, dead tree at the bottom of my yard and I want it gone. One very ugly,dead tree Now, before you decide I’m some nut who wants to ruin the environment, let me admit the tree is dead. Also, I live in a place where Mother Nature needs editing more than encouragement. So, I’m not some terrible industrialist laying waste to the earth.  But I am someone who lost control of my world.  And I’m fighting to get it back. Our house sits at the back of 4/3s of an acre on the crest of a low-lying hill. Because we live on a slope and my husband does not love lawn care, much of our yard belongs to the wild things.  Trees and brush grow at the corners of the lot where birds and small animals make their homes.  As long as the foliage didn’t obscure the view or road to our house, that’s fine.  But then the ugly tree came along. It came up during one of our 48-hour springs that seem to launch straight into summer. In March, it was a straight little sapling that hugged the edge of the road.  By fall, it was too big…

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