Jackson Lake

Jackson LakeJackson Lake near Mancos Colorado is a reservoir built to capture enough water to keep the ranchers and farmers in the Mancos Valley alive. It mostly works.

The side benefit of having a reservoir close to home is that the usual lake recreation activities still apply. At the inlet to the lake fish can nearly be pulled out of the water faster than you can bait a hook.

If you go upstream just a little the river is paved with a smooth, solid sheet of granite that makes it perfect wading territory and the edges of the lake are littered with smooth flat stones that skip nicely on the water.

It’s small but it’s pretty much the best.

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup

12 Years a Slave by Solomon NorthrupIn the early 1800’s Solomon Northrup was a free black man living in New England with his wife and two daughters. He played the violin for a living and was mostly happy and enjoyed his life.

One day, while traveling to New York he was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deepest part of the South. While there he worked as a slave for 12 years before he was able to find a way to get word out to his family and lawyers that he was there.

Not only is this story true, but it is written in his own words in an affectless manner that tells the story matter-of-fact, not shying away from the gruesomeness that was his life nor trying to make it seem more dramatic.

Northrup writes brilliantly from the heart so that every word tears the soul. His emotion is palpable on every page. He communicates a great deal of restraint and thought for a man who has been so mistreated, even expressing a minor hint of forgiveness for his tormentors:

“It is not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so much as it is the fault of the system under which he lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit and associations that surround him. Taught from earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears that the rod is for the slave’s back, he will not be apt to change his opinions in maturer years.”

And other times he calls the entire nation to repentance, calling out their hypocrisy because even though he lived as a free man in New England before his abduction he still was not allowed to vote and segregation was still a part of his life.

“…So we passed, handcuffed and in silence, through the streets of Washington, through the Captial of a nation, whose theory of government, we are told, rests on the foundation of man’s inalienable right to life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness! Hail! Columbia, happy land, indeed!”

This is one of the most powerful accounts of anything I have ever read and I would recommend it to everyone. You should read this, it will make you think like nothing else ever could. This is the kind of book that should be taught in schools instead of the meaningless literary humdrum that is more common.

Taos

TaosTaos is sort of New Mexico’s answer to Utah’s Moab. It has most of the things that Moab has only not quite as famous nor as popular. There’s whitewater rafting, off roading, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, etc.

There’s also camping in the gorge created by the Rio Grand river on it’s way to Mexico.

Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary

Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly ClearyIn this book Ralph goes to school with his new friend. At school he sparks a debate about the cleanliness of mice and makes a new friend.

That’s really all there is to say about this book. It seemed to build up to something that never came. There was a lot of talk about exterminating all the mice and about how smart Ralph was but in the end all he did was chew holes in things and sit in a glass bowl and sulk until the bully decided to be nice and buy him a new motorcycle.

Maybe I’m expecting too much but I was hoping Ralph would be a little more proactive — sometimes trying to get things done is enough to make a character interesting.

Harrison Ford has made a career of playing characters that fail at everything they do — one theme of Star Wars is that Han is always wrong (The Falcon fails to jump to lightspeed right after he says they are going to, the bunker doors close another layer right after he says he’s got it opened, etc.) and Indiana Jones spends all three movies failing at everything he tries but he is so earnest in his endeavors that we can’t help but hope that this time it will work.

Maybe it’s too much to hope for an Indiana Jones mouse but Ralph could have at least tried to get out of the bowl or to talk to some of the other students, or make his life a little better. Instead he sits and we get second grade classroom debates about the virtues (or lack thereof) of mice.

The story wraps up abruptly and then we are back at the hotel with Ralph once again loving his family that he so desperately needed to get away from in the beginning.

The House of Israel: Land Divided by Robert Marcum

House of Israel: Land Divided by Robert MarcumThis continues the story of Hannah and her Jewish refugee friends after they fled Europe and made their way to Jerusalem. Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem the area became a hotbed for strife and war as the Jews fought to reclaim a Holy Land that they felt was promised to them and the Arabs scrabbled to hold on to their homes as the Jews came in droves.

There are no good guys in war, there are just those who try harder to do what is right. Both sides of any conflict end up doing things that they are not proud of and the Jewish fight to reclaim the Holy Land was no exception. Arabs were killed and driven from their homes, Jewish buses containing unarmed refugees were bombed and sacked.

In the midst of it all Robert Marcum tells the story of one family — an extended one to be sure with several adopted children — trying to survive the destruction and strife going on around them.

Marcum is a good writer and does his research well, setting the story in the midst of real events he gives a sense of immediacy and sheer terror to the war that raged through city streets and across a countryside.

I would recommend this book if you have an interest in historical fiction. You could do a lot worse than Marcum’s Land Divided.

Books I read, Pictures I take.

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