The Stranger in the Woods

A young man named Christopher Knight literally disappears off the map in Maine and for 27 years he lives all alone in the forest without any other human contact. Knight reads voraciously.  He listens to music. He communes with nature. But his life is hard in lots of ways.  Many years he barely makes it through  the cold winter. He survives by stealing from cabins and camps when the owners aren’t around.  By the time he is finally caught he faces some 1000 charges of theft.

Here’s just two of the many things I thought about after reading Christopher Knight’s story in the book Stranger in the Woods by journalist Michael Finkel.

  •  After he was discovered, arrested and tried for his robberies Knight was reunited with his family. His mother and siblings wanted privacy, yet Finkel went ahead and told Knight’s story in a popular book.  Was it right for him to do that?  It is true that while Christopher was in prison for theft he replied to Michael Finkel’s request for an interview and that on a number of subsequent occasions he talked to Finkel about his three decades in the woods.  But should Finkel have written the book when he knew it would draw added attention to a man who was uncomfortable with any kind of attention and when his family expressly requested privacy? 
  •  I know there are people who are introverts. While others need social connections to thrive and learn and recharge…. introverts need to be alone.  We have to be respectful of that but……  Christopher Knight was an educated man, an excellent worker, a creative thinker, an intelligent philospher of sorts, and a keen observer of nature. His choice to live in isolation means no one else benefitted from those gifts including his family.  

The Stranger in the Woods is the March pick for the book club I belong to at the West Kildonan Library.  We meet tonight. I will be curious to find out whether other people had the same thoughts I did and to discover what struck them about this very interesting book. 

Other posts………

Leave No Trace


The Perfect Novel For Me

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I Cry Every Episode – Chef’s Table

I have been enjoying a Netflix series called Chef’s Table.  Each show follows the culinary adventures of one of the world’s great chefs.  But……… you not only see them creating all this amazing food, you also learn their life story. To me that is every bit as fascinating as their skill in the kitchen. Every time I’ve watched Chef’s Table there’s been a moment in the episode that has brought me to tears. 

I just saw the story about Michelin Three Star chef Dominique Crenn.  A meal at Dominque’s restaurant in San Francisco is a very personal experience.  She likes to greet her guests, shake hands with them and talk with them. She writes poetry and when you enter her restaurant you will receive a printed poem instead of a menu.  Different lines in the poem refer to dishes you will eat that night.

Dominque Crenn at work in her kitchen

Her restaurant is called Atelier Crenn and pays tribute to Dominque’s late father Allain Crenn who was an artist. His paintings decorate her restaurant. ‘Atelier’ means workshop and Dominque’s father had an artist’s workshop or studio in the house where Dominique grew up. She named the restaurant to honor her father who loved her dearly and told her she could be anything she wanted to be! During the episode of Chef’s Table featuring Dominique, she goes back to her childhood home in France to see her father’s old studio/workshop and visit her father’s grave. At that point both Dominique and I were in tears.  

Mashama Bailey in her Savannah restaurant

Then there was the episode about Mashama Bailey an award winning black chef who operates a restaurant in Savannah called Grey in an old bus station from Jim Crow times when black and white travelers had to wait for the bus in separate areas of the station, use separate washrooms and drink from different fountains. Reminders of those days of shameful segregation deliberately remain in the decor of the restaurant where Mashama serves southern comfort food.  

There is a scene in the Chef’s Table episode about Mashama where her parents tell her how proud they are of her and how proud her grandmothers would be to know their granddaughter was reclaiming the history of that bus station with her restaurant where people of every race and culture can enjoy soul food together.  You could tell how moved Mashama was at her parents’ praise and I was ……. in tears. 

I haven’t been a big fan of cooking shows in the past but Chef’s Table is different. In each episode you see an incredible artist creating sumptous and gorgeous food but…….. you also learn that their talent and drive is inspired by some very deeply personal experiences that are bound to make you cry. 

Other posts……..

A Chocolate Evening With Beatriz

Cooking Up A Storm in The Yucatan

First Supper in Lisbon- My Husband Has Great Instincts

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Twelve Things To Do In Merida Mexico- Well Maybe Fifteen

Last Sunday, was our last day in Merida, Mexico.  My husband Dave said I should figure out if there was anything we should still do in the Yucatan capital city before our departure. Dave and our friend Rudy planned to golf eighteen holes as they did virtually every day of our holiday but there would be time for another activity as well.  I found a list of the best fifteen things to do in Merida and…………… we had done them all except three.  

We hadn’t rented a bike to cycle down the main avenue of Paseo de Montejo on a Sunday morning when it is closed to all other traffic.  It was already Sunday afternoon so we’d missed that opportunity. We hadn’t taken salsa dancing lessons. The salsa dance studios I looked at were all closed on the weekends.

In a mule drawn carriage on our hacienda tour

We hadn’t been on a horse drawn carriage ride in Merida but since we had already been on a mule drawn carriage ride we didn’t really need to do the horse-drawn carriage thing.   However we had participated in all of the other 12 BEST things to do in Merida. I thought that was pretty great.  We had……………..

tour group merida12) Taken a free walking tour of the city

mayan-museum11) Visited the Mayan World Museum

10) Shopped at a local market

9) Tasted the speciality drinks of the Yucatan

 8) Gone  to a performance at the Teatro Jose Peon Contreras

7) Experienced Mayan basketball at a Pok ta Pok Game

6)Walked down the Paseo de Montejo and visited the Monumento al la Patria

5) Gone to a local art gallery

4) Discovered local Yucatan cuisine  

3) Spent time in a plaza and sat in one of Merida’s famous you and me chairs

2) Visited one of the municipal buildings that are open to the public

 1) Gone on a day trip

Even though we hadn’t done all fifteen things on the list I could easily think of three others to round our best experiences up to fifteen.

Swimming in a cenote

Having a reunion with a former student of ours

Taking a bus tour of the city

I told Dave he could just relax after his golf game.  I thought we’d pretty much done all the best things Merida had to offer. 

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Lost on My Kindle

Last year my daughter-in-law borrowed my Kindle to take on a holiday.  When she returned she said one of the books on my Kindle she had enjoyed reading was The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  

I couldn’t remember reading it. I looked through the notes in my journal.  No reference to The Boston Girl  there.  I must have downloaded it and then forgotten to read it.  It got lost on my Kindle!

I rectified things on my recent Mexican holiday when I read The Boston Girl .  The story takes you on a walk through history with a young Jewish woman living in one of my favourite American cities.  As you hear Addie Baum’s life story you learn about the Boston tenements where new immigrants lived in deplorable conditions. You come to understand the devastation and grief wrought by the Spanish influenza epidemic and World War I.  You also are witness to the way political and social activists worked to better the lives of women and children in the 1920s.  The main action in the story is centered on the years between 1915-1927.

The Boston Girl did not receive overwhelmingly stellar reviews but I liked it because I could connect with it in three ways.  

  • It tells the story of an immigrant family from Russia.  I am from a Russian immigrant family.
  • It uses the story of a young woman to illustrate a specific historical period.  I am currently working on a series of short stories that chronicle the life of a young woman during the 1960s. 
  • It is written in a straight forward and easy to read style that could almost make it a middle grade or teen historical novel.  I am currently trying to get a middle grade historical novel I have written published. 

I think The Boston Girl is an important book because it shows us what life was like for women before they could use birth control,  before abortions were legal, before there were laws to protect women from domestic violence, before there were no fault divorce laws, before women had equal opportunities in the workplace, before they could vote.  At a time when women are still fighting for justice and equality I think a reminder of how far we’ve come is crucial if we don’t want to return to those dark times for women. 

I am glad my daughter-in-law helped me find The Boston Girl otherwise it might have remained lost on my Kindle and I would have missed a good read. 

Other posts………..

Learning How To Write Historical Fiction

What Makes a Best Seller? 

Brides of New France

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Keeping Score For Sue

Dave and Rudy on the La Ceiba Golf Course’s ninth hole

During our time in Merida, Mexico we were staying only a five-minute walk away from a golf course.  Dave and our friend Rudy bought monthly memberships at the course and they golfed almost every day.

Dave and me on the eighth hole of the La Ceiba Golf Course

I like to golf too but nine holes a couple of times a week was plenty for me. If Rudy’s wife Sue who died in December of 2017 had been with us, as she was in the past on many golfing holidays, I know I would have golfed more. It was fun to golf with Sue who took her game seriously but enjoyed visiting with me as we made our way down the fairways. We laughed together and had a good time. Golfing without her just wasn’t the same.  On one of our last visits together I told Sue that one of many things I would really miss about her was golfing together.  She said she would miss that too.

Sue and me in our new golf hats ready to hit the links at the Mountain Brook course in Gold Canyon Arizona

Then Sue, who was never shy about offering her advice, told me she really felt if I kept score in my games I’d get better.  I usually don’t keep score on the course, but rather just appreciate the good shots I have and enjoy the scenery and social aspect of the game.  However I told Sue that I promised to keep score during my golf games in the future just because she had asked me to.  Last winter we went on a holiday in Portugal with Rudy but I couldn’t golf because I had just been in a cast for a broken wrist and had strict orders not to golf from my doctor.

On the first hole at the La Ceiba course

However I did go golfing about ten times this winter in Merida and after each hole I told Rudy my score and he wrote it down. Each time I did that, I thought of Sue, and wished she were out on the golf course with us. 

Other posts……..


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Merida Moments

On the La Ceiba Golf Course with Dave

I blogged all during our two months in Merida Mexico.  But there were a few photos I wanted to include about good times we had that just didn’t fit into my blog posts.  So here they are!

Dave negotiating prices for a massage in Progreso

Having massages in Progreso

Waiting for a local cultural event to start with my sister and brother-in-law

Enjoying a giant mango margarita in a new hat I’d just bought

My sister surprised by the sparkler on her birthday cake

Shop owner trying to sell Dave a new shirt

Dave negotiating with a shop owner over the price of a new shirt

Dinner at Merida’s famous Chaya Maya restaurant with my sister, her husband and our friend Rudy

We visited this unique monument in the Merida city centre

Dave refused to take a photo of me unless I stuck my fingers in the mouth of the jaguar on the monument

Dave and me in front of one of the many beautiful blooming bougainvillea trees on the golf course. Our home in the La Ceiba golf community was on Bougainvillea Street.

Other posts……..

Silent Prey

To Market

Cenote Swim

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Merida By Design

I have started doing design blog posts after our trips looking at artistic things that catch my eye.  Here are some design photos from our two months in Merida Mexico.

Ecological Cooking Pot or Olla Ecologica by Alfonso Castillo Orta at the Merida Folk Museum

Home on the streets of Merida

Tree root pattern in a Merida Park

Salad at the Bella Roma Restaurant

Jaar by Frida Feliz- Soho Art Gallery – Merida

Kids Making a Lego mural in a Merida mall

Matador’s costume – Bull Fight Stadium Merida

Dave walking through the courtyard outside the Merida Art Gallery surrounded by beautiful work on transparent glass

Merida city sign with our friend Rudy. Notice we are each standing in front of the first letter of our name. 

Pillows in a house on a House and Garden tour in Merida

Door at the Merida University

Mask for sale at a shop in Progresso

Rooster Chicken or Gallo Gallina by Virginia Ayla -Merida Art Gallery

Floor tiles in the Merida Folk Art Museum

Conversation by J. M. Casanova- Merida Art Gallery

Flowers in the Merida Market

The century old house my sister and her husband rented in Merida

Other posts………

Lisbon By Design

Such Beauty Beneath Your Feet

Look At Those Beautiful Floors


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Filed under Art, Mexico