Big Books

While waiting at the doctor’s today, I was reading a short story by Haruki Murakami. It was about reading and doing without sleep. The gist of the story was about the value of reading BIG books. This set me to thinking how I wanted to read a BIG book. So after the minor “surgery” at the doctor’s, I rewarded myself in my usual way with a trip to nearby Barnes & Noble and a search for a BIG book. What about Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet? Not in stock. J.G. Farrell’s books – not in stock. So I wandered in the “stacks” and bingo – there was Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. I wasn’t really looking for that one but it certainly was BIG. Phew. About 1000 pages and HEAVY. About the Civil War and the South. Not really what I wanted but it has been more than 60 years since I read it. My sister Nan and I both loved it! So that’s my choice.

The Alvord “Desert”

Back to my days of studying geology.

Wickersham's Conscience

Alvord Desert, looking northwest at the summit of Steens Mountain

It’s not a desert, although the area only gets about seven inches of precipitation a year, on average. It’s a playa, the dry bed of a former lake, and it’s about 8 miles wide and 70 miles long. The surface of the dry lake bottom is absolutely, unnervingly flat, and bare of any visible trace of life. WC was there last just week.

The playa surface is at an elevation of about 4,060 feet. It’s high desert. The block fault face of Steens Mountain towers over the playa, rising more than a mile overhead. Steens Mountain was intermittently glaciated in the late Pleistocene and Pliocene, from 3.5 million years to 15,000 years ago. No ordinary lake can survive for 3.5 million years; they fill up with sediment. But the Alvord Playa is part of a graben, a fault-bounded block of…

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New/Old Relatives

As a young man, my paternal grandfather Charles Dana Miller, fought in the Civil War, North vs South. Serving in an Ohio Regiment, my grandfather was on the Union side. He survived the War and shortly afterward, in 1865, he married and had 2 children. Sadly his young wife died following the birth of the 2nd child. As I understand it, his parents helped in looking after the grandchildren. Years passed and eventually he sought additional help with the children, and this is where Mary Murdock, a young girl living in Crown Point New York, was asked to come out to Ohio to be a housekeeper for Charles. (I suspect that she and her family were known to Charles and maybe even related.)

Well, the marriage took place in November 1882 in Crown Point New York between Charles Dana Miller and Mary Murdock. They are my grandparents. My father was born to them in 1891.

But what of the daughter and son born to my grandfather Charles Dana Miller and his first wife Lucy Gilman Jewett. The daughter remained in the Newark area. She married and had several children. To date I have not identified that line of step relations.

No it is the infant son, Charles Dion Miller, born 1867, whose path I have traced. When he grew up he married a woman named Maud Parr. That family had a farm in Iowa. The descendants in turn gravitated to Colorado.

..to be continued

Return of Bird of the Week: Resplendent Quetzal

Lots of information for bird lovers.

Wickersham's Conscience

Resplendent Quetzal Male, Costa Rica

A supremely lovely bird; the most beautiful, all things considered, that I have ever seen. He owes his beauty to the intensity and arresting contrast of his coloration, the resplendent sheen and glitter of his plumage, the elegance of his ornamentation, the symmetry of his form, and the noble dignity of his carriage.

Alexander Skutch, Life history of the Quetzal, Condor. 46: 213-235 (1944)

This is, for WC, the most beautiful bird in the world. WC has only seen the species twice, and only gotten a photo the second time. It was a mess. WC’s tripod had jammed, and could only be used as a monopod. The bird was badly backlit, and the wind was making that breathtaking tail flutter all over the place. WC has reprocessed the image for this post, but it’s still a little soft.1 Even so, this comes reasonably…

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