Sunday, April 29, 2012

IDAHO Part Three

                    Idaho Spud                                                                                                                                copyright "who cares!"

The Idaho Potato

       Surely, you knew this was coming.  How could I write about Idaho and not mention the great Idaho russet potato?  Being a loyal New Englander, I've always bought Maine potatoes.  But in 1992 we were all suddenly reminded of the economic and political significance of these tubers to Idaho.  Then vice president Dan Quayle attended a spelling bee at a Trenton, New Jersey, elementary school.  A child was asked to spell potato and this he did, p-o-t-a-t-o.  VP Quayle immediately corrected the student informing him that he'd forgotten the 'e' at the end.  Later that same year, at the Democratic National Convention, a delegate introduced himself with these words, "-- from the great state of Idaho, where everyone knows how to spell 'potato.'"

       And everyone there, particularly in Boise, surely does because the Russet Burbank potato built a great deal of the city and is responsible for a huge chunk of the state's income.  J. R. Simplot, who left school in the middle of eighth grade, became the largest shipper of these potatoes in the U.S.  By 1967 he was supplying McDonald's with their first frozen fries (previously they had been hand-cut on location).  The Russet Burbank is, usually, completely blemish free.  The few nicks you see in the specimen above were incurred traveling home to Massachusetts in my camera bag.  They keep well, are tasty, and make those long fries that get shoveled into red cardboard containers.  What can I say?  Supersize me!

       There is a point of geographical fairness to be made here:  the Russet Burbank potato is not, in fact, indigenous to Idaho.  It was developed, I am proud to say, by a Massachusetts man in the early 1870s.  Famous scientist and gardener Luther Burbank lived and worked in Lunenburg, just a couple of towns west of where I live.  

Sweet, Idaho

       We had a date, a very important date, to visit and soak in a hot spring in the former mining town of Sweet.  At the time of the 1900 Thunder Mountain gold strike, it was a happening place with three saloons and three hotels as well.  Miners made use of hotels that offered beds and outdoor metal tubs filled with hot spring water to wash off the daily grime.  Before that Sweet had been a happening place for the Paiute, who fished for salmon and used the hot waters to survive winter blasts.  But, as in many locations and states, those with gold fever pushed out the salmon fishers.

       But gold has a habit of running out, and that's what happened in Sweet.  Miners left, businesses declined, and fires eventually destroyed most of the downtown.   On our way to the hot spring, we drove through the town center, now just a post office, restaurant, and gas station.

       We had an hour or so before we were due at the spring so Sam took us to an area just outside of Sweet known for its birds.  Actually, we didn't see many.  But it was starkly gorgeous.

                             Railroad to somewhere?                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


       We had a lovely soak at Roystone Spa, owned and run by a pleasant Mormon family and all their grown children.  Sam and I hung out where the water was warmest while Jim floated about on a raft enveloped by a cloud of steam.

Beware The Caipirinha!

                             Host "Sill"                                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       That evening we had fejoada made by Sam's husband Sill--pictured above--a native of Brazil.  It's the national dish and made mostly, but certainly not limited to, black beans and rice.  Our host also served the national cocktail--caipirinhas--a delicious combination of Brazilian cane brandy, lime, and just enough sugar to convince your palate that you won't come to any harm.  But Sam had already warned us about the drink's potency and Sill, Brazilian by birth and temperament, who believes he had a sacred duty to leave no glass unfilled.  Jim and I drank slowly.

     The Owyhees, Dedication, and Celebration!

                           Free range cow                                                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       Until they hit the feedlots, these range cattle have it pretty nice, all the food they could want, fresh water, fresh air, and, Sam assured me, usually lots of sunshine.  The herd pretty much withdrew and scattered when I approached, all except this curious and perhaps territorial lady.

        It seems the closer the cattle come to humans, the more their conditions decline.  This fellow and his inmates stood fetlock deep  in manure mud:

                    "Number Twelve"                                                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       Sweet-faced Number Twelve was apparently in need of a good head scratch but the Jersey barriers prevented me from obliging him.

       So, where are the horses, Ainslie?   After all, this is supposed to be a "horse blog."  We were thinking about riding at the ranch of one of Sam's friends, but the weather prevented it.  Most of the open land we saw was dedicated principally to cattle and potatoes, but I certainly did see some equines:

       Idaho Horses                                                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       And take a look here:

           American castle of the non-Newport kind                                      Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       I'd never seen a horse property quite like this one.  It was for sale, and that day there was an open house, though there wasn't a car or, for that matter, a human in sight.  It's heartening to know that outrageous taste knows no state boundaries.  If only we had time I would have liked a tour.  I'd never been inside a genuine American castle.  But then again, it was definitely lacking some key features:  there was no indoor riding arena and not even a moat.

       And, while you might think it must be pretty inexpensive in Idaho, it seems it's all relative.  We passed one ranch whose huge, over-the-driveway sign identified itself as "Rancho Cost-A- Plenty!"

       En route, to Celebration Park, we stopped at Dedication Point, which overlooks the Snake River.  The view was stunning and the scale huge.  You get an idea of this by checking out the cars and green tent--tiny specks--in the lower left:

                      Dedication Point                                                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


       And then on to Celebration Park, Idaho's only archeological park:

      Celebration Point                                                                                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012
        The mountains you see in the distance--and in a number of other photos in the Idaho blog entries--are the Owyhee's.  That's a nice sounding Native American name.  But it isn't:  in the early 19th century Hawaii's ruler contracted to supply workers for the fur trade in the northwest.  In 1819 a party of men--three of whom were natives of Hawaii--set off to explore uncharted territory.  They never returned.  From that point on trappers referred to these mountains as the "Owyhee's," which is closer to the original Polynesian pronunciation of the word "Hawaii" than the way we usually say it today.

           Vision quest finger insert                                                                                            Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

        The Paiutes, who inhabited this area, like other Native American tribes, as well as Buddhists and Shintoists, believe that the soul is not limited to humans but is found in all elements of nature--the rocks, sky, water, coyotes, eagles, wolves, horses--pretty much everything that is not man-made.  These spiritual forces were for the Paiutes their link to the spirit world.  Somewhere between the age of twelve and fifteen, a girl or boy would embark on a vision quest, hiking to a particular place--a cave, promontory, or mountain peak--and, carrying no weapons, would fast, drink little water, and not build a fire.   Reaching a trance-like state, the young man or woman would experience a vision in the form of an animal or force of nature:  lighting, thunder, or wind would come.  If the boy or girl was worthy and had prepared honorably for the quest, the manifested form would share its noble attributes and serve as guide and comforter to that person for life.  A buffalo or grizzly signified a gift of great strength, a wolf mean hunting skills, a coyote imparted cunning, a deer gave fleetness an--my personal favorite--the prairie chicken bestowed the gift of being able to hide from danger.

       Celebration Park is known for its Native American petroglyphs, which date back as far as twelve thousand but as recently as two hundred and fifty years ago.  We were fortunate to be guided by an interpretive specialist, Mr. Peckham.  In the above photo he is pointing to a hole made by the Paiutes to aid in their vision quests.
It is believed that, in preparation for the vision, a seeker would keep a finger in the hole to stay connected to earth and all her forces.

        Here is a petroglyph of a bird.

       Petroglyph Bird                                                                                                                                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

 Here is what is thought to be a compass, with various points indicating where the sun would rise or set at the equinox or solstice:

          Compass Petroglyph                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

This is of a man:
      Man                                                                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


      A dragonfly:

   Dragonfly                                                                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


       Scorpions abounded and still abound among these great lava boulders:

     Scorpion                                                                                             Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


 It is thought this might be a horse:

    Horse                                                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

No one seems to know what this represents:

    ?                                                                                                          Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       As I said earlier, these date from as far back as 12,000 years.  But the following was etched onto rock little more than two hundred and fifty years ago.  And I find it sad:


      Sheep                                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

      It is almost certainly a sheep.  About this time sheep herders began to parcel out much of the land in this area for themselves.  Mr. Peckham knew the direction from which the herders and their sheep came and also the position the Paiute would have taken behind this rock in order to create the etching.  It seems that a Paiute who saw these fantastical woolly creatures come over the rocks and down to the river to drink, stood behind a lava rock, and etched their image.   He could not have known what the arrival of these fluffy creatures would portend for his people.



  Before I close I once again leave you with a YouTube of Tasha, an exceptionally clever shepherd mix who desperately needs a home.  She is loving but lacking someone to love her.   Please pass this on:

See you soon, and thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly--


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Idaho, Gray Sky Country! Part II

    Owyhee Moutains                                                      Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

Mormons, the Chocolate Bar and "Sass"!

  The next morning we had free, so after breakfast Jim and I strolled around Boise's center.  Idaho is a very red state with an abiding suspicion of the "Federalistas."  (I actually heard this term in a conversation two business men were having on the street.)  But its capital city--while not as blue as Boston--certainly is modestly liberal as well as environmentally informed and active.  There are lovely book and coffee shops, art galleries, and restaurants.  However, as we walked along a street not far from our hotel we passed a barber shop advertising itself as "The Electric Chair."  (I did say modestly liberal).  Buzz cut, anyone?  Probably not the place I'd take my son for his first haircut.

       Entering a shop that Sam had recommended highly, "The Chocolate Bar," we inhaled a complex variety of dark, rich fragrances. The chocolates--little pieces of art themselves--were neatly presented on trays behind the glass counters.  We settled on some plain, heavenly dark chocolate, and an assortment of chocolate covered cherries and huckleberries (Idaho's state fruit).  

      While our delicacies were being boxed, we chatted with the young lady behind the counter.  We told her we were from Boston.
       "Are people in Idaho as nice as the people in Boston?" she asked.
       "Nicer," Jim and I replied in unison.  Neither of us could bring ourselves to mention that in a recent survey of fifty U.S. cities examined for friendliness, Boston came in dead last.  
       "Y'mean people in Boston have sass?"
       "Some, yes," I replied.
       "I've never been to Boston but I've been to New York.  Now they've got sass!"
       I wasn't about to volunteer that I had grown up on Long Island, which I think rivals--if not surpasses--Manhattan in the sass department. 

      On the news I learned that a Boise-based tattoo artist had won the most prestigious tattoo competition in the U.S., held in Salt Lake City, not a locale that instantly comes to mind when I think "tattoo parlor."  This artist walked away with blue ribbons in three categories--chest, back, and legs.  In an on-screen interview, she happily declared that she is "booked-out" for two years solid. 

       I do understand that tattoos are art and that great skill and patience are required.  The blacksmith who shoes my horses has a striking, brightly colored dragon and koi arrangement on her back.  And I have a student who even had a tasteful image of her favorite horse here at Windflower applied to her hip.  I served in the Navy for twelve years, so I am thoroughly acquainted with the traditional run of romantic and maritime tattoos:  pledges of eternal love to mother, wife, and lover, as well as images of ships, anchors, eagles.  I got my commission from the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport in 1975.  Back then the city's waterfront was seedy if not downright dangerous.  That's where all the cheap bars and tattoo parlors were, and so that's where the sailors were. At that time tattoos were technically prohibited in the Navy.  (Perhaps they still are.)  Simply stated, if your tattoo got infected or you wanted it removed, Uncle Sam wasn't going to foot the bill.   

      And I carry with me me another traditional, albeit horrific historical association that prejudices me against use of the body as canvas.  Having been born in 1949, just a few years after the concentration camps were shut down, I cannot disassociate tattoos from those terrible, blue-ink numbers forcibly put on the wrists of millions of Jews by the Third Reich.    

       And, of course, I lived in Japan where I developed yet another tattoo adverse association.  Yakuza members, Japan's equivalent of the Mafia, are known for their torso tattoos.  This practice dates  back to the organization's formation in the 1600s.  These days they prefer to be known as "Ninkyo Dantai" or "Virtuous Group."  Right.  Some members travel to the Philippines and other Asian countries, promising good office jobs to impoverished women if they come to Japan.  But when the women arrive they find themselves prisoners and forced into prostitution.   

       I was amused to find a popular chain of gas station convenience stores called "Skunkies."  Its emblem, of course, is a  Looney Tunes-like image of a skunk.  Makes me wonder how the flavored coffees there taste.  I also spotted a used car dealership named "Ethical Autos."  In my experience, when the words "ethical" or "ethics" are used as a selling point, they're usually aren't any.  But who knows?  "O! Zone" advertises itself as the only store in Idaho completely devoted to the sale of condoms.  I asked one of Sam's students (the shop borders Boise State campus) what the "O!" stood for; without a moment's hesitation, he replied, "Orgasm!"  They like their exclamation points in Boise:  near the river, the city library building announces itself with huge block letters high on its outside wall--LIBRARY!  I like that.  They could go one step farther:  "O! LIBRARY!"

      Idaho is only second to Utah in its Mormon population--one quarter of the state.  Though they do not hold the majority in Boise, they and other conservative groups make their presence felt in nearby cities and towns.  In Meridian the school district recently fired two hundred teachers.  Mormonism dominates and I was told that the unofficial motto of the high school is: "Enter as students, leave as parents."  Married, of course. 


World Center For The Birds of Prey

                    Jim, Sam and Emily                                             Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       And here we are, Jim, Sam and Emily, a student of Sam's as well as a volunteer at The World Center for Birds of Prey.  The chief mission of the Center is to breed and restore a variety of raptors on the endangered species list, including the California Condor and the Aplomado Falcon:

Here is one of five condors who permanently reside at the center:

                                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       Apologies for the poor quality of this shot;  though outside, it was quite dark and he was flying.   It also fails to convey how enormous he is. The California Condor is North America's largest land bird with a wing span just under ten feet.  It so impressed the Yokut tribe of California, that they believed those great wings blocked the sun and caused eclipses.

        By the late 20th century, due to habitat destruction, hunting, egg poaching, and lead poisoning, there were only twenty-two of these incredible vultures left.  When condors fed on the carrion of carcasses of animals who have been shot, they inadvertently consumed the lead in the bullets and shells.  (Swans who eat fish with lead fishing weights in them suffer the same fate.)  In 1987 all twenty-two condors were captured and breeding programs initiated at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.   Condors are gradually being reintroduced into the wild.  As of December 2011, there were two hundred and ten condors living in the wild.  If they are lucky they may reach the age of sixty.

                                    Harpy Eagle               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       This beautiful creature is a Harpy Eagle and the most powerful raptor in North and South America.  They are found from Mexico to Argentina.  But because of habitat destruction it is almost extinct in Central America.  The Harpy is an apex predator:  he is at the top of his food chain and has no known predators.  His conservation status is "near endangered."

      We had a wonderful tour given us by the director of the archives, David Wells, where we got to see illustrations and books on falconry dating back to the fifteenth century.  The extraordinarily realistic illustrations were created with a depth of color and vibrancy that I'd never seen before.  And speaking of art, Mr. Wells' two Italian greyhounds joined us for the tour.  Here they are, a true tableau vivant:

    Italian Greyhounds                                                    Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


       Next it was on to the Research Library where we were met by by Kent Carrie, original founder of the Archives of Falconry.  There dozens and dozens of beige flat metal file cabinets contained samples of eggs from a variety of raptors, including the California Condor:

                                   Condor Eggs                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       Mr. Carrie then quietly and gently opened another drawer.   This is what we saw lying on a plywood sheet, wings down and feet tagged:

    Passenger Pigeon                                                  Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       She is a passenger pigeon, and there are no more.  In the late 17th century, enormous flocks of these birds, often a mile wide, would darken the sky from morning until late afternoon.  One witness described it as a great "living wind."  

       One hundred and thirty-six million would nest in an area covering 850 square miles.  Native Americans hunted them only periodically.   But the white residents of North America were methodically rapacious.   Nets were set up, trees in which the birds normally nested were cut down, and hundreds of pounds of alcohol-soaked grain were thrown onto the ground to disorient the birds and render them more compliant.   In one day of netting and shooting at a single location, over five million birds were killed.  Those made wealthy by this slaughter generally did not eat their catch.  Oppression and extinction often interlock.  Considered sub-standard fare, passenger pigeons were fed almost exclusively to servants, slaves, and hogs.

       By the time significant action was taken to save the passenger pigeon it was too late.   They would not mate in small flocks.  Even though some birds remained, the species was doomed.  The last known bird in the wild was shot in 1900 in Ohio by a boy with a BB gun.  And the last captive passenger pigeon, a female,  died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.  Her body was frozen in a block of ice and shipped to the Smithsonian, where she was stuffed and mounted.  She is archived and not available for public viewing.  This last passenger pigeon was named Martha after the wife of our first president. 

       "In Wildness is the Preservation of the World."  I saw this quotation from Henry David Thoreau every day my two last years at Hamilton College.  It was printed on the bottom of a Sierra Club poster of Redwoods that I had taped on the cinder block wall of my dorm room.  That evening in Boise Jim gave a public lecture, "Henry David Thoreau and Health in Nature."  By not exercising or even walking enough, eating huge amounts of processed foods, throwing endocrine disrupters into our environment right and left (they mess with your hormones), destroying complex ecosystem habitats, and isolating ourselves from the sources of good food, clean water, and fresh air, we damage our own health and that of our environment.  They're linked.  And awareness of this is shared by blue and red alike.  When it comes to the environment, Idaho hunters and Boston (or Concord) gardeners have a lot in common and share many values.  

       That evening dinner at the Red Feather, an organic restaurant;  where used wine bottles are turned into water glasses.  The food and wine was predominantly local--and even the number of miles to a farm or winery was noted on the menu.  The closer the source, the less carbon dioxide to get its product to the restaurant, and the more money kept circulating within a regional economy.  A lot of environmental concerns end up being about building a stronger human community, too.



      In the next blog entry, our trip to Idaho will conclude with a trip to Celebration Park on the Snake River, where the Paiutes fished and left extraordinary petraglyphs on the rocks.  But for now, let's go back to horses here at Windflower.  Here is my friend Joy lunging Quilly, our Welsh Pony over a jump:

    Quilly and Joy                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

        Unimpeded by the weight of a rider, free-jumping is a great method for strengthening and developing back and hindquarter muscles, as well as for gaining trust and discipline.  

       Naughtiness in horses sometimes goes hand-in-hand with high intelligence.  Haflinger mare Firefly has been able to undo all sorts of knots as well as open anything, whether it be doors, gates, cabinets, bags of feed, and cans with lids firmly shut.  A couple of weeks ago she got in the barn by opening the outside latch to a stall.  She was in there for well over an hour before being discovered.  She thought she'd just attended the best party of her life, and I felt like I'd been vandalized.  We were both right. This is what I found:

                                                                       Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

        It took well over an hour to straighten up this mess.  Here's the perpetrator, looking oh-so-innocent in the upper right, with her three friends soaking up the sunshine just a few days after:

   Sun-bathing                                                                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


        I leave you once again with the story of an animal who needs your help.   It is six-week-old Freddy.   He requires lots of love, medicine, and money to heal from the abuse he suffered at the hands of some miserable person.  Meet Freddy:


         See you next time.  Thank you for reading 
  The Windflower Weekly  --  Ainslie

Monday, April 2, 2012

IDAHO, Gray Sky Country!

       The Owyhee Mountains                                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


        That's how it was for Jim and me when we landed in Boise, Idaho; and that's pretty much how it stayed the length of our six-day visit.  The sun made itself visible, but only occasionally.  And when it was out, it resembled a low-watt light bulb behind a gray parchment shade.  But, of course, it could have been worse:  there could have been a blizzard, or it could have been windy, raw, and really rainy.  And we did get several rainless afternoons with teasing glimpses of blue sky fading into a dusky pink sunset.  

       I hadn't slept but two hours the night before our arrival, and I am not an easy-going traveler, so there was no sleep for me on the plane.  You would think, with all the flying around I did as a naval officer, I'd be well used to air travel.  Well, I was--then.   Maybe Uncle Sam unwittingly employed a course of  "systematic desensitization" on me.  This treatment--invented by a South African psychiatrist--compels patients to face their fears.  Most people who are afraid snakes avoid any place snakes are likely to be found.  Similarly,  those afraid of dogs will tend to go where dogs are not.  Reasonable and hardly surprising.  I'm afraid of philosophy professors from Barnard College, so you will never find me anywhere near Millbank Hall.  But with systematic desensitization therapy,  if you're afraid of snakes you may wind up a with a friendly Burmese python wrapping you up like a slithering tortilla.   If you fear dogs, you may find yourself at Cesar Milan's kennel feeding his fifty dogs,  a number of whom are rehabilitated "red zone cases," i.e., they once attacked other dogs--or people. 

       As a naval ensign I, of course, had to follow orders--and when I was handed  a sheet of paper that had "Travel Orders" printed at the top--I traveled!  So, I often found myself in jets, cargo planes, P-3 Orions, and a variety of helicopters.  Perhaps I was being treated to an inadvertent  course of "systematic desensitization" by Uncle Sam.  But then again, maybe it was due to the form and nature of my travel.  I worked for two, three, and four star admirals in Japan and Hawaii and traveled with them often.  These men were aviators and seemed--and usually were--wonderfully in command of all things on the ground, under water, or flying through the air.  No plane they were on would dare tumble into the Pacific.  Another factor that I'm sure helped:  I often sat up in the cockpit with the pilots.  They were great fun, and so at ease that I was at ease,  allowing me to tolerate and sometimes even enjoy the powerful g-forces of reverse thrust when we landed on particularly short runways like those at Wake and Midway Islands.

      "Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing."  That's what the guys in the cockpit liked to say.  We did slam down hard a couple of times, but I always walked away, so these experiences were invariably "good."  There was a bit of a bump at Boise, but by my Navy peers' standards that landing was very "good,"  too.  It was only when I got to the our hotel--the Grove--that I truly crash-landed.  Though I hadn't eaten in well over eight hours, I had no interest in food.  Shut-eye was number one priority.  And that's what I got. 

        "Do you want your dinner?"  Jim had brought me some take out from his dinner with Samantha, a former student and now professor of literature at Boise State.  (Sam's program had invited Jim to give a couple of talks, hence our trip.)   I must have said no because when I next woke up it was morning, Jim was asleep, and I found Indian food in the mini fridge.  Peckish, I tried the nan but it had a walloping amount amount of butter embedded with thick garlic paste.  So I made coffee, returned to bed with my Kindle, and waited for Jim to wake.  A few hours later I was still in bed half napping, half reading.  Jim, however,  was now up and ready to explore the green way bordering the Boise River.  But it was still raining and I was still tired, so after breakfast Jim once again went out the door alone.   These collapses happen a lot when I travel.  A number of factors contribute:  fear of flying, fear of leaving my home, my farm, my animals, and, conversely, the release of temporarily not having to be responsible for my  home, my farm, my animals, and my students.  For a few days I don't need to get up every morning and take care of seven horses (ride and train four of them), as well as teach lessons.   And so in Boise I didn't.  And there was no fine weather to apply to myself as leverage.

       That same day, we lunched with Sam and her husband Sil in their charming home just a short distance from downtown Boise.  The previous owner had been an artist who--judging by the walls--embraced color.  Afterwards, and because it was raining lightly, Jim and I walked over to the "Basque Block" just around the corner from our hotel.  I hadn't known that in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Basques emigrated to the United States.  Repelled by years of war on the Iberian peninsula, and attracted by the gold and land rushes, thousands of  Basques eventually settled in Idaho and became the sheepherders they had been in northern Spain and southern France. 

        Jim and I rushed past the little Basque gift shops (with their flags and red and black berets) into the Basque Museum to escape a now pelting rain.  Inside we found a  tale of yet another immigrant group who had landed at Ellis Island in search of a better life.  But the Basques were unique in one significant way.  Their language, Euskara, predates the Indo-European Romance languages--French and Spanish--which later surrounded them for centuries.   It is one of only three languages in the world with absolutely no connection to any other.  So, linguistic isolation significantly contributed to their post-immigration ethnic cohesion.

       The museum's story boards also informed us of a Basque connection with one our founding fathers.  John Adams, our second President, visited Biscay, one of the Basque regions in northern Spain, in 1779.   He was researching various forms of government that might influence the not yet fully conceived constitution of our own.  He was impressed.  In his own words:

             " . . . It is a republic; and one of the privileges they have most insisted on,  is not
        to have a king.  This extraordinary people have preserved their ancient language,  genius, 
        laws, government, and manners, without innovation, longer than any other nation of 
        Europe.  Of Celtic extraction, they once inhabited some of the finest parts of ancient Boetica;
        but their love of liberty, and unconquerable aversion to foreign servitude, made them retire, 
        when invaded and overpowered in their ancient feats, into these mountainous countries, called
        by the ancients Cantabria. . . ."


       There seems little doubt that the Basque style of government informed, if not directly influenced, Adams and those around him, in the creation of our own constitution in 1787.  

The Military Reservation


    Military Reserve Nesting Rock                                            Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012


       Next morning Sam took us for a walk on the Military Reservation, so named because the military routinely conducted maneuvers there from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century.  Located just minutes on foot from Sam's charming neighborhood (yet wonderfully within walking distance of Boise center and the capitol building, too), it seems to go on forever.  There are well over 130 miles of trails.  The photo above is a rock face along the path we were walking.   A great variety of birds call this rock home.  Hawks, owls, and songbirds hatch, live, grow to mate and have their young, and die there.  Many varieties of predators and prey share the same area, but seeing all these nesting sites of so many was a clear reminder of Mother Nature's passionless method of maintaining her delicate balance.

       Beyond this wall of rock trails wind through fragrant sagebrush and eventually climb up into the mountains.  I have always loved going on long rides alone and would delight to tack up one my horses and travel for miles without seeing another human.  Sam assured me there would be cell service if something unforeseen--a grizzly, black bear, a cougar, a rattlesnake, gopher hole laming my horse, interrupted the journey.  

        I would have taken a picture of those mountains but, cloaked in the same gray weather system as we were, they were invisible.   The only difference, Sam said, was they would be having snow, not rain.

      Seven Ideas of Nature

       That afternoon Jim gave a talk on "Seven Ideas of Nature" to students and faculty in Environmental Studies at Boise State.  He outlined how complex the idea of Nature is, that the word means so many different things, from God's creation to evolution, to human nature, to a sense of process and ecological interaction, to flora and fauna studied by science, to the cosmos itself, and much more.  There have often been complaints that "Nature" is an inadequate word for the many ideas it stands for, but that simply seems to mean that we use it all the more, not less.  Jim was trying to explain these expanses and wrinkles with some specific examples from science, literature, philosophy, psychology, and religion. 

     That evening he and I had dinner at a Basque restaurant.  Its name, Leuka Ona, will give you an idea how different the Euskara language is.   The sea and mountains dictate Basque cuisine.  Seafood and meat--principally lamb--are its protein.  Jim and I had a delicious goat cheese, the name of which I unfortunately can't remember, and fish and lamb with accompanying vegetables and bread.  The servings were substantial, straightforward, and delicious.  When I told the owner how much I enjoyed the cooking I received a huge warm hug. 

  The Greenway and Nature Center 

    Along the Boise River                                                        Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       The next morning Samantha, Jim, and I walked along the Greenway--25 miles of beautiful trails that flank the Boise River as it flows through the center of the city and its outskirts.  The river was high because of snow melt, but it apparently calms down during warmer months.  Here's another shot (the current was at least 10 miles per hour that day):

    Boise River                                                                      Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

       Summer days can hit one hundred degrees.  Many Boise residents take to the river with an array of floating devices, mostly inner tubes.  Apparently it's quite the bonding event in this city of 205,000.  Hundreds of friends, family, and strangers of various morphologies talk and laugh as they float for miles down the serene Boise River. 

      Next, we turned onto a trail that led into The Nature Center and found this living and ever changing exhibit:

     Boise River Rainbow Trout                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

      You are looking at a live rainbow trout in an actual underwater branch of the Boise River.  He and any of his friends who venture this way find themselves temporarily on display behind a large plexiglass panel.  

       The exhibits inside the Nature Center building are wonderful and quite the place to take children on Halloween.  There they get to see taxidermy renditions--incredibly life-like--of all the animals in Idaho that can kill and/or eat them (as well as other critters).  Here is but one:

     Poor cougar!                                                                                                                            Ainslie Sheridan 2012

I wonder what sort of treats the staff hand out!

      So much happened during our trip to Boise that I'll begin my next blog entry with Part Two of Boise.  Stay tuned for Birds of Prey, Henry David Thoreau (in Idaho courtesy of my husband Jim), a hot spring, McDonalds french fries, and petroglyphs.


Highway Update

       Here's our boy Highway with rescuer Ann Fratesi, taken last week.  He's come a long, long way:

   Ann Fratesi and Highway     

        This Thursday, Highway will head north by car relay to New Jersey and his new owner Tom.  I'll provide updates as soon as I hear.  Meanwhile, and once again, thanks to all of you who contributed to his medical bills.  He wouldn't be going where he's going without you.

Meet Rufo's Friend Tasha

       You remember Rufo, the shepherd-pit bull mix who was in the Yonkers Shelter for six years now a Massachusetts resident?  Well, Tasha is another wonderfully sweet shepherd-pit bull mix who has lived at the Yonkers shelter over five years!  And no one can understand why she has not been adopted.  My friend works with her frequently and adores her:  Tasha is sweet, and she's friendly with other dogs, too.  She is also deemed, by all who work with her, including the trainers, incredibly smart.  Please help her:  Watch this YouTube and share it with anyone you think might offer her a loving home:


       Thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly--