Thursday 30 June 2016

The Robson River

    As an adolescent I recognized that bodies of water take a good deal of their color from the sky.   As a young adult when I was beginning to be dream about mountain landscapes, I came across some photos taken of lakes in Glacier National Park in the US.  The sky was the normal sky blue, but the lakes were turquoise.  I assumed that the photos were somehow manipulated for some reason, because they just didn’t look normal.
    Upon moving to Canada and traveling through Banff and Jasper National Parks, I discovered many lakes and rivers displaying that beautiful turquoise blue color and I learned that it was caused by “rock flour.”  The massive weight of glaciers grind and pulverize rock as they slowly move.  The silt-size particles from the ground up rock are washed into rivers and lakes and give them that unique turquoise color.
    I hadn’t been up Mount Robson’s Berg Lake Trail (we were only going as far as Kinney Lake) for 20 years or more and had forgotten the amazing turquoise coloring of the Robson River, which the trail parallels up to Kinney Lake.  It is a roaring tumbling white water body of water in places, but in the sections where it slows down, you can see the beautiful color produced by the rock flour.
    The trail below Kinney Lake is also interesting because it travels through a dark and lush Cedar/Hemlock forest.  Cedar and Hemlock grow in damp places and the forest is unusual because most of the area around Mt. Robson Provincial Park is much drier pine, fir, and spruce habitat.  It is the weather produced by the towering Mt. Robson, that creates the damp conditions needed for Cedar and Hemlock trees.  
    The dark forests and refreshing breezes created by the rushing Robson River make for comfortable walking, even on very hot sunny days

You can see my paintings:

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Mount Robson

    It was probably in the summer of 1974 when Joan and I first turned the curve on Highway 16, about 8 km (5 miles) east of the junction with Highway 5, and were suddenly confronted with the spectacular view of Mount Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.  Making that curve is one of the most dramatic views of any mountain I have ever seen.  You cannot see Mt. Robson until you round the corner, then suddenly it is in your face.  
    Yesterday I had to take Skye to the Vet in Valemount to get her teeth scaled.  The procedure was to take 4 hours, and I didn’t want to hang around Valemount all that time, so I decided to just make the short drive to Mt Robson Provincial Park, and take a hike up to Kinney Lake.  I invited Alec, a friend, to join me.
More often than not, the peak of the massive mountain is obscured by cloud, but yesterday has hot and clear.
    Even though I had made the turn a hundred of times, and probably stopped to take a photo of Robson each time, I couldn’t help to do it again yesterday.
    The photo below shows the parking area, as we prepare to begin our hike up to Kinney Lake.             

You can see my paintings at:

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Koeneman Park Morning

    This morning I took Skye on a short walk at Koeneman Park.  During the fifteen minutes we were there I saw these two things.

As always, you can view my paintings at:

Sunday 26 June 2016

A Herd of Horses

    I have shown you similar photos before, but last evening while walking Skye down at Horseshoe Lake I saw the horses in the nicely lit pasture and the blue mountains and couldn’t help but take another shot.

Take a look at my paintings:

Saturday 25 June 2016


    Every year in our vegetable garden, Foxglove appear.  The columns of tubular flowers are delicately spectacular.  The bees love them.  It takes two years for plant to develop flowers, in the first year just a low broad leaf plant appears.  When they pop up, scattered throughout the garden, I always weed around them.  They lie under the snow during the winter, waiting for spring in year two, then they generate a three foot (90cm) stem upon which the colorful thimble-shaped flowers appear.

Check out my paintings:

Friday 24 June 2016

Province of British Columbia Ballpoint

    During the 23 years I spent working for the BC Forest Service, we were provided pens and pencils to do our work.  For many years, the ballpoint pen that was provided was a blue one with the words “Province of British Columbia” printed on its side.  Even though I have been retired for 13 years, and the blue pens were discontinued long before that, I came across one the other day at home, and as a result, I immediately flashed back to the trip Joan and I took to Mexico in 1981.
    We were exploring ruins in the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacán located 30 miles outside of Mexico City.  After climbing to the top of some of the immense pyramids, we were wandering around in the huge plaza when I was approached by an old peasant-looking man.  He motioned me over and in a secretive fashion pulled out of his pocket the Aztec-looking clay piece you can see in the photo.  He wanted me to buy it.  I was pretty sure it was one of the many fakes manufactured to sell to tourists.  I shook my head and waved my hands to indicate that I didn’t want to buy it. 
    He was persistent and began to lower his price.  I still refused.  Then he pointed to the blue BC ballpoint I had in my pocket--he wanted to trade for the ballpoint pen.  At this point I could no longer resist.  I traded the ballpoint pen for the “ancient artifact”.
    I am still surprised that he valued the pen enough to want to trade the small sculptured head for it, but that’s what he was eager to do.  I know the head is a fake, but it has become one of my favorite souvenirs of our trip to Mexico.

If you have time, look at paintings at:

Thursday 23 June 2016

My Emergency Whistle

    I like to hike up in the alpine of the Canadian Rockies, and because I am very safety oriented, I try to be prepared when I go up there.  I always take water, food, extra clothing and hats, one of those shiny emergency blankets, and my cell phone, even though in many of the places we hike there is no cell coverage.
    A couple of years ago, I bought myself an emergency whistle.  I thought that it might come in useful if I ever got hurt, lost, or separated from the group.  I hung the whistle on my daypack and that is where it remains.  I now doubt that I will ever use it.
    On a hike up to the Renshaw alpine last year, Glenn Stanley, a really experienced hiker and climber, told us a story that made me doubt my whistle’s usefulness.  He said that he and a few others were up hiking in the mountains and suddenly spotted a grizzly bear in the distance.  It hadn’t seen them and one of the hikers began to whistle, so to alert the bear of their existence, and scare it away.  
    The bear heard the whistles, but instead of moving away, listened, and started moving toward the hikers.  Here it might be useful to say that one of the things that grizzlies like to eat are marmots.  They are groundhog looking mammals that live up in the alpine and they make whistle sounds.  So by whistling, the hiker did not scare the bear away, it started its saliva running.
    That is why, I don’t know if it is a good idea to use a whistle while hiking in the alpine.

You can see my photo-realistic paintings at:

Wednesday 22 June 2016


    The blurry picture you see above shows a hut in the jungles of Guatemala.  It was located out in the middle of nowhere and now that place can have it own unique address where anyone can find it.
    Every morning I listen to “The Current” on CBC radio as I paint my square for the day.  Yesterday they were talking about the fact that millions of people on earth have no address where they can be found and that limits their possibilities.  The program went on and talked to a guy that wanted to create an easy system that would allow everyone, anywhere on earth, to have an address where they could be found.  This would enable them to receive shipments and to give a location in case of an emergency.  He developed a system where every 3 metre square on earth has a unique address that is designated by just 3 words that would be easy to remember.  
    I don’t know exactly how it all works, but I was curious enough to go to their website:    
    Give it a try.  Go to the website, choose “Explore map” , pick “Satellite” from the top, you can type in my three words, which will show you a satellite photo of my house, or maneuver around the map, find your own house, and on the bottom of the page it will give you a readout of your own three word location.
    I find it so amazing that every 3 metre location on earth can be found using just 3 words.  I don’t know if this will be universally picked up as a means of finding places, but it seems to be very practical and easy.  The app that was developed can be used to locate people, say at a big concert or crowded shopping center.  There is no charge for the individual users, but businesses who want to use it commercially have to buy software that makes it easy for them to use.
   You can see what square I painted today at my website:

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Predicting the Future

    I would never make it as a fortune teller.
    I was reminded of that the other day on two counts.  I had planned to mow the back yard on Sunday afternoon.  When I went outside to start the task I was a bit shocked to see that a storm was building and it was raining on the mountains.  It looked like the bad weather was eminent, so I hurried to start the lawn mower and begin.
    I was making good time going through the really tall grass that had been growing like crazy during the week of rainy weather, when “THUNK”, the mower hit a hidden stump and the mower stopped dead.  I pulled the mower away and tried to re-start it.  After a couple of failed tries I tipped the mower so I could look underneath hoping to see what the problem was.  I tried turning the blade, but each time I did, I heard a sound like something was rubbing and the blade didn’t turn very easily.  
    “Damn, I have broken the mower and will now have to get it fixed,” I told myself.
    I wheeled  it back to the carport and made a mental note to take it in to the small engine repair on Monday.   I only had a small section of lawn that hadn’t been mowed so I went up to the shop and got my weed trimmer and finished off the lawn with that.
    The next day I did take the mower to the engine repair guy.  I tipped the mower up and demonstrated the rubbing sound when I turned the blade.  
    “Oh, that’s just because you are not disengaging the turn-off bar on the handle,” Justin said.
      I then tried starting the mower and sure enough it started right up.  I tried to hide my embarrassment by complimenting Justin on what a good mechanic he was.  I loaded the mower back into the truck and drove home.
    So, on Sunday afternoon, I had predicted two things:  
  1.   A big storm was about to hit, and it never did.  
  2.   I had to get my lawn mower repaired and I didn’t have to.
    Both things worked out for the best, but they re-enforced the fact that my abilities at predicting things are somewhat less than stellar.

Take a gander at my paintings:

Monday 20 June 2016


    Back in 1975, after a couple of years teaching in the 1-room school in Takla Lake, BC.  I decided to spurge a bit with the money I had made and I decided to buy a new camera, to replace the very old Argus that I had bought at the Goodwill Store when I worked there as a conscientious objector.
    Joan and I were pretty much trapped in the logging camp and our only recreation was hiking and exploring the area that surrounded it.  Having the new Canon camera gave me a new focus when were were out on our daily walks.  The plants and animals of the Canadian wilderness were all new to us and we enjoyed the discoveries and photographing them, while out on our jaunts.
    One of the most thrilling “discoveries” for me was an aquatic plant that I found growing in a bog.  I didn’t know the name of it and all the information to be had on the internet was still decades away.  The remote camp we lived in was devoid of plant books so it was quite a while before I learned that the distinct frilly flower I had photographed was called Buckbean (Menyanthes trifolia).  
    Since my initial finding of this plant I have looked for it in the other places I have lived in BC without success.  About a month ago on the short hike into the Natasha Boyd Conservation Area, the group of us were down at the beaver pond and a white flower growing out of the water caught my eye.  When I got as close as I could, I was overjoyed to see that it was my old favorite, Buckbean.
    The photo above is taken of that original slide I which took on that first “discovery” I made of the Buckbean back in 1976.

You can view my paintings:

Sunday 19 June 2016

Horseshoe Lake, Our Oxbow Lake

    Things always look different from above.  When Joan and I first started hanging around McBride, looking for property, during a slow time and needing a distraction, someone suggested that we drive up McBride Peak.  We bumped our way up the rocky road and stopped at the “Halfway” where there was an old log hut used long ago by the forest fire lookout man.  
    As we peered over the edge of the slope we were surprised to see that sitting beside the Village of McBride was a U-shaped body of water.  It was close to the Fraser River which curved and snaked its way through the Robson Valley.  Upon inquiring, we learned the obvious; the lake was called Horseshoe Lake.
    I have always been interested in geology, the rugged mountains were one of the things that attracted us to McBride.  During a geology class I remember the instructor talking about how old rivers aren’t straight, they meander and curve.  After a while, at the inside of sharp curves, erosion starts eating the banks away and eventually they can cut new channels, leaving the old channel isolated and forming a lake.  The lake that is formed is called an oxbow lake because of its U-shape.  Our oxbow lake is called Horseshoe Lake.
    When you stand beside it, it just looks like any other lake.  You can detect a bit of a curve in the distance, but until you see it from above, you can’t really tell that it is an oxbow lake.  There are many other oxbow lakes formed by the Fraser in the Robson Valley, but none of them look so much like a horseshoe.

My paintings can be viewed at:

Friday 17 June 2016

Mowing Cartoon

    It’s Friday, how about a cartoon.  We’ve had a week of rain, so my lawn is starting to look like this.

You can see my paintings at:

Thursday 16 June 2016

Artistic License

    In the Arts there is something called “Artistic License”, that just means you can change the subject however you like.  It is something I don’t normally use much, because I like reality, but in the painting above, you can see I changed the whole bottom part of the image.
    All of my paintings are based on photos I have taken.  I try to stick very close to the image in front of me, except for playing with the color in each square I paint.  When I originally finished my painting “Country Road” it looked like the photo on the left.  It showed a dirt road running down to Highway 16, which intersects the canvas across the lower part of the painting, with a country road trailing up toward the mountains from the far side of the highway.
    A lot of people were confused and didn’t recognize what Highway 16 was, my brother thought it might be a pipeline.  That bothered me since I strive for clarity in my paintings, so after thinking about it for a while, I decided to use some artistic license and repaint the lower section of the picture, getting rid of the highway completely and replacing it with an extension of the road.
    On the right you can see what the painting now looks like.  I like the simplicity that it gives the scene and the way the solid colors of the road contrasts with all of the detail in the rest of the picture.  This painting is an exception to all my others.  I continue to try to paint the image as close to the way I saw it as I can, except for the variation of colors.

You can see my other paintings at:

Wednesday 15 June 2016

A Deer, Our Cat, and Our Dog

    Yesterday, as we were fixing our breakfast, Joan glanced out of the kitchen window and said, “There’s a deer in the yard.”
    Sure enough, an adolescent male deer was walking through our front yard toward our big pot of geraniums.  At the same time, Lucifer our cat came strolling down the sidewalk.  She glanced over at the deer, but wasn’t deterred by the wild creature’s presence, and continued on her journey.  
    From the window we watched the deer approach the geraniums.  We didn’t think deer ate geraniums, but when it bit off three blooms, I called our normally cowardly dog to the door, and let her out.  (Skye, even though the biggest chicken in the world, does feel brave enough to chase deer from the yard.)
    Skye, who knew something was up, ran out to the porch, frantically looking around in the wrong direction for the problem.  Meanwhile the deer took advantage of Skye’s confusion and scampered across the yard and jumped the fence, escaping to the woods.  Skye, too late, finally caught the scent of the deer and gave out a few token barks, then turned and walked, head high and chest out, back into the house, clearly impressed by her brave actions.

You can view my paintings at:

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Watch That Last Step!

    Yesterday when we went to the McBride Airfield to walk the dog, we noticed that there were several provincial government trucks parked in the usually empty parking lot.  We figured that something was happening and then noticed a small group of fire fighters gathered around a helicopter.  I asked one of the guys that happened to walk by what was up and he told me they were practicing hover exits from a helicopter.
    We proceeded down the tarmac on our walk and when we returned the firefighters were still talking.  We decided to hang around to see if something more exciting was going to happen, and eventually, after practicing stepping out of the door, onto a rail, and finally onto the runner of the helicopter that was sitting static on the ground, the crew got into the helicopter, it started up and hovered 10 feet (3m) in the air and one by one, the fire fighters climbed out and dropped to the ground.
    It was an interesting experience to watch.
    As I watched I was reminded of one of the times I had to get out of a hovering helicopter when I was working for the BC Forest Service.  It was winter, a co-worker and I had to fly up and check on a timber cruise that had been done in a remote slope of Castle Creek.  There were no roads into the proposed cutblock yet and so we had to fly in.  There was no place for the chopper to land amongst the snow covered trees, so it had to fly up to alpine and hovered on the side of the slope and told us we would have to get out there.
    We were going to snowshoe to the block, but of course we couldn’t wear snowshoes in the helicopter.  I stepped out first,  I stood on the helicopter’s runner, then jumped down into the snow, which was about a meter below.  I sank into the powered snow up to my hips.  I didn’t expect that.  
    My co-worker threw down my snowshoes and I struggled to get them on in the deep snow.  Once I had them on, I could stoop-walk away from the chopper and my buddy got out and did the same thing.  The helicopter flew off and we trudged through the snow down to the where the cutblock was.  We spent all day checking the timber cruise, then snowshoed down slope and were picked up in the late after noon down by the river where there was a clearing where the helicopter could land.

You can see my paintings at:

Monday 13 June 2016

The Burden of Digital Photography

    I have always enjoyed taking photographs.  During most of my life that enjoyment was tempered by the cost of purchasing film, the waiting to see what the picture looked like, and the cost of getting the film developed into photos.  I remember being out somewhere with my camera and a few more shots left on the film.  If I saw something interesting I had to decide whether I should take a picture of it or gamble that I might see something better later, since I might run out of film.
    When digital photography came along, those problems no longer existed.  I could take photo after photo, and not have to worry about running out of film, and since I didn’t have to pay for developing, it didn’t matter how many photos I took, but there was a hidden problem in this freedom--I now have thousands and thousands of numbered photos to deal with.
    Above you see just one screen-worth of photos.  This list goes on and on.
What is photo number DSC08826?  I don’t know, I have to open the file to see if it is something I want to keep or not.  That is what I have been trying to do over the year.  After half a year’s work, I still have about 1000 photos left on this list, and they are from 2014, I still have 2015, and 2016 to do too.  
    In an attempt to organize my photos, I have to open each file, decide if it is worth saving, and  then move it into some titled file, so that if I am looking for something specific I don’t have to look through the thousands of numbers. 
    I guess it shows that digital photography, that freed me from some things, burdened me with others.

You can see my paintings at:

Sunday 12 June 2016

It Lives!

    After I took the fruit tree grafting workshop at Dunster, I had very little faith that the two apple branches I grafted would survive into treehood.  Jeff, the instructor, had brought some very sharp grafting knives that we could borrow to do the grafting, but I chose to use the duller carving knife I had brought from home.  As a result the cuts I made on the branches were rather shabbily done, but I shrugged my shoulders and proceeded, and stuck the two parts together and taped them.
    When I got home I planted my two new trees into the soil, but like I said, I didn’t really have much faith that the outcome would be positive.  The other day I checked the two grafted trees and to my great amazement and satisfaction, discovered that the grafted section were both putting out leaves, so it seems my grafting worked.
    These two apple trees have a lot of years to grow before I can feel total success, they are only 2 feet (60cm) tall, but at least they have passed the first critical part of their new life.

Check out my paintings at:

Saturday 11 June 2016

Cow Parsnip

    When I saw a lot of Cow Parsnips (Heracleum lanatum) growing along the Fraser River Trail just east of McBride, I gave them a wide berth.  Our friend Jim Swanson has been telling us about the terrible rashes he gets whenever he encounters the plant, so I was surprised to read that it is sometimes called, “Indian celery” or “Indian Rhubarb” and it is sometimes eaten and has a taste similar to celery with a rhubarb texture.  It is often dipped in sugar, before it is consumed.  
    It grows in moist low ground, and it has a particular smell, that I now recognize.  After hearing about Jim’s reaction, I think I will continue to keep my distance from the plant although my plant book suggests it is benign, and even a possible food.  I guess Jim just has an individual reaction, that is not universal.

Take a look at my paintings:

Friday 10 June 2016

A Celebration For Marilyn Wheeler

    Keith Berg and Jane Holden put their lips to their alpine horns to welcome residents of the Robson Valley to a memorial celebration in honor of Marilyn Wheeler.  Marilyn, who died a few weeks ago, was a real force for good in the Robson Valley.
    In her life in our valley, she worked as a mother, a farmer, a politician, and an author.  She strived to better McBride’s hospital, our schools, our transportation, our environment, the Arts, and to preserve our history.  She served as our representative on the Regional District, and worked tirelessly on many local boards and societies in an effort to give residents of the Robson Valley a fuller and better life.
    It was no surprise to see the huge number of people to came to the gathering to remember her.  The community perused the photographs of Marilyn in her many roles, ate a potluck meal, visited with each other, then settled down to hear many remembrances and humorous stories from Marilyn’s life.  I think Marilyn would have enjoyed the event.
    Below is a photo of “The Robson Valley Story”, the book Marilyn wrote to record our valley’s history, and a photo of her taken from the book.

You can view my paintings:

Thursday 9 June 2016

Nothing But Ferns

    One of my favorite little areas near our house is a big patch of ferns beneath some birch trees.  This spot actually sits on a neighbor’s property.  It is lush in growth and the ferns are waist high.
    At one point my neighbor was considering putting a roadway through it, but I convinced him that the ground was marshy and wet and that it would be wiser to stay on higher ground.  Fortunately he took the advice and detoured around the ferns, so every year I still can enjoy this jungle-like area of thickly growing ferns.

My paintings including one of a fern can be seen at:

Tuesday 7 June 2016


    Some of my favorite photos are those where the subject is lit up by the sun which is behind it.   The other day when we did our walk around the pond, I happened to notice this Red-seed cluster on a Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera).  I had walked passed this plant numerous times before, but this time the way the Sun was highlighting it made me notice.
    I wanted to get a photo, but didn’t really know how, since the cluster was high, and over a swampy bit of ground.  I just held my camera outstretched and over my head, looked at the camera’s foldout screen and snapped the photo.  I didn’t hold out much hope for a good photo, and because of the difficulty, I only took one shot.
    I was surprised and happy when I downloaded the jpg to my computer and saw that things were in focus and the composition was good.  Sometimes it is worth the effort to take a chance.

You can see my paintings at:

Monday 6 June 2016

Glowing Wires

    As we approach the longest day of the year, the low lingering Sun in the evening provides some interesting visual effects.  This is the only time of the year when the angle of the Sun is right to reflect off of the wavy power lines.  I took these photos just after 9:00 pm (21:00) as we were returning home from visiting friends. 

Take a look at my paintings:

Sunday 5 June 2016

McBride's Pioneer Days Parade

    This weekend is called “Pioneer Days” in McBride.  It may be a small village, but it had a big parade.  There were sirens wailing, big engines roaring, and music blaring from the loud speaker truck.  People on floats threw candy to the sightseers, and I filled my pockets.  I was even given a six pack of cabbage bedding plants from a parader representing the community garden.
    I am always pretty amazed at all of the unusual vehicles that are suddenly brought out into public view during the Pioneer Days parade.  Where are all these things hidden during the rest of the year?
    This year’s parade seemed longer and more diverse than others.  Here are some of the parade participants that caught my eye.

You can see my paintings:

Saturday 4 June 2016

On The Edge

    At the far end of my pond, there are two planks over the pond’s outflow.  We walk across them as part of our path.  These two boards have their bottoms submerged in the water, so it is no surprise that some enterprising plants might take advantage of the situation.  
    As I daily walk the plank, I have been noticing this miniature garden that has started to establish itself on the edge of one of the planks.  Here is a photo.

You can view my paintings at:

Friday 3 June 2016

GPS Cartoon

    I drew this cartoon after hearing a discussion of GPS dependence on the radio.  I learned a long time ago that GPS is not infallible.  It is so irritating to continue to hear that GPS voice repeatedly say , “Recalculating” when you know where you are driving is the best route to your destination.

You can view my photo-realistic paintings at:

Thursday 2 June 2016

Hosta Bud

    Not much excitement around here, and all I have to offer is this photo of a Hosta bud that has begun to slip through the broad leaves of the plant.  I not only like the ridged structure and curls of the leaves, but also the pale purple of the bud against the celadon color of the leaves.

Check out my many paintings of Hostas:

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Two Novels About "Mothers"

    Because Mother’s Day falls in May, the McBride Library Book Club chose “Mothers” as the theme.  I read two books, each of which portrayed different types of mothers.  Here are my reviews:

      Mothers, like the rest of humankind, run a wide spectrum, some are loving, sacrificing everything for their children, while others are indifferent and live only for themselves.  My two book choices portray both. 
      The first book I chose was "Secret Daughter" by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. The novel begins in 1984 in a poor village in rural India.  A pregnant woman sneaks away to an abandoned hut to give birth. The first time she gave birth, she had a girl which was immediately taken away by her husband and destroyed.  This time, Kavita hopes her secrecy will prevent this from happening if her new born is again female. 
     Her infant is indeed a girl and she arranges with the midwife to have it said that the child was stillborn, and the following day Kavita with her sister, trek the long distance to Bombay where, with a broken heart, Kavita turns her girl child over to an orphanage. 
     Meanwhile on the opposite side of the world, a white female doctor, married to an East Indian surgeon, has just suffered through yet another miscarriage which puts her into depression.  At this point you probably know where the storyline is going, and you wouldn't be wrong.  Yes, Asha, the East Indian girl child with the unusual speckled eyes, is adopted by the mixed race medical couple in North America and into a wealthy and loving home, but she can't give up her curiosity about her birth parents, her birth country and the Indian side of the family.
     The chapters alternate between Asha's life in the US and the struggles of her birth mother in India. 
      One of the reasons I chose this book was because I had previously read Shilpi Somaya Gowda's book, "The Golden Son" in which a boy from a rural Indian village struggles to become a doctor, wins a scholarship to do his internship in the US and then has to struggle with cultural differences between his Indian roots and his modern life in North America. Secret Daughter also deals with the cultural contrasts between life in India and the West, such as the extreme poverty, cruelty, and family warmth in India, and the wealth, blandness, and restrained family life in North America.
    Secret Daughter was a good choice for the Book Club's theme of "Mothers," because it dealt with so much of what motherhood is about, every thing from giving birth, the struggle of providing for your offspring, and the disappointments and successes that occur.   I have always enjoyed novels that give insights into different cultures as a bonus to an interesting plot. 

My second book is White Oleander by Janet Fitch
       A White Oleander is a beautiful white flower that is very poisonous a and thrives on harsh dry desert conditions.  It is mentioned continually throughout this book and is symbolic of the mother that is beautiful, but poisonous. 
       This intriguing novel, written in the first person, provides a full of a range of examples of motherhood.  The story begins with the thirteen year old Astrid living with her beautiful poet mother in a desert environment in LA.  She is not the center of her mother's life, but is someone who is dragged along as her mother moves from one exotic location to another, having affairs with glamorous men.  Her mother has strict rules about the beautiful men she has relationships with, but makes an exception for wealthy stocky untypical type of man, and when he dumps her, she is outraged, ends up killing him, and is whisked away to serve life in prison.
       This condemns Astrid to spend her adolescence living in one foster home after another, all with disastrous effects, as she tries to cope in these indifferent households, headed by different types of foster mothers. 
       There is the busty Starr, an Evangelical spouting mother who lives with her pot smoking lover.  She dresses sexily, but loves her Sunday's at church.  The fact that Astrid has never experienced a father figure, attracts her to Starr's lover, who actually treats her in a kind way, but Astrid is so starved for love she ends up seducing him.  When Starr discovers that her lover and young Astrid are having an affair, she grabs her boyfriend's gun and in a jealous rage, tries to kill Astrid, leaving her seriously wounded and in the hospital. 
      Next Astrid is housed with Marvel, a lower middle class housewife and Mary Kaye representative, who basically ignores Astrid, except to lay out all the housework she has to do.  Astrid becomes so starved for affection, she ends up befriending the glamorous, black, high-priced prostitute who lives next door.  When racist Foster mother discovers this, Astrid is whisked off to the next foster home.
      Her next home is an expensive Arts and Craft style home, owned by Ms Cordova, a cold ex-Argentinian aristocrat and interior designer who has several other foster girls working in her fancy house.  Astrid thinks things are looking up, until she discovers they rarely get fed, the meals are small and insufficient, and food is padlocked away. 
       Astrid is slowly starving to the extent that she is forced to steal food from her high school's cafeteria trash can just to keep from passing out.  At this point the reader is only halfway through the novel, and will have to read it themselves to find out what is yet to come for Astrid.   
      While this might sound like a trashy book, it is a insightful and thoughtful glimpse into what life might be like for a foster child. It is a well written tale using  very descriptive prose which relays a story reminiscent of The Glass House, another novel about a girl forced to live on her own.  It certainly kept me turning the pages.   It was a very entertaining read. 

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