Adeline Virginia Woolf + A Room in Latvia

Author Virginia Woolf was born on January 25, 1882 in South Kensington, London, England. Her novels were some of the first to use stream of consciousness, and Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, her circle of family, friends and fellow artists, founded one of the most important movements in modern art and culture.

I’ve read my way through most of her work. Virginia Woolf has a delicious sense of humor (and irony!) and a keen sense of what it is to be a woman and an artist. I’ve reread her slim treatise A Room of One’s Own over and over, throughout my life.

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Woolf tells us.

Indeed. In her honor, here is the post I wrote about hard lives after visiting an open-air museum in Latvia. – Jadi

Open-air museums are inappropriately named. For many people, Museum + History = Death by Excessive Yawning. Not me! A good open-air museum can transport me into other cultures and the past. I think a better name for such a site is ‘living museum’.

Latvia Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

A favorite open-air museum is Neuhausen ob Eck (amusingly named ‘New Home on the Eck’), located not far from Tuttlingen and Konstanz in southern Germany. In the bee keeper’s house, I learned all about the world of bees. The German language holds bees in special regard. In German, the term for animals is die Bestie or Tiere, beasts. But Germans speak of the Bienenvolk, a hive or literally ‘the bee people’. In the Middle Ages, if the bee keeper died in the night someone was sent to the hives to whisper the news to the bees.

The bee keeper enjoyed a special status. Thanks to his bee family he produced wax candles for light, honey for food, and pollen products for medicine. [1]

Fishing nets, Latvia Ethnographic Open-Air Museum

Outdoor museums can teach with their simplicity. On our trip to Estonia and Latvia, we spent a day at Latvia’s Ethnographic Open-Air Museum on the shore of Lake Jugla. The spot is incredibly atmospheric.

It’s an easy bus ride from the capitol Riga to the museum. Go to my  post The Art of Food and salivate over the delicious meals you can order in Baltic restaurants.

What I learned is that as recently as 100 years ago life here was a different story.

Existence was harsh and hard, like the overcast skies much of the day we visited. [2] Along with simple huts, the site includes windmills.

A store building is filled with dowry chests and traces of Latvia’s long history serving in the Hanseatic League.

My takeaway: How truly thin the veneer of prosperity is. Our sense of progress and the advance of civilization is so recent, and so young. I left grateful for the things I take for granted in my everyday life. In too many places in the world people still live without electricity, running water, or centralized heat.

In memory of Virginia Woolf, 25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941

NOTES: [1] Honey-based products never rot. I purchased a propolis salve at Neuhausen over a decade ago; it’s still good. The bee keeper told me the salve can be used on everything from wounds and burns to arthritis and herpes.  [2] For Game of Thrones fans, I kept thinking of the Iron Islands and how craggy-rocks bitter life is there. These Latvian houses would fit the scenes perfectly, except for the fact that Game of Thrones is a fantasy world, and real people lived in the huts as recently as the start of the 20th Century. © Jadi Campbell 2017. Previously published as Death By Yawning. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Consider the Southern Right Whale…

…of South Africa. The Southern right is one weird-looking mammal, more like an alien life form than anything I thought I recognize as being a whale.

Each Southern right whale can be individually identified by the horny growths known as callosities that grow on their heads. Their heads are  much hairier than most whales. And they have TWO blowholes. Who knew? The Internet is a vast place of useless information! *

This sign from an earlier day’s walk shows the Southern Right whale

They spend June – November off the coast of South Africa. When Uwe and I finally got to really travel again, the Garden Route of South Africa in November sounded perfect. Even though there are no gardens, just a lot of spectacular ocean views, and we’d hopefully see migrating whales. (The place-namers must have drunk too much local wine when they named that stretch of territory.)

The town to see whales is Hermanus. We walked from our hotel to the jetty where we’d catch a whale watching boat. The scenery included local art.

Not quite sure what the artist intended, but it’s a pretty cool sculpture
Cute, if anatomically questionable

 Out in the bay we spotted fins first.

The closer we got to the pod of 4 whales, the easier it was to spot the callosities.

These were whales?

Looked to me like futuristic submarines rising to the surface

And then one of the whales lifted its head. The Southern Right are baleen whales. They swim with their mouths open, continuously feeding as food filters through the baleen hairs.

You’re looking at a screen of baleen

We left the boat content but still not quite sure what life form we’d just spent a day observing. I had a hard time narrowing down Uwe’s photos of the Southern Right whale for this post! **

I’ll be talking about a close relative of the whale. It is NOT what you think! (heh heh heh) Any guesses?

Stay tuned for the next post.

NOTES: https://www.whaletrail.co.za *For more dubiously useful information, go to these earlier posts to learn what to call groups of whales: The Animal Kingdom: 22 & The Animal Kingdom: 37 **Uwe’s comment: I had a hard time?! He had to decide which to keep out of the more than 500 photos he took that day! ©2023 Jadi Campbell. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien + Tin Hau’s Dragons

JRR Tolkien was born on January 3,  1892 in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa. He is of course reknowned for The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for which he invented complex alphabets and histories for elvish, dwarvish, and other tongues. Tolkien taught at Oxford, England where he became close friends with fellow scholar and author C.S. Lewis. I once heard a story (I’d love to believe that it’s true), that the two professors were observed in a deep debate that went on for hours. Finally the observer gathered his courage and approached: what, might he ask, were the two men so fiercely arguing about?

“The characteristics of dragons,” they answered, and promptly went back to their discussion.

In Tolkien’s honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after seeing a dragon parade for the goddess Tin Hau in the New Territories of China.

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Tin Hau is the Goddess of the Seas, patron saint of sailors and fishermen throughout China and Southeast Asia. [1, 2]

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Her festival is always held on the twenty-third day of the third lunar month of the lunar calendar. My friend Weiyu flew over from Beijing, and we had the good luck to see a dragon parade. [3]

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Lin Moniang (don’t forget that Chinese put the family name first) was born March 23, 960 in the Song Dynasty, on Meizhou Island in Fujian, China.  She was the seventh daughter, an excellent swimmer, and wore a red dress. No matter how bad the weather was, Lin Moniang stood on the shore in that red dress in order to guide the fishing boats back home. She went into a trance during a terrible storm and saved her father’s life.

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She was deified not long after she died.

There are many reports of miraculous sightings of Tin Hau by sailors in distress. Chinese who immigrated often built temples once they arrived overseas to thank her for the safe journey.

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Each year a major festival is held on her birthday. One of the most spectacular is in Yuen Long in the New Territories. Weiyu and I headed out early to reach the town. We left the metro station and immediately spotted bright colors and a crowd of people. As we got closer, firecrackers began to go off! We’d arrived right on time!

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The firecrackers exploded and confetti fell out and rained down!
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The village had just begun to parade their dragon. They circled the lot a few times accompanied by a loud drum and cymbals. There was another loud bang, more firecrackers popped, and everyone followed the dragon into town.

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We arrived at another square where more dragons waited.

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The dragons took turns weaving up and down the main street, curling and snaking, rising and falling in an intricate dance. Sometimes two dragons danced at the same time.

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People’s shirts indicated which village and dragon they were with. Groups of old women waved fans, children were in costume, and I saw lions.

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Can you see the dragon on the side in green?
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Flags and banners waved around the Fa Paus: ornate towers with paper flowers. Huge elaborate placards wished for luck and prosperity.

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One village group’s Fa Pau
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Offerings included entire roasted pigs.

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I recognized those roast pigs instantly from the worship of goddess Bà Chúa Xứ in southern Viet Nam. It can’t be a coincidence that her festival starts at the beginning of the rainy season on the twenty-third day of a lunar month too…

In memory of JRR Tolkien, 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973

NOTES: [1] Tianhou (天后) literally means “Empress of Heaven”. [2] She’s also known as Mazu, Tian Fei or A-Ma. Buddhists conflated her into a reincarnation of Guan Yin, Goddess of Compassion. [3] She has over 90 temples in Hong Kong alone. Photos and text © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 2: Dancing Dragons. Pictures from our trips to Vietnam and China and  Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

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Roberta Joan Mitchell + High on Travel

Joni Mitchell was born November 7, 1943 in Fort Macleod, Canada. Singer, song writer, painter, Mitchell’s intensely personal songs reflect her thoughts on the inner and outer worlds.  In her long career she has explored folk music, pop, rock and roll, classical, and jazz. I have read articles that describe Joni Mitchell as the major female artist of all time. I say this: She is one of the most important and influential recording artists of any age, period.

An amazing voice and unique guitar playing frame her writing…. Here are a few lines from A Strange Boy.

We got high on travel
And we got drunk on alcohol
And on love, the strongest poison and medicine of all
See how that feeling comes and goes
Like the pull of moon on tides
Now I am surf rising
Now parched ribs of sand at his side

– Joni Mitchell [1]

In her honor, I am reprinting a post I wrote while high on travel in northwestern Burma. We spent several days in a region that is now closed off tight to the rest of the world. – Jadi

***

We had arranged in Sittwe for a guide, a boat and a special day visa in order to travel on to the semiautonomous Chin State. As we headed up the river the small boat traveled slowly. It was the last day of the year, a calm morning with no winds.

Sky and water reflected one another like twin mirrors.

In a mirror
In a mirror

We sailed on for several hours, and I was overtaken by a sense of displacement that was complete. It was preternaturally still, so quiet and without movement that it seemed we had sailed to a place located somewhere between firmament and earth. It wasn’t quite attached to either.

Finally the boat came to a stop and we debarked and began our walk up into the first Chin village. The villages are extremely remote and what makes them extraordinary  is the Chin art of tattooing. The tradition had been strongly discouraged by the government since the 60’s, and was believed to have almost died out.

In the villages we sailed to by boat, only the old women were reputed to still have the facial tattoos. The men had gone out into the jungle and gathered the materials necessary for the tattooing process. Several days of painstaking tattoo work ensued; only faces of  young teenaged girls were transformed.

We walked through the village with our guide talking to the locals.

Chin village path
Chin village path

Pigs and puppies tumbled on the path as people worked. The tamped dirt was cleared and clean.

After perhaps 20 minutes of walking through the village and watching and being watched, the female elders suddenly appeared to meet us.

NOTES: [1] Source: LyricFind, A Strange Boy lyrics © Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

©2022 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Chugging Slowly Upriver in Northwest Burma, Part Two. All photos © Uwe Hartmann.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Today’s Birthday: Lena Kathren Headey

Lena Kathren Headey was born on October 3, 1973 in Hamilton, Bermuda. She is, of course, the superb actress who portrayed Cersei from Game of Thrones. Cersei’s beauty and willingness to plot and then ruthlessly destroy her enemies are balanced by her deep love for her children and her inner insecurities. She is absolutely magnificent and I will never forgive the producers of the show for leaving her gazing pointlessly over the ramparts of King’s Landing for most of the final season. What a betrayal of her character’s intelligence, and what a waste of her talents!

In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after my visit to King’s Landing, aka Dubrovnik. – Jadi

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I’d wanted to see Dubrovnik for years.  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dubrovnik is one of the most intact – and surely one of the most beautiful – walled cities on the planet.  It was strategically built on the Adriatic coast, has spectacular scenery, and provides settings for one of my favorite shows, Game of Thrones. It had to be perfect!

Note to Self: In the future, question any place that sounds too good to be true. It usually is.

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Aw, come on. King’s Landing! Cercei’s Walk of Shame! Tyrion sightings!

This trip was going to be awesome!

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I frequently meet a friend on her way back through Europe as she travels around the world. We travel well together, enjoy exploring new spots, and always have great luck with our plans. We’ve never booked a bad hotel.

Note to Self: Always and never are adjectives doomed to fail at some point.

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I flew to Dubrovnik a day early and went hunting for the hotel. I dragged a suitcase up the stone stairs of narrow alleys. And down the stone stairs of narrow alleys. And then back up the stone stairs of narrow alleys. No sign over the doorway, no answer when I repeatedly knocked. Not one person who could give me any information.

It was really hot, humid and sticky, and overcrowded with tourists now heading to the outdoor restaurants for supper. I sat beside my suitcase on the hard stone steps, trying to stay calm (forget about cool or collected – at that point I was drenched in sweat). I dug out the phone number for the hotel contact.

Note to Self: Never, ever leave home without your cell phone fully charged and that list of phone numbers close at hand.

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“You’re here?” a male voice exclaimed. “Someone will be there with a key in ten minutes.” I was still waiting over half an hour later.  A pleasant young man finally arrived. Why hadn’t I called when I arrived at the airport to let someone know to come meet me?

Note to Self: They never suggested that we do this. Regardless, it was their guests’ fault.

He let me into the hotel… a home converted into apartments. We’d requested separate beds; the room only contained one. I didn’t mind sharing, but the hotel room furnishings were neither as advertised nor promised.  The air conditioner had been installed so that it blew directly into the head of the bed.

Note to Self: Check carefully when booking rooms. Sometimes Southern and East Europeans have loose definitions for things, including accommodations and measurements of time.

What about the included breakfast? I asked. No worries, I just needed to head down the steep stairs a few streets, turn into the main road, and find the café the hotel apartment rooms had made arrangements with to feed guests.

Relieved to finally be in my hotel lodging I showered, changed clothes, and went out to find dinner. No time left for sightseeing.

The next morning, I eventually found the café after going in the wrong direction and hungrily gazing at a half-dozen other breakfast spots. “Where’s your voucher?” the waiter asked. “Uhh, I wasn’t told I needed one,” I stuttered, and retrieved the hotel booking invoice I luckily had with me. The waiter vanished with it and consulted a colleague. He returned with a different menu with fewer choices. I ate a passable breakfast and headed off to walk the city walls.

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The wall is everywhere

Now, this was more like it! Not a bad view in any direction and it was early enough not to feel the oppressive heat already settling on the city. What a shame there were so many other people crowding the ramparts.

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Back at the room I waited for my friend to arrive. One of the young men showed up and insisted, “No, you don’t need a voucher for breakfast, regardless of what the café says. And you should have waited and walked the city walls late in the afternoon when the cruise ships have left again.” So why didn’t he tell me this yesterday? But, I thought, it would have meant traversing the walls for two hours in 90-degree peak afternoon heat, so I didn’t speak up.

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He wouldn’t let me pay with a credit card. Cash only. We’d have to wait until his associate came the next day as my friend hadn’t arrived yet. When we paid, he couldn’t make change. He promised to bring it by later; if we weren’t there, he’d put the money they owed us under the room door.

The man and the money never showed up.

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The last morning, I tried to get out of bed and thought I was going to throw up. I had developed benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) from the extreme heat, not enough fluids, and cold air blowing on my face all night.

Just before we checked out I wrote a curt note indicating where to have the money deposited that they still owed us. As we were leaving we ran into a cleaning woman. “Oh! The boys couldn’t make it over yesterday. They asked me to give it to you.” We then headed off to the airport with money we no longer had any time to use.

Note to Self: Make sure to carry lots of small bills to make change next time you go back. If you ever go back. 2nd Follow-up Note to Self: Cash-only vacation options are a really bad idea. 3rd Follow-up Note to Self: Do Not Sleep Directly Under an Air-Conditioner. Ever.

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I remind myself Dubrovnik is all romantic corners and silly tourists taking selfies.

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and the European Cup soccer matches!

Croatia's flag flying proudly for the soccer tournament
Croatia’s flag flying proudly for the soccer tournament
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I’ll tell you another time about how I almost didn’t make it on our plane going home. Or why my friend was late getting to the hotel room. She’d been charged $600 for her rental car, dinged when a gang tried to scam her with a staged accident.

I shall be forever grateful that we were there together. We even laugh about parts of the trip to Dubrovnik, and figure those few days used up more combined residual bad travel karma (and available cash) than any trip we’ve ever gone on.

Note to Self: Re-read this post before planning the next trip!

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NOTES: Text and Photos Copyright ©2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as The H(ot)ell in Dubrovnik.  Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

James Maury Henson + The Most Beautiful Sound in the World

Jim Henson was born September 24, 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi. Henson created the Muppets and transformed children’s educational television with Sesame Street. He was a puppeteer, composer, inventor, filmmaker and screenwriter. His creations include the eerily lifelike Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Miss Piggy, and the world’s greatest frog: Kermit. In honor of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog (who – I kid you not – received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame  located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd – ) I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the frogs at Kubah National Park on Borneo. – Jadi

Ah, Kubah National Park on Borneo…. froggie paradise.

March 2019 Journal entry: Just returned from an exhilarating 2 and ½ hours night tour with nature guide and tour guide at Kubah National Park. We saw frogs on trees, leaves, vines, boles, the sides of the road…. Two rare horned frogs! Mahogany frogs! A teeny pitcher plant frog – just one – it jumped away before we could look more closely but I did see the tiny thing leap (the narrow-mouth frog first described in 2010). Three different lizards. White-lipped frogs. Cinnamon frogs. Firebelly toads. Harlequin tree frogs. We had to head up to 1,000 feet up a road in the dark, the ranger with a head light. Unreal how he could spot the frogs. Glorious sounds of running water and night sounds of the jungle all around, my glasses fogging over with the heat and humidity, a large frog pond formed by wild pigs’ rutting. The frogs surprisingly calm, not jumping at our presence, just hanging out in their domain. I was in the moment, totally blissed out, just there, present with each frog we spotted. The guide and ranger and I backlighting each critter with our flashlights so Uwe could photograph it. The deep jungle trees and vegetation and clicks and buzzes and calls of frogs all around us. Nature’s Symphony. Glorious. An Australian recorded just this place and won an international competition for the most beautiful sounds in the world. Borneo’s really promoting sustainable growth, they recognize what they have here. The Malaysian part of Borneo, that is. I feel hopeful about a corner of the planet for the first time in a very, very, very long and sad time. Man, I like Borneo.

But with this frog tour tonight: I’m blissed out.

Mahogany frog (Abavorana luctuosa)
white-lipped frog (Chalcorana raniceps)
I think this is a cinnamon frog (Nyctixalus pictus)
file eared tree frog (Polypedates otilophus)
Borneo horned frog (Megophrys nasuta)

In memory of Jim Henson, 24 September, 1936 – 16 May, 1990

NOTES:  This night tour was magic. Many of these species can be found only on Borneo. To hear what serenaded us in the jungle, go to this link: Most beautiful sound in the world competition winner Marc Anderson  © Jadi Campbell 2019. Previously published as Borneo is Frog Paradise: Part One. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from Borneo and our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Riley B. King + Monteverde Hummingbirds

BB King was born September 16, 1925 in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Mr. King was a towering figure as a blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. I could write an entire post about the influence he had and the importance of his legacy.

But I’d rather tell you about hearing him play.

BB King! I saw him in concert three times over three decades. The first time I heard him live was a side room at a casino in Lake Tahoe. The room held about 500 people and it felt like a private concert. You gotta GRAB your woman! he hollered as his guitar Lucille sang out. You gotta GRAB her! The second time, ten years later, was in a stadium at the Bumbershoot Music Festival in Seattle, Washington. I based my entire attendance at the festival around seeing BB King play again. I headed for the main floor and danced the entire set. The last time I saw him was an outdoor show in  Stuttgart, Germany, yet another ten years later. BB was clearly suffering from health problems and sat down in a chair on the corner of the stage most of the night. But when Lucille let loose, he was still the King of the Blues.

He performs a song called Hummingbird, and in his honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting Costa Rica with its wonderful hummingbirds. Sing it, Lucille! – Jadi

Click here for Lucille and BB: BB King performs Hummingbird

The first of many hummingbirds we saw in Costa Rica

February 2020

Monteverde in northern Costa Rica is one of the few cloud forests left on the planet. Winds from the Caribbean smack into currents from the Pacific. The results are a steady light mist all day.

Green crowned brilliant

Or, like this morning, a heavy falling rain. Uwe and I both wear the super-duper, Chinese-made raincoats we bought last year in Borneo for a $1 apiece. We unfold them and discover that these are thin, glorified garbage bags with holes cut out for our arms and heads. I’m glad to have mine – it’s still pouring. Uwe’s bummed. It’s raining so hard that he has to leave his  camera equipment in its special backpack. It’s windy here, too! His camera’s way better protected against the weather than we are….

Magenta-throated woodstar

The park guide tells us about primeval forest, secondary growth, the Quaker settlers who came here and founded this nature preserve. We see almost zero wildlife, and that’s because everything is hunkered down against the shitty weather. He points out an orchid the size of my thumbnail as my sneakered feet and my blue jeans grow damper. It. is. cold.

Violet sabrewing

Uwe’s face is glum. His cellphone camera is a poor substitute for the Nikon. I try hard not to think about how little fun he’s having. Then the guide points to a pale slender green object on a leaf. I peer closer in the rain.

Purple throated mountaingem

It’s a walking stick! I haven’t seen one of these in the wild since I was a kid! I’m suddenly a kid again myself, I’m way beyond excited. “Any biosphere that’s got walking sticks is an intact one for sure!” I exclaim. Oh my god! I stand there and stare at it, wetter by the minute.

Thirty minutes later we’re back at the park entrance’s buildings. The downpour vanishes. Uwe gets out his telefoto lens to capture the 7 varieties of blue, emerald, crimson, orange, purple hummingbirds darting in and out to the feeders on the porch. A white nosed coatimundi scurries under the hummingbird feeders, licking up the sugar water that’s dripped down onto the floorboards.

“A walking stick!” I murmur.

Everybody’s happy.

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Empress brilliant. The feathers overlapped in a way that made me think of snake scales

In memory of BB King,  16 September 1925 – 14 May  2015

NOTES: I’m still mad at my spousal unit for not taking a photo of that walking stick with his cell phone. Monteverde orchids and hummingbirds © Jadi Campbell 2020. Previously published as Let It Rain! All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Concert clip courtesy of YouTube.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Labu Apetīti, Julia Caroline Child

Julia Child was born on August 15, 1912 in Pasadena, California. She was an American cooking teacher, author, and television personality. She stood 6’2″ (1.88 m) tall and is famous for the ground-breaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Childs hosted cooking shows I remember my mom avidly following. The National Museum of Natural History has a room dedicated to her original kitchen. When I visited, I joined  a group of other people: all of us watched videos of her cooking show.  In her honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the restaurants of Estonia and Latvia. – Jadi

Uwe and I made our first trip to two of the Baltic states. We spent a couple days each exploring Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia. Along with sparking a brand-new curiosity in the Hanseatic League [1], these cities introduced me to the northern European food scene.

Oh. My. God. We ate incredible meals every night. What made those meals so special is an insistence on local products and a reverence for tradition, but with a modern spin. The chefs did delicious things with grains like kasha, and groats and millet, and barley. For years I have firmly insisted that German bread is the best on the planet, closely followed by breads baked fresh in India [2]. Now there’s a new guy on the (bread) block: the pumpernickel and dark breads of the Baltics.

A starter with local smoked salmon

We ordered dishes with elk, deer, fresh and smoked fish.

A different restaurant’s smoked salmon with trout cavier, accompanied by rolled slices of cucumber
… and a third restaurant’s smoked salmon appetizer. Art on a plate
Traditional beet borscht soup, updated with yellow lentils and pieces of elk meat that melted in my mouth

We enjoyed the local cheeses and beers. For the first time in my life I ate (and loved!) kippered herrings. Everything was decorated with edible flowers and herbs, and served up with intense purees of once-uninteresting and now fascinating root vegetables. Everything was presented as a work of art. This is food to die for….

First course of wild mushrooms sauteéd and served in spinach blini purses

Without further ado, here are some of the plates from our feasts. Every night we forgot to photograph at least one course. We were too busy enjoying our food!

Lamb marinated in juniper berries served with yellow beetroot cream, cranberries and barley
Fresh fish with beet root puree and kale (out of all the meals we ate, the kale was the one item that was not perfect)
Venison stew with roasted onion halves
Beef with sweet pepper-eggplant-onion millet squares, oyster mushrooms, water cress and johnny-jump-ups

A shout out to the amazing restaurants Von Krahi Aed and Rataskaevu 16 in Tallinn, as well as Peter Gailis and Melna Bite in Riga. Labu apetīti and jätku leiba! [3]

Hibiscus poached pear, pumpkin seeds in apple syrup, and raspberry sorbet

In memory of Julia Child, August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004

NOTES: [1] The Hanseatic League controlled all shipping and commerce across the Baltic Sea and northern Europe to Russia. Riga and Tallinn (then known as Reval) were member cities. [2] Go to my earlier post My Mother-in-Law’s Cookies for more on bread. [3] As always, I receive no favors for mentioning these establishments. © Jadi Campbell 2017. Previously published as The Art of Food. All photos © Uwe Hartmann 2017. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Remember: Keep Cool

I went to Berlin recently to meet a friend for five days. Berlin is one of my favorite, favorite cities. Which is saying a lot…

I go back often, and somehow a visit isn’t quite complete unless I go to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. It’s  a bombed church that has been left as a memorial to the war – any war –

Right next to it is a newer church. From the outside the chapel is unremarkable. Almost ugly, even. But when you enter it, the deep blue squares of light with their underlying pigments of color are glorious.

The colors seem to move and change as you watch: ruby red, emerald green and yellow. [1]

See the shifts in color?

Europe is in the middle of a heat wave. Today is going to be the scorcher of the year – so far! I’m doing whatever I can to keep out of the heat. Looking at this photo of blues helps.

Remember, wherever you are: be cool.

NOTES: [1] The glass maker was inspired by the stained glass window colors in Chartres Cathedral. © Jadi Campbell 2022. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

The 2014 Soccer World Cup Finale

Reprinted in honor of this day in 2014 when Germany won the Soccer World Cup.

It wasn’t the first time I’d hitchhiked, but I was 18 the last time I did anything this dumb. Or this kind of dumb anyway. Allow me to explain.

I was back in the States and it was the day of the final match of the 2014 World Cup, Germany vs. Argentina. My family unfortunately all had a prior engagement. They took the car that morning and left for a certain Country Fair. [1]

I, however, remained true to the country of my husband and my adopted home for the last 26 years. I put on face paint, donned my German lei, and headed out the door.

I’d done my research. I knew the exact location of not just a sports bar in town, but a soccer sports bar at that – and I gave myself plenty of time to get there. As I headed down a footpath alongside the main road, a Mercedes Benz honked its horn repeatedly when the driver passed me. I looked at the car and laughed: he had decorated it with the colors of the German flag. I gave him a big wave and headed for my bar.

Ten minutes later I neared the entrance to a park and was astonished to see the car again. It was waiting for me. The driver had rolled down his window. “Do you know where I can go to see the game? I’m driving through on business, on my way to the coast, and I don’t know where to go to watch the match!” His accent was German and anyway he had the (to me) comforting look of a German engineer. [2]

“I sure can!” I answered. “There’s a sports bar near downtown. You need to turn around, take a left before the ramp for the freeway heading south, go under the overpass, take the one-way road three blocks and….” I stopped talking and considered. The park was empty, and so was the path I was walking on. I thought to myself, “Jadi, this could end up being the last spot anyone might have seen you standing alive before you made one last, stupid, fatal blunder.”

I scrutinized the driver more carefully. And then I made a snap decision.

“It’s complicated. Give me a ride, and I’ll guide you to get to the bar,” I offered. “Otherwise, it’ll take too long to describe.” The surprised dude immediately agreed. He opened the car door and I climbed in.

Fifteen minutes later we claimed two of the very last available seats in the packed bar (the employees were bringing in more chairs when we entered). I sat between the man whose name I no longer remember and a Mexican father and daughter.

The things we do for love (love of soccer, that is). No need to hitchhike this year, which is probably a good thing. I figure I used up my entire quota of guardian-angel-watching-over-you-while-you-do-something-colossally-stupid protection. But I’m definitely watching some soccer. France vs. Croatia, Sunday night! Come early if you want a seat!

NOTES: [1] Go to my post The Oregon Country Fair for more on the fair. I’m still glad I made it to that bar and saw Germany win. [1a] … especially after watching their pathetic performances since…. [2] The standard German engineer: short hair, clean shaven (99.99% of the time), honest face and slim body wearing jeans, an ironed shirt and a trustworthy earnest expression.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as The Last Time I Hitchhiked was to get to a Bar. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.