Archives for March 2016

“Getaway” to the Booth Western Art Museum


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made plenty of getaways with stolen goods.

Why not plan your own getaway? There’s a hidden treasure waiting to be found in the little town of Cartersville, Georgia: the Booth Western Art Museum. This pueblo-styled museum, featuring Western artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, is the only one of its kind in the Southeast, and home to the largest permanent Western art exhibit in the U.S.

You don’t have to be a cowboy fan to enjoy a visit. The Booth’s galleries include “Faces of the West,” where you’ll find works portraying legends like Geronimo and Doc Holiday, as well as other Native Americans, African Americans, and Western women. Another exhibit, “Heading West,” is dedicated to the earliest settlers of the region, including fur trappers, stagecoach passengers, and mountain men.

Movie buffs can explore “The Mythic West,” with its collection of pulp magazine covers and vintage movie posters. Look for John Wayne (as if you could miss this larger-than-life star!), rodeo champion-turned-actor Hoot Gibson, and others.

An exhibit called “Ansel Adams: Before and After,” has proved so popular, it’s been extended through April 3, 2016. It’s a fascinating look at some of the photographers who influenced Adams, as well as some of the artists who learned from him.

One of my favorites is the Presidential Gallery, with its collection of signed letters from each president of the United States. Art in the Civil War Gallery traces our nation’s worst conflict; its paintings are hung in chronological order to help visitors understand the timeline of battles.

Keep your eye on the museum’s calendar, so you don’t miss any special events. There’s an annual Summer Entertainment Series, as well as a yearly Cowboy Festival and Symposium scheduled for October. Bring the kids for a reenactment of the shoot-out at the O.K. corral and demonstrations of fancy roping and Native American dance.

Book Review: In Wilderness

In Wilderness

I don’t like to post reviews for books that I’m not crazy about, especially when the book was a free copy from the publisher.

That’s the case with In Wilderness, a novel I received from a LibraryThing giveaway. While author Diane Thomas’ book is extremely well-written, suspenseful, and even lyrical, with finely-drawn, heartfelt characters–I must confess, the subject matter is just not for me.

Set in 1966, In Wilderness is the story of Katherine, a successful, 30-something businesswoman who loses both her baby and her health after she’s exposed to an environmental poison. Soon her husband abandons her, and when her doctors tell her she’ll die within months, she leaves work and home behind, and retreats to an isolated cabin in the Appalachian Mountains, where she intends to live out her remaining days alone.

But fate has a different plan. She encounters Danny, a twenty-year-old Vietnam veteran who’s living off the land and suffering from PTSD. While I don’t want to spoil the story, as it unfolds, we realize that these two terribly damaged people are helping each other while surrounded by the healing powers of nature.

But if that description makes this sound like a lighthearted read–well, it isn’t. I shouldn’t even use the word “healing,” because this is no fairy tale, dark woods notwithstanding, and neither character experiences anything like true redemption.

I found this book disturbing, primarily because Katherine takes so much abusive treatment from Danny (although he’s kind and attentive at times, he’s also violent, dangerous and unpredictable). At one point, I couldn’t understand why Katherine didn’t head back to civilization for help (by then, she has a compelling reason to get away from him).

Other critics have said this book testifies to the healing powers of nature, too. But in the end, I think “therapeutic” might be a better word to use. That’s because while the natural world comforts these characters, it doesn’t or can’t restore them, either to the people they used to be, or to society at large. While these two broken, sorrow-filled people find some balm in the wilderness, I was left feeling sad and disturbed.

This isn’t to say this isn’t a worthy book. Most critics have given it high praise, calling it “gripping,” “powerful,” “haunting” and “harsh and beautiful.” It’s just too dark for me.

2016 Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Guide

The 2016 Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Guide is out! There are articles on making the most of a small garden space, and another on how to landscape when water is scarce.

I wrote two of this year’s stories: one on heirloom flowers, and one on garden trends.

Garden Guide 2016One trend won’t surprise most gardeners, because it’s ongoing. Our bees are in trouble. Their populations have been declining for years because of disease, parasitic mites, overuse of pesticides, and other issues.

Now gardeners are actively trying to help them, says Jeanine Standard, a spokesperson for Proven Winners. We’re using fewer chemicals in our yards and planting more flowers, shrubs, and other plants they can use for food and shelter.

Another trend: gardeners want to replace the impatiens they’ve been growing in shady spots, since the plants are still dying from powdery mildew. Standard recommends using caladiums and Browallias, although she says she thinks impatiens will make a comeback, since developers are working on their genetics.

As for trendy edibles, look for ‘Suntava Full Season Purple’ corn, available from W. Atlee Burpee & Co. It’s a stunning variety that’s purple from cob to husk to stalk. Burpee’s is also offering ‘Meatball,’ an eggplant that makes a great meat substitute in your recipes. I’ve tried them, and they’re delicious. The fruits are heavy, firm and sweet tasting.

Read about more new varieties in the issue–it’s on newsstands now.