Gone: A guest post by author Jean Ryan

By Midge Raymond,

Today’s post is courtesy of Survival Skills author Jean Ryan, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!


Today I came across a photo of a thylacine, commonly known as a Tasmanian Tiger, owing to the stripes on its back and rump. Native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea, and largest of the carnivorous marsupials, thylacines were considered a threat to farmers and were hunted to extinction. The last one, a lone female, died of neglect in the Hobart zoo in 1936. Unlike the Dodo, we have plenty of photographs and footage of Tasmanian Tigers, which makes their disappearance even more harrowing.

When a species slips into oblivion, I think there must be an earthly acknowledgment, a sort of hush or shudder that travels over the planet and outward into the universe. Each time I read of a creature we have lost, I am more frightened than sad. I do not want to be left alone on this planet, cannot imagine my life without the succor of animals. There is a terror in the loss of a species through human folly, a wrong for which there is no right. In allowing the attrition of wild things, we steal from ourselves. Confident that we can afford the consequences, we borrow funds we can’t pay back and ignore the growing list of damage.

How many more animals will we permit ourselves to squander and which do we imagine we can do without?

The thylacine was an impressive-looking creature. It resembled a large short-haired dog but was related to kangaroos and Tasmanian devils. Up to six feet in length, with a stiff two-foot tail, the animal could stand on its hind legs for brief periods. Tasmanian Tigers was not particularly fast or agile, but they were formidable hunters with no predators of their own. Nocturnal creatures, they traveled and hunted in groups and were believed to ambush their prey. The female birthed up to four pups at a time, which stayed in her pouch for three months. Thylacines had yellowish brown coats with dark stripes that faded somewhat with age.

Attempts have been made to clone a thylacine, but these experiments have not been successful, and scientists admit we’re a long way from resurrecting the dead. For now we must wait for another sort of miracle. There have been reports in recent years of thylacine sightings, one from a reputable game warden, and while these accounts are beguiling, so far there are no corroborating photos or video. Generous rewards have been posted and the search continues.

If given a second chance to behold a living thylacine, I hope we will save it from ourselves, that we will spare it our tests and our studies and our cages. I hope we will pause in admiration and quietly move on.


Father Time: A guest post by Jacki Skole

By Midge Raymond,

Today’s post and photos are courtesy of Dogland author Jacki Skole, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!

Father Time

He looks old.

That was my first thought—and my second. It was as though I’d been hit in the gut. Not that I’d expected anything, really; I hadn’t thought about what he’d look like. I’d just wanted to see him again, and now, incredibly, I was.

I met Maurice in 2000 at my friend Daphne’s Atlanta home. He was about three months old and ridiculously cute—a pint-sized golden boy with a charcoal snout and ears that pointed skyward. He made me want a pup of my own—not an unusual reaction to playing with a puppy. What was unusual was what happened next.

I adopted one.

Gryffin pup-web


Gryffin was Maurice’s brother and he, with the rest of their litter, was at the DeKalb County Humane Society outside Atlanta. I could have chosen any one of the puppies, but something about Gryffin spoke to me. Like Maurice, Gryffin was golden with charcoal accents he’d later outgrow, but whereas Maurice’s ears stood tall, Gryffin’s flopped forward.

For two Southern boys, the dogs lived very little of their lives in the South. Gryffin came with me to Philadelphia, then to suburban New Jersey. Maurice went with Daphne to Israel. Now, thirteen years after meeting Maurice, I was seeing him again—this time, in Tel Aviv; this time, with Kevin and our daughters. We scoured Maurice’s face for some resemblance to Gryffin, whom we’d had to put down three years earlier. A tumor we hadn’t known about was tucked behind his ribcage burst and filled his belly with blood—one day he was playing ball in the backyard, the next he was gone. So we stared at Maurice, and we saw Gryffin in his snout and in his eyes, though still not in his ears.

Kevin said he felt a sense of closure, that seeing Maurice in life somehow allowed him to let go of Gryffin in a way that had before been elusive. My feelings were messy. Maurice moved slowly. Stairs were a struggle. He looked weary. Part of me found comfort in knowing that Gryffin never slowed, never struggled with steps, never faced the frailties that accompany old age. But, I wondered—have been wondering—did I feel that comfort for him or for me? Seeing the toll that Father Time was taking on Maurice hit me unexpectedly, sending me on an emotional rollercoaster I wasn’t prepared for.

It’s been several months since I saw Maurice, and I’m still struggling to come to terms with my feelings—about what they mean and about what they might say about me and my ability to face old age—be it in a dog, a family member, or myself.



I Am Stuffed: Dining well at Café Gratitude

By Midge Raymond,

It’s been years since I’ve been to Café Gratitude, the last time in Berkeley, California, and so when visiting San Diego recently, I was thrilled to learn that this small, plant-based chain has opened a new restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy.


This brand-new Café Gratitude opened just a couple of weeks before I visited, and it was packed. Yet already things were running smoothly; we were seated quickly, the service was great, and the food was delicious.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Café Gratitude, it’s a bit of a quirky experience. The menu items are affirmations (for example, if you want an eggplant parmesan panini, you order it by saying, “I Am Awesome”). This San Diego location is pretty mellow about this; in Berkeley, we were asked, “What are you grateful for today?” as soon as we were seated, and when I ordered a dish called “I Am Whole,” the server said to me with great joy, “You are whole.” Here in San Diego, the server just took our order and went on his way … so they’ve localized well for this customer base.

We began with “I Am Celebrating,” an order of two collard-wrapped spring rolls filled with daikon and wakame, carrots, sunflower sprouts, avocado, pickled vegetables. The rolls were spectacularly flavorful and came with two sauces, sesame wasabi and Thai almond, which added even more flavor.


We both had wraps as entrees … I was “Glorious” and enjoyed the caesar salad tempeh wrap, which featured blackened jerk tempeh, avocado, romaine, coconut bacon, tomato, capers, brazil nut parmesan, and cashew caesar dressing, all wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. On the side was  mixed greens with goji chipotle vinaigrette.


My friend was “Extraordinary,” and said her meal was the same: a vegan BLT wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, with coconut bacon, romaine, tomato, avocado, chipotle cashew aioli, and a lovely wild rice summer bean salad on the side.


There is also a long list of beverages, from wines, beers, and cocktails to juices, elixirs, and smoothies. My friend tried the “I Am Immortal” coffee (a blend of three mushroom powders along with coffee, steamed almond milk, and cinnamon) — warm, earthy, and delicious. I had the vitamin-C shot otherwise known as “I Am Beaming,” a tangy and invigorating blend of orange juice, carrot juice, goji berry, camu camu, astragalus, acerola berry, and amla berry, served in a very tiny glass.


We were too stuffed for dessert but didn’t want to miss out, so we picked a few items to go. Among them: “I Am Mighty,” a superfood energy bar made of hemp, flax, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds; almonds; goji berries; coconut butter; and cacao nibs. Half dipped in raw chocolate, it’s so decadent I’m glad it’s called a “superfood,” which makes me feel a little better about gobbling it.


I also took home “I Am Kind,” a rice/quinoa crispy treat drizzled with raw chocolate.


It’s equally decadent, and not at all fluffy like many crispy rice treats.

I’d highly recommend this light, airy cafe for its fresh, delicious food and abundant choices. Based on its early popularity — as well as our chat with fellow diners who work in the neighborhood and are on a mission to try everything on the menu — reservations might be a good idea. And while this location may not have quite the same vibe as Berkeley, you’ll still likely be grateful for having been here.


Save the date: Ashland Book & Author Festival

By Midge Raymond,

Save the date, readers & writers!

The Ashland Book & Author Festival will take place at Southern Oregon University’s fabulous Hannon Library on Saturday, October 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Events include readings, workshops, panels, a book fair, children’s events — and raffles and drawings to win great prizes (i.e., books!).

Among the highlights…
At 11 a.m…
The SOU Women’s Resource Center and Alma Rosa Alvarez, Amanda Singh Bans, Marianne Golding, and Precious Yamaguchi present The Worlds of Women, a panel discussion exploring women’s narratives from multicultural perspectives.

Tod Davies presents Truths of Imagination: The Importance of Story.

The Southern Oregon Literary Alliance will make its debut appearance in the Rogue Valley literary scene. In this presentation, SOLA members will introduce the organization, take questions and suggestions from the community, and invite participation in a raffle to win books from local publishers.
At 11:30 a.m…

I’m presenting Writing About Place: A Journey for Readers & Writers, featuring readings and writing tips for turning journeys into compelling stories.

Evan Morgan Williams presents Publishing Your Story Collection with a Small Press, his strategy and tactics for winning a small-press book prize.


At 12:30 p.m….
Molly Tinsley presents Behind the Waterfall/Behind the Scenes, a reading from her debut middle-grade novel featuring twins, along with a talk about its crafting in consultation with twins.

The panel discussion Killer Crime includes Carol Beers, Sharon Dean, Michael Niemann, Clive Rosengren, and Tim Wohlforth.


At 1 p.m….

John Yunker presents Environmental Activism in Fiction — a reading from his novel The Tourist Trail, with a question-and -nswer session about environmental fiction in the age of climate change.

Ed Battistella presents Sorry About That, a short reading and question-and-answer session on Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apology, and a preview of new material in the paperback edition.


At 2 p.m….
Local indie publishers present Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Publishing But Were Afraid To Ask (So Ask!). Speakers include Tod Davies, Midge Raymond, Molly Tinsley, and John Yunker. Moderated by Ed Battistella.

Michael Niemann presents Legitimate Business, a short reading and a discussion of gun smuggling.


Check out the full schedule for more event listings — and don’t forget to stop by to see us at the Southern Oregon Literary Alliance booth!

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Blue Bloods: A guest post by Jean Ryan

By Midge Raymond,


Today’s post is courtesy of Survival Skills author Jean Ryan, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!

Blue Bloods

The blood of a horseshoe crab is blue, a translucent baby blue that looks as precious as it is. The blood contains a mechanism, LAL, that detects pathogens and clots around them; pharmaceutical companies use this substance to screen the drugs they sell. LAL is introduced to the drug, and if the clotting action takes place, technicians know the lot is not pure. On the world market, a quart of horseshoe crab blood is worth an estimated $15,000, leading to annual revenues of $50 million. Each year 250,000 crabs are hauled up from the depths, strapped to steel counters, pierced with thick needles and steadily bled.

Incredibly, most survive the ordeal. The LAL industry reports that the mortality rate is 3%, while independent studies reveal higher numbers: 10 to 30%. Technicians first wash the sand and debris from the creatures, then check for injuries or signs of illness. Those that make the cut lose one third of their blood, which takes about an hour. Within three days these crabs are back in the water, released in areas beyond the harvest zones. Their blood volume rebounds in a week, while their blood cell counts take months to recover. Horseshoe crabs are bled repeatedly, though only once a year according to LAL manufacturers. The impact of the procedure on their behavior and breeding cycles is not clear. We can safely assume it does them no good.

Armored against time, horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years and are related not to crabs but to scorpions and spiders. Despite the constant threat of infection by any number of marine-borne fungi, viruses and bacteria, these creatures have survived in great numbers, the LAL in their bodies clearly outstripping the white blood cells we rely on.

Horseshoe crabs have ten walking legs and a total of nine eyes scattered throughout the body, along with several light receptors near the tail. Their bodies are composed of three parts: the head, which includes the brain, mouth, heart and nervous system; the spiny abdomen, which houses the legs and gills; and the sharp but harmless tail. They molt several times, starting out the size of peas and growing up to two feet long—the females are larger than the males. Maximum growth is reached in ten years, with life spans topping out at 20 years. The crabs spend most of their time crawling on the bottom of bays, feeding on worms and mollusks. They swim upside-down.

The mating ritual of the horseshoe crab is another astonishing feature. At high tide in late spring, on the new and full moons, horseshoe crabs travel from deep ocean waters to the beaches they were born on. The male crabs arrive first, and when the females come to shore, the males grasp onto them and together they head to the high tide mark. On the way, the females dig several small nests in the sand and deposit eggs, tens of thousands of them, which the males, dragging behind the females, fertilize. These eggs are a tasty treats for birds, reptiles and fish, and most horseshoe crabs will not even make it to the larval stage before being eaten.

Between habitat loss in coastal Japan and over-harvesting on the Eastern Seaboard, horseshoe crab populations have fallen sharply in recent years. We no longer get insulin from the pancreases of pigs and cattle, and research is underway to create a synthetic version of LAL. With our scientific know-how, our startling medical advances, how far away could we be from a crab-free product? Considering the time and expense involved in harvesting, prepping and bleeding horseshoe crabs, the savings would be tremendous. The benefit to the crabs of course would be incalculable.

Some argue that horseshoe crab bleeding is a sustainable practice and that these creatures have proven themselves hardy. Even if this were the case, and I have my doubts, shouldn’t we want to spare them the trauma?

Along with intellect, humans were given compassion, the capacity for decency. Our brains might solve our problems, but our hearts can save the world.

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