Sunday, November 19, 2017

Discussion of "The Cruller Twist"

Welcome Christ Community Church, Montreat.  Leave your comments below. Thanks!

P.S. If you want to share the story, a link to it is in the right column.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

Monarch observers have reported on Journey North some huge numbers crossing the southernmost Blue Ridge Ridge Parkway yesterday, October 14, and the day before.  As many as 2000 or so an hour at Cherry Cove Gap and perhaps that many at Haywood Gap.  Edie and I stopped at the latter today and witnessed a short flurry of heavy traffic.  Though we didn't count, we saw dozens flying right over our heads in a few minutes.  This is the heaviest flow I have ever seen.  It's possible tomorrow will be quite heavy.  Haywood Gap is at Milepost 426.5. This is not an official overlook, but you can find a bit of parking on gravel and there is some space in the grass.  Sit on the guardrail along the south side of the road.

UPDATE for 10/16, 8:00 am: The high temperature today in Asheville is expected to be 55 degrees F.  Monarchs can only fly when their muscles reach 54 degrees, and it will be cooler than Asheville at higher elevation, so the flow might not begin again until Tuesday or later. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Go up the Blue Ridge Parkway NOW!


    On Saturday, October 7, I gave an evening slide presentation and talk at the Julian Price Park amphitheater.  The beautiful park with a 47 acre lake is at milepost 297 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Elevation, something like 3400 feet.  The presentation was not particularly well attended, but it was worth the trip, nonetheless. Afterward I camped overnight, sleeping in my 4Runner, parked in the drive of an RV spot.  Oak trees kept dropping acorn bombs on my roof and that made it hard to stay asleep. They sounded like bombs, or rather gunshots. At about midnight, I moved the vehicle to the empty neighboring campsite where the acorns fell less frequently.  

      On the way to the event, I drove up the parkway from Asheville, stopping at likely gaps to see if monarchs used them to cross the ridges.  The absolutely best place was the Ridge Junction Overlook.  This overlook is about 100 yards north of the entrance to Mt. Mitchell State Park. It has a fantastic long view and I counted 20 monarchs in half an hour, most sailing over.  As the temperature warmed, other monarchs stopped to feed on the violet asters along the parking area.  Before I left, I did a spot count and got 15.  I will definitely be including this location in the 2018 edition of my guide.  Further north I counted six at the Bald Knob Parking Area, five on the private land adjacent to Gooch Gap, and two in the meadow at the turnoff to Linville Falls Visitor's center.  (I will add milepost numbers later.)

      So, get up on the parkway and look for monarch butterflies.  The migration will not last much longer!

      I plan to create a YouTube video of the slide presentation, which itself contains videos of monarch life cycle transitions. I learned quite a bit during the preparation of the presentation, in particular something of the natural and culture history of milkweed and the overwintering monarch population in California.  Mexico has 12 known sites, but CA has 400!

      Oh, and why did the government buy milkweed pods in the 1940s?  To make life vests from the floss (the silk) for the war effort. More later.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Monarch Guide Update

Goldenrod and a solitary female in flight near the Pisgah Inn.  10/4/17
Update
October 4, 2017

The NC Arboretum’s annual Monarch Day is over for this year.  I had been invited to set up a table to sell books and talk with people.  Along with me was a National Park Service interpretive ranger.  I brought a flower arrangement I made with zinnias, goldenrod, and a American beech branch from which I hung three chrysalises to show.  I also brought a couple hundred almandine garnets I had collected locally to give away to children. (The garnets happened to be more popular than my book!)  The arboretum sold milkweed plants, some having live monarch larvae on them.  I thought that was great.  I didn’t mention it in the book, but the arboretum has had an ongoing live butterfly display for several months.  It’s called Winged Wonders and lasts through October 29.  Next year the Monarch Day is set for Saturday, September 8, but as the date nears, check the arboretum’s website to be sure it is still on, because there is some discussion about only holding the event every other year in the future.

The Cradle of Forestry’s monarch event also is past.  Next year check their schedule for the time and date.  I went this year and learned a lot from the speaker.

Observers reporting for Journey North’s Monarch Peak Migration Map say they’ve seen monarchs this fall at the following locations not given in my book. I’ll be including these southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway places in the 2018 edition.  To locate specific overlooks, zoom in and click the splash symbols on the BRP Road Closure Map.

The entrance road to Mt. Mitchell
Hornbuckle Valley OL
Woolyback OL
Scott Creek OL
Woodfin Valley OL
1 mile south of View Mt. Lyn Lowry
View Mt. Lyn Lowry
Roy Taylor Forest OL
Double Top Mountain OL, (mm 435, 100+ monarchs, 9/29)
Cradle of Forestry OL

One of the most interesting entries is this filed by “Keith.”
Date: 09/29/2017   Location: 35.33, -82.87
Number Sighted: 1000
Comments: Two miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Pisgah National Forest, 1:00-2:00 pm EDT, partly cloudy, 55°-60°, Monarchs feeding below Tennent Mountain on the Graveyard Ridge Trail between Ivestor Gap and the Mountain-to-Sea Trail.

Below is the report I filed at Journey North.  See all the Peak Migration Map reports and the accompanying photographs at: www.learner.org/jnorth/monarchs
Date: 10/1/2017
Number Sighted: 95
Comments: On Saturday, August 30, we drove between the Mills Gap Overlook and the Caney Fork Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and didn’t see but two monarchs in five hours. On Sunday the following day we counted 95 in the two hours between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm at the Cherry Cove View, milepost 415.7. Most didn’t stop to feed. Plenty more came over afterwards in that location until it got colder at about 6:00 pm. I drove up and down on the parkway, but didn’t see any monarchs at any other places and times. The weather was mostly clear to partly cloudy. A light breeze drifted from the north. The temperature midday was about 70 degrees F. Cherry Gap is where the National Park Service placed a monarch migration informational plaque. A dozen or more monarch watchers gathered there throughout the afternoon, including Jennifer who had lost a newborn son 20 years ago to the day. She had come to release a butterfly helium balloon at sunset in his memory, and she found support and fellowship in the company of other monarch lovers who she had just met. That morning a female monarch had eclosed at my home and I gave it to her to release.
                                                                                                        Mickey Hunt

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Monarch Butterfly Memorial on the Parkway

Edie and I drove south up the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday.  We gave a few of my monarch books to people who gave clues they might be interested.  Some books to the hawk watchers at Mills Gap Overlook.  One to a man riding a Harley motorcycle.  Another to a woman taking pictures of butterflies at Caney Fork Overlook.  The man had been an Interpretive Ranger for the National Park Service up north and on the BRP.  He now drives a tour bus and is a professional photographer.  He showed us a photo of a lovely, huge timber rattler he had seen the day before at the Caney Fork Overlook. The woman had been an environmental lawyer for years and now she’s working on a book on black bears in the Smoky Mountain NP.  She also does photography professionally and offered me a little critique on my photos.  We had long talks with both of them and I hope to stay in touch.   We only saw two monarchs all day.

On Sunday, yesterday, I drove up by myself and spent most of the afternoon at Cherry Gap Overlook.  (There weren't any monarchs at Pounding Mill and John's Rock overlooks.) Again, I gave out books.  After I arrived I noticed a woman in green who seemed to be taking pictures of a monarch I had seen feeding on aster.  It was the only monarch around at the time.  Since I had arrived, three others had flown over, not stopping.  I stood beside her and made some comment.  Yes, she had come up to see the butterflies.  And when I gave her my book she was more or less flabbergasted because she had been intending to buy it at the Botanical Gardens on her way, but she had run out of time. As we talked, two other women came up, Jennifer and Renee.  They said they had been eavesdropping.  Of course we were happy for them to join us and I gave each of them books, too.

Jennifer, then told her story, which I will recount as best I can.  (She said she’d write it and send it to me, but for now I’ll go off memory.)  Twenty years ago that very day, her baby, Blake, had been born, but not alive.  Stillborn at full term.  For his memorial service, Jennifer had released some monarchs, and now every year on the anniversary she honored, mourned, and celebrated her son by coming up to the parkway and releasing a butterfly balloon.   When I heard this, I said, “I brought a monarch butterfly with me that emerged just this morning and I’ll let you release her, if you like.” 

I had used this monarch as a chrysalis at our table at the NC Arboretum’s Monarch Day.  I tied thread around the cremaster stem, plucked the silk pad off of the wire frame it had been attached to, and hung it and two others on a lovely flower arrangement of zinnia, aster, goldenrod and beech I had made.  When the butterfly emerged yesterday morning, I just carried it, still hanging on its chrysalis shell, to the car and hung it from my rear view mirror.

Well, Jennifer took pictures of the butterfly hanging there, and later as it rested on the car seat after it had decided to try to fly a little.  Jennifer carefully coaxed the butterfly onto her finger and then walked it to some aster blooms where she coaxed it onto them.  Later on, when she was ready, the butterfly flew away, on to Mexico, we hope. 

I was certainly moved by hearing Jennifer’s story and by the opportunity to be a part of her memorial day.   The other woman, Renee, did not know Jennifer before yesterday either, but as I was talking with someone else, I heard them praying together.  I told Jennifer that one of my life themes was “The heavens declare the glory of God” from Psalm 19, which goes on to say, “the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”  Renee said she also had lost a child.

Perhaps another dozen or more other people came up for monarchs through the rest of the day.  I spoke with many of them.  We formed a little Cherry Gap counting team and between 1:00 and 3:00 pm we counted 95.  It was a steady flow of flyovers, none stopping to feed.  I’m sure we missed some because we were so busy talking.  I’d like to round the number up to 100, but that wasn’t what happened, even if five flew over in a group just after I stopped my count.

At about 3:30 I drove out to Caney Fork Overlook and didn’t see any monarchs there at all, even though it was warm and calm and a lot of asters were in bloom.  Jennifer was there and that’s when I took pictures of her balloon.   

On the way home I stopped at Cherry Cove Gap again and the butterfly traffic was still strong.  A couple I knew from church had come up with another couple just to see the butterflies.  I showed them my book, and it was funny that they weren’t very interested.  I had given them a three minute talk on life cycle and I guess that satisfied their curiosity.  Perhaps when people know you, they take things for granted.  I didn’t give them a copy partly because I was running low.

All in all, it was a satisfactory day.  I listened to Bach solo violin partitas on the way home and the drive went fast, even if I got sleepy at the end.  Not only am I continuously amazed about the monarch migration, yesterday I was amazed at the human migration of people who journey every year to see the monarchs.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Monarch Butterfly Front Has Arrived!

There are no monarchs in this photo, which I took at 2:30 pm today, but at 11:00 am as I walked in the door here at Mr. K's Used Books, I saw three just gliding and flitting by maybe 15 feet off the ground right in front of the building.  In the next 25 minutes, as I stepped outside now and then waiting for my book deal appointment with the manager, I counted another dozen.  In total, just going about my business today, I counted 27 in four different locations, including when I was blowing leaves off the roof of our house. 

So far, in addition to Mr. K's,  the monarch book is for sale at:

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville
The Compleat Naturalist (in Biltmore Village.)
BB Barnes Nursery and Landscaping
Town Hardware in Black Mountain
The Cradle of Forestry (near Brevard)
The North Carolina Arboretum gift shop

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The NC Arboretum's Monarch Day

We didn't sell many books at the NC Arboretum's Monarch Day today, but we had a good time talking with people. We did give away a lot of garnets to children. I made the flower arrangement with zinnias and goldenrod, with three chrysalises hanging a beech branch.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mountain Xpress Features My Photo

My cover photo was featured in the Mountain Xpress Community Calendar section, the paper edition, this week as part of an announcement of the arboretum's Monarch Day, which is this Saturday.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cradle of Forestry

Here’s my book on display at the Cradle of Forestry’s gift shop yesterday. We attended their excellent “Bring Back the Monarchs” program, lead by Joyce Pearsall.  On the way to the event we stopped at the Mills River Valley Overlook and met Jerry and Liz Fishman who were bird watching there.  Later they e-mailed me an “unofficial” hawk watch count for the day: Broad-winged Hawks, 92 (70 streaming out of a single kettle), Falcon, 1 (not a positive ID but possible Merlin).  Turkey Vulture, 3.

After the monarch event we returned home via the parkway, but stopping on the way at mile 409-410 to hike to and climb the fire tower, where we met a 14 year-old young man on top.  He was there alone—some of his family members had dropped him off. He had been whistling a simple three-note tune through his hands sounding much like an ocarina. He said he had been born in Mexico. We enjoyed the cool breeze and fantastic views for a while, then we left the tower and the boy sitting on top of one of the other buildings on the ridge.  At the bottom of the trail his mother drove up and I gave her a copy of my book for him. We pulled out to leave and his sister approached to ask for my autograph, which he had requested by phone.  I told her about the monarchs overwintering in Mexico.  I was thinking the boy needed some encouragement, even if just a little book from a stranger, a book about something he might take an interest in.  (The fire tower hike is mentioned in the book.)  Or maybe he might find direction in life as a scientist or naturalist.    


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Praise for the Monarch Guide

"Just wanted to touch base with you and let you know that we received your books today. I am very happy to have them on hand for the Butterfly event this weekend. The book is very nice with great photography and a super price point for our visitors."

-The Director of Interpretive Sales at the Cradle of Forestry in America in an e-mail today.


^^^

"I don't know if I told you, but I think your book is wonderful! I love your writing style, as if we were sitting and having a conversation. There is wit and humor and great information... I am actually reading it [a pdf file] again and I cannot wait to have a copy in my hands."

-A Blue Ridge Parkway Interpretive Ranger at the Moses Cone Memorial Park.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Clouds Fall to Earth

Sunset from Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, BRP.  9/10/17
Chapter 1.
Hunting Day

Rho Aquilae encounters earthbound people for the first time. 


I began writing Clouds Fall to Earth in 2011 and worked on it off and on for two years, roughing out seven of the planned twelve chapters. I also created much of the world in some detail, including history, economics, technology, and culture. It actually connects with my short story "Shoreless Ocean of Eternity", which you can find in my when earth whispers collection. "Shoreless", then, is a prequel. Clouds Fall has been "on the shelf", untouched, since 2013, but always in the back of my mind.  This is chapter one.  It's not perfected yet, but I think it might be of interest.  I'd rather have something of the book out for people to read than for it to lay buried in my computer.  And this might motivate me to finally finish writing it and get it published.

Read the chapter HERE.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Book Ready for the Monarch Butterfly Migration

“A favorite scenic road of the eastern United States, endless gorgeous views, and one of the most amazing migratory creatures in the world—all make for an ideal fall day outdoors. This guide will help you make the most of your day, with tips on when and where to look, facts and photos of the monarch life cycle, information about learning more, and practical ideas on how you can help the monarch butterfly population grow.”

So says the back cover of the newly released book, A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway by local hobby beekeeper and entomologist, Mickey Hunt.

This small book—a mere 37 pages—is timely because the monarch’s southward migration to Mexico is poised to begin, peaking in the Balsam Range south of Asheville toward the end of September. Biologists and amateur monarch watchers all over the country are wondering if the numbers of the butterflies overwintering in Mexico’s Trans-Volcanic Mountains this coming season will be larger or smaller than last winter.

“The known high point of the total monarch population in about a dozen sites in Mexico was the winter of 1996-1997,” said Hunt. “The butterflies covered 18.19 hectares. It’s been down and up since then, but with a downward trend toward the lowest point in the winter of 2013-2014 at .67 hectares. That’s a huge decline, and it alarmed a lot of people.”

One hectare is 2.47 acres. According to the World Wildlife Fund, whose volunteers do the estimating in the mountainous monarch wintering areas, the hectares occupied by the butterflies increased to 4.01 from that lowest point and then dropped to 2.91 last winter.

“But everyone who is paying attention is optimistic,” said Hunt. “We believe our conservation efforts are making a difference. I’ve seen monarch larvae in my milkweed garden all summer long and I’ve raised some of them in my bay window. It’s been a joy seeing the released males patrolling for girlfriends to create another generation.”

Hunt’s monarch migration guide contains dozens of his often close-up photographs of the varied stages of the monarch life cycle, a bar graph showing the monarch population changes, and a migration route map, as well as information about where to buy milkweed seeds and plants, the exclusive food for monarch larvae in North America. There is a section on where to learn more, including some of the best organizations that focus on education and conservation, and monarch educational events in western North Carolina.

One of those events is the Cradle of Forestry’s “Bring Back the Monarchs” program on Sunday, September 17.  Another is the North Carolina Arboretum’s annual Monarch Day, to be held this year on Saturday, September 23.

“I’ve been invited to be a part of the Monarch Day,” said Hunt. “No one really needs this little book, but it might be helpful in giving the wider ecological context. It’s great for younger students. In a nutshell, I’ll just tell people at the arboretum to drive up to Cherry Cove View or the Caney Fork Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway as quick as they can. Watching the migrating monarchs is an amazing aesthetic experience. It’s a window to a natural, global force expressed by a small and beautiful creature. It’s possible to understand an issue in the abstract, but actually seeing the monarchs gliding overhead, or clustering on goldenrod and aster is what shows you their value.”

A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway is available now on Amazon.com and Create Space, and will soon be in some of the independent bookstores and garden centers in the Asheville area.


Mickey Hunt has been exploring along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway with his family for 30+ years. He lives in east Asheville. His book website is www.chaoticterrain.com and his blog, www.chaoticterrainpress.blogspot.com.

Contact Hunt:
828-575-7300

Image © Mickey Hunt

[Note: High quality photos of monarchs on the BRP are available to accompany this story.]

[For wholesale orders, a direct link to the book’s Create Space page: www.createspace.com/7121800.]

Friday, September 1, 2017

"A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway" is REALLY ALMOST HERE!

click to enlarge
I bet you've never seen a monarch butterfly larva like this.  Nor has anyone else. It's a caterpillar of the Io Moth (Automeris io) that I found munching away yesterday in my corn patch.  Like the saddleback larvae, this guy bears toxic, painful, stinging spikes. He's about 2.5 inches long.  

The monarch book is still "in production", meaning that I had a three day delay in completion this week due to a strange "corruption" in one of my photographs. It took that long to get a specific diagnosis. I fixed the problem on Wednesday, 8-30, and had printed proofs by this afternoon, a Friday.  But the proofs weren't perfect.  In fact I had forgotten to submit the updated file of the cover, and as always I found some things in the interior that needed fixing or improving.  The short of it is, I missed my self-imposed September 1 publishing deadline.  It takes 24 hours for the printer to review the new files. Now I have to decide if I take a chance and publish tomorrow without having had eyes on a real final, final book.  It might be just fine.  Otherwise it will take another two or three days to get another proof in hand.  I have press releases ready.  A few vendors may be ready to order.  For now I'll get the book's web page set up at chaoticterrain.com.  The migration is still a week or two away from North Carolina, so the book won't be late.  The peak should be here the last week of September, so we are still in good shape.

Great news: A U.S. Park Service Interpretive Ranger has offered to help me at my book table at the NC Arboretum's Monarch Day on Saturday, September 23, if she is free that day.  That will be fun.  She's been doing educational presentations on the monarch for about two years now.


Here's a profile our handsome fellow:



Monday, August 7, 2017

Coming Soon!



From the back cover:

A favorite scenic road of the eastern United States, endless gorgeous views, and one of the most amazing migratory creatures in the world—all make for an ideal fall day outdoors.  This guide will help you make the most of your day, with tips of when and where to look, facts and photos of the monarch lifecycle, information on learning more, and practical ideas on how you can help the monarch butterfly population grow.  Plus, there’s a section on the best short hikes accessible from the parkway.

Mickey Hunt has been exploring along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway with his family for 30+ years.  He lives in east Asheville.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Orange

click photo to enlarge
There's no literary value here, just color.  I took this yesterday east of Mt. Mitchell along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It's either the non-native Tiger Lily or the native Turk's Cap Lily (lilium superbum).  Probably the latter.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Background on the Novel, Universal Man: II. The Leadbetter Estate

When I was a sophomore in high school back in 1970 or so, I had often heard of the Leadbetter Estate, a large tract of wooded land with derelict buildings on the south side of LaCamas Lake.  Part of the legend was the caretaker who would shoot at trespassers with a shotgun loaded with rock salt.  It was a place that adventuresome, party-minded high schoolers would sneak into on a Friday night.  

One such night I was part of such a group.  Maybe it was after a football game and a dance.  It could have been a dozen people.  I only remember one thing: climbing the stairs of an abandoned, three story log mansion in the dark without flashlights and grabbing the foot of one of the most beautiful girls in the school.  She was on the steps directly above me and I reached up though the gaps between the treads.  She screamed.  We never saw a caretaker.  The girl became a girlfriend for a while later on.

That was the first time I visited the Leadbetter Estate.  There were numerous subsequent times.  Usually I would ride my bike to the property with a girlfriend (not the one on the steps).  Once or twice we would row a canoe across the lake, land at the dock, and walk up the trail.  Once I slept overnight in a field, waking up in the morning to see the unconcerned caretaker mowing the grass.  A few times I’d sit for hours on a sunny balcony and read.  Not all of the buildings were abandoned.  Once a friend and I crawled through an unlocked window into a long, one story cabin and rummaged through the drawers to find some letters, which told about the owners, people who traveled the world and owned orange plantations in Florida.  The story about those people was that they would land their plane on LaCamas Lake and spend weekends there,

All the buildings of the Leadbetter Estate are gone now.  All the giant Douglas Fir trees are gone.  In their place are hundreds of what surely are million dollar homes, belonging to what surely are people who commute to Portland.  I’ve driven through the neighborhood of all those houses.  I think my parents once said an NBA Trailblazer player owned a house there.  One of the important supporting characters in the novel lives there.  (I won’t say who in this blog. You’ll have to read the book.)  The only remaining vestige of the old Estate, if it is related to the Estate at all, is a house on Leadbetter Road on the opposite side of the lake, a house that somewhat resembles the Pittock Mansion in Portland, though much smaller.

Another vestige, a fictional one, is that I re-created the entire Estate in the novel, gave the place a new, yet historically significant name, and located it somewhere else.  I’ve even included a photo of the log mansion in my book.  My photo above is of a walkway on the Estate. I’ll say more about all this in a later post.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Background on the Novel, Universal Man: I. Visits with the Hutterites

In Charles Frazier’s “award winning” Civil War novel, Cold Mountain, the main character, Inman, walks from a field hospital in Raleigh to Waynesville in an arching route that takes him near Boone. Along the way he encounters a variety of people, both evil and noble.  It’s been a long time since I read the book, but I remember he spent time with an elderly goat herder lady where he was able to rest and recover from his wound.

click to enlarge
This fictional, modestly-epic journey was an influence on my novel, Universal Man.  I won’t say what parts, or characters in the novel, but I’d like to tell you something of the novel’s background--personal experiences that I used as resources.

The Hutterites are spiritual and historical cousins to the Amish.  Both groups grew out of the Anabaptist movement of the Protestant Reformation.  Both are somewhat insular and “non-resistant” that is they keep separate from the larger culture and they are pacifistic, and generally not involved in political matters.  Hutterites differ from Amish in that, not believing in holding private property, they live in small “colonies” on large farms, they are located primarily in the western states and provinces, and they use modern farming practices.  They understand their communal lifestyle as imitating the early Christians.

I have visited Hutterite colonies on a few occasions, the first time when I was an Agriculture Education student at Washington State University in Pullman. I had heard there was a colony near Spokane and I asked around campus and found a professor that knew approximately where they were.  One Saturday I found it and spent the day there.  I used the visit to fulfill an Educational Psychology assignment.

A couple years later, for our wedding trip, Edie and I spent a few days on a colony of the Hutterian Society of Brothers (the Woodcrest Bruderhof) near Rifton, New York.  The Bruderhof (I call them the Arnoldleut), whose origin was the during the 1930s in Germany, has had a rocky off-and-on-again relationship with the Old Hutterites, as I call them, but they both are communal and they both look to the same historical antecedents. 

Last then, on a trip to the West Coast and back in our green 12-passenger van pulling a small cargo trailer, we with our six children stopped at two Hutterite colonies in Canada, one in the Schmiedeleut branch and the other a Dariusleut, I believe.* The first was welcoming and gave us a tour.  They seemed enchanted with our singing of rounds, because they never used harmony in their music, which was vocal only.  The second colony was in the middle of a vast, open prairie.   The minister, the colony leader, was standoffish, though to give him excuse, we did drop in on a Sunday, their rest day.  As we were leaving, we found some children outdoors visiting with an older brother, a young man who had come for the afternoon. He apparently had left the colony to live a more independent life and he was happy to talk with us. 

All this experience is background for my novel.  I’ll reveal only that Hutterites occupy several chapters.  I wish I could have included photographs of them in the book, but since Hutterites prefer in principle not to have their pictures taken, I don’t have any of my own at all.  In my library, however, is the stunning book of photographs (and informative, sympathetic text), The Hutterites of Montana, by Laura Wilson.

Post Script: I must say as an afterthought that I hated the book Cold Mountain.  The movie was even worse, having been filmed in Romania and not here in Western NC.  I do love the real Cold Mountain, itself, having spent a lot of time exploring in the Shining Rock Wilderness.




*The fourth branch is the Lehrerleut.  The “leut’s or “peoples” are named for their founders.  Hutterites who emigrated to North America and did not resume the communal lifestyle are called Praireleut.

Monday, June 26, 2017

14% Book Discounts Available

click to enlarge
Books are expensive, which is why whenever possible, I buy them at the local used book store, Mr. Ks.  Or, I buy used books on Amazon.  Some Amazon re-sellers offer my new books lower than retail, and some, amazingly, offer them higher. The other day I saw When Earth Whispers for sale for $42 Australian! (But shipping is free.)  

If you buy any of the three Universal Man volumes, or When Earth Whispers,at the Create Space store, I have a 14%-off-retail discount code available. If you buy the books at the regular Amazon site, you get the Kindle e-versions free.  They have most of the photographs in color.

Speaking of photographs, this one I took last Saturday is of a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (hemaris diffinis) on Rose Milkweed (asclepias incarnta).  Here's another article on the moth.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The World Magazine "Missing Elements" Ad

As I began typing the first letters of this blog post, I was thinking about monarch butterflies, and I glanced up to see how many chrysalises I have on our bay window and saw a 5th instar larva that had been hanging in the J-form overnight had just split its skin and was transforming.  Now it is an elongated jade-green teardrop twisting and shrinking toward the compact gold-flecked pupa it will be for the next 10 days or so.

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The Missing Elements ad with a monarch butterfly on a zinnia flower is enigmatic, I think.  When writing fiction it’s usually more elegant to avoid hitting the plot points too much “on the nose” as some critiquers say.  How can I interest readers about a mystery, or a twist in the story ahead of time without revealing those things?

In the early months of 1976, I was working on the green chain of a lumber mill along the Columbia River.  The green chain was in a long shed open on the north side, toward the yard, but closed on the riverside, so I couldn’t see Mt. Hood towering in the east.  Pulling lumber, some of it 12”x 12” by 10 feet long was an eight-hour weight lifting marathon every day, so by evening I was exhausted.  I’d fall asleep in an easy chair while listening to classical music on the radio.  But one night on the news, I heard about flooding in Bangladesh and how people were starving, and I decided to go there and help.  I then studied Agriculture in college.

In short I never went to Bangladesh, but I ended up working in an area where the people are as needy, and maybe more so.  My idea was to go where the human need is greatest and the people trying to meet that need were the fewest.  Thirty years ago that place was in the realm of abortion, and it is now, I believe.  

My stories often follow the same principle that guided my life work.  You might say my stories, most of them, are agenda driven.  They begin with an idea.  But the story must be a story, that is, to appear as much as possible to represent real life, and not be a tract.  A breeze in the face, and not a hammer to the thumb.  Maybe even a stiff gust of wind that throws you off balance for a moment, or possibly changes the course of your life.

I’ll give one example of a buried agenda.  “The Tragedy of Bernie the Homeless” is not about animals or beekeepers.  I’m sure you wouldn’t have guessed that if you just read the story.  I’m sure that the UK based, post-environmentalist Dark Mountain Project wouldn’t have published the story if they knew what my agenda was.  They certainly noted the agenda that I presented, one with which I am sympathetic.  The story works in many ways, I hope.  But it should raise the question, “If maleness and femaleness, which exists in every single cell of every single person, is fluid, then isn’t species also fluid?”

Some of my stories are breezy and fun, I hope.  One or two are horrific.  I’m tempted to tell you which is what so that you’ll want to read them, but I’ve said enough for now.  Except… “Spark” explores the idea of a finite universe.  It’s tale of scale.  A short, short, short story—even the title is short—about next-to-the-hugest concept we can imagine.

Go HERE to read brief blubs of the stories in When Earth Whispers & Other Mostly Speculative Tales.  You may find in one of these stories and elsewhere in my writing that monarch butterflies are an argument against abortion.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Welcome World Readers!

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[UPDATE 7/11/17: Check out my Creator Page at PATREON]

“Chaotic terrain” is an astrogeologic term to describe a jumbled landscape on a planet, such as Mars.  It’s a type of landscape not really seen on Earth, but I think it's appropriate for our world on spiritual, cultural, and political levels.  At the same time, there’s incredible beauty everywhere.  I write stories that attempt to capture both the chaos and the beauty of life by embodying ideas that are often neglected or missing in literature—what I call, the missing elements.

After being a social activist since 1988 or so and writing countless letters to the editor and guest commentaries, in year 2000, I decided to write a novel.  It took a long time to rewrite and revise.  I didn’t finalize the current covers until a month ago.  And early this year I hired a recent seminary graduate to proofread the book again. The title is Universal Man, which is a turn on the concept of the holy, catholic (universal) church we ascribe to in the creeds.  Do I give away too much by saying that the main character, Stanley Timmons, represents the visible Church?  At least he does in my mind.  It was my intention to give him that role, though I hope I’ve made him to be a true-to-life person and not anything like an archetype. The primary characters, including Timmons, take their beliefs to the logical, often disturbing conclusions.

The book is in three volumes. An early reader called it a contemplative thriller.

My dear wife told me once that publishing short stories would bring attention to my novel.  That never came true.  Not yet anyway.  After the novel was more or less complete, I wrote about 30 short stories and got a number of them published in small places here and there.  But I got tired of rejection letters.  At about 250 rejections, I quit “submitting” stories, deciding rather to “dominate” them, hence my book When Earth Whispers & Other Mostly Speculative Tales, speculative meaning not strictly real-world, and that would include horror, contemporary fantasy, and science-fiction.  You can buy the book at Amazon, but since you probably don’t know me, I suggest you first read a couple stories here on my blog.  All of them are published or linked here and you can read them totally for free.  For this purpose I recommend one of the flash stories—complete stories in 1000 words or less.  Maybe try “Deprescience”.  A now retired editor at God’s World Publications said about it in the comments section at Every Day Fiction:

“This story is filled with surprises, the main surprise being its consistent and profound surprises themselves from beginning to end. Very well written, bolstered by obvious wisdom and literary panache. I was captivated by the scope of this quite brief masterpiece.”

So, you can find story titles and links on the blog column on the right.

If you like it, or are at least intrigued by “Deprescience”, try “Genius” or “Not the Wrong Planet”.  My almost shortest story is “Spark” at 544 words.  Then if you wish, try something longer, and when you’re ready, tackle the novel.  Or start with the novel.   After all, I wrote it first.  It is filled with surprises, too.  One interesting thing is that the novel contains numerous photographs of the real locations in the story, or locations that served as models for writing the scenes.  For ordering books, go to my “official website” ChaoticTerrain.com. It’s far more straightforward than this messy blog.

By the way, the monarch butterfly in the photograph is a male I raised in my house, and it’s perched on a milkweed plant (asclepias tuberosa) I grew from seed.  I had just released the butterfly and it had not yet taken its first flight.  But then it did and flew up into the wide world, perhaps to travel a thousand miles. Of course I hope that’s a metaphor for my stories, all of them and the novel, homegrown.

            -Meredith Eugene (Mickey) Hunt


(Not to distract you, but if you are fascinated by insects, watch my HD close-up video of a monarch butterfly emerging from its chryrsalis shell.)

Author

PHOTO BY EDITH HUNT AT THE DEVIL'S COURTHOUSE 
ON THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY, 2014.  click to enlarge
Husband of one wife and father of six children, Hunt has been an attempted but failed social reformer for 30 years. He lives in western North Carolina.

Works in progress include the science-fiction novel, Clouds Fall to Earth, which is about a people who have lived in dirigibles for a thousand years, and a unique non-fiction guide about Monarch Butterflies.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Final Cover of UM 3/ Then a Soldier

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The text on the back cover is the "All the World's a Stage" speech from the play "As You Like It" by William Shakespeare.  I may not have mentioned it elsewhere, but the monarch butterfly in the "logo" of Chaotic Terrain Press is feeding on zinnias in our garden, our vegetable garden of the fall of 2016. I grow three types of milkweed on our modest gentleman's farm we call Windfall, and raise monarchs in our house. The photo captures the butterfly in motion.

The Cover of UM 2/ The Chinook Assembly

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The final version of the cover, in black and white. There's a lot of meaning to this cover image. You'll have to read the book and study the interior photographs to discover what and why.  All the photos in the novel are actual location shots, or at least of places that served as models for the writing. Those are real places, transposed into the story's geography.

The Cover of UM1/ Graceful Runner

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This is the final cover of Universal Man 1/Graceful Runner.  For a long time I had it in color and then later it just seemed to create a better mood and unify the three volumes in my black & white experiments.  Note how the background image shows through on the back cover, and there it is still in color.  I thought this a nice touch.