A magical walk in the fairy tale world of a tranquil forest offers a gift of golden light and morning mist at Metlako Falls on Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, United States.
The American Dust Bowl of the 1930s lasted about a decade.
Its primary area of impact was on the southern Plains. The northern Plains were not so badly affected, but nonetheless, the drought, windblown dust and agricultural decline were no strangers to the north.
In fact the agricultural devastation helped to lengthen the Depression whose effects were felt worldwide. The movement of people on the Plains was also profound.
As John Steinbeck wrote in his 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath”:
“And then the dispossessed were drawn west- from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand.
They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless – restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do – to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut – anything, any burden to bear, for food. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land.”
Poor agricultural practices and years of sustained drought caused the Dust Bowl.
Plains grasslands had been deeply plowed and planted to wheat.
During the years when there was adequate rainfall, the land produced bountiful crops. But as the droughts of the early 1930s deepened, the farmers kept plowing and planting and nothing would grow.
The ground cover that held the soil in place was gone. The Plains winds whipped across the fields raising billowing clouds of dust to the skies.
The skies could darken for days, and even the most well sealed homes could have a thick layer of dust on furniture. In some places the dust would drift like snow, covering farmsteads.
I didn’t want to start reading print books again, but I honestly had no choice.
My dog, Pixel, forced me to.
You see Pixel, a 35-pound clump of energy, has an obsession with shadows and reflections. At the beach or the dog park, she doesn’t chase birds or tennis balls, she chases their shadows trailing along the ground.
And at home, when I pull out my iPad to read an e-book, she starts twirling frantically in circles, jumping all over me trying to catch the reflection from the screen. It’s comical most of the time, but it’s unbelievably annoying when I’m trying to fall into a good story.
So a couple of months ago, I decided to try a print book instead. Pixel, thankfully, wasn’t impressed with the reflective qualities of paper. But to my surprise, I found that I was.
I’ve struggled in the past with the pros and cons of print versus digital, and often opted for digital, with the ability to stuff a thousand books on a single device, a built-in dictionary and the ease of being able to share passages on social networks.
But e-books can also be really annoying. On my iPad, if a text message, email or other alert comes through, I’m quickly jolted out of the book I’m engrossed in.
Even when my devices are in airplane mode, or I’m using a Kindle, I still have to contend with Pixel.
But when I touched that physical book again for the first time in years, it was like the moment you hear a nostalgic song on the radio and are instantly lost in it.
The feeling of a print book, with its rough paper and thick spine, is an absorbing and pleasurable experience — sometimes more so than reading on a device.
Some recent reports have found that the tactile feeling of paper can also create a much more immersive learning experience for readers. Why? Several scientists believe it is neurological.
A research report published earlier this year in the International Journal of Education Research found that students in school who read text on printed paper scored significantly higher in reading comprehension tests than students who read the same text in digital forms.
Meanwhile, I’m not alone in my nostalgia for paper, as my colleague David Streitfeld reports.
In addition, according to an October report by the Book Industry Study Group, which monitors the publishing industry, the sales of e-books have slowed over the past year and currently comprise about 30 percent of all books sold.
Believe it or not, it isn’t just grumpy old people and those of us with hyperactive puppies who are buying physical books. It’s teenagers, too.
A coati atop the Pyramid of El Tepoztec. Photo by Zachary Senn
High up in the mountains of Morelos, a two-hour bus ride from Mexico City, lies an ancient pyramid at the end of a spectacular hike through the Mexican cloud forest.
Dedicated to Tepoztecatl, the Aztec god of Pulque, the shrine attracted pilgrims from as far away as Guatemala in its day.
Today, the pyramid overlooks the quaint mountain town of Tepoztlan, known throughout Mexico for its supposed mysticism, far flung community of European and American expats, and production of Mezcal.
The pyramid has two rooms inside, one opening out onto the monumental stairs and the other a smaller chamber in the interior.
Photo: Coatis are raccoon like animals with sharp teeth. Whilst females can be the size of a large house cat, it’s not uncommon for males to grow to twice their size. They are indigenous to the Americas.
The hike from the town up to the archeological site is filled with spectacular waterfalls, dense rainforest canopy, rock formations that would make Dr. Seuss jealous, and playful coatis.
The path leading up to the mountaintop temple tracks along beautiful ancient stairs before devolving into a trail of rough boulders. The final stretch before reaching the pyramid cuts right through a thin rock canyon that frames the edifice.
The gorgeous rainforest hike makes it easy to see why the devoted would travel from other countries just to worship at El Tepozteco.
Image: Grant Avenue after the earthquake in San Francisco.
by Chris Frantz
At 5:12 a.m. on 18 April, 1906, the people of San Francisco were awakened by an earthquake that would devastate the city.
The main tremor, having a 7.7–7.9 magnitude, lasted about one minute and was the result of the rupturing of the northernmost 296 miles of the 800-mile San Andreas fault.
But when calculating destruction, the earthquake took second place to the great fire that followed.
The fire, lasting four days, most likely started with broken gas lines (and, in some cases, was helped along by people hoping to collect insurance for their property—they were covered for fire, but not earthquake).
With water mains broken, fighting the fires was almost impossible, and about 500 city blocks were destroyed.
The damages were estimated at about $400,000,000 in 1906 dollars, which would translate to about $8.2 billion today.
Uncertain Death Toll
In 1906 San Francisco was the ninth largest U.S. city with a population of 400,000, and over 225,000 were left homeless by the disaster. The death toll is uncertain.
City officials estimated the casualties at 700 but more modern calculations say about 3,000 lost their lives.
The lowballing city figures may have been a public relations ploy to downplay the disaster with an eye on rebuilding the city.
On 20 April, the U.S.S. Chicago rescued 20,000 victims, one of the largest sea evacuations in history, rivaling Dunkirk in World War II.
Martial law was not declared, but some 500 looters were shot by police and the military.