Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of the Poor

 

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.  ~ St. Francis

 

Feast of St. Francis ~ October 4th

 

A well worn cardboard solar cooker

My niece Jade, showing a simple  home built, well worn and weathered cardboard solar oven.

 

Assisi Diocese among 40 Catholic groups to divest from Fossil Fuels
Link to National Catholic Reporter Article, Oct. 3, 2017

 

“The Church that hears ‘both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ cannot stay indifferent in front of the catastrophic consequences of the climate change that are unfairly affecting poor and vulnerable communities,” said Assisi Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino.”

 

And also. . .

 

God requires that we assist the animals, when they need our help. Each being (human or creature) has the same right of protection.   ~ St. Francis

 

 

 

Gulls at Neurotsis Inlet

 

Cheers ~ Bruce

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Fire and Fury (and smoke)… like the world has never seen.

                                                      

                                                 A Picasso -  Photo by Bruce Witzel

We’ve all heard the expression “business as usual”. However, considering current world politics I believe that many of us will admit that we live in unusual times.  Picasso illustrates it well. Life is such a paradox.

I imagine Tomas Merton calling out.

“Take thought, man, tonight when it is dark, when it is raining. Take thought of the game you have forgotten. You are a child of a great and peaceful race. You are son of an unutterable fable. You were discovered on a mild mountain. You have come up of the godlike ocean… Take thought, man, tonight. Do this. do this. Recover your original name.” 

(from Raids on the Unspeakable) 

 

Photo by bruce witzel - unknown artists

 

Recently I have kept a low blogging profile – partly from lack of initiative – more importantly, to focus on work and gardening as well as personal reflection and home improvement.

 

Garden from above

 

 

Fressh tomatoes from our garden Aug. 16, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

 

 

Telegraph Cove Kayakers, Aug. 5, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

Kayakers on Northern Vancouver Island

 

Here in British Columbia our recent provincial election of May 7th brought an amazing progressive shift. The Green Party won three seats and now holds the balance of power in the BC legislative assembly, in an agreement made with the newly elected New Democratic Party. This alliance holds a one vote margin over the Liberal party.

 

BC Election result 2017

 

The close election required 3 weeks of re-counts and one month of political negotiations before the “business oriented” Liberal Party was defeated in a vote of non-confidence on June 30, after almost 16 years in power. The Liberals do deserve parting credit for instituting the progressive British Columbia Carbon Tax Shift in 2008, the first jurisdiction in North America to do so. In this plan the Carbon fee charged on most fossil fuel transactions is then re-disbursed via tax credits – a sizable portion to lower income people. However, they dropped the ball in support of this important initiative, and then began to support various mega-projects like Site C damn on the Peace River and Liquefied Natural Gas development.

 

cumulativebccarbontaxrevenuesandtaxcuts20082104sourcesightlineinstitute_thumb

 

The current leader of the BC Green Party, Andrew Weaver, was originally elected in 2012. He is a well known climate scientist and a past lead author for the IPCC, the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change. He and his caucus is creating a big shift in the body politic and there’s hope it will spread.

Speaking of climate change, British Columbia experienced a record breaking heat wave a couple weeks ago. Coupled with extensive and growing wild fires since early April, the province is experiencing the worse fire season ever. Today it’s effected 894,000 hectares and fire crews have now reached day 100. Many of these emergency teams worked on the BC spring flooding immediately prior to the fires. 

 

Smoky skies  - fran guenette photo

Smoke on the lake comes from 100’s of miles away.

 

Tens of thousands of people and livestock have been  evacuated and many people in BC and nearby American states are experiencing health debilitating effects from the smoke.

 

nasa-satellite-image-wildfire-smoke-over-b-c-july-31-2017

Nasa Satellite Image – July 31, 2017 – Wildfire Smoke over British Columbia

 

The added financial burden is immense. A small example is that wood prices have skyrocketed as numerous mills have shut down due to the fires. This is one of many costs not factored into the true price of burning fossil fuel. 

 

DSC_0804

 

Recently I finished a novel, Convenient Mistruths, by Geoffry Strong. He’s a local atmospheric scientist who recently came to our local library for a reading. Strong sets the plot of his novel in 2020 and the main setting is the Canadian North. Large scale Arctic drilling and rapidly melting perma-frost is occurring.

Amidst murder and intrigue, the author adeptly weaves into the story the science on climate change, meteorology and changing weather patterns as well as their social and ecological impacts. The novel’s Prologue includes a short vignette about a migrant family from Syria. It makes clear his family lost it’s home drought and desertification caused largely by global warming. Civil war is a mere side effect.

The main antagonist of the novel is a few ardent American climate change denialists – funded by Big Oil of course. The main protagonist is a Canadian law student who is spending the summer gathering testimony in the north. She has been hired by a large construction company to outline the legal ramifications of a proposed oil pipeline.

Meanwhile, a Russian Climate Scientist working in Siberia discovers that methane readings are going off-the-scale. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent to global warming than Carbon Dioxide. An international crises ensues. Climate scientists and world leaders are left stunned. The urgency of runaway climate change stares humanity in the face.

Wow! Thumbs up to the author. This novel made me think about my own personal dependency on fossil fuel. Also, we use firewood to heat some of our home and water, so a lot of our energy requirements (including driving and flying) result in significant Carbon emissions.

 

Bruce with new stove just arrived - francis geunette photo

 Replacing our 24 year old woodstove

 

Our new alderlea woodstove Aug. 11, 20167 - fran guenette photo

 

Bruce with new stove

 

The novel also made me see that in general, poorer people have a small carbon footprint – they can’t afford many of the luxuries derived from my fossil fuel dependency. And yet, many who are downcast pay for climate change with their lives.

 

Charcoal drawing in Ottawa Art Gallery - artist unknown

Charcoal drawing in Ottawa Art Gallery – artist unknown

 

We must all work diligently to reduce our own carbon footprints. As a personal example, how do I connect my fuel addiction to my many other faults  – my arrogance, my quick judgements, my over eagerness, my heavy heart? And this is the tip of the ice berg. I need to match my action with my words – and to do this with genuine love and faith.

 

         the_dalai_lama__the_vancouver_peace_summit-500x500                                   Jesus-Holy-Wisdom-Robert-Lentz

 

 

In the closing lines of his 2011 book, Generation Us: The Challenge of Global Warming, Andrew Weaver says:

“It’s time to recognize global warming for what it is: the most self-empowering issue we will ever face. Every consumer of energy is part of the problem. Every person is therefore part of the solution. We are entering an age of creativity and innovation unlike any modern society has experienced before. Rather than fearing this change, we need to embrace it.”

 

generationus-cover

 

In the paradox of it all I recall the words of Thomas Merton:

”I remain aghast at our own weakness, our own poverty, our evasions, our infidelity, our hesitancy…. In such a condition there is no use in forcing the issue. Great patience and humility are needed, and humble prayer for light, courage and strength.”

 

Photo below by Thomas Merton 1968 – Hut in the Himalaya’s

photo by thomas merton

 

In peace – Bruce

Ode to a little stream – Off Grid Power, Part 2: Micro-Hydro

MICRO HYDRO – a site specific ecological alternative to fossil fuel generators.

On Earth Day (a few posts back) I posted about our off-grid energy system and how it’s evolved since early 1980’s. Included were details of solar and wind power, with a promise to to expand on the micro hydro aspect of our electrical production.

I fore-warn you – this post is lengthy and quite comprehensive – lots of photos though. Here is part Two.

Introduction:

In mid 2009 we began our most recent energy system upgrade which involved months of planning, engineering and building new infrastructure. By February 2010 we had a new water powered turbine and a bigger solar array, up and running.

The little stream pictured below, now provides more than half of all our electricity. A good part of the success is because we conserve energy and use it efficiently.

 

Top of waterfall May 10, 2009 - 45 gpm waterflow - bruce witzel photo

 

Here’s the stream again – on it’s last tumble before it feeds into the lake.

 

Waterfall time exposure at the neighbours, Dec. 31, 2010 - bruce witzel photo

 

In our temperate rainforest along the the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island snow melt from the mountains doesn’t last long  – even less so, with reduced snow pack due to climate change. Hence, the stream becomes a mere trickle in the summer months and the water powered turbine becomes in-operational.

During the other 8 to 9 months of the year the normal flow of the stream is nominally impacted by utilizing the hydro power system. Part of the reason for this is because water for the turbine is taken from a nearby tributary. Here, the intake also has a special stainless steel screen designed to protect all riparian life as well as to keep debris out of the penstock.

 

Coanda Filter Screen for water intake - bruce witzel photoIntake flume with Coanda Screen

Although the lake is excellent habitat for trout, they are unable to migrate more than 100 feet up the stream because of its numerous waterfalls. Also, salmon are unable to migrate into the lake past Bear Falls.

All these factors ensure the micro hydro system has a small ecological impact.

 Another view of the lake, June 15, 2016 - bruce witzel photo

 

The Installation of the Micro Hydro System:

 

Conceptualized Micro Hydro Plan from 1996

 

Micro Hydro  Study @ Lake 1996

 

Before installation, summer 2009:          After installation:

BEFORE -looking down

   

Looking down the flume from standing on the concrete wier, March 24, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two photos were taken in nearly identical locations looking down the stream. In the left photo I’m standing where the concrete wier (or dam) is to be built. The wier is shown in the foreground of the right photo. It diverts water out of the stream via a wooden flume and then into a 3” pipe (or penstock). The water flows through the pipe to run the turbine much further down the stream.

 

Sectional Plan (as built in 2009):

 

Micro Hydro @ Lake as built 2009

 

Looking up to the the site (before development).

 

BEFORE site  developed - bruce witzel photo

In the first stage of the project I used a chain saw, ropes and come-along to carefully cut and manoeuvre a large log (top left) that had originally fallen across the stream. Shored up with rocks, the log later became the base for the wooden flume.

 Oct 20  @ beginning -bruce witzel photo

A buried blue intake barrel is under the plywood on the right. The black pipe exits the barrel.

 

This photo shows the finished concrete wier that feeds water into the flume…

Wier and flume - bruce witzel photo

 

Here is some of the concrete formwork for the wier during construction, midsummer 2009. The two black pipes temporarily diverted the water flow of the stream. Note the reinforcing steel embedded in the stream bed and the metal chase that will later hold the wooden flume.

Formwork for concrete wier, August 2009 - bruce witzel photo (2)

 

These photos show the concrete wier, the wooden flume and intake screen built in place:

 

After concrete wier is poured - bruce witzel photo  After formwork of wier removed - bruce witzel photo

AFTER12 HRS RAIN - OCT. 21st - 4x7 inch flume is full - supplying probably 250 or 300 US gpm and stream still running full  

 Lower flume and screened intake, March 2010 - bruce witzel photo  Intake barrel - bruce witzel photo

To reiterate – the blue barrel is located below the wooden intake structure on the left.

 

Here’s the whole intake infrastructure operational. Notice that a large volume of water from the flume goes back into the stream. Only a small amount is required to run the turbine – about 60 gallons per minute to create full output of 1 kilowatt. 

AFTER - flume supplies hydro screen with abundance of water - bruce witzel photo

 

For the project could be properly designed, my wife Francis and I first measured the vertical drop from the proposed intake (above) to the proposed turbine site.

This diagram shows how we did this:

 

Measuring Veritical Drop.

 

We also had to measure the flow of the water, over a period of time. We timed how long it took to fill this 5 gallon bucket.

 

Proposed intake & weir @top of falls May 18 - bruce witzel photo

 

Peter Talbot of homepower.ca. is a solar specialist and a leading expert in micro hydro based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. Consulting via email we planned and collaborated on the system, and he later supplied and installed the electrical components. His website includes the technical aspects of our new power system.

With compliments to Peter, I’ve included his written summary, along with a few of my added notations.

 

Pete Talbot of HomePower with a Siemens solar panel

 

Combination Solar, Micro Hydro and Wind Home Power System

– by Peter Talbot (with Bruce Witzel)

 

Statistical Overview:

  • Turbine: Bronze Turgo runner with four nozzles
  • Generator: Induction motor, 2 HP at 240 volts
  • Operating Head: 175 feet gross
  • Rated flow: 110 gallons per minute
  • Output: up to 40 amps at 28 volts nominal, or 1120 watts
  • Inverter: Magnum pure sine wave, 4.0 kW, 24 volts
  • Solar PV (photo-voltaic): 1000 watts
  • Wind Generator: 300 watts (now defunct, due to an extreme weather event)

 

This project was an extensive upgrade to an existing system that had been in operation for over ten years. However, the 300 watt solar array and 300 watt wind turbine was too small to supply sufficient battery charging for much of the year.

 

Our wind generator and lake sunset - bruce witzel photo

 

As is often the case with solar only systems, a gas generator was frequently used to top up the old battery bank.

Modified dog-house & generator shed - bruce witzel photo 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    The generator is housed in a re-purposed dog house and now rarely used.

 

 

 

 

 We did a complete rebuild and added 700 watts of PV with an MPPT tracking regulator and a 1 kw hydro turbine.

 

 Hydro turbine and transformer before installation - bruce witzel photo     Bruce Witzel at turbine shed during installation - peter talbot photo

 

In addition, new batteries, a new 24 volt inverter, controls and breakers were added. As is usually the case, it is necessary to convert over to 24 volts when DC power levels get to the 1 kW range.

 

The system includes the 1 kW solar because the stream dries up in the summer.

 

Cabin, wind genertor and solar panels, Feb. 22-2010 - bruce witzel photo

 

This project was in three stages –

 

First Stage:

We added 700 watts of new PV in the form of four 175 watt BP modules on a custom designed rack that would holt both the old and new modules. This was all fed to an Outback maximum power point tracking regulator.

 

Bruce Witzel building rack - peter talbot photo

 

Peter Talbot of Home Power, installing solar array - bruce witzel photo

Second Stage:

We installed am entire micro hydro system, capable of producing up to 35 amps at 28 volts for about 1 KW.

 Main flume and water intake with overflow (2), March 24-2017 - bruce witzel photo

 

Flume under construction with no water diverted - bruce witzel photo

 

The intake filter and flume feeds the 1000 foot long, 3 inch polyethylene penstock.

 

Bruce intsalling penstock

 

 3 inch diameter penstock for turbine and fresh water - Feb.2-2010 - bruce witzel photo

 

 

1 kilowatt hydro-turbine, March 24-2017 - bruce witzel photo     Turbine warning sign - bruce witzel photo

Turbine shed, March 25-2107 (2)- bruce witzel photo

 

 The penstock drops down about 170 vertical feet creates 72 psi of pressure at the turbine site. Here is the original pressure test at turbine site.

 

Pressure test Sept. 2009 -72 psi! - bruce witzel photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

                68 psi net pressure 145mm nozzle  = 79 GPM (calculate)  (nozzle is slightly larger than nine sixteenths of an inch)

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outtake pipe built under the turbine shed returns water back to the stream.

Turbine  foundation  with drainage system

Shed before turbine installed - bruce witzel photo        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Talbot building turbine valves - bruce witzel photo

Peter Talbot – building turbine nozzles

 

Turbine with 4 nozzles, operational  - bruce witzel photo

Installed water turbine – operational

 

Third Stage:

The old batteries were replaced with a new set of 500 amp hour, 2 volt cells.

 

24-volt-battery-bank - bruce witzel photo

The new battery bank, with the lid not installed – the white pipe vents Hydrogen gas.

 

In addition, a new 4000  watt sine wave inverter and all necessary switching, regulation and protection completed the upgrade.

 

Witzel electrical room - peter talbot photo

 

The 12 volt system can also be charged from the new inverter using an existing old Todd 50 amp charger. 

The existing 12 volt wind turbine and two of the old PV modules were left connected to the existing 12 volt battery. This is used for LED and other 12 volt lighting and small electronics.

 

  foyer-lighting - bruce witzel photo

“The lovely home is equipped with all the modern electrical gadgets.”

 

Peter Talbot –  www.homepower.ca  (original article here)

 

Bruce Witzel's Home Interior - peter talbot photo

 

Conclusion & Current Status of the System:

Over 38 years the system cost has added up to about $40,000, an average annual cost of $1050 per year.  

Today we were running the stream engine at 12 amps or about 250 watts, which brought us 6 kilowatt-hours of electricity over the past 24 hours. The solar panels brought in an additional 2 kilowatt hours, for a total of 8 kw-hrs. 

 

Cabin electrical meters - bruce witzel photo

in this photo we have a heavy load on – maybe the electric oven?

The fridge is running, we did 2 loads of laundry and a bit of cooking, I used the skill saw today, and now we have lights, computer, fan, etc. As Peter says – all the modern gadgets.

The battery is 72% full, and its charging at 1.2 amps or 30 watts. All in all – a good day, of off- grid living.

 

  Cheers ~ Bruce 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I put a capital N on Nature and call it my church – Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Celebrating Frank Lloyd Wrights 150th birthday (born, June 8, 1867)

 

Taliesin East, Spring Green Wisconsin - Frank Lloyd Wright's home, August 25,2015  - bruce witzel photo

Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Taliesin East -Spring Green Wisconsin – August 25, 2005

 

Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West - photo of a photo, original photographer unknown

 

“Whether people are fully conscious of this or not, they actually derive countenance and sustenance from the “atmosphere” of the things they live in or with. They are rooted in them just as a plant is in the soil it is planted . . . They now have a certain dignity and pride in their environment; they see it has a meaning or purpose which they share . . .”  Frank Lloyd Wright

 

Fennel in our garden - francis guenette photo

Yarrow in our garden – photo by Francis

 

hannah1

 

Organic Architecture - Hanna's Honeycomb House - bruce witzel photo

 

Plaque at entry to Hanna House, Stanford California - bruce witzel photo

 

Hanna House Window Wall - bruce witzel photo

Hanna House by Frank Lloyd Wright – May 27, 2010

 

Office and library of the Hanna House - May 23, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

 

 

HannaPlan

 

 

Hanna House patio - Bruce Witzel photo

 

 

 

Bruce at the living room entrance of the Hanna House on May 23, 2010 - buce witzel photo

“We no longer have an outside and an inside as two separate things…

they are of each other.”     ~ Frank Lloyd Wright ~

 

 

Cheers ~ Bruce

 

a flower - bruce witzel photo

 

There’s nothing we can do that can’t be done – Right Charles?

Charles Brandt Receives Award – On behalf of All of Us.

 

On Tuesday May 30, 2017  Fr. Charles Brandt received the British Columbia Community Achievement Award for his role in ecological stewardship.

 

Reginal Director Edwin Grieve awards Fr. Charles Brandt - kathryn Jones photo

kathryn jones photo

Comox Valley Regional District Director, Edwin Grieve, presented the award to Charles, who at 94, couldn’t attend the Provincial Award Ceremony in Victoria. Upon receiving the award Charles said, “this is an award to all of us, it isn’t just to me.”

 

The story goes back to the mid 1960’s, about the time Charles arrived in the Comox Valley to join a colony of Catholic hermit monks. They lived near the Tsolum River. On the mountain above them, the Mount Washington Copper Mining Co. operated an open pit mine for two years before going bankrupt. After the mine was abandoned, the site’s 940,000 tonnes of waste rock brewed sulphuric acid that leached copper and other heavy metals into the Tsolum River Watershed for 44 years.  

    Comox Glacier - Charles Brandt photo (2)  Comox Glacier (left) rises above Courtenay River estuary – the Tsolum River is a tributary. 

In 1985 Charles Brandt wrote a letter to the BC Ministry of Environment – it began with the words, “the Tsolum River is dead.”

Steel Head Society Letter written by Chalres Brandt

 

And so began an epic 30 year struggle that brought together a diverse group of stakeholders and agencies who worked to obtain funds and find the solution to properly cap the mine to stop the deadly pollution.

 

photo compliments Tsolum River Restoration Society

      

    

                    mount-washington

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Brandt during the mine reclamation project

 

After the reclamation work was finally completed in 2010, the salmon returned to the river within one year. As Charles explained at the meeting, “In 1984 we had 9 Pink Salmon return (to the Tsolum River), and then… we got the mine fixed. 2 years ago 130,000 pinks returned.”

 

Pink Salmon spawning grounds Sept 24 Oyster River - charles brandt

 

Many friends and collaborators came out to show their appreciation for Charles and his life-long efforts to protect local watersheds and change the human relationship with nature.

 

Friends and collaborters of Charles Brandt at the Comox Valley Reggional District Office, May 30- 2017 - photo compliments Kathryn Jones 

When Charles spoke at the award ceremony he reiterated the following:

We experience a sense of wonder and delight when we fall in love with the natural world. It is only when we love someone or something that we will save them. And we can only love someone when we consider him or her as Sacred. Only the Sense of the Sacred will Save Us.

 

Thank you Charles, for your steadfast and inspiring example. In this difficult moment of earth’s history, you give us hope to move forward as active agents of change – as surely as the river flows to the sea.

 

tsolum river under a bright blue sky - by Charles Brandt] (3)

 

From the BC Achievement Awards Website

Fr. Charles Brandt, ERM
Black Creek

Father Charles Brandt believes that it is humanity’s great work to transform our disruptive influence on the earth to a benign presence. As a leading member of the Tsolum River Restoration Society, in partnership with other groups, he spearheaded a campaign to get the old copper mine site capped at a cost of $4.5 million, which enabled the return of salmon to the river. Father Brandt has also volunteered with the Oyster River Enhancement Society contributing to the return of salmon and trout stocks to the once decimated river.

 

BC Achievement award Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 3.13.57 PM

(click to enlarge)

 Recognizing and celebrating the spirit, imagination, dedication and contribution of British Columbians to their communities.

 

 The recipients of the 2017 awards are: (click on recipient for details)

 

 

 

 

 

A comox valley river - charles brandt photo

 A pink salmon in the Tsolum River (below) – Charles Brandt photo 

Pink Salmon in the Tsolum River - charles brandt photo (3)

The worst sin to our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them;

that’s the essence of inhumanity.     ~ George Bernard Shaw

 

Thanks to Chris Hilliar and Kathryn Jones for assistance with this article – and to so many others who made this community achievement possible.  Cheers – Bruce

Bloom where you’re planted

 

Our Heritage

(borrowed, from the poem Desiderata)

 

 

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

 

 

Rhodo on the lake May 21, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

 

 

 

 

Over exposed rhodo (2) May 21, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

 

 

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

 

Butterfly taking flight from sweet william - bruce witzel photo

 

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive God to be,

and whatever your labours and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

 

Ducks on the Fraser River  - bruce witzel photo

 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Free Book Offer: May 8-10, 2017

The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies. Two convicts are talking . . . Andy says to Red, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying”. A good bit of wisdom for each of us…

My wife’s Crater Lake Novels series follow similar threads. If you haven’t yet delved into it, for the next three days she is offering the first in the series for free. A burly logger friend of mine said to me after reading Disappearing in Plain Sight – “It really makes me think.”

You may (or may not) realize that in supporting indie authors, artists and musicians like this, it helps them become much more visible on social media. Please click onto Fran’s blog (below) for the free links. Francis has a background as an educator, a university researcher and a trauma counselor.

Oh, and by the way – if you don’t have a kindle it’s easy to get a free app for your computer. I’ll get back here at a later date, to tell you more about installing our energy system (Part 2). As for now, it’s time to get busy living.

Peace, wellness and good cheer – Bruce

disappearinginplainsight

DPS sale banner 3

Here’s your chance to grab the first book in the Crater Lake Series free of charge.

A Novel to Deepen One’s Humanity – Amazon reviewer

I rarely read contemporary novels (Marge Piercy and Barbara Kingsolver being notable exceptions), but once I read the first chapter of this one “just to check it out,” I was hooked. The psychologically-true and compassionate descriptions of each unique, complex character, blended with the real-life-like plot twists, kept me eagerly reading on. I resonated with the wisdom of the life lessons and insights each character developed, and their processes of growth and discovery catalyzed new insights in me. I appreciated the multisensory richness of the scenery, creating a vivid setting in which these extraordinary “ordinary” people move, stumble and grow in deeply realistic and moving ways. The plotting is intricate and well-woven, easy to follow if one pays attention — which is easy because the…

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