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Archive for the ‘Marie’s Musings’ Category

At the close of the day on April 30th, I turned my calendar to May. For nearly four weeks now, it has been staring me in the face, reminding me. I write birthdays on my calendar so I won’t forget to send a card. In May, I have a son, a sister, and two grandchildren with birthdays, and on May 27th, Aunt Carolyn. For the first time in my adult life, I will not be sending her a birthday card, because she left us in March.

I don’t send birthday cards to all my relatives. There are too many of them. I limit my greetings to my children and grandchildren, sisters and brothers, and my mother. Not other aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. There are too many of them. But Aunt Carolyn was different.

She never married, had no children, but family connections were important to her. She sent gifts to each of my children when they were born and wedding presents when they got married. She also sent birthday cards, religiously. I received one from her every year, and every year, I made sure to send her one.

In my memories of Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa Masters, she and her younger brother, my Uncle Joe, teenagers at the time, would give me and my siblings each a present. It was the same every time: a coloring book, crayons, and modeling clay. These gifts, although predictable, were always appreciated.

Aunt Carolyn’s graduation picture

Then she went off to college, the first one in the family to do so. I remember once accompanying my grandparents when they took her down to Ladycliff, an all-women’s college right next door to West Point. A good place to grab a husband, you’d think, but she wasn’t interested. She went on to earn a Masters Degree in Social Work at Fordham University. (Grampa joked that she already had a Masters degree.) She was the first woman in the family with a career outside the home.

After we moved to Florida, I didn’t see Aunt Carolyn that often. When we visited my grandparents, she was usually in New York City where she lived in a tiny efficiency apartment. Occasionally, she flew south to visit us, and I went to NYC a few times. I remember touring museums with her. We also rode the Staten Island Ferry (that’s another story). When my boys were small, she accompanied us to the Statue of Liberty. We climbed into the crown, but Aunt Carolyn stopped halfway and sat in an alcove until we rejoined her. She wasn’t much for physical activity, until she had a wake-up call later in life. Then she began to walk regularly for her health.

She never failed to attend the annual Masters Family reunion in Owego, NY. I didn’t always make it, but when I did, I got to see her there.

The Masters family. She’s the redhead center back.

Aunt Carolyn was different from the rest of the family. Most of us are country people, but she loved New York City. She worked there as a social worker for over 50 years, not retiring until she was in her upper seventies. She was active in her church and had many friends.

On 9-11, I called to check on her. She lamented that she had intended to buy my son a wedding present on her lunch hour, but unfortunately, the store was no longer there. Where had she intended to shop? At the World Trade Center! The thought still sends shivers down my spine. I was so glad she didn’t go shopping before she went to work.

She was a very particular person. When she wrote a letter, if she made a mistake, she’d neatly cross it out and surround it with parentheses, then continue in her perfect handwriting. She loved literature and art and Shakespeare in the Park. She was also very opinionated. When I was in college, I’d make a remark about something, a particular poem, or a piece of art. In a calm, perhaps condescending, tone, she’d correct me. The funny things is, as I matured, I realized she’d been right. Her relatives loved her, but she did try their patience.

In later years.

This month, whenever I sent out cards, her address would pop out at me in the address book. How many times have I recopied her address from one outdated book to another, even though I had it memorized? When the current book needs to be replaced, there will be no need to copy her address again, and that saddens me.

You don’t know how much you will miss a person until they’re gone. I’m glad I sent her a card every year.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Carolyn. This year I’ll send you love, if not a card.

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Recently, I watched the classic movie The Guns of Navarone with Gregory Peck. Set in the Aegean Sea during World War II, it’s the story of a small band of soldiers sent to take out a German fortress which is a threat to Allied ships. Of course, our heroes can’t just go in and destroy the enemy’s guns, they have to suffer through a series of ordeals on the way. And they can’t just keep the mission to themselves, they have to interact with innocent bystanders and beautiful women.

Gregory Peck, David Niven, and friends

I’m not here to tell you the entire plot of the movie, only one part that got me thinking. An officer gets seriously wounded, so they take him into a Greek village for medical attention. There are Nazis in town, and the villagers try to hide our heroes from them. When the enemy finds out, they destroy the town in retribution.

What caught my attention was that the Germans made the people leave their homes before they bombed them. It’s heartbreaking enough to have your home destroyed. It’s even worse when your life and that of your loved ones is put in jeopardy. At least the Germans spared the villagers’ lives.

Listening to the news about the war in Ukraine, we are shown a different scenario: civilians deliberately targeted, even when they try to evacuate, bombs dropped on hospitals and schools.

In the movie, the Nazis are hardly pictured as nice guys, but other than the SS officers, who are sociopaths, the German soldiers show a little compassion, first for the wounded American officer, then for the Greek villagers.

How true to life this is, I can’t say. The movie was released in 1961, nearly two decades after the war. By this time, hatred toward the Germans had softened. In fact, we were on good terms with them. Did German soldiers actually show compassion for their conquered foe? War creates atrocities. Can it also bring out compassion?

My father served in the Pacific theater in World War II. He wouldn’t talk much about the war, certainly not about combat. I don’t know what horrors he was exposed to, but although the rest of the world moved on and made friends with the Japanese, he harbored a life-long hatred of them. He even disapproved when his children bought Japanese-made cars.

His attitude toward other Asians was quite different. When one of my sisters brought home a Korean friend, he was okay with that. When I went on a tour of China, he expressed admiration for the Chinese people, if not their government.

But when he had personal contact with one of the enemy, he had a different attitude. Dad told about an incident when he was stationed in Hawaii. A Japanese soldier was being held prisoner in the camp. One day he tried to escape but didn’t make it out of camp before he was recaptured. For some reason, Dad expressed compassion toward that young man. He identified with the fear the Japanese soldier must have felt, being held captive by the Americans.

Dad in uniform. He’s the short one.

I grew up during the Cold War. In high school, one required class was Problems of American Democracy, in which we were indoctrinated against all things communist. (I don’t understand why some authorities think young people are just itching to go over to the “dark side.”) Perhaps that accounted for my reaction the first time I saw Red Army soldiers in China.

I was fascinated by the history and culture of China. One of the first historical sites we visited was crawling with Chinese soldiers. I felt fearful, paranoid, as though I thought they were watching the evil American tourists, waiting for a chance to arrest us. Actually, they were on leave, tourists like myself. By the end of the two weeks, I saw these soldiers for what they were, teenagers in uniform. Familiarity does not breed contempt.

Back to the war between Russia and Ukraine. We admire the heroism of the Ukrainians and ache for their suffering. We condemn the actions of Putin’s government. However, most of us don’t blame the Russian people. We sympathize with them because of what their government is doing to them.

In the throes of battle, compassion is in short supply. Yet we can identify with the hopes and fears of other humans, even in time of war. Perhaps if we cultivate more compassion, we can learn to avoid war.

 

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The last time I posted, in early January, I was looking forward to our third annual Sunshine State Book Festival at the end of the month. As penalty for diligence and hard work, I’d found myself chairman of the committee. My equally hardworking comrades were putting the finishing touches on the Festival. We’d rented the Oaks Mall in Gainesville for Saturday’s event. Nearly 100 authors, both local and from elsewhere, were registered. I was one of them, with a new book to offer. Five interesting speakers were scheduled for the next day at the Matheson History Museum.

Then Omicron. As infection rates skyrocketed, so did our anxiety. Authors began to drop out over concern for their health. We, too, questioned the advisability of holding a large indoor event during a wave in the pandemic. We hated to change our plans, but people’s safety was at stake.

So much uncertainty. How long would Omicron plague us? What if we change the date and there is another surge of the coronavirus? None of had a crystal ball, but we had no choice. For the second time, COVID disrupted our plans. We postponed the festival.

That meant changing the dates with the Mall and the Matheson. Fortunately both were available on the 9th and 10th of April.

If, in January, we were ready to launch the Festival in three weeks, three months should have us uber-prepared, right? Hold on. When you’re forced to punt, you can’t score until your next possession. If your opponent is worthy enough, it can take a good deal of time and effort to get to your next possession. That’s where we found ourselves.

We had been advertising for months. Promotional materials had been printed and distributed. Not only did the registered authors need to know of the change, the public and local media had to be informed. A lot of leg (or laptop) work. Besides correcting things, we kept finding stuff that should have been done earlier, plus a few things that just weren’t going to get done. Let’s hope they’re not critical.

There you have it, my long-winded excuse for failing to post in over three months. We are supposed to be using our social media to promote the Festival. Have you seen anything on mine? Oh, I was waiting until the last minute, to balance out those people (you know the type) who are prompt with everything.

So, if you are anywhere within driving distance of Gainesville, Florida on the weekend of April 9th, there’s plenty of parking at the Oaks Mall. Pop in and visit the Sunshine State Book Festival. Look me up at table 47. I’ll have copies of Trials by Fire and my latest book Quest for Namai. I’ll also have bookmarks with the QR code to Season of the Dove, which is on Kindle Vella, but not available in book form yet.

On Sunday, don’t miss the speakers at the Matheson.

If you can’t come, check out my books anyway. You’ll be glad you did.

Fire

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Over the past few days, my inbox has been filled with notices of new posts by fellow bloggers. Most recap the past year and list their intentions for the year to come. But where have I been?

They say the Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions. If that’s so, anyone who hasn’t posted on their weblog since September must be on that very road! In my defense, I’ve been slammed with projects over the past year. It’s my own fault. I need to go back to middle school and take that “Just Say No” workshop.

I won’t bore you with the many organizations I volunteer for, only say that I’ve threatened to go back to work so I can get some time off. With a job, you work 8 to 5, weekends off, and you can call in sick. A volunteer position owns you body and soul and is no respecter of holidays or even wee hours of the night. My advice to new retirees is to watch out for that “V” word.

No more complaining–in my writing life, I have been productive. Season of the Dove, my book on Kindle Vella, is doing well. Quest for Namai, the sequel to my YA book, Trials by Fire, will come out this month if I can get KDP to cooperate with my uploads.  

Coming soon…

Another project I’ve been involved in has finally come to fruition. Back in August 2020, the history museum in Gainesville, Florida began collecting material from local residents on their pandemic experiences. Someone got the idea to involve local writers, i.e. the Writers Alliance of Gainesville, with which I am intimately involved. The idea was to compile stories and artwork into a book which would chronicle the lives of ordinary people in these unordinary times. It sounded like a good idea, so I jumped in feet first.

Wise people test the waters first, but in reality, these waters were untested. Most of my partners in crime are writers, but this was the first time we’d taken on a project like this. It proved to be a learning experience. In our innocence, we thought we would have the book put together by December and published by January, 2021. Nope.

However, we persevered. After the vaccines came out, we worried the pandemic would be over and forgotten before we released the book. Dream on. Setback after setback, over a year after we started, Local Lives in a Global Pandemic: Stories from North Central Florida finally saw the light of day!

I was both unprepared for and pleased by the attention we received in the community. It feels good to be appreciated. It feels even better to have this project behind me.

In the coming year, you will hear more from me. I haven’t stopped musing over curious things. In the meantime, click on the titles of the books and links will take you to them. Enjoy!

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IndieFlorida_AnthologyImage

I submitted my short story “Canebrake” to the Indie Author Project and just learned it is now available in Indie Florida. This is a collection of ebooks (mine is a short story) from independent authors, available exclusively on the BiblioBoard Library mobile and web platform. This collection is available to patrons of participating libraries in Florida. Here’s the link.  Unfortunately, my local library is not a member of BiblioBoard, so I haven’t been able to check this out yet. I’ve requested my library be added. If you have a library card for a Florida library, see if they they have BiblioBoard. If not, ask them to become part of the platform. You can also read the story here on my website. 

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No one can argue that this past year has been stressful. We all needed escape mechanisms to help us cope. I’ve tried several. After the shut-down last March, when COVID was still fairly new, I came across a list of streaming movies about pandemics to watch while quarantined. With ghoulish curiosity, I watched a few. Because those fictional accounts bore little resemblance to the existing situation, they provided a sort of comfort.

Netflix has a series, ominously released in January, 2020 before coronavirus became popular, called Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak. This documentary introduces the viewer to “heroes on the front lines of the battle against influenza” and showcases “their efforts to stop the next global outbreak.” Well, they didn’t stop this one, maybe because they focused on influenza and we were hit with a coronavirus. I watched a few episodes, but they were too close to reality, and I needed escape.

I seldom binge watch, but in the evening I’ll sit down to a movie or a couple episodes of a good TV show. Half the world found diversion from reality in Tiger King, but it was short lived. Science fiction is usually a good escapist genre. Even issues pertinent to our real world are disguised well enough to take us out of ourselves. I watched several seasons of Star Trek before I found Stargate SG-1.

If you are unfamiliar with the show, the Stargate is an ancient alien artifact that connects to other stargates throughout the galaxy by way of wormholes. SG-1 is a team of four adventurers. Each episode takes the heroes to a different planet where they encounter and surmount new perils. Each season, they save the Earth from impending doom. Good entertainment. Nothing, other than the occasional politics, to remind me of current problems.

The Stargate

Until I came to Season 9. A two part episode was titled “The Fourth Horseman.” Only after I watched the first part did it dawn on me that they were referring to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the Old Testament, the Fourth Horseman is Plague.

In the last century, when we were sending people to the Moon, NASA would quarantine returning astronauts just in case they picked up some microorganism that could wreak havoc on Earth. The SG1 team bopped from planet to planet without a care. Only occasionally did they bring something undesirable home, and then it was usually an alien life form other than a disease.

Main characters are not allowed to die, of course, unless they can be restored to life, but lesser actors are fair game. In Episode 10 of Season 9, a team of lesser characters brought back a virus. I should have stopped watching, but I was addicted to the show.

One man developed a fever and respiratory distress and died. Others began to fall ill and were quarantined. Unfortunately, a lieutenant with no symptoms had already left the base, and he was a carrier. By the time they reined him in, the public had been exposed. The CDC was called in.

Back at the base, even individuals who had no contact with the infected team began to test positive or fall ill. The virus was described as “airborne and persistent.” Efforts to contain it to Colorado (where the story takes place) failed and cases began to pop up in other states. Public transportation was halted. Citizens panicked as the contagion continued to spread.  Hospitals were struggling and waiting rooms crowded. Cases emerged in major cities. The US borders were closed. Contact tracing was put into place.

It was like watching a recap of the past year’s news. How was this supposed to take my mind off my worries?

The script writers seemed to have done their homework. They must have consulted with the CDC on how a pandemic would play out. That, or they had a crystal ball. If that was the case, why didn’t they warn us?

There was one difference—no one wore masks. The general ignored the advice of the physician and went to visit his suffering airmen. I yelled at the screen, “Put on a mask!” He didn’t listen. Next scene, the general was in sick bay. I should have skipped the second episode, but I wanted to see how our heroes managed to save the world this time. They were furiously working on a vaccine.

Remember the cigarette-smoking man in The X Files? The actor William B. Davis? He is the arch villain in this story. In an attempt to conquer the Earth, he had purposely infected the doomed SG team. However, I don’t think he was responsible for our recent situation.

The Archvillain

By part two, there were cases in Mexico and Canada. Other countries grounded air travel and closed ports. The Stock Market crashed. Work on the vaccine continued, day and night, as the contagion continued to spread. Finally, the vaccine was ready and being distributed. (No mention of testing for safety and efficacy.) This team of fictional crack scientists developed a vaccine in two episodes in 1995, but it took us months in 2020.

At the end of the episode, a news reporter said, “The final death toll of the pandemic has been estimated at a little over 3000 worldwide.” Only 3000? The reporter seemed to think that was a lot. Do you remember when ours was only 3000? As I write this, our death toll has surpassed 3 million.

How did I remember so many details? A writer must sacrifice for her art. After I thought about writing this post, I watched the episodes again and took notes. Besides, plunging into it gave me a morbid sense of comfort.

The rest of the series thankfully offered more escape from reality. Now I’ve resumed Star Trek. Captain Picard’s world, while beset with conflict and danger, gives an optimistic view of the future where self-interest and greed have largely been replaced by ideals of cooperation and benevolence. What better way to get your mind off your troubles?   

If you haven’t already, check out my video at the Sunshine State Book Festival and my novel Trials by Fire on Amazon.

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Recently, a phone conversation turned to—what else?—the pandemic. My friend told me that when she was a child, there were old ladies in her community whose hands shook. These women had been victims of the Spanish Flu in the early 20th century. They were in good health, living into their 90’s, but they had what was called a Parkinson’s disease, which was an after-effect of the flu.

Influenza virus

That set the wheels in my head spinning. Grandma Rogers’ hands shook. So did Aunt Hazel’s, her younger sister. At the height of the 1918 pandemic, they were 17 and 15. Neither they, nor other relatives, ever talked about the Spanish Flu or its aftermath. The only family member I knew of who had been affected was a great-great aunt in West Virginia who died of “pneumonia.” Family tradition was that she died of the Spanish Flu, which is very likely. In those days they didn’t have flu tests, and West Virginia was hard hit after infected soldiers returned from World War I.

Grandma Rogers and me

Could my grandmother and aunt have been victims of the Spanish Flu? Grandma once told one of my sisters that their mother, Hattie Brown, also had shaky hands. Three women in one family whose hands shook! When I was a child, I wondered if it was genetic, if I could have inherited it. I didn’t know about the Spanish Flu. Any time my hands were unsteady, I would worry. Needlessly. My hands don’t shake. Nor do any of Grandma’s descendants have this problem.

Hattie Brown, left, with sisters Sadie Smith and Fannie Houghtalen

Shaky hands didn’t hinder Grandma or Aunt Hazel from performing household and farming tasks. They even crocheted, did embroidery, and tatted. I have a beautiful table cloth Grandma embroidered and lace she tatted, as well as an afghan Aunt Hazel crocheted.

Aunt Hazel with Mutt, 1964

The Spanish Flu was misnamed. It was caused by the H1N1 virus, now known as the Swine Flu. It didn’t originate in Spain. It is thought to have crossed into humans at a pig farm in Kansas, but Spain got blamed for it. Due to censorship during the war, outbreaks in Europe and the US were not reported, but Spain was not spared, especially when King Alfonso XIII fell seriously ill with the disease. He survived, but due to the general perception that Spain was an epicenter of the infection, it was so labeled.

For more information, I turned to the internet. It took some digging and asking the right question. Finally, I found discussions about Post-encephalitic Parkinsonism, also called Encephalitis Lethargica, or von Economo’s Encephalitis, after the doctor who studied it. This syndrome had a variety of symptoms, including movement disorders (shaky hands). It appeared in epidemic proportions between 1916 and 1929, with over a million known cases, but has not been seen since. It coincided with the 1918 pandemic, but some victims didn’t develop it until years after they had the flu.

Parkinson’s Disease can be genetic, but not always. Virus infections have been known to cause Parkinson’s. In mice, H5N1 (related to H1N1) can enter the brain through the vagus nerve, causing inflammation and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. The mice seem to be more susceptible to later flu exposures, but vaccines and anti-viral medications can protect them. In humans, H1N1 doesn’t enter the brain, but can activate the immune system, causing inflammation, which can result in Parkinson-like symptoms.

Some victims didn’t develop Post-encephalitic Parkinsonism until years after they had the Spanish Flu. There is no hard proof to link the two, but there sure is a strong correlation. This Parkinsonism is thought to be a post-infectious autoimmune disorder.

Grandma was in good health, except for arthritis, and she lived to 96. Aunt Hazel suffered seizures as a child and diabetes in her later years, but otherwise her health, too, was good. What about their father? George Brown was a wallpaper hanger. Grandma once told me that when his eyesight got bad, he had to give up his vocation because he could no longer see the seams well enough to hang paper straight. So he went into farming. Now I wonder, did he also have the flu? If it left him with shaky hands, that too would have made it difficult to hang wallpaper.

George Brown with grandsons Russell and Donald Rogers, 1927

We cherish the stories our grandparents told us, but from time to time, questions arise that we wish we had asked. We didn’t think to ask about the 1918 pandemic, or whether Grandpa Brown’s hands shook.

We keep hearing about “long haulers,” COVID victims whose symptoms persist after they’ve “recovered,” and warnings that there may be long-term medical effects of the virus. My grandmother, her sister, and her mother were long-haulers. Their shaky hands were a cosmetic symptom that didn’t shorten their lives, but we don’t know what COVID-19 will leave sufferers with, and teenagers are not immune. The “Parkinsonism” didn’t appear in many early 20th century victims for years after the pandemic, so it may be a long time before we know what today’s victims will face. And what about a-symptomatic victims? Can they become long-haulers?

Another thing to consider is that subsequent virus infections can trigger Parkinson-like symptoms. Studies in mice found that immunizations and anti-viral medications could protect them. Does that mean we should get our flu shots every year?

Personally, I’m suspicious of flu shots because of the nasty ingredients in them, such as heavy metals. I got the COVID vaccine because I was more scared of the disease than of the nasty ingredients. My personal plan is to keep wearing my mask until the end of the pandemic (just in case), continue to socially distance, and keep drinking my pine tea. After we get through this, each flu season, I’ll rely on the anti-viral compounds in pine tea to keep me healthy. I don’t want COVID, and I don’t want to be a long-hauler.

Check out my award-winning novel Trials by Fire. Available on Amazon. You can read a selection from the book here for free.

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Now that the holidays are behind us and life may settle down, it’s high time for me to toot my horn. Here’s the press release:

MARIE Q ROGERS WINS PRESTIGIOUS AWARD, ANNOUNCED AT
2020 FLORIDA WRITERS ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE

The Florida Writers Association, Inc., (FWA) has announced that Marie Q Rogers won a prestigious Royal Palm Literary Award (RPLA). Her winning entry, Trials by Fire, won the Bronze award for Published Young Adult Novel.

The award was announced at FWA’s recent remote four-day annual conference. This annual competition was RPLA’s nineteenth. “This is the most competitive RPLA we’ve ever had,” said Chris Coward, RPLA chairperson. “The RPLA administrative team, judges, and entrants did an amazing job.” In all, the competition covered 28 adult genres and 5 Youth genres, with published and unpublished entries considered separately. “A win at any level can help a writer market their manuscript or published book, and the detailed feedback from the judges is invaluable for all entrants,” Ms. Coward said.

The Florida Writers Association, 1,800 members strong and growing, is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization that supports the state’s established and emerging writers. Membership is open to the public. The Royal Palm Literary Awards competition is a service of the Florida Writers Association, established to recognize excellence in its members’ published and unpublished works while providing objective and constructive written assessments for all entrants. For additional information, visit the FWA website: floridawriters.net, where you’ll also find more about RPLA and the complete list of 2020 winners.

And now, my friends, if you haven’t read Trials by Fire yet, this is a good time to order the hard copy or download the ebook and curl up with a cup of hot cocoa. My readers have ranged in age from 10 to 89, and so far everyone says they like it. You can purchase the book here or ask your public library to order it. After you read Trials by Fire, please take time to write a short review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

Most important of all, enjoy.

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“During the Spanish Flu, those who ate pine needles didn’t get sick.” I came across this in one of my notebooks recently. I had jotted it down several months ago when I watched a webinar on herbal remedies. Unfortunately, I’d failed to record my source, but the webinar had touted the benefits of various parts of the pine tree. As I recall, the 1918 patients were being treated with pine needles for scurvy.

I already knew pine trees are edible, if rather hard to chew. Years earlier, I had read one of Euell Gibbons’ books in which he queried, “Did you ever eat a pine tree?” Then he proceeded to tell how to prepare and dine on the various parts.

More recently, I bought a book at a Garden Club event, I Eat Weeds by Priscilla G. Bowers. She devotes 68 pages to wild edible plants and the rest of the book to recipes. I’ve tied many of them and one of my favorites is Pine Needle Tea. I have pine trees on my property and occasionally a storm will blow down a few branches. I’ll salvage a generous handful and make tea. You can drink it hot or iced. It’s delicious, but I didn’t know it could protect you from the Spanish flu. I needed more information.

Iced Pine Tea with Mint

I Googled “pine needles/Spanish flu” hoping to find my source. I couldn’t, nor could I find any evidence of pine being used as a treatment during the 1918 pandemic. However, I did find information on pine in regards to modern influenzas.

Pine is rich in vitamins C and A, but it is also rich in shikimic acid, which is an ingredient in Tamiflu (Oseltamivir)! This ingredient is imported from China where it’s extracted from the star anise tree, but we grow our own source of shikimic acid right here in the US. You may have it growing in your backyard.

I found two newspaper articles on the subject, from the Bangor Daily News in Maine and the Pocono Record in Pennsylvania. Both discussed how timber companies could gather pine needles from harvested trees and extract shikimic acid to supply pharmaceutical companies.

In 2006, CNN.com published an article about a Canadian company, Biolyse, that collects discarded Christmas trees to extract shikimic acid. Chemist Brigitte Kiecken, CEO of Biolyse, expressed concern about the inevitability of a viral pandemic. “It’s an urgent matter, and we should be starting production—not once the pandemic hits, but before that. On a personal level, I’m scared, and on a professional level, I’m terribly frustrated,” she said. “Government and industry have to work together now. We’ve been warned for ample time, and it [a pandemic] is bound to happen.”

This was 14 years ago! Yikes!

I wondered, if pine can protect you from the flu, what about Covid 19? I kept digging and was surprised by the research that’s been done on the medical uses of pine.

There are 80 to 90 species of pine around the world, and most are edible. In fact, other conifers are also edible. That includes trees such as fir, spruce, larch, cedar, and hemlock. This is not the hemlock that killed Socrates. Poison hemlock is a member of the carrot family. Beware of wild carrots. Also beware of these poisonous trees: ponderosa pine, yew, and Norfolk or Australian pine. And remember, not all evergreens are conifers.

Another caution: pregnant women and those who could become pregnant should not drink pine needle tea as it could cause abortion.

Besides Vitamins A and C and shikimic acid, pine contains protein, fat, phosphorus, iron, and a long list of other compounds. The composition of nutrients varies with the species and season, which is why you won’t see a Nutrition Facts chart attached to your pine tree. Oils from pine needles could potentially treat heart disease, diabetes, senile dementia, and hypertension. And the list goes on: obesity, depression, and anxiety. Pine is anti-microbial and boosts your immune system, so it’s good for colds, sore throat, sinus and chest congestion. To relieve upper respiratory illness, you can inhale the vapor.

But what about our current scourge? Doctors are scrambling to find treatments for Covid. Maybe all they need to do is look out the window. If pine indeed worked during the pandemic 100 years ago and contains an ingredient used today to treat influenza, would it be effective for coronavirus?

To my knowledge, no studies have been done yet on pine and Covid 19, but there have been studies involving other coronaviruses, including SARS, which reared its ugly head in 2003, so it makes sense it would be good for Covid 19, too.

Priscilla Bowers’ recipe for Pine Needle Tea is simple:

Green pine needles, cut into 3” or 4” lengths

Water to cover

Sugar to taste

Bring to a boil in a sauce pan and hold 5 minutes, then let steep for 10. Strain and sweeten. Including some of the stems gives it more flavor.

I like to make it by the half-gallon and serve it iced. I take a generous handful of pine needles and twigs, cover them with water, bring it to a boil, simmer five minutes, then let it cool before I sweeten and dilute it.  You may not need to sweeten the tea, depending on your taste. Honey will make it more healthful. Warning: pine rosin will stick to the pan. Use an old pan or one that’s easy to clean.

A windstorm last week blew down several pine branches. I gathered twigs, cut them into useable lengths, and put portion amounts into freezer bags. Now I have a supply to last me until the next windstorm.

Of course, I’m no doctor and can’t guarantee that Pine Tea will protect you from or cure Covid 19, but when you have something that won’t hurt you, is pleasant to drink, and might help, why not try it?

Here’s a handy article with additional information: https://www.arborpronw.com/pine-needle-tea/

If you haven’t already, check out my YA novel, Trials by Fire, which is a semi-finalist for the 2020 Royal Palm Literary Award. Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

 

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In November, my sister Sue and I went on a genealogical expedition to New London, Connecticut, where our great-great-great-great grandparents, David and Mary Rogers, had lived. We’d tried for years to trace the Rogers line beyond David and Mary but were unsuccessful. We hoped an on-site search of local records would be productive.

For three days, David continued to elude us, but we found many colorful stories about a religious sect called the Rogerenes. (See Part I.) At one point, Sue said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we found out we’re descended from them?”

Reverend John Rogers started his church in 1674. Among the Rogerenes’ unconventional beliefs was faith healing. They believed it was a sin to use medicine or doctors because the New Testament taught, “The Almighty had the willingness and power to cure diseases in a less bungling and dangerous way than physicians.” Prayer and the laying on of hands were the only righteous remedies for illness. Considering the level of medical knowledge in those days, they were probably right. At least prayer and laying of hands usually did no harm.

Usually. The Rogerenes had a crisis of faith when a skin malady called the Itch plagued the congregation. Laying on of hands not only failed to cure the condition, but actually spread it. After months of suffering, they held a meeting to decide what to do. The conclusion was that the Itch was not a sickness, but a species of vermin which they might destroy as they would rats or other noxious animals. Thus, they were able to use the customary remedies, “brimstone and lard,” with a clear conscience, and everyone was cured.

John Rogers wrote several books, but most of them were burned. This survives

John Rogers wrote several books, but most of them were burned. This survives in the Connecticut College Library. Photo by Jennifer Geoghan

In another case, their methods didn’t do so well. Ebenezer Bolles was cutting brush and vines (poison ivy?) and developed a painful condition that, since he refused medical treatment, led to his death.

Inside the book

Despite their objection to conventional medicine, the Rogerenes willingly took care of the sick and were said to be skillful nurses. In fact, when John Rogers wasn’t being a thorn in the side of the Congregationalists, he spent his life ministering to the sick. He believed his faith would save him from any contagion. It did, for over forty years, until the smallpox epidemic of 1721.

You don’t see these on younger people, but if you look at the upper arm of a person of a certain generation, you might see a circular scar less than ½ inch in diameter. These are from smallpox inoculations. When I was a child, everyone was vaccinated against smallpox. Although I was inoculated three or four times, I don’t have one of these scars because it never “took.” It turned out I inherited a natural immunity to smallpox from my father, who also had no scar.

 

Smallpox is caused by a virus and had been a dreaded disease for thousands of years. It had a 30% mortality rate and those who survived were seriously scarred for life. A worldwide campaign of immunization eradicated the disease in the late 20th century, the last cases occurring in the 1970’s. When my children were vaccinated, smallpox was no longer part of the protocol. These days, no one is likely to contract the disease, unless some evil mad scientist has squirreled away a sample of the virus with intentions to unleash it on an unsuspecting world. If that happens, I hope my children inherited my natural immunity.

But smallpox was a big problem in 18th century New England. There was no cure, only prevention and palliative treatment. Physicians could do little, but nurses could keep patients comfortable, prevent their sores from becoming infected, and keep them hydrated. There were experiments with vaccinations, which involved taking pus from an infected person and applying it to a scratch on the skin of a healthy one, but this was controversial. In fact, someone threatened the life of the famous Reverend Cotton Mather because he promoted smallpox inoculation.

In 1721, smallpox came to Boston and afflicted the city for over a year. Out of a population of 11,000, over 6000 cases were reported and 850 people died.

Smallpox ward, Boston, 1721

John Rogers, believing himself to be under God’s protection, went to Boston to care for the sick. His critics claimed he went out of arrogance. His apologists argued he had tended to smallpox victims before and seemed to be naturally immune. It turns out he wasn’t. After he returned home, he succumbed to the disease. Two of his family members caught it from him and also died. Thus ended a chapter in the history of the Rogerenes.

Resting place of John Rogers

Even without their leader, the sect continued to practice their unusual style of Christianity for another 300 years. Their good deeds were often overlooked and they failed to earn the respect of established religion. In fact, stubborn adherence to their beliefs brought them ridicule from the larger community. After World War I, they faded into history. It was inevitable. The Rogerenes were ahead of their time. The Hippie movement of the 1960’s shared many of their concepts: pacifism, social and political reform, and free thinking.

On our last day in Connecticut, Sue and I visited the Otis Library in Norwich. The genealogy librarian was very helpful and provided enough material to keep us busy for a week, but we had only a few hours. Sue and I divided the stack of documents. I sifted through A Genealogy of the Descendants of Joseph Bolles, which listed several Rogers in the index.

There I found him: David Rogers, born August 31, 1776. He married Mary Stone circa 1800. Could this be my ancestor? His parents were Elizabeth Bolles and John Rogers, great-grandson of the infamous founder of the Rogerenes. Could we actually be descended from that notorious group?

Sue and I had planes to catch. We couldn’t dig any further. After I got home, I tried to find more information on the internet, but David continued to elude me.

Then my little brother, a recent convert to genealogy, somehow traced a possible great-great-great-great grandmother, Polly Story Wheeler, who was listed in the History of Montville, Connecticut. This good woman was married to a David Rogers, born circa 1774, son of John and Elizabeth Bolles Rogers!

When you look at old records, you find all sorts of inaccuracies. In the days before computers, indeed before typewriters, everything was written by hand, and not everyone’s handwriting was legible. A David born in 1776 can be the same David as one whose birthdate is recorded elsewhere as 1774. Polly is a nickname for Mary. Middle names were often family names. Stone and Story could be different interpretations of someone’s penmanship, especially if the writer used flourishes, which they often did in those days.

We have finally tracked down our ancestor David, and Reverend John Rogers was his ancestor. Considering the personalities of my modern Rogers relatives, it makes sense—we inherited our quirky genes from the founder of the Rogerenes. However, my immunity to smallpox must have come from someone else.

An interesting side note: among John’s thousands of descendants are Mormons who had him baptized and his marriages sealed. Considering his beliefs about baptism and marriage, I’d love to be a butterfly on the wall when St. Peter gives him the news!

Another thing, if that insane evil scientist unleashes smallpox on our already suffering world, I will not refuse a vaccination, just in case.

 

 

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