The Rock Creek Shaman

By Joyce Edelson

Bay Media, Inc. (2009) 

Thirty-five years ago I made an official trip to a Job Corps Center in New Mexico with a large population of Native American trainees.  While scanning medical records a notation stood out:  “Cause of illness unclear.  Recommend trainee be referred to his tribal shaman.”  This was a tacit admission that science did not have all the answers.  In fact, shamans, medicine men, faith healers and mystics existed thousands of years before modern medicine.  Furthermore, our universe consists of vibrations on many frequencies.  We decipher, i.e., “see” only a fraction of them.  Most of the world is invisible to us.  We only “see” what we are taught to see. 

These are some of the points Joyce Edelson makes.  She does this in the guise of War-ne-la, a teen-age girl of mixed parentage.  The adventure tale is artfully constructed and interesting to read.  Readers familiar with Annapolis and Washington, D.C., will find themselves in familiar territory.  My only criticism is that the author brings in too many shamanic practices, but this is not fatal. 

It is clear that Edelson put a lot of effort into this work.  She is an Annapolis area resident, so the book should appeal to her “home town” and vicinity.  It should also appeal to teenagers and former teenagers looking for a good adventure story.  It might be used for high school or college classes doing a unit on the paranormal, psychology, diversity or cultural anthropology.  Finally, this book would a good read to curl up with in front of a crackling fire on a fall evening. 

~ Ray Ehrle 

Bears’ Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning

By John B. Bear, Ph.D. and Mariah P. Bear, MA

Ten Speed Press, Berkeley/Toronto (2003) 

          This well laid out book presents an in-depth study of programs that have been around since they stopped using animal skins in diplomas.  It’s called distance education and there are still a fair amount of us out there who aren’t familiar with it.  As a late bloomer, it took me until last year to discover this oversized paperback with its wealth of information.  And since discovering this easy-to-navigate tome, I’ve been pouring through it, trying to decide where I’d like to go to finish my master’s. This nontraditional form of education is solidly entrenched in today’s system and it certainly has made life easier for many people.  Utilizing one of the programs described in this book, my nephew recently finished his master’s at Ohio University while holding down a full-time job and keeping his young family intact.  With a requirement of just a few short stays on campus he was able to complete his degree.  This could not have been done if he had pursued this in the conventional way.

          The book is hugely helpful in wading through all the options.  Particularly helpful is the breakdown of degrees that can be earned by distance learning with a computer.  Programs with short residency — a few weekends to a few weeks — were also listed. At this stage of the game, a short residency program is my idea of a minivacation with some intellectual stimulation thrown in. The schools are listed alphabetically, incorporating schools from around the world such as The University of Melbourne in Australia, which offers a master’s or PhD program in many different fields of study such as art history. Columbia University in New York offers a master’s program in education, which requires two short stays on campus. The University of New England offers an undergraduate and a master’s in European studies. And then if you’d like to design your own curriculum, there’s Antioch University in Ohio or Vermont College in Montpelier. Each school listed has all the contact information as well as a brief write-up and the level of education offered.  The guide also includes a short list of diploma mills — those to be avoided.  Although the latest edition was published in 2003, it’s easy to determine what you’re looking for in a school and then log on to their Web site to get the most up-to-the-minute information.   

          This is the perfect source to help you find the program that’s right for you to finish up your undergraduate or graduate degree, or even take on a whole new field.  For me, the fun part is pursuing whatever interests me. Best of all, I’m no longer working toward what looks good on my resume, but having fun determining  with what’s going to look good in my obituary.   

~ Penelope Folsom 

Prime for Life – Functional Fitness for Ageless Living                 

By Randy Raugh   

Rodale Press, New York, NY, distributed by McMillan (2009) 

                    Prime for Life starts out with the question, “When was the last time you went out to play?” This gets your attention. The premise of this fitness book is that our bodies are primed to move and when we age, sometimes we don’t have the desire to get moving. Randy Raugh, the fitness director of the Canyon Ranch, the well-known wellness and health center in the Santa Catalina mountains of Arizona, works with people of all ages who want to improve their health, and feels that lack of movement is one of their main problems.

                    Have you ever tried to become completely motionless? It is very difficult to do; our bodies want to move. They even move when we are asleep. Try not moving a muscle for five minutes and you’ll see what I mean. Throughout this book are many examples of exercises for all parts of the body. There is a chapter on bones, especially good for post-menopausal women who are concerned about osteoporosis. There are chapters on feet and ankles, knees, hips, backs and shoulders. In every chapter are examples of exercises suitable for helping these problem areas. The illustrations are easy to follow and well described.

                         There is one chapter that is not often seen in fitness or exercise books: Pain –Letting it Go. Randy Raugh touches on medication, which he feels should not be your first choice of action, our internal painkillers, which are certain opiates in our bodies, listening to your body and boosting your mood. What I found especially interesting was the section on activating your internal healing system and the benefits of laughter in alleviating pain. Watching a funny movie or reading a laugh-filled book would be much more pleasant than popping pills. A few paragraphs are devoted to touch, prayer and meditation.

                    The book ends with a chapter entitled “Making a Plan You Can Live With—Every Single Day.” And the subtitle is “You are one workout away from feeling better.” It made me want to get right out and take a long walk, or jump on my exercise bike.

                    There are many fitness and exercise books on the market, several of which I read and discarded before choosing Prime for Life. I liked the positive attitude of the author, the concrete examples, the easy-to-follow illustrations and the “no preaching and making you feel guilty” attitude of some other books.

                    Prime for Life probably won’t turn you into an Olympic athlete, but it should get you off the couch and motivated to at least give the idea of “going out to play” a chance.          

~ Peggy Kiefer                          

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