People, Foods, Travel, Culture, and Social Justice
I am a geographer specializing in human systems. My passion is studying underrepresented populations so that I can assist in their integration into the communities in which they live. I studied Human Ecology because it is a wonderful blend of the disciplines of geography, anthropology and sociology. No matter the context in which I find myself, I am an observer of humans in their environments and how the influences in those settings build and nurture sense-of-self, sense-of-place, and sense-of-direction in educational, familial, and community settings. My work focuses on the cross-cultural and intercultural traditions of multi-lingual populations acculturating into their receiving communities and being successful in educational arenas of higher education. This work includes gathering, analyzing, and writing about health, well-being, and environmental/social connectedness in their communities. My research focuses on Minority-majority, rural, Midwest communities. My role as director of intercultural learning and academic success at Kansas State University allows me to discover more about myself as I work with others in their paths to self-discovery in their own interactions with students and families who come from different parts of the country and the world all converging in educational spaces. Recently, I lived, worked and played in Southwest Kansas, a region marked by Minority-majority populations centers (56% – 68%). Some of my research results are used to address poverty, low educational attainment, poor health outcomes, and cultural norms in multi-cultural settings. I work to assure a representative sample for my research, so I engage in multi-lingual research (English, Spanish, Burmese, French, Tigrinya, and Somali). Building trust and relationships is the key to my success as a multilingual researcher. Presently, my research takes me in the micro-communities of populations represented by nine African countries (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Somalia, and Cameroon), seven Latin American countries, and six Asian countries. Yes, it is rural Southwest Kansas, and many of the densely-settled and frontier rural communities act as receiving centers for refugees and other displaced populations, because of the availability of jobs.
I am the recent recipient of National Geographic Society’s Research and Exploration grant to introduce Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to females of color. This inter-generational, intercultural class hosted middle school, high school, and adult females who learned the basics of GIS with a variety of applications from remote sensing to city planning to Google Earth, and to Pokémon GO! By the time the young ladies finished the class, they were able to build cities, map their communities, log trips from their countries of origin to the Midwest. I am in the mid-year of the grant funding, and my target for completion was July 2018. I have new funding to extend this work to new cohorts.
Today, I pay tribute and remembrances on what would have been my daughter Riki’s 41st birthday. As we near the seven-year anniversary of her passing, I observe that losing a child to death at an early age tends to stay fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. Riki made such an impact on those around her, and her tight friend group, “The Village” continues to honor her on her birthday. The Village, also, continues to offer emotional supports to the children left behind by the premature death of their mother, my daughter.
I loved watching Riki connect to people. She always paid special attention to those who were, perhaps, less fortunate. At her funeral, during reflection comments, a man stood up to tell about how she made him feel special when he met Riki for the first time. Many told similar stories. What made her special? She loved to laugh, and she had a quick and clever wit. Riki loved to engage in deep discussions with her friends. Before “google,” she would call us for answers to questions in these deep discussions. Mainly, the call would be for us to affirm her points of view.
Riki knew how to make moments special even in the most mundane of tasks. She directed nutrition in school food programs. Riki loved to prepare and share food with friends. Her children consider her “the best cook ever!” On Wednesdays, Riki used to prepare a “taco bar” for the Village. This year’s “Riki Celebration” will feature a taco bar for friends and family paying tribute to her memory.
I took the day from work to pay tribute. My 92 year old mother and her 85 year old husband are visiting. My mother and I took the day to prepare a lovely meal of grilled steak, asparagus, caprese salad, and fresh cucumbers. We offer a toast to my daughter and my mother’s great granddaughter, Riki. We prepared foods loved by Riki.
We could have enjoyed a lovely meal at a local restaurant, but Riki loved to cook and bake, so Mother and I prepared a meal that Riki would have loved: steak, asparagus, caprese salad, and fresh cucumbers. A nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon rounded out the meal, and we had a lovely slice of peanut butter cake for a crowning glory to the “good eats!”
As Indigenous tradition would have it, at least for my tribe/nation, we sing songs and give thanks to Mother Earth and the Creator for what we have and for what we love. We built a roaring fire to which we gave sage and tobacco. We felt Riki’s presence. It was a great honor to be Riki’s mother. She gave all to those who were around her.
To that point, I received a lovely note from one or Riki’s high school friends. Joey thanked me for bringing Riki into the world, and he shared in honor in knowing her. That lovely note came at just the right time to give me a great blessing. Thank you, Joey.
I find it difficult not to reflect on the pain in the world, at present. How do we center ourselves in the face of such hurt? Well, here I go again touting the benefits of mindful thinking and about my outlook on life. These are some common question that I ask myself. Am I practicing gratitude? Am I practicing stewardship of the land, water, language, and preserving other parts of the natural world? I do realize that when we navigate in environments of poverty, exclusions, marginalizations, and living in the fringes, it becomes a great challenge to have gratitude for much of anything. But, what if we looked inside for what is going well for us? Are we able to stop for a minute and think about for what we can be grateful?
I know. Digging through your mind in the midst of conflict, deep emotions, and sadness may be the worst time to gather positive reflections. I do know that it works, however. My practice, which now is a habit, has been part of my life these past four months. Yes. I am facing some great life challenges, and I can tell you that focusing on gratitude and daily affirmations works! Challenges become navigable.
I find that nature offers the best self-care, meditative, and gratitude-giving opportunities. My sweet cousin, Bianka, a war veteran who now spends much of her time bike racing on BMX tracks with her twin brother, also a military veteran, who builds racing bikes, like his father did, now works to perfect her photography skills. That’s her hummingbird picture. It gave me time to stop to appreicate the delicate body, the exquisite little feet, the striations on the neck, and the moment in time when Bianka got this perfect photo of the little bird hovering near the sugar water feeder. When we take that time to appreciate the perfect details of the natural world, we begin to offer gratitude for what some may think of as mundane, but it helps us to be thankful for what we may think of as insignificant details of the world. Also, when we take time to offer thanks for the small things, it helps us to slow down from busy lives and be in a moment with ourselves. Try it.
Consider camping as an outdoor activity where you get to interact with the natural world. Camping is one of my favorite pasttimes. It’s a time when I just allow myself to do nothing but breathe in the clean air, listen to the birds and other flying, loping, crawling, or jumping lives of the natural world.
My dear friend, Kelly, recently, acquired a flock of chickens to raise in his and his lovely wife’s backyard. Kelly told me about raising chickens, “It is therapeutic for me and I have peace when I am around them! I know they are just chickens to most people and is not a big deal, but I almost can’t put into words the joy these animals bring to me! I want many more, and one day, I will have chickens galore will be our theme!” I cannot imagine a flock of chickens being in more gentle hands!
Kelly went on to say, “I think the older you get the more you see the benefit of working to live and not living to work! We are in a world that is so disconnected from the natural things around us that we forget the incredible inner peace found in nature! We have lost the fact that nature is our kin and we have neglected that relationship.” Those are words that we Indigenous People live by, and those words coming from my dear friend Kelly mean the world to me.
I will end with a few of my daily affirmations that come from those around me who inspire me to improve:
I am curious to know something about everything and everything about something
I am thankful for…
I am courageous
I am living a great life
I am interested in everyone I meet (from my Dad)
I am valuable
I have wonderful friends who enrich my life
I learn great lessons from my loved ones
Today, I will learn something new
There are more, but I leave you with this great picture of a friendly kiss from Heidi, a dog who belongs to a business associate of my son.
My featured image comes from the drawing of my, then 7 years old, grandaugher! She had quite a long affair with unicorns. Now at the age of 14, I see different drawings of many different subjects. Interestingly, I see lots of mushrooms drawn these day. I hope the art work continues.
I love how our menus for the summer months change to meet environmental changes. Many of us may put lighter meals on the table during the hot days. Lately, I marvel at the versatility of chick peas (garbanzos or ceci beans), which makes them a perfect choice for a light meal packed with nutrients and protein. I do not always write down my kitchen creations. Many of them are what I dream up, and some are variations of dishes I’ve either prepared or eaten in other situations. Sometimes those recipes work, and somtimes they do not. I go with the flow, and there have been times, that I’ve thrown a failure out. The good news is that I have more great outcomes than I have failures in the kitchen, so that may be why it is a favored “medium” for this type of art.
Right now, my garden is not producing great things, but I am using garlic and onions from the garden. I allow dandelions to grow in one corner of the garden. The leaves are a great source of nutrients, and they add a satisfying crunch to any salad or sandwich with its slightly bitter flavor. The small leaves are not as bitter as the very large leaves. I like to walk around the yard to see if any purslane has grown around the sidewalks. It’s a great source of vitamins and add a special texture and flavor to salads. I love to forage in my yard and in the cemetery, a great source for wild garlic and wild onions.
Cook quinoa as posted on the packaging. When quinoa cooks, pour into a bowl to allow it to cool.
If you used canned garbanzos, be sure to drain them well. If you prepare a small bag of the dry beans, know that it will cook up to three cups of the garbanzos. In that case, use one half of the cooked beans. Use the other half for your homemade hummus.
4- green onions diced
1- diced English cucumber
1- diced red pepper
1- small packge frozen sweet corn
1- batch cooked quinoa
1.5 cups well-drained garbanzo beans
4- chopped dandelion leaves (may use Romaine lettuce)
For the dressing, I use a simple vinegarette. One-half (106g) cup sherry vinegar, one-half cup (106g) of olive oil. To this, I add, 2 Tablespoons of molasses or date syrup (which helps in the emulsification process). For seasoning, add one-half teaspoon (2.84g) salt, one-half teaspoon chili powder, and one-quarter teaspoon of cumin. For an extra zing on the dressing, I add a few shakes of garlic and onion powders. Shake or whisk well, and set aside while you complete the salad.
Toss in the vinegarette about 10 minutes before you serve the salad. It serves well when the salad is chilled, too. It’s a great accompaniment to grilled shrimp, and a nice glass of buttery chardonnay.
Actually, I had it with grilled lamb steak and a paloma drink made with tequila, lime juice, salt, and squirt grapefruit soda. Usually, I float a lime wedge, but the picture shows that I used a lemon wedge. It’s delicious and refreshing. Eating on the deck with singing birds and small wildlife flitting about makes it all perfect.
My Work and Why I Create in the Kitchen
My work as a cultural geographer with a goal of moving toward institutional equity for historically excluded identities is a great mission for me, but I realize the institution for whom I work has a goal, which is more performative (“look at what we do”) than authentic and action-oriented. The institution still sees that recruiting more student, faculty, and staff of color is more of a favor to us as opposed to the fact that human diversity stregthens institutions. That can feel like my work in intercultural learning is more for show since more and more programming is implemented toward a pereived deficit rather than building on the strengths of human diversity.
The feedback from the students I mentor is the great part, along with teaching, which I adore, however I am not paid what I’m worth, which brings me to why I create in the kitchen. After a hard day at work fighting politics and the, almost, daily feedback that I’m not enough (I have a great boss, but she has to fight the same kinds of negative pushback from her leaders), I find that an evening in the kitchen makes those negative parts of the day subside. I love to cook from scratch with the freshest ingredients. This is where it can get creative. Also, I love cooking with friends. Pictured here are my friends from India, who know the meaning of joy, happiness, and tasty foods. Now, for some ideas…
First of all, explore ingredients. Just like pairing a wine with a specific dish, spices can make or break the flavor profile of a meal. Learn what spices go best with what ingredients, such as meats, fish, vegetables, or fruits. For example, take a simple meal like spaghetti. You may choose a meat and tomato based marinara to go with your spaghetti noodles. Or you may choose a pesto sauce to pair with what ever pasta you choose. You can add shrimp to the pesto-based sauce. Be brave and experiment, if interersted in “kitchen therapy.” Also, there is no shortage of people willing to share their own secrets with you in a multitude of platforms.
If being in the kitchen does not interest, find that one thing that you can do to relieve stress. Give yourself permission to be you in however you show up. Is it art or cleaning the house (really!)? It could be decorating a room or your house. What ever interests you and you find it a way to relieve stress, take the time to heal yourself. I like to be in the kitchen, because it can be a very practical way to create something fun while I nourish myself and others, as the case may be.
Find those meals to prepare that are interesting and allow you to sit over them in leisure. Pictured above shows my English breakfast with Dalgona coffee. We take about two hours to consume this meal, because we want to take longer to eat it than what it took to prepare. Think of the all-day labor of, say, a Thanksgiving meal or other type holiday when special meals are presented at table. My mother used to say, “What took me all day to prepare, you’ve eaten in 15 minutes!” Many in the U.S. tend not to approach meals in a convivial manner, such as those in Mediterranean climates. Other advantages of consuming a meal slowly means that you know when your stomach is full, and there is no hesitation in pushing away from the table.
Sure, I have other hobbies that relax me. I like my “kitchen therapy” because it engages all the senses: smell, hearing, tasting, touching, and seeing. Yes. Other hobbies engage the senses, but I can’t eat my woodworking or jewelry projects.
Find your way. I will be a treat. Thank you for reading me.
My featured image shows a doe and her fawn. When I took this picture, the fawn was about three days old. The doe gave birth in my day lily bed, and she parked her baby next to the house under a ladder. Now, two weeks later, the fawn has taken up residence in my front patio. Apparently, the doe comes at night to feed the baby and graze in the yard, a bit. We stay quite aware of the little guy’s presence and work very hard not to disturb. Also, as the Star Trek “prime directive” states, “Do not interfere in a life to change its course.” Hard as that is, I continue to worry that the doe will not return to nurse the fawn, but they have the instincts for survival and do what they need to do to survive as long as there is no human intervention.
What do you do to advance self-love? Many have been socialized to believe that self-love is selfish and wrong! That is likely a Puritan ideal, which very much permeates the dominant culture in the U.S. (Settler/Colonial culture). I’m not sure if there has ever a spiritual leader who’s asked us to hate ourselves. Of course, there are many political people, who call themselves “leaders,” who tell us quite often to dislike, hate, or exclude others who are considered “different.” I am happy to ignore them in this writing. What I do mean is that when we love ourselves, it’s nearly impossible to hate others, because true self-love helps us to love others even when they are not like us.
My point today is that unconditional self-love helps us to survive many things and may even be a support when tragedy strikes, such as recent school, church, and hospital shootings. Some of my past blog posts consist of other details in self-care, such as the Art of Hygge, cooking/baking, entertaining in your friend-circles, interactions in the natural world, and other activities in which we can engage to keep us from brain wiring and emotions ryfe with trauma.
Trauma does terrible things to emotional and physical health and well-being. All of us have likely experienced some form of trauma in our lives. That may mean that we spend many hours of our lives finding coping mechanisms and acquiring coping skills. We soon realize that coping/navigating skills are a life-long learning and behavioral journies. We do not take “training” and then we finish. Check box! No. Practicing self-love takes a life time. The key word is “practice” with the idea of not attaining “perfection!” I do think self-love is a choice, and I think when we have suffered adverse childhood experiences and forms of adult trauma, we tend to loose site of our abilities to choose a positive outlook. I do know that some have brain chemistry that can “hi-jack” that choice to have a positive outlook. Those instances require that we exercise great understanding and empathy.
Not too long ago, I interviewed a man from Kerala, India. He’s a mathematics teacher at a high school. Mr. K has lived in the U.S. for many years. He and his lovely wife “R” have raised two beautiful daughers. This family has the most positive outlook on life of any people I know! Mr. K takes his family on excursions to visit all of the National Parks in the U.S. They know their geography very well! During the interview, Mr. K said, “You know. The world is so beautiful. The people are beautiful. The landscapes are beautiful. I believe the world is so beautiful.” It was at that moment that I realized that Mr. K lives a life of positive thinking and he will always see the best in people, in nature, and in his relationships, because he chooses to see his life that same way. I see this attitude reflected in his daughers and in his spouse, too. Mr. K models and eminates self-love and the love of others. It sounds like a simple, wonderful, and balanced way to live.
I work on the concept of balance every day. The practice comes in the form of morning affirmations, yoga stretching, and fresh air. I end my day with more affirmations and the hopes of a adequate sleep. Getting adequate sleep and staying positive throughout the day tend to be my greatest challenges. The world is hurting, and I navigate institutional inequities on a daily basis. My hope continues to be that we may strive toward a positive outlook on life, so that we may be a beacon of light in this world and its pain.
Thank you for reading my blog. Next time, I’ll write about food.
The hounds of winter (Sting) linger where I live. The north winds blow the warmth from a seemingly sunny day, and the chill cuts to the bone. Relief from the grind of work comes from gathering with friends, family around the table enjoying a slow meal featuring a nice glass of wine.
Since the holidays of winter my joy continues to be hosting family and friends. While conversations and food go hand-in-hand, I find the loving preparation of a meal to be an intense form of love, because I want it just right! Here, I offer some highlights from varying meals along the way, with pictures of food and company.
2021 proved to be a wonderful year for riding the train. In November, we boarded the California Zephr to Salt Lake City. We stopped in Grand Junction Colorado after passing through 31 tunnels in the Rocky Mountain from Denver. My 92 year old mother and her 84 year old husband boarded in Grand Junction. My mother had not ridden the Amtrak until this point. We had roomettes, so the meals were included, and the Amtrak works hard at assuring a great dining experience. Dinners come with a glass of wine, white linen table cloths, and the tables always feature a red rose in a silver vase. I love riding the train. It appears to be the one time that I allow myself to sit and do nothing but watch the world go by. Here, I share some lovely highlights from the trip. We arrived in SLC at midnight and departed for home a few days later at 3:00 a.m.
Early in January, we set out on the train to head to our friends in West New York. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief travels from Los Angeles to Maryland in its entirety. We boarded in Kansas City, MO, and it took us to Chicago for a five-hour layover, which afords the travelers some time for sightseeing in Chicago. Though, its Union Station provides some great history and a lovely environment. The lounges provide quiet or busy areas to relax with snacks and beverages.
I’ve read train reviews by a younger set of riders who appear to be in a hurry and are grumpy about less than perfect accomodations. Like a slow meal that one savors, I find train travel to be a time to savor. Why be in a hurry? I find it a great time to sit back, enjoy the passing scenery, eat lovely meals, and get in some reading or napping. Try it sometime. The life in a cozy roomette is like a gentle hug.
Back to the layover in Chicago. With the lake affect chills, we found it difficult to roam the city, so we made our way to a close restaurant to have a little bite to eat.
Sorry. I can’t seem to make the pictures smaller.
As we made our way to see our friends, we waited until 9:00 p.m. to board the next leg of the trip. We arrived in Erie, PA at 7:00 a.m., and we traveled 45 minutes to the cottage on the frozen lake. How wonderfully delightful that was. After a nice breakfast, we set out snowshowing on the lake frozen so deeply that it serves as a winter paradise of ice fishing.
We enjoyed a delightful time with our friends, with whom we’ve traveled to Alaska, the Gulf Coast, to Puerta Vallerta, and on many camping trips together. I love these friends.
Well, I could go on and on, but I will leave you with a lovely picture of happy hour at 20 degrees Farenheit. Thank you for reading my blog.
When we think of a year that’s passed, it can be a good time to reflect on the past and to look forward in a new year. We can think about the good things that happened and contemplate any of the negative happenings. Of course, it does not serve us well to focus on our misfortunes, mistakes, losses, and other events that made a negative impact. However, it could serve well to give each of those challenges their due. I want to spend this space for reflecting on the year past and looking forward to year unfolding before us. Every year, I learn something new, and I give myself grace when I come up short. I will share some things I’ve learned and ask you to reflect on your life as well.
Reflecting on events of the past takes a Mindfulness approach. In the process, be a neutral observer. Think about what gave such an event a positive or negative impact. Notice how the event or interaction elicited emotions. How was that emotion navigated, or what was the response? The point in this reflection is to remind ourselves to be 1) a neutral observer to each experience, 2) Be patient with yourself: allow each experience to emerge at its own pace, 3) Have a “beginner’s mind” by experiencing the memory as if for the first time, 4) Trust and believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way, 5) Take it as it comes without the need to win or avoid losing. At this points, just be; 6) Accept and see things as they are in the present moment; 7) Let go and detach from your usuall feelings and thoughts. Perhaps this is a way for us to slow down for a moment to recharge our senses.
I’ve written about the “art of hygge.” Hygge is that danish word (Hoo-gah) that denotes comfort at the point of being cozy. Think of a hug! We get to decide on the characteristics of that hug. When the danish speak of hygge, they outline all the situations in which one can practice that coziness: our living spaces, our work spaces, and in outdoor spaces. I have designed my “living room” as a hygge corner.
Another way of practicing that sense of being hugged, is looking to the outdoors for rest and relaxation. Viewing nature as if for the first time can be exhilirating! Perhaps asking oneself, “Which season do I like best? Why?” I like to notice what birds are active in which season? For example, I’m seeing more juncos during the winter than in the summer. We see snow geese in the winter but not summer! Those are changes that are only noticed when one looks up or notices changes in nature. It such a thing is new to you, try it sometime. As another example, in the photo, one could ask, “Why is the sunset so red?” The answer: Dust and smoke in the atmosphere from fires and wind (in many cases).
In a busy world where we are measured by how much we do, how much money we earn, and how we stand out as individuals (an individualistic society). I wonder if we would have less illness if we emulated that of a collective society (group oriented) and took the time to sit and talk, build relationships, and take more collective actions when it comes to governance. The concept of hygge supports that very thing, as does the Mediterranean way of conviviality. So what if we took three hours to consume our meals conversing around the table? Our lives would slow down, and we would take more time for ourselves and our loved one. I love the concept of “hygge with others,” which focuses on our relationships. While we have fewer opportunities to gether during this pandemic, and we’ve had to find new and different ways to connect with people, such as with on line platforms. When I think of “hygge” with others, I tend to think of gathering around meals. Sometimes it may be connecting through interest groups. Sometimes we attend a movie group, which meets online after participants watch the movie on their own. That is one way of connecting during a pandemic time. The meet up consists of questions by the facilitator. We found common themes through which we connected. A few years back, in a town where we spend nearly thirty years, we used to attend what we called, “Second Friday Cinema” at our local library. We picked nine movies for each of the months we met from September through May. We watched the movie together enjoying snack that each of us offered on a table. Unfortunately, that has gone away per safety measures. I miss those time, so I will share some photos of former gatherings and ways of enjoying our environments.
Setting a goal of practicing holistic well-being does take some discipline. For example, I made a pledge to myself to keep my house organized and free of clutter. That takes a lot of work! It seems that we get so involved in making a living, being a good employee, and meeting institutional goals that we forget to take care of ourselves. Now, all this sounds like I’m an expert at such things, I do teach about holistic well-being, but that means that I practice such things, and “practice makes perfect” as the saying goes. That’s the best we can do, and our best needs to be enough for us. That does not mean that we’ve reached a pinnacle. It’s just means that we keep trying. I saw a quote on practice the other day. The gist of it was that someone had asked the great cellist, Pablo Casals about his daily practicing at the age of 90 years. “After a stellar career and now at the age of 90, why do you practice the cello for the minimum of six hours per day?” Casals answered, “Because I think I am seeing progress.” Humans are not perfect. We work toward perfects, but perhaps too much, I wonder? I want to be the best for the world not the best in the world!
The Following is a transcript of an annual program that I produce for public radio stations who will “purchase” it. At this writing, I do know that High Plains Public Radio, of the Central High Plains will run it on Christmas Day, usually at 9:00 a.m. Central Time. I will update this site as I learn of any station running it.
Hello. I’m Debra Bolton. Welcome to Las Cantigas de Santa Maria (The Holy Canticles of St. Mary), Songs and poems in praise of Holy Mary – and the poetic/musical biography of Alfonso, “the wise”, The King of Castile-Leon, now Spain, and who lived from 1221 to 1284, and for whom we celebrate his 800th birthday this year. I appreciate your joining me today. We begin this musical journey with The Learned King declaring himself Mary’s Troubadour who will take her teaching to his Kingdom and beyond. Let’s hear…Counter Tenor, Russell Oberlin performing the prologue. Please note, that at the time, the use of counter tenors aka “castrados” would have been the norm, since females were not allowed to perform in a king’s court. :
Prologue: Russell Oberlin, CSM #60 2:37
Camerata Mediterranea CSM52 and instrumental Prelude – 4:05
That was Counter tenor, Russell Oberlin, taking the part of the Learned King as he declares himself the Virgin Mary’s Troubadour and asks the “noble lady” to bestow the inheritance of eternal life and grant Alfonso’s kingdom a place in eternity.
Also, you heard Camarata Mediterranea with an instrumental to highlight El Sabio’s wise welcome to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish musicians in his court, which blended European and Arabic performance and music techniques.
Interesting to note, of the 420 Marian poems written by King Alfonso X and his assistant scribes, about every 10th poem is a song of love for the Virgin, and since this is not an “official” prologue, since the prologue has the even number #60, it would also be considered a “cantiga de loor” song of love for Mary.
King Alfonso ruled his Kingdom of Castile-Leon, now Spain, from 1252 until his death. Scholars and Alfonsine devotees celebrate the Learned King’s 800th birthday this past November 23. Alfonsine scholar, Dr. J.K. Knauss, who has written widely on the Learned King, spoke to me about the celebrations across Spain in honor of the King’s birth. Knauss recently released her fourth book about the King. In Our Lady’s Troubadour, Knauss took the poems and corresponding works of art, and put them into narrative stories. Here, Knauss introduces CSM#42 before we hear the piece performed by an early music ensemble called, Sonus.
Insert Knauss’ introduction:
CSM#42 – A Virgen mut groriosa, Sonus 2:38
That was Sonus with CSM#42, the story of Mary as a jealous queen that rebukes those she loves if they refuse her.
Now we turn to the interpretation of CSM#116: A merchant went to Salamanca to trade at the fair. It was his custom to serve the Virgin faithfully and to fast rigorously. On the eve of her feasts, he would not even eat vegetables or fish.
He always used to offer candles at churches dedicated to the Virgin. In Salamanca, he had his servant fetch two large candles that he had brought from Toledo. He had them lit and guarded so that they would not go out. The Virgin let them go out, but then caused them to burn once again.
We hear this performed by Eduardo Paniagua and his Musica Antigua. Paniagua, a musicologist and an early music instrumentalist, devotes much of his time to researching, performing, and recording the vast catalogue of Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, poems and songs in praise of Holy Mary.
That was CSM#116, “The Candles that Miraculously Came Alight” from Musica Antigua on their album, Cantigas de Toledo, where King Alfonso was born these 800 years ago. 6:20
You’re listening to Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, a musical biography of Spain’s King Alfonso X and his praise to the Virgin Mary. I’m your host, Debra Bolton
END OF SEGMENT ONE
(Excerpt of The Prologue from Joseph O’Callaghan’s)
Throughout the life of King Alfonso X, he devoted himself to learning and being surrounded by the learned. He believed a learned King and court with great knowledge of the natural world, mathematics, architecture, human behavior, and great discernment could only benefit the people of his kingdom. Being a pluralist, he employed Christian, Jewish, and Muslim in his court to advance learning.
In a recent interview with Alfonsine scholar, Dr. J. K. Knauss, she noted that the great legacy of El Sabio is that he lived up to his name, “the wise” because he was obsessed with writing everything down. Whether is was about mathematics, astronomy, the virtue of playing board games and other leisurely activities to balance hard works, laws to govern his subjects, and teaching morality, he not only wrote continually, but he chose not to write in Latin, the language of Kingdoms of the day. What made his legacy so strong is that he wrote in Castilian, the present-day Spanish. King Alfonso X is considered the “Father of Castilian.” Was he that much of a visionary? It would seem so since Spanish only trails Chinese as the most common language worldwide, flanked by English, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, and Lahnda, aka, “Western Punjabi” according to The World Economic Forum.
Let’s turn to the marvelous miracles of Mary found in CSM#11, the Drowned Sacristan. Every night a sinful monk left his monastery to take his pleasure with his mistress. Before he left he would say the Ave Maria.
One night he fell into a river and drowned. Devils and angels argued over his soul. The devils’ case was more convincing, and the angels were about to give in when the Virgin made them recover the monk’s soul. They returned the soul to his body and revived him. The other monks found him alive in the cold water.
We hear CSM#11 interpreted by Ensemble Alcatraz, a San Francisco, CA group dedicated to the research and performance, throughout the world, of the music of Spain, Portugal, and France. This is from their CD Cantigas de Amigo, CSM#11 8:35
That was Ensemble Alcatraz performing Cantigas de Santa Maria #11,
King Alfonso employed artists to create two and three-dimensional works of art to correspond to the poems and songs, which would have made the Learned King an early pioneer in multi-media. Now, here we are putting it all in digital form! Some scholars point of the works of art, the songs and the poems as Alfonso’s way to teach morality to the subjects of his kingdom on many levels. While those in his court were, themselves, learned and well-educated people, there were many in his kingdom who, perhaps, could not read or write. Hence the need for the lessons on morality in more than written forms.
The poems and songs employ the language of the time, which is Galician-Portuguese, Medieval Galician, or as some linguists and historians simply call the language, Romance, the root language of Castilian, the language of Spain.
Alfonso X ruled from 1252 to 1284. To put the world into perspective at the time, the English language continued to change from its Germanic-rooted Olde English of the Beowulf poet (circa 9th or 10th century) after the Norman invasion of 1066. In the next century, we hear the English of Geoffrey Chaucer and the Gawain Poet. Europeans now use Arabic numerals in favor of Roman Numerals. In the Mongol Empire, Mongke, officially, marks the worship of his grandfather, Genghis Khan while Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity flourish. The Inca Empire of Peru is thriving. England begins the process of segregation of Jewish peoples, and other countries begin to follow suit. The Mexica people, also known as Aztecs, are building their great city on a lake in what is now Mexico City. King Alfonso X’s bid to be King of the Holy Roman Empire fails in favor of Count Rudolf, bringing prominence to the Habsburg family, Rudolf was considered mediocre as Alfonso was too ambitious and certainly too bright for the Pope of the time.
When we think about world events of King Alfonso’s time, between the 12 and 14th centuries, there was a sect of Christians called the Cathar, a
fundamentalists sect who believed there were two gods: A good one who presided over the spiritual world, and an evil one who ruled the physical world. Cathars viewed even sex within marriage and reproduction as evil, and so lived strict lives of abstention. Here I present the spoken text of the Papal Bull legislating torture of those practicing Catharism, called “Ad Exstirpanda.” As a side note, that papal bull also supported colonizing so called, “Non-Christian” countries and enslaving Indigenous peoples, which carried over to the Doctrine of Discovery launching Columbus to the Americas 200 years later.
At odds with the Catholic church, The Cathar believed in female deities and believed that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married. The text is presented in Latin, as the Cathar of the time were in France and Italy.
Ad exstirpanda” performed by Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI followed by what sounds like a lament, Veri dulcis in tempore” translated “A true Sweet season” of the time from the CD “The Forgotten Kingdom.
Veri dulcis in tempore: 3:57
That was Jordi Savall and his Hesperion XXI performing music of the forgotten Kingdom of the Cathar in France and Italy.
After 1492, in addition to colonizing the lands and its people, Spain, also, colonized the languages of the Americas and the Caribbean. Since the so called, “first contact,” we saw Castilian overwhelming, and often erasing, many Native languages of the islands and the continents, thanks to the Doctrine of Discovery establishing a so called, “spiritual, political, and legal” justification for colonization and seizure of land NOT inhabited by Christians. Again, the Spanish we hear today differs widely from that of the CSM and Alfonso X’s time. However, you don’t need to understand Galician-Portuguese to enjoy this music, known for its complex musical structures and its use of what we now call, ancient instruments.
Coming up in the next hour of Cantigas de Santa Maria, we will hear more songs and tunes about miracles of the Virgin Mary as we continue this musical biography of King Alfonso X, the wise, of 13th Century Spain
Go to an instrumental played by the Waverly Consort, Cut #15, to play to the end. 6:43
Hello, I’m Debra Bolton. Welcome to the second hour of Las Cantigas de Santa Maria (The Holy Canticles of St. Mary), Songs and poems in praise of Holy Mary – and the poetic/musical biography of Alfonso, “the wise”, The Kind of Castile-Leon, now Spain, and who lived from 1221 to 1284, and for whom we celebrate his 800th birthday this year. I appreciate your joining me today.
Let’s begin this hour with two miracles performed by the Virgin, as written by King Alfonso X.
“The Girl Who Ate Spiders, CSM #201:
A beautiful noble woman promised to guard her virginity.
The devil tempted her to take a lover, and she lived with her godfather and became pregnant by him. When the baby was born she killed it. She became pregnant a second time and killed her newborn baby yet again. Then she did this a third time. Overcome with despair, and hating herself, she tried to commit suicide. She stabbed herself in the breast, but the knife missed its mark.
Then she swallowed a spider, but it was not big or poisonous enough to kill her. She ate another bigger spider and her body swelled so much she was near death. As she lay dying, she repented and asked the Virgin to forgive her sins.
The Virgin appeared to her and stroked her body, making her more beautiful and fit than she had ever been. The woman entered an order and lived virtuously from that time forth.
Performed by the Martin Best Ensemble (Cut#7) 2:58
You’re listening to this holiday special, Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, a musical biography of 13th Century King of Spain, Alfonso, the wise. I am Debra Bolton, your host.
As we continue in this exploration of this very small part of King Alfonso X’s tribute to the Virgin Mary, my references come from the writings of Dr. J.K. Knauss, whose books continue to inspire me. On November 18, 2021, Dr. Knauss released a book which put the Cantigas de Santa Maria in narrative form. We did hear Dr. Knauss introduce CSM#42 in the previous hour, from her book, Our Lady’s Troubadour. I now will explore Dr. Knauss’ book, Violence in the Cantigas de Santa Maria. In addition, I refer to the writing of Professor Joseph F. O’Callahan, Mr. Andrew Casson, Maestro Jordi Savall, Maestro Eduardo Paniagua, John Esten Keller, Robert I. Burn, Editor of “The Emperor of Culture” and from Oxford Univesity’s CSM database.
From the book, Violence in the Cantigas de Santa Maria, Dr. Knauss establishes an important beginning that does not have violence to set a calm tone. That would be CSM#97 about a slandered man who was exonerated. However, we move into the violence rather quickly in CSM#233. Knauss mentions this cantiga in her book about violence and in her recent book, Our Lady’s Troubadour, where she writes a wonderfully accessible narrative called, “No-Man’s-Land, ” which regales the story of the good knight, Jacinto (Ha-theen-toe), who while traveling with his men, encounter with Moors, who were so impressed with Jacinto’s faith to the Virgin Mary. The Moors spoke, “We see that you are not of this world, but we don’t think your intensions are evil.” “We honor you because you have been sent by Mary, mother of Jesus. Jacinto held his hand out to the Moorish leader, and they embraced as they forgave one another for their conflicts with one another.
Here we have CSM#233 performed by Elizabeth Pinard. I had a difficult time finding this piece, so I turned to YouTube, and found this incredible interpretation by Ms. Pinard, a Brazilian singer with the most incredible vocal range. Listen for her low notes, and when the choir comes in, Ms. Pinard vocalizes in ethereal high ranges. Go to Youtube and enter “Elizabeth Pinard – Cantiga de Santa Maria 233”
Let’s take a moment to talk about some of the instruments that you’re hearing on this musical journey of 13th Century Spain, then called, Castile-Leon.
Shawm – 12th c conical bored double reed instrument of Middle Eastern origin, a precursor of the oboe. Like the oboe, it is conically bored; but its bore, bell, and finger holes are wider, and it has a wooden disk (called a pirouette, on European shawms) that supports the lips
Recorder – Yes. That woodwind instrument that many of us learned in grade school. We hear this in the CSM, usually, on a wider variety of wood recorders.
Organetto – a small portable organ, which you heard performed by Esther Lamandier
Oud – Literally, wood in Arabic, short-necked, pear-shaped with 11 – 13 strings grouped in 5, 6, or 7 courses. A few of the oud players that stand oud are Driss El Maloumi, a group called 3MA and Haik Egitim Merkezi Yalova, both Maloumi and Yalova perform with Jordi Savall’s Hesperion groups. The Oud is considered the most important instrument in Middle Eastern Music.
Qanun (a.k.a., kanun, ganoun, kanoon) an Arabic stringed instrument, introduced to Europe in the 12th Century. It’s played on the lap with picks that surround both index fingers, and the player can change the pitch of the strings with brass levers.
Hurdy Gurdy, a.k.a. Viola de Rueda, and the Zanfona. Here we hear this instrument in Musica Antigua and by a group called, BIDAIA, featuring Caroline Phillips.
Vielle – the Medieval fiddle with five strings and six tied frets.
Rebec – A three-string “fiddle” often held between the legs as it’s played.
Viola de Gamba – (a.k.a., Viol or gamba), a six-stringed instrument, said to be a precursor of the four-stringed cello. The Gamba, usually, is much larger and has frets, like a guitar.
Gaita – Galician bag pipe, also common in Portugal. We’ll hear the Gaita in the next hour of this musical journey.
Duduk – Double reed Armenian flute, featuring those mournful, lamenting tones.
You’re listening to a musical journey of 13th Century Spain’s King Alfonso the X and his devotion to the Virgin Mary, on this public radio station. I’m your host, Debra Bolton, and I appreciate that you’re here with me today.
The language of the time, Galician-Portuguese, finds scholars today who argue that Galician and Portuguese are dialects of the same language. It tends to remind one more of Portuguese than of Castilian, the root language of modern-day Spanish. Portugal situated directly south of Galicia, was home to the Celts and the Sephardim of the Iberian Peninsula. Stay with us…
Segment Two Hour Two
Begin with Prologue by Waverly Consort, Cuts 1 and 2: (3:45)
We continue with Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, the musical biography of Medieval King of Castile-Leon, Alfonso X, the wise and learned. I’m your host, Debra Bolton.
We just heard an English interpretation of the prologue, where the wise King announces himself in the role as the Virgin Mary’s troubadourn. The Waverly Consort, founded by Kay and the late Michael Jaffe performed that piece.
J. K. Knauss describes the importance of the Cantigas de Santa Maria saying, “The most appropriate single adjective for the corpus of cultural work produced under Alfonso X is ‘encyclopedic.’” He wrote books of history, astronomy/astrology, law, poetry, board games, and music. Even his written leisure activities continue to survive the vagaries of time, bearing the King’s name as patron or author.”
For more perspective of the time, King Henry III ruled England about the same time Alfonso X ruled Castile-Leon, the greater part of what is now known as Spain. While El Sabio ruled his lands with Christians, Muslims, and Jewish peoples living and studying side-by-side with some appreciation and great tolerance, it would not be until 208 years later that Isabella and Ferdinand would expel all non-Christians and the time Christopher Columbus would set sail for Asia but landed in the Americas, which changed extensively the lives that he touched. Before that, well-civilized Indigenous tribes had not yet had contact with European colonialists. The surnames that most people connect with Latin American countries were the surnames of their Spanish conquerors. During and after the inquisition, many non-Christians, Jewish and Muslim people, added the suffixes of –ez, -es, or -os to their surnames. For example, the Muslim man, Alvar, became Alvarez. The Jewish man, Martin became Martinez. Consistent with most surnames, there remained a connection to the family trade or place of origins. The Herrera were Jewish iron-smiths. Those hailing from Galicia, or Galego, were the Galegos. In the present day, an extra “L” was added to make it “Gallegos.”
The next piece takes us to Italy, of the time, with a song, in Latin, praising the Virgin Mary. This piece, Verbum Caro Factum Est, “Word was made flesh” is performed by the Waverly Consort. I offer this to illustrate that there were other parts of Medieval, Romance Europe also praising the Virgin Mary. Again, not in the tradition of Alfonso X, who wrote about people’s interior and exterior lives, from every social class from Spain to other parts of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East and their relationships to the Virgin in everyday life, according to Knauss.
Verbum Caro Factum Est Waverly Consort ( 4:40) (Verbum Caro Factum Est)
CSM #41/119 Capella Ministeres (4:22)
That was Capella Ministrers, CSM 41/119. CSM#41, the story of a money changer named, Garin. The devil scared him. Garin went mad, and then the Virgen not only restored his senses, she gave him paradise. The story of CSM#119, tells the story of a judge who lived a life of ease. He ate well and collected generous supports, though he did not fulfill his duties and only arrested those who were destitute. The Virgin came to the judge’s rescue when a band of brigands kidnapped him. In the process of killing the judge, Mary intervened. She made the judge confess every one of his sins. He died the next day and angels carried away his soul.
Performed here by Capella Ministrers, CSM 41/119. 4:22
That was Capella Ministrers performing CSM 41 and 119 here on Cantigas de Santa Maria, the musical biography of Spain’s 13th Century Monarch.
You’re listening to Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, a musical biography of King Alfonso X, I’m your host, Debra Bolton.
El Sabio, King Alfonso the X ascended the throne of Castile-Leon, now Spain, in 1252 and immediately devoted himself to the creation of new laws, the Siete Partidas (seven parts) and the Fuero Real (Royal Municipal Code), both of which continue to be in effect here in the 21st Century.
Scholars posit that the CSM continue to be a testament by which the king wished to be remembered after his death. That means that we, also, are part of the intended audience. Knauss continues that the learned king, likely, did not fathom this kind of dissemination, now in this digital age. She says, “With these technologies, it grants scholars who study the CSM a place in his highly exclusive circle of apprentices.”
Alfonsine scholar, Dr. J. K. Knauss describes the importance of the Cantigas de Santa Maria saying, “The most appropriate single adjective for the corpus of cultural work produced under Alfonso X is ‘encyclopedic.’” He wrote books of history, astronomy/astrology, law, poetry and music. Even his written leisure activities continue to survive the vagaries of time, bearing the King’s name as patron or author.”
Now, I’d like to turn to interpretations of the CSM that have a more contemporary feel. Andre Bocelli, a mostly self-taught tenor, provides this wonderful rendition of CSM #57. I think the addition of Spanish guitar and a children’s choir give this interpretation a light and jovial feeling to the subject, “The Robbed Pilgrims to Montserrat.” From Bocelli’s album, “Believe” recorded last year. It features duets with Allison Krauss and opera singer, Cecilia Bartoli, on the Decca label.
Mui Grandes Noit’ e Dia (CSM #57) (4:06)
#CSM 422 Robin Rolfhamre (5:48)
That was Swedish Lutenist, Robin Rolfhamre with CSM 422, The Litany of the Day of Judgement. Mostly, Dr. Rolfhamre focuses on the early music of the 15th century. His interpretations here features the lute.
You’ve been listening to Las Cantigas de Santa Maria, the holy canticles of the Virgin Mary and the musical biography of Medieval King Alfonso X of Spain in music, poetry, and art. I’m the producer and your host, Debra Bolton. I began exploring the history of the CSM, because I found the tunes, songs, poems, and art pieces so wonderfully extraordinary with their passion and multimedia approaches. I hope you’ve found this music and its stories interesting. For more information, please visit my blog: https://peopleandcultures.blog/?p=1369
As one who identifies as Indigenous, the latest findings of Indigenous children’s marked and unmarked graves on the grounds of Native Boarding Schools across Canada and the United States abhors me, which can feed into generational wounds. Lately, I have been invited to offer lectures on the topic. Here I share with you some of my reflections as presented to church groups. Remember, I only speak with my Indigenous relatives. I do not speak for all Indigenous Peoples.
Residential Boarding Schools: We must acknowledge what happened to the First People of these Lands at the hands of Colonial Settlers
To all my Relations…
Following in the ways of loving one another, as any faith journey tells us to do, gives us a framework for our way of life. Our works of truth and reconciliation must mirror that. Like baptism, we must face the truths of our past, even when they give us discomfort. When we learn some painful truths, we must reflect on those truths rather than deny, wallow in guilt or point fingers. The painful actions of history belong to all of us… together. Again, the painful actions of history belong to all of us. I say that as one who is Indigenous to these lands to which I acknowledge: My homeland is the Uncompahgre Valley, Western Colorado, from where colonial settlers displaced my father’s people (Ute). My Mother’s people experienced the same atrocities in their homeland of what is now, New Mexico. In Kansas, I live and work on the ancestral territory of many Indigenous Nations, including the Kaw, the Osage, and the Pawnee. Kansas is currently home to the Prairie Band Potawatomi, the Kickapoo, the Iowa of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Sac and Fox Nations.
I am grateful to these Nations. I ask you to Please remember these truths
Today, we take this opportunity, no matter who we are, and no matter from whom we descend, to face the pain of the past, to confess it, and above all, to learn from it and not repeat it. To tell the truth in love, as our Creator teaches, gives us pause to learn love’s excellent way of life and way of being.
What are the ways in which we can behave in actionable ways to follow the path of love rather than hate, rather than ignoring inhumanities, rather than justifying slavery and other exclusions and turning away from the practice of human hierarchies? We must recognize and acknowledge the wounds of Indigenous Peoples promulgated by governments, churches, and other institutions that join in the cause of separation and erasure. Then we must remove the barriers to access for all historically excluded identities. Only love, honor, and respect can dwell in the Creator’s presence, and we must join our hearts and hands to rebuild our communities of faith.
Let us move away from mere performance to authentic and measurable actions toward an equitable society where we honor and love one another as the Creator loves us.
In reflection, what makes me hopeful today are the Indigenous youth who are learning the spiritual teachings and the folkways of our ancestors. We promote generational healing through prayer and acknowledgement that we only survive in the light and love of our Creator and through the support of one another. When this society begins to acknowledge the truths that segregation, torture, abuse, and separation of Indigenous children is, by design, meant to erase a people not love them, the healing will begin.
Please note that of the 367 Native boarding schools in the U.S. 73 remain open, and 15 continue to board Indigenous children taken from their parents. Here in Kansas, we must acknowledge the following boarding schools and the atrocities fraught upon Native children: Haskell Indian Training School (now Haskell University), Great Nemaha Indian School, Kaw Manual Labor School, Kickapoo Labor School, Osage Manual Labor School, Potawatomi Labor School, and the Shawnee Mission boarding school. The goals of these schools promised to “take the Indian out of the boy or girl.” Graduation was never a goal, however survival remained a wish for the children. Again, The children who were able to leave these schools did not graduate! They survived!
We cannot heal in the places that make us sick. We can only heal, if the society complicit in Indigenous extermination can move away from greed and the concepts of superiority in order to teach a people that they are, indeed, inferior. I am hopeful because I am here today, with each of you, lamenting the wrongs of the past by governments and other institutions who do not follow the teachings of the Creator to “Love one another.” I ask you, How is genocide of a people, Love? How are exclusionary laws and policies, Love? How is justifying slavery, love?
Rev. Linda Nicholls and Rev. Mark Macdonald note that:
“The wrenching legacy of residential schools is felt not only by those who survived. It lingers in the pain of families whose children died while at school. It lingers in the agony of not knowing why they died or where they are buried. It lingers in the inadequate record-keeping that does not tell the cause of death. It lingers in the neglect to even record the names of almost one-third of those who died. For a parent the death of a child is an unimaginable pain.”
I ask you to empathize with the parents. Can you imagine such a thing to happen to you and your family?
My featured image illustrates the loveliness of our daughter, Riki. We lost her, nearly six years ago, to a stroke at the young age of 34 years. She would have been 40 on September 27. She had lived with atrial fibrillation for 11 years, and a new doctor took her off her medicine “to see how she’d do!” I had later read that taking someone off this particular heart medicine could lead to stroke. The new cardiologist simply listed Riki as a “non-compliant patient” to avoid any law suit. Left behind were three young children, a husband, and a loving family to ponder, “why?”
Riki was a leader. She exercised her voice to support and advocate for those who did not have a voice. She was a devoted daughter, sister, mother, spouse, and friend. She loved her work as a school nutrition administrator. Riki was full of energy, and she loved innovation in meal preparation and addressing life’s challenges. Some called her, “bossy,” because strong women scare those who do not have the confidence to put themselves “out there!” She worked hard, played hard, and loved hard, and that’s what made Riki unique and beautiful.
If my daughter learned anything from me, it was to gather friends and family to socialize around stories, laughter, music, and food. I learned even more from her about the stewarship of great friends. She hosted her “village” every Wednesday for a “taco bar.” She loved to cook, and she cooked fabulously. Her friends loved all that Riki was. One of Riki’s dear friends, Danika, began a tradition of making Riki neck garlands out of the peppers from the garden. A few years back when “the village” was celebrating Riki’s birthday, I was gifted with the chili necklace. I dehydrated the hot monsters, and I use the pepper flakes, very sparingly, in recipes calling for some heat. About a week ago, Danika did it again! She sent a chili garland! The chilies are bright and lovely, and the flakes proved to be quite potent! Behold, the color! I call the chili flakes, “Danika’s Chili Blend,” or simply, “Danika.”
Today, Riki’s boys work for Danika, Riki’s best friend, in the kitchen, at a local pub/restaurant. The 18 year old just started college, and the 17 year old is a senior in high school.
What we know is that she was a beautiful, unique, loving, and thoughtful person. Most of all, Riki loved her children and her spouse, Jonathan. They miss her dearly. We were lucky enough to get a visit from Jonathan and Sam, Riki’s only daughter, this past weekend. The “boys” have jobs, so were not able to make the trip. We honored Riki with meals around the table, as was her practice, and stories of her life.
While we tend toward daily thinking about our time on earth with Riki, we rejoice in that we see her so heavily in her children. While I know that our son-in-law will likely find love again, we see her influence in him, too, and we know that he keeps Riki in his heart.
We will celebrate her birthday this evening with one of her favorite dishes: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn. One of the most lovely things is that she and her brother, Stevie, had a very close and loving relationship. He will likely celebrate his sister with a fire and tobacco blessings (from our Indigenous teachings). I look forward to the pictures that he sends when he has a fire. Come to think of it, we will have a fire, too.
My featured image is one I took from a car as I was about to board an airplane from Los Angeles International Airport. At one time, the Mid-century structure was used as a restaurant and remains a symbol of the airport. I like the “Atomic Age” design, which the light poles further establish.
My topic today explores a framework that we can employ in our learning processes of one another. National Geographic Society uses this framework to help people understand the concepts of geographical inquiry. The Society calls it a, “Learning Framework.” I adapted NGS’s framework for teaching self-awareness, which greatly improves how we interact with those who we see different than ourselves. I call it, “A Learner’s Mindset for Understanding Self and Others.”
Did you know there are people who do not recognize that they have a culture? This continues to be a heavy subject in my teaching. Teaching cultural awareness required that I create/adapt this framework. Usually, I present this in a table for easy usage. Here, I present the framework in narrative form. The framework focuses on three elements: Attitudes, Skills, and Knowledge each with three subheadings.
A Learner’s Mindset for Understanding Self and Others
Curiosity: Engage in an on-going process of learning about yourself, about others around you, and about the environments (spaces) you and they inhabit.
Responsibility: Have concern and care for the well-being of other people, their journeys, and their experiences.
Empowerment: Understand your unique lived experience. Developing shared experiences builds self-confidence in social interactions. Empower others by internalizing that “different” is not bad or threatening. State your opinions and listen to others.
Observation: Create a framework for knowing through the “mental” gathering of data, which informs our daily behavior and interactions. Are you able to observe without judgement?
Communication: Use language and media that speaks to truth, historical uses of words, and implications of wording in spoken language, writing, visual, and audio media. Apply this mindset to advancing learning about self and others.
Relationships: Collaborate across disciplines to advance understanding. Listen to re-state the main points and to find common ground. Above all, build and value your relationships, which dissolve the lines of difference.
Understand the Human Journey: No two humans have the same journey. Share the story of your journey. Listen to the story of another person’s journey. All humans develop their preferences, their ways of knowing, and their observations of others depending on their journeys. Do some humans have an advantage over others based on their journeys?
Understand the Interconnected Human Systems and their Dynamic Forces: Seek and internalize frameworks of information to discern between truth and convenience. Discern the quantities, patterns, rhythms, and symmetry in human systems. How are they unique, and how are they related? How do they change over time?
Acknowledge and Celebrate Human Difference: The social construction of hierarchies, class, and race historically benefit some groups and put others at a disadvantage. We can build relationships across these social barriers to see one another as individually contributing to the social fabric of humanity. Celebrate this.
This may not be the answer to every little thing in human interactions, but I do believe that it can be a start in our interpersonal relationships with those from cultures different than you own. Yes! Every human has a culture! Simply put, our cultures come from our knowledge and beliefs systems. Culture comes from our patterns of behavior learned from childhood, our language, our symbols and institutions. Culture is created, learned, and shared. Thrown together, the definition of “culture” seems to challenge people. To some, “culture” might seem an abstract concept mostly because some do not think about what constitutes “culture”
Sit down and think about your own patterns of behavior. Where did they originate? Human difference is a marvel. Celebrate it.