The kitchen window over my sink gives me great pleasure, because I see beautiful juniper trees, and I’m looking through colored glass!
Every time I cook a meal for myself, I think, “I should write about this in my blog!” It seems like I hesitate to write. I like having written more than my desire to write, sometimes. Two of my favorite pasttimes are writing and cooking. It’s great to share these loves.
Many of my friends love to cook! We used to make it a common practice to take turns hosting dinner parties. Then I moved. Establishing oneself in a new community takes time. Perhaps I don’t know the “right” people for such a thing, but I will keep trying. I love to cook, and I love to entertain.
Many people do not like to cook for themselves. I find it relaxing after a tough day at work. I use my mind in a different way than what I do at work. Music always accompanies my time in the kitchen. Time in the kitchen and listening to music are one of the places and times where/when I find my coziness (Hygge).
Let us begin with breakfast! My morning routine consists of drinking a lemon/olive oil system cleanser. I make it with 8 cups of water, two whole lemons, a dash of vanila, and four tablespoons of good olive oil. I blend it in 4 cups of water, and then I add the other four cups. Strain it into a half-gallon bottle. I drink 4-6 ounces before 30-minutes of exercise while listening to daily affirmations. Then I prepare my breakfast. Pictured here includes homemade granola (I think the recipe is found in a much earlier blog of mine). Some times I like to eat it was plain yogurt and honey, and other times I like to pour milk on it. I’m having this with a frothy coffee that I prepare in an electric milk frother.
Winter drags out, but spring will be here soon, and the weather will be more amenable to having breakfast, lunch, or dinner out on the back deck or the front patio. During the pandemic and working from home, I took many breakfasts al fresco so that I can watch birds. Two rivers flow on the outskirts of town along with a 30-mile long creek/reservoir. That means we have bald eagles flying over town. What a better way to eat breakfast?
Often times, my breakfast may consist of left overs from the previous night’s dinner. I tend to eat anything for breakfasts. My 93 year old mother finds that “really weird” that her daughter eats “odd” things for breakfast. She defines “odd” as anything that is considered a “non-breakfast” item, like what we ate the night before. I have no such restrictions on myself. Lunches often consist of dinner leftovers, too.
With social media, magazines, and cook books, one can always find new recipes. Of course, magazines and cookbooks contain such beautiful illustrations of the process and the final product. I like to read ingredients lists, which I think are there for suggestions, but recipes are meant to be experienmented with and tailored to fit your favorite flavor profiles. Most cooks know what kinds of spices go with specific dishes. I like to change it up sometime, so I will share some of those here, too.
With the two illustrations of rice dishes, I found these recipes online. Remember, when you cook with dry beans (garbanzo or black), since they are likely not “new crop” means that you must soak the beans to re-hydrate them before cooking. I don’t have access to new crop garbanzo or black beans, so I do soak and rinse before cooking them. Always add boiling water to your cooking pot. It helps the beans maintain their color and it helps them hydrate quicker in the cooking process.
I make the distinction between older pulses (legumes), because I love pinto beans, and I only buy new crop. They do not have to be soaked. Simply rinse and add to boiling water, which makes for a quicker meal. I get my new crop beans (usually harvested in late September or early October) from a farm in Colorado. The variety of pinto beans that I love is called, “vibrant,” and vibrant they are!
I did not share my recipes in this blog today, because I think it’s fun to explore your own preferred flavor profiles. You likely know that some herbs and spices combine with certain ingredients. For example, I never put green chili in my marinara sauces, but I do add green chili to my bean and corn soups. You figure it out, if it interests you.
I realize that cooking or baking does not appeal to everyone. I present this as something that appeals to me.
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.
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 COVID restrictions begin to ease a bit, we appear to be interacting more often and frequently, without masks. I hope we are not being premature in our ease. I read a quick headline today that said that our isolation for the past 20 months may have taken a toll on our cognitive functions. I think we shall see more on that as we continue to examine the far reaching effects of a pandemic in contemporary times.
I must admit that I have ramped up my interactions across the dining table, both at home and with friends. One of the great opportunities of working at a university gives me the privilege of working with students from a variety of backgrounds, countries, geographies, and traditions.
My “featured image” demonstrates the diversity of my interactions that include dining. Enoch, a city planner, and Elfadil, a soil scientist, hail from Africa: Ghana and Sudan, respectively. These two brilliant young men prepared a feast for hubby and me. Each dish featured chicken, and one dish feature the addition of goat.
When Enoch comes to our house for dinner, he often treats us to Jollof Rice. He gets the spice blend from his home country, blended by women who specialize. He shared a nice pint sized jar with me. The best I can do is taste and try to decide what’s in it.
I taste the seasoning mix, and then write down what I think: crushed chicken bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, onion flakes, chili flakes, black pepper, nutmeg, and thyme. While I am certain that the “spices” contain other ingredients, this is what I think I know, for now.
Let me tell you about the stews, which our hosts served with rice, which they prepared with cardamom pods floating in the water during the cooking process. First the gentlemen offered a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and a cucumber served without dressing. I forget that a salad does not need any type of dressing to be satisfying. Then the stews…
First of all, I love that they offered hot tea with the meal in small glasses. It made the evening so elegant yet simple. We ate around the coffee table in the small, student apartment, which was a celebration of its own.
Both Enoch and Elfadil shared their recipes:
Enoch’s goat and chicken stew:
Brown goat chunks and chicken thighs in garlic, ginger, hot pepper, onion, tomatoes, black pepper and Jollof rice spices. Blend vegetables. Sauté the vegetables, then blend them. Add water. Simmer for the afternoon preceding dinner time. Serve with fragrant rice.
Elfadil’s chicken stew:
Fry onion, add salt, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, curry, mix all together. Add garlic. Add cut chicken to mix. Put lid on and simmer. “Wait for the magic to happen!” (My quote, not Elfadil’s) After cooked, add tomato sauce and let cook for 5 minutes and add garlic. Replace lid for 5-10 minutes before serving. It simmers into a rich thick stew.
Enoch’s goat and chicken, pictured above, is the redder sauce of the two. Both stews tasted warmly rich with the combination of spices most aromatic to the senses. We ate heartily!
I had a geography student live with us five years ago while she gathered data. We lived in another part of the state at the time, and I worked for the same university in another research position. Anyway, when the student returned to campus, and I had to be there, she cooked for me in her tiny, student apartment. She was from China. ” Kathy Su” prepared a feast of meats: beef, chicken, and lamb. She roasted all the meats separately in her tiny oven. She flavored the meats with ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oils. Each meat added its own flavor profile to the similar ingredients. Kathy chopped the meats and then put them back in the oven to finish cooking to tender morsels with crispy edges. She served a big dish of steamed rice, and we enjoyed the meats, which were “finished” with chopped green onions! I wish I had pictures, but I didn’t think I would be writing about it. Once again, simple ingredients for a sublime dining experience.
Next time, more flavors from the kitchen. Thank you for reading me!
This week I am part of a conference called, Cambio de Colores, Change of Colors. The conference focuses on the Latinx diaspora. I presented on topics of adaptive and culturally relevant practices theory and youth development identity. My focus for my workshops in this conference was on Indigenous peoples in the Native diaspora of the United States. The topic idea of this blog came from one of the plenary speakers, Dr. Maribel Alvarez, whose topic was food ways of, mostly, Latinx peoples, but I thought it certainly generalized to me and my Native identity, as it does to other identities. The speaker said, “We [often] use food as a tool to find common ground.” She added, “Sharing food is one of our greatest secular rituals.” Brilliant! That has been my practice since I began my active life in the Kitchen.
My work in the garden this week gave me much to write after having spent much time in the kitchen this week. My featured image today shows the six-lined racerunner (lizard) running through the vegetable and herb garden. It proved to be nice company. Now, I back up to two weeks ago when my neighbor shared oyster mushrooms. She, apparently, enjoys the bounties of a friend who grows these beautiful fungi, so she shares her abundance with me! I so love the umami that edible fungi add to food dishes, so I prepare something immediately when my neighbor shares, and there remains some to preserve for future use.
For the rice noodle soup, I began by chopping the lovely mushrooms, and adding onions, garlic, celery to sauté in butter and sesame oil. When all was fragrant, I added peas and carrots. While I cooked the mushrooms and veggies, I soaked the rice noodles in warm water. Once all the veggies were smelling most fragrant, I added two cups of vegetable broth. (You can use any type of broth. I just happened to have the vegetable broth in the freezer that I prepared from a windfall of veggies. I let the veggies and broth come to a simmer, and then I added the softened rice noodles. I added soy sauce and let it simmer for one minute, or so. It made a lovely evening meal. To finish my preparation with the mushrooms, I sautéed the remaining mushrooms in butter and put them in the freezer so that I have them for the next meal that calls for mushrooms, such as marinara sauce or in macaroni and cheese, or what ever dish calls for mushrooms.
Well, I wonder if your garden is beginning to produce herbs and vegetables. I am not sure why, but I seem to over plant basil. This year I have giant basil. I took a trip to a community garden plot that went in the ground about two weeks before I planted the one in my yard. This garden, planted by colleagues as a learning opportunity for urban students, is crazy with herbs, squash, and peppers. I picked basil, spearmint, cilantro, and parsley along with a few strawberries (eaten on site!) and three zucchini.
Basil and mint come from the same family of square-stemmed plants. Others in the mint family include thyme, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, and marjoram, to name a few. I began preparations with the mint. I made mint pesto. I thought it would pair well with lamb. Think of preparing the traditional basil pesto.
I took five big hands full of mint. For recipes like this, I rarely measure or weigh the ingredients, so these are estimates for Mint Pesto:
Three packed hands full of fresh mint, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, harissa (combination of peppers), garlic, olive oil, small amount of lemon juice, and two small hands full of mixed, raw nuts (almond, walnut, hazelnut, pistachio, and cashew). Be sure to omit any nut if you have a concern about allergens. I like using raw pumpkin (pepitas) seeds for pesto. Use what ever you have on hand. Blend until smooth and aromatic.
The pesto blended into a beautiful sauce easily frozen to later thaw in the vibrant color it had before freezing.
With the abundance of cilantro and parsley, I made chimichurri sauce, popular in Uruguay and Argentina. The delightfully green sauce pairs well with grilled meats. I like it on fish and shrimp tacos. Actually, it’s so fragrant as I blend it, I can’t help but take a spoon full just like that! I have changed the recipe a bit from what I hear is the authentic recipe from Argentinian ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (I like to substitute with sherry vinegar)
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley (In addition to the parsley, I also added about the same in cilantro)
3-5 cloves of garlic (for this batch, I used a combination of onion sprouts and wild garlic, pictured below)
2 small red chilies (I was out of red chilies, so I used 1/2 teaspoon of harissa, which combines chilies with peppers)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper (That is in my harissa)
Now, after I made my Chimichurri, I learned that one does not process in a blender. Oops! I did! Instead, I should have chopped everything and let it sit in the oil and vinegar for a few hours to bring out the flavors. I will do that next time. Here is my finished product, though I will do it “right” the next time. I am told that those in Argentina use it for basting, rather than marinating, as the meat is on the grill. It can be used to finish the meat just before serving. Again, I like it on fish or shrimp tacos. Chimichurri freezes very well and retains its bright green color when thawed. Thaw it in the refrigerator about three hours ahead of intended use.
Farmers markets offer great variety in seasonal vegetables and fruits, if you do not have your own garden. The asparagus in my garden was planted last year, so I did not get any sort of a crop this year. Hopefully next year. Our farmers’ market yielded great asparagus this year. I’ve been playing with it in my pasta recipes. As I play around with different iterations of a recipe for asparagus-based pasta, perhaps this may interest you.
Chop onions, garlic, flowering chives, mushrooms (thawed from the frozen oyster mushrooms previously prepared), a tiny zucchini, for this recipe. I think one can be quite creative in making this.
I start with chopped bacon or ham as my base for flavor. Then I add the veggies. Then I add seasonings including my prepared pesto. Once all the veggies are added and have cooked for a short while, I add a half cup of white wine and cover for a short simmer. Then I added parmesan cheese and cream. Allow to thicken, then serve. It goes well with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. I served the sauce with rotini, this time.
Finally, I leave you with one more of my dishes from the bounty of the garden, already over flowing with basil. Caprese salad appears in a few iterations. Its simplicity makes it a lovely, fresh salad. I like mine ever better when I make the cheese myself. With temperatures hovering in the high 90s (Fahrenheit), I opted not to stand over a steaming kettle of whey and cheese solids. The grocery maintains a nice stock of fresh mozzarella. Large tomatoes are not setting in the garden, either, so this comes from the produce section.
Simple ingredients: Sliced tomato, sliced mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. Look at the size of my basil leaves!
After I arrange my three ingredients (cheese, tomato, and basil leaves) on the plate. I mix a dressing of my prepared pesto with some balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Then, I drizzle the dressing over the salad. I find it to be a heavy salad when eaten prior to a meat-based dish. I tend to have a caprese salad with a lighter or vegetarian pasta-based main course. The gigantic size of my basil leaves hides the other two slices of tomato and cheese.
I hope we found common ground with one another through sharing recipes. My next entry will focus more on sharing such meals with friends and family.
I work at a university with a leadership studies college. The school invites varying faculty, staff, and administration to talk about personal priorities and interests. As I always say, the more we know about one another, the more that the lines of separation fade. I love this notion of inviting people to talk about themselves. It becomes the living libraries favored by many communities. Here is one of my stories.
My father used to tell me, “Know something about everything and everything about something, and you will always be able to find common ground with another person.” I have a penchant for music, literature, geography, history, art, language, biology, architecture, travel, navigation in air travel, and people. Curiosity was the most important thing to my father. He taught me to be curious, always! Actually, I think my varied interests greatly inform my work in intercultural development, or helping humans find common ground with one another. It’s what I live. It’s what I love. I like to begin my classes, workshops, and presentations with a land acknowledgment:
My homeland is the Uncompahgre Valley in Western Colorado, from where colonial settlers displaced my father’s people (Ute).
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, and the Sac and Fox Nations.
I am grateful to these Nations.
Please remember these truths.
It can be quite enlightening to research and discover what Indigenous Nation occupied the land on which you live, work, and play. We can think about:
Who granted the land?
Who held the land previously?
What was the U.S. Homestead Act of May 1862? Who was given land, and who was removed from said land?
So, I begin all my teaching with this acknowledgment. I am honored and obligated to my ancestors to do it.
Next in my processes of teaching, I acknowledge myself and my identities. Here are a few of the things with which I identify:
•Native (Ohkay Owingeh/Diné/ Uncompahgré) •Human Ecologist/Geographer •National Geographic Society Explorer •Social Researcher •Banjo player •Mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, writer… •King Alfonso X enthusiast, the original pluralist! •Blogger •Craftsperson •Nature enthusiast.
I could also say, I’m a mother, daughter, friend, spouse, aunt, grandmother, motorcycle rider, and writer.
Embedded in each of these identities that I share with you denotes aspects of my of my culture. However, the most challenging part of working to educate students, especially those from a dominant identity (Anglo-European descent) about culture is that they possess a culture. Many of my students tell me, “I don’t really have a culture. I’m just an American.” That just tells me that they have not thought about their identities.
Each of us, if we think about it, has several identifying factors that contributes to our cultural identity. You have the same sets of identities – each with sets of verbiage, practices, and thought processes that are part of your culture.
Certainly, our environments influence our patterns of behavior, our ways of knowing, our ways of living. I grew up in a mountain environment, as pictured here. We learn certain behaviors to thrive in mountain valleys, which can be different than the tallgrass prairie where I live now. In humans’ cultural practices, we learn, adapt, and adopt, often maintaining our foundational family and community systems.
Prairie or mountains: both are beautiful, and we adapt and adopt the cultural aspects of each geography.
Speaking of geography, I grew up in a household where National Geographic magazine was honored as much as the family bible. My father read them from cover to cover. My brothers saw them as anatomy lessons. I vowed to visit all the places imaginable. My work with National Geographic Society, as an explorer, put me in company with the likes of Maria Mitchell, noted astronomer in the 19th Century, Munazza Alam, 21st century astrophysicist searching for Earth’s twin, Harriet Chalmers Adams, journalists in the French trenches of World War 1, and notably, traveled to Africa to see Haile Selassie’s coronation as emperor of Ethiopia. Of course, everyone knows the names of Edmund Hillary, Jacques Couteau, and Alexander Graham Bell as NGS explorers, but I encourage you to seek out the females who made great strides in the name of discovery. Being a NGS explorer is the greatest way I can honor my father’s love of knowledge.
Two of the great products of my NGS funding was developing introductory course in geography for females of color, now in its fifth year, also thanks to our Center for Engagement and Community Development’s incentive grants, I was able to study the women in the African diaspora in rural SW Kansas, which became a chapter in a book recently published. Here’s a picture of the book. My chapter covers the women of the African Diaspora now settled in Southwest Kansas. It tells of the brave women, displaced from their countries by war, worked in the beef packing plants while raising families and navigating health care, educational, and faith systems.
If you have read previous blog entries of mine, you would know that I greatly esteem George Washington Carver, the great genius in botany, invention, music, art, and philosophy.
Carver had a small homestead in Beeler, Kansas. As a child, his slave owners near Diamond, Missouri actually saw his genius in plant pathology. He came to Kansas, finished high school, and applied and was accepted into Highland college until he showed up. Carver was denied a college education in Kansas, because of teh color of his skin.
He found his academic home, first at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. Only being allowed to study the fine arts, his art teacher took great interest in his botanical illustration. She connected Carver to her biologist husband who was teaching at what is now Iowa State University. Carver received is Master’s degree there where his brilliance was duly noted by Henry Ford, who had invited him to work since Carver had created rubber out of golden rod. Thomas Edison tried to recruit him as an inventor since Carver was noted as a great inventor, having patents on wood stains made from peanuts and sweet potatoes. Alas, he went to work at Tuskegee “Normal” Institute at the invitation of Booker T. Washington, because it was there that he’d “do the most good.” Carver taught chemistry, botany, and other biology at Tuskegee until his death. I found this picture on the internet with Carver’s rules to live by: “Education is the key to unlock the golden doors of freedom.”
Once a year, I pay homage to King Alfonso X, who ruled Castile-Leon (now Spain) in the 13th Century. Here are a few facts about the “Learned King.”
He ruled from1252 – 1284 13th C. Medieval – Father of Castilian language, which we now call Spanish. During his time, his language was Galician-Portuguese, also called “Romance”
420 songs, poems, and commissioned 3 dimensional pieces as a way to teach morality to his subjects.
He had just missed being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor because he was “too learned!” according to the Pope of the Catholic Church at the time. I wrote a blog better examining the King last November. No doubt, I will write another about the king in the coming fall.
I like learning about different species in the animal world. I was a volunteer teacher at a zoo in Southwest Kansas. If you want to learn more about a subject, teach it! I was able to handle lots of cool animals. Here I am with a goshawk.
Finally, exploring my Indigenous roots remains an important part of my identity. I still practice the food, the songs, and the rituals of my grandmothers. The fire featured as my main image illustrates one of those practices of cleansing with smoke. I am born for the Ohkay Owingeh and the Dine and born to the Uncompahgre Ute. I have DNA ties to the Athabascan, Alaskan Native. My people, called the San Juan Pueblo by Spanish colonizers of what is now New Mexico. Spaniard plopped right on the Village at the confluence of the Chama and the Rio Grande Rivers. Our villages straddled the rivers, so there was much struggle to keep our culture, our food ways, and our identities as The People of the Strong Land. You can see a stature of our great leader, Popay, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Despite the push toward erasure, we are still here!
My family remains the most important, my children, grandchildren, spouse, parents, siblings, and extended family, natural and adopted, as I call my dear friends. Find what makes you happy, and develop curiosity about an array of subjects. For me, I can only think knowledge is the best brain food.
My featured image was painted by one of my best friends and favorite artists, Carole Geier. Her Ribbon Dancer comes later in the narrative, too. I’ve featured her art previously on my blog. It relates to this blog entry as it features a contemplative woman, which may describe me and the main character in the short story of which I will review.
Before I was a geographer and human scientist, I was an English major. It seemed a likely choice given my interest in literature. My love for music also drove my work in public radio. Like comparative analyses that we do in literature, I like to do the same with music.
Toni Cade Bambara, who was active in the 1960s and 1970s as a writer, film-maker, social activist, and college professor, wrote some fabulous short stories. I like that her writing used great rhythms in the narratives. Gorilla, My Love stands out for me, so I share this review that I wrote for Bambara’s narrative about Harlem through the eyes of the young “Hazel.” The story addresses many experiences of the young African American female, including her views of social injustices. This short story brilliantly illustrates a gifted young female, who, for many reasons, does not get her due respect from society.
My commentary is rather dense, so I will break it up with photos that may or may not connect to my narrative.
Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara
Critics writing about Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “Gorilla, My Love” agree that her use of language promotes positive images about black urban life, and teaches important lessons without becoming preachy. Ruth Burks, Elliott Butler-Evans, Klaus Ensslen and Madhu Dubey point to no weaknesses in Bambara’s story. Rather the weaknesses lie in their criticism because of detachment from Bambara’s characters’ culture, misuse of words, and faulty interpretation of the text. The critics, rightly, cite Bambara’s use of a young female as a brilliant tool to give the story the ability to address social injustices without heavy-handed didacticism (Dubey 19), but they show disconnectedness with the writer’s culture, for example, by not recognizing the difference between street-wise and precocious when describing Bambara’s main character, Hazel. Each espouses strong opinions about a culture that perhaps none truly understands. The four critics each agree that Bambara’s language received heavy influence from the music of black Americans. They don’t; however, appear to know what elements in the music Bambara imitates when she writes. For instance, they use terms interchangeably, like jazz and Negro spiritual, when explaining the rhythm of Bambara’s story. The faulty criticism, however, does not lessen the strength of Bambara’s tale because the overall tone of the critics’ ideas stayed supportive.
Burks, Butler-Evans, Ensslen and Dubey each cite Bambara’s use of Black urban vernacular as a successful way to give readers a realistic picture of a black child’s life in her neighborhood and community. Elliott Butler-Evans describes Hazel’s speech patterns and delivery as a “restricted linguistic code of Black urban life” (94). His narrow vision doesn’t consider that some of Hazel’s verbal expressions come from immature language development and have nothing to do with her ethnicity. For instance, she uses the term “scary” for scared. She contracts the demand, “let me” to “lemme.” She calls Big Brood’s Spaulding basketball or baseball glove a “Spaudeen” (Prescott 676). She uses incorrect placement of a possessive in, “And I’m flingin’ the kid in front of me’s popcorn” (Prescott 677). While many might point to Hazel’s dialect as “the language of lazy or under-educated Americans,” that illustrates the dominant dialect in the United States. For example, she uses contractions of words heard in everyday speech: cause for because, musta for must have, and most noticeable, she leaves the –ing sound off many words like grabbing, flinging, something and throwing. African-American vernacular does not claim exclusivity to these terms. Bambara mixes the black vernacular with the immature child’s linguistic skills to address social issues through the eyes of innocence.
None of the critics’ main points appear to be original since they mostly agreed that Bambara’s strengths lie in her use of language. No opinions strongly oppose each other. The critics strayed when they stated their opinions without support from the text, cultural insights, or background. Klaus Ensslen attributes to Hazel, supposedly between the ages of eight and 12, the power of profound insight. For instance, Ensslen notes that Hazel’s term for Brandy’s friend, Thunderbuns, refers to “the borrowed or relegated thunder of her authority” (48). This shows detachment to the culture of youth and to the mind of a precocious girl. Hazel attributes to Brandy and Thunderbuns slothful, animal features to show inferiority to her own energetic, intelligent self. Hazel likes to pop empty potato chip bags so that “the matron come trottin down the aisle with her chunky self” (Prescott 676). Later Hazel reminds the reader that Thunderbuns “do not play and do not smile” (Prescott 677). Hazel does not possess the idea that the name, Thunderbuns, comes from the thunder of borrowed authority. In her youth, she attacks physical elements of the two adults with less-than-authoritative airs by condescending to them and by using names that describe their physical appearances. This instance illustrates Hazel’s youthful intelligence.
As if to say that a young, black girl could only get her intelligence from the streets, Dubey and Burks refer to Hazel as “streetwise.” The term streetwise usually refers to one with enhanced survival skills from living in the streets, which does not appear to be Bambara’s intention for her young character. Hazel does not come from the streets. She lives surrounded by a close-knit, loving family, which does not usually describe a child with street smarts. Hazel reads maps, asserts herself to protect her loved-ones, shows self-confidence in her knowledge, and asks intelligent questions. By reading maps, not a usual skill of a pre-pubescent child, she directs the pecan-gathering trip. She protects Big Brood in the park and protects the money from bullies by putting it in her shoe (Prescott 676). She asks for ticket reimbursement from the theater manager claiming false advertisement, which is good insight for a preteen. Her questions, apparently, threaten teachers since she often hears that they are out of line. Hazel expresses confidence in her consummate knowledge of things by proclaiming, “When in reality I am the smartest kid P.S. 186 ever had in its whole lifetime and you can ax anybody” (Prescott 678). Burks and Dubey wrongly assume that Hazel gains her intelligence from the streets, which further shows a misunderstanding of her youth and the culture.
The four critics of record hit the mark with their highlighting Bambara’s strengths in language use. Each takes a different approach, however. Burks sees the story as having more anger, sadness and negative points. Her notion of “incongruity of language” (50) sheds a dark light on Hunca Bubba’s not waiting for Hazel to grow up to marry him. The conflict of the story does not lie in Hazel’s misunderstanding with her uncle’s false marriage proposal. It lay in her friction with the theater manager and the school. Hazel’s experiencing disappointment with a family who loves her does not need to be ranked with the injustices of false advertising to children and teachers who ignore a precocious child because she’s black. The family offers support to a disappointed child, but the schools and theater are less likely to show empathy. Perhaps Klaus Ensslen meant to say the same thing when he noted that Bambara used “family and friends as a social backdrop” (44). Incongruity of Language describes the conflict with those outside the family, and that language shows differences from the dominant culture, as Butler-Evans charges. It seems more likely that Bambara wanted to emphasize conflict of blacks with the dominant culture rather than conflict within the family, which would be a less positive approach.
Ensslen, Dubey and Butler-Evans look at Bambara’s short story with optimism toward Bambara’s linguistic genius. Butler-Evans and Dubey agree that Hazel’s vernacular paints her as a cultural insider and note that her speech is accessible even to those outside the culture. It has reach outside the culture. How else would Bambara make her political statements? Hazel’s voice lends credibility to the story with her view on social injustices. Told by an older person, the same views would be construed as observations made by an under-educated, embittered and angry adult: “…grownups playin’ change-up and turnin’ you round every which way so bad. And don’t even say they sorry” (Prescott 680). This supports Dubey’s claim that, “Hazel’s voice functions as the sharpest linguistic weapon allowing Bambara to attack social issues without heavy-handed didacticism”(19). Ensslen called Bambara’s “didactic impulse” usable lessons in a committed life(41). This strength and the multi-layered use of language in Bambara’s short story stand out as the hallmark of “Gorilla, My Love,” according to Burks, Butler-Evans, Dubey and Ensslen, but the points missed with Hazel’s linguistic voice parallel the critics’ misunderstanding of the elements that make Bambara’s writing emulate jazz.
Burks and Ensslen refer to the music of Black Americans when describing Bambara’s written cadences, but they appear to be unsure of the elements that make it jazz. In referring to the rhythm and musicality of Bambara’s story, Ensslen notes that her improvisational use of oral forms of expression owes much to the black music especially to the bebop of the postwar decades, as she herself acknowledged” (42). He alludes to an interview in which she credits bebop jazz musicians Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie for her literary voice. Ensslen merely alludes to one of the strongest elements of Bambara’s story, perhaps, because he doesn’t fully understand how “Gorilla, My Love” truly parallels an improvisational jazz piece. Consider Parker and Gillespie’s tune, “Night in Tunisia.” The tune, played by their jazz quartet, begins with the string bass introducing the theme, which is then joined by Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet, which takes the lead while being accompanied by Parker’s alto saxophone, the bass and drums (recording). The introduction in “Tunisia” parallels Hazel’s opening “That was the year Hunca Bubba changed his name.” Both introduce a theme. The quartet broadens its theme within several bars and measures, so does Hazel name the characters to set the story’s stage. Staying in the same musical key, Charlie Parker departs from the main theme to improvise his musical self-expression the same way Hazel uses an image in the photograph, one of many sub-themes, as a springboard to relay her story about an experience at the Washington Theater. In the jazz piece, Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet overtakes a slight nod to the theme with a second improvisation. Gillespie’s improvisation parallels Hazel’s story within her story, Big Brood up on the cross, because it represents additional expression influenced by the original theme. At the end of Gillespie’s ad-libbing, the remainder of the quartet rejoins him with the original theme like Hazel who brings her two stories, the theater and crucifixion, to an end with her yelling, “Shut is off.” If Ensslen understood jazz improvisation, he may have been more successful in connecting Bambara’s strong sense of rhythm and pace with jazz improvisation.
Ruth Burks makes a similar mistake by lumping all black music into one category to describe Bambara’s cadence. Burks likens the tempo of Bambara’s story to Negro Spirituals, which is incorrect. Burks declares that the plaintive voice of spirituals permeated “Gorilla, My Love.” Consider the spiritual, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The song opens with a slow-moving theme followed by a sorrowful response, “Comin’ for to carry me home.” The song continues with call and response, short statement with repetitious reply, through to the end (Quick 184). Unlike jazz, no one leaves the theme to improvise another musical interlude or uses the theme as a launching pad to tell a story within the story. Bambara’s “Gorilla, My Love” possesses very little elements of the Negro Spiritual. In contrast to the spiritual, Gorilla moves quickly as several vignettes unfold within the story. The energy is high since it’s told from a young, precocious girl’s point of view. Quick beat and high energy hardly describe Negro spirituals with their slow cadences and, often, melancholy themes. Burks’ allusion to, “constant repetition” (49), connotes jazz improvisation, but she describes Bambara’s pace as Negro spiritual because of unfamiliarity with jazz and with Bambara’s influences. The mistakes still don’t detract from the over all positive tone of the criticism, however.
The four critics, Burks, Butler-Evans, Dubey and Ensslen, all in all, like Bambara’s writing. They agree that her use of language promotes positive images about black urban life while teaching life’s important lessons without proselytizing. They find no weaknesses, but their own lack of knowledge, regarding black culture, weakens their interpretation of the story through misuse of words. The critics’ own stereotyping of the black culture becomes evident when they don’t recognize the difference between street-wise and precocious when describing Bambara’s main character, Hazel. Butler-Evans confuses black linguistic patterns with the speech skills of a preteen. Ensslen gives Hazel’s coping mechanism of name calling an adult’s scrutiny by charging her with deeper thought than one her age may practice. Dubey and Burks miss the mark by equating Hazel’s intelligence to the survival skills of a child from the streets. Finally, the four critics each agree that Bambara’s language received heavy influences from the music of black Americans. They don’t, however, appear to know what elements in the music Bambara imitates when she writes. The intent of the critics appears supportive of Bambara’s message, but faulty interpretation of the text lessens their credibility.
So, find the short story by Bambera. then find Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia,” or one of Charlie Parker’s upbeat Jazz pieces, and experience the rhythms for yourself. I find it most pleasurable.
Our friends joke about having a, “Covid bubble.” The Covid bubble contains a very small group of people who practice physical distancing, keep very serious sanitizing routines, and have little public exposure. We maintain a Covid bubble with a few friends. Since we still have to eat, often we choose to eat together…at a distance.
A few weeks ago, I had to travel to present a documentary in which I was involved. Humanities Kansas pays chosen speakers to talk about their projects. While I did not make the film, I was, somewhat, involved with its production. Strangers in Town. The film chronicles immigrants in a rural community and their positive impact on communities. Watch it and see what you think.
While I was in the area, we stayed with our good friends Mark and Kathy. The rest of the “Covid Bubble, ” Bob and Adrian, showed up for happy hour. Bob, an avid hunter, brought his smoked duck to the small gathering. Mark, another avid hunter, added elk smoked sausage. Adrian and Kathy added cheeses and crackers, and, voilà! We added gin and tonics to the menu for a lovely meal and great conversation. Here’s Bob with the duck:
He says the best way to smoke a duck:
Brine the duck in 1 cup (200g) brown sugar, 1 cup (273g) salt in 1 gallon (3.785 litres) for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, drain the duck. Pat dry, and place in smoker until the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees (68.33 Celsius). Cool and serve. The smoked duck and elk sausage offer nice changes in meats on a charcuterie board.
The next morning, Kathy served a wonderful breakfast of egg, bacon, and cheese on a multi-grain bagel. That delicious meal serves as my featured image for this blog. One of the many things I love about my friends is that we all like to cook/bake, and we all like to eat.
In this time of Covid, we work quite diligently at make our meals special. I know that I write on this subject quite often, but I cannot emphasize this enough. Find those moments where you can derive special pleasures even out of the most mundane things. That concept surely plays a key role in sound mental health during isolating and challenging times.
Weeks later, we took a special trip with Mark and Kathy. We drove to their second home in Western New York where lakes were frozen hard enough to land small aircraft and support hundreds of ice fisher persons. Of course, one cannot be near a lake and not partake in good things that come from water. We like to eat at a little place called, Guppy’s. They specialize in the bounties of lake, ocean, and sea waters. The evening we ate there, I had the mussels steamed in a delicate wine, garlic, and butter sauce. Come to think of it, one could steam an old shoe in white wine, garlic, and butter, and it would likely be yummy. I digress. The mussels in their sauce came with a side of linguine and a glass of chardonnay, naked, not aged in oak barrels, a specialty of a nearby vineyard.
I should mention that the community posted 124 inches of snow had fallen since the beginning of winter. The frozen lake and all its charms were just one of the highlights. We traveled to Lake Erie one of the days. It had large snow cliffs where the waves had lapped up against the shore only to freeze in the process. Mark took this lovely picture of Kathy standing on one of the snow cliffs. It looked surreal at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Later, Kathy and I trekked out onto the lake close to her house. I wore my vintage grizzly bear coat, popular in the 1970s, which protected me from the elements quite well.
We spent Valentines Day with our Kathy and Mark at this auspicious lake cottage, so we decided to prepare a loving meal of lobsters, baked potatoes, drawn butter, and asparagus. We ate like queens and kings and washed it all down with, again, the local chardonnay. I loved it. I like a meal that makes me work hard for the sweet morsels of meat hidden behind an exoskeleton. Crusty bread made its way from Kansas to Western New York, so we had that, too.
Back home again, we arrived just a few days after freezing temperatures had dipped well below zero (-15F). Our neighbors dripped the kitchen faucet for us, so we came home to a cozy house feeling lucky that no pipes had burst. We found the four bird feeders and heated water dish quite empty with only a block of feed, meant for deer, as the only remaining food for our yard visitors. They flocked back to the yard once feeders and waters dishes filled.