Connections are important to me. Connections between people. Connections between people and nature. If we had more of both, I believe we'd have a lot fewerproblems in the world. While this blog focuses on connections between kids from different cultures and kids and nature, I'd like to take a little side trip today. It may seem disconnected to you, but stick with me. I hope my comments will help you understand.
How connected are your children or students to their relatives, both dead and living? I ask this question because I believe fully understanding your family's values and beliefs enables you to make choices about continuing or rejecting those beliefs.
I am fortunate to come from a solid foundation. I grew up with my relatives nearby. When I was young, four generations lived on our farm, so I had a sense of family history. I felt loved by my great-grandfather and great grandmother right on down to my aunts and uncles. I learned to live close to the land as I helped feed the animals, bring in the hay, and work the vegetable gardens. I learned independence romping in the woods and fields alone or building forts with my friends. I'm certain I am a naturalist because of this early beginning.
Only later, as a pre-teen, did I start to question the opinions expressed by certain relatives. I heard racial and ethnic slurs uttered on many occasions by some extended relatives. One grandfather thought women should stay home and have babies. He told my parents, "You do not waste money educating women." I didn't always like my extended family or the prejudice that existed. My questioning of that prejudice, and my parents' recognition of it, gave me the courage to grow and reach for something better. Being firmly rooted to my nuclear family and my home gave me the courage to spread my wings and fly half way around the world as an exchange student when I was just 16 years old, even when my grandfather said I belonged at home.
My parents did not want us to repeat my family's history of racism, sexism, antisemitism, etc. (you name an "-ism," it was present in my extended family). They worked hard and raised their daughters to be strong and independent. They pushed us to aim high. Each of us has studied abroad and earned Master's degrees- the first women in our family to do either. Each of us is a strong independent woman because of our parents. Each of us views the world in a more global way than was the norm in our small home town. I am certain I am passionate about race relations and interactions between people because of the blatant prejudices I experienced as a child and my parents' critical responses to it.
The other day, as I walked in my yard photographing my beautiful flowers, all of these ideas flooded my mind. What made that happen you might ask? My strong roots, that's what. I live in the house my maternal grandparents lived in when I was a child. My parents live in my paternal grandparent's house. All around me I see evidence of my grandparents. This home is certainly ours now- we've lived here more than 15 years and made many changes to make it our own. One thing that hasn't changed is some of the gardens and plants. As I walk through my gardens, I see the flowers my grandmother planted all those years ago still blooming. Her snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils still push up through the snow every spring. Each time I see them I think of her and smile. My front garden is a riot of color right now- some of it my grandmother's plants, some of it plants dug from friends' and relatives' gardens over the years. Gardening goes way back in my family. As I walked and photographed each of those flowers yesterday, I thought of the person who gave them to me. And there's the seed of this whole post: connections between the people in my life (some living, some dead) and nature, in the form of the plants they gave me.
For your viewing pleasure... here is a sampling of those flowers and who they're from:
My deceased grandmother's clematis. This is the first time it has bloomed for me.
My grandmother's iris. Yellow was her favorite color.
Peony dug from my uncle's garden. That ant is doing it's job--soon a full bloom!
Lupine my mom grew from seed.
Geranium dug from my great aunt's garden 10 years ago.
Iris from the original plant my mom dug from her grandmother's garden back in the 60's.
I maintain strong connections to the family that nurtures me. I embrace my family’s legacy of living close to the earth- of growing food and flowers and animals-but I reject the legacy of prejudice. I can only choose to embrace or reject something once I have recognized it, considered it, and acted in response to it.
How about you? What is your family legacy? What makes you proud? What do you want to change for your children? How will you make that happen?
Oh, how I love these sisters of mine. I’m so thankful they’re both here for most of this month. #family
The volcanic island of Salina is my husband’s ancestral home on his father’s side. We first visited there back in 2012 and were able to track down the marriage license for his great-grandparents. (Read about that experience here: http://www.michellecusolito.com/blog/2012/07/family-roots.html?rq=Salina). On this trip, we visited the cemetery and photographed all of the graves with the family names. Now we need to do some detective work to trace them all back.
The island has been called magical by some and I have to say I agree. Everywhere you turn is a spectacular view. The water is warm and clear, so swimming is a joy. And if you’re on the Malfa side of the island, you can watch glowing orange lava flow from the volcanic island called Stromboli every night. (It’s the cone shaped island in the photos 3 and 8. Just 4 hours after we left, Stromboli had a violent eruption that killed one tourist and sent about 30 other tourists jumping into the sea). #travel #nature #volcano #familyhistory
Flora and Fauna on Salina.
Salina is one of the Aeolian Islands just north of Sicily and was our final destination before returning home. Here’s an assortment of plants (and one animal) we saw while there. #Nature #travel
While we were in Sicily, we went up Mt. Etna- the largest and most active volcano in Europe. We drove most of the way up, then took a cable car, and finally, a Unimog took us up to the newest craters at about 10,000 feet (3000 m). The temperatures were much cooler at that higher altitude, which was a welcome break from the heat wave that covered most of Western Europe that week. We saw several ladybugs (ladybirds) and learned that in July, the mountaintop is orange from the number of ladybugs present. #travel #nature #volcano
Taormina is set into a hillside, so many of the houses have spectacular views of the sea. Our rental was no exception. Taormina is also home to The Greek Theatre which overlooks both the gorgeous coastline and the cone of Mt. Etna. Construction on the theatre likely started in the third century BCE and was later renovated by the Romans, probably during the rule of Trajan or Hadrian in the second century CE. What’s really cool is that shows still happen there regularly in the summer months. They were setting up for one when we visited. The roads in Taormina are often steep and always narrow, even on two-way streets. Drivers spend much of their time backing up or looking for a place to get out of the way so cars can pass. #travel #history
(Image of a flower on Gozo)
Lest you think our vacation was all fun and games, we’re going to take a break from our regularly scheduled program to talk about the less fun aspects of our recent trip.
1. My son got stung by a fire worm while we were SCUBA diving.
2. We had to bring my daughter to the E.R. in Malta when she developed a whole body rash with redness and swelling in her face/ lips. (The rash lasted for a week). 3. My good SLR camera bag (complete with camera and lenses) got left in a taxi.
4. The mosquitos are on steroids or something because we all got welts unlike from the mosquitoes here. I’m STILL scratching more than a week later.
5. My husband and daughter came down with a rather unpleasant stomach bug within hours of getting home.
FYI: Everyone is fine now and my camera was recovered.
None of this was fun. We obviously didn’t want it to happen. But so much of travel is about attitude. You have to look on the bright side. Neither the sting nor the rash were life threatening. (And that ER trip cost us a grand total of 47.50). My camera was returned, but even if it hadn’t been, it’s just “stuff.” We were there for experiences.
These stories aren’t unique. The last time we went to Sicily, we all got scabies. When my husband and I were in Niger with my sister, we could have been seriously injured (or worse) when our car broke down in the bush and a whole bunch of scary stuff ensued. (It’s WAY too long of a story for insta). In Morocco, we got a very bad case of “Travelers D” while on a camel trek. I could go on.
None of this dissuades us from travel. Most of this stuff could happen to us anywhere, even right here at home.
And plus... we end up with good stories to tell when we get back.
Our final day in the country of Malta was spent on the main island (also called Malta) in Valletta, the capital. I found the architecture particularly interesting. And, how could you not love the blue of the water and sky when seen through that arch? #travel
Thanks to @Middleborough Public Library for hosting me today. I love this mural outside of the children’s room! (Photo taken by my sister). #FlyingDeep
A final sampling of photos from Gozo.
The country of Malta has a long and interesting history. There are Neolithic sites that date back more than 5, 000 years on both Gozo and Malta and evidence of various conquerors from the Phoenicians to the Romans to the Arabs can be felt there. In the late 1700’s, Napoleon took over the islands only to be defeated by the British shortly after. The British ruled until 1964 when Malta became an independent nation. As a result, the Maltese drive on the left side of the road and there are two national languages: English and Maltese.
First three photos: Gjantija Temples, UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating from 3600 BCE #travel #history #nature
Capers and caper berries.
Did you know that the little things we eat called capers are actually the buds of this plant before they bloom? The best ones are reportedly the small ones that are harvested early in the morning before the blazing sun gets up. Most of the capers for sale here in the U.S. are preserved in brine, but I prefer the ones preserved in straight sea salt. Salina is known for these and even has a caper festival in early June.
Caper plants grow all over Gozo, Malta, Sicily, and Salina. The plants especially like rocky edges. If you let the flower bloom, the berry that follows can also be preserved in brine and eaten like the capers (second to last photo. Sorry it’s blurry). #travel #mediterraneanfood