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?
Books entertain. Enlighten. Comfort. Educate.
The best examples connect us.
Dreamers by @YuyiMorales is one of those books. Yesterday, I had time at Barnes and Noble while my daughter was off with friends. I went to the picture book section to see what’s new. Dreamers was on prominent display. I read it and my eyes filled with tears at the beauty & longing & sadness & joy all wrapped into one story.
I bought it and went to @Mirasolscafe to write. I worked diligently for a while until a man sat down, said “hello,” & asked how my day was.
At first, I was a little annoyed. I was working. I didn’t want to chat. But for some reason, I set my work aside to talk with him. During a lull in the noise, I noticed his accent. He asked what I was doing. “Researching.” He asked what that word means. I did my best to explain. I answered his questions about my research for Flying Deep. He told me he is uneducated, but he is going to elementary school to learn English. He recently read his first book.
When he mentioned his childhood, I asked where he grew up. Mexico. I had to tell him about Dreamers: it felt so relevant, especially since English books are now in his grasp. I tried to describe it but realized I needed to show it to him. How could he hear about the book & not see its gorgeous images? I told him I would get it from my car.
I told him to take a look while I went to the ladies’ room. When I came out, he was looking page by page. He said, “This is a good book.” We talked about the word resplendent. He told me the Spanish translation (resplandeciente) while I apologized for not being able to speak Spanish.
I learned that his son has a 3 year-old son. I asked if he would be able to get the book to his grandson. He said, “yes.” I gave it to him.
Then he switched & spoke to me in Spanish. He asked my name. Michelle. I asked his. Pedro. We shook hands, thanked each other for the conversation, & said good-bye. Our time was up. I had to pick up my daughter.
I could have talked longer, but somehow that chance meeting also felt perfect just as it was.
Thank you @yuyimorales for the gift of your book.
Lumpia: little packages of deliciousness. Lumpia is a Filipino food I loved when I lived in Cebu. (I didn’t love it as much as pancit or milk fish sisig, but I loved it). A Filipina named Maria, who lives in Galena, AK, made them for me when I was visiting last month. (My friend asked her to make them for me). I was happy to speak a little Cebuano with Maria and eat her Alaskan version of lumpia which was made with a combination of moose meat and pork. #pinoy
We spent our final days in Alaska with our friends at their home in a village called Galena. Galena is west of Fairbanks and is “off the road system,” which means you can only get there by plane this time of year. (When the Yukon River freezes over, they can drive up the river). We spent quality time with our friends and our kids got to know each other. The kids also had little adventures of their own such as paddling a raft across the Yukon River, which you see in these photos. You’ll also see me prepping to go up with our friend in his bush plane, a view from the air, and some veggies in their huge garden. (Our friends prefer not to post pics on social media, so I’m only sharing a few pics in which their kids are far off and not identifiable).
I love this quirky #streetart Made me smile last night in Historic downtown New Bedford, MA.
#HatchStreetStudios in New Bedford has open studios the second Saturday of every month. The building is home to a variety of talented visual and performing artists, including a clown. Yesterday she taught my daughter to spin plates. We also viewed gorgeous art, joined in on a ukulele strumming session, ate some good food from Destination Soups, and watched various other musicians perform. Sharing space with so many creative people is invigorating.
Great day yesterday at #hatchstreetstudios . A day filled with art, music, and community. This is the New Time String Band from @southcoastlessons performing. (My whole family has taken lessons with Jeff on guitar, bass, piano, ukulele, and banjo. Of course, he teaches fiddle, too. He’s wonderful. He’s also enrolling new students now).
Alaska Photos, part 3 (2nd attempt). Something wonky happened to yesterday’s post and the kayaking photos didn’t appear. So here they are. The one of my family on land features the Valdez Glacier behind us.
Alaska, Part 3: Rafting and Kayaking
We rafted on the Copper River and kayaked among icebergs in Valdez in a glacial lake that is 600 feet (183 meters) deep. I wasn’t able to take photos while rafting, but here are a couple from shore. The drive into Valdez is spectacular, so I’ve included a few pics of that along with pics in Valdez proper and while kayaking. #nature
Alaska Photos, Part 2.
We spent three nights at our friends’ cabin about 30 minutes outside of Fairbanks. The last time we visited, they didn’t have power in the cabin. Now there is power, but there’s still no running water or centralized heat (there’s a wood stove and a space heater). My family loved this peaceful location that felt miles from everything. If we didn’t know where the cabin was, we wouldn’t have found it. We literally parked on the side of the dirt road and slipped into a narrow trail that wasn’t obvious from the road. My two favorite things about the place: 1. Nearly every square inch of ground is covered with moss, lichen, mushrooms, or low plants. 2. The silence there on an August afternoon or evening is absolute. This is so different from home. My daughter commented on it many times. When we got home, the insect night sounds at our house seemed deafening! (Swipe left for more images. The last video with the black screen is the sounds here at home right now. Turn up the volume). #nature #peaceful
My family spent a couple of weeks in Alaska. This is a sampling of shots taken with my phone at Denali National Park and Preserve. (I posted my SLR photos on FB if you wish to see them. That post is public). #nature #getoutside #nationalparks