The Rio Grande: A River of Myth and Imagination

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

photo Denise Ames

The Rio Grande, a river of myth and imagination, winds its way through my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The river’s source lies high in the San Juan mountains located in south-central Colorado. The river snakes its way 1,896 miles to unceremoniously trickle into the Gulf of Mexico. But the mileage may change year to year as new channels are etched into the land or existing channels may silt up. The river travels the length of New Mexico, the fifth largest state in size in the US. A fact that New Mexicans like to boast about.

photo Denise Ames

City and state leaders in the past exercised a great deal of foresight in designating a wide swath of land on either side of the Rio Grande as a protected area for wildlife and people who want to experience nature. I am lucky that it is close by and I can easily access the trails crisscrossing the banks of the mighty Rio Grande so that I may hike to my heart’s content.

This fall I was dismayed to see the Rio Grande dwindle to a mere dribble in spots. Visitors were able to wade out to the middle of the river where currents were normally strong and swift and stand knee deep in the passive water pools. A surreal spectacle.

photo Denise Ames

Since the mid–20th century, heavy water consumption by farms and cities along with many large diversion dams on the river has left only 20% of its natural discharge to empty into the Gulf. Near the river’s mouth, the heavily irrigated lower Rio Grande Valley is an important agricultural region and draws most of the water. But this year it seems particularly low compared to past years. Fall rains in the north have replenished water levels somewhat, so the river doesn’t look quite so thirsty, but it still hovers below the normal range.

photo Denise Ames, owl is just a dot!

Despite the low water levels, the Rio Grande still offers me an enjoyable assemblage of natural delights. Birds are always fluttering about, chirping nonstop to some compatriot nearby. Perhaps warning them of our approach. Egrets stoically stake out the sand and mud dunes in the middle of the river, in their constant search for fish or other edible creatures. Occasionally, an owl will be sited, camouflaged in the canopy of leafy branches sheltering the walking trails.

What is most wonderous is that the river cuts through the middle of Albuquerque, a bustling city of 915,000, straddling the river’s banks and fanning out miles beyond its shores. This stretch of land and water—a quiet respite from the wailing sirens, unmufflered cars, and megalith semis dulling our hearing sense—is a true treasure. It reminds me that nature is always there for me, providing a soothing sedative to a life that often seems beyond my understanding.      

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Sandhill Cranes are Back in Albuquerque!

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

Sandhill cranes, Albuquerque, NM photo Denise Ames

November is always a special month for me—flocks of Sandhill Cranes winter in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Albuquerque warmly welcomes the migrating visitors by providing open space fields of grains specially planted for them to feast upon during their wintery stay.

They have a deep-throated honk that distinguishes them from Canadian geese that also winter with them. As they fly over the turquoise-blue skies of Albuquerque, honking for their family to follow, they always trigger me to turn my gaze upward to contemplate upon their beauty and gracefulness in flight.

photo Denise Ames

They teeter around on spindly legs, but miraculously can grow up to four feet tall. With their long necks, and prominent beaks, they look like a pre-historic bird species. And indeed, they might be one of the oldest birds still alive. In Nebraska, where they also winter, a crane fossil estimated to be about 10 million years old was found to have the identical structure as the modern Sandhill crane. Presently, the Sandhill cranes visiting Albuquerque are not on the endangered list.

Although we just call them “the cranes,” their scientific name is Grus canadensis. They live to about 20 years old and mated pairs stay together for the year. They will start having young between two and seven years old. Sporting light gray feathers, they have a distinctive red patch around their eyes and above their beak.

Their breeding grounds are in the higher latitudes—Alaska, Canada, Siberia, and northern US—but they seem to like Albuquerque and the Middle Rio Grande Valley, traveling thousands of miles from as far away as the Arctic Circle to reach our scenic environs. Over 18,000 cranes fly in to Albuquerque like clockwork every year during the fall and winter months. By March they have all departed.

photo Denise Ames

They are easily adaptable to a variety of habitats including grasslands, meadows, and wetlands. Their social behavior includes at least ten different types of calls, various threatening postures, and elaborate dances for everything from joy to courtship.

Seeing the sandhill cranes floods me with a feeling that we have a deep connection with wild species that share the planet with us. We usually ignore this feeling or keep it buried in our unconsciousness. But when the sandhill cranes float through the air or peck for food amidst the grain fields, I am grateful to recognize and appreciate this connection. I hope this connection with wild species will be able to continue for following generations.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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New Mexico’s Acequia’s: A Stroll Through the Past

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

Acequia at Candelaria & Glenwood in Albuquerque, NM

I like the word acequias, it has a nostalgic ring to it. They are also a vital part of the culture of my hometown of Albuquerque, and the northern areas of New Mexico and southern Colorado. 

Working like gravity chutes, acequias are irrigation canals that are designed to share water for agriculture with others in the arid lands of the Southwest. They look like a big ditch that are either lined with concrete or made of earthen banks that transport water from a larger source, such as the Rio Grande River in our case, to agricultural lands. 

Interestingly, acequia is a Spanish world that comes from Classical Arabic, which has the double meaning of “the water conduit” or “one that bears water.” This system of irrigation evolved over 10,000 years in the arid regions of the Middle East. In the 8th century, the Arabs brought the technology to Iberia during their occupation of the peninsula. In the United States, the oldest acequias were established more than 400 years ago; many continue to provide a primary source of water for farming and ranching ventures in the region.

The Pueblo Indians in the Southwest practiced various types of water harvesting strategies including floodwater farming and the use of irrigation ditches. When the Spanish arrived in 1540, they combined their Iberian water techniques with indigenous practices, resulting in the innovative and unique system of acequias present throughout the state of New Mexico. Today, there are between 600 and 700 community acequias in the state. 

Communities typically grew around an acequia, as neighbors understood the importance of sharing precious water. Many of the acequias remain intact today because they are tied to individual plots of land, and communities have maintained them. More than four centuries later, acequias remain vital to New Mexico agriculture.

Acequias have an ancient origin, but are important to me because along their banks are trails or roads that are open for enjoyment by walkers, bicyclist, and horseback riders. In Albuquerque, I find them quite beautiful since old Cottonwoods and other trees provide a quiet sanctuary from the nearby city bustle. It is always fun to encounter a wide variety of people enjoying the acequias.

Acequias have brought together communities and neighbors for generations. Although the acequia is community-owned, there is also a system of governance for maintenance and to ensure the water allotment is fair and equitable. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District governs the Albuquerque area system of acequias.

A renewed interest in acequia irrigation has grown in recent years as the local food movement has taken off. Many acequia members sell produce at local farmers markets, giving residents access to healthy, locally grown food. Acequias are a win win proposition: a place to enjoy nature and as a source of water for locally-produced food. I hope they continue for another 400 years.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Seven Take-aways from the 2020 Election!

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

The election of 2020 is behind us (well, almost). I feel compelled to comment on what has happened and what we may encounter in the future.

Here are my top seven takeaways from the tumultuous 2020 election:

1.  We Continue to be Divided!
The country is almost evenly divided between traditionalists (populist right and traditional conservatives) and progressives (populist left and moderates).

2.  We Need to Recognize There is Another Side
I have been preaching this mantra for a long time. Recognizing other cultures starts with understanding our own: left understands right, right understand left!

3.  Money Doesn’t Automatically Buy an Election
Michael Bloomberg should know, spending $1 billion this election cycle. The losing Democratic candidate in South Carolina spent $109 million compared to the Republican winner, $75 million. The list goes on.

4.  Americans Like a Divided Government
We must, we keep electing them. No blue wave materialized in 2020: Senate will likely (depending on Georgia’s 2 special run-offs for Senate) remain Republican, House Democratic, President Democratic, and Supreme Court conservative bent. A system of checks and balances prevails.

5.  Shifting Party Constituencies.
Republican are not a monolithic white party. They made inroads with minority voters, Latino/Hispanics and Blacks. Does the working class emerges as a solid part of the Republican Party? The Democrats appeal to elites (technology, education, income, wealth, celebrities, etc.) Now that is a switch from years past!

6.  Bias in the Polls.
Apparently, pollsters are not immune to bias. Their predications were way off. 

7.  Wake-up for the Woke
From early indications, majority of voters rejected “woke” ideology (cultural elites and far left). If this is true, how will it play out in education, the media, arts, government, and future elections? 

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences–teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections–have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, university, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. TURN encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about TURN’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Sandia Mountain Foothills: Nature’s Best

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

November has just dawned. Although October is my favorite month, November in Albuquerque comes in second. It is usually sunny, cool, with light winds at the most. Perfect weather for hiking in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.

The Sandia’s are a mountain range stretching 17 miles north to south in central New Mexico and immediately to the east of the city of Albuquerque. The mountains are just due south of the southern end of the Rocky Mountains, and are part of the Sandia–Manzano Mountains. It is a protected area known as the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and largely within the Cibola National Forest. The highest point is Sandia Crest, 10,678 feet, which can be accessed via foot trails or automobile.  

Sandia means watermelon in Spanish. The popular reason for the name is that during Albuquerque’s spectacular sunsets, the sun casts a reddish glow—the color of a watermelon—over the mountains, giving it a supernatural luminosity that makes one stop-in-your-tracks to take in the beauty.

Along the base of the Sandia Mountains is a network of trails following the contours of the mountain. They are for the public and heavily used for recreational hiking, running, and mountain biking. Although there are 53 trails crisscrossing the mountain range, I usually stick to the fairly level easy trails along the Sandia base.

My choice of hiking what I and others call the foothill trails is a good one for many reasons. Not only is it just a short drive from anywhere in Albuquerque, but the views are stunning. Turn towards the east and the jugged mountains rise up from the semi-arid desert to expansive heights. Carpeted by ponderosa pine trees in the upper altitudes, the base is populated by cholla cacti and creosote bushes.

Views to the west are equally dramatic, the city of Albuquerque splays outward from its Old Town core as the Rio Grande River meanders its way through the heart of the city. Three extinct volcanoes demarcate the westward limits of Albuquerque, while Mount Taylor, about 50 miles due west as the crow flies, rises 11,035 feet in the far distant horizon.

The trails vary according to the terrain, but my favorite trails are when they narrow and wind through scrub pine and huge boulders the size of a car. Elevation does not vary a lot so it is easy to take your eyes off the trail and gaze about at nature’s semi-arid desert splendor without fear of cascading down a steep mountain cliff.

Fuzzy picture of deer, Sandia foothills trail.

Wildlife along the trail is usually timid, not venturing out too much for fear of being flattened by a mountain bike or chased by an unleashed dog. But I have been shocked by a few rattlesnakes along the trail that I have given wide berth to. I have spotted many different birds, rabbits, deer, and even a bobcat, although luckily, I have never encountered a bear. If I do run into a bear, I hope that I will remember to pull my backpack (if I have one) above my head to make myself look bigger and more of a threat than I actually am.

Albuquerqueans are blessed with a plethora of Open Space parks, trails, and wetlands. It is relatively easy to step outside the bustle of a semi-large city, and immerse myself “in” the beauty and awe that nature so graciously offers us. If we are inclined to rank nature’s bounty in Albuquerque, the foothill trails, I would say, is one of nature’s best.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!  $14.95

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Bosque in October: A Final Encore

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

October is winding its way to the end. Halloween is around the corner, signifying the end of the harvest and the end of October. My favorite month is about to close. But I took a hike a few days ago in my favorite area of the Bosque (woods)—across from Kit Carson Park just south of Central Avenue (old Route 66) in the middle of Albuquerque, New Mexico—and I want to share with you its splendor.

I know, I posted a blog about Kit Carson Park and the Bosque trails due west of it not long ago, but I relished the recent hike so much that I thought you might also enjoy seeing the spectacular trees at their fall peak.

One of the areas that sparkled in the fall sunshine were the ponds dotting the Bosque terrain. Part of a wetland conservation area, the ponds help ensure that thirsty Albuquerque has enough water for its residents. Flocks of geese, ducks, and other aquatic species make these ponds home.

Since that recent hike, we have had a hard frost in Albuquerque and an unseasonable early snow (about 5”)! It signaled the end of the beautiful fall colors and the beginning of late fall brown, beautiful in its own way. But I have memories of the peak of the fall colors just a few short days ago that are still vivid in my mind.

Today, I took another hike in the Bosque, this time just north of Central Avenue, along the Rio Grande River. Indeed, the frost took its toll on the leaves. As they crunched under my shoes as I sadly strolled through the woods, they said to me that we are done with the summer cycle and ready for rest. It’s ok, don’t be forlorn, we will return next year, we always do.

Even in my neighborhood, trees that were in full fall green just a few days ago have dropped their frozen leaves to the ground, with a look of resignation that winter is around the corner.

So forgive me as I post one more blog and more irresistible photos of the Bosque in Albuquerque during its peak of fall colors.  There wouldn’t be any more until next October rolls around, and, hopefully, I will again sing the sacredness of the stunning fall colors.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences–teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections–have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational nonprofit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!  $14.95

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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A Stroll through Kit Carson Park: October in New Mexico

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Kit Carson Park

As I have said before, October is my favorite month! I take every chance to take a hike where I can admire the October leaves as they are turning. At Kit Carson Park, the leaves I am referring to are mainly from the gigantic old cottonwoods that cluster close to the Rio Grande River flowing through Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Kit Caron Park, named after the famed and infamous Kit Caron, the 19th century frontiersman who helped to “open” the West for settlement by Americans clamoring to claim the frontier. He is part of the myth (apparently reluctantly on his part) of the West in which, as the myth goes, daring Americans defied the obstacles and bent the land to their will. They rid the land of the “pesky” Native peoples, who were ignorantly unaware of the treasures they were hoarding. The settlers were the best people in charge of the bounty of the West, since they were able to extract its true worth and set it on the path of progress.

A debate about Kit Carson would be interesting and probably contentious, but I am not in the mood to unpack this thorny issue about the conflict between Native people and their conquerors. Instead, I would like to share with you my hike through the woods next to Kit Carson Park.

The woods just west of Kit Carson Park are part of what is known as the Middle Rio Grande Valley, in central New Mexico. This area is home to a large cottonwood forest, more commonly called The Bosque. Part of the Poplar tree family, the cottonwood is native to Southwestern United States and Mexico. The riparian tree grows near streams, rivers, springs, and wetlands, since they are a thirsty tree consuming 200 gallons of water a day. The trees can grow up to 115 feet tall with huge diameters, some spanning over 4 feet, standing like stoic giants amidst the smaller underbrush. They only grow at elevations below 6,600 ft, so you don’t see cottonwoods in the mountains.

Commonly known as a cottonwood, it gets this designation from the inflorescence, a cluster of flowers arranged on a stem, that consists of a long drooping catkin, which blooms from March to April. The fruit or catkin appears to look like patches of cotton hanging from limbs, hence its name cottonwood. In the spring these fluffs of cotton swirl around in the air, giving the impression that the trees are raining cotton.

The cottonwood tree is sacred to many Native Americans. The Hopi, Pueblo, and Navajo tribes used its roots for carving kachina dolls, masks, and other ceremonial objects. Many Plains Indian tribes call the cottonwood a medicine tree, from which they make from its bark and leaves medicinal herbs to treat wounds and swelling.  Herbalist today still use the cottonwood tree for many remedies. The Ho-Chunk carved dugout canoes from cottonwood trees. Also, the sticky resin from the buds were used by Natives as a type of glue and a yellow dye. Native children made toy tipis and toy moccasins from the leaves and gathered the seeds to use as chewing gum-like treats. Girls and young women used the leaves as a type of whistle to make a bird like sound.

But to me, it is the fall leaves of the cottonwoods that are truly mesmerizing. The leaves turn a golden brownish color, that when fluttering in the breeze during a sunny day glisten and sparkle in a hypnotic way. Since Albuquerque is blessed with a cobalt-blue sky in October, the golden leaves are a vibrant contrast to expansive oceans of blue. A particular feature I like about cottonwood leaves is that they are not static, but the slightest breeze catches them and urges them to quake and shimmer for all to behold their beauty.

It was mostly a still day as I strolled through the woods with a glittering sun pouring its warm over me. The breeze seemed to be hiding but I stopped anyway to see what the leaves were up to. After a pause, a breeze slowly stirred, the sun was hitting at just the right angle, and the leaves began to shimmer with all their splendor. Awww, October in New Mexico, the cottonwood leaves are another delicious site.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences–teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels–have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, she founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book,addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Balloons over Albuquerque: A Magical October Moment

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

Bright blue skies filled with colorful hot air balloons dangling above in the early morning light. A magnificent site? Well, regrettably, not this year. The Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my home-town, is an annual event that started in 1972. Sadly, this is the first year that the organization has had to cancel the popular event. COVID-19 is the culprit yet again.

Even though the balloons did not launch this October 2020, I attended the fiesta last year and still have vivid memories of my experience, and loads of photographs to boot. Thus, I would like to share with you my reflections and photos of the event. That way I can relive it again.

You have to get up early if you want to see the balloons launch in Albuquerque. Also, I am not the only one excited to see the spectacular display, thousands of others brave the cold, dark mornings to get an early view.

I went with a friend and her daughter. We decided to leave at 5:30 a.m. With my alarm set for 4:30, I stumbled out of bed and donned my warm clothes, it is surprisingly cold in the early morning hours in Albuquerque but warms up rapidly in the afternoon. Layers of clothes are recommended. With a hot beverage in our hands, we wound our way through throngs of traffic to one of the mazes of parking lots surrounding the 80-acres launch field. Luckily, it was a relatively short walk to the field.

The Dawn Patrol was still out surveying weather conditions, determining whether the balloons could safely launch. We were in luck, it was an all-clear for lift-off. With all the hub bub and scurrying about by thousands of people, hundreds of balloons, launch vehicles, and all their paraphernalia, everything follows a rather orderly protocol.

A truck comes in laden with balloon baskets, the heater or burner that is fueled by propane and gives lift to the balloon, and the actual balloon. Laid on the ground to its full majesty, the laborious task of filling the balloon with hot air commences. But watching the filling of the balloons is anything but boring. As they slowly expand with hot air, visitors are free to mill about, dodging the balloons as they begin to take their full shape and float upward. One feels like they are part of the whole parade, not a spectator viewing from afar. As the balloon passengers take to the air, they wave to the adoring crowds below, who clap and cheer their appreciation and amazement.

Once the first dozen or so balloons fill the sky, one’s attention is drawn in a million directions. One after another, each balloon goes through the same process before liftoff. Its fun to weave through the crowds to see your favorite balloon float upwards and turn from a gigantic shapeless mass of fabric on the earth to a colorful full image in the sky. As the October sun comes up, it adds brilliance and magic to the scene, and its warmth seeps into cold hands and feet.

It is virtually impossible to describe the extraordinary site. One visitor from New Jersey enthusiastically commented to me that he was practically speechless, “You can actually freely get up close to the balloons, the site is just amazing.” Although I have been to the fiesta many times, it is always fun to experience someone’s first time at the fiesta. It is one of the rare events in which the actual experience is better than the hype. No one comes away disappointed!

Balloons continuously liftoff for several hours in the morning, as the sky fills with hundreds of balloons in many sizes, colors, and shapes. In fact, one of the most popular display at the fiesta is the launching of special shape balloons—ranging from cows, bees, wagons, cartoon characters, to a replica of the actual earth floating through space.

As the morning wore on, and those early morning hot beverages signaled they wanted out, we began to make our way back to the car. The scene from afar was equally dramatic but lost some of its personal, up-close magic. By now some of the balloons had drifted far from their home base and into the remote regions of the wide-open sky. Looking upward, these drifting balloons were a visual reminder that the day was truly enchanting.    

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences–teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels–have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educations and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.

Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: TURN, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. TURN encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about TURN’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book, addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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The Mount: Edith Wharton’s Garden and Message

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

“True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.” ...
Edith Wharton

The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home, Lennox, Massachusetts

The Mount, the 10-year home of author Edith Wharton, is a lovely expanse of wooded trails, sumptuous gardens, and tranquil forests. Located in Lenox, Massachusetts, the well-preserved 113-acre estate was one of my must-see stops during my October visit with my daughter and her family.

Wharton’s family, making a fortune in real estate, were members of the upper echelons of society. In 1901, eager to escape the social confines of Newport and New York society, Wharton bought land for the Mount and then designed and built a home that would meet her needs as designer, gardener, hostess, and above all, writer. Every aspect of the estate—including its gardens, architecture, and interior design—evokes her spirit.

Edith Wharton

The grounds of the Mount during Covid-19 are open and free to the public. A house tour needed reservations and a fee, so we decided to enjoy the outdoors on a wistful fall day. Although Edith Wharton lived a fascinating life and was a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, I would like to reflect upon walking about the grounds of her estate and Wharton’s message to her visitors.

Wharton designed the grounds to include wild expanses of forests as well as manicured, formal gardens that were popular during the day. The forests were laced with trails that looped through the grounds and ended in surprising places, such as fishing lake home to an array of waterfowl.

One of the trails we took was shrouded by low hanging branches, made even more ominous by an overcast sky. The woods cast a foreboding feeling over me as I watched my three grandchildren scamper about picking up twigs to fight off the menacing “monsters” that they imagined were lurking in the woods. They must have absorbed the ominous atmosphere as well. 

I imagined Edith Wharton strolling along these wooded trails gathering inspiration from the trees and swirling leaves to write her treasured works of fiction. Perhaps the trees were the real author of her books, just channeled through her human soul.

In the formal garden area, I was moved by a passage Wharton wrote in memory of Alice M. Kaplan. As I enter my elder years, it is a reminder that it takes a conscious effort to resist the pull towards disintegration and revel in what life offers, and seek simple meaning in corners that are often hidden from full view. As I watched my grandchildren rejoice in the freedom to run and play free of adult cares and worries, I felt their joy and happiness seep into me, Wharton’s words were coming to life in me.

The afternoon at the Mount was a magical experience. As we trudged back to the car, children tired after a long hike and slaying monsters, I was grateful that I was able to spend this sacred time with my daughter, three grandchildren, and my cousin. It really brought to life Wharton’s timeless advice to Alice Kaplan many years ago:  be happy in small ways. Advice that still resonates today.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book, addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

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Reflections on Hidden Hill: Hidden from Plain Sight

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

October is my favorite month! It is a month that inspires reflection, at least it does for me. I felt immersed in a reflective mood when I visited Hidden Hill in Craryville, New York, about two hours north of New York City.

On a personal level Hidden Hill is special to me: it is the name ascribed to 90 acres of conservation woodlands “owned” by my daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren. They are slooooowly remodeling the old farm house that has withstood the elements since the early 1800s. But Hidden Hill has a bigger story to tell than my own personal one.

As I meandered through the forest, I debated with myself about what might have inspired former residents to call these hills hidden. Were the hills actually hiding something or were the hills hidden? I thought perhaps the trees could provide me with a few clues about what they thought was behind the name. I listened to the swirling leaves winding their way to the forest floor, then I turned my attention to the stoic trees with one eye to the earth and the other to the sky, what were they telling me.

I finally intuited that the hills weren’t hiding anything, they had always fully displayed their awe and beauty. It was me and my fellow modern humans that were hiding from what the hills had to offer. Indigenous people of the area were fully aware of what the hills offered, it was our modern mindset that encouraged us to hide from the hills and remain closed to their splendor and life lessons.

But all things change. It seems to me that a new outlook is casting a spell over many of the people setting up new homesteads in the magical hills of eastern New York and western Massachusetts. This new outlook has certainly enveloped my daughter and her family. The lure of big city life in the world’s “greatest” city, New York, is losing its luster. Covid is one major factor driving people out of the city into the wilds, but also unrest, rising crime, protests/riots, and other factors. They are bent on searching out something different.

What remained hidden for so long—importance of family, neighbors, and community, a connection with nature, a sense of self-reliance—has burst out of hiding into conscious choices about how to live one’s life and raise a family. My daughter’s family has certainly reevaluated their lives and values.

What seemed unthinkable a few short months ago—using an outhouse, living in a cramped, old camper trailer without running water (other than a hose) or indoor plumbing, and eating outdoors—is all part of their new way of life, as the remodeled house inches its way to completion. The kids love it. They roll down hills, forage for mushrooms, collect colorful leaves, or explore the subtleties of a wooly bear caterpillar. I admire them for deciding together that the old needed to give way to the new, and the new emerged preferable.

As I reflect about the secret of Hidden Hill in October’s warming sunrays, I am very grateful that we have rediscovered what we have kept hidden from ourselves. I am also grateful that we are once again welcoming what was hidden into our awareness and our lives. Hidden Hill is just one example.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.

Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus.  Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.

Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!

Divided, Dr. Ames’ latest book, addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.

It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.

Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment