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

U-Pick in New York: Fruits, Vegetables, and Values

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

I love the fall season, my favorite. And October is the best month of all! New Mexico, my home state, is a fall wonderland—but the first few weeks of October find me in upstate New York visiting my daughter and her family, namely my three grandchildren. I must say, adorable by any estimation, a girl age 8 and almost 4-year-old twins, a boy and girl.

Upstate New York is resplendent with vivid fall colors in October—the leaves shimmering in the pale light or quivering in the subtle breeze as they drift down to the moist ground as they see fit or just pause in mid-air to flutter about in the sunshine. Fall emits a subtle feeling that reminds us of what is important. At least, it does to me.

One of the things that my daughter thought was important was a family outing to Smascott Orchards, located in Kinderhook New York, a U-Pick farm where we were able to pick our own apples, pumpkins, and assorted vegetables. Located in Kinderhook, New York, it was not far from an old farmhouse that my daughter and her husband were remodeling.  This outing would be fun, even my cousin from Cooperstown joined us.

The U-Pick orchards transported me pack several decades to the early 1980s. While living in rural, central Illinois, I remember picking strawberries and raspberries by the gallons, freezing them in our chest freezer or making endless pints of jam. I bought apples by the bushel to make applesauce, enough for the full year. Also, I canned enough peaches and pears from local orchards to put up plenty of fruit for family consumption. As I traipsed through Smascott’s apple orchard to the broccoli patch, I recalled growing beets, carrots, cauliflower, beans, and peas in our enormous garden. It was a lot of hard work but also very rewarding to know that what we ate was a product of my hard-physical labor and skill as a gardener.

The U-Pick experience also reminded me of what I had lost in my march to progress and prosperity. Moving from my small town and huge garden to the “big city” of Blooming-Normal, my life changed from an “earth mother” to a “city sophisticate” in a short time. Although I always enjoyed being out “in nature,” I never had such a bountiful garden again. My canning jars sat in the basement, always hopeful that I would renew my passion for gardening so they could be useful again. It didn’t happen.

I have found that our country and I have followed similar paths. As a nation, we once prided ourselves in being self-sufficient, making many of the things that we wear, eat, or enjoy.  From the 1980s onward, I have found that these values changed from self-reliance to dependence: dependent on China for our goods, dependent on the government for subsidies, dependent on outside educators to tell us what to think, and dependent on the material world for meaning and inspiration. Nature got shoved aside in our push to acquire more and more things.

Strolling through the rows of nature’s colorful bounty was a vivid reminder that in our rush to progress and prosperity we left much behind. The was a deep satisfaction of directly connecting with the food we eat, or the warmth and security of being with family and friends, all the while being surrounded by nature at every step.

Perhaps our experience with the shock of COVID-19 to our way of life has shaken us out of our nature-deprived existence and shown us another way of life that is an attractive alternative. Perhaps, picking some of our own fruit and vegetables is just one part of the new equation. Instead of a manufactured way of entertainment, a trip to the u-pick orchard seems heartfelt.

When all this COVID-19 business has hopefully passed, perhaps one of the positive effects will be a re-evaluation of our definition of progress and prosperity. There are many dimensions to this process, but in fact we are not only picking our own fruits and vegetables but perhaps we are picking new values and meaning in our lives. I have found that it is long overdue.

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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Bayo Canyon Trails: A Glimpse into our Past

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

I love to hike, not just for the exercise although that is important too, but it is a time that I feel a deep connection with nature. Hiking the Bayo Canyon Trails gave me a healthy dose of connecting with nature but it also provided a glimpse into the lives of people who were living in the area over 150 years ago. What could be better.

My partner, Jim, and I visited Los Alamos recently for a brief stint of relaxation and hiking. The city of over 12,000 people is located on four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau in north central New Mexico. Los Alamos is best known for the Manhattan Project, in which it was the primary location for building the atomic bomb during World War II. But the area is also home to some beautiful hiking trails that are fun and refreshing, Bayo Canyon Trail is one of our favorites.

The area surrounding Bayo Canyon is rugged and dry, and it is hard to imagine that people would live in such inhospitable conditions. But actually, the area has been inhabited during various times since around 1150.  The ruins of permanent Puebloan (ancestors of today’s Indians) settlements, such as those located in nearby Bandelier National Monument and numerous other sites, such as cliff dwellings, prove their livability.  

Sangre de Cristo Mountains in background

Bayo Canyon trails are a complex of different trails that traverse the canyon. Trails crisscross the rugged terrain and it can be confusing at times which way is which. The popular North Bayo Canyon Trail winds its way across porous volcanic rock for about two miles to a stunning overlook point. Along the way, statuesque ponderosa pine trees sway in the gentle breeze, looking weary of being constantly thirsty and thrashed by high winds. The panoramic scene at the overlook scans the entire canyon and the Barranca Mesa, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains loom in the shadows on the horizon. Nature as its most splendid.

But the trail has a truly unique feature. While plodding along the dirt trail, we were stunned to see a bizarre site. Etched into the soft volcanic rock were rutted groves made by what looked like iron wheels going back and forth hundreds of times to permanently scar the ancient soft stone. Indeed, after some research into the ruts we found out what caused them.

In the late 19th century, homesteaders settled on the mesas, eking out a living by farming, raising animals, and even some logging. The homesteaders drove their supply wagons with 3-inch iron-clad wheels over the same roadbed for decades, cutting deeply into the porous stone. The ruts are still visible today. In 1943, as the Manhattan Project was getting underway, the area was abruptly closed and Army security forces patrolled the area for potential spies eager to find out more about the secret project. Bayo Canyon was closed to public use into the 1960s because an explosives detonation area was located at the upper end.

Years of use by hikers and horses have worn deeper and wider ruts into the soft tuff. The road may have been used by vehicles with pneumatic tires during laboratory days. The road was later used in the 1950s to install a sewer line serving Barranca Mesa. Anecdotal accounts indicate that operators of local sawmills took their products, primarily railroad ties, off the plateau down this road.

What strikes me on this particular hike is the hardscrabble life that the homesteaders must have endured. The land is rocky and sandy, the winds can be relentless, and the rainfall is sporadic. Eking out a living would be backbreaking work. Add to all that, the difficulty of getting into town over the rutted roads would make getting away from isolation a difficult venture.

Juxtapose the minimalist living standards and primitive technology of the homesteaders with what took place about 50 years after their settlement in the area: the Manhattan Project. Perhaps some of these homesteaders were still alive when the top Allied scientists from around the world congregated in their tiny inaccessible town. Paradoxically, the most advance technology was being invented in the midst of the homesteaders’ rudimentary technology.

Along this very trail that I was hiking, the transition from a world of homespun clothes and log cabins to a modern world of atomic bombs that defied the imagination took place. As I ambled along the delightful trail, I wondered if we will come full circle and our modern technology will turn its destructive side on us leaving humans to pursue again a simple, rugged way of life that the homesteaders endured decades ago. The future holds that secret.   

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.

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The Canyons of Los Alamos: Where Discoveries are Made

By Dr. Denise R. Ames

Los Alamos, New Mexico—home of the Atomic Bomb—also showcases a rugged terrain of deep canyons and soaring cliffs. Los Alamos’s city motto is “Where discoveries are made,” in which reference to the atomic bomb immediately comes to mind. But there are other discoveries to be made in Los Alamos, and I uncovered some of them during my recent visit.

Angel’s Casita

My partner, Jim, and I recently drove from our hometown of Albuquerque to Los Alamos to do some relaxing and hiking. We love to go to Los Alamos where we stay in our favorite Air B&B Casita that overlooks one of the deep canyons carving the city into sections. It feels like we are alone in the wilderness, even though we are just a mile or so from the downtown area and the labyrinth of national laboratories.

It is clear why Los Alamos was selected as the site of the secretive Manhattan Project during World War II—it is isolated by canyons making it difficult to approach the remote city from all angles. Winding our way along Route 502, as we approach the city from the east, the road narrows, hugging the mountains along blasted out sections from which the winding road snakes to its destination.

The canyons interlacing Los Alamos were the destinations of several of our hiking expeditions during our visit. They weren’t hard to access, we could practically walk out in back of our casita and a plethora of trails beckoned to be hiked. One that we particularly liked was in back of the Aquatic Center, where we accessed the trailhead.

This trail had particular historical significance. Some of the steep switchbacks and steps at the beginning/end of the trail were constructed by boys at the historic Los Alamos Ranch School. Founded in 1917, the private school for boys was later taken over by the federal government for the Manhattan Project. Although the school has never reopened, its legacy of trails has endured. We descended from the top of the mesa into the canyon, but found going down was easy, making our way back up strained our calves and leg muscles to the max.

A kind of hush came over me as I ambled down from the bustle of the city to the soft tranquil quiet of the forest sprouting from the canyon. Every turn-out revealed a panoramic view of the canyons and high mesas. Sky and soft clouds enveloped me in a comforting embrace, telling me it was alright to be a human.

The canyons emitted a sense of eternity, whispering to me that they would endure and continue long after I and my species disappeared. They seemed to say, “Just be kind to us while you are still around, we have more to give to you than you can imagine.”  To me this message is the real meaning of the city motto, “Where discoveries are made.”

I took their message to heart. I agree that kindness is a wonderful act, perhaps one of the most important things we can do as humans. But it is also one of the most difficult, especially to be kind to those who you don’t agree with. I thought of our contentious political/cultural divide, reaching a crescendo pitch as the election nears, and imagined what it would be like if protesters said kind words to the police and vice versa, our politicians (both sides) utter kinds word to those who they oppose, or Antifa and Proud Boys had a get-to-know-each-other picnic instead of spewing hatred.

It is ironic that the canyons whisper kindness to all, while the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratories emit a different message—one of power, control, violence, and strength. Although I realize that force is necessary at times, Hitler probably would not have received the same message from the canyon as I did, and needed to be stopped.

In this vitriolic atmosphere we are increasingly descending into, the canyons remind all of us that kindness to our fellow humans and to all of nature is indeed worth remembering and acting upon.       

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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Nature’s Perfection: A Hike Along Los Conchas Trail

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Los Conchas Trail

What is your vision of a perfect hiking trail: a bubbling stream, sheer cliffs climbing to the sky, evergreens adding dimension and texture, a canyon floor ablaze with wildflowers, an open meadow with thickets of willowy grasses, and a clear blue-sky ablaze overhead. Well, you just described the Los Conchas Trail. Nestled in the Santa Fe National Forest just south of the equally mesmerizing Valles Caldera, the trail is easily accessed off of New Mexico Route 4.

Hiking the Los Conchas Trail was high on our list of must do activities that my partner, Jim, and I wanted to do when took a COVID-19 break and ventured into the high country around Los Alamos, New Mexico. The trail is a scenic and windy 20 miles from the security gates of Los Alamos to the trailhead. Although it very popular, the trail never feels crowded. Hikers always have a smile on their faces as we pass each other, with the unspoken but mutual acknowledgement that we are participating in something special, an encounter with the splendor of nature.

At about 8,400 feet elevation, the trail meanders across a flat terrain, making it easily traversed by people of all ages. Children especially love to stir up a frog on the stream’s banks, or pile up a few rocks around the water’s edges to try and corral an elusive fish. Several wooden bridges cross the stream, making sure your feet don’t get soggy and you can get a glimpse into stream life.

Although I have hiked the trail many times, it is always a fresh experience for me. The cliff walls surround the canyon floor, giving me a feeling of being bounded on all sides by nature. I am a mere speck in nature’s multitudes, a rather insignificant guest, much like I think of the annoying ants building their mounds next to my driveway. But oddly this insignificance is comforting to me. I can’t exactly explain why but perhaps my mind should not try to analyze this feeling. My intuition prods me to merely accept it and understand that there are many human feelings best left to mystery.

I am at nature’s mercy as I explore the magical canyon. I imagine it is not such an inviting place during frequent mountain thunderstorms or a blizzard dumping heaps of snow on its guests. But during this visit, nature is kind to me, dashing me with a few sprinkles of rain, but reserving its wrath for a time far past my departure.

As I walk through this canyon of delight, I find that I am filled with gratitude that I am able to connect to nature and revel in her majesty. I, like other humans, am too often separated from nature—or should I say that I think and feel that I am separated from nature. Actually, we are always within nature, how could we not be. But it feels good to me to be outside of human-created nature, and revel in non-human-created nature.

While ambling down Los Conchos Trail nature whispers to me through her rustling pine trees, reminding me that I am part of her and not to forget it as I go about my everyday life. Tell others she says, we are all part of this together, we are not separate, isolated creatures. We are all connected into an intricate web of relationships. Yes, I reply.  

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! $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 Pall over Los Alamos: A Visit to the “Atomic City”

By Dr. Denise R. Ames 

photo: Denise Ames

What comes to your mind when you hear Los Alamos? I bet it is not cottonwood (poplar) trees, as the word means in Spanish, but something more ominous, perhaps the place where the great minds of the world feverishly worked to create such destructive energy that when unleashed on two Japanese cities it killed over 200,000 people.

The Manhattan Project was initiated between 1942 and 1946 at the height of World War II with the explicit purpose of producing nuclear weapons for use in the war against Germany and Japan. Government officials selected Los Alamos as the top-secret site of the Manhattan Project, largely because of its isolated location in the sparsely populated state of New Mexico. Surrounded by deep ravines, wide canyons, and bordering dense forests, its seclusion was an asset that changed Los Alamos’ future from a sleepy, provincial town to a renowned hub of international, scientific geniuses.

I am visiting Los Alamos for a three-night retreat in the fall of 2020. Even though I am traveling to the city for hiking and relaxation, and to enjoy the fall colors, it is hard to escape the palpable energy that still emanates from the Manhattan Project upon the city. The energy settles over like a mist over a meadow, enveloping the city that made its name in creating explosive energy almost 80 years ago.

Whether the U.S. decision to drop the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justifiable is debatable. At the time, those who were exhausted from war it was a welcomed way to end the war decisively. My father, a World War II veteran fighting the Japanese in the Pacific theater, thought is was the right decision, despite the loss of civilian life. He dreaded the prospect of invading Japan to end the war, one of the alternatives to dropping the bombs.

Even though you might be on the side of those who believe the bombings were justified, the making and use of the bombs has elicited profound thoughts about our human ability to create and destroy multitudes with a single object of our creation. Robert Oppenheimer, chief architect of the Manhattan Project, captured the profundity of his actions when he quoted a line from the Indian epic Bhagavad Gita at the time of the testing of the bomb in Alamogordo, NM, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Robert Oppenheimer

I cannot stop thinking about the Manhattan Project and its ramifications when visiting Los Alamos. Even though the downtown streets are festooned with vibrant hanging baskets of flowers in the summer or Ashley Pond is a welcoming place for a relaxing picnic lunch, the pall of the Manhattan Project slips into the crevices of my mind and warns me about the destructive side of our human nature.

Like other animals, humans fight for territory, form hierarchies of authority, and coalesce around tribal loyalties. Although I believe we have done a reasonably good (although not perfect) job of curbing our natural and exploitive nature to fashion a smooth-running and orderly society, our destructive side is still with us. The Manhattan Project reflects this side. It shows that our amazingly imaginative minds often fashion creations that are two steps ahead of our nominal human ability to consider future consequences of our actions. Too often we need to step back and say “why are we doing this, perhaps more contemplation and reflection are needed.” But usually our impulsive side wins out and humans charge ahead without caution holding us back.  

Perhaps because of the reality that the atomic bomb could annihilate the human species, we have stepped back and contemplated its ramifications. Knowing that the bomb could become even more of a “destroyer of worlds,” we recognize its annihilative possibilities.

So, I can now better understand the pall that shrouds my visits to Los Alamos is actually a dire warning to me and others that we live on a razoor’s edge of human existence. A tip in the balance to one side of that edge could be doom for our species. It is a warning we must all heed despite our political and cultural differences.

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 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