Welcome to my Blog
As we behold, we actively transform the image.
Being other or otherness is part of the adopted child’s experience. However, my life-trajectory took me on a journey that led me to live away from my homeland in Switzerland, accentuating my feeling of otherness. Living in a new homeland, where I had to adapt, made me more sensitive to other migrants and their situations. I am a “love migrant” that has an empathetic connection to other migrants. I understand the Minority Stress Model and its effects on well-being. I also have an empathetic connection to the experience of different forms of racism and social justice. I have added articles to read about otherness. The first article examines the intersectionality of stigma, the second article expresses otherness in an artistic manner, the experience of otherness that evolved within the visual arts. These articles all illustrate otherness in its various forms. Even though I might look the same as my adopted family, I have always been sensitive to being other. This sensitivity has been able to be used in a positive way and is linked to my lifework.
The challenges that I faced during the transition from being a stay at home mother to becoming a full-time working mother happened as I began my European Master’s Degree in Mediation. The model my birth mother Ruth Ann provided allowed me to make the transition, as I “homed in” to her example.
That period also corresponded with tensions in my relational matrix. As my old world crumbled, and the earth shook under my feet, I was forced to let go of what my life had been, letting God guide me to a new place in my relational network. I had to learn to embody the change, integrating the many relational changes that our reunion had brought. However, it was not only the reunion, it was the loss, and the fear of losing the places and relationships that I so wanted to hold on to that gnawed on me.
When my adopted father sold our family farm on terms, the story of the Native American Indian’s Ghost Dance took on even greater meaning for me. The loss of the native lands, the hope for transformation that was embedded in the dance ritual, and the strong desire for reconciliation that ended in devastation at Wounded Knee where all aspects the Great Plains history that enfolded changes that swept through the prairie grasses ending in a massacre.
The change that was shaking my life like an earthquake, bringing down the social constructions of my life’s relationships, rattled me. I was forced to look at what I believed constituted, “Nebraska, The Good Life”. Moving from loss to gratefulness, I walked through the pain in search of a place where the different parts of my evolving Self could find refuge. Through the process of concrescence, the different facets of my identity sculpted a new container and a new life trajectory. As I wailed, danced, and hoped, my ancestors headed me in a new direction. There was no going back. I somehow sensed that I needed to invent a ritual of reconciliation. To affirm life and to survive I entered into an integration process that emerged from life crisis. With the strong intention to become whole, I found metaphors to transform my life story. I began to lifescape a hopeful future.
Carl G. Jung’s Red Book was only published in 2009, illustrating his transformational process that allowed him to develop his fundamental concepts. Ira Progoff studied with Jung, voyaging to Bolligen to learn more about Jung’s work, later developing the Intensive Journal Process and Depth Psychology. Their work has informed my own autoethnographic process. Autoethnography is a social science method that draws upon recollecting and remembering. By going deep within, the Self reveals images, dreams, and archetypes that offer a power to endure and survive enkindled by the meaning-making process.
Here are videos that share Jung’s life and work.
Here is rare documentary footage of C.J. Jung at Bollingen:
Inheritance of Dreams:
Here is a paper about Ira Progoff’s work that uses the Intensive Journal Process for holistic transformation.
Here is an interview with Ira Progoff:
Here is a video that tells about the Ghost Dance, Sitting Bull, and Wounded Knee.
Here is an article about transgenerational trauma and Native Americans:
Chapter 20 shares Cathy’s letters to Ruth Ann and Michael as well as the written responses from Ruth Ann. But Chapter 20 begins with Ruth Ann’s letter to me that explains that I have another sister. When I received the packet of letters, I was overcome with emotion. Far from my American family, I was hit by the news that added on another layer to our family memoire. On top of the mountain, as Fall weather brought cold temperatures, falling leaves, and changing colors in the forests where larch trees were starting to turn golden, my heart was again broken open. I especially felt for my newly found sister and my mother, as I integrated the complexity of the unfolding storyline. The golden relational bond that we had forged was secure enough for us to work through the stories about the circumstances of Cathy’s birth as well as bringing Cathy into the family circle. Giving recognition to what Cathy’s birth had meant for my young parents meant looking more deeply into the relational and societal context of our births.
Here is a picture of our reunion, the first summer that we met with Grandma Kay surrounded by her great grandchildren in 1996.
Here is my maternal grandmother, Grandma Kay, surrounded by her grandchildren. I finally joined the clan, much later!
Here is my birth parents’, Ruth Ann and Michael’s, wedding picture that Grandma Kay included in the photo album that she made for me.
The pictures in my new family album were both the pictures that represented the life that I had not shared with my birth family as well as our reunion photos caught on film and etched into my heart. My life trajectory integrated a parallel relational reality. After meeting my birth family, we had many reunion celebrations that brought together the matrix of my many relations. My adopted family, birth family, and close family friends all came together in a reunion performance.
The family album that my maternal birth grandmother, Grandma Kay, had made for me attested to many years of family gatherings that I hadn’t been part of. But our reunion suddenly offered us the chance to add new pictures of togetherness. These pictures and happenings all framed my new becomingness. And though Grandma Kay died a little over a year after our first meeting, she was able to bear witness to our reunion. The Three Fates tapestry is a metaphor for the loom of life that miraculously stitched us all back together. Lachesis, the drawer of lots had chosen reunification, permitting Clotho the spinner to rethread our heartstrings, tugging and pulling us all back together before Atropos ended Grandma Kay’s life.
The triumph of this unique “fate” seemed to be an incredible synchronicity and even a miracle of divine timing. The links to Medjugorje, show the miracles that have taken place at this pilgrimage site, including my Great Uncle Bob’s rosary that turned gold. Though miracles are rare and often contested, the miracle of our reunion is the kernel of this story. Medjugorje is a place of prayer and reconciliation where The Queen of Peace asks us to pray more. I can only wonder if Father Bob, a priest, had prayed for our family’s reconciliation on his pilgrimage to Medjugorje. Though there is no one explanation for our coming together, ultimately Grandma Kay’s prayers were answered, and I was welcomed into the family circle.
The Three Fates
This tapestry that was originally made in the Netherlands from wool and silk in the 16th century is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, represent Death in this tapestry, as they triumph over the fallen body of Chastity. In mythology the Fates controlled the span of human life; Clotho was the spinner, Lachesis was the drawer of lots, and Atropos represented the inevitable end to life.
This is a fragment from a larger tapestry, from a series based on the poem I Trionfi (The Triumphs), written by the Italian poet Petrach between 1352 and 1374. The poem described a series of allegorical visions.
Tapestry 'The Three Fates' ('The Triumph of Death'), Flemish, early 16th century.
When I walked off the plane to meet my sister Michelle all eyes were on us. Not only did we look so much alike, but we had the same mannerisms and laugh. My children also watched me physically unite with my sister. For the first time meeting someone that looked so much like their mother. It was beyond imagination to finally be together. Michelle was the first child that Ruth Ann and Michael were able to keep and raise. Michelle’s beauty attracted all my family and friends that swarmed around us as the sweet smell of reunion filled the air.
“Who would I have been if we had grown up together?” I kept asking myself this question, as if there could have been another life trajectory. Would I have gone back to New York and modelled while Michelle performed in Broadway Musicals? I had won a modelling contest and experienced what it was like to be photographed in the Big Apple, staying at the Waldorf Astoria and walking through Central Park. But didn’t go back to try my luck as a model. I wondered, “Would coming together make us more complete?”
As we melted into each other’s embrace, we bonded for life. After a few days together in Omaha we took off with baby Yann to Washington D.C. to meet our parents, Kaitie, and then Ryan at West Point. On our family vacation we drove to Cold Spring, New York, where I bought a handmade Wedding Ring Quilt, a symbol of our reunion.
Ruth Ann and Michael had been so young when we were born. The iconic picture of them on my father’s motorcycle captures the mood in 1966 when the Beatles were singing, Revolution.
As we came together, we too knew that everything was going to be all right!
“If truth is the object of its quest, the word is the portal through which it passes. For the word is our only access to truth, both the truth of what we know and the truth of what we are” (Patterson, 1988, 2).
Our letters and phone calls gave life to our transformational process. But our convergence also trigged physical reactions that were connected to deep sub-conscious memories of trauma embedded in the mind-body. As we stood naked and exposed before each other, we risked reexperiencing the pain from the past so that future joy could be found ‘somewhere over the rainbow’.
As a connected with my birth family, I needed to assure my birth mother that our bond of unconditional love would never be questioned. In this chapter, you can read my letter to my adopted mother Jan. My adopted father Dave had often discussed Greek philosophy and Gnothi Seuton, the Greek wisdom tradition of Self-knowledge. He would say to me “Healer heal thyself; healer know thyself.”
Bringing the voices together in a ‘communiverse’ (Gergen, 2020) set in motion a healing process not just for me, but for the entire relational matrix. Here are links to articles, books, and websites that can offer more insight into Bakhtin’s philosophies. We were all asking, “Who are you?” Then we had to pause to listen to the responses that came back to us like echoes bouncing off mountain faces.
Literature and Spirit:
Voicing Relationships: A Dialogic Perspective
In Theory Bakhtin: Dialogism, Polyphony and Heteroglossia
Love letters encapture a promise that is at times mysterious to comprehend. Getting a love letter lights up the heart like a Christmas tree. The love that comes in an envelope makes the heart jump with hope that declarations of love can indeed fulfil the profound longing that we all feel deep inside. Offering loving words and knowing that those words of love are addressed to us personally, take one on a journey that seems to surpass all notions of time and space. The entanglement of loving heartstrings, when awakened, can traverse time. The power of love can pull the other through the veil of whatever separation has been put in place.
In my story, I was pulled towards my parents that were living next to where I had grown up, just 45 minutes away. We had been separated at birth, however an incredible force beckoned us together to reunite. Quantum entanglement brought us to each other.
Our letters were powerful testimonies of a miracle. Finding each other brought a kind of inexplicable joy. I waited with impatience for each letter my parents sent me to arrive from across the Atlantic. I thirsted for their response. I was satiated by their words. Their letters felt like they were linked to my soul’s salvation.
I later kept our first letters in a special box with the picture of our first family meeting in New York. Later, I placed our many correspondences in my great-grandmother Savidge’s trunk at the foot of my bed. When I began writing my story, I wrote in flow, spilling my story onto the page as if pouring water from a pitcher. Only later, did I go back into the special box and trunk to revisit our letters and integrate them into my story to give voice to our correspondence.
After I met my brother Ryan, he sent me a gift, The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy, that is an exchange of postcards, between writers that never seem to meet up. It is an artistic form of love story. That story seemed to resonate with our family’s reunion, as our paths had criss-crossed for many years, just missing each other, moving in parallel lives. Then, there was a convergence, a meeting point on our lifelines that brought us all together. In the film “Love Letters”, the mystery of entanglement is expressed in a story linking lovers through time with letters that arrive in mysterious ways.
My story too encapsulates a mystery. Synchronicity traced a path using heartstrings that could reach through the veil, bringing us together in the written space of our first love letters that we exchanged. Our correspondence became the rope that pulled us back together. But in chapter 16, there are other love letters to discover. There is the love affirming letter that I wrote to my adopted mother Jan. There is a letter from my husband Angelo too. We were all writing to connect and affirm the bonds that held us tightly together, the relationships we wanted to keep and reinforce as well as the relationships we wanted to build.
Here is the film Love Letters:
Here is the Griffin and Sabine Trilogy:
Here is the letter from my brother written on a card from his tour in Africa:
Here is a box that holds some of our first letters with the picture of our first meeting in New York:
Rebirthing uses breathing techniques to connect to memories of one’s birth. It is understood to be a transformational process. When I reached out to the Nebraska Children’s Home Society to find my birth parents, I began the rebirthing process in a literal sense. And indeed, it was a transformational journey. When I found my birth family, it was a joyous moment of epiphany. I wrote,“This special moment was like catching a glimpse of a moonbow before sunrise.”
Here is a link to Joy Manné’s book about shamanic breathwork:
Here is a book chapter that I wrote for an academic conference. It has recently been published. The book chapter describes my autoethnographic writing process:
I refer to myself in this chapter as a water lily like in Claude Monet’s famous painting of water lily’s in a pond, whose roots go into the water instead of the earth. Here is a video that describes his technique and palette demonstrated in the famous Monet gardens:
When I found my birth family and realized all the similarities we shared, I began wondering how that information was passed on. The nature and nurture debate is especially pertinent for adopted children who find their birth families. The social and cultural construction of our identity is not just influenced by our nurturing adopted families. Other factors come into play.
Our family story or family memoire, became an interesting case study for me to examine with the lens of a social scientist. I was intrigued as I discovered all the personality traits, handwriting similarities, political convictions, child birthing and rearing practices, favourite books, colors, and jewellery shapes that connected me to my birth family’s preferences. I pondered the question, “How had I integrated so much of who they were even though I was raised by another family?”.
When I began reading about epigenetics, I realized that this emerging paradigm could offer scientific explanations for what I had perceived. The patterns that were running through us, our biological connections and lines of inheritance, had been acting on me from a distance.
In this blog I share articles about epigenetics so that readers can better understand how epigenetic research is changing how we understand transmission. The epigenetic paradigm explains how our environment and perceptions bring out our DNA’s expression.
Singe Howell’s term kinning, derived from the understanding of kinship in the context of adoption, is a word expressing the relational process of bonding. Her word is a wonderful way of expressing how we make family ties from heartstrings that may even come from different countries, tying them together in beautiful bows of belonging.
She also refers to the process of de-kinning. Much like kinning and de-kinning I like to define mediation as linking, somewhat like a chain that can also choose a process of de-linking. But Howell even has a third option that evolves from kinning. There is also the possibility of re-kinning.
When I decided to search for my biological mother, I truly wanted to repair our relational bond, restoring our kinship. The Nebraska Children’s Home Society mediated my kinning process over the years, accompanying me with the necessary papers and legal documents that were necessary. When I began my search, I returned to the Nebraska Children’s Home to re-kin.
Singe Howell’s book:
In this article, Kathryn A. Mariner uses cultural anthropology to analyse adoption in the United States using auto/biographical documents. Her article offers insights into other adoption stories that broaden the topic and offer windows into other lifeworlds. Just as I entered into the autobiographical process to write a letter for my birth mother, initiating the search process, adoptive parents are required to create profiles that tell their stories. These profiles are shared with birth mothers. Autobiographical accounts mediate the kinning process as recounted in this article:
Link to a film on complementary and alternative medicine:
Link to information about homeopathy:
Link to Bach Flower Remedies:
Here is the link to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health:
Link to an article on Native American Healing Traditions:
The Sundance Way of Life can be cultivated by connecting to Gaia’s gifts. The beauty of a sunrise, the flowers in the meadows that offer healing properties, and our sacred rituals that link us to ancestral practices all help us to orient, walking in beauty.
Here are Coltsfoot flowers that I picked and dried. They are a herbal remedy used for coughs.
The tragic break refers to my parent’s divorce. It is always difficult for a family to go through a divorce. Our family suffered just like most families facing a break-up. Nebraska has developed the Nebraska Parenting Act. The process of moving from conflictual divorces, where children often lose contact with the parent who is designated as the ‘guilty’ partner, has been transformed to respect Children’s Rights-the right to be raised by two parents. Mediation in Nebraska is an example of how divorce can be done in a way that serves families. In classes designed to sensitize adults going through separation, parents learn about their children’s rights and need, and how conflict stemming from divorce can hurt children. Mediation is part of an overarching legislation accompanying families going through divorce. During my European Master’s Degree in Mediation, I visited Omaha and met with the women who lobbied for mediation in the Nebraska courts and co-constructed The Nebraska Parenting Act. Here is the Nebraska Parenting Act Brochure:
The tragic break also refers to my mother’s tragic car accident and her injury. She broke her sacrum right before my parents separated. The sacrum has a signature of sacred anatomy, looking somewhat like a butterfly. As her marriage with my father broke apart, she injured her sacrum. I sent her Symphytum or Knitbone, also known as Comfrey, a homeopathic remedy, to help her recover from her break. Here is an article that explains about Symphytum’s effectiveness repairing broken bones. Knitbone’s ability to repaire bones, is yet another form of sacred signature.
As the sacrum looks like a butterfly. I use this symbolic representation to describe how the tragic break, lead to a butterfly birth for my mother Jan, who rebuilt her life and married Bob Falk. Her second marriage lifted her, giving her new wings of love. Looking deeply into the metaphors of our conflict and illness narratives allows us to see into situations and make meaning out of loss and hardship. After my mother Jan was happily married to her second husband, I began looking for my birth parents. This hinge moment is a page marker for both of us, a time when we moved forward in our lives.
Bob Falk and Warren Buffet were long-time friends. My mother enjoyed her new circle of friends that she became closer to through Bob’s family network. Here is a documentary film about Warren’s life. When I would walk to Dundee Elementary School, I would walk on the Buffet’s sidewalk. Their house in Omaha was in our neighbourhood. Warren Buffet’s ability to create wealth and his decision to give it to foundations and charities that can use it wisely for the betterment of humanity, is an example to the world.
HBO Warren Buffet Documentary:
Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States during World War I that killed fewer than the “Spanish Flu”. His presidency was marked by war and a pandemic that killed millions in the United States as well as in Europe, were American troops were deployed around the world. When he went to Paris to negotiate the Treaty of Versailles, he too fell ill, contracting the “Spanish Influenza”. His ability to negotiate the treaty may have been compromised from the mental and physical symptoms that he experienced. His presidency is a historic bookmark for both war and the most important pandemic recorded in history.
International affairs link us through our alliances, our treaties, as well as our pandemics. Viruses spread without any respect to national borders or racial distinctions. The pandemic in 2020 can be better understood by looking back to the political context in 1918 when President Wilson was president. The lack of transparency and informed communication about the “Spanish Flue” as well as the lack of a coordinated public health policy drastically affected citizen’s health outcomes. Even the president’s physical abilities were compromised in an important historic treaty negotiation. Americans and Europeans were traveling back and forth between the Old World and the New World one hundred years ago just like today. The war enhanced the spread of the virus as soldiers were stationed throughout the world and brought the “Spanish Flu” with them when they returned home to East Coast ports. But the flu was first detected in Fort Riley Kansas where soldiers were receiving military training. As the first break-out was not heeded as important in the Spring, it was able to come back the next Fall in full force.
My generation has no memory of either World War I or World War II. But I am blessed to have a connection to my Great Grandfather Carl Wilson and his lineage, that linked me to his epoch. I share his family ‘memoire’ or memory. His generation was confronted with both war and a pandemic. Now, in 2020 with the corona virus, we too face a pandemic. Analysing the political response in 1918 or lack of response, as well as regional healthcare outcomes, provides us with an important historic reference that can help us make better public health decisions today. Woodrow Wilson’s management of the “Spanish Flu” provides needed insight in these difficult times.
Leadership is crucial when there are great political changes or pandemics. When the Berlin Wall fell, the Western World needed responsible coordinated leadership to assure a peaceful transition. Today, the pandemic is calling us to respond wisely, using history as a teacher. This global situation is forcing us to slow down, ground planes, and focus on what is essential. As we are asked by our governments to “home in” working and schooling from our homes, a cultural shift is being initiated. Our political leaders are giving healthcare an important place in their political discourses. It is possible, that by giving value to a culture of care, a transformed way of living in/on Earthship will be enkindled. Forced to consider our lifestyles differently, we may together discover new ways to relate, produce, and consider the most vulnerable in our society. As I teach “Cultural Epidemiology” in the medical anthropology department at Creighton University, I am convinced that informed healthcare policy can make a difference in the spread of the corona virus. May President Wilson’s presidency provide insight, informing us and inspiring us to do better.
Here is a link to a website about President Wilson and the historic context in relation to the “Spanish Flu”: https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/
Here is an article about the historic context of 1918 and how it affected President Wilson.
This article allows us to learn from what happened in 1918:
This article shows how the second and third wave of the Spanish flu were extremely deadly, providing knowledge of the progression of the pandemic:
This interview explains how demographic groups suffer differently depending on public health policies that are enforced in different regions:
Here are the invitations that my Great Grandfather Carl Wilson received from President Woodrow Wilson. They hang in the entry hall of our chalet, reminding me of that historic period and our transgenerational connections.
Weaving together my different cultural as well as family backgrounds into a coat of many colors meant honouring the different lines of inheritance that were coming through me. Carole King’s famous album, Tapestry, is made of beautiful songs that are brought together in an intricate mandala of song. Her songs and the tapestry weaved together with my lines of inheritance describe a coat of many colors. The symbolic coat that I wear is stitched together with different fabrics. Symbolically this multi-colored coat of arms or a ‘coat of amour’ (amour means love in French) is my way of being “Beautiful” in the world (another Carole Kind song and the title of the Broadway Show about her life.
President Wilson inspired my choice to study international affairs. I visited the League of Nations that became the United Nations, next to the Palais Wilson with my grandparents Marion and Harland. It was a kind of pilgrimage to my grandmother’s Wilson heritage.
The French-speaking part of Switzerland has many sacred places. The Palais Wilson was constructed to house the vision of Woodrow Wilson. It stands for international cooperation and constructive, peaceful relations between nations. Much earlier in history, the hospitality that Saint Bernard offered in the monastery that was built on the Great Saint Bernard Pass between Italy and Switzerland, became a symbolic site linking Southern and Northern Europe. Our beautiful mountain region continues to attract many international skiers and hikers. The region is especially known for its winter sports; however, the Alps are equally inviting in the summer.
Valais has two strategic mountain passes that link people, providing a passage and offering hospitality to pilgrims. Our region has traditionally been a landmark of connectivity-a place of passage. Pilgrimage routes, international affairs, hospices, as well as the ski resorts, all have offered a long-standing tradition of hospitality to seekers, peacemakers, and skiers.
Tapestry by Carole King:
Geneva welcomed President Woodrow Wilson’s vision in the Palais Wilson:
Here are links about human rights and the Palais Wilson building
Here is a link to President Wilson’s biography:
The Great Saint Bernard Hospice another historic place connecting humanity:
Here is video of the 4 Valley Ski Area, the largest in Switzerland, connecting four large ski resorts. We live in La Tzoumaz, the heart of the 4 Valleys:
After returning from a year abroad in Switzerland, I went back to CU and I joined the University of Colorado’s C-ski team, running and participating in dryland training at Chautauqua Park, at the foot of the Flatirons in Boulder. I met my Norwegian friends on the ski team. After training all Fall, we began skiing in November. We went to Aspen for Thanksgiving where I got to know Neal Beidleman, a C-team coach. I wanted to be a good skier, and even learned about racing through the gates. Not only did I prove that I was a good skier, but I knitted my future husband a beautiful sweater. I learned the skills that I thought I would need as a young wife in Switzerland. Colorado, Switzerland, and New Zealand were meeting places that brought me in touch with lifelong friends. We all belong to an international ski tribe.
a-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ was one of our favourite songs!
After the University of Colorado, Neal Beidleman went to climb mountains far from home. Here is his Everest story:
Here is a picture of Nebraska families on a Colorado ski trip in the 1970’s when I was fourteen years old. The Berguins, Hansens, Welches and Mossmans all gathered to ski the Rockies!
Here is the sweater that I knitted for Angelo the year before we married. It is made out of Icelandic wool and has pewter buttons with skiers.
Karl Bodmer’s artwork symbolically surrounded us at our wedding reception at the Joslyn Art museum. As we celebrated our vows to marry with our family and friends, historical patrons watched over us from the walls of museum. The remembrances of the adventurers that had come to the American West were celebrating our coupling ceremony, as our lives and family histories came together in an American-Swiss concrescence.
Here are pictures of our wedding party:
Here is a link that shows Prince Maximilien’s expedition route:
The National Museum of Wildlife Art exhibits Bodmer’s work:
This google book has Bodmer prints, and explains the context of Western Art:
Here is a book that details the expedition with Prince Maximilien’s journal notes:
Here is Alfred North Whitehead book Process and Reality to better understand concrescence:
Here is an article about the cognitive theories of Maturana and Varela that explains structural coupling:
Willa Cather’s writings greatly inspired me as a young girl when I discovered her novels in English class. Her feminine style spoke of the pioneer’s lives in Nebraska. Her characters were connected to the landscape and emulated the pioneer spirit that I have felt lift me.
Here are links to articles about Cather’s literary work, the museum in Red Cloud, Nebraska, as well as other references that connect to this chapter on faith and community service. I showcase women’s ways of being in the world. Each culture develops practices to care for their communities. Our lives are a performance. In this chapter I share how I was brought up to faithfully serve. I also bring in voices that have inspired me and modelled ways to coordinate complexity, imagining new possibilities.
Here are pictures of my great-grandmother Savidge’s quilts:
Here is the link to The National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud, Nebraska:
An article in the New Yorker gives insight into the importance of Cather’s work and ongoing legacy.
In this article, Willa Cather’s Women, the importance of place and gender in the context of Cather’s writing in analysed :
Here is a book chapter that gives important references and insights for teacher Willa Cather’s book My Antonia:
Here is a book review that gives voice to Willa Cather’s writing and historical importance in American culture.
Here is an article in the Omaha World Herald that recounts the history of the Aksarben Ball and coronation: https://www.omaha.com/events/celebrating-tradition-and-the-future--year-old-aksarben-ball/article_6a9b3bfc-8463-5d9e-9e64-3d2ad28fa4c9.html#8
This video shows you the 2018 Aksarben Ball Coronation to give you an idea of the pageantry:
Here is a video of Lilou Mace interviewing Dr. Raymond Moody about Near Death Experiences:
Sheila McNamee explains her position on radical presence in this video:
Here is a website with beautiful pictures of Nebraska:
Joseph Campbell’s writings describes the hero’s journey. It begins with a call to adventure. In my case, this call to adventure began with my experience as an exchange student in Switzerland. One of my ultimate physical tests was when I returned for a semester abroad over the winter. I trained to be able to participate in a ski touring trip from Arolla to Zermatt on La Haute Route. By changing settings and adventuring to the top of the Alpine peaks, I initiated a transformational process. Not only did I want to change myself, but I wanted to bring that change to the world.
This is the village where my husband Angelo grew up. I was an exchange student in Valais in 1981 and came to this village with my host family, Angelo’s aunt Marguerite.
Here is a documentary that shows the village life in Isérables:
Here are pictures of our ski touring expedition in 1984-from Arolla to Zermatt:
Here is a documentary on La Haute Route from the same era, when we did our ski touring adventure:
Here is a map and explanations about navigating the trails between Chamonix’s Mont Blanc and Zermatt’s Matterhorn: https://www.thehikinglife.com/2010/10/chamonix-zermatt-walkers-haute-route/
Joseph Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey. Here is an article about the power of myths. The hero’s journey is a transformational expedition that takes us out of our familiar environment and into a new landscape of meaning. An excerpt from the article underscores how the transformational process is enkindled saying, ““…Without a change of setting, the hero cannot change herself, and without a change in herself, the hero cannot change the world” (p.381)”
A Call to Adventure.
While visiting Americana landscapes over summer and winter vacations, I discovered places that constituted how I would grow into womanhood. My feet walked the sacred North American land, adventuring into the wilderness. The great outdoors as well as the stories we choose to read influence our becomingness.
As a young teenager not only did I travel to sites to encounter the natural world of beauty in North America, but I discovered Ernest Hemingway, the American author, who introduced me to Europe through his novels. His books were an invitation to adventure into the world. After reading “A Farewell to Arms”, I heard a call to adventure.
Here is a video, Remembering Ernest:
Here is a link that briefly describes some of Hemingway’s best books:
Another great American artist, Jamie Wyeth exhibited his paintings at Joslyn Art Museum when I was a young girl. Our family friends, the Larkins, owned “Agnus” painted by Jamie Wyeth. They brought the painting from Denver to show at the Josyln Art Museum in Omaha. I got to watch as they prepared the exhibit with Wyeth, hanging the paintings on the wall. I remember seeing a wonderful painting of a Newfoundland dog that hung together with the “Angus” painting. My Chesapeake Retriever had webbed paws like the Newfoundland dogs, to better swim in water, and was bred from that line, so I was especially partial to the large black dog that had the instinct to save swimmers from drowning, a quality I loved in my own dog, Brownie. Wyeth captured scenes from North America that developed my appreciation for American art.
Here is a link to a video entitled “Art as Witness to History”, an interview with Jamie Wyeth:
Here is an interview with Jamie Wyeth, “Art and Inspiration” 2014:
Here is another interview from “A Conversation with Artist Jamie Wyeth” 2015:
Here is a link to his painting Angus:
Photographer Fred Larkin’s interpretation of “Angus” was a wedding present:
My father David Mossman returned from Canada with these moccasins for me. Walking in moccasins reminds me to ‘walk my talk.’
Our family farm was our gathering place. As my feet walked the sacred land that extended down to the Missouri River, I connected to the wisdom of the Native American Indians. The Omaha Indian Reservation had lands adjacent to our farmland.
Chief Blackbird was known for his magical powers. He was buried on a live horse, on the top of a bluff, overlooking the Missouri River. During his life he traded with the French Trappers, acquiring arsenic, that he used to poison enemies. He was believed to possess magical powers because of his ability to discretely kill his rivals.
I remember sitting around the campfire with family friends on the land, listening to legends told by my father and his friends. Those were memorable times!
Chief Black Elk, was another important Native American Indian Chief in the region. He was a Holy Man. His story was told by John G. Neihardt in “Black Elk Speaks”, first published in 1932. Today, the Catholic Church is considering Chief Black Elk’s canonization.
Here is the overlook on US highway 75 that was connected to our farmland.
Here is a link that tells the history of the Omaha tribe:
Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow:
In the New Yorker article, “Another Vision of Black Elk”, the author reveals how the holy man’s life may receive even more recognition through what might be the first canonization of a Native American.
Here is a chapter that explains Black Elk’s spiritual legacy:
Chief Blackbird, Seven Arrows, and a Medicine Shield
Seven Arrows, a book teaching Native American traditions. Seven Arrows begins by saying, “The story of these People has at its center and all around it the story of the Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel is the very Way of Life of the People. It is an understanding of the Universe. It is the way given to the Peace Chiefs, our Teachers, and by them to us”.
Here is the picture in Seven Arrows that inspired our stained glass window.
This is a Medicine Shield from Seven Arrows. I used this image as an inspiration for a stained glass window in our home.
Thomas L. Kronen 1975
This is a painting of Chief Blackbird.
My love for art and science was cultivated by my grandparents and great-grandfather. By intergenerativity, I mean generative relationships between generations, allowing for enriching intergenerational learning and cultural transmission. Art and science both search for patterns and holistic connections. Intergenerativity illicits future forms of innovation.
Here is a video of Dr. Peter Whitehouse explaining the role of the arts in healing. He defines the meaning of the word intergenerativity and the concept he has developed in relation to intergenerational learning and transmission. He also uses the metaphor of trees to describe transgenerational connections between the earth and sky. Not only is Dr. Whitehouse a neurologist that has done research on Alzheimer’s disease, but he refers to himself as a tree doctor. Here is the abstract from his article, “From Intergenerational to Intergenerative: Towards the Futures of Intergenerational Learning and Health.”
“Intergenerational schools and other multi-age contact zones are important innovations in learning and health. In this reflective essay, we explicate the idea of ‘intergenerativity’ as an elaboration of concept of ‘intergenerational’ to include other inter-actions, such as those that form among disciplines, nations, and professions. Based on celebrating diverse ideas and backgrounds, intergenerativity is a future-oriented concept that goes “between” and “among” current modes of thought and action to “beyond”, i.e. new forms of innovation. It challenges dominant reductionist ways of thinking about aging and brain aging—most prominently the outmoded concept of a single curable Alzheimer’s disease. In a time of climate change, economic hardship, and political turmoil, intergenerative learning is key to healthier individuals and communities”.
Whitehouse and George, “From Intergenerational to Intergenerative: Towards the Futures of Intergenerational Learning and Health.”
In my book I write about Dr. Gilder who was both and artist and archaeologist, working and painting in Nebraska. My grandparents, Harland and Marion Mossman, collected his paintings. Dr. Gilder’s life is an example of how both science and art interact. His life’s work added to the richness of Nebraska’s culture. His Nebraska landscapes underscored the beauty of the trees and their interconnected branches.
The first chapter begins with a metaphor that refers to the Native American Give-Away Ceremony. To better understand the Give-Away ceremony, I am sharing photographs from Father Don Doll’s archives that were taken in 1974. He is a professor of photography at Creighton University, and has generously shared them with me to add yet another dimension to my teaching story.
Photographs of the Give-Away Ceremony taken by Father Don Doll:
When a person dies on the reservation, there is usually a 3-4 day [ all 24 hour each day] wake in the home of the family that lost a person. Then on the day of the funeral, a half cow or full cow is boiled in a horse tank, and pass around to the friends and family gathered in a circle. Also, a decorated cake in honor of the deceased person is shown to the group within the circle before is is cut and served. Meanwhile, one of the relatives will call the names of folks gathered to come and receive a gift from the husband or wife of the deceased person. At this give-away in Spring Creek, on the Rosebud Reservation, Pearl Walking Eagle, the wife of Harvey Walking Eagle who was shot and killed breaking up a fight between their boys and a neighbor. After a year of morning, the family will collect gifts and have another ‘give-away’ and feed.
Father Don Doll’s book Vision Quest tells the story of Billy Mills who had grown up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He won the 1964 Gold Medal for the 10,000 meter race, October 14 2019, was the 50th anniversary of that race. The 1991 interview with Father Don Doll, talks about Running Brave, the 1983 movie about his life and accomplishments, and how he considers it his ‘giveaway’ for all of the positive support he received. He also started a foundation which supports activities on the reservation and here’s that link:https://indianyouth.org/billy-mills. There is a clip of his amazing run, and a brief interview with him where he also talks about ‘giveaway.’
Here is a quote from Father Don Doll’s book Vision Quest that further explains Billy Mill’s interpretation of the give-away:
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Billy Mills thrilled the world by winning the Gold Medal in the 10,000-meter race. More than his stunning upset victory, Billy’s many accomplishments and work on behalf of Native Americans are an inspiration for all people. The production of his life in the movie Running Brave is a contemporary giveaway to the world. Billy’s book, Wokini, is an allegorical how-to journey to happiness. Raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Billy lives with his wife, Pat Mills, and family in Sacramento, California.
“Actually the Gold Medal I won at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo was insignificant. It was the pursuit of excellence that I took from those Olympic Games.
Years ago, my Dad told me to learn to speak English and compete against white America. By doing that, he said I would take our Lakota culture into another generation. At that young age I understood him to mean to compete through sports as an athlete. In retrospect, he didn’t mean to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
What he and my high school coach said indirectly was to find my desires, know myself, and therefore to succeed. Similarly they both encouraged me to participate in sports or drama, art or music in order to have a better understanding of myself. Sports was just the means of understanding myself.
I discovered running by the process of elimination. Running became my positive desire. With desire comes motivation, with motivation comes work, with work comes accomplishment. I became motivated, and therefore was willing to do the 75-105 miles a week consistently for four years. In total I trained 15 years, running over 45,000 miles.
Because of running I learned how to pursue excellence, accepting only defeat, not failure. It has ultimately led me to victories in my positive desires. God gave me the ability with the rest up to me. We compete against ourselves to the greatest extent we’re capable of. We have to believe, believe, believe.
I ran track to have a better understanding of who I am as a man, as a human being, as a person who is half Lakota, half white. I felt lost and confused because I am Indian with full-bloods referring to me as a mixed-blood and whites referring to me as Indian.
I found a third culture, running. Running accepted me on equal terms, and I learned to walk in the Lakota world and white world with one spirit. It’s been a continual struggle to find how Billy as an individual fit in two cultures. I was dealing with the cultural values of the Lakota and contemporary values of white society. I ran in pursuit of my own self identity, and the Gold Medal happened because I had an awareness of who I am.
I didn’t win the Gold Medal because I am an athlete. I won because, to a great extent, I worked with my mind so powerfully that I conditioned myself to think I could win. I came to grips with myself spiritually to a level that freed up my mind from world pressures so I could concentrate and focus. When focused, the spirit does not allow the body or the mind to quit. That visualization, that imagery of I can win, I can win, I can win took over. My thoughts changed over and over again to I won, I won, I won. And I broke the tape!
In Lakota tradition, we have a giveaway to thank all the people who help and inspire us. I took ideas from coaches and athletes worldwide and would have gone bankrupt having giveaways throughout the world. So I attempted to give that inspiration back to another generation through the movie, Running Brave. I took a traditional giveaway and put it into a major motion picture. It was a theatrical release in the U. S. and later shown in 33 countries and syndicated to 100 different television stations in America. I took this positive desire and put the traditional giveaway into a contemporary concept, a perpetual lifetime giveaway”.
Now I have my own vision, my new positive desire which started being formulated as I stood on the victory stand being praised, and understanding the praise. In understanding it, I realized this tremendous hurt from America not understanding me or Indian people.
Indian people are the only group in America with no political representation. We have quasi-sovereignty. We have no vote from our sovereignty land base. So we have quasi-apartheid in America. Because this isn’t being addressed, I will devote time and energy there. That’s my heartbeat now.
You can learn more about Father Don Doll’s work by going to his website: http://www.magisproductions.org
The deep descriptions in this autoethnographic work are an attempt to show the ways in which a sense of belonging is transmitted. Searching for my roots transformed the familial futures of all my relationships. New life trajectories were subsequently co-created.
“Autoethnography is a way of caring for the self. We often write to work something out for ourselves, and when we do, we must take into account how we care for ourselves, as well as how we experience tension and conflict with others.” The autoethnographic process has allowed me to work through my story, giving self-care to my becomingness.  Tony E. Adams, Stacy Linn Holman Jones, and Carolyn Ellis.
Autoethnography (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 62.
My greatest hope is that my story will enkindle the transformative energy that Saint Hildegard Von Bingen called « viriditas » in the lives of my readership. She understood viriditas as a life giving and greening force.
Author of Homing In: A Story Mandala Connecting Adoption, Reunion and Belonging