Reflections about Bridging Cultures – Writing 101

Carol A. Hand

Oddly, I referenced bridges in yesterday’s post but I didn’t really comment about the importance of the metaphor they represent in my life experiences. Born of parents from different ancestries – Ojibwe and Anglo American – I needed to learn to span different cultures, socio-economic classes, and spiritual beliefs. Often in the past, it wasn’t easy to figure out where I fit.

Ryansinn-bongbridgeatnight (2)

Photo: Blatnik Bridge – View of Duluth, MN from Superior, WI by Ryansinn Photography

There was a time not too long ago when I described the liminal space between cultures – and bridges as a culture-spanning metaphor – in the following way.

“Rupert Ross (1992) observed, “When you try to be a bridge between two cultures, you should expect to get walked over by some people from both sides.” (Dancing with a ghost: Exploring Indian realities, p. xx). This is true from my experience, but not the most difficult challenge to overcome. Because I was in-between, I had to learn to listen and observe others intensely to try to understand who they were and what was important to them. Not surprisingly, this often meant I learned to bridge many differences. Because I learned how to stand up against abuse, I was most interested in working with people whose experiences were in some ways similar to mine. By watching and listening to people from many different cultures, I became increasingly aware of the larger structural issues that underlay their shared oppression. But to be an observer who also sees a broader context is a space of distance that prevents one from really ever just “being” with people.” (Living in the Space Between Cultures, posted on Jeff Nguyen’s blog, Deconstructing Myths)

As a result of taking the risk to share my thoughts and experiences on my blog, I’ve met many friends who understand what it feels like to be different. Some have presented alternative ways of viewing the freedom of difference. Part of Diane Lefer’s comment on the above post gave me a new way to envision possibilities.

“… I wish instead of being a bridge to be walked on, you can be a bird, able to alight on any side of any boundary and then go back to watching from above as you fly.” (Diane Lefer, 2014)

This morning, Silvia di Blasio’s profound and eloquent post offered another perspective.

“There are places in this world that act as portals. Places where we find our tribe, even if for a short moment in time, tell us we are not alone, show a mirror where we can see our own truth … the wound just cracked open and the crying won’t stop until a decision is made: going back where I belong” (Silvia di Blasio, 2015)

Woven together, these images and metaphors inspired a morning poem.

I meet the members of my tribe for precious brief moments
In the center of high bridges
Suspended between earth and sky
Connecting lands that only appear separate and different

We need to learn to look deeply enough
To see that we’re all really connected
With the earth and sky, and with each other
Otherwise our loneliness is too much to bear

Sometimes we dance and blend our voices in song
And sometimes we travel together for awhile
Working our collective magic to rebuild caring communities
That still may never really feel like our own

Buffeted by the winds of change
In our solitary vantage points
We learn to treasure memories
Of the truth of oneness, communion, and home

At this stage of my life, I realize that I can find members of my tribe everywhere if I look deeply enough. I send blessings to all of my relations, but today, especially to those who sometimes feel alone…

Work Cited:

Rupert Ross (1992). Dancing with a ghost: Exploring Indian reality. Markham, ON, CA: Octopus Publishing Group.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

24 thoughts on “Reflections about Bridging Cultures – Writing 101

  1. Carol, It is interesting that you feel culturally united at the top of the span of a high bridge because yesterday you mentioned your fear of high bridges. Does the unifying aspect of your two cultures cause you some anxiety? I like how you finish with the thought that we are all members of the same tribe.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I dunno. I appreciate your writing. I tend to think most everybody feels alone. Those that thoroughly acknowledge it to themselves thereby give themselves room to grow and discover. Others barely acknowledge it and respond to the downstream emotional consequences of sort of constantly feeling hard done by or something missing and basically huddle within society hardly daring to express independent thought and just repeating societal norms and tend to complain rather than getting to the truth-which is -that each one of us is alone., It is the truth of the matter and out of that comes strength. I recognize that this statement is a vast generalization, nor am I discounting thevalueof friends and family-and there is great joy in discovering groups of compatible people but still recognizing basic aloneness gives space to develop genuinecompassion.After all everybody is in the same boat. I hope you don’t mind my stating my truth. I appreciate your enduring spirit and strength.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing honest, thoughtful reflections and insights, CB. You’ve added important perspectives to this dialogue and I’m grateful you felt comfortable doing so. 🙂


  3. A beautiful post, Carol, that requires some reflection. I love the metaphor of bridges, those arches of observation that can ultimately lead to viewing connections on a deeper level. The contrasts of heights and depths are profound as well as the idea of pathways connecting the parts of our experience, joining disparate pieces of our belonging, the process of leaving behind and moving toward. So much in there to ponder. Sometimes bridges are our ways over rivers of fear that would sweep us away or keep us apart. When I worked with struggling children, I used to think of my role as accompanying children and families over bridges. Thank you for the wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your thought-provoking imagery, D., and the example you shared about your past work with children and families. Bridges that span time and distances, high and low. Thank you for your eloquent comments and kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I spent the late afternoon chatting with friends on the local Native radio show. We talked about Coyote, identity, and living across and between cultures. Lovely to see you speaking to these things as well. Perhaps they are in the autumn air! Anyway, you brought your usual insight and eloquence to the conversation. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love Coyote stories, and trickster stories, too. Do you ever share recordings of any of your radio show conversations on your blog? It would be fascinating to hear them!

      And thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments, Michael 🙂


      1. Dear Carol: That is a great loss for them. Your voice, your wisdom and your knowledge should be there. You have extremely important words, so many need to hear. We will always be able to converse on WP. Hate using my email, it is at Centurylink and takes entirely too long to get to! Only go there once or twice a month!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for your very kind words, Donna ❤

          I'm not good with technology and have discovered how hard it is to even keep up with WP these days, especially when the message center is malfunctioning (a once-a-day occurrence). Accepting and responding to comments, visiting those who "like" a post, takes many extra hours and creative strategies just to find blogs. But it's important for me to let people know that I value them and what they have to say. These days, I'm just slow doing so 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. In my own background, I’m left with a strong sense of straddling the working and middle class. This is one reason I really like New Zealand. There is no authentic middle class here (except for immigrants). Due to the horrendous student loan scheme, most college-trained Kiwis immigrate to countries where they can make a decent salary.

    For the first time in my life, I’m surrounded by people with a primarily working class consciousness, who think, talk, dress and raise their children the same way I do. I must admit it feels pretty damned good.

    Liked by 1 person

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