Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Bird Droppings June 14, 2021
Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

I walked in the house from running a few errands and after unloading my car, swam about a half mile and sat down to write. This could be my second time I will be missing out on my first day of school teaching high school in nearly twenty years. I will just assume retirement will not be as tense and hectic as my first day teaching high school on September 11, 2001 was. While driving home I was thinking back to a song one of my students chose to write about several years ago, Live like you were dying by Tim McGraw. A dear friend passed away and it is difficult as I write today to not think about how many friends, do I want to see and talk to one more time. I have been sorting through books and files and found a small inspirational book based on that song. The song came up when I had given a writing assignment to pick a favorite song, find the lyrics then explain the song. There is something about country music and lyrics and emotions that hit you.

As various music genre came forth that one song stood out among all the rest that day. Here we can argue genres and such although I did use Beyoncé and Bob Dylan in a sarcastic graphic mainly pointed at our system of measuring schools. Bob Dylan if anyone is not aware has been chosen as the greatest song writer of all time. Some can argue and I got into this the other day with a fellow teacher and friend as I was picking on his heavy metal blaring after hours. I used the rock and roll hall of fame as an example and Dylan has songs covered by the greats, Knockin on Heaven’s door, All along the watchtower to name a few.

“You have to do what you love to do, not get stuck in that comfort zone of a regular job. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” Lucinda Basset

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

Searching for words midst a deluge of thought I got caught up in Tim McGraw’s words from that assignment so many years back.

“I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about” Tim McGraw

We take life so often for granted, wasting precious moments, missing bits and pieces as we go hurriedly to the next event of the day. My dear friend I had not seen since 1978 but we communicated regularly on Facebook. Sharing all of those years in photos and one line captions.

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” Josh Billings

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

“I went Rocky Mountain climbing I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter and I watched an eagle as it was flying and he said someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” Tim McGraw

All week in the morning I walked out as I do.  Over the years so many mornings early in the day, to my right a clearing the pines often a great smile of a moon almost half a full moon but still a smile. The stars add to the effect and surrounding me that great chorus of crickets and tree frogs, it was literally over whelming. I have yet to figure how crickets in our neighborhood can harmonize. Perhaps they were singing for my friend.

“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, and passion.” Nadia Boulanger

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

We each search and try to find the pathway that is best for us as we journey through life. How and why we go the direction we do is our choice and the attitude that we have again is our choice. As I am reading again the words from Tom McGraw’s song and listening to teenagers respond is interesting, living each day to the fullest is not just about riding a bull named Fu Manchu for 2.7 seconds or mountain climbing in the Rockies. It is more about loving deeper and speaking sweeter, it is the moments not the events, it is extracting as much as possible and giving as much as possible in each second of each day.

“I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t and I became a friend a friend would like to have” Tim McGraw

Again, a flash back, to a phone call several years ago. It was again a few years back another incident struck me, my middle son called from college and sounded upset there was an un-easiness in his voice. A female student had killed herself in the dorm; several of his friends were peer leaders on that hall. In another situation I was informed two students I have been talking with for three years were both pregnant distant events each encompassing in its own, a life ended and lives starting. One of the girls came by to tell me personally after I had heard rumors.

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot

It has been many years since I would walk out into the pastures at night and hear the snorting of our buffalo. It is so hard to explain seeing a bull buffalo’s breath blowing across the grass in the wee hours of the morning on a cool day, or watching fireflies skirt the kudzu and sumac of our back yard. A young lady takes her life, she had a plan with a stopping point I wonder if she lived as if she were dying or was she dying so she could live? What a paradox we set in motion as we journey each day.

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end how’s it hit you when you get that kinda news man what’d you do…….live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about what’d you do with it what did you do with it” Tim McGraw

I won’t be riding bulls or skydiving but I will be smiling and I will love and I will be living each moment that I have got and hopefully set an example for the those I meet along the way. I may make a few more day trips this summer to spend precious moments with friends. So my dear friends take a moment and truly think about it, live your moments to the fullest and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please be sure to give thanks for the moments namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Why is seeking peace so difficult?

Bird Droppings June 13, 2021
Why is seeking peace so difficult?

Around the world armies are moving as I write. There are missiles are being aimed and tanks rolling. War is a magnificent profit driving machine for industry. Sadly it is more so about money than national ideology. I have always been against war and always have felt there are other ways to solve issues.

“In this week of great destruction, we must each choose what road we are to walk and live. The road of destruction is war, it has always been so. The road of creation is deeper and more complicated; it has always involved forgiveness, love, light, prayer, and spirit. In these new millennia we have a chance to change the way we see other beings to one of connectedness and unity. We have a chance to let go of the ancient ways of war and conflict, of who is right, of being better of senseless killing. This week has thrown us back on the old model of the last millennia.” Michael Samuels M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, Path of the Feather

I miss being in the Foxfire class during the summer normally this time of year. Although in my current dissertation writing mode writing, research and reading is hours a day. However, there is something about spending 24 hours a day with other teachers discussing education and learning that is significant. Thinking back during one moment of time between classes and meetings I happen to be sitting in at an Ingles Store in North Georgia which happened to have a Starbucks. A young gentlemen walked by with two peace symbols tattooed on his calf. It caught my attention and got me thinking back to several summers ago when I was driving up to this same spot to visit the Foxfire Museum, I watched seven people marching for peace in the small town of Clayton, Georgia. My writing today started with a few lines from a Navaho prophecy edited by Dr.’s Samuels and Rockwood. In my own searching reading and writing so often the contrast of peace versus war comes up, as does so many dualities in our world.

“The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, ‘I was wrong’.” Sydney J. Harris

For many Sydney J. Harris is simply an old forgotten columnist from by gone days when people happen to actually read hardcopy. I frequently use quotes from his essays and columns. His words are powerful, and I thank a dear friend from nearly thirteen years ago for showing me his work. Often as I find articles he wrote from the sixties and seventies, and I wonder why I missed them then. I am reminded often it was not the time, as I refer to my Jungian philosophy and orientation. All of the pieces were not in place at that time for me to understand to recognize what it was he is saying. In my emails and communications often, I see misunderstanding and ignorance, myself included. I recall a friend writing from his heart and others only could criticize and or turn away and not understand, so often not even reading the words.

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” Sydney J. Harris

“An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run does not matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.” Sydney J. Harris

Sitting here most mornings it is so easy to formulate solutions and fantasize a world free from strife and turmoil and I as I write this morning sitting at home in my writing area having read the current news, talk of new troop deployments in Yemen which are hinted from Saudi Arabia my heart sinks. But then I walk away from my computer and wonder what is it we are trying to do in the world. Tomorrow morning a big sale at one of the local department stores, with the early bird sale masses of humanity will line up to get the best deals and gasoline will still be artificially high so our wonderful gas company’s profits can recoup several years of cheap gas and to bolster or hinder the economy, depending on whose view you take.

I often wonder who came up with thinking like that in any other business sooner or later someone would see the ridiculous, it has been nearly ten years that Exxon just about each quarter has the highest profits ever in one headline and on another gasoline is at its highest ever, such an interesting parallel we seem to miss. A good point however at least someone is thinking with the high court decisions made this week and as our Supreme Court judges slowly age, a poll was taken as to what type of judge should replace any who should step down. Most now want a moderate there are still a few wanting conservatives and only about a quarter want a liberal. Somewhere there was an extra three percent I am assuming they were undecided.

“Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.” Sydney J. Harris

That simple reminder from Harris needs to come up every day. I am excited to be at home today with our son, his wife and our grandbaby visiting from North Carolina. It is always good to wake up to a new morning and be able to go watered my herb garden. We each need to look at our pathway and see which direction we are going. Looking back at the first quote are we choosing the path of destruction or of creation as the Navaho say. My dear friends please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Seeking a destination

Bird Droppings June 12, 2021

Seeking a destination

“Life is about the journey not the destination; we don’t know what tomorrow brings” Steven Tyler, AEROSMITH

Every once in a while, I get totally amazed, and as I was driving from point A to point B not too many days ago a song was playing in my son’s car, and it happened to be playing on XM radio with that line in it. I meant to write down which song and forgot later he told me it is from the song Awesome. I Knew the line as he had left me a note nearly twenty-five years ago after a friend passed away.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating you.” George Bernard Shaw

We each get up in the morning and begin the day usually very similar to the day previous just as always in the later hours of morning on a Saturday my house is quiet. One son is off making his life in Southern Pines North Carolina having graduated from Georgia Tech in chemical engineering and now in environmental engineering. Another son graduated from Piedmont College with a master’s degree in science education and teaches in a nearby high school. My youngest son also graduated from Piedmont College and is a registered nurse living in Meansville Georgia and currently working in Albany Georgia in ICU. I am up early in the morning on the computer studying, researching, and writing working on my dissertation through Georgia Southern university.

I recall a few summers back my youngest was at music camp for a week when my father passed away. My youngest son’s passion has been the blues harmonica back in the day as he says his cousin and my oldest were jamming together, focusing on old southern rock and blues. Who knows maybe they will turn some folks on to some old Robert Johnson songs instead of the pop music so many teenagers listen to now a days. So many memories as I think this morning.

I went by my mother’s house that particular day to drop off her groceries as I used to do many times a week sometimes. Occasionally it is to drop off digital photos for my mother’s hobby she is creating greeting cards from photos and artwork. Her cards use an image on the front and then she will write a poem or phrase to go inside. I went driving around years back looking for a picture of a spider web one day for her and in the process took 60 other photos. One I had used as a screen saver for many weeks for my laptop of my oldest son’s saltwater tank. It has been nearly twenty years since he has had a reef tank, basically a saltwater aquarium that simulates a coral reef, in miniature. The denizens are primarily colonial polyps and other invertebrates which from a few feet away look like lumps of rock in a very brightly lit tank. However, when you get up close and the rocks have quarter inch creatures with tentacles waving in the current they are very much alive. One of the pictures I took was of a group of anemones that cluster together each only a quarter inch wide covering a piece of coral rock with what looks like hair till you look closely and it is tiny tentacles catching microscopic creatures in the water. A tiny mantis shrimp that hatched in the tank was swimming about and got his or her picture taken, each of them less than a sixteenth of an inch long. What is amazing is how much beauty is contained in a space so small.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

So many people are not content and struggle looking for what may be right in front of them. It is our outlook and perception that are crucial to truly seeing and hearing in this reality. Daily I hear people complain about teaching how they do not like teaching or do not like working with children. I keep wanting to say well do something else then.

“How far is far, how high is high? We’ll never know until we try.” California special Olympics song

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” Walt Disney

It is the entire journey, it is walking along seeing all there is to see, not missing that minute detail, or word and with conviction achieving your goals. No one can see what you see or hear what you hear only a vague proximity and only you will know when your goal is met. In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stepped to the top of the world on Mt. Everest 29,000 feet plus above sea level no one else had ever done that, now Nepal is a tourist trap with thousands coming through not all to climb but many to say they were there.

I heard from several friends lately through Facebook from so many years ago and one used the word new when describing those days from so long ago. I wrote to another friend this morning about how that was such a good word for back then so many things were brand new almost like opening presents. But today I just do not rip off the paper and see the new toy I look at each minute detail. I try and listen far more carefully granted I am old, and hearing is slightly going still better than most peoples. When I was younger, I was rushing through life and things were new and so much to see like running through the park to simply say I have been there. I now stop and ponder and wonder about the details the pieces to the puzzle. No longer is it about getting done it is truly about the journey.

“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” Sir Edmund Hillary

We all can achieve, we all can do great things, we all can overcome obstacles, it is confidence, constancy, courage, and curiosity as Disney said. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Life is making a quilt

Bird Droppings June 11, 2021
Life is making a quilt

It was nearly fourteen years ago my wife walked in and told me that my mother said this was to be a happy time, a joyous occasion, as we celebrated my father’s life on a Sunday. She said I think we are even having a snow cone machine. I thought to myself it gets hot in Georgia on an afternoon in June. About this same time another event was transpiring in our families lives. I helped my son with a project of repairing the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech. Fourteen years ago my son and acquaintance a 1968 Ga. Tech graduate of Tech and I were talking about a body shop and getting the Wreck ready for first football game. Somehow or other the idea of how things fall in place came up and after they headed out I started on my idea of a quilt.

I had started thinking about my father again and remembering talking with my son’s friend and how he had been all over the world lectured and taught in countries most people will never know. Another email I recall mentioned how dad was always giving folks something; it could be a necklace with a rock from South Africa or a bola with some African trinket or South American artifact as the clasp. Sometimes it was a story or just wisdom from his years working with people. It hit me his life was like a quilt.

“People come out to see you perform and you’ve got to give them the best you have within you. The lives of most men are patchwork quilts. Or at best one matching outfit with a closet and laundry bag full of incongruous accumulations. A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” Jesse Owens, 1913-1980, American Olympian

I use the comparison to a puzzle often nearly each day as I write. But when I read this idea of a quilt of our lives it hit me. A patchwork quilt, with each piece a significant event in life yet alone not enough to make the whole. Each piece of the quilt is still independent of each other piece. My wife has a quilt from her grandmother whose grandmother made it; each little piece of fabric is sown to the next each little section connects to the next and in the end a quilt. We have several quilts made for our sons by a friend’s mother many years ago. A good friend in Holland is a quilter and she posts pictures of each intricate masterpiece as she sews.

For twelve years during my summers a few years back I go up to the mountains of North Georgia and have been involved with the Foxfire program for teaching. The instructors have used an exercise where each participant makes a piece and together a quilt is created each session. The quilt is hanging on the wall with pieces added as the week progresses. Traditionally in the mountains there are sixteen stitches per inch which is the measure of a quilt I learned that while up at Foxfire talking with one of the women at the museum center. Often when I am talking with kids I will use timelines to piece together but I think I will try this idea of a quilt each piece adding to the whole yet alone just a scrap of fabric. As I look back at so many memories and you know it seems to all be flowing piecing together, I like the idea of a quilt. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Teaching in a spiritual sense

Bird Droppings June 10, 2021
Teaching in a spiritual sense

“Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it’s never living apart from oneself. Not about absence of other people – it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.” Parker Palmer

Dr. Parker Palmer is an innovator, speaker, retreat leader, author, and traveling teacher. He is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. Parker Palmer received his Ph.D. from the University of California. I was first introduced to his writing in 2001 by a friend who happened to be my principal at the time. He recommended his book, The courage to Teach, to me and I have given away several copies now over the years.

“Teachers choose their vocation for reasons of the heart because they care deeply about their students and their subject. But the demands of teaching cause too many educators to lose heart. Is it possible to take heart in teaching once more so that we can continue to do what teachers always do – give heart to our students.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I have been in teaching over fifty years and have watched teachers burn out or simply fizzle out. There is a slight bit of difference between burn and fizzle. Someone who burns out is putting their all into what they do, and someone who fizzles out is taking up space and probably should not have been there to begin with. I have watched creative teachers starting out like gang busters succumb to teaching blues and boredom. They come in full of zeal and within a semester are borrowing premade transparencies from their next-door neighbor because they do not have the time anymore to create new ones.

“Bad teachers distance themselves from the subject they are teaching – and in the process, from their students. Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life.” Parker Palmer

I have for many years considered teaching an art form. I do think it is a place where a person’s soul is bared for better or worse as you teach whatever subject you happened to be teaching. If you truly want to connect with your students, you open your heart as palmer indicates, and this is difficult for many to do. I honestly think it takes a special person to be a good and effective teacher. Parker Palmer in his writing discusses how teaching is a community effort. My thoughts reflect back to John Dewey and his revelations of education as a social event and more critically a necessity.

“As I make the case that good teaching is always and essentially communal, I am not abandoning my claim that teaching cannot be reduced to technique. Community, or connectedness, is the principle behind good teaching, but different teachers with different gifts create community in surprisingly diverse ways, using widely divergent methods.” Parker Palmer

 
In my journeys in life and I use a word whose connotation is plural as I am discussing my journeys since I have been in several directions prior to where I am now. I have found that it is in happiness and solace we find peace with ourselves. The quote I started with today reflects on solitude that for me is a few moments each day in a spot I have selected away from the house with a view across a large pasture. I can sit and reflect on my day or my day ahead and I ponder sitting listening to the sounds about me. I claim this spot as sacred, and some will scuff how you can say that it does not have a church or any religious affiliation. I titled my writing today as a spiritual side to teaching and these two words for me intertwine as I look at them and ponder further.

“Sacred means, quite simply, worthy of respect.” Parker Palmer

In the several years that I have been teaching it has been about respect and trust. I have gone about this through building relationships with students. In my opinion, that is one of the most critical aspects of the teaching process. It is not simply a curriculum and a book or several books, and it is relationships. I see what I do each day as a spiritual endeavor bringing new ideas to students who may not have had the chance previously to understand or even experience in any way this knowledge. It was nearly thirteen years since I wrote a trust scale for human development course I was taking. It follows along a similar concept that I had read about in Dr. James Fowler’s book, The Development of Faith. We start out as totally trusting and soon learn not to trust and eventually return to total trust. It takes good and great teachers to help along the way. Thinking about a new week ahead, and few days left in this week the positive and negative that will come my way. I tend to choose to embrace the positive and not spend as much time considering the negative. I do hope each of you can take a moment to reflect and to please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Wondering is a powerful tool

Bird Droppings June 9, 2021
Wondering is a powerful tool

Several years back during the school year we started sort of a school-wide vocabulary of the week I was reminded of this as I was looking through my various files for quotes and such. About three years ago as the day wound down an email came out from the head of the English Department featuring our vocabulary words of the week. The email was asking each teacher to feature and or have out a featured word. The word for the next week was to be diligent, which is an adjective and means to be showing care in doing one’s work. I had a photo I took the first day or so of school of one of the teachers across the hall from me talking with a student. I knew there was a use for that photo, and it became the background for the word of the week poster. Conveniently the teacher is an English teacher as well. Here I am sitting in the wee hours of the morning thinking back to my first word of the week poster in near darkness wondering about today and my own word of the week ahead.

“He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.” M. C. Escher

I first became aware of artist M.C. Escher in the early 1970’s. As a side note for those of you not familiar with Escher, he would use forms and geometric shapes to create his pictures. Many would be wood block prints that often took the form of a puzzle like maze. There is one I remember that is a series of lizard-like creatures that as they pass the midpoint of the picture begins to change into birds. He was a man who was in awe of awe.

“It is the unseen and the spiritual in people that determines the outward and the actual.” Thomas Carlyle

Perhaps as Carlyle points out it is that aspect of our nature, we do not totally reveal that is more in control than what we think. Coming from a psychology background and over the years working in settings where these aspects are integral to what might transpire in a day I have come to find there is fragileness, gossamer, delicate layer that makes us tick and yet there within that fragility is our strength as well.

“To know what people think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

I recall as we listen to our politicians who pass laws that they are immune to. So often for politicians the rhetoric that elects have little meaning once elected. I am always amazed at how we cut taxes and increase spending and wonder why you are in deep deficits and going deeper. However, in reality it seems that all people in general seem to be politicians as we go through life.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

We all our in effect are selfish creatures and be that it may occasionally we try to alter that behavior and focus on others but deep down unless we find something in that effort we seem to turn back. I am being cynical this morning as I near the end of the week and   did not start that way today. I was reading several pieces by Skinner this morning one of which has always bothered me even though we have ethics guidelines as teachers. 

“Give me a child and I’ll shape him into anything.” B. F. Skinner

During the early 1970’s as I received my undergraduate degree in psychology Skinner was a mainstay of my thinking with behavior modification. I ran many rats through Skinner boxes. Press the lever and receive a food pellet. Skinner firmly believed all behavior can be controlled, manipulated, and repackaged. I have learned much if only one thing over the years since. There is a bit more too it. If Skinner were right totally and in the wrong hands, there would be little to be in awe of. There would be little wonderment left, but it is that aspect where behaviorism hits a wall. We can point control and manipulate behaviors. We can change behaviors. We can alter, negate, and extinguish behaviors. But somewhere deep within there is a spark as Carlyle says. There is that unseen part of us that is outside that reinforcement of desired behaviors.

“Just as a flower that seems beautiful and has color but no perfume, so are the fruitless words of a man who speaks to them, but does them not.” John Dewey

“Don’t you believe that there is in man a deep so profound as to be hidden even to him in whom it is?” St. Augustine

As I read this morning and searched looking for answers yet to be known, I find we all are searching each in our way. We each are trying to find that elusive aspect that is unseen, that hidden portion as we journey and trod the pathways of life. There are answers and simply sharing answers would be in a way like cheating but by providing lesson guides to help others find answers that perhaps would be different. So, with a day ahead a new journey to go. Take a step forward one before the other. As you walk look at what a person does more than what they say. I do believe that there is more to man than simply what is there and seek to find answers and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can you be dreaming, imagining, thinking, pondering and reflecting all in a few minutes?

Bird Droppings June 8, 2021
Can you be dreaming, imagining, thinking, pondering
and reflecting all in a few minutes?

I drove to southeast Georgia over ten years ago to take my oral exams for my doctorate. This was basically a follow-up face to face with my committee of professors and in turn responding to my three written questions which were answered in a minimum of fifteen-page papers my total was closer to eighty or so. I always enjoyed the drive down generally always going part of the way on back roads. I have several stops I traditionally make one is a Georgia native plant nursery and the other the world’s best barbecue, bar none.

I got to Statesboro Georgia about seven o’clock on a Friday evening and had forgotten about a graduate conference that was going on that Thursday and Friday so several of my friends from my doctorate cohort were in town. I had dinner with one that evening. I went back to my room to review further my answers and slept little anticipating my oral exam the next morning. Much of my discussion with my professors was positive and actually enjoyable as we all have a similar view of education. While waiting I talked with another doctorate student who was there for the conference, and we discussed the right and left wings of education which has been heavy on my mind in recent days.

I am far too often on the extreme left of the balance beam and being loud and often obnoxious can sway the beam. Participating in the Foxfire teacher courses up in Mountain City on the Foxfire property I often found myself on the outside of discussions as so many are locked into a supposed teacher ideal that has been the norm for a hundred years. In talking with others the past few days, I found my success and lack of success was being equated on whether I am following specific curriculum versus how well the students were doing in school. I have been over the years in an odd sort of teaching role, for ten years in a resource room all day and for six years in co-teaching. I had never more than seven students in resource and often that seven were all emotionally behaviorally disturbed students who required significantly more attention. In shifting to co-teaching now the demographics are all phases of special education and a large population of at-risk students who seem to end up in co-teaching classes.

Just before I retired the first time, I was being evaluated by an administrator who sees education for the first time in many years very similar to how see education. Special education is anything but black and white and has numerous shades of gray and often is multi-color as well. All of my evaluations those couple years were excellent.  As I compile data over the next few weeks on what students had done with teachers and classes especially sitting here pondering the remarks and statements of teachers involved in the past training programs up in the mountains, I want to find commonality among good teachers. What makes a specific classroom work? How is it one teacher without just teaching to test does well? What combination of attitude, ideas, and skills creates a workable scenario for learning? Perhaps most critical is this significant learning that will be carried away?

Over the past years in Atlanta’s main paper numerous administrators and teachers in multiple counties faced criminal charges for altering standardized test scores as the ongoing testing scandal unfolds. In the process of scoring, they found numerous erasers and corrections. These were disproportionate to state and normal testing corrections. Also, the schools questioned raised their scores nearly fifty points higher than average improvement. These administrators and teachers are faced with termination as their schools were testing lower than required for the fourth year. No child is left behind is what we are told is the name of the bill that mandates all of this testing and curriculum. I use the word curriculum very loosely.

In education we are in a vacuum as to what is success in school. Is it truly test scores on standardized tests that here in Georgia have been controversial from day one? Recently on a first administration the particular math test had literally no one passing. How can a specific grade test, over a given grade subject curriculum, be so hard that no one passes? How can a test at the end of a subject session be a measure of what students have learned without a reference point? I started thinking in math somewhere someone either made a test from a different book or never really looked at the book they were too be testing about.

As I talk with and gather information from the former students and teachers of Foxfire and now new teachers learning about this idea for my dissertation, I have had the pleasure to communicate with students who were in the program nearly forty years and even fifty years ago as well as some in the program at Rabun High School now. I found it interesting that they still had fond memories and remembrances of those classes. They were still using that knowledge today. Somewhat different than cramming for a standardized test “teaching to the test” that all teachers hate and are the norm nationwide in so many schools. In my reading most recently many of the great educators talk about lifelong learning that this is what we should be teaching. Sadly, many teachers have gotten away from this.


It was refreshing in my exam now ten years ago to be sitting with other educators who shared my ideas of learning and education. I did pass the exam and now in my procrastination am working on finishing my dissertation. I may have gotten carried away in my ranting today but how we each measure success is crucial to who we are as humans. Could be the mountain air I am looking forward too is getting to me and or maybe my brain works better at higher altitudes.

“You only have to be a little bit better than most in what you do. Just a little smarter, just a little steadier, just a little more energetic, or whatever other prime quality is demanded in your field. If successes admitted this, they would not have cause to feel so conceited; and if the aspirants recognized this, they would not have cause to feel so left behind at the starting line.” Sydney J. Harris

“Success is just a little more effort,” from his column Strictly Speaking, it is not that difficult to be a little better than most, but we often see that as too much effort and too much work.

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

We need others to succeed to move ahead to provide support for us as we journey. Succeeding is often an effort of a group as well as a person in an endeavor. I tend to find myself alone often out of choice. Sort of my monasticism coming out I will say. But for me alone time provides reflection time on what has been happening during a given day.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have heard this quote so many times at commencement speeches in lectures on success by motivational speakers and yet each time a little more of it sinks in. Perhaps Emerson was ahead of his time as I read his words the last line becomes so significant success is having made another’s life easier a very powerful statement in our selfish society it is not that we have done that following a prescribed method.

“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” Harvey S. Firestone

Success is how we leave others as we walk away, the difference we make the level at which we make change in the environment around and in some instances our ability to not make change and still accomplish something.

“My definition of success is total self-acceptance. We can obtain all of the material possessions we desire quite easily, however, attempting to change our deepest thoughts and learning to love ourselves is a monumental challenge. We may achieve success in our business lives, but it never quite means as much if we do not feel good inside. Once we feel good about ourselves inside, we can genuinely lend ourselves to others.” Franklin Covey

Seeing ourselves clearly honestly and learning to like, to even love ourselves is crucial to truly succeeding. Success is about us and how we affect the world and others. Success can be a minute difference we make in what is happening around us. Success can be a simple elevation of a friend or attainment of a goal. Success is effort yet success can be attained with the heart as well as the body.

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

As I was reading quotes and articles today to write this morning it was interesting how success was defined by various people. In many situations many wealthy people defined success in terms of their wealth. Others looked at the word as a gauge of human involvement. There are numerous different approaches and comparisons were available as I looked. Was it accomplishment, outcome, achievement, or something else were all listed as definitive words for success as I read and think back to two of the quotes I used today.
Dr. Schweitzer spoke of happiness as the key? This man was a musician extraordinaire he played in concert halls all over Europe and used those funds to run a hospital in Africa in the 1930’s till his death many years later. His success in life was his practice of medicine where he was needed. Emerson as he indicates success is that difference you make in another’s life. As I look closer at myself I truly believe success is a word needing others to define it is about your impact and difference you make but I cannot help but feel successful when contacted by a parent that their child has passed all of his classes for the first time in his or her life or even better for me that their child was not sent home from school for the first time in eleven years. That makes me feel successful. I have found success is not measured as much in volume as in quality. Quality defined by guru of quality Phillip J. Crosby is exceeding the expectations of the customer. To draw a simple parallel success is exceeding what someone else expects from you. Please keep all in harm’s way in your thoughts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Often we find ourselves in a fog of education

Bird Droppings June 5, 2021
Often we find ourselves in a fog of education

I was heading to my friends Rosary memorial service about three years ago. I got up as I do a bit later on that day and walked a mile in the pool. I tend to meditate and wander in my thinking ponder as it might be. I use a small white plastic cube to mark laps around the pool. Seventeen equal a quarter mile and there by sixty-eight times around a mile. As I walk at night in early morning hours, I listen to traditional cedar flute music by Carlos Nakai. The haunting notes seem to guide meditation. Today instead of something less meditative I was on the phone with my son. The time flew by. I thought about my friend and talking with her sisters and family that night. I looked over and a cardinal was feeding and chirping nearby. My son said dad you have a cardinal nearby he has become the bird expert in the family. I tend to look for signs and immediately someone asks of what? Usually, I catch myself and say signs I am still able to see and hear. My thoughts came back to storytelling and stories some from my friends two years ago as we talked about their sister but one kept drawing me in. The pied piper of Hamlin. I may need to come back to that in more writing detail.

“The more sand that has escaped the hourglass of life, the clearer we should see through it.” Jean Paul Sartre

As I was looking for thoughts and ideas to start, I actually was going a different direction when by accident or should I say coincidence found this quote. As we get older, we have experienced more and if we have learned from our experiences the hour glass does clear however if those grains have been abrasive and scoured the glass as they went through the glass will be scratched and foggy. It is life’s lessons that determine this process and how we have responded that provide the fodder for our endeavor. I am sitting here in the morning hours after responding for nearly an hour to various posts on blogs and a copy of John Dewey’s Experience and Education to my left. Hopefully, next week I will be heading to North Georgia a few miles from the North Carolina line to wander the Foxfire property as I do. The museum and property all came about through a high school class that came alive by what is now called Foxfire Teaching, a method based on experience and John Dewey. More on Foxfire to come as well. I said my thoughts wandered today.

“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” W. Whitman

“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings” W. Blake

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” Albert Einstein

“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” Henry David Thoreau

It is often about choosing to look, to see, to listen, and to hear those are all choices we make as we go through life. It is far easier to take ideas and thoughts from others to be subjugated by others to be what another wants us to be but only in hearing and seeing for ourselves can we as Thoreau says wake up to the dawn and we must be awake especially in today’s politically biased and charged atmosphere. As I was reading last night this thought came up and it intrigued me since I started in about using your own eyes and ears.

“An anthropologist asked a Hopi Indian why so many of his native songs seemed to be about the subject of rain… he replied: ‘because rain is scarce in our land… is that the reason so many of your songs are about love?’” Kent Nerburn

As I thought is that the problem in our society to be so easily recognized by a Hopi Indian in New Mexico who had never really been to a big city or “civilized” area of The United States, could it be a lack of love that is why our society stumbles. I was involved in a discussion of sorts on another’s Facebook page over holistic healing and herbals cures. This discussion was modern versus ancient methodology and granted many new age supposed “cures” are a bit of a stretch there is wisdom in the elders.

“Mankind often stumbles upon the truth…. but usually picks itself up & goes along.” Winston Churchill

We so often know the answer and choose not to listen or simply disregard due to the current politics, popular opinion, or majority rules sort of thing that media and mentality of the masses seem to operate on.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein

The more I read of Albert’s ideas and philosophy the more I like his thoughts. It is funny how what we remember him for his more science-oriented views than his philosophy and that he loathed the fact that he was instrumental in developing weapons of mass destruction. At one point said he would give up all if he could take that back. So where am I going today perhaps the following thought will offer some aid.

“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes men to seek a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position… It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do not believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education… The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. Education should not aim at passive awareness of dead facts, but at an activity directed towards the world that our affords are to create.” Bertrand Russell

The sad thing is so often we fall victim to this 19th century thinking and all of this while applying to education is very much prevalent through all ideas among the “normal” folks in our world today borrowing loosely a term applied to current folks wanting to change education “reformers”. It seems these reformers are more bent on profit than working with the students.

“Our schools have been scientifically designed to prevent over-education from happening…The average American should be content with their humble role in life, because they’re not tempted to think about any other role.” William Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education, 1889

It is so sad to think that we actually allowed this type of mentality to lead our nation and continue to use this approach while in a more appealing packaging NCLB legislation and many of the packages offered by publishers and reformers. Many times, I wonder if anything has changed as you read headlines and newspaper clippings. We do not want to over educate children they might think for themselves then what do we do and who would they elect? The paradox is that in schools the kids who are allowed to think for themselves excel and often are the pride of the schools yet all through their education an effort has been made to suppress that thinking. One of my sons in eighth grade was told his methodology in a math problem was wrong and he had to do it “right”, the teachers way.

Yet in his second semester of calculus his methodology he found was absolutely right and more so interesting what was wrong in eighth grade is so correct in twelfth grade and in college calculus at Georgia Tech and now as an environmental engineer. Sadly, that same teacher demanding him to do it right and gave him his only B in school is on our Board of Education. Sometimes we force children to our terms, and we are the ones who are wrong. We need to listen to the children, we need to be learners as well as teachers, learn from the children and before I go too far a last quote to end this morning meanderings from ancient Israel.

“A child’s wisdom is also wisdom” Jewish Proverb

Well, I got a bit carried away but several good ideas to mold over ponder on and reflect about as I get ready to recharge over the next couple of weeks in North Georgia. So, for today be safe for the remainder if this glorious week ahead and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and to always give thanks namaste.

For all my relations

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

A firefly crossed my path 

Bird Droppings June 4, 2021

A firefly crossed my path 

I wonder how many even notice, when a firefly crosses their path. Most will not even stop to look an insignificant moment in time. Today as I sat in the darkness of a quiet morning fireflies for the first time graced my yard and I was only outside briefly. As I sat waiting watching an occasional blip of light would appear among the shrubs along with the tree frogs and crickets echoing through the trees. I wonder who saw the first firefly. I recall long nights of collecting as we would run around our yard in Pennsylvania placing the fireflies in a mason jar and going back in our rooms with a special lantern. In more recent days I use my mason jar more for sweet tea than chasing bugs. 

I will be driving up to North Georgia for research quite a bit this summer actually looking forward to the effort. On one occasion previously I drove out of the north Georgia Mountains a different way taking the scenic route and back roads. It was a bit farther yet so enjoyable sometimes in our hectic lives we forget to enjoy a moment or two. 

“True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.” Gilbert K. Chesterton 

When I started writing this morning contentment was not the word, I was looking for but the ease with which it seemed to fit was appropriate right at the moment. Issues at hand seemed not significant as I sat looking for fireflies on my porch.

Contentment an interesting word but do we ever really find it? 

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha 

For me what is contentment is it simply sitting and listening in the still of morning or is it feeling satisfied with a job well done and the adrenalin rush is over, and that calm permeates your every being. Perhaps you even need a sip of water just to complete the effect. 

“Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man’s happiness really lies in contentment.” Mohandas Gandhi 

Sometimes a thank you is all that suffices, and contentment is close at hand. I received a note from a dear friend yesterday who is headed back to her home stomping grounds after teaching with me for five plus years. We have been good friends bouncing ideas and thoughts off each other and for three years she was my immediate supervisor in our department. Sitting here writing how do you convey all that has transpired in those many years. Arguments over modifications and testing of students, having lunch and dinner with friends after a long-drawn-out serious meeting with parents and administration, trying to figure out all of the foibles of education and still pondering that one after all is said and done. Many fond memories and many long talks all now stored to recall and consider as the journey goes on. We all miss her very much.

As I look back at the word contentment, yesterday taking pictures of my friend as we all shared a few moments laughing there was contentment in she had made the right choice in her life and for her kids.

“We may pass violets looking for roses. We may pass contentment looking for victory.” Bern Williams 

Watching others meld into the vastness of reality or searching for an ember as the fire died, I was wondering if the words spoken made sense to anyone but you. I wonder as I sit, and think ponder this morning. When I walk out the front door into the morning the smell of gardenias blossoms fills the air, and it seems in our move several years ago we moved to a virtual garden as each day we have added to the flowers and shrubs literally knowing we will be here for some time. Walking out the back door a yellow rose miniature bush greets you even today blossoms are coming, and I am reminded of a note we received several years ago. We had a large yellow rose bush beside the stairs on the front porch. One day a note was left telling us how beautiful the flowers were. As we add more roses, I am sure more notes will be left. 

What kind of rose bush is that magnificent plant? Where did you get it? Could I get a cutting? These are all questions a few years ago would have just slipped away in the noise of the day. Today I would be taking cuttings if someone wanted or recommending my favorite nursery or two depending on what they were looking for. I Am always reminded however that midst the flowers a thorn, yet if not for the thorn the value of the flower would diminish wish I could remember who said that. 

“Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach 

Emotions and oceans both powerful forces in their own right impact us as we go through life. Sitting on a beach so many years ago unsure as to how I arrived a friend was still waiting for me back in our room. The chill of the air made the morning seem distant as it was winter and the beach in New Jersey can be a bit chilly at that time of year. But at that time for me to be alone to think to wonder that was where I was. 

“As we become curators of our own contentment on the Simple Abundance path… we learn to savor the small with a grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach 

Today is a new morning a new chance to rise above and see perhaps new ideas new thoughts and wonderings. I will go out and see as should you but always please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts, namaste. 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Keeping the stories going remembering a dear friend

Bird Droppings June 3, 2021
Keeping the stories going remembering a dear friend

In years gone by I would visit, take photos and offer my two cents at the Foxfire Approach to Teaching Course put on by Piedmont College for graduate students and teachers already in the classroom in Mountain City Georgia. This course had been an elective graduate class of Piedmont College’s Education Department. The experience with Foxfire for me is almost addicting. One Monday afternoon a few years back as I made my way home in the pouring rain from Black Rock mountain I had been invigorated by the discussion and interactions of teachers and teachers to be. Within the course we talk about the positive aspects and negative pieces as well as we look at the Foxfire Core Practices. As always I would come away excited about teaching and education. About eight years ago as the students finished their final assessment of the program and turned them in, Dr. Hilton Smith handed each a piece of paper. My first thought was they are getting a Foxfire course completion certificate. Later as we were leaving Sara, Hilton’s wife and often co-teacher handed the sheet to me and said I might enjoy the thought. Today as I remember a dear friend it is so poignant.

Musings from the Mountain by Kaoru Yamamoto,
The Educational Forum, Vol. 53, No. 3, 1989
“I am told that everyone needs to feel the exhilaration of being the cause of things, of making a difference. No doubt such experience boosts one’s self esteem and confirms personal significance. To grow up healthy, children should certainly taste the nectar of the sense of control, power and accomplishment. However among most grownups engaged in ministering or teaching activities, the caring and guiding take on a far less direct form, given the fact they are interacting with other human beings who have their own minds and live their respective, intimate contexts. Teachers’ function is often likened to that of a catalyst and for many purposes the metaphor seems apt. Nevertheless certain aspects of the analogy need to be kept in mind lest these helpers should become much too self-important and or frustrated. Good catalysts are seldom precious metals or stones that call attention to themselves. Theirs is a not a life of acclaim, even as their presence at the critical time and place is making a difference. They will not be a visible part of the resultant changes they are left behind, unaltered and typically forgotten. It takes a person secure in one’s self to continue to serve in such an unsung capacity. The essence of this unique contribution was beautifully captured by the late Chief Dan George in yet another analogy. ‘The sunlight dies not leaving its marks on the grass. So we too should pass silently’”

I have read through this paragraph many times over the years and each time found a bit more. Today I am pondering nearly forty years plus of knowing a person. We never truly know each other as we always tend to withhold pieces of our own puzzle even from friends.

“It takes a person secure in one’s self to continue to serve in such an unsung capacity.” Kaoru Yamamoto

While we would disagree often on some topics we agreed on many more. As I think about my friend and how many times we shared stories of family, current and past students, politics, religion, art and always sheep shows a tear comes to my eye. So many times she would stop by my room and “borrow” stuff, an ugly face jug, a animal skull, my huge eland mount, sometimes a live animal and occasionally she would ask could I print this seemingly impossible jpeg out for her. I read her note to me from my retirement several times yesterday as I thought and wondered what do I say or think.

I was glancing through several books this morning one the autobiography of the founder of the Foxfire program, who came into this idea purely by chance. Over the past several years I have talked to many of his former students and all consider him one of the best and or the best teachers they have ever had. For nearly forty years I have watched as enthusiastic young teachers start out and within six months are doing as so many others do printing out worksheets and going page by page through the text book. Looking at these words I thought of my friend.

“As always there is a high ground in the middle. On this knoll gather those teachers who are determined to preserve their spirit and their love for the field. Most of these individuals like myself have a credo that goes something like this: The profession of teaching is exactly that – a profession, not an avocation or a hobby or a marriage of convenience. Because of its goals and its potential; to achieve those goals, I selected it. It did not come knocking on my door. I was searching for a way to be of real service, and I found and choose this field; I believed then as I do now, that this is a profession of honor and true merit, and though I may not remain in it for all of my working days, it will continue to deserve and receive my best.” Elliot Wigginton, Sometimes a shining moment, 1986

I could envision my friend saying something very similar. She loved teaching and loved her students. Some might have argued no way she was concerned about them but I always knew better and as an advisor I sent her some winners for art class. As I thought about my research and readings and having also had this teacher work for me outside of the teaching profession in graphic arts for a year or two I could see her repeating Elliot Wigginton’s words as her mantra.

“I was searching for a way to be of real service, and I found and choose this field”

I have shared with her that almost immediately you can pick the teachers out who are simply along for the ride. They do what is necessary because they feel this will never impact their teaching. Then there are a few who see beyond the forced upon mandates from county, state and federal standards, regulations and testing parameters and can see that there is a “fire in the bathroom” borrowing from Kathleen Cushman’s book. This is my friend.

“Wanted: One teacher. Must be able to listen even when mad; Must have a sense of humor; must not make students feel bad about themselves; must be fair and not treat some students better than others; must know how to make schoolwork interesting; must keep some students from picking on others; must take a break sometimes; must not jump to conclusions; must let students know them; must get to know students; must encourage students when they have a hard time; must tell students if they do a good job or try real hard; must not scream; must not call home unless it is real important; must smile; must help students with their problems if they ask; must not talk about students to other people; if it’s a lady must be good looking.” Eighth and ninth grade students, from the introduction to Kathleen Cushman’s, Fire in the bathroom, by Lisa Delpit

As I read the paragraph above it hit me seldom do we ask students what they think? It is usually an administrator and only one administrator who will see a teacher in the classroom for twenty minutes and leaves checking off the required boxes in the State mandated checklist. I have been following posts from students who shared my friends obituary notice and reading each post can see how students would have graded her. We teachers seldom get to hear from former students and how we influenced and or impacted their lives. Sometimes it takes finality to bring us to voice our thoughts. My friend and I often shared and we both enjoyed what we were doing even though we came at teaching from differing philosophies. It has been years since my oldest son left a quote for me on my computer. A line from an Aerosmith song.

“Life is about the journey not the destination.” Steven Tyler

On more than one occasion my friend and I discussed this idea. We both struggled with how do we engage and inspire students to choose to learn and achieve. Each day as my summer progresses I find myself seeking this question of how do we engage and most of all how do we inspire students to desire to learn? As would happen I have been thinking a lot lately of storytelling and my friend was an avid story teller relating pieces of her own life and offering out to make a point in her classes. Stories are what students remember and hold on to and it is those pieces I will remember as I go forward from today. Forty years of stories I cherish and hold in my heart. So tomorrow we remember my dear friend officially but for today Helen I will miss you dearly. I have wandered around today but as I do each day please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird