Jumping in rain puddles

Bird Droppings January 14, 2011
Jumping in rain puddles

It has been a week of many happenings within our society and within the local community. It has been a holiday season filled with local sorrow, national sorrow and joy and hope for a new tomorrow. Here at our house we have cherished every second with a new grand baby and my daily photo opportunities have not ceased. Having an additional week of holiday due to snow only gave me more time for Charlie’s firsts. It was Charlie’s first snow storm and first night wearing a vintage (vintage Pooh character not a real old sleeper) Winnie the Pooh sleeper I found at a consignment shop. She was bundled up in her white furry snow suit and looked like a polar bear cub as my son and his wife walked out for my wife to take a few pictures.
As I scanned the Atlanta paper and local paper articles on the Arizona shooting still brought tears to my eyes as three men who were wounded from three varying political backgrounds were interviewed. In a letter to the editor a riled citizen wanted to why we were focusing on the Arizona shooting and the snow storm when there was so much more going on in the news. One political cartoon caught my attention as we try and look at rationale and reasons for what happened in Tucson. It was a drawing of a handgun very simple and on the safety switch was the word parenting. Being in teaching I have found the past few years we have been pressured to be so much more than teachers only. Many parents expect teachers to be the parent for their kids. We do not get any credit for the good but if a child does wrong it is the schools fault never the parent.

“Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood, when blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud. I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form….. In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes, I bargained for salvation an’ they gave me a lethal dose. I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn. Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm, Blood on the Tracks, 1975

One of those random songs flitting through your head and you can not get the tune and lyrics out of your mind. One of my favorite Bob Dylan albums of all time, Blood on the Tracks, has many songs that I like but I continually will periodically get this one in my head and ponder a bit the words. As I sit here writing today and thinking about a song and all that has transpired the past few days it keeps coming back to a matter of perception. Perception too is based on how we have become who we are, and why we are who we are, and where we are now. My perception of these words from Bob Dylan will be totally different than many others because when I first heard them my situation was different than those others. The impact of Saturdays shooting on Randy Gardener who was shot in the Tucson shooting and by chance had been at Kent State in 1970 when the National Guard opened fire on students and a friend was killed there is totally different than say someone who was not born at that time or even a person who felt the Guard were justified in the shooting.
I walked out earlier to get a sunrise picture and today with few clouds not much more than a pink glow across the horizon. So I looked for other opportunities in the surrounding area. I found several nice shots of various plants contrasted with the snow and ice glaze, trees still holding snow in pine needles and branches. As I walked I came to my quiet place set off from the house where I will go and sit meditate and or ponder if there is a difference. There was a circle of deer tracks around my spot. It has been nearly five years since I set some river pebbles in a circle here with each point of the compass marked off. Some will call it a medicine circle often seen in Indian rituals and writings. What I found interesting is the deer walked around my circle of stones. Perhaps this simple thing is meaningless to most but to some it will be of importance. It has been years since I first began reading Carl G. Jung’s writings and was then reintroduced indirectly through a book of fiction. But Jung’s word synchronicity daily is made evident to me. Reading the interviews in today’s AJC (our main Atlanta paper) of three men who were at the shooting and wounded each differing in their political views from very liberal to very conservative, each had a previous encounter linked in some way to the event Saturday.

“So now I’m goin’ back again, I got to get to her somehow. All the people we used to know they’re an illusion to me now. Some are mathematicians, some are carpenter’s wives. Don’t know how it all got started, I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives. But me, I’m still on the road headin’ for another joint we always did feel the same, we just saw it from a different point of view, tangled up in blue.” Bob Dylan, Tangled up in blue, Blood on the Tracks, 1975

I am reminded each time I visit my class reunion website or get emails of another sixty plus birthday that we are not teenagers anymore. Each of us has gone different directions and had different events both tragic and joyous in our lives. I have dear friends who have both husband and wife now are cancer survivors. My father survived long after he was supposed to according to the surgeon and we shared many tales in those days together before his passing. I was talking with a young Muslim fellow today at my convenience store where I stop in the morning for a bottle of water, energy drink and paper. I was reading in the paper again how some people were complaining about the atmosphere of the memorial service in Tucson. I started thinking back to my father’s funeral in July of 2007. We had a slushy machine out because of the extreme heat. I was wearing one of my father’s old Philippines shirts he picked up on journey years before and his rattlesnake bolo tie. It is a Navaho turquoise and silver piece with symbolic rattle snakes circling the main circle and silver snake rattles for the end pieces of the bolo. We had a celebration of his life not a mournful dirge. A stuffed African lion was leaping literally from the bamboo near the grave site. My brother could not pass it up at an auction at Burt Reynolds old homestead in Loganville. My dad loved that lion being a big African wild life fan. I was moved by the service but that was my perception because of who I am and I respect those who saw differently.
As President Obama ended his portion of the service he used several lines that were next to the picture of Christina Taylor Green who was born on September 11, 2001. I share a fondness for that day as it was the day I went back to teaching. Christina had three wishes or hopes by her photo.

“I hope to help all those in need.” I hope when you sing the National Anthem you put your hand over your heart.” “I hope you jump in rain puddles” Christina Taylor Green

I read these lines several times this morning along with Bob Dylan wandering through my head and a tear rolled down my cheek as I thought of my own grand daughter and will there be a lesson in life to learn from this day. I have as a teacher always felt students are children first and how we see them should be that. They are not little adults but they still are individuals who have not experienced what we have and see the world in a differing light than we do as adults. You won’t find many adults jumping in mud puddles they don’t want to get their designer shoes dirty. So perhaps one of the first things I will do as soon as our puddles thaw is jump in one in honor of Christina Taylor Green. Another day of cold and as I have ended my droppings for so many years please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Heroism and humility are spelled the same

Bird Droppings January 13, 2011
Heroism and humility are spelled the same

Even though I am one of the worst spellers in this local area I know heroism and humility are technically spelled differently. I will concede to using words to come up with a perhaps catchy title for my morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our President last night as he spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting Saturday in Tuscan. I will admit I was moved by his words as I think most people in this nation were.

“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the title of hero because I am not one of them,” “We must reject the title of hero and reserve it for those who deserve it.” Daniel Hernandez, twenty year old intern of Congresswomen Gillford credited with saving her life by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and President Barrack Obama

Daniel as he was interviewed went on to say the real hero’s were the First responders’ and doctors and nurses that cared for the injured and prevented any additional loss of life. As I ponder this morning a young man jumping into the fray as he heard gunshots as do many of our service men and women and saying he is not the hero is a humbling moment for me.
I recall my father and stories of World War II and the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. For you non-history buffs the US military brass had come up with a plan to island hop through the South Pacific to Japan to end the war. This was formulated knowing we would lose many men as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. Iwo Jima was a blood bath to say the least. US Marines were dropping as they left the land craft or pontoon bridges from the LSM’s. My father was a medic on an LSM. This was a boat with a drop open front to allow landing craft and tanks to roll out into shallow water or onto pontoon bridges along with the Marines who were on board as well. As my father tells the story a young Marine nineteen at the time had fallen between two pontoons. These structures are large enough to support a tank and chained together to makes bridges from sea craft to shore.
My father heard the young man’s call for help and jump from his boat to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene it was not good the young man’s leg had been tangled in the chains connecting the pontoons. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chains movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. The pontoons were being shoved together by tanks and waves as the moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg in order to get him to safety. He offered a swig of whiskey that he carried in a flask for such ordeals in his back pocket. The young Marine said he did not drink. Using his Navy survival knife he poured some of the whiskey on the knife and proceeded to take off the Marines leg.
As the pontoons came together dad threw the young man up on to the nearest pontoon climbed up and cauterized and sutured his wound. Add to this machine gun fire and mortar rounds all around as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beach front to the hospital out going landing craft. Across my fathers Navy shirt was embroider his nickname on board the LSM, DOC. The Navy and Marine corpsmen saw him and heard him barking medical orders about the injury and assumed he was an officer. The young man was given priority and made it to the hospital ship and did survive. Sounds simply yet during the several hundred yard walk down the beach the dug in Marines were yelling at my father to get down and bullets were whistling all around him. As he says a guardian angel was watching over him is all he could recall. He said he was in a daze as he carried the young Marine it was what he had to do in order to save his life. Another few minutes wasted and he would have died on the beach.
It was days later when questioned about the incident by his commander he was offered a heroism medal from the Navy but being a young college man himself he asked if he could get a raise instead of a medal. It was not until many years later when he was going for health care to the VA hospital he actually put in for a purple heart so he could get a better handicapped parking space he was in his eighties at the time.
Heroism and humility spelled differently perhaps, but there is a fine line connecting the two. Only a few months back the first Medal of Honor was given to a living soldier in many years. We seem to have far too few heroes in today’s world. I look to a shooting in Arizona and see several. There was a nine year old girl who believed in her country and in her congresswomen enough to be there to see her. There is a congresswoman who chose to meet with her constituent’s one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero a young man who did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our President whose gray hair is more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving talking about healing. We do have a nation of heroes it seems if we so chose to look about.

“On Saturday, we all became Arizonans, and above all, we all became Americans,” Daniel Hernandez

It is difficult to try and sort and reflect as I mentioned yesterday. Yet it is in our reflections we can find solutions, be it in government, family, friends, or in education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and also keep all of those in harms way on our minds and in our hearts.

Reflection is a needed piece in our puzzle of humanity

Bird Droppings January 10-12, 2011
Reflection is a needed piece in our puzzle of humanity

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Ronald Reagan

Much of the news the past few days revolves around the brutal and senseless slayings in Arizona. Within all of the various ramblings someone left this note from Ronald Reagan. As I thought past the shootings my implications started to fall on education as they often do. The solutions and answers to the shootings are not to be found in the immediate but in looking at what evidence can be gathered and then reflecting and analyzing to formulate an answer. Slowly many of the media personalities are taking this view if only to cover their own previous words. Allow time to sort out and review what is all involved and not jump to conclusions. Begin to heal rather than continue to open the wounds.
I see very similar actions within education. In our educational system today we see a random piece of test data and then make assumptions without ever letting than material ferment and sit for a bit and truly reflect on it. The National Education Policy Center has released several articles about comparison testing of students worldwide. We teachers are told the students in the US are not testing as well as in other countries. The NEPC report points to several differences but one main one. Test scores in US are based on eighth graders in all other countries involved fifteen year olds. In the US the majority of eighth graders are not fifteen but thirteen or fourteen and one year age difference would make a significant difference on scores let alone two.
Far too often we jump at numbers and statistics and do not think about them and in a recent interview with Stephen Hawking, renowned theoretical physicist in Parade magazine he is asked, what can a goldfish tell us about reality?

“Because it lives in a round bowl of water, a goldfish sees a distorted picture of the outside world. It would have a different picture of reality than we do. But how do we know that we have the right picture? We also might be in some giant goldfish bowl. There is no unique picture of reality. The goldfish’s is as valid as ours. “Stephen Hawking

Perhaps an odd tie in but we all look at reality in a differing light. How we see an event can vary from one person to another. Too many times we quickly choose the easiest and simplest route and do not take time to reflect on what is really happening. Watching the various pundits play for media time bouncing one idea off another so often the reality gets lost in the midst of searching. It has been a few years since I came back to teaching and it was within a few months I started back to school myself. It took a few years to seep in that in order to truly be a good teacher you must also be a student as well.

“The School of Education’s mission is focused on mastering the Art of Teaching: Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of All Children. Supporting this mission, we strive to prepare reflective, scholarly, proactive educators. These practitioners effectively educate their students to become knowledgeable, inquisitive, and collaborative learners in diverse, democratic learning communities.” Piedmont College, Department of Education

I attended Piedmont College a few years back and completed my Masters of Art in Teaching and Specialist in Education degrees there. This simple mission statement and follow-up are engrained from day one. Reflective, scholarly and proactive educators are a key thought as I read again these words. In the process of finding my direction at Piedmont and getting a through understanding of the philosophy behind so many of our leading educators I was introduced too many new at least to me ideas and considerations in education. Elliot Eisner was one. Eisner’s books reflect his view on education in such titles as, The Educational Imagination, Arts and the Creation of Mind, and numerous other articles, essays and books.

“We have inadvertently designed a system in which being good at what you do as a teacher is not formally rewarded, while being poor at what you do is seldom corrected nor penalized.” Elliot Eisner

We as teachers are teaching in a vacuum so to say. No air goes in or out at least symbolically. It is Eisner and several others foremost among them John Dewey who consider the act of reflection as one of the most paramount of education and teaching.

“Reflection, an essential activity, takes place at key points throughout the work.” Foxfire Core Practice ten

The Foxfire Core Practices are developed around the teaching and thinking of John Dewey. Dewey based his educational view on the idea that it is through experience that we learn. This is a very common nonsensical sort of notion perhaps one that should not be even considered to be earth shattering. However if you look at education much like the news and immediate responses to the shooting over the weekend in Arizona we seem to get caught in the immediate. In education it is that test score and or how do we improve that test score. First we find out what is on the test and teach that. Teach to the test has become a national vocabulary word. Seldom is there reflection such as, does this material have relevance to the students? Can we show this material in context? Is this material at all familiar to the students? The questions and reflection can go on and on. In most situations it is not done and the questions are never considered. We focus on the immediate the test and test score.
A good friend took the approach of teaching class about what it was the subject is rather than simply to teach to the test questions. Years ago another friend would spend two weeks each semester teaching her second grade kids how to test and her grades on tests were always the highest. I over heard a discussion one time between teachers about how she is cheating teaching the test to the kids. Today it is hard to find a teacher not teaching to the test. Coming back to my contextual friend, when covering a subject he will try and have hands on experiences for his students. I had two students from his class come by to get some turtle tank water to look at under a microscope. At the end of last semester his students were some of highest test scores and one other point that context does. Students remember context far better than content alone. That is research based many times over.

“The work teachers and learners do together clearly manifests the attributes of the academic disciplines involved, so those attributes become habits of mind.” Foxfire Core Practice Two

So whether in education or in life reflection, sitting back and trying to get a real meaning of what has happened or is happening is paramount to truly understanding what is going on. Many people are content to never know they are in a fish bowl looking out. But those of us who do understand this tend to see the world differently and in a light that allows us to go beyond the narrow window that so many are limited to see through. I sat holding my infant grand daughter for about an hour and a half today. Her father and mother had a few errands and it was bitterly cold out so I conveniently volunteered to stay home and watch Charlie. They did not even have to pay me. As I sat watching her after singing several songs and discussing world news and views she fell asleep. She might have been bored with me. But she nestled into my arm and within about five minutes my Westie settled on my feet as I rocked in our rocking chair. I sat there thinking about this tiny person so limited yet so open to all around her. She is like a tiny sponge absorbing every word and vision. I was asked earlier today about my view on peace. I responded as I held my grand daughter. I think if we are seeking peace we find peace. If we are seeking violence it will find us. Not a profound thought but it stuck with me as I sat there pondering with my baby grand daughter asleep in my arms. I know there is a world removed from her room and from our house and even from our subdivision. There is a world where harm is being done to others is real. Can I change that perhaps not but I can offer as I do every day I write please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Caring is a very precious commodity in teaching

Bird Droppings January 9, 2011
Caring is a very precious commodity in teaching

As I am pondering my last hours before the holiday is over. The air temperature is nineteen outside and we are under a winter storm watch tonight through Tuesday morning. The anticipation of several inches of snow and up to a half inch of ice is what weather people are proposing. I am a bit disconcerted although I have thoroughly enjoyed my holidays between a grand baby and family it has been wonderful. I have found as I read comments from teachers and administrators that have facebook accounts there are differing degrees of involvement. Some use solely with a few friends, some especially younger teachers have a large number of college peers and work related friends, some teachers have former students, and some have student’s teacher’s administrators and professors and numerous others. Reading statuses and updates coming from my psychology background I see many teachers who are concerned and caring people. After being back in teaching ten years I find caring is a very precious commodity in teaching and one that is difficult to teach.

“Teaching is to move people to choose differently.” Dr. Maxine Greene, educator, author and caring person

Working in what was once a rural county now not much more than an extension of Atlanta there are many who still adhere to the old ways, politically, religiously, culturally, socially and even educationally. I can write my name that is enough. We just experienced an assassination attempt on a sitting congress women in Arizona and rhetoric is focusing on the heated debates and arguments from the media people on both sides as to fanning the flames of violence. However it was not that many years ago in this county people would be lynched, moonshine was the main industry and killing someone and losing a body was part of doing business. Early I issued a line or two about mental institutions closing and how there were many who twenty five years ago would be residents of said institution are now in politics, religion, military, jail, homeless and or waiting on the right trigger to set them off. It has been made very clear the individual involved in the shooting yesterday was mentally ill which will play well in his court hearings and trial. But how do we as teacher’s help children choose differently.

“… Martin Buber had what he called a life of creativity in mind, and also a capacity for participation and partaking. He said that all human beings desire to make things, and what children desire most of all is their share in the becoming of things. Through their own intensively experienced actions, something arises that was not there before. This notion of participant experience- and sharing in the becoming of things- comes very close to what we mean by aesthetic education.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

Maybe I should post the Foxfire Core Practices that I have been writing about for several years. I like this idea of participant experience. We need to be actively involved in learning both as teacher and as students.

“Not only do we want to keep the aesthetic adventures into meaning visible and potent in the schools, along with the other ways there are of making or achieving or discovering meanings. We want to keep enhancing them with some understanding of contexts- movements, styles, traditions- and connections among diverse works at different modes of history. For one thing, we know very well that none of us comes to any work of art devoid of context or with what has been called a totally ‘innocent eye.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

I have watched a new math curriculum reek havoc with students and teachers. The idea to simplify titles of courses to Math I, II, III, and IV does not do justice to the texts being used or curriculum proposed. Several years ago the test groups failed the first proto type test miserably and continually the curve has to be extreme to provide some passing numbers. The teachers are the same ones who were good and great teachers just a few months back but a simple change in state curriculum and we go backwards. The content needs context and it needs reasons.

“I hope you think about the wonder of multiple perspectives in your own experience. I hope you think about what happens to you- and, we would all hope, to our students- when it becomes possible to abandon one- dimensional viewing, to look from many vantage points and, in doing so, construct meanings scarcely suspected before.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

I am being hard on the math curriculum but the idea we are so far behind is not a valid one. In the US of all the major industrialized countries we are the only one that mandates education for all children. On international testing we tend to be down the list in part because of the greater number of children of all makes and models being tested. There are ideas within Maxine Greene’s words from 2003 that could help a teacher or teachers improve how they respond to students. Changing perspective looking from a different vantage point rather than simply that podium in the front of the room can make a world of difference. A simple thought but world changing.

“Our object, where public schools children and young people are concerned is to provide increasing numbers of opportunities for tapping into long unheard frequencies, for opening new perspectives on a world increasingly shared. It seems to me that we can only do so with regard for the situated lives of diverse children and respect for the differences in their experience.” Dr. Maxine Greene, Educator, Author, Philosopher, Professor and caring person

Seeing the differences in children is a sign of a great teacher. For it is in being able to see each child as unique and then in turn being able to, pardon the word diversify the teaching enough to interest all children. That is in and of itself a huge task.

“It is sometimes said that ‘all teachers care.’ It is because they care that people go into teaching.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

I honestly do think, no one goes into teaching not caring. Somewhere along the line maybe they forget and get too caught up in teaching to the test, making sure they cover every miniscule detail in the curriculum map or just trying to get a good appraisal. As I have watched good teachers and great teachers it is that caring aspect that sets them apart. They tend to build relationships with students. They try to understand why a student comes to school the way they do not just simply give a zero for a missed assignment.

“In a caring relation or encounter, the cared-for recognizes the caring and responds in some detectable manner. An infant smiles and wriggles in response to it mother’s care giving. A student may acknowledge her teacher’s caring directly, with verbal gratitude, or simply pursue her own project more confidently. The receptive teacher can see that her caring has been received by monitoring her students’ responses. Without an affirmative response from the cared-for, we cannot call an encounter or relation caring.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Author, Educator, Professor, Philosopher and a caring person

Teaching is so much more than a job and if only that were a teachable topic. For many years I have searched for what it is that sets apart the truly great teachers and simplified into one word it is caring. If only we could magnify and personify and spread that word through the world. For far too long I have ended my droppings each day with the same line. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

Mountians offer a more clear view

Bird Droppings January 6-7, 2011
Mountains offer a more clear view

“I have a pretty fair education, but I would hate to be turned loose in these mountains right now and be told to put food in my belly, clothing on my body, shelter over my head, and provide protection from my enemies, both two footed and four footed ad all that without having a beast of burden or the wheel and axle. And yet they did it for thousands of years. So I think they were pretty smart.” Dr. Tom Lumsden, M.D., Resident of the Nacoochee valley and author of Nacoochee Valley, It’s Times and Its Places

I was in Demorest Georgia on Wednesday and up to Cleveland Georgia Thursday at the foot of Mount Yonah. Demorest was a trip to get my youngest son enrolled in the Piedmont College Nursing program which went along great with a snafu here and there on getting classes at differing times. Yesterday we headed up to pick up food for the critters, frozen and live mice and rats at the largest mouse breeder in the US. It is always a fun trip and great scenery. While at Piedmont College I went to the book store and found a book, Distant Voices by Emory M. Jones, it is a history and collection of stories about the Nacoochee Indian Mounds located in the Nacoochee Valley of Georgia just a few miles from where I was yesterday. Dr. Tom Lumsden is a local physician and a historian by hobby of the Nacoochee Valley and is recognized by the author for his work in this regard.

But close home, we come under the influence
Of the Great Bear, Yonah Mountain,
Circumference as where creeks,
Branches, ground waters from their
Deep springs tumble to join.
So we were given two related manifestations.
One man-built artifact,
The other the longing nature of man.

A few lines from the poem, Confluences, by Mildred Greear, a renowned local poet and wife of Professor Emeritus at Shorter College Dr. Phillip F. C. Greear.

I always take pictures where ever I am be it at home of my grand daughter and family, my herb garden and sunrises and sunsets from my porch or back yard. I will drive around and find a stump from a clearing of power lines of an old cedar tree and then proceed to watch a male cardinal sit there waiting for me to take a photo of his brilliant red feathers and the deep red heart of the cedar tree. As I walked about the farm where we went to get mice yesterday and around Piedmont College on Wednesday I found images that were significant to me and who knows might impress someone down the line. Standing at the base of Yonah Mountain looking out over the Nacoochee Valley with great patches of clouds interspersed in the mountains surrounding the valley I was in awe of the beauty and took literally dozens of shots. I find it so hard to sympathize with people who simply want to tear down wilderness for profit. Once it is gone it can not be the way it was. My own philosophical meanderings to an Indian understanding of the world about us perhaps is leading me to this.

“A wakan (holy) man is one who is wise…. He can talk with animals and with trees and with stones. He can talk with everything on earth.” Little Wound, Oglala Sioux

I by no means claim the title of wakan but I have been known to talk while sitting meditating to the trees and animals that show up around me. Many the days I will sit watching a sunrise whispering to the wind or breeze lifting a bit of smoke from some white sage or sweet grass through the pine needles.

“As a Nez Perce man passed through the forest the moving trees whispered to him and his heart swelled with the song of the swaying pine. He looked through the green branches and saw white clouds drifting across the blue dome, and felt the songs of the clouds. Each bird twittering in the branches, each water fowl among the reeds or on the surface of the lake, spoke his intelligible message to his heart; as he looked into the sky and saw the high flying birds of passage, he knew their flight was made strong by the uplifted voices of ten thousand birds of meadow, forest and lake, and his heart fairly in tune with all of this vibrated with the songs of its fullness.” Chief Joseph, Rolling Thunder, Nez Perce, from Indian Spirit edited by Michael and Judith Fitzgerald

In a recent article in the current National Geographic arguments for the pros and cons of mining gold in Alaska wilderness water shed and head waters for some major salmon spawning streams are made. Conservationists and indigenous peoples want to leave well enough alone. A consortium of mines wants to open pit mine an area and use impoundment ponds to contain water tainted by gold and copper mining processes. Both sides present numbers of people employed and income. The gold mine would add nearly two thousand jobs to the area which does need jobs. The gold mine would generate upwards of five hundred billion dollars over twenty five years. The salmon fishery supports eleven thousand jobs and over one hundred and fifty million dollars a year in income as well as subsistent fishing providing food for many tribes in the area.
There are what ifs in terms of gold mining. What happens if any of to the tainted water spills into or leaches into the spawning waters would it destroy the salmon fishery. The main area of mining would take place in the headwaters of many of the streams in this watershed which would potentially impact the entire area. Two thousand jobs would be created and some of that five hundred billion would stay locally how much since neither of mining companies involved is based in Canada is uncertain. However if the mine does go through and does destroy the fishing eleven thousand jobs are gone as well as a traditional way of life and food source for many more thousands. So do we go for profit or for listening to the trees and wildlife?

“The Lakota loved the earth and with all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power.” Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux

It has been some time since gold mining was a mainstay in north Georgia. Now it is primarily a tourist attraction. I have seen pictures of the mining process back in the day. Huge water cannons would blast the dirt away from the sides of mountains causing severe erosion and pollution of streams and creeks. It was all for a profit. We do live in a time where it is hard to be self sufficient and we do need to purchase food and services. Perhaps my concern is that point where we humans tend to get greedy and go beyond what we need and hoard and accumulate so we can have more than anyone else. I am bad in terms of books as I sit here looking at my nearly surrounding shelves of texts, articles, books, and magazines.
But I wonder if we could break away from that human desire to be more than and perhaps slow the process down if only for a while to be able to hear the trees again and listen to the streams and birds. It has been nearly twenty years since I first went to the grave of Geronimo located in Lawton Oklahoma on the Fort Sill Army Base. I was standing looking at Geronimo’s grave a pyramid of river rocks topped by a now cement eagle. The original eagle was gold covered and was stolen. Almost out of no where a breeze picked up and along the river a faint whisper of by gone days as I gazed across the prairie facing beyond Geronimo’s grave. I was mesmerized as I listened to the rustling of the cotton wood trees and rolling of the creek. I seemed to stand transfixed for hours till a car load of boy scouts jumped out hollering and running about and broke my silence.
So I finish up my droppings for the past two day and continue to ask to please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Being a wise guy

Bird Droppings January 5, 2011
Being a wise guy

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I found this concept of temporary wisdom fascinating being one who thought as we age we grow in wisdom. It is interesting too that we perceive wisdom in different manors. Emerson sees wisdom as changing, possibly even daily as we are capable of wisdom but circumstances will prevail and wisdom can be fleeting.

“Wisdom is knowing when to speak your mind and when to mind your speech.” Evangel

Timing so often affects when and where and who, a few days ago speaking with a student I made the comment that teachers and students should be symbiotic and there are many times the “teacher” is the student. Some teachers do not understand this concept of a teacher being a student. Emerson’s student and friend Thoreau knew the idea well leaving teaching to become student.

“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation. Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither greed nor avarice. Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.” St. Francis of Assisi

Many years ago I watched a movie about this man who gave up a life of luxury to be a monk and live in poverty to help others. It was for him the relationship of wisdom that was a replacement for ignorance and filling of a vacuum of ignorance with wisdom.

“A wise man never knows all, only fools know everything” African Proverb

A wise man knows that he or she doesn’t know and a man who is ignorant thinks that they know everything. Several years ago I saw a skit using a card board box, a person stood in the box and because of ignorance did not leave it. The world went on around outside the box yet the person was so confined they could not leave or see what was going on. I have found that so many people confine themselves to the box limited ignorant and confined.

“The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.” George Bernard Shaw

We so easily limit ourselves to that comfort zone and then want everyone else to conform whether they want to or not. The old thought of you are going to do it this way or else, fitting a square peg in a round hole, only works if the hammer is big enough and the force driving it strong enough but there will be a pile of splinters and debris when it is over. Boy does this sound like a school or a job or the government or life in general.

“If you wish to know the road up the mountain, ask the man who goes back and forth on it.” Zenrin

I was thinking as I read this of the Sherpa’s in Nepal who help climbers go up mountains years ago you would read about the climbers but the Sherpa who pulled him to the top was never mentioned. Today the man Tensing Norgay is mentioned whenever Everest is spoken of all with Sir Edmund Hillary, first man to the summit and his Sherpa are famous even in advertising in the US.

“A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else.” Mahatma Gandhi

We can speak of wisdom but in effect it is still what is visible that many people will respond too. Gandhi also said.

“We must become the change we want to see.”

I find so often that eventually people listen when words and language are spoken enough, it does sink in. The FIDO principal does work Frequency, Intensity, Duration, and Over Again. Words are such powerful tools when wielded in a manner that people can see and hear and understand.

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” Martin Luther King Jr.

It is morning and we have a glorious day ahead chances to meet people to teach to care about to love and be loved. A new day a time to try and make a difference Gandhi said “we must become the change we want to see” and King “you can not be too radical when you are right” step up and forward, change can occur people do want to see and step out of their boxes it only takes someone to show them time and time again.

“Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.” Jamie Paolinetti

As I watch and observe people each day as I move through this reality I see people limit themselves be it in a box or out. Much like a period, ending a sentence so many people have an end point. Several months ago in a message in my excitement to tell of an event I wrote a paragraph literally with no punctuation. Actually I do that quite often but in effect there are times for a stopping point but not an end. Perception comes into play and what can be an end may be another’s resting point.

“Return to the root and you will find the meaning.” Sengstan

“We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.” Adlai E. Stevenson

Last night I made a comment to a friend of myself being in the place I am to be right now. An interesting exercise is drawing a line on a piece of paper and plotting the events to where you are. What directions and paths might you have taken with a slightly different choice at anyone of the points on your line?

“When a man begins to understand himself he begins to live. When he begins to live he begins to understand his fellow men.” Norvin McGranahan

We so often try and see others and avoid our own retrospection, we refuse to see ourselves yet find the flaws in others find the differences so easily. Too often we need a mirror first before a microscope.

“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.” Carl Jung

Each day we see and hear from numerous people, do you, do we take the time to understand where the sights and sounds are truly coming from. It is so much easier to simply cast aside the person, to leave them by the wayside so to say, trash for pickup, than to try and understand where that person is coming from and why.

“To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed — That can make life a garden.” Johann Wolfgang Von Geothe

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” Leonardo Da Vinci

So many years ago this great thinker and artist looked at man different than so many before him, he analyzed and pondered and drew and painted and thought more and in his work and unraveled the human condition. A simple portrait of a woman has become one of the most famous of all paintings “The Mona Lisa”.

“Yearn to understand first and to be understood second.” Beca Lewis Allen

“Nobody knows what a boy is worth. We’ll have to wait and see. But every man in a noble place a boy once used to be.” Source Unknown

“The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach.” Laurens Von der Post

Laurens Von der Post discovered a people in reference to his life long involvement with The African Bushmen or Sans, who were once thought of as untamable and despicable, were very much human and their culture and society were in effect more intricate and interwoven with the realities of life than our civilized world could comprehend. We were the untamable we were truly uncivilized we were the ones who needed to understand and perhaps truly seek wisdom lost so long ago in our efforts of civilizing. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your thoughts.

Leaving behind and moving forward

Bird Droppings January 4, 2011
Leaving behind moving forward

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for
what we leave behind is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life
before we can enter into another!” Gail Sheehy, American journalist, author

I look around my room and wonder what would it be like to move to another room or another school not that I am by any means but just the thought. Boxing up nearly ten years of photos and moving many gigs of data to a portable hard drive from computers around the room is only the beginning. I would have to move my eland head, situated on a wall is an eland mount. I raised him from a two year old and when he died we had him mounted, well he looks pretty impressive being the largest African antelope. He was six foot at the shoulder and nearly fourteen hundred pounds when he was alive. Of course a big aspect of moving would be the numerous aquariums and my pets. But the more I think and ponder it is the kids, I would miss them the most. Not just my students but all the many kids who come by and or have been by over the years.
I started the day sitting thinking in the dark of the morning a bit of red willow bark and sage smoldering in a bowl and I watched the wisp of smoke rise and turn as there was little wind today. Shortly thereafter the sun began to rise and one of the most spectacular sunrises in many days spilled out of the sky. The sunrise is out at least a bit in contrast to rain and clouds we have had the past few days.
This morning as I headed out to the dentist a red tailed hawk was sitting near the house and reminded me of several years ago I had gone to Zaxby’s in Centerville for take out dinner everyone was kind of going their own way that night and would be home all different hours. As I sat in the drive through a large red tailed hawk sailed over the store. At first I thought it was a buzzard but the movement was more hawk like and as I pulled in to pay the hawk settled on a pole directly in front of me. A big red tailed hawk just sitting about eighty feet from me watching gazing at me through my wind shield. As I pulled out he flew off. I often wonder about such coincidences in life that hawk this morning as I made the turn on the highway and that hawk at Zaxby’s a few years back. What if I had been thirty minutes sooner no hawk or ten minutes later. I chose a window of time and luckily on the same wave length at least for a moment as the two hawks.
Maybe it was the fact I was thinking about teaching animal science and was excited talking to several old friends who are teaching and or working at the University in that area. Maybe it was simply coincidence the hawk sat and watched me. As I write this afternoon being to lazy to get started any sooner while on holiday hopefully soon I will get back on track. I had forgotten my allergy decongestant last night and getting up was rough this morning. I did manage a few moments outside watching the clouds move around the little dipper it was an interesting arrangement literally six lines of clouds in a circle around the constellation and quickly dissipated. Again a few minutes later or earlier and I would have missed it.

“You have noticed that everything as Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours….Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man 1863-1950

I have used this quote many times borrowing from the wisdom of Black Elk in weddings and funerals. It has been many years since I described my self as a circle, alone unopened sitting writing in an apartment in Pennsylvania. So here I and sitting listening to running water from my son’s aquariums and flute music from Carlos Nakai it is a peaceful feeling wandering through memories and thinking about where and when and how. So I sit and ponder which path to choose and walk tomorrow and the day after a new trail or stay secure on the old.

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth.” “Chief Seattle

I sat back and thought about my hawk yesterday and how we are all intertwined on this globe. The hawk and I and students at school each an aspect of who we are and why we are here. I look forward to a journey as always and one day way off when there will be a destination, for today I am occupied with the journey.

“Absolutely speaking, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you is by no means a golden rule, but the best of current silver. An honest man would have but little occasion for it. It is golden not to have any rule at all in such a case.” Henry David Thoreau

The day is drawing to a close and I am close to fixing dinner. One last reminder please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Building sandcastles drip by drip

Bird Droppings January 3, 2011
Building Sand castles drip by drip

Back when I was going to Graduate School nearly every day and before switching to Internet classes and webct it took some getting used to going to school and then going to school. I was teaching from 7:20 – 3:00 students who have had difficulty with a subject and then driving an hour to grad school from 5:00 – 9:30. Going from teacher to student my day made for an interesting schedule. It was a time of flux for me also getting used to a new computer and tie that into new administration changes in our own school it really made life interesting.
However it was also around this time my middle son was tutoring several students who had difficulty with chemistry during summer session. I found it most interesting watching him work with these students. Several times he would help me break bridges in physical science class while he was helping with tutoring. In that particular class we built twenty one inch bridges of popsicles sticks and white glue only and then we would see whose bridge design could hold the most weight. It was very interesting the many differing designs ranged from zero to over eighty pounds in breaking weight.
I also had a side experiment on building pyramids which involved a sand box and in the course of having my sand box set up as I do for this project I built a sand castle albeit a small one. I went back to teaching and as I watched one of my students smashed my three inch drip castle not because I built it just because it was there. Later that same person smashed several of the broken bridges and as I watched observing simply to break them no real reason other than that. It really made me think in light of all that happened that day as I looked back. Some people are capable of creating new ideas new concepts for others to see and also follow or complete those ideas concepts thinking to the great cathedral in Barcelona that will not be completed till 2026. Sadly in among those people are others who see an idea or a concept and simply tear it down not because of what it is or isn’t literally without thought or reason simply to tear it down.
It surprisingly saddened me to watch my tiny three inch castle smashed not through some random wave or step or misstep by a passer by but a deliberate effort. I came back to a thought I used in class many times and in writing my droppings over the years from Kent Nerburn who by education was a sculptor. He writes about when we are born and have a piece of marble to sculpt some create marvelous works of art others drag this block behind and some simply smash the marble into gravel. Last night as I sat thinking it might have been a recent trip to see my son and his fiancée that had me reminiscing about that summer school class. It might be thinking about up coming classes and pondering my day ahead and into this morning. It is sad the limits that student have imposed upon themselves only to tear down smash into gravel never ever to see their work shine upon a pedestal, a piece of art work .

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” Thomas Jefferson

In among our daily journeys we are faced with individuals who choose only to tear down and who would rather simply relish destruction than creation who do not understand lifting up yet we need to continue to try and show there is more to life.

“It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curious of inquiry. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” Albert Einstein

So maybe it is a miracle as Mr. Einstein says even for my castle destroyer to simply be in school for he chose to be there he was not forced. Who knows maybe just maybe something will rub off and one day I may find him sitting by a sand box thinking drizzling sand between his fingers into a drip castle instead of just smashing them. So a simple thought for a simple day and as we go about this day and we hear less of our friends and families in harms way they are still there thousands of miles away we need to keep them in our thoughts. So please keep all in harms way on our minds and in our hearts and so have a glorious day today.

A surgeon general, holy man, medicine man and a psychologist

Bird Droppings January 2, 2011
A Surgeon General, Holy Man, Medicine Man and Psychologist

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop 1916 – Author, Teacher, former Surgeon General of the United States, and former head of Pediatric surgery at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia

“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, 1863 – 1950, Holy Man, Oglala Lakota Sioux, second cousin of Crazy Horse

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull, 1831 – 1890, Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux medicine man

‎”The word “belief” is a difficult thing for me. I don’t believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it – I don’t need to believe it.” Dr. Carl G. Jung, 1875 – 1961, Psychiatrist, an influential thinker, and the founder of analytical psychology

I opened my local Walton County Tribune to the Education section and this first quote was the start to Gina Andrew’s column although she did not mention who Dr. Koop was. “As 2011 unfolds, it creates a natural season of pondering the past and looking forward toward the future. This happens in the home and in the work place.” Gina Hawkins As I read Gina Andrews words I thought I might add in the schools as well.
I drove to South Carolina yesterday after saying goodbye to my grand daughter for a few days as they traveled to Florida for a doctor’s visit, to visit our middle son and his finance. I got home last night and rare as it might seem did not even open a page on my computer, the nine hours of driving did me in. So here I am making up for lost time sitting here a new grandfather, a father, a teacher pondering what can I do different to impact or not impact the lives of those around me in the coming year.
Perhaps I will start today with a brief connection of the four men who I will draw upon today to start my meanderings. Dr. Koop was the lead doctor for my brother many years ago after being diagnosed with severe brain trauma at birth. Dr. Koop also as Surgeon General issued the warning on the sides of tobacco packages that still go unheeded. Dr. Koop has been very busy over the years producing a mini series on health car for public TV that won several Emmy’s and now involved with the C. Everett Koop Health Care Institute at Dartmouth University named in his honor.
I was introduced to Black Elk by a dear friend of many years ago who my kids only know as Trooper. He gave me a copy of the book Black Elk speaks to read in 1973 or so and since that time I have read several times along with several others of John Neihardt’s works. Black Elk was one of the last living combatants from the battle at the Little Bighorn. Over the years I have been a Carl Jung fan and in my re-reading of the Premier edition of Black Elk Speaks a gift from my son a note caught my attention. John Neihardt, 1881-1974, published in the book Black Elk Speaks in 1932 to much acclaim. The book was a side venture from his prose and narrative works of Indians of the plains. Neihardt was invited by the Sioux holy man Black Elk to hear the words of the vision from his youth and record for history and for the whites to come. The book was extremely popular at its first publishing and was a best seller only to over the years go by the wayside. It was at the end of the 1960’s Dr. Carl G. Jung brought to peoples attention again and it became a best seller anew. It is a biography or autobiography as it is Black Elks words translated from the original tongue as he spoke by his son Ben Black Elk and recorded word for word by Neihardt’s daughter.
Sitting Bull was a medicine man to the Sioux during the famous battle of the Little Bighorn or Custer’s last stand as some call it. I have had a fascination with Indian lore and history all through my life and Sitting Bull has been a hero of sorts.

“What white man has ever seen me drunk? Who has ever come to me hungry and left me unfed? Who has seen me beat my wives or abuse my children? What law have I broken?” Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull was a man of honor, integrity, and his people. As I was reading this morning they have a year of his birth which is not uncommon for Indians of that time as they had no written records. However what is more intriguing is his death date it is precise. Sitting Bull was killed as he foresaw in a vision by his own people. Sioux Marshalls were sent to arrest him for his involvement in the ghost dance movement in the late 1890’s. As he went to get something under his blanket and depending on whose account you read a revolver or his grandson’s toy doll he was shot in the back.
Dr. Carl G. Jung I have been quoting quite frequently the past few days. I first came to know Dr. Jung as a novice psychology student many years ago at Mercer University. While we were being trained in behavioral modification to some extent I found Jung’s views more along my own pathway. Years later reading James Redfield’s books I am reintroduced and the as I started my graduate work and daily pondering numerous books and connections seemed to daily fall in place. One of my favorites is finding a book by Thomas Moore, who was a student of James Hillman who was a student of Carl G. Jung. But you will also find as I list my favorite all time movie as Billy Jack a classic from 1972 or so Tom Laughlin director and star is a Jung student and trainer.
So where are all the connections? Perhaps I should draw a Venn diagram of Jung, Koop, Sitting Bull and Black Elk and show all of the interconnections.

“We who are clay blended by the Master Potter, come from the kiln of Creation in many hues. How can people say one skin is colored, when each has its own coloration? What should it matter that one bowl is dark and the other pale, if each is of good design and serves its purpose well.” Polingaysi Qoyawayma, Hopi

As I read various authors and especially these four though Sitting Bull left little written or recorded I should say information I find they are similar especially for this new year ahead. Each of these men saw that it was not as much about now as it was about later generations. What could we do or leave behind for them.

“My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled! I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them. . .” –Shinguaconse, Little Pine

In the political hoopla we throw out the idea of our children’s children yet so little is done to prevent or protect them most legislation is about the immediate a more selfish agenda than say any of these four men would have agreed too.
I often wonder as I hold my grand daughter what will the world be like ten years from now or twenty years from now. Our instantaneous world has little room for thinking ahead since so much is disposable and throw away, often including people.

“If today I had a young mind to direct, to start on the journey of life, and I was faced with the duty of choosing between the natural way of my forefathers and that of the… present way of civilization, I would, for its welfare, unhesitatingly set that child’s feet in the path of my forefathers. I would raise him to be an Indian!” Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

I refer back often to an Indian way of seeing the world. It is a world in which each tiny piece is integral to the next piece and a world where we do think beyond the immediate moment and day. I have used the following quote many times before but today perhaps some special meaning as we go out starting a new year.

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.” Ancient Indian Proverb

It has been almost eleven years since I started writing each day or nearly each day as I have been a bit off lately. I began ending my daily journals with this line during the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom about seven years ago. I am adding a new line to end my daily wanderings as well starting today. So as I have for some time please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

PS – In the Creek language, Ea Nigada Qusdi Idadadvhn, translated, All My Relations In Creation