What is it we fear?

Bird Droppings July 15, 2011
What is it we fear?

“Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.” Ruth E. Renkel

It has been many years since I feared the beating of my own heart. I recall as a child there was a pathway into the forest near the apartment we lived in. I was four or so years old when I would lay down at night with my ear to my pillow and I would hear footsteps coming always down that pathway. For many years it was a wolf or monster I do not recall what my childish mind concocted. As I grew older I would sleep with my feet covered and head covered and a fan on to drown out the footsteps always steady and relentless something was coming for me. It seemed so real night after night.
I am amazed now how only a sheet protected me during the summer and the drone of the fan reduced the steady footsteps to a muffled background noise. One day in my later years I came to realize the sounds I was hearing were my own heart beat and in one instant years of fear were gone. It was not that long ago I would walk each morning in the twilight hours often four to five miles. I would constantly check for scary things behind my back but again I soon realized as an owl swooped by that I knew each creature here and each sound there and it was nothing to fear. As I eliminated my own fears an ease seemed to settle in.
One evening I recall as I sat pondering I lost the fear of death. It was not a religious experience but perhaps quite the opposite. It came to me we all die and are part of this great earth be it in a living form or in organic material to bring forth more life. It might have been I was listening to the Lion King movie and the circle of life concept that previous night with my kids. But with that loss of fear came a freedom. I read this simple quote this morning and recalled so many moments lost in fear

“You live longer once you realize that any time spent being unhappy is wasted.” Ruth E. Renkel

Author Ruth E. Renkal so eloquently simplifies what took me so many years to ponder and resolve within myself. As I sit here thinking it is so true, a shadow is cast by a light we too often never think or wonder to look beyond the darkness. On that day when fears are set aside each day becomes longer when worries subside and is replaced with confidence, be it a new month, a new week or a new day for each of us. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

Doc Bird’s herb garden note:

I found a good Herb enthusiast magazine at Barnes and Nobles the other day, The Herb Quarterly. In one article several energizing teas.

Garden Tea II

Equal parts holy basil, lemon grass, and anise hyssop steep for a few minutes in boiling water use maple syrup to flavor and or Agave Nectar

I am trying this one when I get home.

Listening to a Chorus of Frogs, Crickets and an occassional Owl

Bird Droppings July 13, 2011
Listening to a chorus of Frogs, Crickets and an occasional owl

“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” Doug Floyd

Most every night and early morning when I walk about especially early in the morning I am listening to the choral arrangement of tree frogs, crickets, whippoorwills and an occasional owl. None in tune with the other yet so much together an interesting mix of harmonies and melodies as they do what they do in the trees and forests around our house.
A few years back I am guessing my wife and I got alarm clocks for the boys that had earth sounds for going to sleep as well as CD or radio to wake you up, one of the sounds of the ten or so to fall asleep was crickets and frogs and an occasional owl. I have found it haunting as I listen to this at night live. Many the night back in the day while camping I have fallen asleep to that chorus. As I look perhaps a bit deeper and further in our society this quote rings true as well it takes differing of opinion to make all work in unison. As I read this short thought from Doug Floyd who is the editorial page editor for The Spokesman-Review I thought how appropriate to the issues at hand. A single voice would never succeed as much as we would like to think as I listened to the green party nominee for president he runs not so much to win as to offer a thought, a differing voice, a change or an alternative.

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” Albert Einstein

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing –to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party.“ John Keats

As I think to my chorus of frogs and crickets it is not a mix of voices with simply chance bringing it together there are specifics as the insects and amphibians call looking for mates or signaling territory. Each is very clear and concise and there are reasons and responses to each note and call.

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill

Thinking back a week or so to that day we celebrate our country’s independence which is a day where opinions became free to express, a day where as I watched the movie the other day Majestic, with Jim Carrey, where a young man is accused during the McCarthy era of being a communist and he draws his defense not on whether or not he is a communist since the committee had already decided that but that he was entitled by the constitution to free speech The First Amendment. You know it is the opinion and thoughts of others that allow us to have room to think to pursue and grow to achieve beyond where we are. As I sit here listening to the sounds from outside to the chorus of frogs and crickets and an occasional owl I am pleased we can in this country have differing opinions and hope one day maybe most will be opinions of peace. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Doc Bird’s herb garden note:

I started my current herb garden about six years ago with a Spanish Lavender plant and two rosemary plants. My Spanish Lavender was a small shrub last winter when the extreme freeze did it in. My rosemary plants succumbed that first winter but I was hooked and expanded to over one hundred thirty culinary and medicinal herb plants species. If you can find the plant I highly recommend Bar B Que Rosemary as a great culinary plant especially fresh. The leaves are big and tender and the flavor is excellent. The plants are not fast growing but this year they have done well. I started cuttings last week off my three plants.

Grilled or baked rosemary chicken
© 1995-2011 CDKitchen, Inc.

4 chicken breasts, halved
4 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix together minced fresh rosemary leaves and minced garlic. Loosen skin from chicken breasts and slide rosemary/garlic mixture under the skin. Brush olive oil onto breasts and sprinkle with salt (preferably coarse Kosher salt) and pepper (preferably fresh ground).

The breasts can now be grilled over a medium-hot fire for about 20-30 minutes or until done as desired, or baked in a 375°F. oven for about 30 minutes.

*I will be trying this recipe tonight and as usual using mesquite lump charcoal in my Green Egg.

It is all about communicating

Bird Droppings July 12, 2011
It is all about communicating

“I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn to the ocean, taken by is power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it is to share our laughter.” James Kavanaugh, San Diego, 1969

This passage is from the introduction to “There are men to gentle to live among wolves” by poet and author James Kavanaugh. I wish I had written this gem as it speaks so much to me. I went exploring this morning as I do often as the sun is rising, seeing flowers and trees in a different light. Sounds, colors, light and temperature all vary through the day and a flower in the morning may be totally different than one viewed in the sunset. Dew has a way of adding special effects to the leaves and grass. I have been a searcher for most of my life as I look back always wondering and always pondering. It is a wonderful new day ahead and much to see and do.
In about four weeks I will have students in my class room again. I will be walking down hall ways and talking with students and teachers and I wonder will anything be different than when I left. I wonder if teachers have studied how to be more effective and if students read and became more scholarly over the weeks of summer. Some teachers have attended graduate school and many will have attended leadership training programs teaching them how to better manage teachers and students and move them through the processes of education so that required tests get passed. A few may have opted for philosophy, literature, psychology, social studies or numerous other more liberal arts courses.

“An effective teacher is one who is able to convince not half or three quarters but essentially all of his or her students to do quality work in school.” Dr. William Glasser MD.

Dr. Glasser goes on in his book The Quality School to explain his ideas. I found it interesting one of his first references is to Dr. W. Edwards Deming who revolutionized industry in Japan. Deming was a US quality expert who US industry barely recognized and was contracted with by the Japanese to improve quality and in a few short years they over took and surpassed US industry in production as well as in quality. I can recall only a few years ago when a certain US car company used the slogan of “Quality is job 1”. A good view of quality is resale value of cars and trucks. Amazing how nearly all of top ten best resale vehicles are Japanese and four of the five worst are all from the same US auto maker. .

“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” Dale Carnegie

Carnegie provides a quick guide to life for teachers, parents, students, and children. I have always felt example is the key, in almost any aspect of life. I wish it were not so, but how we look and or are perceived is often how we are judged first in life. What we say can affect those around us and how they determine whether or not to believe us or not and always how we say it. What do we mean, looking at Carnegie’s words I wonder if some where there is more to communication?

“A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered; about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals.” Robert M. Hutchins

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Anthony Robbins

Nearly opposites yet both hold elements are needed and in order for people to communicate around the world even in another town a common language a common set of words and ideas are needed to initiate thoughts. It is also knowing that each person may see the world different and be able to work around that and through that.

“The higher you go, the wider spreads the network of communication that will make or break you. It extends not only to more people below, but to new levels above. And it extends all around, to endless other departments and interests interacting with yours.” Donald Walton

I went by our super Wal-Mart yesterday looking for a very specific item a movie my son and I wanted to watch, no luck, but as we were walking out he and I had both been thinking the same thought. This store was becoming the focus for this community; people were not just shopping, but walking about looking and everywhere in doing so visiting with friends and neighbors. Wal-Mart had become a focal point for this town. I had been to a Wal-Mart Sam’s club recently talking with a manager and other staff; there is a network of communication within this company.
Yesterday as I emailed back and forth with several friends we discussed building a network of teachers and working that network, wouldn’t that build a powerful teaching tool. What about a parent network where issues could be in the open immediately and clarified and discussed rather than become a sore and fester. Communications such a crucial item in today’s fast paced world and so over looked. I was speaking with a research biologist, a Ph.D. yesterday about the state of education and his comment was it is all about parent involvement and how crucial it is. Today is a day where a week is nearly midway over so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Doc Bird’s herb garden note:

I am a big basil fan and every season plant plenty. Actually I probably plant far more than I could ever use. The smell as basil is flowering is wonderful filling the entire garden. I try and grow several different basils each year but this recipe below is tonight’s dinner so I will comment tomorrow on how it turns out. I grill on a Green Egg grill and use mesquite lump wood charcoal.

Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing
Recipe courtesy Giadia De Laurentis
Total Time: 55 min.
Prep 15 min.
Inactive 30 min.
Cook 10 min.
Yield: 6 servings .
©Television Food Network G.P.
All Rights Reserved.

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 large clove garlic
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Whisk 1/3 cup of oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, fennel seeds, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a heavy-duty re-sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day, turning the chicken occasionally.

Meanwhile, blend the basil, garlic, lemon zest, remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until smooth. Gradually blend in the remaining 1/3 cup oil. Season the basil sauce, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to plates. Drizzle the basil sauce over and serve.

Is it really adversity?

Bird Droppings July 11, 2011
Is it really adversity?

“If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience.” Robert Fulghum

I was working in the yard most of the day yesterday when I was not at a reptile show with my son, weeding our front shrub beds and working on edging the beds as well and all during the day various birds flew by chirping and calling sort of keeping me company as I toiled. In the late morning a red tailed hawk swooped across the yard over into some pines to add to a rather interesting morning. As I thought today and much early saw this quote from Fulghum it seemed to be a good way to look at life. But it is also too how we deal with the problems we face.

“We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way.’ ’A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn.’” Authors Unknown

So often we get absorbed in the issues, the problems and do not see what lies ahead or that something can lie ahead around the turn. It must be that compulsive obsessive behavior that seems inborn in so many of us myself included.

“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.” William Shakespeare, Othello

Life continually throws curve balls and learning to hit a curve ball is the secret and not succumbing to the psychological ploys of the pitcher. Of course when you learn to hit curves the pitcher may throw a slider.

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” Mother Teresa

There is a bit of humor in Mother Theresa’s stoicism as she wondered about her place in the circle of life and questioned.

“We acquire the strength we have overcome.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

A simple thought but adversity does bring strength. Thinking back to yesterday and Dr. Garrett and the rule of opposites there needs to be weakness for the strength as we struggle through life.

“You can’t run away from trouble. There ain’t no place that far.” Uncle Remus

I recall Uncle Remus from Disney’s cartoons based on the characters and many trips through Madison Georgia that is the home of the Uncle Remus’ characters. Even in Madison you see the Disney art work portraying the various characters. In life far too often we run away trying to avoid dealing with issues and there is no place far enough eventually it does catch up.

“Enduring habits I hate…. Yes, at the very bottom of my soul I feel grateful to all my misery and bouts of sickness and everything about me that is imperfect, because this sort of thing leaves me with a hundred backdoors through which I can escape from enduring habits.” Friedrich Nietzsche

A day or so ago a comment was made about over achievers as I read various educational materials. In dotting every I and crossing every T and each capital letter exactly correct as I read I was thinking obsessive compulsive. Understanding our frailties and weaknesses can make us strong.

“If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I would not pass it round. Trouble creates a capacity to handle it. I don’t embrace trouble; that’s as bad as treating it as an enemy. But I do say meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

Perhaps it is in acknowledgement of trouble that we can overcome it. It is true we learn and we grow, we develop a capacity to overcome adversity as life experiences are gained.

“The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it, whether he’s got an abscess on his knee or in his soul.” Rona Barrett

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.” Garrison Keillor

So often we fret over things that in truth are simply a part of life and fretting will not take it away it is in knowing how to deal with and live with them.

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm

You have to get through the trials before you can savor the victory is what most coached will tell their teams.

“I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.” Jewish Proverb

As I think and ponder perhaps this is the most powerful quote of today. If we all looked at life this way what a world we would have, no more whiners.

“Sometimes the littlest things in life are the hardest to take. You can sit on a mountain more comfortably than on a tack.” Author Unknown

This is such a good illustration picturing a tack and a mountain and trying in turn to sit on each. The big issues we seem to deal with but those sharp tiny ones sneak in there and cause the trouble.

“How can something bother you if you won’t let it?” Terri Guillemets

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Frank A. Clark

“As long as you keep getting born, it’s alright to die some times.” Orson Scott Card

“Bad is never good until worse happens.” Danish Proverb

Even though the smooth pavement is so much easier to travel on I do prefer a bump now and again to keep me awake. I was thinking of the ripples alongside the interstate highways before bridges they really do wake you up quick. Sometimes we need a ripple or two to keep us going.

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” Walt Disney

Walt Disney was one of the great optimists of our time. Back in the day he had the vision to see pine flats, orange groves and swamp and envision a city, an amusement park unlike anything ever built before. As I look back all from drawing of a little mouse.

“Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” Arthur Golden

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.” Lou Reed

Again the rule of opposites falls into play and from Eastern thought the yin and yan opposites that need each other so you can truly see what each is often depicted as black and white which h is for many the contrast of life.

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Mary Engelbreit

So much of life is how we see it and then what we do about it. It is a new week so as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Doc Bird’s Herb Garden note:

Soothing tea – This is from Kathleen Brown’s book Herbal Teas. I tried it last evening and not bad although I added a little lime juice and blue agave nectar.

1 part catnip leaves
1 part lemon balm leaves
1 part linden blossoms (Basswood tree and no blossoms to be found yesterday)
1 part oat straw
1 part passiflora leaves (passion flower)
1 part St. John’s wort blossoms

Combine herbs in a pot cover with boiling water steep 15 – 20 minutes

Healing is in all of us

Bird Droppings July 10, 2011
Healing is in all of us

“The first fact that distinguishes the human species from all others is that we are born too soon. We arrive incapable of taking care of ourselves for something like fifteen years.” Joseph Campbell, Pathways to bliss, 2004

It is so easy to get up knowing my children are safe and walk out into a morning unafraid, I have never been in the situation my parents were faced with my two younger brothers and me. Shortly after I was born they were unsure as young parents of the medical issues and why their new born was having seizures. I out grew that and moved on to polio at about three years of age and a few small minor other health issues in my childhood. My youngest brother also started with seizures and almost immediately the intensity increased and I think back to how my parents must have felt at that time especially as I sit holding and watching my grand daughter each day.
Watching my own children grow up with so few problems has been easy. A good friend has two small children one diagnosed with diabetes the other with health issues of their own. A few years past on a Monday a dear friend went in for brain surgery, not something that you volunteer to do, she knew that she may not walk away from it. But in this situation options were minimal, an aneurism on the main artery in her brain could rupture at any time and she would be gone. She had her surgery and survived and is doing fine.
There was calm this morning as I went outside with my dog. It was an uneasy calm, heavily overcast as if a storm is coming or maybe just a weather change, yet so peaceful and still. I was absorbed in the quiet, and the stillness, perhaps the storm will come. But perhaps the calm will stay and continue. I have a spot in the yard actually I call it a medicine circle where I often go to sit and to listen. As I sat birds were chattering about me along with a left over tree frog from last evening perhaps excited about the chances of rain and myself I was looking for answers and to what today would be for me.
I walked to my car after a few minutes and got my phone that I had left on the charger. At this time in the morning with little traffic in our neighborhood my front porch is a quiet resting spot as well. I sat down in the rocker and was listening. A buzzing or more humming sound caught my attention and I was face to face with a hummingbird. We started at each other for some time till the tiny bird flew off into the expanse of pines along side the road. A seeming coincidence but had I been a few minutes later or sooner no hummingbird, and those moments are for me is a part of my existence.

“Creative breakthroughs and prophetic knowing will become ordinary. Empathy and compassion will flower as a result of our deeper connection with one another. The awareness of immortality takes the pressure off living and dying. This will not happen automatically, however. We have to do our share and set our biases and prejudices aside. These are urgent matters.” Dr. Larry Dossey, Healing Words

It has been quite a few years since I first read Dr. Larry Dossey’s first book, myself coming from a seminarian background, my library is filled with books on prayer and the healing power of prayer. Everyday in the local paper articles and advertising for various churches allude to the power of prayer. There have been times in my own life when prayer was a significant issue. I recall my father telling the story of my brother lying in a bed at The Philadelphia Children’s hospital this was in the mid 1960’s and the head doctor Dr. C. Everett Koop (U.S. Surgeon General later 1981-1989) offering a prayer over John.
I recall a comment my father said years ago that Dr. Koop offered in all of his years in medicine and dealing with terminally ill children had he ever met anyone who refused prayer. Dr Larry Dossey in his work however is looking at prayer not only as a religious act but as healing intentions. Dossey even removes religious connotation from prayer as he looks at the power of prayer, in a California study where a group focused on the individuals and healing occurred.

“This is actually been tested in certain studies, and has achieved positive results. For example, at the University of California San Francisco Medical School, they actually tested healing intentions, which were initiated at a great distance by several individuals, for people with advanced AIDS. This was a double blind study. The people who received the healing intentions statistically did much better than people who did not. So this is not just fantasy. This is a valid phenomenon, which has been tested.” Dr. Larry Dossey

I am rambling a bit, a dear friend emailed back a few years back several incidents of healing and intuition recently, while she was a pastor in Delaware. A good friend would end his emails to me sending energy south. For a number of years now I have ended Bird Droppings with a simple line, please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart, each day. A very simple statement, as I sit and think imagine if we each would do this daily how profound an impact would that make on the world.

“We are made of prayers. With prayer we listen to what is important inside of us and all around us.” Navajo healer

“We are not alone. The spirits of those gone before guide our steps, our traditions, our beliefs. We are not alone. The care of those around us leads us to healing and wholeness and comfort. We are not alone.” Mohawk/Onondaga healer

“All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.” Chief Seattle

If we focus on those in harms way if we try and alleviate suffering and harm being done to others within our own realm of being, that will spread that will encompass soon all of mankind and the world will be touched. Today make it a point to keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart and a special thought for a little girl in North Georgia and a local woman in Athens who just came out of surgery.

Doc Bird’s Herb Garden note:
I found this in a little book on one of my trips to Barnes and Nobles. It is from the book, Listening with your heart by Dr. Wayne Peate M.D. an Iroquois healer as well as a medical doctor.

A soothing tea:

8 fresh peppermint leaves
4 fresh strawberry leaves
2 cups of water
Crush leaves, place in a tea pot. Add boiling water and cover for ten minutes. Strain and serve. I am making some right now although my strawberry leaves are minimal I did have a lot of peppermint.

It is wonderful although I use a few drops of agave nectar in mine.

Dodging rain drops

Bird Droppings July 9, 2011
Dodging rain drops

Georgia has been considerably drier this summer than the last. The surprise thunderstorms while often severe still have kept most trees green. I have been watering our flowers and of course with fertilizer they are growing so fast many fall over from their height and my herb garden is lush and deep. I have a beautiful canna lilies and squash that have so many blooms and grown so much they can barely stay up. I planted a crop of jimson weed, or datura which is a cousin to the angel trumpets given to me by a friend in Pa. I will have to watch out for them when I mow this week they are coming up all over the back corner of the yard.

“A name is imposed on what is thought to be a thing or a state and this divides it from other things and other states. But when you pursue what lies behind the name, you find a greater and greater subtlety that has no divisions. Atoms of dust are not really atoms of dust but are merely called that. In the same way, a world is not a world but is merely called that.” Visuddhi Magga

I read this quote in passing yesterday and have been thinking about it for some time we could easily get lost in the metaphysics of Gary Zukav or James Redfield describing the infinite inner worlds and selves and the interrelationships. But I thought I would look at rain more metaphorically. I was mowing the yard yesterday just as a storm hit or I thought was going to hit. I made Speedracer look slow making the turns and cutting grass. The sky would darken and wind would pick up and I would stop for a water break and no rain.
Several times the isolated thunder showers passed me by each more magnificent than the last in clouds and colors. After I finished trimming and spot watering just in case the storms missed us altogether I took my westie outside for a run. I had spent a few moments meditating in a rock garden we are building a circle of sorts including various succulents and perennials and rocks that are very special to us. Many my father in law collected as he went fishing a piece of pretty granite here and there and he would take them home over the years. We have been bringing back from Warner Robins since he passed away and clearing up his rock pile and building ours.
As I went out with our westie however a new and bigger cloud formation swirling about. It went to my left ever so slowly and then stopped and I could see lightening flashing in a large circle almost around me as if I was in the center of the storm. My dog was sitting beside me as I stood transfixed in the front t yard with her tail between her legs. I moved to the rocking chair on the porch watching in awe as nature played out in front of me. Finally after thirty minutes of approaching the rain and wind finally came and I took my dog in and headed myself into the house. It had started to rain and of course the wheels of pondering started.
Over the past summer I had seen drizzle and light rain, drops as big as golf balls, hail stones mixed in and today as I read news earlier much of the Midwest is in a flood state, and still in other areas drought. As I thought from the same precipitation just in different levels and in how we perceive it. Floods in the Amazon River basin are essential for the rain forest to survive and often drought in some areas precipitates sprouting of seeds as rains return.
In the Kalahari desert the African Bullfrog or Pixie Frog will envelop itself in mucus and burrow into the mud sustaining on fat and water stored in its tissues hibernating till the next rain which could be a year or more then climbs out when rains come and lays eggs and the tadpoles leave their ponds just as they dry up and start the cycle again. In Georgia rain is a blessing and curse, crops benefit and so do bugs and such. As I was thinking deeper into rain, for some see rain only as a negative a detriment to their activities on that day.
A few days back because of a good rain and a trip into town by chance I did find a book at Borders. But a deeper look at rain maybe beyond that physical stuff we see. In our lives we are always deluged with issues we deem bad much like rain at times. Yet when we start to seriously see these issues they can become much like my rushing to finish mowing or a change of plans and going to the bookstore, a driving force for growth or change for the better. I read somewhere that, “A name is imposed on what is thought to be a thing or a state”. After all it is only a name and it is how we perceive and utilize that issue that makes it bad or good.
Perhaps this sounds silly but in my own life as I shift from seeing an issue as detrimental to one of change of growth there is a release a freedom and we could go deeper but I will save that for another time. I am working on research and writing today and soon next weekend a journey back to North Georgia and always wondering what may come. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Filtering into bottles

Morning Bird Droppings July 8, 2011
Filtering into bottles

“The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alternation of old beliefs. Self-conceit often regards it as a sign of weakness to admit that a belief to which we have once committed ourselves is wrong. We get so identified with an idea that it is literally a “pet” notion and we rise to its defense and stop our eyes and ears to anything different.” John Dewey

Over a hundred years ago John Dewey had ideas about education that were considered progressive. Much of what he thought was in a different league than where and how education was going at the time and has gone since. Much of what he thought was considerably ahead of where we are going today. Interesting head line in our Sunday paper about current educational mandates and cheating on required tests all based on “No Child Left Behind” legislation. The title was, are we leaving children behind?

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” Albert Einstein

I have not been a fan of Allan Bloom’s thinking but this thought caught my attention. How and why we educate children is crucial is it for some greater good or is it for the individual that we offer and provide education. Bloom states we need to provide a means for students to pursue learning and to interest that child so they actively seek education. Einstein wants learning to be simple enough that anyone can learn he does not say easy but available for all.

“The secret in education lies in respecting the student.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

John Dewey wrote extensively on the democratic class room and being a fan of Dewey’s and The Foxfire Approach to teaching this thought of Emerson’s ties right in. In some graduate school programs today they have classes teaching the idea of democracy in a classroom. I throw out the word symbiotic in terms of education where teacher and students are mutually involved in learning. But respect is an awesome word as Emerson points out and it is in respecting the student that we educate.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner
So often the simplest answer is correct be it an easy word encouragement and yet we so often use it far too little. We all know we can do better and yet we also have the capability yet sit back and relax letting students in effect suffer and not learn.

“The most important outcome of education is to help students become independent of formal education.” Paul E. Gray

“Education would be so much more effective if its purpose were to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they don’t know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” Sir William Haley

It is a simple concept to teach children to know where to find the answers. Often this simple thought gets left by the wayside. Several days ago I reflected on the idea of filling a liter bottle, it only takes a liter. Real teaching isn’t so much the filling of the bottle but the filtering and teaching of how to sort knowledge into groups and condense so the bottle is not just filled but contains the crucial pieces. That is information we absolutely need and can remember that is filling the bottle. That which is left who knows but maybe perhaps we can borrow a bottle and fill with information we know where to find. The information we really do not need, can spill to the ground. It is teaching that makes the difference, that teaching of how to sort, use and manipulate the information. Each child is different and capacities vary but if a child knew how to organize information I feel they would then in turn begin to teach themselves. Gray states that it is to be independent of education and Sir William says with having that “desire to learn it”, this are the keys. This is what teaching is about. So today many children in our area are home from school forgetting what they learned last year. As I came into the school today a little girl was registering for the upcoming year. She had dropped out and did independent studies while she had a baby and now is heading back to school. Today it will be a great day and a wondrous day and a reminder to all to keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your heart.

Curriculum is it sacred?

Bird Droppings July 7, 2011
Curriculum is it as sacred?

So often even a miniscule one triggers with me a memory. We have a standing joke at our house about the rabbits that live around our yard. My wife continually mentions the book, Watership Downs, when addressing the bold creatures. Yesterday I was heading to the front door when a young rabbit was standing at the door. The rabbit had no sales flyers or sample case so I am sure it was not a traveling salesbunny. But as I pondered and I did get photos of our door tapping rabbit I thought back to one of my earlier undergraduate experiences. I had a professor in 1969 at Eastern College in St. David’s Pennsylvania, Dr. Tony Campolo; he was a professor of sociology. He has made more of an impact on me in the years since I sat in his class and not because he was not a great professor he was.

“While the would be spiritual oracles fail to understand about our ‘advanced’ capitalist social system is that the means have been devised to make spiritual realities somewhat unreal to us. More accurately, ways have been found in our consumer-oriented society to reduce spiritual hungers to emotions that can be gratified by purchasing the things being sold to us through the mass media.” Dr. Tony Campolo

It is not just church related spiritual realities Dr. Campolo is talking about here. It is the just of who we are that inner being getting to know where we are in the world and why. Dr. Campolo was a theologian first and used Greek as he taught periodically to make a point.

“Koinonia, (fellowship) supposedly can be generated simply by drinking the right beer” Dr. Tony Campolo

As I have been reading in some curriculum texts it is an interdisciplinary event as well as it is an all encompassing lived in totality undertaking? Curriculum is not just the linear understanding of a school room and class XYZ. Seeing curriculum as the tracks that my life’s train is riding on is perhaps a metaphorical stretch at best yet in the true sense of understanding it is so.

“It is through a concern with problems as they are relate to mankind at large that it may be possible to create the type of understanding that will enable man to use with wisdom those tools which have made this century the most promising and the most perilous he has ever known.” Elliot Eisner

For many years I have embraced within myself a different sort of understanding of the world. In Native American culture all is sacred, every leave, twig, rock, animal and human being.

“It was a quote from Krishnamurti that said – he was talking about education being the understanding of the self, and he said, ‘For it is each of us the whole of existence is gathered.’” K. Kesson

For me spiritual is simply walking out the door to a brilliant sunrise or full moon as it inspires and fulfills that within me. I see curriculum in a similar manner one of sacredness of spiritual and fulfillment more so than a curriculum map on a wall next to the essential question of the day. As I read curriculum theorists it is this group who are bringing back the sacredness of learning of understanding and perhaps returning a culture lost in the midst of being found.

“The Community of truth, the grace of things, the transcendent subject, the “secret” that “sits in the middle and knows” – these images emerge, for me, from my experience of reality as sacred and of the sacred as real. Others may arrive at similar understandings from different starting points. But I believe that knowing, teaching, and learning are grounded in sacred soil and that renewing my vocation as a teacher requires cultivating a sense of the sacred.” “I think the problem we are up against is that we are crippled in this modernist culture in speaking about this dimension, and the people that have experienced it throughout history – the mystics, the sages – it seems to me they do come back and report it as a deeply meaningful and moral realm.” Ron Miller

I was first introduced to Black Elk by a Creek friend whose grandfather was a holy man as well. He said I should read the book and get a feeling for what spirituality is about. Interesting as I read I also found this is what learning is about.

“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

This is the outlook of Black Elk, Oglala Sioux holy man in his discussions and narrative of his visions as a child and as elder in the tribe with John Neihardt in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This view Native Americans have of life we civilized folk have a difficult time with. Black Elk perceived that there was an all encompassing view of all that is. In my naive beginning study of curriculum theory I see aspects of this philosophy in curriculum theory and my analogy of a track a circular journey in life of education and learning.

“One of the paradoxes of our times is that in an age pervaded by the clash of conflicting ideologies so little effort is spent in enabling students to critically examine their values and beliefs.” Elliot Eisner
We tend to lose individualism in trying to accomplish everything and to standardize and sanitize and provide “curriculum” to our schools. Borrowing from Eisner again.

“As David Hume suggested, one cannot logically proceed from a description of what is to a conception of what ought to be.” “If the concept of mankind were used as an organizing element in the curriculum, certain differences in school programmes might emerge.” Elliot Eisner

Curriculum is a living thing ongoing and pervasive. It is not a limiting plan of strategies as so many teachers presume. I think I have been pondering to long today and who knows maybe there are answers after all please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Time has a definitive edge

Bird Droppings July 6, 2011
Time has a definite edge

Somewhere in my wanderings last week I forgot to write or perhaps could not find time was a better answer. Seldom in eight years of writing nearly daily have a missed more than a day at one time. For some reason I had days mixed up backwards or such. I read a good bit and argued with my dog over her sleeping habits and issues about how she seems to bark on a frequency only I hear at night. One issue I seem to have is time, lately it seems I never do I have enough from dawn to dusk to accomplish what I want that day. I will admit many moments I find myself remembering stories about my dad but within my day dreaming I find time to play with my granddaughter which I do that all the time. So maybe I am not wasting time just do not have enough.

“Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” M. Scott Peck, 1936,, American psychiatrist, and author

I found this statement most intriguing and in a world where we continually try and save time and or speed up everything around us, since patience has been thrown out the door, time has become an elusive quarry. Then I read this statement this morning I have been going over students scores of self esteem for several months looking for pieces to puzzles as to why they see themselves this way or that. I often am looking at family, friends, grades, age, and drugs, are they on medication or not. But in the end it is how a person sees themselves that is most crucial because it does interplay with all other aspects of our lives.

“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”
Thomas Carlyle

In the cruel circular motion of lacking self esteem it is difficult to accomplish anything. Yet once that circle is set in motion and accomplishment however small is completed self esteem also rises forth and grows.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” Sam Walton

Often criticized for employee relations and for the megacapitilistic Super Wal-Mart Stores since his death, the founder built his empire on building self esteem of his employees.

“Take away my factories, my plants; take away my railroads, my transportation; take away my money; strip me of all these, but leave me my people and in two or three years I will have them all again.” Andrew Carnegie

Many years ago I had this hanging on my wall in my office when I worked in the publishing industry. My father instilled this idea in me and as I look over results from my students. It is not about what program has been used, it is not what curriculum is used or text book. It is about that interaction between teacher and student. If a teacher can commit to their students as Carnegie did to his people success will be there and accomplishment and self esteem of the students will improve. I started today on time, amazing how I wander. When teacher student’s commitment, interaction, and trust reach this level, time becomes inconsequential. When time is inconsequential you can concentrate on commitment and accomplishment. Each day in the news I read words that keep me writing please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart.

Do we learn from a ripple or a wave?

Bird Droppings July 5, 2011
Do we learn from a ripple or a wave?

I spent most of the past few mornings digging and planting, transplanting and repotting various flowers and herbs in our yard. I had several one poor lemon verbena that had been hiding for about a month still in a seedling pot and now about twenty four inches tall and that poor plant was very happy to be in some real dirt. My family got together yesterday to celebrate the fourth with a cookout and culminating in shooting off fireworks. My wife and I volunteered to babysit our granddaughter so younger generation could go blow things up. It seems my sister in buying firecrackers for a grandchild got some very potent ones and in the process one of my nephews a local sheriff decide they were best handled by a professional so he went and bought a watermelon to blow up. Not sure of the logic ion that but they had a good time. I have been thinking since early morning when the sun came up this morning and while I was digging in the dirt about this idea. Do we learn more from a ripple or a wave?

“Make ripples more than waves” Bob Algonzzine, Little book of Wisdom

This thought is number 298 out of 365 thoughts in his book. It isn’t necessarily in any special order it just happens to be that number. As I saw this comment in reference to a teacher in class as I recalled a legend from local Native Americans about throwing a stone into a pond or lake and watching the ripples dissipate against the edges of the pond. Technically as I looked up definitions ripples and waves are the very similar and even some said the same just in different velocities or size. But as I think this afternoon a ripple doesn’t have the force of a wave, sort of in education the difference between telling versus asking for something to be done. You are trying to accomplish the same event or solicit the same behavior but one has a lot more force behind it.

“It is nobler to convert souls, than to conquer kingdoms.” Louis Debonnaire

“People have a peculiar pleasure in making converts that is, in causing others to enjoy what they enjoy, thus finding their own likeness represented and reflected back to them.” Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

So often the teacher is the expert and it is their way period, saying such things as you will learn this now or else sort of thing. Waves have a tendency to do damage more so then sink in as they hit. Ripples are absorbed at the shore line as I thought deeper on this knowledge is no different. Is what is taught to be simply for Friday’s test or is it to be a life lesson?

“That, which proves too much, proves nothing!” Proverb

“You must make the product interesting not just make the ad different. And that’s what too many of the copywriters in America today don’t yet understand.” Rooser Reeves

I often wonder however when it is a ripple and when a wave. A new idea could knock some students over and yet be just what another student needs to keep momentum up. By coincidence my middle son was home this weekend and I recalled how he would come home from Georgia Tech several years ago to relax, the atmosphere at TECH is very stressful. A regiment of study, video games, study, read, video games and very little humanity time. On the other side my nephew would come home from another college to study because all time in his dorm was humanity time and no one was concentrating. As I think back it was funny they ended the weekend playing video games together before heading back to their schools.
As I sit here midst my debris a thought, that incessant barrage of ripples one after another nothing over whelming does sink in and it is absorbed. I often use and have cards sitting around my room at school with FIDO printed on them and on the back the acronym, Frequency, Intensity, Duration and Over Again. This is the FIDO principle and my good friend B.F. Skinner’s philosophy and eventually it will sink in.

“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” Liane Cardes

“Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. They experience synergy only in small, peripheral ways in their lives. But creative experiences can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. It requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.” Stephen R. Covey

Covey’s idea is true however ripples or waves hitting on concrete is far more different than if it were hitting on a sponge. The big question is then how do we develop sponges as to learning and concrete as to character.

“The cynic says, ‘One man can’t do anything.’ I say, ‘Only one man can do anything.’” John W. Gardner

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” William James

How often do we see people like this so restricted in movement and in thinking only a finger can be moved. Each day during school hours I can look down the hallway and see teachers who respond this way. As I have written the past several years I used the term boxed in, they are in their little box sealed up and new ideas concepts cannot get in. Occasionally they peek out but usually only to see if the wrapping is intact. Most of the time this type of teacher teaches with waves. BOOM, you got it or you don’t and I am out of here back to my box.

“I have always had the feeling I could do anything and my dad told me I could. I was in college before I found out he might be wrong.” Anne Richards

Recently I was discussing what makes a teacher. Part of my rationale is you cannot truly tell someone how to teach. In schools of Education they try and so forth in math science etc. I have found creativity and imagination get so often stifled as in Anne Richards quote by experts. We want to make sponges not concrete.

“We are hoarding potentials so great that they are just about unimaginable.” Jack Schwartz

“You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.” Brian Tracy

“Make ripples not waves” I was just thinking about days gone by and making waves in a pool using a kick board you push against the water and shove in a direction and make a wave. It takes one good hard push and you have a wave. A ripple is more of dropping a stone and from the epicenter of where the stone hits ripples play out one after another till they hit the shore. Perhaps the identical force is involved in terms of physics but in the ripple effect many hundreds of ripples play against the edge or the student and with the wave it is a onetime deal. So we are faced with a wave versus a series of ripples.
Funny how we approach each day sitting here this morning writing and thinking after watching the Trial of Billy Jack, a 1974 movie that was basically a younger generation film of the time, last night. Watching the movie a comment stood out. The main character is asked in court a question about America and he responds with this country has gone so far from the origins that it can never get back to the founding fathers true aspirations. In several discussions the past few days of graft and corruption that is constantly exposed in industry and government and yet little is done as in the banking industry where many built empires and only one major player was imprisoned others were simply allowed to start over and they are almost back where they were when everything fell apart a few years ago. We do not learn from the waves and far too often that is all that is thrown at us from those in power.
So as I sit back pondering which would I rather teach and which would I rather have to be a student within? An interesting scenario in that thought as my mind wanders about today. I wonder how many teachers teach and think in terms of being a student listening to their lesson. As I look at News this morning it seems we are still at war in many places and some countries are trying to aggravate further with rhetoric and missiles. So for another day and sadly one that is special to us here in the US our friends and family members continue to be at risk and many are in harm’s way. So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.