Looking for the elder in each of us

Bird Droppings January 3, 2011

Looking for the elder in each of us

“Someday the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you will die too.”  John Hollow Horn Bear, Brule Sioux 1850-1914


            I got up earlier and saw a friend had posted a strip mining photo to Facebook. I commented and added a quote from my readings. A bit later she added the above quote from a leader of the Sioux who attended three presidential inaugurations and was a peace treaty leader as the Sioux resigned themselves to reservations. I have been working over my break gathering old Bird Droppings and working on my ongoing project of compiling some I consider decent into a book. My daily journaling for nearly twelve years and for me a meditation of sorts and in most cases how I start my day. I have been reading the past few evenings when I get a chance a book by Archie Fire Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Gift of Power: The life and teachings of a Lakota Medicine Man. Coincidently as I go I am cataloging and tagging my old droppings. I am using some of old ones that seemed important today to use from 2005.


“The face you have up to age thirty five is the one you are born with; after thirty five, it is the face you have made.” Abraham Lincoln


A new year and yet another year older, I can always pick on a good friend who is a few months older than I am about being the oldest of us which I need to do soon. I participate in a group website with fellow high school class mates of 1967. As always comments about grandchildren and retirement abound. A few months back when I could afford it I was privileged to use a senior citizen discount at a theatre. With several all of the family members with smart phones that record music we have been searching files for old recordings from my sons various bands back in the day. I recall a few years back as I went to pick up my youngest son, his band Open Suggestion was cutting their first recording and I had to wait while they burned CD’s.

As we headed home the conversation went to old music and LP albums and one of the guys kept saying CD’s and I made a comment about there are a few who may not have made the grade to CD yet. Funny thing was I picked a group little known outside of the coffee house circuit of late sixties early seventies to focus the conversation on, Brewer and Shipley known for their one hit wonder a token of the times “One toke over the Line”. Actually I went to hear them at The Main Point located just outsidePhiladelphiain 1971 or so just prior to moving toGeorgia. It was the night before I took my first load south in my 1969 VW bus with curtains on the windows. As I listened that night to another of their songs with which they ended their show that night, “Don’t want to die inGeorgia”.


“The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.” Hervey Allen


“You can only perceive real beauty in a person as they get older.” Anouk Aimee


Nostalgia of the New Year as I think back to just before moving toGeorgiaI had visited over Thanksgiving 1971 after going toFloridafor a few days. I arrived inMaconGeorgiaon my way toFloridato visit my cousin who was living inNaplesat the time. However as I went to Macon the streets were still showing signs of all the flowers strewn during the funeral for Dwayne Allman just a little over a month previous, in October of 1971. On Thanksgiving Day 2004 I took two of my sons for the first time to Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon Ga. to see the grave of Dwayne Allman, former lead guitar and slide player for the Allman Brothers band and original slide player on the famous Eric Clapton song “Layla”.


“To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” Henri Frederic Amiel


“Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; as we see that the shadows, which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at midday.” Thomas Arnold


It has been a few years since I had discussed with a friend the concept of Elders, a lost art in our hectic world. In primitive cultures the elders were the force behind the family and tribe, the storage house of wisdom and knowledge in a world where all was passed down by word of mouth and story; not by the internet and high speed modem connection. As I read my book Gift of Power, the story is of a handing down of wisdom and understanding over many generations. As I work on my doctorate based on The Foxfire Teaching Approach, in the original program students gained much of their understanding from their elders as they interviewed and learned about their culture and history. I am privileged to soon be able to start learning myself as I go through the archives of nearly sixty years of interviews and photographs.


“Our mission is to reclaim the sacred role of the elder for our time by encouraging people of all ages, especially those who are “chronologically gifted”, to abandon the modern “elderly” retire-recreate-deplete paradigm, and to consciously and intentionally celebrate the second half of life by embracing a return to the time-honored engage-serve-leave a legacy role of the traditional elder.” Barry Schlimme, The Wisdom Center


As I read through the side panel on the website my friend led me too, the words Celebrant, Conservationist, Mentor, and Sage I could so easily apply the word teacher in place of elder. These are the role a good teacher should be involved often because there are no other figures to serve that purpose. In many cases we as teachers are the elders of our society and we often forsake our duty. We need to engage, serve, and leave and not control, intimidate, and conquer. I have a brochure for a conference I will be attending in March designed to provide ideas for working with High Risk Youth and several of the ideas are emphasized in the various proposed speakers talks.


“We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.” May L. Becker


“Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.” Pearl S. Buck


I always seem to be at the right place and right time on that night several years back as I drove to pick up my son I stopped to get a bottle of water, a one liter of Smart Water please. For whatever reason really none I did not go to my favorite Quick Trip and ended up at a convenience store several miles along the way. This store is sort of out in the boon docks but on my journey and pathway. Coming out as I pulled in a former teacher from the High School who had gone in the service. He went through basic training and such and was about to be shipped overseas, he developed a stress fracture and was discharged from the service.

We talked about teaching and while we talked a former student walks out synchronicity as Jung says. A comment this former teacher made stuck with me, while he wanted to serve his country and now was unable to the experience was meaningful and will be with him forever, he did what he could. As I am writing this morning still three words from the quote above stand out we as adults, as elders in our community and as teacher’s parents and friends, we each need to “engage, serve and leave”. I would add to this we need to engage each other as humans as well, we need to serve each other and we need to leave each other a little better than we started. So many of us get too focused on ourselves and forget others.


“We do not count a man’s years until he has nothing else to count.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


As I watched the sunrise this very cold morning in Georgia, each year, each week, each day and each minute, a new one, so it is each morning comes and another opportunity for us to serve others and mankind. I am using a passage from my current reading to close today and some might find offense in using the words from a Lakota holy man. But I ask you to look at truly what is being said. Heal the whole person, as often as the medicine men of the Lakota will say they cannot heal someone who chooses not to be healed. Daily I work with kids and sadly teachers as well whose spiritual lie, mental life and physical lives are in turmoil. Granted as a teacher I am limited in my capacity as to what I can do but it is also not distracting further from where this child is on their own journey. We need to try and better each person even minutely as we traverse this plain of life.


“I treat the whole person, spiritually, mentally and physically while doing my doctoring. I use the power given to me and the power of the plants, and there must also be a little power on the side of the sick man or woman to bring about a cure. The sick person plays a big part in the healing process. He must have good thoughts and use whatever he finds that is “waken”, or holy, within himself. I don’t just treat a little part of him; I have to treat his whole body and all of his mind.” John Fire Lame Deer as recalled by Archie Fire Lame Deer 


Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks.



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