Bird Droppings February 5, 2016
I was listening to the stillness of a morning, the sunrise, and or sometimes we need a window and not a mirror.
I was sitting alone this morning as I do often on weekend mornings trying to get a few photos of the sunrise, today it was a smiling moon as I left for school. The ambient temperature is still a bit too cold to hear many early morning sounds down in the bottoms along the stream or towards the field. The air was not moving save for a single car leaving our subdivision early this morning. Our dog would come by periodically as he prowls the back yard searching for signs of voles his new nemesis and my most hated adversary. Seems voles like plant roots and one has found its way to my herb garden and I have lost several plants already. Fortunately our huskie has some hunting instinct left and he caught the culprit. I was thinking as I sat meditating some might say letting my mind float listening to the stillness. When I came home yesterday and walked around the back yard the cold is keeping any new flowers from poking up. However I saw my first robin of this year so who knows maybe spring is near. My rosemary hopefully will survive the cold and daffodils are starting to poke through. Hopefully it will be just a few weeks from now that our azaleas will start in and color will surround our home.
“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” Henry David Thoreau
Sometimes we do not look and listen carefully enough and miss pieces of what is so close. It was last year a baby anole most people call them chameleons which is a little green or brown lizard we find on shrubs and around the house was on our porch about two inches long it nearly escaped observation. His bigger father greets visitors as they come onto our porch at about six inches long he usually sits on the door post in the later afternoon sun weather permitting. But I mentioned listening today I was sitting and talking with a student last week before break listening and arguing till something hit me. My student was seeing a different world than I was and beliefs and understandings were different. I was explaining from my own perspective and he was trying to assimilate into another world. A comment was made and my student’s response was not of a teenager but of a small child which is so difficult to explain. A comment was made and as I listened a light bulb went off I was using terminology and understanding that was in a different galaxy compared to what he had experienced in life. This was not about intelligence and or ability but beliefs, experiences, understandings and perceptions.
“If all I was seeing was a sunrise I would have missed the intricacies of the clouds.” Frank Bird grandfather, teacher, photographer, and ponderer
In working with modern day high school students conversation often consists of daily one up man ship and listening to the constant chatter about who has what phone, purse and or what shoes. I was finishing up testing before our pep rally and a group of students in my room asked Mr. Bird do you have Facebook and I responded of course. One of the students a cocky young fellow was commenting about all of his pictures and how he had probably more than anybody on Facebook. I quickly one upped and said I would say I have more albums than you do pictures. His response was you do not have more pictures of yourself than me I have 982. As I thought about one upping again I said no you do beat me in that I have pictures of other people not me. He went on to how he was a model and clothes he wears and hair stylist and failed the test not of class work but humanity.
So I thought about our self-focusing young man and how is that impacting the reality we have. My wife and I went out for lunch a few days back using a gift card given to us by our son and daughter in law. While we talked I shared my little photo discussion and how it made me think. My wife mentioned a news story from the day of a teenage girl who somehow took a selfie with a dead body. Our conversation drifted to teaching and classes we both teach college and a comment about class size and state funding. I went to school all through school with thirty or more in classes. That is not a good thing but we made it. I was thinking of a student teacher at our high school talking with his instructor in the staff copy room when I walked in and pieces of conversation I overheard. It hit me how many educators of educators have been in a sterile environment in academe and today’s class room is radically different than even five years ago. When I first started back teaching nearly fifteen years ago I did not have iPhone to contend with and iPads to teach from instead of books.
“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” Henry David Thoreau
“Conversation was never begun at once, nor in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.” Chief Luther Standing Bear
I began to listen to the stillness when no talking was occurring just observing my student thinking about a word I may have said, imagination. What if we have a limit to our imagination? What if you were much like a tape recorder and could only imagine what you had taken in? Most of us do this anyhow with a bit of whimsy we can alter and add to and delete from and create anew. So this is a big what if, you could not add to and delete from only use what you had on tape. I recall reading a book, Thinking in Pictures, by Dr. Temple Grantin that best describes what I am saying. Dr. Grantin is autistic. It has been nearly seven years since I read about a young man, Jason McElway, who is autistic and was the star of his high schools last home basketball game. At that time he has been approached by numerous Hollywood production companies including Walt Disney to make a movie of his life. As I thought more listening to stillness this morning we all have autistic tendencies.
“I photographed a massive oak tree easily seven foot in diameter that once stood by a house as a chimney is just behind it. In my own readings the tree of life has much significance to Native peoples this came to mind as I photographed this great tree. As I thought it came to me that even this great tree was only a few minutes from someone’s saw, cut and lying on the ground. Frank Bird grandfather, teacher and ponderer
“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau
What if rather than 1 in 500 children having symptoms of autism that those only who have more severe autistic symptoms were recognized as it was when I started teaching in 1970. Technically the American Psychological Association in its latest manual is changing the definition again and going back to the older view. Actually I think we all have the tendencies. This is a difficult explanation. As I sat listening today it was so quiet, I was able to think to imagine to dream. When I sat down today I started on this topic and in the back of my mind I recalled a test for creativity. I recalled reading about how Temple Grantin had to teach herself how to respond to emotional stimuli. As I read my morning messages and blogs in facebook and WordPress it hit. The tendencies are universal and vary significantly.
I was trying to explain from my world view an idea that was so alien to the student I was talking with on Friday. I was painting in oils with a student who was used to crayons and pencil. It was nearly five years ago that a little girl on American Idol and yes I do get caught up in the frenzy still or I should say we do here at our house, each picking favorites. This little country girl was as cute as a button and was explaining being in LA and going out to eat and having squid or calamari. She as she tried it was making cute faces and such. But having never had squid before there was no basis for her to even consider it. But if she had been from Italy, Mexico or Asia where squid is prepared as a standard fare it would be different. To those folk’s boiled okra would have been just as gross. Boiled okra by the way is far worse than squid.
“It was necessary to live through, and establish, a presence of stable consciousness within the world before it was possible for the detachment to gradually emerge which would permit that other, objective reality to connect with the conscious.” Dr. Karl Gustav Jung
What if someone has to experience an event to understand it? What if the limitations of those individuals make up do limit imagination and the ability to assimilate intangibles? I can explain an idea so clearly to me anyone could understand yet a person who needs experience needs to tape record that idea would not have the data to deal with it. What if belief is this way as well, faith or trust for example? The great educational philosopher John Dewey addresses experience and the ability to build from experiences past and present in his writings quite often.
“John Dewey’s significance …. Lies in a number of areas. First, his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a significant strand in informal education practice. Second, and linked to this, Dewey’s exploration of thinking and reflection.” The Encyclopedia of Informal Education
Enlarging experience is not all that easy. What if a person is limited to their experiences only? What if they cannot enlarge that realm and are stuck within the confines of a limited reality? I am getting deeper than normal but it revolves around my discussion with that student the other day. Hearing myself listening to the words and explanation I was trying to do and then hearing a response that was limited and in being limited by certain parameters also confining. This is a significant piece we as teachers need to consider. I will expound another time the morning is closing in on me and I still have my daily sojourn to Kroger to go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)