It is about random acts of kindness

Bird Droppings February 15, 2018

It is about random acts of kindness

 

I was a bit later than I planned to get started this morning. I have a long day of writing for graduate school and personally today. I got up this morning and my son’s faithful dog decided I did not need to sleep late. He was quick to run outside and then wanted right back in the house. It was close enough to seven o’clock that I went ahead and got up did a bit of reading and thinking. I used to in previous days use have what I called the great skittles challenge. I would do up a rubric, word search, cross word puzzle something with vocabulary or material we have been going over and the first five or so would win a pack of skittles. One I liked a lot was a Secretariat skittle quiz.  I am a big fan of the great chestnut horse two times, American Jockey Club Horse of the year and with also a very good movie to his credit. Reviewing some horse facts it was 1948 when Citation won the previous Triple Crown and with Secretariat’s win at the Belmont, in a track record, that still stands Secretariat made his way into history.

 

Over the years the challenge has changed and in order to support our FFA I would get Chik Fila sandwiches from FFA club on Fridays. I do make the challenge harder each week. One of my last challenges was a president challenge and each student had a different president to find information about. I recall I had a student get upset and that was the day teachers were evaluated by students and I am sure that fellow was my outlier. One thing that has amazed me in our hectic world is how many people forget there are others around. I read an earlier Facebook post from a student and the main theme was, how “does this help me”. I hear and feel that from many people, a very self-centered view of reality.

 

So a crazy day for me late getting started, retired, no driving for another day, errands to run and thinking about Secretariat. Last evening as I was getting ready to call it a night I went out on the back porch and listened in the dark. A pack of coyotes was having a concert. Actually it was beautiful listening to one take a lead and others join in. I made sure and turn on spot lights since it was maybe a hundred yards behind the house in a vacant field. But the underlying thought doing something nice for someone else continued to run through my thoughts.

 

“When you carry out acts of kindness you get a wonderful feeling inside. It is as though something inside your body responds and says, yes, this is how I ought to feel.” Rabbi Harold Kushner

 

When I first read this earlier I passed over it and read some from the Dalai Lama and a bit from Emerson. It has been some time since our hometown high school class website had started into the political realm, arguing and presenting issues and rationales for various and sundry campaigns and politicians. Looking back on former presidential candidates as I scanned through Yahoo news both sides hammered on the same nail in different directions perhaps. It was Maslow that said, “If all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.”  I am amazed at how much material our politicians provide for late night comedy. They are literally providing material for Saturday night live and other satirists. A couple of years ago the mayor of Dearborn Michigan emailed Senate candidate Sharon Angle about her remarks that Muslims had taken over Dearborn and that it had been put under Shari Law and asked where was she getting her information.

 

“It is my belief that whereas the twentieth century has been a century of war and untold suffering, the twenty-first century should be one of peace and dialogue. As the continued advances in information technology make our world a truly global village, I believe there will come a time when war and armed conflict will be considered an            outdated and obsolete method of settling differences among nations and      communities.” His holiness the Dalai Lama

 

As I sit this morning aside reading news stories each more horrific than previous I got thinking back as I do. Many years ago I was a youth leader in Macon Georgia and one of the youth, a red haired young lady, gave me a Bible for my twenty third birthday gift. I still have that book and the handmade felt cover that is tattered and worn. I thought a few years back of calling the number in the back of that Bible and I called getting her mother. After a few minutes, nearly an hour of conversation, I found out my former student was living in Africa, her new adopted home working in the mission field not converting heathens but providing daily care. We so often pass over the good deeds for the more news worthy stories of war and violence. Millions have died in civil war and famine in Africa funny we do not hear about it maybe there is not enough of what we want there.

 

“The United States is not a nation to which peace is a necessity.” Grover Cleveland

 

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Moshe Dayan

 

These two quotes present a contrast of sorts with a United States former president and an Israeli hero of war and also of peace.

 

“Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of            continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet             unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground.” T. S. Eliot

 

So often we tend to be caught up in the now and forget one day all we do will be reflected in the faces and lives of our grandchildren. Perhaps as I get closer to retirement and old age although most of my students would say I am old it is hitting more close to home.  We get too immersed in today in selfish pursuits of wealth and power, wiping out an entire species, for profit, is fine. It is about destroying wilderness, to make a quick buck; it is fine leveling a country for fun and money.

 

“Every kind of peaceful cooperation among men is primarily based on mutual trust and only secondarily on institutions such as courts of justice and police.” Albert Einstein

 

“When you’re finally up on the moon, looking back at the earth, all these differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this is really one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people?” Frank Borman

 

It has been many years since I was privileged to visit a high school 45 miles from here we always have preconceptions about what the children will be like, teachers and such as I talked to the journalism class, one of the girls made a statement that stuck with me, “What did you think we would be like”. A loaded question I really had not said a word and already being put in a corner, had someone already poisoned me to who they were or weren’t.  I had been to the same school a few days earlier for a band competition and was impressed. So I was very positive walking through the front door the band program had been very successful so maybe I was biased positively although from the tone of the girl’s voice, I think she was expecting a negative response. Now I had heard horror stories about this school. Interesting fact was, I used to know several administrators there and all I have heard was where they were going, not about where they had been. There were no previous administrators dragged through the mud, no excuses just here is where we will be. Positive goals and building up rather than tearing down. There was a lot of taking down walls and removing barriers between students and teachers, administration and teachers, and parents and the school. There is little difference in making peace in a high school and in the world the playing field is different but directions are similar.

 

“There never was a good war or a bad peace.” Benjamin Franklin

 

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

I am sitting here thinking this morning after watching a beautiful sunset yesterday and a possible a glorious sunrise today and wondering where tomorrow will lead. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Why am I looking for data in a data-less environment?

Bird Droppings February 12, 2018
Why am I looking for data in a data-less environment?

 

I read earlier this morning a dialogue of sorts from a young man who is currently serving in the military. He is trying to decide on his future as he pieces together in his dialogue options and possibilities not just in his immediate moments but days ahead and in the process asking for suggestions and thoughts on the various options he presents. It was interesting reading and moving through his process of elimination and multiple choice responses almost while in the first person from a differing view analytical and calculating. Essentially his process was taxonomy of job futures. If then this and if that then this. I began to think back to my own choice nearly sixteen years ago to return to teaching after a twenty plus year vacation away.

 

“I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate.” George Burns

 

I could easily wager most of you have never seen George Burns on TV or in a movie but then he only recently in the past few years passed away at 100 years old. George Burns and Gracie Allen were a husband and wife comedy team staple dating back to vaudeville. Gracie passed away many years ago and George continued acting in films and on the stage for many years always with his trade mark cigar in hand.

 

“It’s simply a matter of doing what you do best and not worrying about what the other fellow is going to do.” John R. Amos

 

Several years back I designated my class room name as SUCCESS 101 in a joking sort of way. Yet for some students being a success is a unique proposition. Cheering on all students in school has become a passion for me, coaching, leading, guiding students to succeed on tests and papers and to eventually graduate from high school has become my mission in life.

 

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

 

Perhaps I am passing by Mr. Burns original point it is not simply success that is important. Mr. Amos adds “doing what you do best” and community is added by Ms. Buck noted anthropologist and student of humanity. It isn’t only about success it is being happy and finding joy within what you do.

 

“Success is important only to the extent that it puts one in a position to do more things one likes to do.” Sarah Caldwell

 

“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.” Pierre Coneille
Even on days when you could swear a full moon is out and students are on the verge of perhaps somewhat less than, approaching that point that would bring sweat to your brow it should still be fun. You know what, it is still fun in all of it even when nothing seems right and then is still right, and it still should be fun. When you can have joy and happiness in what you do then you are finding success, regardless of whatever assessment tool or what others think. When a student wants to come to class when a student will rather stay in class doing what they do not want to do or so they say they do not then maybe just maybe success is near.

 

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

It has been a while since sitting in a research class and listening to an instructor explain about evaluative measurement and how data is something you can see and measure. Also adding that touchy feely stuff while possibly existing cannot be adequately measured. I was thinking to myself one of the greatest aspects of humanity is touch, it is that no measurable quality that we innately have within ourselves of feelings of the touchy feely. Can we truly measure happiness or joy or better yet that Jungian term synchronicity? Many years ago the two partners split over measurability of science versus “the touchy feely”. Jung knew something else existed that affected human nature something beyond Freud’s measurable data. He spent his life looking and defining that aspect of humanity and as Dr. King offers in his quote “the inaudible language of the heart” may be that aspect.

 

“Warm weather fosters growth: cold weather destroys it. Thus a man with an unsympathetic temperament has a scant joy: but a man with a warm and friendly heart overflowing blessings, and his beneficence will extend to posterity” Hung Tzu-Cheng

 

What is in a man’s heart is what leads and drives a person forward in life and it is that aspect that guides our next step across the stream and keeps us from slipping on the wet rocks.

 

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus

 

It wasn’t too long ago I offered up the experiment of smiling at people. Have you tried it? Simply decide to smile for a day and then look at responses from people around you. Not just smiling and grinning or staring at people, but a sincere smile. You will be amazed at how people respond. More often than not people smile back and personally I would rather be around people smiling than frowning. I have used so many times this thought from Albert Einstein in my wanderings.

 

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual? “ Albert Einstein

 

Freud and Jung have split many scientist and teachers, those who want to have a measurable commodity to focus on and as Einstein quotes there is human nature to contend with. So how do we make our lessons so potent as to withstand the pressure of the measurable how do we take the immeasurable and find substance in it? Can we measure heart? Can we find a way to understand why we respond beyond empirical data? Maybe one day we will and all of Jung’s searching will be not have been in vain. Until then the journey continues keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

 

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

Listening to my doctor

Bird Droppings February 11, 2018

Listening to my doctor

 

Somehow for nearly sixteen years I have written and produced Bird Droppings, inserting into Word Press, Facebook and in the past yahoo groups and an email list of people wanting to read Bird Droppings. Even on days I have been away from computers usually within a day or two I could get a thought or two through the cloud of technology. It has been two years since a hurdle was placed in my way. A stepping stone I need to get across but it takes effort. Three years ago I was told I had some abnormal heart tissue after extensive testing. That was the first time I missed three days of school due to medical reasons in thirteen years. During the winter break I spoke with my cardiologist and orthopedic doctor. Both gave me alternatives change your way of life lose weight or surgery. So I embark on a definitely pivotal point or piece to my life’s puzzle. I Have been stitched up, broken many bones, had joints repaired, steroids injected in joints and most recently my neck and back for degenerative discs, and a gall bladder removed. Being told you may have to have heart surgery well I find some sort of finality in that. Having a wife in the medical field I am reassured ten times a day to watch what I eat. So I went to physical therapy and started weight watchers. In both cases I was asked why you are doing this what are your goals. In both situations I said so I can spend time with my grand babies. Just last week I had my six month cardiologist check and a stress test first in three years. All blockages were gone.

 

It has been nearly forty years since I first went to Hemmingway’s just off the interstate in Decatur Georgia. It was a favorite local entertainment establishment. My wife and I would go prior and after our marriage primarily to listen to a local singer who with his band provided a fantastic evening of music. I recall my cousin Bill sending up a napkin with a Deep Purple song written on it numerous times. Ron Kimble and his band tended to cover southern rock and country songs more than anything else so it was always a big joke when our hard core metal cousin would pass the napkin up to the front. But one night Ron took the mike and said we have received quite a few requests for this song seems to be all in the same handwriting and they cut loose on In A Gadda Da Vida.
So here I am sitting and listening to a song written and sung by Ron Kimble. Ron is a big man by most standards and his voice even bigger. The song is entitled, My little granddaddy, it is a story of his granddaddy telling stories and always having a “sweet tater” for his grandson. Seems every time I listen to this song I obsess and play two or three times and after a millions plays still a tear trickles down my cheek. It seems it has me thinking to my own dad and granddad to my sons and how he rode around on his golf cart with a load of grandkids telling stories about World War II and about the local hermit that lived in the woods below his house or about Little Strong Arm a Native American chief. I miss my dad and my wife misses her dad and as I talk with people who have lost parents over the year little things remind us as we go through our days. It for me could be picking up a piece of blue lace agate or gold ore at school but for now I sit and listen to a simple little song and a catchy little tune and thank Ron Kimble for it and giving me a tie to my father and my grandkids.

 

“Now, there are many, many people in the world, but relatively few with whom we interact, and even fewer who cause us problems. So, when you come across such a chance for practicing patience and tolerance, you should treat it with gratitude. It is rare. Just as having unexpectedly found a treasure in your own house, you should be happy and grateful to your enemy for providing that precious opportunity.” Dalai Lama

 

Over the past few weeks I have been working on IEP’s Individual Educational Plans for two children I am advocating for. It seems that on top of the stress and emotions of dealing with parents and kids trying to come up with how we the school should provide an education for these kids. I was talking with a dear friend a day or two back after finishing a class that it is more exhausting sometimes practicing patience than getting upset. It takes effort to contain oneself rather than blow up. I have come to find that when kids are agitated there is a reason and far too often it has nothing to do with us but something from home or outside school compounded by whatever issues that particular child is involved with at school as well.
As I read the statement from the Dalai Lama and how we should be happy for the people who provide us with the opportunity of practicing patience it can be hard to at first understand what this man is saying. But as I ponder and I do a lot of pondering this time of day I am thankful for the week trying as it may have been and all of the people that added to and provided me with an opportunity of being patient. It is within these difficult relationships and interactions that we can practice and hone our skills at being patient. It is Friday and this week while perhaps it has flown by has seemingly dragged on for so long in other ways. So as I close today and as I have for many years now my dear friends please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

Hearing an owl

Bird Droppings February 10, 2018

Hearing an owl

 

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.” W. Beran Wolfe

 

Within this life we want to feel as if we are pursuing happiness. Many people feel that this aspect, happiness, of who we are is illusionary and so many times as I look at various students, former students, and friends and associates it may be. Is it the peer pressure perhaps, the group psyche coming into play and molding that which we see and what we are perceiving others seeing into a common thread or weave though it may be purely in our minds.

 

For me however happiness is an individual entity, it is something from within not a transitory effort to have or to be like everyone else. I have become a fan of few television shows but have taken to watching NCIS lately and Gibbs, the main guy is always building a boat in his basement by hand even though we never know how he gets them out. It is while he is working with his hands on his boat you generally see a smile on his face.

 

While reading emails and looking through other electronic mailings and postings I happened to read one about how the ideal guy would wear specific clothiers or have specific hair color, eye color, or even physical build. Sadly nowhere it seems do we look deeper. We seems to want the trappings and it is this outward appearance and back to my first paragraph that is what seems to bring happiness to far too many. We want this ideal person to be who we want to be, and who we want to be around.

 

As I do so many mornings walking out into the darkness listening to the sounds of the night and or morning as today seemed to be. I had awakened from a very vivid dream and gathered myself and let our husky out only to encounter two owls calling across the stillness and still chilled from the night. It was not raining although a front can be felt moving in unfortunately and the crickets and the tree frogs were silent from the chill. Perhaps the owls were on the hunt, my oldest son tells me often of being awakened by the owls hearing them at night out here in the country. I too hear them often but have never been awakened by them however this was my first experience hearing them so close as I went out.

 

The dueling owls went back and forth for several minutes in the stillness. As I sit here thinking and pondering still trying to recover from a cold, in my imagination so many myths and legends of owls. For some cultures there is great magic in owls for others they are harbingers of evil and death. But as I listened to the two back and forth mimicking calls perhaps territory perhaps a pair hunting perhaps the visages of spring have sparked a more sensual meaning to their calls.

 

For me there was not a fear but a sense of grandeur as the sounds soon dissipated. I wondered why tonight or I should say this morning as the crescent of moon gleamed in a clear sky about 4:30 AM or so. I pondered reading this simple quote that I started with by author Wolfe and then searching further.

 

“One important source of unhappiness is the habit of putting off living to some fictional future date. Men and women are constantly making themselves unhappy because in deferring their lives to the future they lose sight of the present and its golden opportunities for rich living.” W. Beran Wolfe

 

Perhaps the owls were a reminder of things needing to be done or of stopping the procrastinating. For there is joy in life for each of us now, it is not a distant event to be reached when the right clothes, job or thing is finished done or bought. Happiness, true happiness is now with us if we choose. It is in the contentment of knowing you have succeeded and you are where you need to be right this minute, this second. It is that all you have done in your life has been to get you here to this point. Wisdom is about accepting what and where you have been and are learning from this now. Happiness, true happiness is being content, and most of all it is about being alive. I am sitting here writing as the water from a bamboo and fish tank provides a relaxing venue for which to ponder.

 

I had wanted to work in the garden a bit more this week but between cleaning up in side and reading and writing ofr grad school I have put it off. It always amazes people when I say some of my happiest times have been sitting on the mower going in circles thinking, imagining, pondering and assuredly content for that moment. Please dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

“It does not require many words to speak the truth”

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

Bird Droppings February 9, 2018
Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

 

I was thinking about Boy Scouts and a recent memory from last year. It might have been the fact I had never pulled out my Eagle Scout card from 1967 in class before that got me thinking. While mired in controversy nationally in recent years the Boy Scouts of America have contributed greatly to our culture and country. However in today’s hurried and rushed society it seems fewer children are involved in Scouting. By chance two kids in one block at school were both active in troops in the area and asked me if I had ever been and it was a chance to talk Boy Scouts and I carry my worn and tattered Eagle Scout card in my wallet from so many years ago. It seemed almost yesterday however that it took me back about nine years to preparing for my father’s funeral July 1, 2007. It was exactly seventy years ago that day the first National Boy Scout Jamboree started in Washington D.C. and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an official invitation to Boys Scouts’ nationwide. My dad was the Boy Scout of the year in New Jersey that particular year and of course going to the Jamboree. I had pulled out dad’s 1937 Jamboree neckerchief and his merit badge sash for my mother to put out at his service.
I have written so much on curriculum the past ten years as I work on my doctorate in curriculum studies. William Pinar is a leader in the field and addresses curriculum from its root “curre” which he loosely translates as to run the course. I have written on curriculum several times that it is our life, piece by piece, much more than simply a track of lesson plans as so many teachers have been told. My grandfather was a steam train engineer in New Jersey and in one paper I even used the analogy of a train track for curriculum. We stop here and there visit a bit a move on to the next station. Curriculum is more it is life even more so when you add the daily experiences that build our ability to learn and retain. My father all through his life would borrow from Native American lore and mythology. We grew up listening to stories of the great chief Little Strong-arm and numerous other stories from his experiences and imagination. In my own search in life I too have been drawn to a culture and faith in life that permeates Native American thought, one of sacredness in all. Many years ago a Sioux Holy Man had a vision which was recorded in the book by John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks.

 

“You have noticed that everything as a human 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 wonder as I sit this morning pondering that day nearly ten years back and celebration of my father’s life. My father’s friends literally came from around the world to say their goodbyes. As a family we looked through thousands of old photos the night before sitting around remembering stories and events that had significance to each of us. I recalled my dad wanting buffalo which fascinated him and how when presented one Christmas with a buffalo robe he sat wrapped up watching TV for several days warm and cozy inside of his robe. We eventually had buffalo on the farm and so many fond memories of my father taking bread out to feed his buffalo. Living deep in the farm at the time Crowfoot’s message and thought was real for myself and my family growing up as we had buffalo grazing in our yard and during the night you could hear the great bull walk about guarding his cows and calves sniffing and snorting till he felt safe to rest.

 

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

 

On that day in July ten years back we gathered as a family and with our friends to say our goodbyes but I truly believe it is only a minor station in my father’s journey. For many weeks after stories and memories flooded the mail, email and phone lines from his friends and our families as they recall trips and lectures and articles all of which made him who he was. Just yesterday as I did a web search I found an author arguing one of the mainstays of my father’s thinking an accident pyramid. He had first seen the idea in a German author’s work and then being with an insurance company at the time gathered data. Nearly one million incidents were covered in the research. The author stating my father’s idea was a myth said no research was used. In writing saying the pyramid of accidental effects was fiction he seemed to ignore the fact it was based on data accumulated from actual accidents. What struck me even more was he had no alternative. Basically accidents are an act of nature.

 

This past week the passage from Black Elk came back to haunt me. Ten years ago I used this passage in a wedding ceremony for a dear friend of my middle son’s. Jamie and Katie wanted a non-religious ceremony and wanted me to officiate. Not religious was easy but I had to get ordained. I finally got that taken care of and sat down and we planned the wedding. I should say they planned the wedding. Last Saturday my wife said John our son had called and was upset. Jamie had passed away. He had collapsed running a half marathon and could not be revived. Reading, listening to and watching videos and photos flash across social media reminded me of the power Jamie held in his soul.

 

In science we show energy cannot be destroyed only altered.  Religion often flaunts the soul and after life. If you do this you will get this and so forth. I do not argue with folks over their own version of what happens beyond conventional life. I tend to treasure the moments alive. It is in our living we accumulate the memories in others and moments and jot them down, take photos, video, and store away all of these for recall one day. I spent most of last week recalling memories and images of a young man. I started to think of a jig saw puzzle vision I had many years ago.

 

In my vision I saw millions of tiny intricate pieces falling into place. I could see the moments and seconds of my life as they fell into the vast image of the puzzle. I could not see what was forming only each tiny piece. As I thought this weekend of losing a friend or loved one and those pieces of our life’s puzzle coming out and going back on the table it hit me. I have beside me those pieces of my life to reflect on and recall. I look ahead watching and wondering what life has in store.
I have been sidetracked slightly thinking, wandering and pondering, while we say goodbye on one hand we embraced a hello to a new journey. Sitting here in the wee hours of a Monday it is amazing what thoughts a tattered Eagle Scout card will invoke. 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,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

It is only a dropped feather?

Bird Droppings February 8, 2018

It is only a dropped feather?

“If we consider the eagle feather with its light and dark colors, we could argue that ‘the dark colors are more beautiful and, therefore, naturally more valuable,’ or vice versa. Regardless of which colors are more beautiful, or necessary, or valuable, the truth is the bottom line: Both colors come from the same feather, both are true, they are connected, and it takes both to fly.” Dr. Michael Garrett, Medicine of the Cherokee

 

A seemingly inconsequential event that of a bird dropping a feather only to be found along the way by someone like me or you. I am always amazed at how special that moment becomes. Maybe back when I started this morning venture of rising early to journal, read and write for me it was a way of dropping feathers and it seems nearly every day one or two emails reinforce my thoughts.

 

“All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason WakanTanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by WakanTanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.” Shooter, Teton Sioux

 

It has been several years ago we had several large ferns on our front porch and I was checking the fern and forgot about the nest of purple finches who had adapted our ferns and front porch, three babies sat there looking at me as I checked the fern for moisture surprising me as much as I them. There were three tiny babies sitting huddled in a fern basket all expecting breakfast and it was only me. As I think back I am not sure who was the most scared, me by the shock of three hungry mouths gaping or those tiny birds with a big hand poking in checking the moisture of the fern.

 

“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.” Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

 

It has been a few years since my first trip to Piedmont college and I am sure there will be many more to come as I am working on my doctorate in conjunction with several faculty members at Piedmont. However that first trip was one of meeting the Dean of Education for acceptance into the School of Education when I was working on my master’s degree. It seems I had forgotten getting accepted in the education department and that aspect of my journey, something you are to do first rather than last, be accepted into the education school. As I left the education building walking to the parking lot a flock of geese met me walking along weeding as they do across lawns at Piedmont back before the lake was drained, fifty or so Canadian geese scurrying about looking for tender shoots in the morning coolness. As I walked a bit of down crossed my path a tiny feather. I picked it up and my immediate thought was of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and the feather that starts and ends the movie.
I thought deeper as I saved the feather and still have it pressed in a book on my shelf. So often that little bit that tiny piece of fluff that we often miss it doesn’t have to be a feather it could be a kind word a hand shake a certificate from first grade for spelling everything right and it can provide the catalyst for the next day and for some a lifetime. As a teacher, parent friend many times we are the ones who have to drop a feather now and again a tiny piece of fluff to keep another person going.

 

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

 

In primitive societies a feather can be a very sacred and holy thing. The Aztecs made the cloak for the king from Quetzal feathers emerald green iridescent and no one else could even own one of these feathers under penalty of death. Native Americans would use feathers as signs of bravery and honor awarding an eagle feather for counting coop which is not killing your enemy simply touching and riding away and other great acts of bravery. I am intrigued as we now wage war often from an office with drones and smart bombs. What a battle that must have been back in the day to see a brave ride in touch a few people and ride out.
We have come so far in today’s world we “nuke em” no need to touch no need for honor for a bit of fluff blowing along the ground. As I walked about my yard a few nights back getting some exercise along with my wife who was checking her plants to see if any bulbs were sprouting and a feather caught my attention. It was a black tail feather from a crow. My day was made as I placed it on my desk with a hawk feather and owl feather from previous walks. It is the tiny pieces that count on our journeys. So for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What if treaties and promises were all kept

Bird Droppings February 7, 2018

What if treaties and promises were all kept

 

I begin each typical morning waking up, fixing breakfast for my wife and her lunch, talking with my son for a few minutes, fixing my own breakfast and eventually finding my way to my computer. A little later as the sun rises I take the dog out if he wants to and try and catch a few sunrise pictures. Lately the clouds and rain have hampered that endeavor. As I get back on my computer I try and settle in, answer emails, various postings and write a bit before getting into anything else. I am back into graduate school and writing and reading to complete my dissertation. I have a busy day ahead and am looking forward to hopefully warming temperatures perhaps less rain. My middle son and his family are enjoying the sun in Jamaica this week using up his frequent flyer miles.

 

My original plan was to put in some effort on the word reform. That will have to wait a day or two. This morning as I answered an email with a thought from the other day and in thinking about today I found this thought.

 

“One does not sell the land people walk on.” Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875

 

A great warrior and chief Crazy Horse died on the reservation because he was feared by the army but he never understood why the soldiers wanted the land that was sacred to the Sioux. He never understood the concept of that we wanted to possess it, to own it, and in that comes a driving force for us to win at all costs. Over the years I have been involved in many discussions about culture. Cultures vary and each is often about seeing the world differently. Several of my current reading efforts look at the world through feminist eyes and or those of Indigenous women’s eyes from around the world.
While I finished my graduate classroom studies nearly seven years ago it feels like it was not that long ago we discussed these books and the culture of feminism. We discussed how we tend to look at others only in terms of our own beliefs and ideals. Bell Hooks in her writings discusses the appreciation of Paulo Friere and how he never wrote about feminism actually he addressed it but the title sort of went a different direction. A recent blog post on education addressed how could he Friere as a male truly write and or address feminism which is a valid response. Recently a former student of mine wrote about how can anyone who is not mentally ill, truly discuss mental illness. As I look at my direction today how can anyone who does not understand someone’s beliefs and culture even think they can relate.

 

“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!” Shinguaconse, Little Pine

 

In many ways we too still do this if we have control we promise much yet it is only to get more and a trusting person would not question a man of authority. If it was a questionable person maybe yes but we do this we use trust to get what we want still today. Look at our politicians on both sides and never before have sides been so distant since the day our current president was elected. Throughout history in the conquest and overpowering of peoples lies have done far more than war. The broken promises do more damage than any weapons. Look at students in class rooms as we go through a school and all the broken promises. We even legislated that all children will be reading on grade level by 2014. I said it was absurd in 2004 when the law passed as a teacher of special needs kids I knew not all children will read on grade level unless we decide to selectively euthanize eighth graders who do not meet standards. Who knows maybe in the political arena that concept will come up. Realistically if all children are homeschooled by 2014 as one candidate suggests or all in select charter schools where special needs are not allowed it is no big issue. People joke but there are charters asking to be and that are exempted from IDEA today around the nation.

 

“I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them. . .” Shinquaconese

 

As we go through life as friends, parents, teachers, and employers so often we take advantage of the inherent trust. We use it to gain from to go forward with our ideas and concepts. We use promises we know we will never keep to accomplish our goals. The ends justify the means is our motivation. Look at how we are discussing oil exploration and destroying wilderness. No one is going to use it why not destroy it. It has taken me three weeks to get a photo of a male and female duck on a lake nearby so that we could identify them. By chance a large group was near the bridge Saturday and I got a photo as they all took off. In one frame of several images I shot a male and female together and ring necked ducks were identified. This duck is a Canadian winter transplant to Georgia. But what if greed supersedes and we destroy all the rainforest and wilderness and kill all the whales. My great grandchildren will never know what waking to the sound of a red-tailed hawk calling or morning dove sounds like. I am sorry but to me that is worth not drilling or fracking and looking at other rationale to the twisted world of oil and gas profiteering.
I got a bit off on an issue that is bothersome to many but we currently are selling gas in surplus overseas and certain politicians still cry drill, drill, and drill. Public opinion says if we open up more drilling in North America our gas prices will go down. Does not work that way oil prices are fixed internationally and it is a supply and demand. Right now China and Mexico are buying all the gas and oil refined they can get from us. So pricing is based on capitalism not regulation. Interesting fact we sell quite a bit to China who is supposed to be a competitor for our gas and oil. As we do have a free market American oil companies are in business for profit and selling gas and oil where ever the best price is. Currently US consumption is down and many countries are rising and willing to pay more than we are. So we are victim to our own free market capitalism. So sad we never look at both sides of any issue and only listen to what we want. In the current state gas companies are under pressure from low gas prices forced by no cuts in production.
Parents use the promises of a toy or treat with small children and the child quiets down later the parent forgets or maybe never intended on supplying the prize. The child at first is confused but soon as it happens again and again becomes jaded calloused and resentful. In school so often children with learning problems get passed along and soon distrust, resentful, jaded and calloused they are behavior problems or quit. Employers use similar ideas and goals to accomplish the task at hand getting the job out and soon employees are too calloused and unionized. Although now in Georgia we are in effect passing a law that is in direct conflict with the constitution in the freedom to protest against tyranny. A state legislator in Georgia is trying to get a law passed that union organizing is a felony. We are being warned as teachers not to use our “teacher email” for politics.

 

“… I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica) Teton Sioux

 

Imagine a world where word was bond, where promises were kept where a hand shake was a contract for real and students and children knew they were respected loved and would be cared for. Imagine that what was said would be and not change or be different. We do need each other. We are social creatures and dependent on one another. We ourselves are to blame for so many of the issues we are confronted with through distrust and broken promises. A simple guide when you say something, do it. Perhaps I need to begin with myself as we all do. 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,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Teaching is a journey it is not copy, paste or bubble.

Bird Droppings February 6, 2018

Teaching is a journey it is not copy, paste or bubble.

 

“To project an image of what Public Education in the US might become in the 21st Century is more to move back and forth between the predictable and the possible.” Maxine Greene, Colombia University, res: Imagining futures: the public school and possibility, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 2000

 

I read an article by the late Maxine Greene written nearly twenty years ago. As I read her words they ring true as much at this moment and a vote in the Senate as they did when John Dewey wrote over a hundred years ago. Children learn more in the first few years of life, how to walk, talk, read, write communicate and even aspire to religious beliefs than in any period to come later. Maxine in her article addresses the missing piece in today’s so structure driven educational process. Communication, real communication is where learning occurs in the fullest. Technology doesn’t kill off communication but how we use technology can. Standardized tests don’t kill communication but how we use those does.

 

It has been several days well over a week since I had a chance to go out early and ponder as I say. But to start my day a thought from a young lady caught my attention. She had posted a status to Facebook that made me think actually think quite a bit. We are all familiar with the Chinese proverb used by many as a poster or card on their walls.

 

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Ancient Chinese Proverb

 

The post that caught my attention was altered a bit. I had a felt banner on my class room and office walls for many years to that effect. Sadly a converse statement was posted which really hit me as I think about politics and education today.

 

“Teach a man to fish, and he will still vote for the man who gave him a fish.” Goldman Sachs Elevator

 

I had to search for an author and while I am sure there is a person attached the fact that Goldman Sachs Elevator had posted made my day. This statement is coming from a company that nearly destroyed America and received a paltry slap on the wrist. But I responded to the post. “I would question the teaching and was it simply a matter of test scores.” My comment was removed or did not make to posting. Education is the point here for me not the political implications that others jokingly remarked about. As I traveled around this morning I thought more about this and how we educate kids. I have been talking with several other educators over the past few days and continually the idea of context comes up. We are removing context from our educational system. Think in terms of money being put into computer programs virtual schools so to say. Efficient and cheaper than having a teacher in front of class let alone a laboratory for experiments and context. Goldman Sachs loves it. As I arrived home my son sent me a note that may have been intended for me that came to him. Interesting research is showing tests taken on computers tend to have lower scores than paper tests.

 

 “Good Morning my friend. I have been wrestling with a topic, and I was wondering if you would give it some thought and comment. It might even be a good topic for Bird Droppings. Lately, we have been blasted for kids earning low grades and for not motivating students. The problem, as I have come to see it, is that motivation, specifically self-motivation, emanates from a perception of a desire or perceived “need.” If a student never develops or sees a need for education or never develops a desire to better himself, then all the great teaching in the world falls on deaf ears. I am so frustrated that education has been so standardized, homogenized, and reduced to 4 choices on a page. It has no real value to kids any longer. I am rambling a little, but I know you understand what I’m trying to say. It’s almost like the story of the Lotus Eaters. No needs, no desires, equals no motivation. Getting an A or passing a test, at least to me, is not motivation. Just wondering about your thoughts. Here is a ridiculous thing our county does. Kids take benchmark tests every nine weeks over nothing but the standards. There will be one question such as, “How is the word “superfluous” spelled?” And that measures a kids spelling ability. It’s all a bunch of hooey.” A good friend and teacher in South Georgia  

 

In response another point of interest in my morning travels. I was checking my Facebook and email while sitting in IHOP several days ago. Every once in a while folks are out of town and I get a morning to wander early and feed myself. So I had crepes with fruit and a couple eggs at one of my favorite restaurants. Another friend posted a selfie, one of those photos taken with a smart phone of our selves taken in front of a mirror or window as appeared to be the case here. My profile picture has been a selfie a time or two and I am sure many on Facebook and other sites are as well. I responded to the photo not picking on my friend by any means but my initial thought. My friend is a professor at a Georgia University.

 

“A runner selfie maybe a paper or book out there, in our own self-image as we now instantly see ourselves as others do no longer do we see the reversed image of a mirror. A crazy thought sitting in an IHOP eating breakfast have we taken an omnipotent view of ourselves in this instantaneous world view we have. Are we removing the need for God and prayer for individuality since we now have instant news images at our disposal? There is literally no time for praying and self is then focus of attention.” Frank Bird teacher, photographer, grandfather and ponderer

 

Are we losing that interest as my good friend and music teacher proposed? I am starting to think so as each group of ninth graders comes to high school more self-centered than the last. Are we in our technology leaving out a piece? In this mad rush to standardize and test everything and everybody are we forgetting the self. Are we simply trying to quickly mold each person into a desired person to be and transform society to a copy and paste world? I watch kids copy and paste all day long and even in college classes I teach; I had a paper submitted that registered 99% plagiarized and was still in format of Encyclopedia Britannica on line. Student got a zero I cannot even give partial credit for turning it in that way. Funny thing is kids have a hard time copy and pasting to learn anything only desiring to finish assignment.

 

So where do I go from here today I borrowed a thought for my own Facebook status and photo quote I post from Chief Dan George.

 

“Where no one intrudes many can live in harmony” Chief Dan George

 

I can be quickly monastic and enjoy just like my morning wanderings time by myself. But it is not just about being alone it is about intruding and we as a society intrude constantly on everyone and much is self-imposed intrusion. We post statements about our love lives, partners in crime; some people even post publically their crimes. That is self-intrusion. I enjoy my communications with so many through social media. But I tend to avoid the self-deprecation so many get into. So today I end with my daily rant please keep all in your heart and on your mind that are in harm’s way and please give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Should our children be going to school?

Bird Droppings February 5, 2018

Should our children be going to school?

 

I drove to my son’s house to watch and get y grandchildren ready for school and then take them to school. My granddaughter was up early and we talked and she played for a bit on an art app I have on my phone requiring artistic skills but also it is great for eye hand coordination. A bit later my grandson was up and I used my backup phone and he was reading his favorite story, The three little pigs, and then we looked up kookaburras.  He was enthralled with the silly birds. Along the way one video explained they are related to kingfishers. Immediately what do kookaburras eat? I tried to explain they eat mice and other small animals. He was insistent they eat worms. Finally worms and mice. As I sat there teaching about kookaburras and showing my granddaughter how to use a 35mm camera my thoughts wandered to an article I read recently.

 

After reading Joel Spring’s book, Political Agendas for Education, one might wonder why we even have schools. Spring’s implies they are simply to create and mold youth into whatever it is those in power deem feasible. His idea is that it is consumers first and then employees willing to work at meaningless tasks and not question those in power. While Spring’s book is not quite to that extreme, the book raises questions about agendas of various groups, political entities and some very powerful people within our nation.
The massive shift to high stakes testing and accountability based on that testing leading to teaching to the tests rather than the actual needs of the children that are involved. Is this where we have come to? Teaching specific curriculum, approved researched based curriculum has become the catch word. The big question always in research is who is backing the research. I used a reading program where all the research was done by the company producing the books and program. In terms of scientific research it was not a very reliable study yet according to Federal standards it is a research based study. I often wonder if the actual students are ever talked too.
One of the segments used in the reading research study which directly applied to the students I was working with at the time was a group of 14 Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed middle school students with average to above average IQ’s and one to two years behind in reading. The research showed how successful the program was, with a one hundred percent improvement to where all were on grade level. In years past I was told this study applied to a group of students I was working with who were eighteen to nineteen years of age with IQ’s less than 75 and were ten to twelve years behind in reading level. I did question the data and program and actually called the publishing company to verify what type of student study group the research was done on. My direct supervisor was needless to say upset I questioned the data. So where do we go as teachers, educators and students? When in our gut we know the data those in charge are wrong where do we go?

 

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.” Bill Beattie

 

Each day I get up write and work on more research reading unless I happen to have a day off. Next week I can goof off and write most of day and watch the sunrise. I thought we might get a flurry but only under a winter storm watch in northern Georgia yesterday. As I sit here wondering I hope I am teaching my grandkids how to think. Hopefully I am teaching them a desire to learn.

 

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

 

I was introduced to Sydney J. Harris’s columns nearly fourteen years ago by a fellow teacher and refer to Harris often in my writing. Each time I find a thought I am intrigued anew. In life this is what education should be about creating windows in people’s lives.

 

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein

 

Far too often we preach content especially now in our teaching to the test mentality, when it is context that is the powerful glue that could hold it all together. I see context as the how does this apply in real life, how is it relevant to me all the pieces of the educational puzzle. I have looked at reports from observers where a teacher ties geometry into the real world and how much more powerful is that lesson when students can see where and when and how it actually has meaning. John Dewey was preaching context and experience in early 1900’s it is not a new idea even today John Dewey is considered progressive. I find so-called education reformers tend to build on new packaging of the same traditional industrial complex philosophy with the added value today of profit as a driving force not education of children.

 

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

President Roosevelt said this nearly seventy five years ago and we have said this daily as teachers yet education is one of those things so often put aside when budgets comes up in state and federal spending.

 

“It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.” Dr. Ronald D. Fuchs

 

Amazing as we have spent hundreds of billions the military and our military spending is significantly higher than what we spend on education.

 

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.” Author Unknown

 

Semantics so often is the dividing line and as I read this simple thought about making a living versus making a life I am made aware in a deeper way of how conflicted our system is. We so often put all into economic means a dollar value yet life is so much more than how much do you make.

 

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

 

Daily I will comment “swearing shows ignorance and currently you are pretty ignorant” as kids utter language of inappropriate content and even context. Yet this is what they hear at home and where many learn the words and meanings. It is these same parents that pay taxes and complain about the cost of education.

 

“Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” G.M. Trevelyan

 

I put my thoughts on several blogs, websites and in an daily email and as I read comments on student’s sites one that so often bothers me is when they answer the question of what books do you read and many answer, none. Read who reads when you have the internet and text messaging. How scary can it be when our children are not reading since it is far too easy to get on line or on the cell phone and pull up twitter and a hundred and forty characters of gibberish or Facebook or yahoo news? There is even a new program that reads to you from written word although it is being tested in court as a copyright infringement on audio-books.

 

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

 

When the military, industrial, oil complex has a means of generating revenue from education, money will be spent there. About six  years back a family friend of George W. Bush in Texas, actually a cousin raised nearly a hundred million in seed money from oil and mining interests for a computer module software company for schools. Interestingly enough it fit into federal legislation, NCLB as an alternative form of education. We pay companies to look for oil to develop new missiles and one of my favorites recently is we have stock piled millions of rounds of VX poisonous gas around the world. There were thirteen million rounds on an island in the pacific, several million in the northwest, and nine million rounds in Anniston Al. and now we are paying billions to clean up since containers are corroding and leaking VX gas. Just for the record that is the stuff movies have been made about and what we didn’t find in Iraq.

 

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Edward Everett

Would it not be great if we could prove this?

 

“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” Mark Twain

 

The great humorist and author over a hundred years ago saw what was needed and how it affects society I find that amazing.

 

“Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?” Erich Fromm

 

Wise man and philosopher state that school should not be just for kids but an ongoing ever present learning effort and what a world could be built if we would educate truly educate all people.

 

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” Malcolm S. Forbes

I recall a button my father used in his safety campaigns in the steel mills of Pennsylvania back in the day, it read simply, “IF ONLY”. That was all that was on the button, and it represented, if only we could, if only I would, if only has so many applications.

 

“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I was never the fan of Thoreau and Emerson back in my own high school days perhaps I never tried to really read into their thoughts. This one line from Thoreau has significance for me. Education should be not forcing the content but allowing that content to be put into context.

 

“Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use? It’s nice to be number one, but we can fix that. All we need to do is start the war on education. If it’s anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we’ll all be ‘hooked on phonics’.” Leighann Lord

 

A bit long winded today but a good thought to end on as I think so many law makers are trying to destroy public education in the US. What if we truly did apply ourselves, what if? So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts till that day when no person is in harm’s way and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Listening to a five note flute and thinking about friends

Bird Droppings February 4, 2018
Listening to a five note flute and thinking about friends

 

A year ago I was fishing with my grandson at the Atlanta Children’s Museum, when my wife, who I could see with our granddaughter a hundred feet away playing in the moon sand called me. I looked over as I reached for my phone and she was upset I could see. She informed me my middle son in North Carolina had called and a dear friend of the family had passed away. In my own strange way I was close to this young man who we had known for twenty five years. He came to me almost ten years ago asking if I would perform his wedding service. He and his wife had talked and my name popped up. I had never officiated a wedding and at that time was not ordained. So checking into things I followed up and got ordained those years of seminary and church work paid off.

 

Jamie, Katie and I sat down to plan a service. First thing it was not to be religious, which was easy for me, this was about their love for each other which was infectious to say the least. Second the wedding was going to be in the old Trolley Barn, a venue in Atlanta. The story went on and a wedding service and almost nine years of watching a love grow and flourish on social media and our occasional meetings.  They restored a home in Atlanta and eventually a career move took them to Tampa, Katie kept a running account of their projects and life in a blog. Then a phone call on a Saturday.

 

My wife and I both felt as if this were a dream. We had been through second grade through graduation with Jamie and his parents. Both our boys were band kids and they gathered after school for projects and craziness including several movie projects they all worked on. College many of that crew went to Georgia Tech and Jamie had a loft at Georgia State just a few blocks away. The friendship continued to flourish. I used this passage in Jamie’s wedding service.

 

“You have noticed that everything an Indian does in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle. 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 nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. 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, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux 1863-1950

 

We each continue our journeys in life. Each morning of school I stop by our local Quick Trip and stock up. Water bottles, protein ng in the moon sandbar, a banana, and whatever else I need to make it through the day. Today was no different till a young man approached me and stuck out his hand, “Mr. Bird great to see you”, and I rushed through my memory banks looking for a name. He began asking about animals in my room, former class mates and was I still teaching. He had seen a photo I posted on Facebook of my room at school and was thinking about me. Funny thing, it just hit me his name was Stephen, we talked for several minutes and I bought his coffee and we parted ways, both of us heading to work.

 

As I drove to work another student popped in my mind. I left teaching in 1977 and this particular student at that time was fifteen. He had several issues all rolled into a neat label of learning disabilities. I knew after two years of working with him more was at stake and administrators did not want to push my more loaded probing. After I left teaching I kept in touch with school and students. He came up the summer of 1979 to work on our family farm for me. We had a day camp and he helped cut grass and work around camp area. One evening he and his buddy another one of my former students asked if we could go to the new movie opening, Dawn of the Living Dead. We did go and about thirty minutes after dropping them off at the camp lodge a knock on our door. Could they sleep in our house that night? Sadly my predictions came through several years later and he is serving three life sentences. I looked him up one day on the Georgia Correctional web page. I recall his sisters desperate call after he was arrested telling me what happened. The family pleaded for life sentences due to psychiatric issues and signed off on no parole he is now a ward of the state.  Could it have been different a gesture here and there a word.

 

I listen quite a bit to flute music played and recorded by Carlos Nakai, a renowned musician and Grammy nominee for Native American music. He plays a handmade wooden five note flute often unaccompanied except by echoes from his own flute. As I looked through news on yahoo earlier this morning an interesting article. The Dakota Sioux are playing scrabble to preserve their language. In the Sioux nation less than 205 members of the tribe are fluent in the old language. A good friend who happens to be Creek told me of going to boarding school in this day and age, he is my age and he was punished for speaking his native tongue, old style Creek. He grew up speaking only Creek from living with his grandfather who was the medicine man to the Creek nation and would only speak Old Creek, while knowing the language he refused to speak English having given up on the white man many years previous.

 

“The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers; he belongs just as the buffalo belonged…. Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux, 1868-1937

 

I was amazed at offerings that we used to have at our high school. In the previous catalog were courses in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Latin and yet in our lifetimes or at least in mine we refused an indigenous people the right to their own language. I recall a scene from “Into the West” a several years ago mini-series that recently replayed, it is a rerun on Home Box Office movie with a different slant. Children were brought to the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania from reservations in the Dakotas and elsewhere and we tried to make them “normal”. Actually I am not just about Native Americans today but our feeble attempts at normalcy. Our guidelines we draw and rules we make it was not that long ago left handed children were forced to write right handed. In numerous research papers the concept of mixed dominance came up and showed significant damage being done to left handed children neurologically. Even today many traditional teachers will try and get kids to write with their right hand. Seems it is easier on the teacher. Here I am with a granddaughter who favors her left hand. We tend to forget you are right or left sided as well, eyed, and footed, literally your entire body.
Normal is such a simple word pretty much everything that is not abnormal borrowing from philosopher Foucault. But in schools it is the norms that drive everything. We look for patterns in testing, for averages, for norms all those things we can put numbers on and measure. I recall year’s back I had a student who would go to the door before a period and ask to be let go early because there were no norms about. He did not want to be recognized as a SPED, a Special Education student. I would have snuck him out the back door but we didn’t have one. What was funny it became a joke eventually as I would go to the door and determine who was a norm or not and clear the way when the bell rang.
I think back to my own high school days before IDEA became law in 1974. This was before most disabled children were allowed in schools. I worked in a private center with severe and profoundly disabled children and adults. Our kids were normal and we viewed the rest of the world as disabled and we talked this way. They were disabled because they were unable to experience what we did every day. To have an appreciation for little things, reading your first word, taking a step without a wheel chair, not having a seizure for a day or two.
I read blogs and bulletins about clothes and music and think back. I see jeans purchased with holes in them, we earned ours and yes I had numerous pairs of jeans with holes and patches my sons have claimed them all now. But we earned the holes and patches with wear and tear on and in our jeans. Back in the day we did not have fifty brand named labels to argue over it was simply Levis or Wranglers period and they all had brass rivets on the back pockets. It was funny as a matter of fact in high school we could not wear jeans because of rivets scratching seats at school. This is what we were told and girls could not wear pants although I am not sure other than the puritanical demeanor of dress code in those days. That was over forty five years ago.
Thinking back to what was normal and what a word that is. I recall special education back then and how one student who was special education all her life graduated from college and retired recently as a teacher. Now a days she would have been labeled as learning disabled and I wonder as I sit here thinking where will we be in another forty years. It was once estimated that by 2025 the Dakota Sioux language will be extinct and many said so what. It is sort of like so what if we lose a piece of wilderness for more oil as some politicians are calling for again with the drill baby drill chant at such endeavors as teabag rallies. So what if the Grizzly bear is extinct or eastern red wolf or some nondescript fresh water mussel no one ever sees or a rain forest tribe who is better off in a house and raising crops than hunting in the forest.
Something we tend to forget is all is interrelated, Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related in Lakota), each piece connects to the other and by losing a piece, the puzzle will never be complete. There are selfish people who really do not care about 2025 and whether the Dakota Sioux language disappears or the wilderness is gone as long as they make their billions now. I wonder what you can do with billions of dollars when you are gone maybe that is the part I have a hard time with and on a smaller scale looking at lists that drive popularity on Social networks. Things like do you have a cell phone, IPod, car, Jet Ski, etc. I will admit I do have a few collections, still I keep books and I store literally hundreds of thousands of photos all bits and pieces of my life and understanding.
So where do we go and what do we do? We look for each connection to the next. We look for the coincidences and chance happenings we look for the synchronicity in life. I have found after a day or two of looking you will find amazing things. It is if the pieces fall into place and life takes a whole new outlook and what was important may not be as crucial anymore. Try reading Thoreau, there are several good sites on the internet. He walked about for several years just to learn. Enough of my wandering for today peace be with you all and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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