An owl calling

Bird Droppings July 31, 2019
An owl calling

 

Last night I woke for a few minutes as it turns out I forgot to turn on the ceiling fan. While up I stuck my nose out the door perhaps intuition who knows when wandering about the house half asleep. Deep in the pines an owl called and of all memories to unlock an instance three years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon a little over three years ago I was made aware of a situation that at first caught me by surprise. A former student from years gone by had been arrested in another county and was being held for immigration to be deported. She had been in the US since she was three years old and was raising her three kids here. As it turns out she had never received a green card and her boyfriend of seven years as well was illegal. Both had worked and she had graduated from high school where I knew her as a student. I was asked to go see her as along with all of this she has a specific learning disability in reading.

 

I seldom bring up being ordained but being ordained has certain privileges and after all scheduled visitors are permitted into the jail pastors can go in. several years back I went in and I visited for nearly forty-five minutes with one of my favorite students of all time at the county detention center. We talked about how fifteen years ago she had come to me with a big what if. She proceeded to tell me a friend of hers is pregnant and what could she do and who should she go to. It only took a few minutes till I realized the friend was actually herself. I recalled how she sat on the sofas in my room propping her feet up as she completed school while pregnant and would come in my room to rest.

 

She nearly came to tears as started talking about her babies who I have pictures of hanging on my door at school and have held and laughed with several times. I said no crying since I did not want to cry in front of a former student. We talked about jail food and how as soon as she was out she wanted a homemade tortilla and eggs and all the trimmings. It was nearly nine when I walked the almost half mile from the visiting room to my car which in my haste had locked my car keys in and had to have a police officer help me get into. As I drove home I recalled all of the publicity of illegal aliens and immigration laws and how business men provide jobs at a cheaper rate. A recent article on banks in bailout of applying for nearly twenty-one thousand visas for white collar positions since they can get foreigners for less money in attorney and accounting positions over US citizens.

 

I thought of a young girl who had worked and had finished school and raised three kids and was being held because of where she had been born not where she was raised and grew up and gone to school and yet we have people receiving huge bonuses who created and caused one of the worst financial crises’ in history walking around free and going on vacation. I was mad when I got home thinking of how greed had driven our society to where it was.

 

I wrote some of this a little over three years ago however last night early in the morning a great horned owl called several times waking me up and brought back many memories and thoughts beyond the memories of a wonderful person who had been sitting in a jail cell away from her kids.

 

I sat listening even though half asleep as I do every morning and today the pine needles have made a lace pattern in the spaces between the twigs against the clarity of the sky. The sky is cold and clear and stars are everywhere as I wandered out. When I first went out a faint chorus of crickets greeted me or so I thought but it was the cold ringing in my ears, but off in the distance a great horned owl called. It has been several days since a student at school asked if I knew what an owl meant. It is funny how bits and pieces of memory come back.

 

It was not all that long ago that several times a student reminded me to call her mother about the pow-wow coming up in the spring. Her mother coordinates the local Native American gatherings and dances. Perhaps this is what got me thinking as many southeastern tribes consider the owl to be a harbinger of evil or dread. For some eastern tribes an owl calling was considered a sign of death, as you move across the Mississippi the various tribe’s attitude about owl’s changes. Owls become symbols of power, of wisdom, of a fine line between here and the spirit world.

 

Owls calling in the dark, it is a haunting sound for one person and darkness yet a few days ride away the same haunting sounds bring light. As the weather warms up I will hear owls nearly every morning often several will be calling to each other. It has been sometime since I was up in the North Georgia Mountains with my middle son on an environmental field trip. We stayed at a spot I consider very special, Camp Mikel, a summer camp owned and operated by the Episcopal Arch Diocese of Atlanta.

 

The camp lies in a valley along two ridges. The cabins are on one ridge and across the fields and marsh another ridge and the camps famous cross on top of the mountain. The camp has an ongoing program with a group that provides for school educational experiences in the mountains on habitat ecology and environmental workshops. It was about nine o’clock and our group went out onto the playing fields with a tape recorder. We started calling owls. In a matter of a few minutes several were calling back. Owls in our area range from a tiny screech owl to the great horned owl.

 

One of our other exercises during the day was dissecting owl pellets. It seems owls eat various creatures and the parts which are not digested are literally barfed up in a ball and dropped usually at their roosting spot. Scientists can study diet and health of the owl population through the pellets. One of the students in our group as they opened up the brown mass of their pellet uncovered a skull. Soon several of us had found skulls of shrews and mice rats and squirrels. Our instructor was interested in this first one it was different and carefully cleaned it off. It was a screech owl skull. The great horned owl had devoured the smaller owl.

 

As I thought of my morning, pondering what the day would bring and listening to the Great horned owls calling all around me the sense of oneness with nature was over whelming. Back at my environmental retreat I did learn each owl has a very distinctive call. I was also intrigued at how we all surmise differences in the same stimuli, not only the owls and owls calling but it could be in words used in a hallway at school. One person hears humor another slander.

 

“The Lenape Indians believed that if they dreamt of an Owl it would become their guardian. To the Mojave Indians of Arizona, one would become an Owl after death, this being and interim stage before becoming a water beetle, and ultimately pure air. According to Navajo legend, the creator, Nayenezgani, told the Owl after creating it “…in days to come, men will listen to your voice to know what will be their future” California Newuks believed that after death, the brave and virtuous became Great Horned Owls. The wicked, however, were doomed to become Barn Owls. In the Sierras, native peoples believed the Great Horned Owl captured the souls of the dead and carried them to the underworld.” Deane P. Lewis, Owls in mythology

 

I was listening several years ago to several students, for one what appeared to be just a comment became words to fight for and I had to intercede. I listened as one of my students in a group exercise about the classic novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells said if she could go back in time she would go back to the civil war and tell the south how to win the war. If she had been telling me that I would have expected it knowing her and her family but her group consisted of two Afro-Americans and the comment offended them.
My student probably was not even aware of her comment being offensive; she has serious issues with social skills. But the same words in another group of students here in rural Georgia may have been accepted and applauded. It could have been the exact same words and yet a significantly different reaction. I heard the owl and sought to listen deeper.

 

How do I respond to a person who hears only the dark side and believes only darkness? How do we listen and try and rationalize words with so many meanings so many interpretations? A college student from South Georgia was writing about how we change society. I offered by example but that is so difficult only one person at a time. In life we interact each day. If we maintain our example and interact in genuine trust and honesty that connection will be seen and understood and eventually copied.

 

Not everyone will make the connection but some will and those will continue the call. I heard the owl today and I will listen tomorrow and I will tell others and maybe one day who knows. Take each moment and each second live as you whole heartedly believe and live with trust and set the example. Others will see and hear and soon two people and soon three and maybe before the end of times we can all hear an owl in the same way. Maybe peace will be a word spoken and understood in the same manner tribe to tribe family to family person to person. Maybe the puzzle pieces will fall in place and the final picture will be one we all can be proud to have been a part of. So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Life, a journey only made difficult if there is no learning involved

Bird Droppings July 30, 2019
Life, a journey only made difficult if there is no learning involved

 

“Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” Henry Van Dyke

 

Since my mother passed away in April I often think back to visits I had with her. I was visiting with her on one occasion and I walked by my fathers and brother’s grave site or I should say stood by them. I was recalling the day I was called from work almost twenty-five years ago, my brother had passed away during the night. I looked about the hillside where he was buried and now my father and mother are buried there as well.

 

The farm had been home to many families over the years. Most recently a family of share croppers who for nearly sixty years tilled the land planting cotton and also running a dairy farm for a local land baron and financier. He too has passed away and left his name on a local church gym and road signs around the county.
As I looked out at now soccer fields and houses where not too many years ago boll weevils were poisoned with arsenic and mules driven along furrows plowing terraces in an effort to keep what remaining top soil was there in place. I saw a crow land in an old cedar tree. I walked over and watched the crow for a few minutes and recalled that when you see cedar trees six or so in a row; traditionally in Georgia there was once an old fence line. This particular row I knew well for I had taken done the old rusty barbed wire myself many years ago that ran along through them.
I wanted to sit a moment at my brother’s grave site as I thought back several years to a similar time when I was waiting for my father to come home from the hospital sitting in this exact spot. I was sitting and I was wondering at all that had happened in the twenty plus years since. What journeys had I been on? As I thought I glanced over at several burial markers from before the civil war from a family that had lived on this land so many years ago. Little granite houses literally fashioned from slabs of rock into body sized houses. There are four that can still be seen through the thicket of old honey suckle vines and sumac stalks.
I was thinking back to days when my children, nieces and nephews made the mosaics tiles to lay on my brother’s grave. There is one for each of my mother’s grandchildren. Each is a piece fashioning their ideas in to a mosaic of individual tiles and pieces of glass. There were several music notes on one, an ibis on another, flowers on several, an art design with a heart and arrows coming from it on another. I thought it would be great to have a guide book explaining each piece each color and tile to know why and where and who placed each one.
On a different thought I received an email from a dear friend in Pennsylvania many days back responding to a dropping from a few days or so ago. She added a thought, “The past cannot be changed but the future is whatever you want it to be”. She was not sure where it came from I did a search this morning and came up with, unknown author. But as I looked and wondered about our own mosaics in life my own in particular, what road was I on where was I going. Would one day I look back and see the tiles in place in my own life and try and recall why and where and how a most difficult journey it has been.
I recall days I would have wished on no one and am sorry I myself lived but I wonder. I went out earlier and watched the moon fade behind a bank of clouds slowly moving across the morning darkness. It was so quiet nearly silent as I walked around this morning with only a car in the distance to mark civilizations intrusion on my peace.

 

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Buddha

 

I wonder about this as I look back on a day or two. It was the last few moments joking with nurses and the doctors before the sedative took effect while I was having surgery. What if we wander from our thoughts drift astray for a moment or two does our world change manipulated by where we are at the time?

 

“Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau

 

It has been a week of questions of trying to seek answers within questions within absolutes that are obsolete wondering if and trying to find which pathway is easier to tread. I am changing my life in order to live. I will be watching what I eat rather than simply eating anything in sight. Additionally, I need to lose weight and start a regular exercise program. Most significant to me is a return to my morning meditation and interaction with all that is.

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

 

Through my life I have made choices in despair many times rather than from exhilaration and on some occasions made a mistake. As I sat thinking wondering reading Twain’s words it caught me so often complacency ties us in, cast off the bowlines, and explore, dream, and discover as Twain so eloquently stated. I have always been a searcher traveling through this life exploring the myriads of trails and pathways. I am always looking, always exploring, wondering, talking, asking questions, and seeking answers to questions without any answers, wearing out shoes as I travel. Many are the times I would walk bare foot rather than stop.
I recall a brief journey where literally I had to take off my shoes and in doing so learned several lessons. Number one you cannot break in new boots on a weeklong hike. Number two is that mole skin is a wonderful invention and third it will protect your feet. Your feet can be the difference between another journey and sitting down waiting. I have wandered today trying to resolve for myself issues that may never be resolved ideas that will perpetuate in my soul for some time I have yet it is as Mark Twain stated, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do”. So, everyone as you go take another step, search down another pathway, find a new trail in life, but just do not try and break in new boots as you go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Is “Counting knuckles” a thing?

Bird Droppings July 29, 2019
Is “Counting knuckles” a thing?

 

One Friday a number of years back a student asked what day of the month next Friday would be.  I responded January 30 and just as quick another said he thought it was the first. I said no it was the thirty first and he proceeded to count his knuckles, “a knuckle has 31 days”, he said. He figured it was the thirty first. Later on, I watched as we did math computation tests and he was using his fingers as a portable calculator, I was intrigued. Perhaps it was that I also knew the personality of this student and how he comes off as being such a bad dude that intrigued me.

 

But in a lighter moment with no planning his other side comes out. It is sad because this side of him actually does try to succeed. However so often even for me he will shut down and sulk away to where ever he chooses and vegetate. I am not listening, you cannot make me listen, or I don’t care and best of all just give me a zero, will spill from his mouth.

 

I was thinking how great if you could plan your day around the moments a student is willing to count fingers and knuckles maybe call it “knuckle time”. Those moments when being embarrassed or ashamed of your own capabilities are gone and you can move ahead even if only in micro steps. We all experience this at some time or another. As I watch and listen to students I see pieces of myself in others. How we go about our days those little things we do to survive the onslaught of society. Some of us have enough to make it throughout the day and others have only counting knuckles and when the task goes beyond that capability then frustration and defeat self-imposed. “Give me a zero”.

 

I used a trick of sorts to get extra time out of students the other day. Biology questions were two to three per page and very simple with tricks so to say true and false sort of questions at times but answers might alter true and false to false and true. So, the student did have to read and think about questions and answers. Some students made it through level two others to level four before difficulty set in. Today we will do more and the goal is for students to be successful throughout the process, till they reach a level of discomfort and then set up the programming and planning of lessons accordingly. Unlike many situations these students face adjustments and or modifications and they can be made.

 

So often in school we want every child to fit parameters we establish as teachers and further up the line as curriculum specialists. All ninth graders should do this and tenth graders this item. No child will be left behind who does what we want should have been the legislative name of the bill. NCLBWDWWW might have been too long of an acronym so they shortened it. However what about the exceptions in life? Years ago, I found myself as an exception. It was in fourth grade and I was sitting getting my paper back and the teacher had given me a C on my paper in which I had four wrong. One of my friends next to me had four wrong and an A so definitely I was confused. Day by day this continued and I asked my mom about it. She went in for a conference and the teacher told her I wasn’t working up to my potential so she graded me differently. Guess what happened I quit. No more extra reading for school work although I did still read volumes for fun, no more extra credit. I got left behind because a teacher failed to see I wasn’t fitting into her parameters.
I once saw a peg board with round holes and all the pegs were square and did not fit. Children would try and then after hitting did not work finally quit. The demonstration was actually a psychological test with young children. Funny thing is we do this all the time in school and on the job as teachers. We want people to fit our standards our peg board.

 

“Children love and want to be loved and they very much prefer the joy of accomplishment to the triumph of hateful failure. Do not mistake a child for his symptom.” Erik Erikson

 

I watch the paradoxes of our federal mandate of No Child Left Behind, where frustrated kids quit school because of so called graduation tests and other equally as standard named tests. It is where frustrated teachers are leaving due to being judges on students taking standardized tests. What about being the teacher of a math class where your entire class failed the prerequisite for your class and now is in your class since prerequisite is no longer offered and you have an end of course test that measures your teaching ability and sixty seven percent fail. No one looks at pretest scores and posttest scores and significant improvement and learning that occurred. All that matters is that end of course tests score and the failure rate shows you are not teaching. A whole class and teacher get left behind.

 

I found this quote well over three years ago and thought it would be a good one to toss out. I think someone retrieved it from his trash can since he has proven he really does not believe this.

 

“I think the law is too punitive, too prescriptive, it’s led to a dumbing down of standards, and it’s led to a narrowing of curriculum. We need to fix all of those things. We have to reward success, reward excellence, and look at growth and gain, not just absolute test scores. We have to be much more flexible.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan

 

As I watch how politics interferes and then create havoc in education and in so many areas I wonder why we have politicians at times. It makes me want to count my knuckles and see if the answer is correct and that is knowing I do not have enough knuckles for this problem.

 

“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.” B. F. Skinner

 

“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey

 

Maybe we forget this, maybe we want education to be this neat package we can take off the shelf and spoon feed to our students and the students get or do not get and we go on leaving behind the ones that don’t get it. What about the kid with three knuckles? My son had a friend who lost a finger in childhood he would be at a disadvantage counting knuckles.

 

“Every acquisition of accommodation becomes material for assimilation, but assimilation always resists new accommodations.” Jean Piaget

 

I wonder if we did pretests and posttests in congress and in the Senate on ethics and on performance if our elected officials would pass the grade or be left behind. No Congressman left behind now that is a bill I could get behind. 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

Is it only a dropped feather?

Bird Droppings July 28, 2019
Is it 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 several 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

 

All in words we find

Bird Droppings July 24, 2019

All in words we find

 

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

 

Many years ago, there was a folk song entitled, If I were a carpenter, as I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. Many folk artists have covered the song. The song was written by folk singer Tim Hardin. It was a hit in 1966 recorded by Bobby Darrin who after letting two other songs slip by that became number one hits for The Lovin Spoonful grabbed onto this one. A few years later the song was covered by legendary artist Johnny Cash and again a hit. As I think back there was a similar passage that I used many years ago from another great thinker of our time.

 

If I were a carpenter

and you were a lady,

Would you marry me anyway?

Would you have my baby?

 

If a tinker were my trade

would you still find me,

carrin’ the pots I made,

followin’ behind me.

 

Save my love through loneliness,

Save my love for sorrow,

I’m given you my onliness,

Come give your tomorrow.

 

If I worked my hands in wood,

Would you still love me?

Answer me babe, “Yes I would,

I’ll put you above me.”

 

If I were a miller

at a mill wheel grinding,

would you miss your color box,

and your soft shoe shining?

Tim Hardin

 

I have read these words and listened to many singers sing them. Some will say it is just a song of a blue-collar worker a common man who is in love with an upper-class woman. Will he still love her even though he is merely a carpenter? Some argue it is about Jesus Christ who as stories go was a carpenter in love with a lady. But as I read and reread the words this morning so many more thoughts and understandings. I recall a passage from a speech given by the great civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

During the folk song era of the 1960’s although sitting here pondering it probably in some circles still exists, especially around my house anyhow many songs were written to add credence to various social efforts of the time. Pete Seeger would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl travels, the songs of the depression. As he traveled the country he sang at union, environmental, and civil rights meetings, including for Dr. King He would borrow from many and various other sources for his songs.

 

One song was made famous outside of folk song circles by a group “The Byrd’s” was “Turn, turn, turn” a song that received its words from a book in the Old Testament Ecclesiastes to be exact. “To ever thing there is a season, ……a time to be born a time to die” As I sit here writing this morning flags aroung this part of the country are still flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, still a few emblazoned-on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our nation. Just a few days ago our current president gave a fourth of July speech. It was not his speech that reminded me of what and who we are as Americans. It is not our differences that our current president continues to point out and often attack. It is our similarities that make us who we are. It is our desire and passion for freedom.

 

By the constitution of the United States all people are equal and all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness be they carpenters, millers, tinkers, lawyers or folk singers. Skin color, sexual orientation, disability, political differences, religion are all covered by equality. As we go about today remembering and watching the few remnants of our heritage we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our own ideals and beliefs on others.

 

That is so easy to say but I was reminded of a moment so many years ago of the innocence of youth, as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville Georgia. The owner I had known for many years and she had her three boys there with her, it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School in my room. Her boys were sitting playing at the next booth, some was in English some in Chinese as they chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do, the boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys was using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now.

 

As I sat and thought so many possible meanings to that, I know his family, mother and father both are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in schools and the community. Was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage imposed by others?

 

“There is a time to ever season” we cannot choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions. In a cultural awareness class a few years back as I wrote the word black, indicating race I was reminded that it is correct to say Afro American. I wondered at the response, yet I am still called a white person not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish, person. Although WEGINAHSA would work now that I think of it. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa, would they be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other, I am a Weginahsa pronounced, Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row.

 

We choose the roads and pathways, we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitude that formulates them. MLK as he made the comment about a street sweeper it is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are Americans and we are able to think act and be free keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

 

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

What does it take for that light bulb to go on?

Bird Droppings July 23, 2019
What does it take for that light bulb to go on?

 

Yesterday I finally could sit long enough to do some work on my dissertation. I had a couple emails back and forth with my chair and actually felt like I was back on track for my doctorate. It has been nearly twelve years since my doctorial cohort at Georgia Southern ended and we began the journey on our own. I stopped in 2010 for several reasons. For a couple semesters 2013-14, I was a member of a new cohort at a new program at Piedmont College and wandering down the path of learning again. As costs became prohibitive I had to leave that venture and found my way back to Georgia Southern where I started.

 

I recall many months back we met for an advanced seminar and one of the readings was an Aldus Huxley book, Doors of our perception, which while not that many pages was a major part of the discussion. I am always intrigued when pieces of my time in existence seem just for me as several ideas within the book were significant as I look back. However, our professor ended the session pointing inward and mentioned how he has pursued intellectualism. Reading and expanding his own knowledge has been his pursuit and he mentioned several times how great it is to be a professor you get paid to read. I was thinking to high school students who we try and get to read and many college students as well. So often when you ask, what is your favorite book a response will be, I do not read? Instilling that passion for knowledge should be our task rather than just testing for specific pieces of information.

 

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where   your thoughts take you.” James Allen

 

I have been thinking on this passage many days. I firmly believe even as we plan and set goals and agendas we are where we need to be at this moment. Is it as simple as we travel the pathways presented to us each day thinking we have choice and actually could be setting the direction? It has been a few years since I first looked at life as a journey. Since that first day however it has become a truly memorable one for me. Now I try to view each moment as I pass try and keep up with all the surroundings and trying to understand each piece of the puzzle as it falls in place. “Life is about the journey”, I have used many times in my writings.

 

“Thinking more than others about our own thoughts is not self-centeredness. It means that if asked what’s on our mind, we are less likely to mention being aware of the world around us, and more likely to mention our inner reflections. But we are less likely to mention thinking about other people.” Elaine N. Aron, Clinical Psychologist

 

I just took Dr. Aron’s quiz to see if I am an HSP highly sensitive person or not rather interesting. I tend to argue several issues within her test. I thrive on the interactions and emotions while the tests seem have this as a negative response.

 

“You live with your thoughts — so be careful what they are.” Eva Arrington

 

“If everybody thought before they spoke, the silence would be deafening.” George Barzan

 

Each day I spend a large portion of time trying to assist students in thinking. A simple thought yet rather difficult. Trying to encourage thought processes can be interesting as one student told me. “Mr. Bird why do we have to think it hurts my brain.” Sadly, I hear that several times a day.

 

“There are lots of people who cannot think seriously without injuring their minds.”      John Jay Chapman

 

I keep a box of Band-Aids handy and have pulled them out occasionally for serious brain injury and surprise students with the offer when their brains hurt.

 

“No matter how hard you work for success if your thought is saturated with the fear failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible.” Baudjuin

 

“A thought which does not result in an action is nothing much, and an action which   does not proceed from a thought is nothing at all.” Georges Bernanos

 

Thought processes are often bewildering. I was sitting here typing and thinking and went to type, Ge, and was thinking and spelling and got to Geo and couldn’t hit the “o” key I wanted to hit “r” but thought process and fingers got caught. I was looking at “o” and wanted to type “r”, actually paused for a second to rationalize.

 

“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.” Buddha

 

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.” Buddha

 

Interesting as I look at these two remarks from several thousand years ago. Today psychologists will say the same thing. I say the same thing without quoting Buddha every day. But so many people do not really think about where there are.

 

“Man is what he believes.” Anton Chekhov

 

It is so difficult to explain this to students really to anyone. Yet great coaches around the country have been proving this for years. My youngest son is an avid sport trivia fan while still not on par with the great trivia authority and good friend, former student, now fellow teacher and Head Baseball Coach at the school I teach in, Jimmy Hughes. My son is pretty good. He will ask many times who do I think is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches. Although usually the question is “dad don’t you think Spurrier is the greatest of all time NCAA coaches”. I like it when he leaves me an out, he didn’t mention a sport and I can throw out John Wooden or Dan Gable or even more recent Paul Hewitt and really get him going. “Well what about Coach K then”, thinking though is the goal and that he does.

 

“The problem with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes   rather than their minds.” Walter Duranty

 

“It is astonishing what an effort it seems to be for many people to put their brains definitely and systematically to work.” Thomas A. Edison

 

I recall my middle son’s senior year. He was near the top in his class and always an excellent student. Due to scheduling he was unable to take the honors English course he wanted to and had to take regular senior English with the rest of humanity. He has a slug sitting next to him who every day would ask to copy his homework. My son got to where his responses were classic, one that stuck with me went something like this “We all make mistakes and, in all honesty, I truly believe this is all correct. But what if I am wrong and I allow you to copy and then you receive a failing grade and your life is ruined I will not be able to live with that. So, no, I cannot allow you to copy. If you fail I want it to be you who fail not me helping you too”.

 

“Humans have the ability to shift perspective. We can experience the world through     our senses. Or we can remove ourselves from our senses and experience the world   even less directly. We can think about our life, rather than thinking in our life. We can think about what we think about our life, and we can think about what we think about that. We can shift perceptual positions many times over.” John J. Emerick

 

Each moment is similar and each uniquely different. As we are wandering the pathways of life they can tire you. You might stop to sip a cup of water midst the turmoil of the day and move on past the strife. Each day we have choices to make we have opportunity and we have disaster waiting. It is that light bulb going off, like in the old cartons over our heads that makes the difference. Sitting in my sanctuary of my class room at school in the darkness of morning thinking and pondering as I say that makes the difference for me each day at school. As my moments draw down and it becomes time for me to move to the sofa and prop up my leg for stage two of the day I draw solace from my quiet time. 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

 

Doing what you love is not really work

Bird Droppings July 21, 2019
Doing what you love is not really work

 

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

 

For many local teachers next week is getting back for teacher work days. Sitting here nursing a sore leg from surgery Graham’s statement for me has been true about teaching for all of my life. It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and books I find along the way. My life’s journey the past twenty years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty plus years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started in graphics doing everthing by hand. I had been talking with a graphics teacher in high school and literally the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste ups even plates for presses are generated by computer direct to press.

 

One note of interest is as I find quotes I tend to either save or use directly in my writing however today the starting quote is from my father’s book of quotes that he had saved over the years which is a three-ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. Publisher of the Washington Post it was with her permission Watergate scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.

 

As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years’ CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husband’s death Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as red further.

 

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

 

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half-truths and often totally misleading stories I wonder as to is there material even in our high speed world that needs to be withheld. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I come back to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown and a job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.

 

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

 

I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and in other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching. I Like this concept of a life-toucher.

 

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and an understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

 

As an active teacher I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better manage the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly, it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or a word of advice in time of need. So many directions to go today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste my dear friends.

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

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