Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

Bird Droppings January 30, 2020

Sailing off the edge and or thinking out of a box

 

I was thinking back nearly eleven years when history was made as a new president was sworn in and as one of my students came into class and asked to start working on his assignments. I did not beg and plead he started on his own. As he pulled a three-ring binder and several folders from his back pack I sat with my mouth wide open who was this person. I have known him for a year and never has he been a “student”. It is amazing what a simple change in self-esteem and self-worth can do. On Thursday we studied for a vocabulary test using an LCD projector and when he left the room he knew the words. Last Friday morning he had a one hundred percent grade on his vocabulary test. It was a first in his educational career. What a change came over him. As I listened that night to our new president’s first speech I thought back to my student. We can make a difference each of us often in a small way that magnifies and grows.

 

“I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for oneself, one’s own family or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind. Universal responsibility is the key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace.” the Dalai Lama, From “The Pocket Zen Reader,”

 

I have found teachers can be limited in their scope of reality. You would think that as a group, teachers would be more open to ideas, to new thought, to climbing out of the box. I read this passage above yesterday in a daily offering I receive, I immediately thought of teaching. As a teacher most think only within the confines of their room. Being in a somewhat different sort of atmosphere in a resource room which for ten years is how I taught. I can recall I did claim god like power within my room. Something that has been hard to accomplish is improving behavior outside of my room. Whoa, what a concept? Try and get kids to behave for other teachers. In reality it is simply expanding kids thinking beyond the moment or at least trying to. With this one student I mentioned all it took was a nudge.

 

“Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves? Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know even if the knowledge endures only for the moment that comes before destruction than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.”  Isaac Asimov

 

I read this statement so many years ago and I responded one way. A friend sent me this quote, we have an ongoing dialogue and this was a response to something I wrote and not really a counter thought but additional support. Wisdom is not as elusive as one might expect. But I do not think in wisdom one would destroy one’s self. Knowledge or knowing how to do something does not impart wisdom.

 

A radical extremist can know how to build a nuclear device and detonate it and is that wisdom? Car bombers are they wise? Dying in retaliation and in any kind of war is that wise? Wisdom is not controlling knowledge and maybe I really do not know what wisdom is. So wisdom is part knowledge but also an additional aspect of concern and caring that provide the frame work for the knowledge to be structured within. Yet wisdom is not truly control.

 

Achilles knew his limitations and did battle. Someone else found his weakness and he was defeated. As I look deeper into the statement by Asimov however there is a willingness to know at any cost and perhaps that is really what is being said. Given the choice of not knowing or knowing and in so knowing all will be destroyed still Asimov would choose to know.

 

I recall we celebrate Columbus Day, we are celebrating a man who at one-point sort of discovered America. As he was heading in this direction after leaving Spain as the weeks passed his desire to know came under fire as his crew feared they would be sailing off the edge of the world and great sea serpents and such devour them. He took a chance and discovered a new world, sometimes it is not destruction but illumination that waits.

 

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

 

“Raphael paints wisdom; Handel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespeare writes it, Wren builds it, Columbus sails it, Luther preaches it, Washington arms it, Watt mechanizes it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Seeing the pieces and picking through knowing which to save and which to toss aside is that wisdom. I wonder as I sit thinking this morning what choices will I make as I work with kids.

 

“Wisdom is not wisdom when it is derived from books alone.” Horace

 

“In talking to children, the old Lakota would place a hand to the ground and explain: ‘We sit in the lap of our mother. From her we, and all other living things, come. We soon shall pass, but the place where we now rest will last forever.’ So we too, learned to sit or lie on the ground and become conscious of the life around us in its multitudinous forms.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

 

Understanding what it is we see and touch maybe within there is wisdom. It is not as much knowing but understanding. An understanding within the constraints of what we know. What a paradox? I am sitting reading Kent Nerburn’s book Native American Wisdomfilled with quotes and ideas from Native American culture and thought. In a passage from Sitting Bull, the great medicine man of the Teton Sioux, he wonders why all things have happened as they have and from his thoughts and as I read I wonder. Sitting here thinking after the words as well of our new president.

 

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am a Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, Teton Sioux

 

Sitting Bull received his answer shortly thereafter as he was arrested for inciting mutiny on the reservation during a period of unrest. A medicine man from another tribe had started a cult according to authorities and it was growing in its following and Sitting Bull was accused of taking part. On his way to jail as legend has it, his arresters, several Sioux guards, as Sitting Bull gestured to his grandson they thought he was pulling a pistol and shot him several times. Sitting Bull had foretold his death several days before being taken by Sioux hands.

 

“Wisdom comes in dreams” Wavoka, Paiute, medicine man

 

Why even bring up an old Native American’s ideas during a discourse on wisdom? It is within the context of our knowledge that we seek wisdom within what we know. So often we fear what we do not know and that which is literally the opposite of wisdom and try and destroy it. Had we tried to understand when we first came to the Americas perhaps this day would be somewhat different. What if we had tried to understand instead of force our knowledge upon a group of peoples. Knowledge alone can destroy wisdom. However maybe the buffer is understanding. Freud and Jung might argue Wavoka’s thought, yet they would sit and ponder dreams as therapy. I wonder as I sit and always my thoughts come back to going into a class room. I hope as I teach some way this makes sense and when a student leaves they look differently at life maybe wiser maybe just seeing a new color today instead of all black and white.

 

“Teachers are people who start things they never see finished, and for which they never get thanks until it is too late.”  Max Forman

 

Yesterday I bumped into a former student from nearly ten years ago now a father and married. When he left I would have placed him in that category of ninety five percent that will be dead, in jail, used car salesmen, or evangelists. A good friend and leading authority on conduct disorders uses that as a lead in to kids in high school with conduct disorders. My former student has done some jail time small pieces here and there but finished high school and is working steady and putting his wife through nursing school. So maybe wisdom came to him eventually. Maybe in that statement is wisdom and understanding but we may never see the true nature of all we and hopefully we are continuing to look. 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

Horses and Trains and learning

Bird Droppings January 29, 2020

Horses and Trains and learning

 

It has been many years since I last rode on a train. I mean a serious train going more than the distance between concourses at an airport. Years ago, when I lived in the Philadelphia area, we all used mass transit to commute, to go “downtown,” to get around and to even travel a long distance, say to Florida. Trains are not quite what they used to be. Many of the true passenger trains are now extinct and the only other trains seem to be freight and rapid transit within big cities.

 

It has been nearly eighty years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton, Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past and perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946.

 

I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me.  Sitting by my desk at home is his engineer’s watch a rather large pocket watch known for its remarkable ability to keep nearly exact time. I am told my grandfather was proud of his silver watch and its weight in my hand as I ponder makes me wonder at how much our world has changed.

 

“One returns to the past, to capture it as it was and as it hovers over the present” William Pinar

 

But the past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. We need to avoid making the past all we are for each minute we live we are creating a new past.

 

“Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” James Hillman

 

As children we are fascinated with trains and even now in this day and age of digital everything and computers we still have trains at Christmas time. There are still electric train sets for sale it amazes me. I always wonder at the fascination so many people have with trains. What is it that intrigues us so about trains? When the giant steam locomotives pulled massive freight trains cross-country the enormity of the engines and power were drawing cards. In literature trains always are featured. In one of the literature classes we are reading, listening too, and have just watched the new movie of John Steinbeck’s classic.

 

“Of Mice and Men”.  In the movie the story starts and ends with George’s reflections as he rides a freight train to his next town. Blues musicians emulate trains in their music and words.

 

My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree.  It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years.  When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children.

 

“Memory is an aspect of who we are” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

“Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me.  When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot.  Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my mother house on the shelf is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

 

There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being.  Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B.

 

I will wander a bit and take my morning thinking away from the subject of trains, and to another mode of transportation but still in line with my thoughts. It has been a few years since we sold our draft horses Rick and Blue, a team of dapple gray Perchron horses. Each horse stood over six feet at the shoulder and weighed in at well over a ton. Rick and Blue were big powerful animals. They could pull anything. I was asked to talk to a group of parents one night at a function and needed a visual aid to get my point across. An aspect of that discussion was narrow mindedness. I brought along the harnesses from Rick and Blue.

 

The massive leather harness’ weigh over 85 pounds each and include a set of blinders for the horses. The blinders kept the horses from being distracted and only allowed the horse to look forward. I used that example to show how so many people can be like the draft horse and get stuck only seeing one thing, one direction at a time and are unable to look to either side or to see anything new or different. Granted there are many ADHD students I wish I had blinders for.

 

So, am I really wandering today or what does a set of horses and trains have to do with one another? They are both big and powerful and trains much like Rick and Blue go in a straight line down the track no side trips no going off the tracks. I was talking the other day with another teacher about taking a journey on a train and how that train goes from point A to point B. We then pick up what we need along the way. I ended up comparing the journey to education and to learning.

 

As I thought of the train tracks and how so many of us get stuck simply following the tracks I thought of all the knowledge waiting sitting along the way but off the tracks. This knowledge could be away from the tracks and or hidden from the straight and narrow. I wondered what it be like if tracks were flexible and we weren’t limited by that straight line. We could go where the best ideas were and the best methods and we could really load the train full instead of simply picking up what load we can along the tracks.

 

I put an Aerosmith CD in my car today as I left the house and track four or five is a song “Amazing” which contains a line that I hold dear. Several years ago my oldest son, the night after a very dear friend was killed in a car accident left a sticky note on my computer. It was a simple line actually a quote and yes I have used it for a quote of the day now many times. It is interesting how we also have this quote on the wall outside the cafeteria. The note was a line from an Aerosmith song, a Stephen Tyler original. “Life is about the journey not the destination”. We get so caught up in the destination, for example getting to the end of the tracks following the curriculum to a T or the “TEST” at the end of the semester that we lose sight of all around us, we lose sight of the journey. Our journey and our students is teaching them to think and if they think they will learn

 

So how do we get to point B and really still get there with as much as we can possible load on the train. We travel and we gather as we go but we are fortunate we can leave the tracks if we chose. We can go sideways. We can go back. We can go forward. One thing that is so crucial is we all need to remove our blinders and see all that is around us and live each moment of the journey.

 

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” Gerald Smith

 

Smith points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.  The illusions Smith points out, “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We get so caught up in what we are being told we are and why we soon fall on the straight track or go through life with blinders on. In order to dig deeper into we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend our realities and how people see us.

 

“Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” Gerald Smith

 

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” Carl Jung

 

 I have wandered a bit today and maybe a bit too deep into ideas and thoughts that I find intriguing and puzzling. I once referred to the term of herding instinct that people tend to herd, want to be in groups. We so want to take the easiest route. I looked at apathy yesterday. We live in a time where we want things to be simple and easy. I want to simply get to point B not have extra sightseeing along the way. Sadly, so many people live life that way. They live with blinders or follow a pre-laid out track and never get to know there is so much more. A student asked a question this morning dealing with biology. The question was about global warming and how some people say it is not occurring and yet so many are saying it is. There are folks who will never admit to and or even suggest some ideas have truth. They are caught up in their veil of ignorance. Watching the news and the impact our current war is having on veterans, the number of those in harm’s way is growing exponentially Please keep them all on your minds 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

It be great if we could script great teachers

Bird Droppings January 28, 2020
It be great if we could script great teachers

 

I watched several various movies about teachers over the years. It hit me as I was thinking it would be great if we could somehow provide a package to new Techers on how to do great teaching. If someone could write that perfect script that anyone could follow and allow anyone to be a great teacher. Then it hit me hard, indirectly that’s what curriculum in theory is for and various educational packages that publishing companies stake their names on. But as I sit back thinking why does it not work?

 

I was inputting my last bit of data for a research project and was finding and gleaning pieces of my various students’ puzzles as I went. Most of my students that I have served in the last twenty years have improved grade wise when they were in my classes and or I was case manager for them. Granted I do not teach like most teachers. I rely heavily on empathy and innovative creative ideas to stimulate and make the time they have in my class a learning experience as well as fun. I thought back to the teacher movies, it is so hard to imagine Morgan Freeman not being a great teacher. But I know he studied his character Joe Clark thoroughly as good actors do and his interpretation was from what I have read an accurate one.

 

In each individual there is a personality that you cannot package and bottle. The greatest possible program in the hands of a sorry teacher will not change the fact they are a sorry teacher. So far to my knowledge we do not do personality transplants. In “The School of Rock” while Mr. S was for a moment content to idle away and collect his substitute paycheck a note of music hit literally. He found a mutually exciting interest, to the students and himself. This is something many teachers do not look into, are we as teachers enjoying what we do?

 

Bit by bit as I watched Julie Roberts character, have to reexamine where, what and why and then get hit with traditions and the boxes of societal demands. I know this happens every day. I have talked with my professors many times about one of my concerns, how so many teachers go to a graduate school program and do not make meaningful use after they leave. I am very concerned! I have watched numerous graduates collect their additional money and not once utilize what they have learned, researched, read about and even seen in practice.


How do we bottle and or script a great teacher? I wish I could come up with a solution and a simple method. It is about the person inside. It is about empathy. It is about experiences and utilizing those pieces. There is an old adage that many teachers are simply folks who can do nothing else. The drab boring monotone teacher, even knowing all the content in the world will teach few. It is about entertainment. Maybe scripts have been written but then the audience changes and what do you do? We live in a society of change of flux of disequilibrium. It is about balance but keeping enough of a leaning over to keep growing. It is perhaps about the pathway.

 

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White

 

Often I reflect on the journey of life. The many directions I myself have traveled. I have always been a passionate observer watching others step by step along the way. I listen as some stumbled and are lifted up when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we have to choose.

 

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

 

“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg

 

I am wondering why so many of us each day think, perhaps too much, obsessing over reasons and rationale, and tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. Are we truly desperate or is this a façade to cover up are lack of enthusiasm and desire I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end. What has slowed their journey to this point what is it they have missed along their own pathway as we cross.

 

“He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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

 

“To live remains an art which everyone must learn, and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis

 

There really is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along each day; it is unique for me as it is for others. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live, Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed and Ellis states an art form, life is an art form perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we wield as we paint.

 

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus

 

“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

 

We set the boulders in our own pathway; we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. However, we need to be aware than we must also clear the pathway. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zigs and zags, an easy journey constantly side tracked. It may have been once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in over stepping and under stepping. In my own climbing of boulders and in pushing some out of the way I have come a long way.


I have used in my daily teacher journal, Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day many times.

 

“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

 

For many this may not mean anything. It has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see the buffalo’s warm breath blown in the cool of winter. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field now covered in houses and roads. But I still see the little shadow as the sun sets and I still hear the breeze in the morning, tree frogs calling, and the red-tailed hawks forever crossing my pathway. Our scenery changes but life goes on. I watched the news last night and all the carnage of an earthquake so as I have for nearly ten years end my daily meanderings with please 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

Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

Bird Droppings January 27, 2020
Can we say true heroism and humility are spelled the same?

 

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” Arthur Ashe

 

Even though I am one of the worst spellers in this local area I know heroism and humility are technically spelled differently. I will concede to using words to come up with a perhaps catchy title for my daily morning wanderings. I sat and listened to our past President after the shooting of Congresswomen Gilford’s nearly seven years ago as he spoke to a group in Arizona at a memorial service for those killed in the shooting in Tuscan. I will admit I was moved by his words as I think most people in this nation were. It is another special person who was at the scene as it happened words I will start today with.

 

“Though I appreciate the sentiment, I must humbly reject the title of hero because I am not one of them,” “We must reject the title of hero and reserve it for those who deserve it.” Daniel Hernandez, twenty-year-old intern of Congresswomen Gilford credited with saving her life by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and by President Barrack Obama

 

Daniel as he was interviewed went on to say the real heroes were the First responders’ and doctors and nurses that cared for the injured and prevented any additional loss of life. As I ponder this morning a young man jumping into the fray as he heard gunshots as do many of our service men and women and saying he is not the hero is a humbling moment for me.


I recall my father and stories of World War II and the battle of Iwo Jima in the South Pacific. For you non-history buffs the US military brass had come up with a plan to island hop through the South Pacific to Japan as a means to end the war. This idea was formulated knowing we would lose many men as the Japanese were well fortified and dug in. The battle on Iwo Jima was a blood bath to say the least. US Marines were dropping as they left the landing craft or pontoon bridges from the LSM’s. My father was a medic on an LSM. This was a boat with a drop open front to allow landing craft and tanks to roll out into shallow water or onto pontoon bridges along with the Marines who were on board as well. As my father tells the story a young Marine nineteen at the time had fallen between two pontoons. These structures are large enough to support a tank and chained together to make bridges from sea craft to shore.

 

My father heard the young man’s call for help and jump from his boat to the pontoons. As he looked over the scene it was not good the young man’s leg had been tangled in the chains connecting the pontoons. His right leg was in shambles and nearly sheared off from the chain’s movement with the waves. My father had to move quickly. The pontoons were being shoved together by tanks and waves as the moved. Dad jumped down between the pontoons explained he would need to amputate the young Marines leg in order to get him to safety. He offered a swig of whiskey that he carried in a flask for such ordeals in his back pocket. The young Marine said he did not drink. Using his Navy survival knife he poured some of the whiskey on the knife and proceeded to take off the Marines leg.

As the pontoons came together dad threw the young man up on to the nearest pontoon climbed up and cauterized and sutured his wound. Add to this machine gun fire and mortar rounds all around as well. Dad then lifted the young man and carried him down the beach front to the hospital outgoing landing craft.


Across my father’s Navy shirt was embroidered his nickname on board the LSM, DOC. The Navy and Marine corpsmen saw him and heard him barking medical orders about the injury and assumed he was an officer. The young man was given priority and made it to the hospital ship and did survive. Sounds simple yet during the several hundred yard walk down the beach the dug in Marines were yelling at my father to get down and bullets were whistling all around him. As he would say as he told the story a guardian angel was watching over him is all he could recall. He said he was in a daze as he carried the young Marine it was what he had to do in order to save his life. Another few minutes wasted and he would have died on the beach.

 

It was days later when questioned about the incident by his commander he was offered a heroism medal from the Navy but being a young college man himself he asked if he could get a raise instead of a medal. It was not until many years later when he was going for health care to the VA hospital he actually put in for a purple heart so he could get a better handicapped parking space he was in his eighties at the time.

 

Heroism and humility spelled differently perhaps, but there is a fine line connecting the two. It has not been that long ago that the first Medal of Honor was given to a living soldier in many years. We seem to have far too few heroes in today’s world. I look to a shooting in Arizona and see several. There was a nine-year-old girl who believed in her country and in her congresswomen enough to be there to see her. There is a congresswoman who chose to meet with her constituent’s one on one in public. While he claims he is not the hero a young man who did not hesitate when the shots rang out and did what he could. I also saw our past President whose gray hair was more noticeable now standing before the families of those lost and grieving talking about healing. We do have a nation of heroes it seems if we so chose to look about. As I think back to that day and another comment by Daniel Hernandez.

 

“On Saturday, we all became Arizonans, and above all, we all became Americans,” Daniel Hernandez

 

It is difficult on some days to try and sort and reflect. Yet it is in our reflections we can find solutions, be it in government, family, friends, or in education that I tend to tie in loosely each day I write. Today let us all reflect on our heroes and also keep all of those in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.” Thomas Merton

 

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

The fragility of life

Bird Droppings January 26, 2020
The fragility of life

 

Early this morning I was awakened by our dog and we both needed to take a potty break. Hearing what I thought was rain, more than likely a teenager’s car rumbling and popping. Whoever went tearing out of our subdivision about two in the morning which did not help my sleep. Fortunately, I dozed off again and It was around seven when I crawled out of bed. I checked sunrise time and had a few minutes to spare if I hurried. I drove to a favorite spot got a few images and then to highest point in county. Coincidentally highest point is only a few feet from a Waffle House. So, I had breakfast grabbed another image or two and headed home. While jotting notes on what I needed to get done today I wrote try and be kind to each person you meet. Some thing had me thinking as I left school saying goodbye to each student. Along the way inadvertently I said what if we don’t see each other again. Words just came out might have been something she had said but was sort of a random thought not really a thought a synchronistic moment. Seriously got me thinking.

 

Just before I went to Waffle House I stopped at a convenience store for a spare bottle of water. The little girl at the counter was finishing a night shift and was smiling making conversation. I told her I was heading to Waffle House and she responded she used to work there and her mom had just brought her WH breakfast. I asked if she was paid in cash a standard of WH business. She actually did not remember and happened to be on the phone with her mom and asked her. As I left I told her to have a beautiful day and she said likewise.

 

I was sitting in Waffle House alone writing reading articles on my phone and waitress kept my tea filled and offered a to go cup. I found an article by Alfie Kohn about teaching reading research. For years I have been arguing against phonics. Research is showing children need to know the actually spelling and sight f words more than sounds. Sight words are more effective especially as kids get older. So I got my check and reached for my wallet. Several times the waitress had checked with me about my meal. I had a twenty and a ten-dollar tab. I left the twenty and said keep the change and thank you for a great breakfast. At the door three firemen were coming in and offered to hold the door for me since I am an old fart. I offered to hold for them since they were working. We ended in a draw as two women came through. Why write about moments in life? Life is fragile thinking back to my comment to a student. What if???

 

When I got to the house, some of what I thought was a teenagers poorly tuned car was the furnace going on and off with the cold front moving through the state. Since I was off I put off writing and reading to sit and smudge a bit this morning as I got home. I Sat for thirty minutes watching the sage burn and smoke drift off into the sky. As I do I offered thanks for the day and people I met. I carefully put away smudge stick and began my day. Some minor cleaning organizing in the house and on to writing and school work.

 

A dear friend sends out numerous emails much like I do and I opened one with the subject line of A letter to the Editor. Over the years I had seen this several times when he would address local or national issues and I was pretty much ready for anything but what he wrote. After reading his comments which were about arming teachers and more gun talk with the political pressuring from NRA and other groups, more recently than in previous years. I did get thinking and most of the effort is profit not constitution oriented. Just think about it of major industrialized countries we have nearly ten times as many legal guns and twenty times more homicides per hundred thousand residents and with every gun control scare ammo and gun sales sky rocket. Is not capitalism a great entity?

 

“Respect for the fragility and importance of an individual life is still the mark of an educated man.” Norman Cousins

 

I got thinking back and, in another situation. several years back a neighbor in our subdivision not the one tearing out at two earlier, was called while in Tennessee to hurry home his daughter had come down with a high fever and was rushed by helicopter to the Children’s Hospital In Atlanta. Before he could get to Atlanta she had passed away. Several different issues, a malfunctioning spleen and rapidly spreading severe infection had caused her death. AS I thought t that moment I was immediately thinking of my ids spread around the south and grand kids, spouses and family members and how we take life so meaninglessly. Life is so fragile in the great scheme of things.

 

“When we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all being.” Sogyal Rinpoche

 

As I heard the story from my son who knows our neighbor better than I do. I was taken back and recalled raising three children through all of those years and illnesses and trials and tribulations. My wife made a comment several times over the holidays about how it is a miracle that any child gets to be an adult as she played with our grandchildren almost holding them every second she had available.

 

It was nearly thirteen years ago my wife and I both lost our fathers within a few months of each other. I recall leaving my own fathers’ bedside where he lay still not talking anymore as I drove to hear my son at a choir camp he had attended for a number of years in a talent show presentation. He had become locally famous for his blues harmonica and his rendition and cover of two great singers. Maybe I should say a great songwriter and a singer; some folks will never like Bob Dylan’s singing, He combines Bob Dylan and Axl Rose’s in a duet version of Knockin on Heavens Door. This morning a photo of two hawks together in a tree posted on Facebook by a fellow teacher reminded me of that day.

 

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knockin on Heavens Door by Bob Dylan, 1973

 

As I drove to hear my son sing I passed a nearly white, tall, dead tree alongside the road. Sitting guarding the way were a pair of red-tailed hawks. Seldom have I seen two together sitting. When I received a call the following morning I knew my father had passed away. I have this song still daily on my mind as I use it as my son’s ring tone on my cell phone. My father had lived a full life and we celebrated his life in his passing. Throughout his life my father shared an affinity for Native American culture and understanding with me. It was late in life he had found his great grandmother my great great grandmother was Leni-Lenape (Delaware) who were part of the Algonquin nation. It was later I learned she had been a medicine woman. In many societies’ women hold equal if not more power than men and among the native peoples from tribe to tribe you find some differences. As I was reading I found this thought. Within the Sioux Nation many legends exist of The White Buffalo Calf Woman. She was the first of the Sioux and all came from her. Along with that legend and story is this simple lesson for life.

 

Lakota Instructions for Living
Friend do it this way – that is,
whatever you do in life,
do the very best you can
with both your heart and mind.
And if you do it that way,
the Power Of The Universe
will come to your assistance,
if your heart and mind are in Unity.
When one sits in the Hoop Of The People,
one must be responsible because
All of Creation is related.
And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
And the honor of one is the honor of all.
And whatever we do affects everything in the universe.
If you do it that way – that is,
if you truly join your heart and mind
as One – whatever you ask for,
that’s the Way It’s Going To Be.
Words passed down from White Buffalo Calf Woman

 

I recommend for those who have an interest in Native peoples to read Black Elk Speaks. I recall a dear friend offering his copy for me to read nearly forty years ago at Mercer University. Since that time I have given away several copies. The lesson from Black Elk is one of, we are all interconnected and all of life is a circle from beginning to end and back.

 

“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. Our teepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.” Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

 

My days and evening often end or start with a swirl of smoke. I will place a bit of white sage, sweet grass, several ursa leaves and a few other bits and pieces in a bowl and watch the smoke curl skyward as I ponder the day. The burning of sage and sweet grass is a cleansing act and sacred to many people. Last night I walked out to silence as a light breeze took away what was left of a sunny day. As I fanned the embers with a hawk feather and watch the last few wisps of smoke rise a tiny single brilliant white cloud passed by me heading towards the stars and moon.

 

I opened an email unknowingly thinking this was another political gesture or comment on the financial crisis impacting each of us and found a letter from a father who had lost a son just a few days ago. It was a letter of words he needed to say and many were unspoken. As I went through the day yesterday thinking about how Monday I would be surrounded by teenagers and life my thoughts were with my friend and his wife who were grieving the passing of a vibrant and youthful son.

 

It has been several years since my mother handed me a note entitled, what if I had never been born”. As I read her thoughts addressing myself and sisters and our children she told me the story of her grandfather who should have died in a coal mining accident so many years ago. We talked about how we each have purpose even the smallest amongst us. I often draw reference to my vision I had many years ago of life as a puzzle, a magnificent and grand puzzle. Each piece is multifaceted and minute, yet each unique and interconnected to the next. I try to understand when it seems that nothing makes sense. Each piece of the puzzle is hard to see when alone. It is within the pieces falling in place that the picture is made whole. What if I had died when I stopped breathing numerous times in seizures as a baby? What if I had not come home from the West Chester Hospital when I was three years old and sick with polio? What if I had not awakened from surgery when I again stopped breathing as a teenager? But these pieces of the puzzle those aspects of who I am have made me and it is each piece that provides us with strength and courage to see other pieces fall into place.

It has been nearly Twenty years since my oldest son left me a post-it note with a quote on it when I got home from sitting through the night with a young man who had been in a car accident. I watched monitors bleep and blip and never did they go the direction I really wanted. When morning came he was declared gone. I sat listening to discussions and comments and wondered till I got home and found my note.

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination.” Steven Tyler

 

As I read that letter again from my friend I knew my friend’s son had loved life, he had made a mark on each of his family members, wife and all who knew him. I thought back to that small cloud passing over my head as I went out last night in my meditations. My friends please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste. Life is fragile handle with care peace my friends.

 

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

Looking within to who we really are

Bird Droppings January 24, 2020
Looking within to who we really are

 

Where do I start several key elements of my day yesterday brought about thinking and pondering that lead me to now? It has been nearly ten years since I would sit with students and start talking about James Kavanaugh, author, poet, thinker and theologian. I seriously miss my visits to the Early Childhood Education room at my previous high school. I ended up in a discussion on one of my favorite topics learning with several teachers and from there the education program at Piedmont College. So here I am this morning sitting writing about two topics that sort of crept up on me. I was reintroduced to James Kavanaugh in a roundabout way. I recall in the 1970’s having read some of his poetry as he was popular for several reasons in the hippie culture of that period. A renegade priest he wrote out against the church and was rather quickly no longer a priest in the Catholic Church. His conferences, seminars and books were a cult favorite in the time.

 

“Dr. James Kavanaugh was a man unlike any other. He could be a bit stubborn, always stood up for the underdog, and was forever ready to speak his mind. Jim enjoyed a variety of music including Latin hymns and Georgian chants, Irish songs, and both jazz and classical music as well. Some will remember Jim for his love of nature or his weakness for cookies, but all will remember him for his generosity with both his time and his heart, and the inspiration he shared with all those near him. He will be dearly missed. Dr. James Kavanaugh died on December 29, 2009 in Kalamazoo” jkavanaugh.com
I started my Master’s Degree at Piedmont College in the spring of 2002 side tracking some of the basic entry requirements with a very high Millers Analogy Test score. As I progressed it seems I needed to be interviewed for acceptance into the Education Department which was odd since I was nearing the end of course work for my Masters. I set an appointment and went to my interview. In the line were about twenty people who were all there for that initial interview. Here I was already completed and doing an initial interview sort of the cart before the horse perhaps. I went in and was asked several questions relating to the Mission Statement of the Piedmont College Department of Education.

 

“The School of Education’s mission is focused on mastering the Art of Teaching: Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of All Children. Supporting this mission, we strive to prepare reflective, scholarly, proactive educators. These practitioners effectively educate their students to become knowledgeable, inquisitive, and collaborative learners in diverse, democratic learning communities.” Piedmont College Education Department

As I thought about my questions and answered and proceeded to head home I felt good and was ready to finish my Masters Degree program. A few days later I received a letter stating I had failed my interview. I called my advisor who called the Dean and set up another interview with the Dean of the Education Department. So here I am failing my initial interview and I can rub some people the wrong way relatively quickly but I had felt good about my interview back a few weeks and was confused. As I went into the Dean’s office the Assistant Dean was present also. My first question was from the Dean, How do I get on the Bird Droppings email list? I liked this conversation already and proceeded to pass my interview.
I continued from my Masters at Piedmont directly into the Specialist Program and met with the Director of that program to set up my plans for a course of study. It was interesting as the professor who failed me in my interview was by chance one of the professors in the cohort recommended to me by the Director of the program and I was sweating bullets heading into class with him. A few months later we met and have now long since been good friends it seems that one interview day was a bad one for him, a wrecked car on the way among other things. As my Specialist classes unfolded this professor would start and or finish each session with James Kavanaugh as inspiration or as I look back maybe a starting point for the thoughts to come. Within a few weeks I was acquiring copies of Kavanaugh’s work. Again, I had become a fan. I wanted to share this piece today from his book, Quiet Water, published in 1991.

 

In the Center of Your Soul
By James Kavanaugh

 

There is quiet water
In the center of your soul,
Where a son or daughter
Can be taught what no man knows.

There’s a fragrant garden
In the center of your soul,
Where the weak can harden
And a narrow mind can grow.

There’s a rolling river
In the center of your soul,
An eternal giver
With a rich and endless flow….

There’s a land of muses
In the center of your soul,
Where the rich are losers
And the poor are free to go.

So remain with me then,
To pursue another goal
And to find your freedom
In the center of your soul.

 

I read through this poem now twenty times this morning each time getting a bit more and each time literally another tear. These are very powerful words for today. I do believe in this day and time we all need to have some inspiration and additional meaning to our lives. We could ask, what is the soul, and go off on numerous tangents and wanderings but for today have the soul be that piece within that is who you are. The soul is your essence borrowing from James Hillman and Karl Jung. So many days ago, I started asking as I write to please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and today is no different with headlines blaring of so many in pain and suffering through the world. A quick reminder as I finish search your soul and please 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

Caregiving and or cared for, we need both?

Bird Droppings January 23, 2020

Caregiving and or cared for, we need both?

 

“To care and be cared for are fundamental human needs. We all need to be cared for by other human beings. In infancy, illness, or old age, the need is urgent and pervasive; we need caregiving, and we need the special attitude of caring that accompanies the best caregiving if we are to survive and remain whole.” Nel Noddings

 

This past week or so we honored a man with a day dedicated to his memory a man who cared deeply about mankind. As I sit here pondering the true aspects of caring and the impacts on the human condition, Dr. Nel Noddings discusses how we need to care and we also need to be cared for, both sides of the coin. It is not an either-or situation. On the news the other day volunteers prepared a meal for twenty thousand homeless and working poor in Atlanta in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the Hosea Williams foundation sponsoring the event. Hosea Williams was a man who walked with Dr. King back in the day and a man who started a feed the hungry program in Atlanta. In that same news cycle two news commentators had been criticized for making violent comments in regards to other people. One referred to shooting the founder of Wiki leaks in the head and the other in a panel discussion addressed reinvading Iraq for oil to keep the prices down.

 

“If every eight old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence within one t generation.” The Dalai Lama

 

Caring is not seeking war for oil especially so major oil companies can further profit. It is true the countries where the oil is located do reap fortunes from the pumping of oil but outside of Venezuela most oil is pumped, shipped, piped and processed by a select few large oil companies who have continually made significant profits while all other industries are losing money. Interesting as well is Iraq’s oil is now being pumped by mostly US companies who are making money. Another aspect left by the wayside when we pick on a country about oil prices is Wall Street where oil is a commodity traded and US investors are driving the price up or down depending on their profitability not our needs. Most oil is owned by investors not countries. Why do we not invade Wall Street and the stock exchange and stop auctioning commodities and dealing in the so often bogus paper of the stock market? This is not about caring other than for one’s self.

 

I listened on Tuesday with my students to the I had a Dream speech. I am amused on this day as I recall my father, a former Navy man, a diehard republican and he always voted straight republican on his ballot, telling me this was one of the greatest speeches he had ever heard. My father made his living with his booming voice and had addressed audiences across the globe. He had sat and listened too many of the greatest speakers of the twentieth century in various capacities. My father had lectured and had his message translated in nine or ten languages in nearly forty different countries. I kind of felt for him to say this very liberal southern pastor and black man had just delivered the most powerful speech of modern day was very significant. But I also always knew my father was a caring man about his family, friends, his life’s work, and all those he dealt with around the world.

 

I was only in eighth grade or so when Dr. King delivered his now famous speech at the Lincoln memorial in 1963. Now we honor the man with a holiday. Many will protest and have arguments that this day should not be a national holiday. I am not one of those. As I read the words and listen to the message in this powerful speech, it is not about racism it is about humanity it is about caring. In the past presidential campaigning Dr. King had been both talked about and commented on. Barrack Obama on a Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, after being lectured by the Pastor that many other great men had spoken at this pulpit had these words to say.

 

“If Dr. King could love his jailor, if he could call the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely, we can look past what divides us in our time,” Barrack Obama, January 20, 2008, Ebenezer Baptist Church

 

I watch daily high school kids who still hold racism deep in their hearts. I read passages on students and adults’ websites that talk of hatred and misunderstanding. I have been in meetings with parents where comments such as “they work too hard and I cannot get a job” in regards to Hispanic construction workers. Racism is still in our society and in our communities. How do we as human beings in looking forward a week on a day dedicated to a man who in his lifetime tried to end racism, approach and channel such bigotry and hatred.  I wonder as I sit here with school tomorrow how we have come far yet still have so far to go.

 

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Washington DC, August 23, 1963

 

Oh, what a day it will be when we are judged by our character and not skin color. I have a dream as well borrowing from Dr. Noddings again, “we need the special attitude of caring that accompanies the best caregiving if we are to survive and remain whole” and as I sit and ponder the Dalai Lamas thought above what if we would teach meditation to eight-year olds. So, my friends please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

 

 

Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

Bird Droppings January 22, 2020
Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

 

I walked outside earlier as I do many mornings listening observing trying to understand this reality I am walking about in. The sky was almost bright this morning with a very faint moon still hanging around and a few wisps of clouds were visible. Over the years I have spent many days in the mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes even wrapped in a blanket for the cold. Today I was wrapped in my father’s old overcoat. A black cashmere coat warm and soft it was his favorite often even wearing it inside when it was chilly.

 

In days gone by I would spend my time listening and watching as I sat listening. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of their attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry and verses logging down emotions, events and moments in my journal of sorts.

 

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

 

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife; “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I was really hoping for an answer to boost my ego and she said “it really depends on who you are talking too.” You know at first, I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands their vocabulary as well. I instantly felt better. Perhaps a reason why I enjoy teaching, and sharing experiences I have had over my sixty plus years.

 

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

 

In days gone by and even today I will pick up an encyclopedia and read the volume much like a book, ok tonight’s light reading is the H Britannica. In our Google it world of today few children ever even see an encyclopedia let alone open one. Last week in class I was using my ancient Britannica’s to help a student with a Venn diagram on Achilles and Odysseus. Once he started with the book versus Wikipedia he was caught up and started looking through the pages. Even asked if he could take the volume home saying Mr. Bird this is pretty cool.

 

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

 

We have all grown up with the statement about how curiosity killed the cat but a lack thereof will also keep the world at a standstill and nothing will happen as well.

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

 

A great guru of business Peter Drucker has written many books helping people manage their businesses. If you look at our society and the pace of new information and technology we are living in a world where while you sleep things change. This statement is even truer today than when Drucker wrote it in the sixties.

 

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have come to enjoy Emerson and I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man. When I read this I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. It should be literally a teacher, as a door. With the teacher or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in. As the student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts.

 

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

 

I sat and spoke at length over lunch a few days ago and walking back to class with a good friend who had served a year or more in Afghanistan, we were talking of cultural differences, to us sometimes these differences are ridiculous and yet to the people within that culture they are a part of life. I have been fascinated with a tiny group of people and have been reading several books lately dealing with the Sans or “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa as well as several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of their homes and culture for the sake of mankind at least that is what we are told.

 

It seems diamonds have been found in the Kalahari and the Sans who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, hunting and gathering now must leave and go learn to farm to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner. What if the antelope has escaped during the hunt as a Bushmen you know the signs to track and finish the job. Knowledge is of when and where you are now is crucial to existence, going back to my wife’s comment to me this morning and my own vocabulary learned through so many experiences and books read.

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits, which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

 

Mogetse Kabokikanyo was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. We citizens of the United States talk of human rights and dignity but in a case closer to home, it is very similar.

 

In about 1909 or so Geronimo of the Apaches was told finally he would not be allowed to return to the mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort Sill Oklahoma on the Apache reservation literally a prisoner of war where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to Lawton Oklahoma. Driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights can be heard or seen. Immediately around you are only the rustling cottonwood trees, and the flow of water over the stones in the river alongside the grave yard provides a backdrop of peaceful sounds. A rolling landscape and meadow of grass go up from a small parking area into the plains of Oklahoma. Not many people come to this corner of Fort Sill.

 

Many times, as I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly it seems as if time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and were not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive, ethereal, entity flitting about as a monarch butterfly travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind we can make a difference. It is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s, who are the real teachers of this world.

 

It may be one step one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day. Hopefully mankind has learned more as we increase our abilities to convey understanding. One day, maybe not today, knowledge will truly be instilled in everyone. But till then please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and try to offer a hand to any slipping as they cross the stream on their own journey and to always give thanks namaste.

 

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

LIFE

Bird Droppings January 21, 2020
LIFE

 

Morning has been a special time for me each day, a new beginning. Several aspects make it special, first one of taking the dog out and talking with him as he sniffs and does his thing in the yard. Then I go to my writing and reading which has become my meditation for the day. It has become in many ways a significant part of each of my days. I walked out this morning and felt the chill but the clouds had diminished and the nearly full moon was setting in the west. I looked out across the meadow and the big dipper was rising above the trees and the stars were crystal clear in the morning darkness through the pines and oaks.

 

“Life is raw material. We are artisans. We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It’s in our hands.” Cathy Better

 

Several years ago as I left my room after classes and went through the guidance office saying hello to several people. I was checking up on files and paperwork and I saw a person was missing I noticed and never questioned as the day went on. I sensed an absence yet still had not questioned. As the day ended I heard over the announcements one of the staff members had suffered a heart attack during a stress test and was having surgery that day.

 

“It is not how many years we live, but rather what we do with them.” Evangeline Cory Booth

 

“Your life and my life flow into each other as waves flow into waves, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me. To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is–is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we do not really live very satisfactorily; that there can really be life only where there really is, in just this sense, love.” Frederick Buechner

 

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words and pictures that may have significance to a project I am working on for my research. It was hard getting to work after eating dinner and lounging for a few minutes. I emailed several people last night just touching base although my iPhone was ready to call it a day.

 

“If, after all, men cannot always make history have meaning, they can always act so that their own lives have one.” Albert Camus

 

“The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss.” Thomas Carlyle

 

As I moved through that day weeks back sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride there were a few tears from friends and those that knew but all in all the day went on as normal. It seems we all are creatures of habit and our routines kick in and sort of lead us through the day.

 

“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

 

I have used this quote so many times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a mason jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness. That time seem an eternity ago on a hill in Pennsylvania.

 

“It’s not how long life is but the quality of our life that is important.” Roger Dawson

 

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens

 

Often as my week progresses and days roll by I wander back thinking of reasons why and always end up thinking of my younger brother. In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had literally built our lives around my little brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous out pouring of life.

 

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really merely commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the planning, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chain of events, working through generations and leading to the most outer results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

 

Sitting here among my books and artifacts I know we each approach the morning in a different way. I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and led me to the moment of now.

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler

 

It has been several years since I received an urgent call from my nephew. We had gone to an away football game up in North Georgia and actually were out of cellular range for some time. The call was about a friend that had been in a car accident and as that day unfolded I spent the night in the Athens Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. I sat watching banks of meters, gauges and dials. I was hoping that the numbers on the dials would change. Throughout the night nothing indicated brain wave activity and by morning our dear friend was pronounced dead. When I arrived home on my computer was this quote from an Aerosmith song. Seems I come back to that note ever so often in my writings. In 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents that I still have on my shelf, it was a Bible and on page 596 a verse that has stuck with me.

 

“To everything there is season, and a time, to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

 

Many years ago, Pete Seeger a folk singer and environmentalist wrote music for the words and a song was born “Turn Turn Turn”. To every season turn, turn, turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven. The song became a hit, and was sung by a group called the Byrd’s coincidently.

 

“Nothing is beneath you if it is in the direction of your life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.” Robert Frost

 

So often poet’s words offer comfort or give direction back to the journey set off course in but one moment time. There is no filling of a void. Yet when looking at life and all that has been and when looking at the journey to now there truly was never a void. There is a turn in the road, a new direction, all that has led to this point has not changed and it is there behind us, lifting us, guiding us, and strengthening us as we continue. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across stone by stone, crossing the stream on the rocks as he jumped.
We all can cross in our time and there are times when a hand is welcome. Years ago, I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website “Friends are never alone”. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today and keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Can we define our own success or does it take another?

Bird Droppings January 20, 2020
Can we define our own success or does it take another?

 

Recently teachable moments have been rare. Last week on spur if the moment I drew upon my experiences and while discussing the phylum arthropods. One of my favorites is the black and yellow garden spider, Agriope aurantia, or writing spider. I then proceeded to offer a Creek Indian view of early morning. Few see this unless you go out early in the morning. I will often go and sit watching the sun rise in the east. If you look carefully through the weeds and grass in the wee hours of morning you can see gossamer strands of spider silk literally touching everything. Creeks will call this the web of life where all is connected and as I told the story for my teachable moment this group of ninth graders all were silent listening. Today was a bit cold even for spiders.

 

I left school Friday with several critical calls to make, errands to run and several feelings of people I needed to see and or talk with. As I traveled about going to a meeting a day late for a former student to start there were quite a few people along the journey. I spoke with a retired Air Force electronics expert who had two years ago undertaken a vision quest with the Blackfeet tribe in the western US. I ran into several former and present students, parents and friends of mine. I would consider yesterday very much a success. As I went through the day yesterday I thought about what is it the idea of being successful? Is there some magically way we can tell if we are successful in what we do? I also did get quite a bit of writing completed.

 

Going deeper in thought I would like to consider myself successful at what I do and I think most people would want to feel this way. Wanting to be successful however has its basis on how you define success. It has been nearly twelve years since a fellow teacher handed me an article by Sydney J. Harris, a prolific writer and columnist from thirty-five years ago. Harris at one time was syndicated in over four hundred papers.

 

“You only have to be a little bit better than most in what you do. Just a little smarter, just a little steadier, just a little more energetic, or whatever other prime quality is demanded in your field. If successes admitted this, they would not have cause to feel so conceited; and if the aspirants recognized this, they would not have cause to feel so left behind at the starting line.” Sydney J. Harris

 

“Success is just a little more effort” from his column Strictly Speaking

 

As I read this passage I realized how true it is. So often it is one more step, another few words, fifteen more minutes that make the difference between success and failure or in being just average. In high school sadly getting seventy percent and passing is considered successful by far too many. There are some who do not succumb and try to attain better. It is not that difficult to be a little better than most but we often see that as too much work or effort. This is not strictly limited to students’ teachers as well fall into the taking the easier road syndrome as well. If a teacher chose to only do seventy percent just what is needed and is working with seventy percent students that equates to about forty nine percent of what should have been learned and is a failure in most societies. I often wonder and I am a procrastinator myself what constitute too much effort or too much work.

 

“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

Being of a monastic nature I find some days this to be difficult, to include others. However, we need others to succeed in life and to move ahead if only to provide support. Succeeding is more often than not an effort of a group rather than just one person.

 

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I have heard this quote so many times at commencement speeches in lectures on success by motivational speakers and yet each time a little more of it sinks in. Perhaps Emerson was ahead of his time as I read his words the last two lines; it becomes so significant that success is having made another’s life easier a very powerful statement in our selfish society of excess and greed.

 

“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” Harvey S. Firestone

 

Success is how we leave others as we walk away, the difference we make the level at which we make change in the environment around and in some instances our ability to not make change and still accomplish something.

 

“My definition of success is total self-acceptance. We can obtain all of the material possessions we desire quite easily, however, attempting to change our deepest thoughts and learning to love ourselves is a monumental challenge. We may achieve success in our business lives but it never quite means as much if we do not feel good inside. Once we feel good about ourselves inside we can genuinely lend ourselves to others.” Victor Frankl

 

Seeing ourselves clearly, honestly, and learning to like to even love ourselves is crucial to truly succeeding. Success is about us and how we affect the world and others. Success can be a minute difference we make in what is happening around us. Success can be a simple elevation of a friend or attainment of a goal. Success is effort yet success can be attained with the heart as well as the body.

 

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” Albert Schweitzer

 

As I was reading quotes and articles today to write this morning it was interesting how success was defined by various people down through history. Many wealthy people defined success in terms of accumulation of wealth and yet others looked at the word as a gauge of human involvement. There are numerous different approaches and comparisons that are available as I looked, accomplishment, outcome, and achievement were all listed as definitive words for success as I read.

 

As I think back to two of the quotes I used today Dr. Schweitzer spoke of happiness as the key, this man was a musician extraordinaire he played in concert halls all over Europe and used those funds to run a hospital in Africa in the 1930’s till his death many years later. His success in life was his practice of medicine where he was needed. Emerson as he indicates defines success as that difference you make in another’s life. As I look closer at myself I truly believe success is a word needing others to define. It is about your impact and difference you make on others and success is not measured as much in volumes as in quality. If we take quality as defined by Phillip Crosby which is exceeding expectations and draw a loose simple parallel. Then success is exceeding others expectations. A week is drawing to an end and as I have for many years now ended my daily entries 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