Looking for a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look

Bird Droppings February 14, 2020
Looking for a window can be a chore if you do not know where to look

 

I woke up very early today our dog was barking to go out and it was time for my wife to get up and get ready for work. It is hard to sleep in on days off when you fix breakfast and lunches. I walked out on my back porch only to catch a glimpse of the clouds moving getting ready for the coming rain along the tree line; a light drizzle was slipping in below the trees. It was just a coincidence that my dog wanted out exactly just before the rain was coming and dashed out of sight in the back yard. I view life as a series of interactions each interdependent upon the next and each interwoven with the previous. Over the past few days to a week I have bumped into six former students all wanting to talk and ponder.

 

A good friend and I often discuss Carl Jung and synchronicity. Those interwoven pieces of life that intertwine all that is and seem to be so “connected” and keep us all in place. I have held to and use the puzzle idea frequently when discussing life with students and associates. I borrow from Chief Seattle and throw out the idea of a web of life interconnecting the pieces as a glue holding all in place.

 

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

As I meet people and try to understand where and why about each one I find so often many who are still seeking to understand themselves not clearly knowing who or where they are in relationship to all else about them. This is not to say I am searching for who I am daily.

 

“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” Albert Einstein

 

I was talking with a group of students working on projects for their class on learning how to teach a number of months back. They worked with a preschool class, each high school student works with a four-year-old on words, colors and all sorts of fun things. We were talking and a former student of mine came to mind. It has been nearly forty-five years since I took a picture of this child. He was about five years old and severely autistic. He was nonverbal and spent much of his time simply staring ahead. On a spring day much like yesterday he was looking out the window of the school which was in an old house in Paoli Pennsylvania in 1970. I went out the back door with my camera ran around the front to his window and took a picture. He had his nose pressed up to the window staring out. I often wondered what he was seeing as he stared straight ahead. Over the years as I look at that picture I find myself thinking he was trying to find a window. Even as he looked out the window he was still searching for a window that he could see through.

 

“I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I watched him as he approached the window, it was not the view he wanted but the temperature, the coolness of the pane of glass against his cheek. I was seeing a window and he was feeling a moist pane of cool glass. I was pulling out various books and ideas as I talked to this group of students who worked with little students a few days ago. I shared author Shel Silverstein and a copy of The Giving Tree with CD, and also William Stieg and CDB a whimsical word puzzle (CDB – see the bee), and as I looked and thought many memories flooded back. Of working with children who probably still do not speak. Of searching for my own windows through in my life and occasionally only feeling the cool glass pane

 

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

 

As I think back over my discussion with those teachers to be, we started talking about people we would like to meet. Somewhere in an internet profile or such I wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, I added Gandhi the other day as we spoke. Most of the students were choosing contemporaries and most were celebrities. I thought over the years how our views change. For youngsters trying to find a window can be a chore not knowing where to look or maybe not even being tall enough to see out once there. As we get older the rules change we know where to look but have we drawn the blinds. We are tall enough to look out but do we really want to? Or are we content to simply press our nose to the glass and feel the coolness, never even attempting to see what lies beyond. It is a clear morning finally, although it is cold as stars fill the sky and a slight wind is blowing through the pine needles. A new day 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

Do we have a desire for freedom?

Bird Droppings February 13, 2020
Do we have a desire for freedom?

 

“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

In life as I look back humans also while seeking freedom also seem to have an urge to subjugate others as well. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a quite a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop we were talking about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic she was looking from a medical stand point and as I so often look from a psychological view.

 

By chance I ran into a former student yesterday while taking grand kids to McDonalds. The only time I go is with grand kids and what’s funny is it’s the playground at a specific McDonalds they like. If they want food only there are several other places they want to go first. My former student back in the day was a fan of anarchy and had the anarchy logo emblazoned on his back pack. I had forgotten about this episode from ten years ago when I ran into him at a local BBQ joint where he was cooking. I had saved his back pack in my jumble of boxes from school after he got kicked out and eventually quit high school. It dawned on me when we met up all those years later and I recalled just seeing this back pack and the next day took it by to him. As we talked at McDonalds of all place’s synchronicity as always, he reminded me of the story. He was with his fiancée and their kids. Funny thing adding to this story was running into his former roommate two nights back at Publix, another of my former students. As I think of freedom and these two individuals my former students both never succumbed to the rigors of public educations straight rows of desks and such. Freedom was not “just another word” but a point of life for them even at a young age.

 

We each in our own way see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. While attending a wedding shower recently in a subdivision in another part of the local community I was definitely not a free person. In my existence I tend to be somewhat monastic picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading, writing, and pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction.

 

However last night watching a an old rerun of House on Netflix and a blogger who laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living in somewhat isolation communicated and interacted on a level that was in many psychological terms very social. At that shower I was lost in a crowd of people that I did not know or really care to be among and eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin who was the father of the groom to be. But as I look at my first paragraph I had no control of the situation.

Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly as we place children so often in places where they have no control and they have few if any liberties? Often the response is one of flight or of negative behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is just another word was the song from the early 1970’s and mid 1960’s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children who have Emotional problems and whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has me looking at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt. I am sitting here with no phone zone signs ready to go up in my class room at Alcovy High School. I have never felt it necessary to compete with an electronic device until this year. When kids are glued to phones 24/7 they have little desire to hear or see anything else. “I can google it.”

 

But in my own research the past few months I found that in the early 1950s a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change one’s behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? Literally we set ourselves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss or president. So many years ago I recall listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.

 

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

 

As I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thought and pondered how often is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching consists in making it difficult for students to learn. But it was later when discussing that this thought I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote a number of years ago.

 

“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management

 

In educational research students having empowerment and ownership increases significantly the level to which they will achieve. I have seen this premise work in industry many times as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around in safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward so much more so than when manacled by a dictator like teacher. In my own research and studies as I work on my dissertation in The Foxfire Approach to teaching the number one Core Practice states the following.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuse the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

 

As I have been involved directly or indirectly now for nearly forty-five years in training and teaching when a learner be it adult or child has ownership of the idea so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable. Success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine with mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions and there are not simple answers. It does take effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and to flow.

 

As I thought a bit more I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that we might just end up have successful students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every major politician is now for or against specific policies and each has a differing reason but I find it still necessary to end as I have now for nearly fifteen years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. For so many years as I look back and each day find in harm’s way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won and as I look even at within my own family over the past few years the emotions and heart wrenching in harm’s way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down. The potential for man is so great but we continually allow ourselves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise up and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding and it takes as Dr. Vinson offers we need to be in the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change one’s behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

So, another week ahead and I sit pondering what might I bring to the table today as a teacher. Hopefully something that will impact students in a positive way and I close as I have for nearly fifteen years 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

Getting over the speed bumps

Bird Droppings February 12, 2020
Getting over the speed bumps

 

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” Hannah More

 

Perhaps ahead of her time Ms. More wrote in abundance in the later 1700’s and early 1800’s. She was writing in a time when women should have been sitting at home according to customs of the time. She had her goals and she daily strived to achieve them, and several middle and high schools around the country still bear her name. When I am driving about the countryside I think back to days gone when the wonderful speed bump was purely a southern thing sadly they are now used across the country. Often, we are taken by surprise upon approaching a stop sign or cross walk and even sometimes some grocery stores will mark pedestrian walk ways with those wonderful often unseen obstacles. They are put there to slow us down in our hectic lives.

 

When Hanna More wrote that line however speed bumps were many years ahead and she was looking more at life metaphorically. We tend to as we journey in life to become complacent and begin to slack and it is at those times when obstacles become frightful. I used to drive into Atlanta on a regular basis to take things to my son at Georgia Tech before he graduated. There is a stretch on North Avenue where you literally look down the hill and of course look up. When in a lazier mood it is fun to see how fast you can coast down and then see how far up the other side you can go without using the gas petal. Obviously hoping all the red lights are green through your free fall and ascent of the hill.

 

By chance several months ago when down town going to Piedmont Park I was thinking how hard it must be to walk up and down that hill. Even in a car as you begin up the hill after the momentum wears off you have to increase the pressure on the accelerator. Life is very much the same way and living can appear more difficult when we lose focus and become bewildered. I was thinking about learning and education as well which I in my earlier days I would wander aimlessly for semesters at a time losing focus, beyond staying out of the draft college had little other meaning for me at the time. I floundered around for several years.

 

Today in teaching I stress context as well as content which give meaning to the learning to my students.

 

“It is not so important to know everything as to know the exact value of everything, to appreciate what we learn, and to arrange what we know.” Hannah More

 

Ms. More was perhaps more methodical than I am and even her contemporaries claimed she was a Methodist. Methodist was the word used to describe John Wesley, founder of The Methodist Church and his friends because they were methodical in their teachings and beliefs. At that time the word Methodist which for The Anglicans, the Church of England, was sometimes a dirty word or one of jest depending on who they were referring too.
But this second quote knowing the value of everything, and appreciating what we learn it is giving that learning context, meaning, and substance. This is what true education should be about and better yet when we do as parents and teachers provide context so that learning lifts us over obstacles and carries through our lives. It is that extra pressure on the accelerator we need to climb all the hills on North Avenue that we have in life. Please my friends provide context and content and keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds as we go out and about our business today and always give thanks namaste. Peace!

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

I was listening to the stillness of a morning, the sunrise, and or sometimes we need a window and not a mirror.

 

Birddroppings February 11, 2020

I was listening to the stillness of a morning, the sunrise, and or sometimes we need a window and not a mirror.

 

I was sitting alone this morning as I do often, after running my son to the airport very early, trying to get a few photos of the sunrise. Today it was mostly cloud cover and little else. The ambient temperature is almost warm enough for tree frogs and peepers to be calling. There may have been some morning sounds down in the bottoms along the stream or towards the field. The air was not moving save for a single car leaving our subdivision early this morning. Our dog would come by periodically as he prowls the back yard searching for signs of voles his new nemesis and my most hated adversary. Seems voles like plant roots and one has found its way to my herb garden and I have lost several plants already. Fortunately, our huskie has some hunting instinct left and he caught the culprit.

 

I was thinking as I sat meditating some might say letting my mind float listening to the stillness. When I came home yesterday and walked around the back yard the previous cold is keeping any new flowers from poking up. However I saw my first robin of this year so who knows maybe spring is near. My rosemary hopefully will survive the cold and daffodils are starting to poke through. Hopefully it will be just a few weeks from now that our azaleas will start in and color will surround our home.

 

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” Henry David Thoreau

 

Sometimes we do not look and listen carefully enough and miss pieces of what is so close. It was last year a baby anole most people call them chameleons which is a little green or brown lizard we find on shrubs and around the house was on our porch about two inches long it nearly escaped observation. His bigger father greets visitors as they come onto our porch at about six inches long he usually sits on the door post in the later afternoon sun weather permitting. But I mentioned listening today I was sitting and talking with a student last week before break listening and arguing till something hit me. My student was seeing a different world than I was and beliefs and understandings were different. I was explaining from my own perspective and he was trying to assimilate into another world. A comment was made and my student’s response was not of a teenager but of a small child which is so difficult to explain. A comment was made and as I listened a light bulb went off I was using terminology and understanding that was in a different galaxy compared to what he had experienced in life. This was not about intelligence and or ability but beliefs, experiences, understandings and perceptions.

 

“If all I was seeing was a sunrise I would have missed the intricacies of the clouds.” Frank Bird grandfather, teacher, photographer, and ponderer

 

In working with modern day high school student’s conversation often consists of daily one up man ship and listening to the constant chatter about who has what phone, purse and or what shoes. I was finishing up testing before our pep rally and a group of students in my room asked Mr. Bird do you have Facebook and I responded of course.  One of the students a cocky young fellow was commenting about all of his pictures and how he had probably more than anybody on Facebook. I quickly one upped and said I would say I have more albums than you do pictures. His response was you do not have more pictures of yourself than me I have 982. As I thought about one upping again I said no you do beat me in that I have pictures of other people not me. He went on to how he was model and clothes he wears and hair stylist and failed the test not of class work but humanity.

 

So I thought about our self-focusing young man and how is that impacting the reality we have. My wife and I went out for lunch a few days back using a gift card given to us by our son and daughter in law. While we talked I shared my little photo discussion and how it made me think. My wife mentioned a news story from the day of a teenage girl who somehow took a selfie with a dead body. Our conversation drifted to teaching and classes we both teach college and a comment about class size and state funding. I went to school all through school with thirty or more in classes. That is not a good thing but we made it. I was thinking of a student teacher at our high school talking with his instructor in the staff copy room when I walked in and pieces of conversation I overheard. It hit me how many educators of educators have been in a sterile environment in academe and today’s class room is radically different than even five years ago. When I first started back teaching nearly seventeen years ago I did not have iPhone to contend with and notebooks to teach from instead of books.

 

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.” Henry David Thoreau

 

“Conversation was never begun at once, nor in a hurried manner. No one was quick with a question, no matter how important, and no one was pressed for an answer. A pause giving time for thought was the truly courteous way of beginning and conducting a conversation.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

 

I began to listen to the stillness when no talking was occurring just observing my student thinking about a word I may have said, imagination. What if we have a limit to our imagination? What if you were much like a tape recorder and could only imagine what you had taken in? Most of us do this anyhow with a bit of whimsy we can alter and add to and delete from and create anew. So this is a big what if, you could not add to and delete from only use what you had on tape. I recall reading a book, Thinking in Pictures, by Dr. Temple Grandin that best describes what I am saying. Dr. Grandin is autistic. It has been nearly seven years since I read about a young man, Jason McElway, who is autistic and was the star of his high schools last home basketball game. At that time he has been approached by numerous Hollywood production companies including Walt Disney to make a movie of his life. As I thought more listening to stillness this morning we all have autistic tendencies.

 

“I photographed a massive oak tree easily seven foot in diameter that once stood by a house as a chimney is just behind it. In my own readings the tree of life has much significance to Native peoples this came to mind as I photographed this great tree. As I thought it came to me that even this great tree was only a few minutes from someone’s saw, cut and lying on the ground.  Frank Bird grandfather, teacher and ponderer

 

 

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau

 

What if rather than 1 in 500 children having symptoms of autism that those only who have more severe autistic symptoms were recognized as it was when I started teaching in 1970. Technically the American Psychological Association in its latest manual is changing the definition again and going back to the older view. Actually, I think we all have the tendencies. This is a difficult explanation. As I sat listening today it was so quiet, I was able to think to imagine to dream. When I sat down today I started on this topic and in the back of my mind I recalled a test for creativity. I recalled reading about how Temple Grandin had to teach herself how to respond to emotional stimuli. As I read my morning messages and blogs in Facebook and WordPress it hit. The tendencies are universal and vary significantly.
I was trying to explain from my world view an idea that was so alien to the student I was talking with on Friday. I was painting in oils with a student who was used to crayons and pencil. It was nearly five years ago that a little girl on American Idol and yes I do get caught up in the frenzy still or I should say we do here at our house, each picking favorites. This little country girl was as cute as a button and was explaining being in LA and going out to eat and having squid or calamari. She as she tried it was making cute faces and such. But having never had squid before there was no basis for her to even consider it. But if she had been from Italy, Mexico or Asia where squid is prepared as a standard fare it would be different. To those folk’s boiled okra would have been just as gross. Boiled okra by the way is far worse than squid.

 

“It was necessary to live through, and establish, a presence of stable consciousness within the world before it was possible for the detachment to gradually emerge which would permit that other, objective reality to connect with the conscious.” Dr. Karl Gustav Jung

 

What if someone has to experience an event to understand it? What if the limitations of those individuals make up do limit imagination and the ability to assimilate intangibles? I can explain an idea so clearly to me anyone could understand yet a person who needs experience needs to tape record that idea would not have the data to deal with it. What if belief is this way as well, faith or trust for example? The great educational philosopher John Dewey addresses experience and the ability to build from experiences past and present in his writings quite often.

 

“John Dewey’s significance …. Lies in a number of areas. First, his belief that education must engage with and enlarge experience has continued to be a significant strand in informal education practice. Second, and linked to this, Dewey’s exploration of thinking and reflection.” The Encyclopedia of Informal Education

 

Enlarging experience is not all that easy. What if a person is limited to their experiences only? What if they cannot enlarge that realm and are stuck within the confines of a limited reality? I am getting deeper than normal but it revolves around my discussion with that student the other day. Hearing myself listening to the words and explanation I was trying to do and then hearing a response that was limited and in being limited by certain parameters also confining. This is a significant piece we as teachers need to consider. I will expound another time the morning is closing in on me and I still have my daily sojourn to Kroger to go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

An owl calling

Bird Droppings February 9, 2020

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 six years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon a little 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 severe learning disability in reading. Maybe all the news about deportations was on my mind.

 

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. So, 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 twenty 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. An article on banks in former 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. Then I am brought full circle to our current frenzy to build a wall. When will we look in the mirror? We are building a wall about us not anyone else. We are afraid of ourselves in this disposable world we live in.

 

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 had 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. How jobs for immigrants are provided for by the very people wanting a wall.

 

I wrote some of this a little over six 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

Hearing an owl

Bird Droppings February 7, 2020

Hearing an owl

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As I do so many mornings walking out into the darkness listening to the sounds of the night and or morning as today seemed to be. About a year ago I woke and looked out our eighth-floor window onto a lit-up bay. Boats and such each with a mast light or some such thing. I thought back to a day when I had awakened from a very vivid dream and gathered myself and let our husky out only to encounter two owls calling across the stillness and still chilled from the night. It was not raining although a front can be felt moving in unfortunately and the crickets and the tree frogs were silent from the chill. Perhaps the owls were on the hunt, my oldest son tells me often of being awakened by the owls hearing them at night out here in the country. I too hear them often but have never been awakened by them however this was my first experience hearing them so close as I went out.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

I had wanted to work in the garden a bit more this weekend but my leg still limits me in certain physical undertakings. So I will do some reading and writing for grad school I have put off. It always amazes people when I say some of my happiest times have been sitting on the mower going in circles thinking, imagining, pondering and assuredly content for that moment. Please dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

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

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

Bird Droppings February 6, 2020
Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

 

I was thinking about Boy Scouts and a recent memory from last year. It might have been the fact I had never pulled out my Eagle Scout card from 1967 in class before that got me thinking. While mired in controversy nationally in recent years the Boy Scouts of America have contributed greatly to our culture and country. However, in today’s hurried and rushed society it seems fewer children are involved in Scouting. By chance two kids in one block at school were both active in troops in the area and asked me if I had ever been and it was a chance to talk Boy Scouts and I carry my worn and tattered Eagle Scout card in my wallet from so many years ago. It seemed almost yesterday however that it took me back about thirteen years to preparing for my father’s funeral July 1, 2007. It was exactly seventy years ago that day the first National Boy Scout Jamboree started in Washington D.C. and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an official invitation to Boys Scouts’ nationwide. My dad was the Boy Scout of the year in New Jersey that particular year and of course going to the Jamboree. I had pulled out dad’s 1937 Jamboree neckerchief and his merit badge sash for my mother to put out at his service.

 

I have written so much on curriculum the past twelve years as I work on my doctorate in curriculum studies. William Pinar is a leader in the field and addresses curriculum from its root “curre” which he loosely translates as to run the course. I have written on curriculum several times that it is our life, piece by piece, much more than simply a track of lesson plans as so many teachers have been told. My grandfather was a steam train engineer in New Jersey and in one paper I even used the analogy of a train track for curriculum. We stop here and there visit a bit a move on to the next station. Curriculum is more it is life even more so when you add the daily experiences that build our ability to learn and retain. My father all through his life would borrow from Native American lore and mythology. We grew up listening to stories of the great chief Little Strong-arm and numerous other stories from his experiences and imagination. In my own search in life I too have been drawn to a culture and faith in life that permeates Native American thought, one of sacredness in all. Many years ago, a Sioux Holy Man had a vision which was recorded in the book by John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks.

 

“You have noticed that everything as a human does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk Oglala Sioux Holy Man 1863-1950

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

In my vision I saw millions of tiny intricate pieces falling into place. I could see the moments and seconds of my life as they fell into the vast image of the puzzle. I could not see what was forming only each tiny piece. As I thought this weekend of losing a friend or loved one and those pieces of our life’s puzzle coming out and going back on the table it hit me. I have beside me those pieces of my life to reflect on and recall. I look ahead watching and wondering what life has in store.

 

I have been sidetracked slightly thinking, wandering and pondering, while we say goodbye on one hand we embraced a hello to a new journey. Sitting here in the wee hours of a Monday it is amazing what thoughts a tattered Eagle Scout card will invoke. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What if all promises were all kept?

Bird Droppings February 5, 2020

What if all promises were all kept?

 

I begin each typical morning waking up, fixing breakfast for my wife and her lunch, talking with my son for a few minutes, fixing my own breakfast and eventually finding my way to my computer. A little later I take the dog out and then head to work along the way I try and catch a few sunrise pictures. Lately the clouds have hampered that endeavor although the sky was interesting yesterday morning along with an amazing rainbow. On my computer I try and settle in, answer emails, various postings and write a bit before getting into anything else. I am trying to finish up graduate school and writing and reading to complete my dissertation. I have a busy day ahead and am looking forward to hopefully warming temperatures perhaps not too much rain.

 

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

 

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

 

A great warrior and chief Crazy Horse died on the reservation because he was feared by the army but he never understood why the soldiers wanted the land that was sacred to the Sioux. He never understood the concept of that we wanted to possess it, to own it, and in that comes a driving force for us to win at all costs, Manifest destiny. Over the years I have been involved in many discussions about culture. Cultures vary and each is often about seeing the world differently. Several of my current reading efforts look at the world through feminist eyes and or those of Indigenous women’s eyes from around the world.

 

While I finished my graduate classroom studies nearly twelve years ago it feels like it was not that long ago we discussed these books and the culture of feminism. We discussed how we tend to look at others only in terms of our own beliefs and ideals. Bell Hooks in her writings discusses the appreciation of Paulo Friere and how he never wrote about feminism actually he addressed it but the title sort of went a different direction. A recent blog post on education addressed how could he Friere as a male truly write and or address feminism which is a valid response. Recently a former student of mine wrote about how can anyone who is not mentally ill, truly discuss mental illness. As I look at my direction today how can anyone who does not understand someone’s beliefs and culture even think they can relate.

 

“My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled!” Shinguaconse, Little Pine

 

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

 

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

 

As we go through life as friends, parents, teachers, and employers so often we take advantage of the inherent trust. We use it to gain from to go forward with our ideas and concepts. We use promises we know we will never keep to accomplish our goals. The ends justify the means is our motivation. Look at how we are discussing oil exploration and destroying wilderness. No one is going to use it why not destroy it. It has taken me three weeks to get a photo of a male and female duck on a lake nearby so that we could identify them. By chance a large group was near the bridge Saturday and I got a photo as they all took off. In one frame of several images I shot a male and female together and ring-necked ducks were identified. This duck is a Canadian winter transplant to Georgia. But what if greed supersedes and we destroy all the rainforest and wilderness and kill all the whales. My great grandchildren will never know what waking to the sound of a red-tailed hawk calling or mourning dove sounds like. I am sorry but to me that is worth not drilling or fracking and looking at other rationale to the twisted world of oil and gas profiteering.

 

I got a bit off on an issue that is bothersome to many but we currently are selling gas in surplus overseas and certain politicians still cry drill, drill, and drill. Public opinion says if we open up more drilling in North America our gas prices will go down. Does not work that way oil prices are fixed internationally and it is a supply and demand. Right now China and Mexico are buying all the gas and oil refined they can get from us. So pricing is based on capitalism not regulation. Interesting fact we sell quite a bit to China who is supposed to be a competitor for our gas and oil. As we do have a free market American oil companies are in business for profit and selling gas and oil where ever the best price is. Currently US consumption is down and many countries are rising and willing to pay more than we are. So, we are victim to our own free market capitalism. So sad we never look at both sides of any issue and only listen to what we want. In the current state gas companies are under pressure from low gas prices forced by no cuts in production.

Parents use the promises of a toy or treat with small children and the child quiets down later the parent forgets or maybe never intended on supplying the prize. The child at first is confused but soon as it happens again and again becomes jaded calloused and resentful. In school so often, children with learning problems get passed along and soon distrust, resentful, jaded and calloused they are behavior problems or quit. Employers use similar ideas and goals to accomplish the task at hand getting the job out and soon employees are too calloused and unionized. Although now in Georgia we are in effect passing a law that is in direct conflict with the constitution in the freedom to protest against tyranny. A state legislator in Georgia is trying to get a law passed that union organizing is a felony. We are being warned as teachers not to use our “teacher email” for politics.

 

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

 

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

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Life is a puzzle falling into place and interconnectivity of all

Bird Droppings February 4, 2020
Life is a puzzle falling into place and interconnectivity of all

 

It was a Monday a few years back when my co-teaching partner shared a card with me from one of our students. On the first day of the semester we handed out a card and the kids fill in information about themselves. This student’s card was detailed to say the least. Across the top several small figures representing issues the student has. She is almost blind in one eye from an injury in childhood. She has a brain tumor. My teacher friend and co-worker said but what is this? I knew immediately it was a puzzle piece and beside it was the word autistic. I was entranced since I have a back ground in autism and even more so with the number 139 circled in bold. A statement was next to it. “IQ is one point higher than Albert Einstein’s”. Wow it was about to be a great semester.

 

I got up late as I tend to do on weekends. I decided to try a zero weight watchers point’s omelet of veggies and two eggs then cheated and made cheese grits as well. So, I used some real grits butter and cheddar cheese and my roasted garlic herb mix, and scrambled a couple eggs with more garlic. After breakfast I ran up to the corner store for a couple of water bottles and as always, a conversation. As I stepped to counter a fellow next to me called my name and was a kid who worked for me thirty years plus ago. We sat and talked caught up in the brief moments of a hasty morning stop, synchronicity.

 

Thinking back to that day and note from an autistic student as I walked past our house yesterday and looked over the field behind us, a large red-tailed hawk swooped to a tree directly in front of me. We shared a few minutes before I headed in my movement sent him to relocate. A morning of coincidence perhaps but uplifting none the less. I am always amused at though often memories slide by as we get older some stick with such fortitude.

 

“Every footstep is the journey. Every sight, every sound, every touch and taste and smell with which we are blessed is the journey. All of the colors before us are the journey, and we are the journey. May we always keep our feet on Mother Earth, our eyes and minds above the treetops, our spirit with the Greater Universal Spirit? And may we always walk the path of Good Medicine in harmony and balance, with a sense of humility, kindness, wonder, and respect for all living things as we follow the sacred trail of those who have come before us and those yet to come.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

It has been nearly fifteen years since I last heard Dr. James Sutton speak. When I drove to Macon Georgia to hear him that last time, as I always do I pick up on as many details as I can driving down the back roads that I travel. I never know what pieces may fall into place for me at a later date or as it might be happening right that moment. I was going to listen to Dr. James Sutton, a psychologist from Texas who lectures around the country on Conduct Disorders and Oppositional Defiant Disorder which is quite a mouth full. I had been to several previously of his seminars and always came away renewed. I needed a recharge and some energizing as I drove. Occasionally we all need a break from the mundane even though so often I find vast amounts of material in the simple ordinary things of life. As I filled in my evaluation form as I left back eight years ago the question stated; what did I gain from this course and I responded energy and revitalizing.

 

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

When I walked in the room Dr. Sutton who I met several times over the years previously in similar seminars and who has been on my Bird Droppings list since that time announced as I came in the room, “Let me introduce the premiere educational philosopher Frank Bird.” I think my hat size went up three notches. As we went into the day pieces fell in place with ideas and thoughts jotted down on bits of paper and class notes. Several illustrations used were referring to puzzle pieces which fit right into my thinking. I have had an affinity for the concept of life being a puzzle for some time and the comments lent well to that thinking. A friend from my school had attended the course with her husband and coincidentally another friend from many years ago was in attendance now a teacher in a nearby county. As I thought of why each person was there was it advertising sent out by the sponsoring group, for me it was an email from Dr. Sutton and then others through word of mouth?

 

“The journey is not ‘somewhere over there’ or ‘some other time.’ It is with us right here and right now. It is a part of us in everything that we do and everything that we are. What we perceive as our “pot of gold” may in fact be something very different when and if we find the end of the rainbow. What if the rainbow has no end? What if it is a circle that wraps itself gently around Earth in a continuous cycle of energy?” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

Over the years reading various books by Michael Garrett and his father J. T. Garrett the concept of interconnectivity, which is such a big word flows through their writing as it does in most Native American philosophy. As I went to lunch nearly six years ago we discussed children federal guidelines and spirituality. The discussion wandering about between parents seeking help and my own listening and observing it seemed I was gathering far more than I was sending out. I was given a slip of paper with a similar story to one I used recently about a family pet being put to sleep. Sitting back in the class listening to other teachers and their views gave me ideas on how to deal with and not deal with students I see each day. A little trick from that day that turns out to have a several thousand-year-old proverb attached to it, when trying to get a child who is defiant to do something offer options. You want three things done offer five. You only get three out five but you only wanted three. Offer ten and the child responds even better amazing thinking that they got one over they only answered three of ten. As I sat down this morning I found this thought.

 

“If one has to jump a stream and knows how wide it is, he will not jump. If he does not know how wide it is, he will jump, and six times out of ten he will make it.” Persian Proverb

 

So often in education especially in today’s test-driven society students are failing because that score is out there. The teachers and students strive for that score. As I drove to Macon so many years ago I was thinking about all the, what ifs. What if we tested students coming into school and placed that number on the table as point A and then test at the end of ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades all points on the graph do we now have a true picture of learning with this child not an arbitrary SCORE stuck out in no-where land. What if we evaluated the growth of information rather than what information is available at the end of the journey? I would really rather know what a student learned along the way than what they knew at the end. That would give me a far better idea of what was really learned but this is only me.

 

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

 

I find it funny as I think back to the day I first saw this quote of all the interconnections, those pieces that seemingly are meaningless at one point in life find significance and meaning when all the pieces slowly fall into place. So often it is difficult to see what is forming in a jig saw puzzle when you only have the corner pieces or a few side pieces set in place. The true image does not come into view till more is in place. But each piece while on its own is really just a piece of a puzzle is needed to complete the whole.

 

“As we walk, all of our ancestors walk with us. As we dance, all of our ancestors dance the Sacred Dance. Each step that we place is an important one. All of our relatives are walking with us, speaking through us like the many colors of the rainbow. Listen and you will hear their steps, their voices, their colors. Listen, and you will hear your spirit calling upon all our relations, and you will feel their energy. Our spirit is an extension of them and they are an extension of us. Our spirit connects us with the memories of all that has gone before us, all that is, and all that will be. Our spirit connects us with all of our relations in the Circle of Life. Listen, and you will hear Water speaking, Wind dancing, Sun smiling, the heartbeat of Mother Earth pulsing beneath our feet.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

The interconnectivity of life as I was thinking back to that drive to Macon and a conference and to when I had been sitting at lunch discussing a trip to Stillwater Oklahoma which I would never have made had I not been in the sheep business. But the point I recall and borrow on is a side trip to Fort Sill and Geronimo’s grave site not the fact I was in Lawton Oklahoma looking for show lambs for 4H projects. It is the pieces of that journey that are significant not the destination. I am sure as I glean through my thoughts today and tomorrow other bits and pieces will come up. I walked out this morning and felt I needed to share that moment and typed a hasty status update in Facebook.

 

“I walked out into the chill of the morning. I was standing still and to the east a smiling moon and tree frogs chirping. To the south a coyote was calling. North of my quiet spot an owl seemed to be irritating a rooster to the west. It is a good day. Peace be with you all.” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.

 

So, sitting in my writing nook finalizing a few words for the morning there are pieces that I may not even be aware of as of yet some I simply need to recall and connect with others waiting to happen. In closing today as I have for over a decade now 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

 

To create writing, for some seems so difficult in a digital world.

Bird Droppings February 3, 2020
To create writing, for some seems so difficult in a digital world.

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley

 

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book was Brave New World, written in 1932 and you would think that a book thirty years old at that time would not have been that controversial. However, for our class and the reading list we had, an English teacher was let go. What amuses me is how these books we read in 1965 did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed. This is what education and learning should be about. Challenging students to look further than that day’s lesson.

 

Today on another hallway in our school Literature teachers use the books my tenth-grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list as do many high schools across the country. Such books as 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time fifty to seventy years ago, still today can inspire students and adults to think and ponder beyond the moment.

 

“To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking — and since it cannot, in order to become its echo, I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.” Maurice Blanchot

 

In a crazy writing world of words and I include music lyrics, interpretation becomes a part of the art as well. The response from the person receiving the words or lyrics is an essential piece of the reality of the work. I seldom in my own writing throughout symbolism and or metaphor. I tend to rely on others to provide through various quotes and feedback differing opinions and realities. My oldest son and my wife have Sirrus XM radio and both by chance are listening to Tom Petty radio currently. For forty years Tom Petty blessed us with words and lyrics. In all of that time until just recently even though of my top twenty all time rock songs Petty was there I did not consider him for my play list until recently.  I watched a documentary on his life put out in 2007. Tom was the narrator throughout the film clips. As I watched I realized how amazing this song writer was. Great musicians and song writers sought him out as a peer. Hence the group, The Traveling Wilburys. A compilation of some of rocks greatest song writers. So as the day unfolded a I Look back on a few moon images of a waning moon before my camera started acting up. I took a quick drive to corner store and a song flew by and words that caught my attention at 4:45 AM this morning.

 

“Well I started out down a dirty road. Started out all alone and the sun went down as I crossed the hill and the town lit up, the world stood still. Well, the good ol’ days may not return and the rocks might melt and the sea may burn. Well, some say life will beat you down break your heart, steal your crown. So, I’ve started out for God-knows-where I guess I’ll know when I get there. I’m learning to fly, I ain’t got wings coming down is the hardest thing.” Second chorus: “I’m learning to fly, around the clouds but what goes up must come down” Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty

 

I got home and asked my son and wife as to how they took the song. Several differing views and I found as I searched others too differed in their interpretation of the song. I went to Tom’s own words for how he described the song.

 

“I think i was coming to grips with the view that you can be optimistic, hopeful and as good a person as you want to be, but it’s not going to make life simple for you. Nothing will. You can have all the success you want and it’s not going to make your life-really your personal life-much easier than anyone else’s. The song was also influenced by the Gulf War. It was written during the time the war was breaking out, everything was very grey, and there were burning oceans and oil fires. I was disappointed by the war and the attitude of the American people. I certainly didn’t blame the soldiers for going there, but I felt that few people wanted to challenge the Bush administration on its lies. It was a bad time and I really think it influenced the tone of the album (Into the Great Wide Open).” As per Tom Petty

 

Words on paper seemingly simple language and yet such differing ideas. Drugs was a leading rationale for many. But Petty was writing about life and politics of the time. Petty was a fan of Bob Dylan and I think back to a great Dylan tune and words. “The times they are a changing”. I seriously wish I had paid more attention to Tom Petty while he was around. A great writer he will be missed.

 

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Sir Winston Churchill

 

Each morning as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow. I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. Sort of my kick start of the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit, coming back to a note the other day and actually I used yesterday talking with future teachers, the idea of a container as per students. That was until I read this line from Huxley and heard a tune from Tom Petty.

 

Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly forty five years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

 

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton

 

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” William Faulkner

 

Each day I walk outside and look at the sky. On an almost clear morning much today with no clouds to be found as the front passed through earlier I can see stars spreading through the sky. Constellations, for some they are beacons of direction and purpose. If it is clear tomorrow I may be following the waning moon for a bit in the morning when I get up and check on the sun rise. As the seasons pass the constellations change as to time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home as I have for a few years now I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.

 

As I read the Faulkner note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece a week or months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at that time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper some time ago and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to be read.

 

“You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second time; and don’t labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers.” Horace

 

I find in working on my dissertation and reviewing previous thoughts from even seven years ago my interpretations of others writing is differing. What is art for example? I start each day reading and then more reading.

 

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is true as I write each morning glancing through previous writings and reviewing articles and emails and any books handy at that moment looking for and pondering where and how I will direct my thoughts. Often my morning consists more of reading than actually putting words to paper or computer screen. It is so many times a search for an idea a thought that has eluded me.

 

“If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn’t need to have the rest of the universities attached.” Judith Martin

 

“Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors — somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating — none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.” James A. Michener

 

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then as a teacher go into a class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.

I have found both in the past and currently it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative.

 

I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too especially in education. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Perhaps it is the teacher content with only a bachelor’s degree or basic certification and insists they know all. Perhaps it is the teacher who stops reading and insists they do not have time or interest. Today I am searching reading wondering and still trying to teach as I go. Let’s all set an example today and 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)

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