Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

Bird Droppings December 11, 2022

Who would have thought of a buffalo snort in the dark?

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

In all of my years of searching, pondering, and wandering about, the pathway always continues ahead of me. I often step from one stone to another to get across the stream, placing one foot ahead of the next, trying to stay out of the water. I have always tried to leave that stone in life, as I wander a little better than when I got there. It does not always work out, but I do believe I try. When walking down the aisle at Kroger, I try to smile, joke with others, hopefully, get others smiling and joking, and enjoy that precise moment of life. We equate time in seconds, which is only the blink of an eye and so easy to miss.

“None of us is promised tomorrow. Today in all its beauty and sadness and complexity, is all we have. This light we see may be the last such day we have on this earth. There is no certainty, beyond the fact that one day we will have no tomorrow and that it is not ours to know when that day will be.” Kent Nerburn, Small Graces

Just before school was out last spring, I had to report an incident told to me by a student. It is difficult to when spoken in confidence, yet the situation was severe enough to warrant reporting. In my conversation with this student, I was asked if my children ever got in trouble, and I said no, tongue in cheek. The student responded, “They have never run away or sneaked out or….” I again said no. Immediately I asked instinctively if both parents lived at home. The hesitant response came, “no, I live with my mom,” “but I don’t misbehave for my dad,” and so forth. It comes to be the incident was not a one-time deal; it is a regular occurrence, and as I talk with parents and students, I find my life is not “NORMAL.” It seems normal is having kids who are in trouble, causing problems yelling at their parents, etc. It seems parents are hitting their kids, drinking with and such that society seems to deem normal. Philosopher Michael Foucault would use the idea of looking at the abnormal first to determine the normal.

“On life’s journey, faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day, and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.” Buddha

I woke up from a vivid dream while getting my hair cut a few days back, and I never fell asleep while getting my hair cut. Just as the hair was brushed away from my neck, I looked up at a clock on the wall; it was 2:30, and I had to get going. But as I think back to my dream, my dreams are generally simple ones with complexities woven throughout as I thought back nearly twenty years of my starting to graduate school. In preparing for my final presentation in my master’s program, my advisor continually used the word “weave.” Our project was about weaving all the pieces together. At one point in my thinking, I would produce two covers and weave them together in a symbolic gesture indicative of my professor’s thought. Life is weaving in reality as I look at each aspect intertwined with the next. It could be that child growing up in the context of arguing and issues at home finds that is normal and yet asks what it would be like to live in my family where that doesn’t exist. I smile and joke and offer solace for the moment I have with that student, not to change the weaving pattern but to offer stronger thread or a tighter warp to the pattern. I think of my grandkids as they each are traveling in life. How do they see events unfolding and changing around them?

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, 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

Nearly twenty years back, I first wrote about the Sixteen Hour Syndrome and how, as a teacher, I had eight hours to undo the sixteen hours parents and family have to deal with a child. Mathematically it doesn’t work, and logically it doesn’t work, and some parents do not want it to work; they have chosen the direction for their children, and that is that.  It often seems futile for a teacher to even try to make a difference knowing what some children go home to. Jokingly two boys sitting in a physics class said they were waiting for antique farm equipment to move so they could do the lab. I was taken back a minute and said, what? They looked over at the lab counter, and six black kids were working there. I responded as I often do sarcastically; first, it bothers me that you both have that kind of attitude but since I know the grades of all six and yours using that as an excuse only proves how ignorant you are. Neither responded, and they know where I stand on the subject.

“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

Most recently, I had a former student ask me about absolute truths. I responded and had a response from a dear friend, and so forth dialogue, and the context was positive as we shared ideas and thoughts. Again just a few days before that, I reported an incident that had happened to a student and was told that it was ok; it was discussed. Sadly, that child went home thinking this is how life is. It simply is ok. Normal parents and kids yell at each other, hit, and throw things at each other; it is ok.

“We dribble away our life, little by little, in small packages — we don’t throw it away all at once.” Robert A. Cook

“Life is a succession of lessons enforced by immediate reward, or, oftener, by immediate chastisement.” Ernest Dimnet

B.F. Skinner, the man behind the concept of behavior modification, once said he could change anything and anyone through behavior modification. Who knows, maybe he is right; perhaps if we continue picking away, smiling, joking, and living life as un-normal as it may be, some others will catch on. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, when tomorrow comes, that child asking whether my children ever run away will be asking how much they study each night instead, what books they have read, or what college they are going to.

“Every morning, I wake up saying, I’m still alive, a miracle. And so, I keep on pushing.” Jacques Cousteau

I have a teacher friend, a breast cancer survivor, who said something similar to me. For her, “each day is a blessing to make the most of.” How profound and almost understated it is; amazingly, her students love her. She honestly cares about them, and they know it. A simple attitude goes very far when wielded in honesty and good faith.

“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

Many years ago, I raised buffalo, and as I would walk out each morning into the dark, I would hear an occasional snort and blow of air from our bull as he checked the cows and calves walking about in the morning haze. I knew life then and even today as I walk out and greet the morning through different sounds living in a subdivision, but still, I can hear, if I listen hard, that faint echo of a buffalo snorting in the fog as it drifts in. Life is what we choose to make, and how we weave or step into the day is our choice. In teaching, I emphasize setting an example, and I have hanging on one of the walls in my room at school a poster from my hippie days, 1971 or so. Of course, it is a blacklight poster. The poster’s title is “Children learn, what they Live,” and it continues. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart and set the example in your own life for others to see and follow 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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