About birddroppings

I am a College professor and retired Special Education high school teacher in Georgia. I have been teaching most recently for fifteen years. I have an extensive graphic arts background and industrial management training experience. My education includes undergraduate work in psychology, graduate degrees in behavior disorders, curriculum, education and theology.

Getting over the speed bumps

Bird Droppings February 17, 2019
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.

Bird Droppings February 16, 2019
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 students 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 a 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 Grantin that best describes what I am saying. Dr. Grantin 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 Grantin 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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Bird Droppings February 14, 2019
Life, a journey only made difficult if there is no learning involved

 

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

 

I was visiting with my mother yesterday and I walked by my fathers and brothers grave site or I should say stood by them. I was recalling the day I was called from work over twenty years ago, my brother had passed away during the night. I looked about the hillside where he was buried and now my father is buried there as well. The farm had been home to many families over the years. Most recently a family of share croppers who for nearly sixty years tilled the land planting cotton and also running a dairy farm for a local land baron and financier. He too has passed away and left his name on a local church gym and road signs around the county.

As I looked out at now soccer fields and houses where not too many years ago boll weevils were poisoned with arsenic and mules driven along furrows plowing terraces in an effort to keep what remaining top soil was there in place. I saw a crow land in an old cedar tree. I walked over and watched the crow for a few minutes and recalled that when you see cedar trees six or so in a row; traditionally in Georgia there was once an old fence line. This particular row I knew well for I had taken done the old rusty barbed wire myself many years ago that ran along through them.

I wanted to sit a moment at my brother’s grave site as I thought back several years to a similar time when I was waiting for my father to come home from the hospital sitting in this exact spot. I was sitting and I was wondering at all that had happened in the nineteen years since. What journeys had I been on? As I thought I glanced over at several burial markers from before the civil war from a family that had lived on this land so many years ago. Little granite houses literally fashioned from slabs of rock into body sized houses. There are four that can still be seen through the thicket of old honey suckle vines and sumac stalks.

I was thinking back to days when my children, nieces and nephews made the mosaics tiles to lay on my brother’s grave. There is one for each of my mother’s grandchildren. Each is a piece fashioning their ideas in to a mosaic of individual tiles and pieces of glass. There were several music notes on one, an ibis on another, flowers on several, an art design with a heart and arrows coming from it on another. I thought it would be great to have a guide book explaining each piece each color and tile to know why and where and who placed each one.

On a different thought I received an email from a dear friend in Pennsylvania many days back responding to a dropping from a few days or so ago. She added a thought, “The past cannot be changed but the future is whatever you want it to be”. She was not sure where it came from I did a search this morning and came up with, unknown author. But as I looked and wondered about our own mosaics in life my own in particular, what road was I on where was I going. Would one day I look back and see the tiles in place in my own life and try and recall why and where and how a most difficult journey it has been.
I recall days I would have wished on no one and am sorry I myself lived but I wonder. I went out earlier and watched the moon faint behind a bank of clouds slowly moving across the morning darkness. It was so quiet nearly silent as I walked around this morning with only a car in the distance to mark civilizations intrusion on my peace.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Through my life I have made choices in despair many times rather than from exhilaration and on many occasions made mistakes. As I sat thinking wondering reading Twain’s words it caught me so often complacency ties us in, cast off the bowlines, and explore, dream, and discover as Twain so eloquently stated. I have always been a searcher traveling through this life exploring the myriads of trails and pathways. I am always looking, always exploring, wondering, talking, asking questions, and seeking answers to questions without any answers, wearing out shoes as I travel. Many are the times I would walk bare foot rather than stop.

I recall a brief journey where literally I had to take off my shoes and in doing so learned several lessons. Number one you cannot break in new boots on a weeklong hike. Number two is that mole skin is a wonderful invention and third it will protect your feet. Your feet can be the difference between another journey and sitting down waiting. I have wandered today trying to resolve for myself issues that may never be resolved ideas that will perpetuate my soul for some time I have yet it is as Mark Twain stated, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do”. So everyone as you go take another step, search down another pathway, find a new trail in life, but just do not try and break in new boots as you go. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Wandering about while I am waiting

Bird Droppings February 13, 2019
Wandering about while I am waiting

 

Sitting listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Young album Four Way Street from live recording of their tour in 1970. I have been saving my pennies to get a new camera body to be ready for spring. There are so many possibilities with various flowers blooming all about and baby ducks and geese soon at local lakes and ponds. I have been making do with my old camera with off and on focusing issues for about a year now and actually do get some good shots now and again.

 

Back to my writing I recall a paper I had been working on that frustrated me and yet was very interesting; how did the de-nominalization in the antebellum period in the history of the United States effect higher education? After writing about faith and religion a few weeks back this thought came back to me. I had been pouring through books for nearly a week and knew what I wanted to say but it was a research paper and I had to site sources and use others views not my own. With the new cabinet members pushing religion and a new word, deconstruction being s thrown out about in terms of our national education department Jefferson’s quote might fit.

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” First amendment to the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson

 

It has been some time since a student was using this amendment to justify outlawing mandatory school lead prayer in public school. As is for me a violation, as are so many of the efforts to teach Christianity or any religion in public school. I read this morning in the state of Mississippi Richard Dawkins teachings are banned to be taught to minors. Last week in a blog the discussion was various views on afterlife and or no afterlife which of course went in numerous directions and even a challenge as to George Washington’s faith that I had mentioned in a previous writing. As I read and thought back in the day actually the first six presidents were college graduates then a trend towards doers and not education starting with Andrew Jackson. As higher education progressed in the United States there was a period just prior to the Civil war where churches were splitting and forming new denominations literally daily and in doing so to justify existence formed colleges for educating their clergy and members.

This is not a history lesson but as I read and looked through the “hell” blog it really became apparent how many different believers and in how many different things they believe. All going back to our First amendment we can believe what we want. What is so interesting is when belief is based on traditions and innuendos and less on fact there is an effort to not to push science versus faith. Not that long ago people were burned at the stake for saying the world is round and not flat as advocated by the church. I wonder sometimes and well it has been said that ignorance is bliss and maybe that is why people are so gosh darn happy. A very scary thought in the news a few months back. A powerful political figure stepped down for possible improprieties and is publicly saying he will be more powerful out of the White House than in that is a scary thought in other words he will be doing what he is being punished for. Lobbying votes for various entities. Interesting one of his friends has just been found guilty of various illegal issues dealing with lobbying and we still elect and or support the people who put these guys in power.

It is so amazing how we do find these people electable. It started back in 1820’s or so when intelligent people were not as important as what you could do for me became the trend. A major effort of Andrew Jackson was displacing eastern Native Americans to Oklahoma and giving their lands to his friends. Isn’t it wonderful how this system works? But quickly back to faith and belief, it should be a personal thing something in your heart and soul if you consider soul an entity. Ask the Cherokee, Creek and other Eastern tribes about the Trail of Tears. That is not a political joke or meme but a reality with many Americans still today.

 

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance and none can say why some fields will blossom while others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices no more easily made. And give, give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than for how it is shared and your life will have meaning and your heart will have peace.” Kent Nerburn

 

I highly recommend going to Kent Nerburn’s blog and reading his thoughts on recent events. I have been under the influence of medication having surgery recently and avoided being too political, my wife warned me. But the past weekend and reading and watching has concerned me deeply. I came back to teaching on September 11, 2001. My job was primarily working with Emotionally Disturbed, EBD, students. I had a group of twenty eight students that first year not all were EBD. The majority however were. In my group twenty six had been arrested, were either on or had been on probation for many differing crimes. The only two who had not actually lived with biological parents. The other students all had multiple family relationships, step fathers, mothers, boyfriends, and girlfriends etc. as guardians. One kid lived with his dad’s third wife.

 

I enjoyed that year and actually that was not my worst group of kids. In 1974 for six months I worked in a unit at Central State Hospital before it closed. I was counseling on a unit of adolescent psychotic females. Two of the girls had killed one had killed two people. I will never forget coming in and one of the girls in my counseling group was in solitary confinement in a strait jacket. I asked about incident and was told she had an episode and it took six orderlies and ten cc’s of thorazine, a maximum adult dose to get the straight jacket on. The jacket would stay on till she would start talking to doctor. I learned about crazy first hand. I finished undergraduate at Mercer with a degree in psychology, followed up with a masters in Emotional Behavior Disorders and continued my graduate work in curriculum.

 

So I have worked with some crazy kids. I have had kids removed in restraints from my class room. I have said to myself this kid or that is on my list for trouble in the future. I have been fortunate to say few have gone bad and most are now great parents. One sticks out a kid I had in 1976. He is currently serving three life sentences for murder and attempted murder. I suggested psychological counseling for two years while I taught him. He worked for me the summer I moved to Walton County on the family farm. However similar to recent events his mother died. He went off the deep end his father  put him out, and his sister tried her best even though she herself had a serious issue happen around this same time with a boyfriend who killed her baby.

 

My former student finally got help at Central State, being institutionalized for six months. He begged and his sister begged for him to stay and even in late 1970’s mental health was money oriented. He was transferred to a half-way house. After a few weeks he had befriended a young mother with two kids nearby. One day he killed the mother and almost killed the two kids. The police followed the blood trail to his room where the knife was sitting in the sink and he raised his hands for cuffs. Sadly it took destroying three lives for the state to lock him up. So easy to rationalize mental health and solutions.

 

“I still don’t understand why I am expected to teach my children how to survive in a violent world, but my country isn’t expected to make the world less violent.“ Teacher in Florida

 

I tried to avoid discussions of weapons, guns, ammo and such all weekend. But one caught my attention dealing with taking away our liberties and protecting our security. I checked a few definitions quickly on my phone.

 

“Liberty – the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

Security – the quality or state of being: such protecting our security, freedom from danger, freedom from fear or anxiety” (Webster’s online dictionary)

 

So does being secure supersede a liberty or does liberty supersede security? My next few thoughts I dictated on my phone as I was driving Saturday. “I’m not looking to keep anybody from having freedom’s reduced but what I’m trying to say is that instead of trying to curb violence in our country we are actually trying to support violence. We’re looking at doing things like adding guns to schools, be at through teachers armed, more resource officers and metal detectors. We are assuming there’s going to be more violence. Why are we not trying to curb violence that’s the part I don’t understand? So many posts are in support of more violence. Get your child a Kevlar backpack, clear backpack, of course metal detectors, and boost security systems and whatever. It is kids who just went through this horrible event in Florida who are offering thoughts and of course ridiculed for them. We should be trying to curb violence not increase violence.

 

I think back sadly five years ago I was sitting at a three year olds birthday party in rural Georgia. The conversation was around me and I listened to three young men, all fathers, all in early to mid-20s discussing the priority at hand. There was a big sale at a local gun store on AR-15’s and or similar knock offs. What was so funny about the conversation was that all three of these guys were hourly employees at a factory nearby making about $10 an hour and yet they were willing to go out and spend their savings and buy 3-5 AR15‘s because the price was so good. For them it was an investment. For me just sitting here as a parent and a grandparent it was absurd that anyone in this country needs 3, 4, and or 5 AR15’s.

 

Years ago I had a .223 back in my sheep and cattle days. I kept the rifle locked in my barn office.  Several blogs and Facebook posts have mentioned that’s the same thing as an AR15 and yes in many ways it was. I had a banana clip 30 shot and it had a scope and was extremely accurate. We used it for feral dogs and coyotes that were killing lambs and calves. Nowadays it would be more coyotes. When I left farming I got rid of my rifle I no longer had a use for it. Even the bible states there’s a time and a place for everything but like I said there’s no reason, no reason on god’s green earth that anyone needs to have multiple assault type weapons.

 

I know you can say they are the same weapon AR15 and .223 to a point. However there are features about the AR15 that in talking with some military people make it a big difference.

 

One of the big differences in there’s very little recoil and you can fire and you can fire the AR15 faster than you can fire a .223. That is a significant factor in why they are dangerous. The same gentleman that was discussing the .223 versus the AR15 also pointed out that after his eight years in the military he shot a M-4 the military AR15. He pointed out his targets were always human targets never circles. One of the things he commented on was he went for not just kill shots he went for the shot that would do the most collateral damage in other words gut shots that would take wounded to the hospital that would require people to take care of them. This would require more time from other people rather than simply kill the person out right. There are many aftermarket features available for the AR15 that are not available for the .223. Folding stocks, additional sites, even the bump stock used in Las Vegas shootings. By no means am I against the second amendment and ownership of guns. BUT and that is a big but. Even in home defense the weapon you choose was bought to kill another human.

 

As I close I thought of something this morning reading a note from a single mother. Children who are from broken homes, we always tend to think divorce equals a broken home but in reality a broken home is one “needin fixin” that could be many reasons other than divorce and can often be kids with both parents. Sometimes I wish Elmer’s glue made an adhesive for broken homes a simple fix for a complex problem so as always 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 12, 2019

An owl calling

 

Last night I woke for a few minutes as it turns out I forgot to turn on the ceiling fan. While up I stuck my nose out the door perhaps intuition who knows when wandering about the house half asleep. Deep in the pines an owl called and of all memories to unlock an instance three years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon a little over ten years ago I was made aware of a situation that at first caught me by surprise. A former student from years gone by had been arrested in another county and was being held for immigration to be deported. She had been in the US since she was three years old and was raising her three kids here. As it turns out she had never received a green card and her boyfriend of seven years as well was illegal. Both had worked and she had graduated from high school where I knew her as a student. I was asked to go see her as along with all of this she has a 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 ten 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 crisis’s 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 ten 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 tribes 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 9, 2019

Hearing an owl

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As I do so many mornings walking out into the darkness listening to the sounds of the night and or morning as today seemed to be. Today 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 week but between cleaning up in side and reading and writing for grad school I have put it off. It always amazes people when I say some of my happiest times have been sitting on the mower going in circles thinking, imagining, pondering and assuredly content for that moment. Please dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

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

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

Bird Droppings February 8, 2019
Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird