What is it we see looking into a child’s eyes?

Bird Droppings March 30, 2020

What is it we see looking into a child’s eyes?

I woke up at my normal time from a dream thinking I was back twenty or so years getting up and getting the kids all sent off to school and it was pretty quiet around the house. After walking to the kitchen, it hit me it was now. I talked to only my oldest son yesterday at the house since I forgot my cellphone. Usually I will talk to all my sons at least a couple times a week on their cell-phones and it seems they always check in even while away on business or at school. Again, I got thinking back many years ago to another morning much like many others that have passed by. I was sitting and thinking about what is wandering by as I write, people, places, and things.

 

It was on that morning a friend’s daughter passed away after a battle with cancer. I had read various emails and such about where to send flowers and notes. I had been going all day from 3:00 AM till nearly 10:00 that night and really was exhausted. I lay down and was nearly asleep when my wife called upstairs and said my youngest son wanted to talk to me. I fell asleep. Sitting here this morning in the quiet and dark of early day I am sorry I didn’t take that moment to listen to my son, it may have been important, it was a homework assignment he needed help with but could have been a more serious issue in his life. Our moments with our children and grandchildren are far too few and much too precious to waste, to let pass by or slip away.

 

“The joys of parents are secret, and so are their grieves and fears.” Frances Bacon

 

“Is the parent better than the child into whom he has cast his ripened being? Whence, then, this worship of the past?” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Perhaps it is only a passing thought yet it is as heavy as I am thinking of where, when and why each event has transpired in our lives and with our children. Is it dropping off at school for that first day in kindergarten or graduating from high school and dropping off at college the first day as a dear friend recently went through? It could be receiving an email from college that they are bored and an attachment of a Georgia Tech mascot drawn in Power Point.

 

“How many hopes and fears, how many ardent wishes and anxious apprehensions are twisted together in the threads that connect the parent with the child!” Samuel G. Goodrich

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” C. Everett Koop

 

In 1984 or so I was at the Georgia State Lamb show and taking photos of children showing their lambs. An angry mother stopped me as I about to take a picture of a little tiny girl showing a lamb nearly twice her size. I did eventually get the picture and several months later gave a copy to the mother, we have been good friends ever since and that picture is still hanging in her office. That tiny little girl is now teaching in South Georgia.

 

“Parents are often so busy with the physical rearing of children that they miss the glory of parenthood, just as the grandeur of the trees is lost when raking leaves.” Marcelene Cox

 

“Don’t throw away your friendship with your teenager over behavior that has no great moral significance. There will be plenty of real issues that require you to stand like a rock. Save your big guns for those crucial confrontations.” Dr. James C. Dobson

 

I can remember my wife and I sitting by the phone waiting to hear a word from our youngest son away at college for a whole two days. More than likely we would end up calling him and checking in. Keeping touch knowing their children are safe this is what parents are for.

 

“Your children will see what you’re all about by what you live rather than what you say.” Wayne Dyer

 

“We must teach our children to dream with their eyes open.” Harry Edwards

 

When I walk into class each day I think about the moments I get to spend with this group of kids and try not to waste it. I try to open eyes and hearts to what is around them and to each other. Some days are great and eyes open and surprise me and others it is like hitting your head against a brick wall.

 

“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk

 

“Each child is an adventure into a better life –an opportunity to change the old pattern and make it new.” Hubert H. Humphrey

 

“The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mother and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

 

We need to take that moment and sit and listen it will never come again in exactly the same way with the same feeling and events to drive it. Not too long ago I was asked why you are taking so many pictures. I responded if I didn’t take that particular picture I wonder who would and that moment, a special moment would be lost. My dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and all who have suffered loss may they be filled and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

 

An eclectic morning

Bird Droppings March 29, 2020
An eclectic morning

 

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

It has been quite a few years since I watched an episode of Star Trek actually it may have been one of the movies where Spock has interfered with Star Fleet’s objectives in the relationship to a small group of colonists on an obscure planet. It seems they live forever or at least aging is so minute that lifetimes are measured in tens of thousands of years. What was interesting is that they by choice became nearly primitive living off the land and pursuing wisdom, reading, writing, and all forms of artwork. They spent time simply improving since time was not a factor in their endeavor of life. As I read this quote from Gandhi earlier this morning that particular movie popped in my mind as learning becomes literally eternal.

 

“The world is apprehended by way of the mind, the world is acted upon by way of the mind and all good things and bad exist in the world by way of the mind.” Samyutta Nikaya

 

As I thought further about Star Trek and this group of people living on a planet where radiation from their sun seemed to be the key to longevity I was reflecting back on several incidents at school only a few months back. My assistant Principal came in with thirty minutes left in the day before a holiday to do observation or so was said sticking their head in the door. On that day I had two extra students who have been placed with me since they are not functioning in regular classes, sort of a holding pattern for a day or two. I was also in the middle of trying to alleviate a yearbook emergency by rewiring a CD burner and trying to print out a picture for a teacher who wanted their daughter’s angel scene from a Christmas play. It was a picture I had taken for the drama department back at Christmas. I had several extra students assisting in helping download hard drives from refurbished computers. All in all, there were at least ten things happening in the last thirty minutes of the last day before a holiday. Actually, this is not unusual in my room.
I never mind observations and probably have had more in four years than most have in a lifetime, but my AP was getting back at me for several previous practical jokes. But we think what we portray in our minds within seconds I was shifted from disaster to plotting a new reprisal.

 

“Honesty can be cultivated by transforming your inner language. For example, you might think: “I am no good” or “They are not good.” Is this true? For some strange reason, people want to wallow in the idea of being either the best or the worst. What is true in this moment? How close can we get to the reality of our experiences?” Martine Batchelor, Meditation for Life

 

Spock was trying to save the Utopian society of a small group of people as he turned against Star Fleet in the movie. The reason that Star Fleet wanted this planet was literally to sell and package longevity. They were willing to destroy a people for profit which does not sound that unfamiliar even in our times. That is just human nature many would say, as I think back. I thought back to my episode a few months back as I observed my two extra students. One of the students I had for one period every day the other I did not know at all. As I thought to why both ended with me it was because of inappropriate behavior in class, acting out, attention-seeking all choice behaviors.
I have used to be a big fan of “Law and Order” a show on television. On one particular show, a young boy who had been abused was talking with the prosecutor and recalled a particular day in his life. The very man who had abused him for four years was the hero by chance. He was concerned he was sick because the greatest day of his life was also with the person who destroyed his life. Shortly after on the show, this young man tried to kill himself.

 

“Real love is not based on attachment, but on altruism. In this case, your compassion will remain as a humane response to suffering as long as beings continue to suffer.” The Dalai Lama

 

Perhaps I am trying to cram too many thoughts into one sitting. It was a busy day yesterday having GHSGT are day was topsy turvy and I tried to get out in my yard working with my herb garden and to start planting some cuttings a friend of my wife’s had given her. We all need to be looking at our lives, are we trying to oversimplify, are we being honest with our selves, do we use the word love as merely an attachment or can we be more than we are in our given time. Many issues as we head into the new week. I am taking my wife’s car to the service station one day this week for an oil change and lube on a day off for her while she does graduate work. We are so dependant on cars and gas as I read a headline she reminded me. One of Saturday’s headlines was about in Zimbabwe where the ruling party was banning all care groups from entering the country and using food to maintain their power in the upcoming election. My wife made a comment and here in the US they use gas, and I thought how true. Living in the Atlanta area and work for so many of us can be 30-40 miles one way which in our community requires driving and or carpooling at best, there is not the infrastructure of the northeast and many metropolitan areas of public transportation.
Yesterday one of my students finally came in with a few minutes left in the period; they are working on recovering credits for various classes through an online program with the State Department of Education. However, they have to take tests with a certified teacher. Actually, a very good concept I wish more students would take advantage of it. As I finish up today a reminder from Will Rodgers. Rushing after waking up late I forgot to take my meds yesterday and took them when I got home so slept pretty soundly all night and missed my normal awakening.

 

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” Will Rogers

 

Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

It is only a dropped feather?

Bird Droppings March 27, 2020

It is only a dropped feather?

 

Dr. Michael Garrett (1996), a Cherokee Indian from North Carolina, intertwined his native thoughts in his lessons as he taught college:

 

If we consider the eagle feather with its light and dark colors, we could argue that ‘the dark colors are more beautiful and, therefore, naturally more valuable,’ or vice versa. Regardless of which colors are more beautiful, or necessary, or valuable, the truth is the bottom line: Both colors come from the same feather, both are true, they are connected, and it takes both to fly. (p. 103)

 

A seemingly inconsequential event that of a bird dropping, the leaving of a feather only to be found along the way by someone like me or you. I am always amazed at how special something as simple as finding a feather becomes. Maybe back when I started this morning’s venture of rising early,  journal, read, and write, it was a way for me to drop feathers, and it seems nearly every day one or two emails reinforce my thoughts. A student’s mother introduced me to Kent Nerburn’s works, Small Graces (1998), and as I began reading his thoughts and found other books he had written, a deeper understanding of Native thought and spirituality took hold within.  A simple book, The Wisdom of the Native Americans (Nerburn, 1999), added to my understanding.

 

All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason Wakan Tanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by Wakan Tanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself. (Sioux, date, p. 136)

 

Birds and feathers have been along my life journey. It has been some time since we had several large ferns on our front porch and I was checking the fern and forgot about the nest of purple finches who had adopted our ferns and front porch. Three babies sat there looking at me as I checked the fern for moisture surprising me as much as I them. There were three tiny babies sitting huddled in a fern basket all expecting breakfast and it was only me. As I think back, I am not sure who was the most scared, me by the shock of three hungry mouths gaping, or those tiny birds with a big hand poking in checking the moisture of the fern. Kent Nerburn one of my favorite authors had this quote in one of his books.

 

“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.” Chief Dan Brown  (Nerburn,1999)

 

It has been a few years since my first trip to Piedmont College and I am sure there will be many more to come as I am working on my doctorate at Georgia Southern, but I am still in communication with several faculty members at Piedmont involved in the Foxfire program. However, that first trip was one of meeting the Dean of Education for acceptance into the School of Education when I was working on my master’s degree. It seems I had forgotten a small piece of getting accepted into the education department. I had already completed the program classes in the Master of Arts in Education and officially had not been accepted in the program. That aspect of my journey, something you are to do first, rather than last, get accepted into the education school. I was called into the Dean’s office and her first comment was how to get on my blog site. After some discussion, I was accepted as I sat with the Dean and Assistant Dean of the education department after an interview.

 

As I left the education building and walked to the parking lot, a flock of geese met me walking along, weeding as they do across lawns at Piedmont back before the lake was drained, 50 or so Canadian geese scurried about looking for tender shoots in the morning coolness. As I walked, a bit of down crossed my path a tiny feather. I picked it up and my immediate thought was of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and the feather that starts and ends the movie (cite the film). I thought deeper as I saved the feather and still have it pressed in a book on my shelf. So often that little bit, that tiny piece of fluff that we often miss – it does not have to be a feather, it could be a kind word, a handshake, or certificate from first grade for spelling everything right – can provide the catalyst for the next day and for some, a lifetime. As a teacher, parent, grandparent, and friend many times we are the ones who have to drop a feather now and again, a tiny piece of fluff to keep another person going. Kent Nerburn has over the years addressed the spirituality and philosophy of Native thought in his writings.

 

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren, and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish, and trees.” Qwatsinas, hereditary chief Edward Moody (Nerburn, 1999, p.51)

 

In primitive societies, a feather can be a very sacred and holy thing. The Aztecs made the cloak for the king from Quetzal emerald green, iridescent feathers and no one else could even own one of these feathers under penalty of death (cite). Native Americans would use feathers as signs of bravery and honor, awarding an eagle feather for counting coop, which is not killing your enemy, simply touching and riding away and other great acts of bravery (Hunt, 2010). I am intrigued as we now wage war often from an office with drones and smart bombs, what a battle that must have been back in the day to see a brave ride in touch a few people and ride out.

 

Humanity has come so far in today’s world as we “nuke em” with no need to touch, no need for honor, nor for a bit of fluff blowing along the ground. As I walked about my yard a few nights back getting some exercise along with my wife, who was checking her plants to see if any bulbs were sprouting, a feather caught my attention. It was a black tail feather from a crow. My day was made as I placed it on my desk with a hawk feather and owl feather from previous walks since it is the tiny pieces that count on our journeys. So, for today, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks; Namaste.

 

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Engaging curriculum through Story Telling

Birddroppings March 26, 2020

Engaging curriculum through Story Telling

 

Sitting at my computer getting my thoughts together to reach out to my students and think about being a student with a dissertation defense ahead. So today a piece of my thoughts as I sit reviewing notes and setting up various programs to engage students through media and telecommunications. Engaging students is a key and I will grant spending the past eight months physically struggling with leg issues from my accident last July I enjoy not being interrupted as I spin a yarn on live feeds. Granted those not engaged can turn off but those listening and watching can hear the entire story.

 

Engaging students in their curriculum can be a challenge. Great educators have searched for the holy grail of learning and engagement for many years. Teachers’ and students’ needs, often run counter to each other in a learning environment (Glasser, 1998). Engagement of students can be as simple as getting students’ attention a unique thought and or finding something of interest to students. Educator and teacher, Andrea Turner uses the technology of Podcasts to spread her ideas on education. I happened upon one while sitting in at the doctor’s office looking up storytelling on the Internet. She started her Podcast, The Power of Storytelling in Teaching, with these words, “Tell me a fact I will learn. Tell me a truth I will believe. Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever. This idea of a story taking residence in permanent memory is attributed to a Native American Proverb in multiple sources of research (M.T. Garret, 1996).

 

Walking into a classroom, the teacher is partly a distributor of information and partly a catalyst for the learning to come and a special part, an entertainer. Over my years of teaching, I have found there is significant power in the story as a teaching tool. Storytelling provides a window into strengthening learning and subsequent retention of that learning (Egan, 1986). Over the years as I taught students in college, high school, and even one of my favorite groups to work with, four-year-old children in early childhood development classes, storytelling has always met with success. As I develop this paper, my goal is to share the idea of storytelling as a method to engage students in the curriculum and to help teachers tell stories that can assist in giving context to the content. This idea is not a cure-all as many packaged educational tools claim, but a tool in a teacher’s toolbox that is very powerful when used appropriately and with other lines of learning (Egan, 2008). During the process of telling a story often we can begin with a classic line that evokes familiarity and helps children learn better using imagination over the more traditional, linear lessons (Egan, 1986; Egan, 2008).

 

Once upon a time in a land far away, approximately 739 ½ miles north of Georgia Southern University, on a cold All Saints day 70 years ago a baby was born. The baby’s father was on the Albright College football team playing as the baby was born. Of course, as in all good stories, they won their game and the dad received the game ball; after all, he was a new father. That must have been a fantastic first Father’s Day. Back in those days, fathers were not allowed in the hospital room with the mother and baby, so he watched from the door. Somewhere in my files, I have that photo of my dad standing at the door of that hospital room, I still have that game ball.

 

Thirteen years ago, I started in a cohort at Georgia Southern to begin my doctorial journey. My thoughts for a dissertation have been in an evolutionary state ever since, growing, developing, and for me becoming a daily learning experience. My wife tells me I am procrastinating, and I add I am simply along for the journey and the story keeps getting better. Obstacles have been placed in my way one after another. Some of my own making and others simply came into being. I would not change any of it however as each is a piece of this story. My original focus in my dissertation work, was around a teaching program started in Rabun County Georgia in 1966, Foxfire (Smith, 2018). There will be references and implications as I progress with this tale as the Foxfire Core Practices have had and are a direct influence on my story and my teaching (Smith, 2018).

 

In a more recent graduate class, it was suggested that I use the idea of teaching as improvisational art (He, Review of paper, 2017). During that class to get back up to speed, after a seven-year hiatus and a couple of grandbabies, I had the privilege to work with Dr. He and Dr. Schubert who encouraged me to consider this idea. As I looked at the rationale for my dissertation, I realized my own teaching is often improvisational, (He, Schultz, & Schubert, 2015) taking a student’s interest and or question and building into our lesson, that teachable moment. I found myself literally building a story with the student and the class. I have often said, I would generally write lesson plans after the fact. However, next time I teach that topic in my plans I have included that event and reflections. My teaching often becomes a tapestry of stories woven into the lesson and with the students in the class. Each class brings new and unique pieces to the weaving of the tapestry. It pulls ideas and flows through the class using the student’s interactions and interests to build on.

 

I have had the goal of eventually teaching new teachers to be, in a college setting to inspire and energize young teachers of the future. Education students should be encouraged to look towards the ideas of imagination and storytelling to provide their students with the engagement of the curriculum. As I thought one morning about the idea of an education class, the teaching of storytelling would be excellent. So often new teachers come in excited and then become overwhelmed by paperwork and the administrators putting a teacher into a specific box and categorizing which seems to always occur. To teach in an improvisational manner, building and telling a story it is not simply walking in and teaching whatever content is provided. It is preparing and knowing the subject and or content and being able to follow the flow of the individuals within that class and add to the story (cite?). I have nearly fifty years of teaching stories to borrow from along with events and learning experiences that have made me the teacher I am (Schubert, 1999).

 

We live in a reality that is nonfiction while we live it. We choose what it is to be and then the story becomes fiction after the fact. I have found that I tend to embellish my nonfiction as the months and years go by. So many things come into play to effectively implement Story Telling such as imagination and creativity as spelled out by so many great educators (cite). We are pulling pieces of our experiences together and forming our reality (Schubert, 1999). During the processing, we are essentially living a fictional story. In a discussion with my son, also a teacher, he left me with this thought:

 

“From a historical standpoint, you do something significant that’s worth being told and retold from one generation to the next. From a biological standpoint, genes are immortal and are passed from one generation to the next. Your DNA tells a story.” (F. Bird, 2018)

 

As I thought more about the discussion with my son, his words highlighted an important piece of the puzzle in learning because if students find significance in what is being expressed to them, they will learn and engage. Good teachers can also learn how to develop relationships with students to know if the material is significant as a tool. For example, in a recent zoology project, foam swim floats cut into six-inch pieces became models of sponges in his class (Bird, 2018). which provided a great learning experience where content became context (Dewey, 2004).  So as I sit here in semi-isolation, my wife when home from her medical practice and my oldest son comes by to attend to various creatures and his dog I wish peace to all and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Have we sold our souls for a few trinkets?

Bird Droppings March 25, 2020
Have we sold our souls for a few trinkets?

 

Morning is a special time for me always a new beginning. That might be far too easy of a way to say what I am trying to say. Today I went out a bit early from the house to take out the garbage and just stand in the silence for a moment. As I walked out yesterday evening an owl was sitting on a branch in the back yard. But for me, several aspects of that start to the day almost are routine like taking our dog out, going to the corner store, then sitting down for writing and reading each has become a significant part of my day. I walked out this morning and felt the coldness of perhaps hopefully the end of our cold front as we close in on spring weather. Across the sky, clouds muffled the stars but the silence was literally alive. The stars were crystal clear in spaces between clouds in the morning darkness and the moon barely a smile sort of snuck a peek through a veil of darkness.

 

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

 

Yesterday I got into a discussion about a Bird Dropping from a few days back dealing with sacredness. In the course of the discussion, I began to realize how much we have in our hedonism given away. I wrote a paper on the stripping of the soul from students as we demand and seek higher test scores as a means of showing learning. I listened last night to update on the years ago shootings at Virginia Tech and the history of a young man and his anguish and angst that lead to it. They pointed to his observations and experiences with the hedonism of our society. He in his questioning and counseling was mentioning over and over in his rants the materialism of our society. I began seriously thinking have we sold our souls for a few mere trinkets?

 

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

 

“Your life and my life flow into each other as 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

 

Last night I sat down thinking and trying to put down words perhaps meaningful written pictures that may have significance. I emailed several people last night just touching base opening discussion about this idea of sacredness. But as I thought the interactions and intertwining of life that occurs daily, those we seemingly miss and ignore. I was talking with several high school students about how life is much like a puzzle interlocked one piece to the next and we tend too often miss seeing the tiny yet needed interconnections.

 

Watching the news and each new report bits and pieces of how and why the events of the past few days have spilled out around the world. I recall many years back when I suggested psychiatric treatment for a student and was told not my call. Six years later he is sentenced to three life sentences for killing a young mother and nearly killing two children he babysat for. Sometimes those at the top may need to listen to those of us doing the labor at the bottom.

 

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

 

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

 

As I moved through the day yesterday sensing something was amiss and even after knowing it is difficult to offer from a distance any sort of comfort to those in need other than keeping them on our minds and in our hearts. Most people as the day finished never missed a stride I am sure around the world there was tears from family, friends and those that are experiencing hardship and harm. But as I tried to explain even in tragedy there is purpose and meaning. That concept is difficult to explain to people who live in a materialistic world view.

 

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

 

I have used this quote several times and each time it seems appropriate. I remember as a child chasing fireflies across a meadow gathering those life forces in a jar to light my room and then releasing into the night watching them float away in the darkness. Life is seeing beyond the tangibles and foibles of our existence. Life is not a shirt, shoes or coat we wear. Life is about what is in your heart. Life is about your soul.

 

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

 

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

 

In 1996 my brother passed away and my family was faced with a new beginning. We all had built our lives around my brother. He was severely disabled and our being in Georgia was directly related to him. As we celebrated his life reviewing the intricate webs that were laid each moment and the many people touched and lives affected what seemingly had been was now an enormous outpouring of life. Every day a new piece of that puzzle falls into place. It may be another teacher of special needs children, another person recalling the time spent helping with John’s rehab and how it impacted their life. Within our difficulties and disasters always there is hope.

 

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

 

We each approach the morning in a different way I embrace the day and begin with my writing seeing each moment then unfold trying to understand each tiny piece. Since 1996 I have taken many different roads and journeys and as I look back each has had meaning and direction and led me to now. I told a dear friend while I am always wondering where I am to be next it is not because I do not enjoy what I am doing but because I may be needed elsewhere. It is about making and experiencing the journey.

 

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

 

Several years ago, I received a call from my nephew that a close friend had been in a car accident and as the night proceeded I spent that night in the Athens Regional Hospital holding a young man’s hand as monitors beeped and droned and he lay unmoving. We were all hoping that the numbers on the dials would change, they did not. When I arrived home on my computer there was a sticky yellow note from my oldest son, this Steven Tyler quote from an Aerosmith song. As I think even farther back and as I was discussing sacred yesterday with a student, in 1968 as I left for Texas for college I received a book from my parents which reads on page 596.

 

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

 

Many years ago, the late Pete Seeger a folk singer and environmentalist wrote the music and borrowed the words, a song was born “Turn, Turn, Turn” soon to be released by how appropriate “The Byrd’s”. “To every season turn, turn, turn there is a reason turn, turn, turn and a time for every purpose under heaven” the song became a hit.

 

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

 

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

 

So often a poet’s words offer comfort or give direction back to a journey set off course one moment. There is no filling of a void yet when looking at life and all that has been, when looking at the journey to now there truly is no void. There is a turn in the road a new direction all that has led to this point has not changed and is there behind us lifting us guiding us strengthening us as we continue our experiences. I remember back to a photo of my son crossing a stream in north Georgia already sopping wet from falling in but still intent on making it across. He clambered stone by stone crossing the stream and a favorite Zen saying I often attach to the photo.

 

“You can never cross a stream the same way twice.” Zen Saying


We all can cross in our own time and there are times when a hand is welcome. Years ago I set up a website for a youth group and today I will close with the starting line from that website, “Friends are never alone”. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and today keep those friends who may need extra support close at hand and always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Looking for reasons

Bird Droppings March 24, 2020

Looking for reasons

 

“Come; let us put our minds together to see what kind of life we can create for our children.” Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux

 

Nearly twenty years have passed since I did a research paper on the causes of various emotional issues with children. When I first started back to teaching it really was not all that much different from the early seventies when I last taught. When I wrote the paper, I was looking for commonalities among children who had more serious issues in school and in life. I listed drug use, alcohol use, jail time, probation, age, sex, drivers’ licenses, wealth, social status, childhood illnesses and whatever else I could find measurable numbers or information on. I did not question students all was on their school and public record. As I looked deeper at my students and most were still children I concluded that most with problems were made they did not just happen. Indirectly we created each of the issues that manifested it. I found an article in Divorce Magazine entitled Help for Generation. They listed statistics that in 1970 seventy two percent of the adult population is married and in 1999 only fifty-nine percent. This was an interesting statistic and furthermore, the number of divorces granted is down per one thousand people but the upper number of new marriages.

 

As I researched years ago in that group of students that I was using for my data only two out of twenty-eight lived with their biological parents, I should say both biological parents.

 

“It seems that the divorce culture feeds on itself, creating a one-way downward spiral of unhappiness and failure.” David Brenner, New York, July 14, 1999, Associate Director of the Institute for American Values

 

“There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents.” Leon R. Yankwich

 

I used to be hooked on Law and Order, the hit TV show which now runs it seems all day long in one form or another. I am captivated by the errors and flaws within our society it seems.

 

“Having children makes one no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.” Michael Levine

 

As I researched deeper in reasons children have issues often I found issues were learned and the examples were set at home. It could be drugs alcohol and literally, any of issues presented had been directly related to home situations. Children learn what they live both positively and negatively as Dr. Laura Nolte writes extensively about and which is featured in her Children Learn what they live poster of the seventies.

 

Yesterday the news was filled with stories of teenagers, young people who had gotten into trouble. Thinking back over ten years to an event in Minnesota where a young man killed nine people in a shooting spree at his school. Elsewhere drug arrests and gangs make the news a young man killed in Florida is bouncing around from two differing perspectives. I recall several years back when I was walking outside my room and a student came up sheepishly and hugged me and apologized. I am so sorry for what happened it was only a few weeks prior to this student was in a fight with another student in the cafeteria and I was pulling them apart. It was a strange feeling being thanked for breaking up a fight by one involved. In that same time period, I was at a basketball game and parents were yelling at each other over and about their kids in front of the audience to a point an officer was involved. It really is no different than thirty-five years ago when I coached basketball in Macon Georgia and the kids liked this old crude gym better than the new gym. I finally asked why and all the kids said parents could not fit inside and kids could just play basketball with no parents yelling at them.

 

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” Dr. C. Everett Koop

 

I never met the man but my father always spoke highly of him as he was my brother’s physician in Philadelphia when John was at the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.  In later years Dr. Koop was the Surgeon General of the United States and one to always be looking for answers to all the questions.

 

“Children are curious and are risk-takers. They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” John Bradshaw

 

Perhaps it is the breaking of trust that causes issues to arise. Years ago I did a graph on the development of trust. Stages in how trust evolves with a child and then into an adult. We are born with a universal trust as an infant sort of you instinctually trust we then learn to not trust and eventually come full circle learning to trust again.

 

“Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastating trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.” Dr. Riki Robbins, PhD, The Four Stages of Trust

 

I have over the years read a book by Dr. Temple Grandin, Animals in Translation. Dr. Grandin’s unique view is being autistic provides insights as she looks at animals in a different light than we do and she can understand and operate on that instinctual level. She stills functions in a world of trust and maintains trust. In a family setting what more so than parents leaving could display trust in a child let alone destroy trust and then want them to lead normal lives.

 

“When a parent is consistent and dependable, the baby develops a sense of basic trust. The baby builds this trust when they are cold, wet or hungry and they can count on others to relieve their pain. The alternative is a sense of mistrust, the feeling that the parent is undependable and may not be there when they are needed.” Eric Erikson, Eric Erikson’s Eight Stages of Life

 

Sitting writing here in my room at school with my three sons all adults now it is so easy to say no problem. Then I click to Yahoo News and as I described the event in Minnesota those years ago the Red Lake shootings and headlines of this or that as to why a 15-year-old would kill nine people and himself.

 

“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

 

In 1972 or so I met a young man in Macon Georgia at that time he was a year older than me and still is from last I heard from his brother a few weeks back. His tribal name translates to Red Clay, he was and is an artist. My family has many of his pieces of sculpture, drawings and paintings. In 1975 or so he went through a divorce after his wife lost their first baby. Every day that I have known him he had been drinking. Once he was the most requested teacher in Bibb County now retired he had been an itinerant carpenter and Professional feather dancer. Although I have been told he recently retired from dancing and is now a lead drummer in Pow Wow circles. But a comment that stuck with me and an image he had painted a small acrylic painting that my mother has hanging in her office area. It is of three burial platforms in the prairie. The platform in the foreground is one of a chief or man of importance, the second his wife and the third a small infant burial platform. His unborn baby from so many years ago. He told me nearly thirty years ago he would not live past forty. He has but barely but as I look back and think of how we respond and how we set that example for our children.

I started reading Kent Nerburn’s books several years ago. He taught at Red Lake High School in Minnesota and you can find his editorial and blog about this event on his website. As today as I wandered in my thoughts please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

 

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

What is a birddropping?

Bird Droppings March 23, 2020
What is a birddropping?


On February 3, 2003 I officially started titling my daily emailing and blogging, Bird Droppings. I went back in my files and pulled up a few old thoughts and ideas. As I was reading the local paper today a street poll was included asking locals about gas prices. In a morning of memories, I recalled an email from my mother about starting a gas war. It was a forward from my uncle to my mother. A simple concept we as consumers stop buying gas from the two biggest gas companies and only buy from smaller ones which will drive pricing down. Idea was emailing to 30 people this idea which gets mailed to 30 more, sort of pyramid gas war tactics. Who would have thought world gas powers would go to fiscal war on oil pricing and drive gas prices so low.

 

It was in 2001 roughly I started using the name Bird Droppings and put out several issues of newsletters under that name and sitting here with my tea mug in hand typing an email out. I thought at the time “Bird Droppings” a good title and subject. Looking back to that day in 2003 much was occurring around the nation as NASA tried to pick up pieces of a space shuttle and sort out the disaster that happened over east Texas. These explorers chose their profession and knew the risks one crew member being remembered by a cousin said she would prefer to die in space doing what she loved. Space was a passion for each member of the crew; it was about the searching and inquiry.

 

I can remember the Challenger accident before some of you were even born. It was a shock just as this tragedy was. But as a brother of a Challenger crew member said the morning “after their work continues”. Often events in our lives make no sense at that point of happening and later clarify as we go further into the journey. There is really no solace to a family when a loved one is lost even when you knew the risks they were involved in. It is the thoughts and assurances of friends and family that can make the pain bearable.


A number of years ago my brother died during the night in his sleep. When I received the call at work I was in shock and hurried to my parent’s home. Within moments calls and emails and faxes began to arrive from around the world from my parent’s friends and family. That support made that moment so much easier to bear. Back in 2007 with the death of my father in-law and my own father the support of friends and family eased the pain and passing. I recall that day in February 2003 and was running a bit late that morning as I listened to the news and watching a nation morn seven heroes.

 

Today I found a quote that for some may not apply and for others who knows, as I do each day. Many years ago, I read a series of books written by an anthropologist about his studies of herbal medicine among the Yaqui Indians of Mexico. Being a hobbyist botanist and student of medicinal plants and herbs, I have always been fascinated with his writings. He eventually found his way to a medicine man that used the Anglo name of Don Juan. After a number of trips and many years Castaneda became an apprentice to Don Juan in his efforts to become a Yaqui Medicine man. Carlos Castaneda wrote of the trials and tribulations of his adventure and studies and his books are used in many classes as case studies still today even though his research has been shown to be fiction in many instances.


“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”
Carlos Castaneda

 

One of the simple truths he found in his studies under Don Juan was how much we ourselves are directly involved in our own situation. That sounds simple but so often we blame the world around us for our plight. A student of life can only blame themselves for all choices made they are ours and no one else to make. So, in effect we make ourselves happy or sad and only we can redirect the pathway. Those heroic astronauts who gave their lives they could have chosen another path a simpler path and less risky path, but they wanted and chose the direction and they were on and where they were to be. We now can choose how to continue their journey ending in a crash or building upon that and going beyond the stars. Remember the families of those brave men and women who died and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always seek peace namaste.

 

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