Hearing and listening are critical

Bird Droppings July 9, 2019
Hearing and listening are critical

 

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus

 

A simple analogy yet we far too often we as parents. Teachers and or friends do not understand that statement. Perhaps it is because we have more jaw muscle than ear muscle. In education ninety-nine-point nine percent of the time if you the teacher listen, students will learn more. That almost sounds like a paradox.

 

“Lenin could listen so intently that he exhausted the speaker.” Isaiah Berlin

 

I have never seen nor heard this about Lenin, as I recalled the many pictures there are of him all show him intently staring. Even in death with his glass coffin that still is on display.

 

“Listen or thy tongue will keep you deaf.” Native American Indian Proverb

 

Anyone that knows me has seen me taking pictures tens of thousands of pictures of school, grandbabies, nature and athletic events. Digital cameras can be wonderful tools in the classroom as well. I was taking some pictures of twin day last year and soon to be again during one of our Homecoming dress up days and one little girl was blurred in every photo. She is very ADHD and evidently that day was a bad day for being hyper. But in her constant moving she wouldn’t stop talking as well and I would say be still and bouncing around she would ask what did you say? Even in taking a picture of two of her friends she moved and she wasn’t in the picture till she moved.

 

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Winston Churchill

 

Far too often we do not stop to hear what is being said both as teachers and students of life.

 

The young people who come to me in the hope of hearing me utter a few memorable maxims are quite disappointed. Aphorisms are not my forte; I say nothing but banalities…. I listen to them and they go away delighted.” Andre Gide

 

When teachers ask me how I know something about a student I generally say I listened to them.

 

“I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what is everything, do not be fooled by what I am saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I am not saying.” Charles C. Finn

 

In our chaotic world so often we miss pieces, bits and tiny segments sometimes what is not said or done is as crucial as all that happens.

 

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter F. Drucker

 

The great business consultant and author Peter Drucker offers again we need to not only to listen but to understand and then read between the lines.

 

“The only valid censorship of ideas is the right of people not to listen.” Tommy Smothers

 

I was always a big fan of The Smothers Brothers back in the day and find interesting how such a simple thought could in effect be a powerful one. If you do not want to hear it don’t listen but let the person speak their piece.

 

“I guess I’ve spent my life listening to what wasn’t being said.” Eli Khamarov

 

If we could perhaps things would be different. In politics a journalist is free who was jailed for not speaking out and telling sources however now she is speaking and repercussions could be great.

 

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum

 

Dr. Laura Nolte so long ago said “Children learn what they live”. I would offer that we should as parents have another line. Children learn to listen by from parents who listen before speaking. In native cultures listening to elders was how education, culture and life was transmitted. I read an article on an elder in South America who was the last of his tribal medicine people. No one wanted to earn the old ways anymore and were too into their modern technology. He was one of the last that still knew the tribal tongue and a National Geographic writer took it upon himself to record the language and ways of this elder. An outsider saw a piece of humanity that was nearly extinct and sat and listening for several months. Hopefully one day these words will be shared and others can listen. I listened to the famous Beatles song Blackbird in the Mohawk tongue yesterday. A beautiful rendition. Sometimes we need to sit, stop and listen.

 

“Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” James Baldwin

 

Each day I watch and listen and deal with issues of friends, passerby’s, high school teenagers and so many others imitating what they have learned from home. Often simply mirror images of mom and dad or whomever is the one at the house. For today 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

In a world of data can we still use intuition?

Bird Droppings July 9, 2018
In a world of data can we still use intuition?

 

I had a thought this morning and it’s kind of depressing when I think about it. We are basically training our new teachers in all the things that we as older teachers find wrong in education. (pre NCLB) It hit me as we are teaching all these new teachers how to take tests the “right” way. We are teaching all these new teachers that standardized testing is good and essential. We are teaching all these new teachers to skip the critical thinking parts of life in order to adhere to mandated standards. We are skipping the pieces that teach about imagination. Sadly, we teach we need to skip all these things because we need to concentrate on testing. I see far to often their courses are now being focused around how to take tests, how to teach kids to take tests, and how to talk to kids about testing. We are losing imagination and we are losing critical thinking skills in our new teachers. A piece I find disheartening is we too are losing all the stories. We are losing all the creativity and losing the individuality of the students by taking it away from the teachers.

 

It is the inherent skill sets that often make a great teacher. I am speaking of those almost instinctual attributes. Granted in a scientific study more than likely these are learned skills but there is an aspect that is still not with all teachers. I mentioned to a fellow teacher I can tell when a child has emotional issues after observing a few minutes and listening. Granted observations are part of most evaluations but I was referring to an intuitive aspect of observation. Something we learn perhaps as we experience and live life. Over the years several children I have worked with I have recommended additional involvement and unfortunately also got to say I told you so in future although I have refrained from actually saying that.

 

“Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” Edwin Hubbel Chapin

 

As I was discussing the final class debriefing as it is called in a teacher training program. I recall a thought hit me as to why some teachers can do more than others. Why some teachers succeed where others flounder, intuition, a simple thought and a difficult concept to teach to another. This is an area most education classes forget. I have for many years considered teaching an art form. There is an aspect of teaching that separates great teachers from poor teachers.

 

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” John Steinbeck

 

“Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.” Michael Burke

 

Knowing what to do at a specific moment intuitively is not easily taught in a classroom it has to be experienced and understood at a deeper level.

 

 

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” Dr. Benjamin Spock

 

“Instinct is untaught ability.” Bain

 

In a teacher training session on grading one time, I listened to seasoned teachers discuss how they would do this or that. One teacher said do you have that written down, what is your starting point? How much planning time do you allow? I watched and heard in disbelief in this situation that was one of a teachable moment go by the way side. The person speaking turned around stunned as I was and said I really do not plan it takes ten minutes to jot down a daily note to my students and each day they experience new things and we build on that.

 

“Instinct is intelligence incapable of self-consciousness.” John Sterling

 

I began thinking of key words in teaching, intuition being a good starting point. Always when teaching anachronisms help and I found, IESP, Intuition, Empathy, Sympathy and Perception. These are all aspects of a good teacher and a good parent and a good person as well.

 

“Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.” Dr. Joyce Brothers

 

In doing research on intuition in years gone by, many psychologists believe we have stored experiences and concepts that we do not even recall that are the basis for intuition.

 

“Intuition is a spiritual faculty and does not explain, but simply points the way.” Florence Scovel Shinn

 

There are other researchers who consider aspects yet undiscovered as a basis for intuitiveness and intuition.

 

“A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subconsciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action.” Jawaharlal Nehru

 

So many years ago Nehru was the first Prime Minister of an independent India and as well a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

“Instinct is the nose of the mind.” Madame De Girardin

 

I saw this note and it intrigued me. Instinct being a door opener and perhaps starting point, a beginning it could be possibly even one of our senses.

 

“I would rather trust a woman’s instinct than a man’s reason.” Stanley Baldwin

 

I do not know exactly what this entity is we call intuition. I have observed many teachers and parents, workers and managers. Some know answers and others have to understand and solve the issues. As I was thinking and pondering the past few days I always seem to come back to a favorite quote.

 

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

 

One of my red neck buddies responded, “what the h— does that have to do with intuition”? Some of us have a goal a destination but the journey the getting there is as critical and crucial as the end result. Each aspect of the pathway is essential rather than simply the end of the trip. When you are looking as you go you see so much more. I recall a long trip as a child and we would play games looking for animals. If you choose to look only for red tailed hawks, it would be miles and even hours between birds. If you choose birds and how many different ones you can see we up the chances of every few seconds or minutes seeing something. Open that to all animals and now every few seconds and you are looking for details in the road side and trees and grass. Life is so similar some people are looking for specifics so minute they seldom find what they are looking for. Others see every nook and cranny. Intuition is in the crannies I think.

 

“The really happy man is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.“ Anonymous

 

I wish I had said that. 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

 

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Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

Bird Droppings July 6, 2019
Foxfire is a name for a fungus glowing in the dark, until you wander up Black Rock Mountain

 

Yesterday I was involved in another synchronous adventure, as I am literally daily. I Have been thinking about it ever since. I have been a fan of Carl Jung and the idea of synchronicity for many years and often write about it. I was out and about and by chance had not made breakfast being still out f sync from vacation. I stopped at a local Bojangles to get a chicken biscuit. As I am standing waiting a boisterous voice bellows out Mr. Bird. Standing next to me waiting on his breakfast is a student from 2001 and my first day back to teaching. Oh, the stories I could tell I mentioned to his son about ten years old standing next to him. I started back to teaching after a twenty plus year period away from the class room on September 11, 2001. This fellow walks into the room, a tiny room currently occupied by six girls and myself and loudly proclaims in his booming ninth grade voice “I hate girls.” As the story progresses we became friends and still remain in contact through social media. I had not talked with him in person in at least ten years. All is well with him and his family.

 

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

 

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book we were reading was Brave New World, written in 1932. You would think that a book thirty years old at that time would not have been that controversial. However, for our class and the reading list we had an English teacher was let go. What amuses me is how these books we read did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed.
Today in 2019 with a new school year about to start English teachers use the books my tenth-grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list, as do many high schools across the country. These were 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time more than fifty years ago. Still today these same words can inspire students and adults to think and ponder. I fear the undercurrent in politics in some areas of the country towards education may again squelch such reading.

 

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

 

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

 

Each day as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. It is sort of my kick-start to the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits to the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit. I journeyed up the mountains of North Georgia yesterday to visit the Foxfire property. I had the privilege to speak with a foxfire fellowship student up on the Foxfire Museum property. Foxfire has transitioned to a new idea of summer fellowship student’s developing and writing stories over a class at the high school. Initially as a student of the Foxfire approach I was concerned. Then my thoughts shifted and even this morning a new epiphany. As I thought the idea of a container as a student. Then I reread this line from Huxley. It is what we do with it. Students were turned loose to learn in 1965 and the culmination is this property and museum of Appalachian culture on the side of a mountain. Now others can relive and see the history of the Rabun county area not simple learn about it in a book.
Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly fifty years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

 

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

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

 

Each day I walk outside and look at the sky on clear mornings today a slight mist and cloud cover greeted me. For some the stars and constellations provide direction and as the seasons pass the constellations change which denotes time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home and not at school as I have for a few months now I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.
As I read Faulkner’s note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece weeks and months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at the time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to read.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then go onto class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.
In my room often, it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative. I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Let’s all set an example today and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

The ability to surmount those learning difficulties

Bird Droppings July 4, 2019
The ability to surmount those learning difficulties

 

We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I have watched the materialism of our culture run rampant as we today in Washington put on a big display. I won’t be watching the DC show but spending time with family. My oldest has been involved planning fireworks and picnic etc. Perhaps I should not have read Russell Means thoughts on the Fourth of July. But I will be cheerful and frivolous and come back to my original thought of learning.

 

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

 

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them.” Phyllis Bottome

 

An interesting start to my thought process after a wonderful experience last night. I was working on some statistics and had an epiphany sitting looking at columns of numbers manipulating data. This can be whatever I want depending on wording and what variables I apply. I have often come to this conclusion when looking at research. Ever since I was told a reading program was data based and I called asking for the demographics of the research. The sample was so small and biased the data was in no way viable. But schools were buying the program in leaps and bounds. As for my thoughts and opening quotes, one from Dr. Seuss and the other a British novelist with over thirty-four books to her credit. Working with at risk kids so often in life I find in general we tend to avoid difficulties, we walk away, we steer clear, and we postpone and or we argue.

 

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” Isak Dinesen

 

I was watching a student one day last year working on what for some was a quick assignment merging several different graphics and or creating graphics into a calendar during a project. Each student went in totally different directions. One in a matter of minutes had created a Mario brothers calendar based on old Mario Brothers clips each significant to him. One was on deer hunting there was even a Care Bears focus. However, one fellow was taking each frame and altering photos in a photo program eliminating back grounds and only using specific aspects of each image. Each day he would accomplish only a small portion of what others were doing yet he was totally immersed in his task. In the end he will have a really nice artistic piece but many hours are involved.

 

“We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else.” John Holt

 

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.” Winston Churchill

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

There are times when a student procrastinates and I have had several over the years who are world class procrastinators but watching this particular student work at his project meticulously detailing each image is not procrastination.

 

“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.” Dan Rather

 

What intrigued me with this project was that this student was normally lazy but this project became of interest to him. Each photo that he had taken in that past semester was being edited and formatted in minute detail and had literally become an obsession. He got in trouble in another class and asked if I would get him out of ISS so he could work on his project. As I looked at the Dan Rather quote I wondered if when he started that he knew he would lose two days’ work when he tried to download to a floppy more than it would hold and crashed. Or that editing a photo pixel by pixel takes time.

 

“It is surmounting difficulties that make heroes.” Louis Kossuth

 

“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.” Carl Gustav Jung

 

What amazes me is that this student has begun to grow. In many ways he still is very lazy and often will start an assignment in great zeal only to stop before it is completed and be content with a 70%. His attitude is one of I am passing and so what.

 

“You can’t fly a kite unless you go against the wind and have a weight to keep it from turning a somersault. The same with man. No man will succeed unless he is ready to face and overcome difficulties and is prepared to assume responsibilities.” William J. H. Boetcker

 

“For every difficulty that supposedly stops a person from succeeding there are thousands who have had it a lot worse and have succeeded anyway. So can you.” Brian Tracy

 

As I look back over the past few days of thoughts it is in finding that spark, that special piece, that bit of inspiration that fires a student up and gives them incentive to move forward in life always seems so elusive. That particular student found a task he wanted to complete that could be a step forward for him in other areas as well sort of as we tie a tail on a kite for balance as Boetcker states. Often it is finding that balance that a person’s finds that provides us the direction to go forward in life. I received an n email story the other day that was a tear jerker. Granted it probably does not pass the fact check and such but still a good story. Let me share this story with you whether you are a teacher, parent, student and or just a friend.

 

“There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard. Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn’t play well with the other children that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

 

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.” His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third-grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

 

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’ laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour.

 

On that very day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. And she paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.” A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

 

Four years after that, she got another letter saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

 

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago, and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you for much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.” A boy named Teddy, this work of fiction was penned by Elizabeth Silance Ballard in 1974 and printed that year in HomeLife magazine, a Baptist family publication, where it was clearly labeled as fiction and presented as such, not as an account of a real-life personal experience. Although Ballard based some of the details on elements of her own life.

 

This story is fiction but a great fiction story. I would like to hope I can be like Mrs. Thompson and sometimes all it takes is a teacher or a friend that cares.

 

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

 

I am sitting here finalizing my thoughts to teach an existential lesson, as I joke about so often being an existentialist. Yesterday as I walked down my hall with another teacher we were commenting on how many teachers had been here six or more years and it was more than half. Last night I ran into a teacher who no longer teaches at our school from our hall. The teachers who are gone had learned those that remain are learners interesting as I think back and forward reading Hoffer’s thought. Hoffer was a self-educated man, a philosopher coming from the docks of New York City his first book True Believer was written in the early 1950’s in his middle age and he never slowed down till his death in 1982.

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

So today as I sit wondering about so many things perhaps about how to be a learner and not be simply learned. 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

Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

Bird Droppings June 30, 2019
Teaching and or 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu

I walked in the house from vacation after unloading my car, swam about a half mile and sat down to write. I will be having my eighteenth first day of school teaching high school in a few weeks. I will just assume it will not be as tense and hectic as my first on September 11, 2001. While driving home I was thinking back to a song one of my students chose to write about several years ago, Live like you were dying by Tim McGraw. A dear friend passed away and it is difficult as I write today to not think about how many friends, do I want to see and talk to one more time. I have been sorting through books and files and found a small inspirational book based on that song. The song came up when I had given a writing assignment to pick a favorite song, find the lyrics then explain the song. There is something about country music and lyrics and emotions that hit you.

As various music genre came forth that one song stood out among all the rest that day. Here we can argue genres and such although I did use Beyoncé and Bob Dylan in a sarcastic graphic mainly pointed at our system of measuring schools. Bob Dylan if anyone is not aware has been chosen as the greatest song writer of all time. Some can argue and I got into this the other day with a fellow teacher and friend as I was picking on his heavy metal blaring after hours. I used the rock and roll hall of fame as an example and Dylan has songs covered by the greats, Knockin on Heaven’s door, All along the watchtower to name a few.

“You have to do what you love to do, not get stuck in that comfort zone of a regular job. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” Lucinda Basset

“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

Searching for words midst a deluge of thought I got caught up in Tim McGraw’s words from that assignment so many years back.

“I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about” Tim McGraw

We take life so often for granted, wasting precious moments, missing bits and pieces as we go hurriedly to the next event of the day. My dear friend I had not seen since 1978 but we communicated regularly on Facebook. Sharing all of those years in photos and one line captions.

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” Josh Billings

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

“I went Rocky Mountain climbing I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu and then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter and I watched an eagle as it was flying and he said someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.” Tim McGraw

All week in the morning I walked out as I do, although this week it was to the sunrise on Pawley’s Island beach sitting taking pictures listening to the surf and breeze.  Over the years so many mornings early in the day, to my right a clearing the pines often a great smile of a moon almost half a full moon but still a smile. The stars add to the effect and surrounding me that great chorus of crickets and tree frogs, it was literally over whelming. I have yet to figure how crickets in our neighborhood can harmonize. Perhaps they were singing for my friend.

“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, and passion.” Nadia Boulanger

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

We each search and try to find the pathway that is best for us as we journey through life. How and why we go the direction we do is our choice and the attitude that we have again is our choice. As I am reading again the words from Tom McGraw’s song and listening to teenagers respond is interesting, living each day to the fullest is not just about riding a bull named Fu Manchu for 2.7 seconds or mountain climbing in the Rockies. It is more about loving deeper and speaking sweeter, it is the moments not the events, it is extracting as much as possible and giving as much as possible in each second of each day.

“I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t and I became a friend a friend would like to have” Tim McGraw

Again a flash back, to a phone call several years ago. It was again a few years back another incident struck me, my middle son called from college and sounded upset there was an un-easiness in his voice. A female student had killed herself in the dorm; several of his friends were peer leaders on that hall. In another situation I was informed two students I have been talking with for three years were both pregnant distant events each encompassing in its own, a life ended and lives starting. One of the girls came by to tell me personally after I had heard rumors.

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

“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

It has been many years since I would walk out into the pastures at night and hear the snorting of our buffalo. It is so hard to explain seeing a bull buffalo’s breath blowing across the grass in the wee hours of the morning on a cool day, or watching fireflies skirt the kudzu and sumac of our back yard. A young lady takes her life, she had a plan with a stopping point I wonder if she lived as if she were dying or was she dying so she could live? What a paradox we set in motion as we journey each day.

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

“I asked him when it sank in that this might really be the real end how’s it hit you when you get that kinda news man what’d you do…….live like you were dying. Like tomorrow was a gift and you got eternity to think about what’d you do with it what did you do with it” Tim McGraw

I won’t be riding bulls or skydiving but I will be smiling and I will love and I will be living each moment that I have got and hopefully set an example for the students I teach. I may make a few more day trips this summer to spend precious moments with friends. So my dear friends take a moment and truly think about it, live your moments to the fullest and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please be sure to give thanks for the moments namaste.

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

 

What am I doing looking for clues?

Bird Droppings June 29, 2019

What am I doing looking for clues?

 

We all enjoy mysteries and trying to solve the secret before the end of the movie or novel. We all seem to go through life looking for the one big clue and answer to all of the mysteries that surround us. I typed into the address bar, searching for answers, and one million one hundred thousand hits later I still had no answer. I tried a favorite book from years back, “In search of the mystery”, by William Edelen and got his view or what he had found along the way in his search.

 

“From Wakan-Tanka, the Great Mystery, comes all power. It is from Wakan-Tanka that the holy man has wisdom and the power to heal and make holy charms. Man knows that all healing plants are given by Wakan-Tanka, therefore they are holy. So too is the buffalo holy, because it is the gift of Wakan-Tanka.” Flat-Iron, Maza Blaska, Oglala Sioux

 

Wanka-Tanka loosely translated from the Lakota Sioux language is, the great mystery. Nearly thirteen years ago this week a miniseries was on one of the cable channels, “Into the West” which was produced by Steven Spielberg. This was a grand soap opera of the history of two peoples brought into conflict as each had differing intentions for the land. The term Wakan-Tanka is used as the holy man one of the Native American brothers depicted in the movie often states, he is one with. Author, pastor, fighter pilot, and philosopher William Edelen borrowed from this Native American thinking in one of his books essentially in his writing trying to find the mystery only to discover it was still there.

 

Several years back in Kansas a debate was brewing that more than likely could seriously have impacted education in that state, intelligent design versus evolution was to be taught in schools. A mystery is simply something we are not currently sure of what it is. So often we solve our mysteries with whatever we can think of. In years gone by astronomers could only conceive of a sun going around the earth and even Columbus was a bit concerned as days rolled on and no land was found that maybe the flat earth idea had merit. Visually I recall the scene from the movie when he gets to land and falls flat on his face on the beach. I think he was more excited than we will ever know that the flat concept was dispelled.

 

It takes research and thinking and pondering to resolve and search for mysteries. For Native Americans to conceive of a great mystery allowed for new ideas for them the limitations were minimal since everything is the great mystery. Across the sea we needed more concise and clarity and developed theologies that provided anthropomorphic symbolism and containment and eventually even intelligent design. We did not want a mystery; we wanted a friend, a brother, father, cousin, or just another human being. As interesting as life goes forth I am wandering today in my own mystery. Watching again this series of the western encroachment reliving how we desecrated a land and continue to do it. Even in court a person’s home can be taken for the encroachment of development. Years back in Connecticut a riverside home lived in for six generations was bulldozed for an office complex in for the betterment and progress of society. Our current administration is trying to get an energy bill hyped to bring down our gas prices that includes drilling in the pristine wilderness of Alaska that will take ten years to produce a drop of oil yet we think it will affect gas this summer. The fact we cannot refine more crude oil in our own country does not ever pop up since no new refineries have been built recently actually in nearly thirty years. No one reads about how US refineries and oil companies are exporting gas and oil since we have too much. Hopefully for us a bill to reduce emissions back to previous levels in 1970’s was rejected. How appropriate is the series as we continue to expand our philosophy of greed and materialism even today? The mystery is of little use if no one cares to search and is content to wallow in material things and contrivances. My friends please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Life is making a quilt

Bird Droppings June 27, 2019
Life is making a quilt

It was nearly twelve years ago today my wife walked in and told me that my mother said this was to be a happy time a joyous occasion as we celebrated my father’s life on Sunday. She said I think we are even having a snow cone machine. I thought to myself it gets hot in Georgia on an afternoon in June. About this same time another event was transpiring in our family’s lives. I helped my son with a project of repairing the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech. Twelve years ago my son and acquaintance a 1968 Ga. Tech graduate of Tech and I were talking about a body shop and getting the Wreck ready for first football game. Somehow or other the idea of how things fall in place came up and after they headed out I started on my idea of a quilt.

I had started thinking about my father again talking with my son’s friend and how he had been all over the world lectured and taught in countries most people will never know. Another email I recall mentioned how dad was always giving something; it could be a necklace with a rock from South Africa or a bola with some African trinket or South American artifact as the clasp. Sometimes it was a story or just wisdom from his years working with people. It hit me his life was like a quilt.

“People come out to see you perform and you’ve got to give them the best you have within you. The lives of most men are patchwork quilts. Or at best one matching outfit with a closet and laundry bag full of incongruous accumulations. A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” Jesse Owens, 1913-1980, American Olympian

I use the comparison to a puzzle often nearly each day as I write. But when I read this idea of a quilt of our lives it hit me. A patchwork quilt, with each piece a significant event in life yet alone not enough to make the whole. Each piece of the quilt is still independent of each other piece. My wife has a quilt from her grandmother whose grandmother made it; each little piece of fabric is sown to the next each little section connects to the next and in the end a quilt. We have several quilts made for our sons by a friend’s mother many years ago. A good friend in Holland is a quilter and she post pictures of each intricate masterpiece as she sews.

For nearly thirteen years during my summers I go up to the mountains of North Georgia and have been involved with the Foxfire program for teaching. The instructors have used an exercise where each participant makes a piece and together a quilt is created each session. The quilt is hanging on the wall with pieces added as the week progresses. Traditionally in the mountains there are sixteen stitches per inch which is the measure of a quilt I learned that while up at Foxfire talking with one of the women at the museum center. Often when I am talking with kids I will use timelines to piece together but I think I will try this idea of a quilt each piece adding to the whole yet alone just a scrap of fabric. As I look back at so many memories and you know it seems to all be flowing piecing together, I like the idea of a quilt. 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