Can we die a happy death?

Bird Droppings May 7, 2020

Can we die a happy death?

 

Perhaps it was the passing of my mother that pulled me to this idea. I sometimes wonder in the mornings why I am writing about a specific topic although often it is something simply on my mind. I have been teaching high school now for nearly twenty years and retirement just ahead. I am sitting here writing I can’t wait to start back walking in our pool.

 

Over the past few years I have been searching through my older writings, editing, cleaning up and often finding a dropping that ties in with my thoughts of that day or even somewhere I went yesterday. Only a few days ago I got in a discussion on fearing death which led me on a search for an email and some thoughts I jotted down many years ago. Since that note nearly twelve years back my friend has lost several loved ones and I have lost loved both my father in law, father, mother and as many around us have as well. So, digging in my archives yesterday I started reading a thought from a friend who was trying to generate answers for his niece based on how do we die a happy death?

 

I was a bit taken back, sitting here only a few days ago not truly giving death much of a thought having the attitude when it happens it happens and for some number of years now I have lost any fear of death. It has been some time since I realized we need to live each day it isn’t about death and what is next it is about what is now and where are we on our own journey. It is not about anyone else’s, though we constantly interact and intertwine in our own cosmic sort of jig saw puzzle of life. I had several answers to share and from a mixed bag of intellectuals across the country when I responded to my friends note. I used to sit in Geometry in tenth grade with the first responder and her thought was this.

 

“A contented life. One that has (at least partially) fulfilled personal dreams. “ 5/28/06 – A child psychologist From California

 

As I thought about it dreams and aspirations, are at the center of many of our hearts and souls. I have always wanted to go to Tahiti however I probably never will for one reason or another. It all goes back to my first reading of a Michener book “Hawaii” and how the original settlers sailed from Tahiti. In my romanticism I know it is not the tropical paradise I dream of and I will probably settle for South Florida or the South Carolina coast which today would be fine. My next responder is a mom and teacher from Texas that I have met and known for eight or ten years from correspondence.

 

“I, personally, have always told myself that there is a difference between three powerful things: 1) mistakes learned from, 2) regret, and 3) a higher God that leaves certain things out of my control (thank goodness)…but anyway, ideally, I want to die having learned from my mistakes, having passed control over in areas of my life in which I have no control, and to die without regret. These are the three potentially negative “things” that will, even during my life, make me lose sleep. All in all…if we could live surrounded by love, and die surrounded by love (which will happen, of course, if we give just as much) …that would be a happy death.” 5/28/06 – A teacher in Texas

 

I have read and reread this one several times and always her comments are deep and heart felt, “Having learned from my mistakes” this is a life lesson many should heed. Often even within the past few days I have addressed this with several students take and learn from your mistakes and move forward and or backward as a good friend would say direction is not the key but movement and in our world of multiple dimensions it could be anywhere. My mother responded next to the question and this was a year before my father passed away. It is sort of interesting when your mother was an avid reader of my essays and thoughts as I am of her poetry and writing.

 

“Living a life that is fruitful and true makes for a happy death. Like your father has said many times, there is nothing in this world that he still wants to do. He has been there, done it and seen it and he always did it with love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as his companions.” 5/28/06, My mom Esther S. Bird, author, poet and great grandmother from Loganville, Georgia

 

My father at that time was eighty-four and had been all over the world teaching about Loss Control and Safety Management. In South Africa a headline once proclaimed he had saved millions of lives in the South African mines. Great Britain proclaimed him the Billy Graham of Safety in news headlines. My dad started out to be a medical missionary and I was the culprit that sent him to the steel mills for work. As a baby I was very ill and hospitalized numerous times with seizures and a stoppage of breathing. My dad had to go to work instead of school. By chance he found good paying work in the open hearth of Lukens Steel Mill and until they needed a Safety guy with a college diploma he was a brick layer in the open hearth. He was offered a job as a Safety man which being nonunion was less pay but it was better hours he thought and an office no more twenty-eight hundred-degree furnaces to contend with.

 

Shortly thereafter his first book changed modern Safety Management, in the early 1960’s. In 1965 he coined and then registered the trademark statement of “Total Loss Control” and the rest is history. So instead of saving souls in Africa in a mission hospital he was saving lives worldwide through his programs and insights. I began reading the next responders’ poems several months ago and now several hundred later find them exhilarating.

 

“For me, the idea of a happy death is one where I’ve given my best effort, stayed current with conflict resolution and being in the right place in my God’s eyes.” 5/29/06 Poet from Puget Sound, Washington

 

I have come to read daily numerous blogs and poems posted by this wonderful person she herself has many life hindering illnesses and still features a giant smiley face as her calling card. She is such a powerful human spirit. I will end today with another responder on a regular basis one who thinks far deeper than most teenagers and surprises me with responses that go far beyond her few years of experience. Today she is a karate instructor in Georgia and I would never have guessed that five years ago.

 

“I also enjoyed your droppings earlier about a happy death. I like to think of it this way, ‘Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you will be criticized either way.’ Eleanor Roosevelt” 5/29/06, A former student at Loganville High School, Loganville, Georgia

 

I was wondering with all the death in the news here and abroad is death ever happy. Yesterday I read a blog from a young fellow in the army and the remembrance of a buddy killed a few days earlier in Iraq. Someone posted a series of crosses on a back-country road where three teenagers a few years back hit a tree at a hundred miles an hour. I have attended many funerals over the years and often will do my best to avoid them if I can. I have in recent years been to my fathers, father in laws, several students, friends and other family member’s memorials. When I listen to the comments of joy and the celebrating a life rather than mourning of death it is so different. It is so difficult to lose someone but what if they have done what is it they were intended to do and know that. What if they were happy and knew there was meaning to their life?

 

I recall a death some twenty or so years ago where a young man came to me. The last time I saw him he was unaware of his surroundings, for I did hold his hand through the night watching monitors blink showing his brain functioning was going and irreversible. I sat and did last rights in my own way as I was holding his hand though there was no movement from him or acknowledgement only monitors blinking and the respirators movement in his lungs. Prior to that at my last meeting with this young man he shook my hand and said not this time Mr. Bird. Normally he would extend his hand and pull it away laughing a joke on me. This time was different as he extended his hand smiling grasping with his other hand mine and saying thank you for everything and we parted ways he was riding in another car going home from a day of tubing in North Georgia. I never spoke with him again. I know to the marrow of my bones he was happy in death. He was always happy go lucky always joking always the life of the party he was the group clown. When we gathered after the funeral each of said something similar he had said goodbye to us each in a different way. That night my son left a yellow sticky note for me on my computer that I shall never forget.

 

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

 

I have thought about that note daily every day since, I have listened to the Aerosmith CD version of Awesome many hundreds of times for that line. Somewhere in a box I still have that yellow sticky note over twelve years old now folded away as a reminder about how precious each second is. We honor our veterans who died to provide us with ideas and thoughts about freedom and liberty over the years. I would like to end with, what if we could have world peace? What if, always a what if, it seems. 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

We should many times question our questions?

Bird Droppings May 6, 2020
We should many times question our questions?

 

Yesterday I was sitting in my computer area after a week or two of articles and innuendos about who and why Georgia students in high school and middle schools across the state do so poorly on certain mandatory tests. These are Georgia’s version of course end tests in subject matter. Sadly, the state knew in some instances ahead the failure rate would be high and still administered the tests. I am always amazed by state educational systems and by individual teachers who teach to fail students. I just finished a discourse with a colleague about passing a fellow who had a 79 on his end of course test in Algebra and was failing the class due to homework not being turned in. When you look at his overall work he has an eighty six percent disregarding homework portion of grade based on his test scores and quizzes. For me that was a no brainer he mastered the material and do you cause trouble for next year’s teacher failing a kid who knows the material and also happens to be SEBD, severely emotionally and behaviorally disturbed and refuses to do homework and hates this particular teacher.

 

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

 

“Ask the large questions, but seek small answers, A flower, or the space between a branch and a rock these are enough” Kent Nerburn

 

I wrote an email to a friend only a few moments ago sitting here gloating at issues I should have and could have addressed before they were issues. Some days I am bad about letting the flow go and spill over as it may be. I read this line from a book I am reading and wonder now as to answers I was seeking, maybe too often we seek large answers from small questions or ask the wrong questions thinking we know the answer.

 

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” Anthony Robbins

 

Somewhere on my shelves in my room at school maybe in a drawer are a series of tapes from this guru of self-help, he occasionally has a good thought or two. Max Thompson of Learning Focus School fame uses the term an Essential Question. We need to ask an essential question and build from there as we develop our course or train of thought. Several weeks ago I used some thoughts from Zen teachings over a thousand years ago and from Socrates who also taught by asking questions.

 

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” Naguib Mahfouz

 

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” Anthony Jay

 

A wrong question, can that even be? Could a wrong question be asked?

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” Edward Hodnett

 

Over the years I have acquired many books dealing with the care of animals and have even participated in publishing several in days gone by when I was in that line of work. Years back we found a book for diagnosis of fish disease and problems. It was questions with various answers, such as if answer A go to page 3, or if B go to page 6, then on page 3, if A go to page 34, and on 34 if C this is the disease. In looking at questions and answering you literally could follow your way to a diagnosis. Essentially it was dichotomous key of fish disease. A good friend in Virginia literally borrowed the idea and wrote a sheep manual in a similar fashion that has become the Ovine diagnosis book of choice across the country. Actually, have my name in there somewhere as a resource and editor.

 

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” Decouvertes

 

I had to think as I read this if you know the answer why question. Is the paper white? I know it is but I am questioning and in questioning will show it to be white so in effect proving its whiteness or not. I learned it was white even knowing it was.

 

“He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked.” Voltaire

 

“To find the exact answer, one must first ask the exact question.” S. Tobin Webster

 

“For example, when you sail in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view four directions, the ocean looks circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as you can see at that time. All things are like this.” Eihei Dogen, 1200-1253

 

Maybe we who ask the questions need to listen more carefully to the answers and in listening learn as well, a symbiosis of sorts. It is about another day beginning and another sunrise to see. In talking with a friend through messaging on the computer that is all she looks for and as she rises each morning and is thankful for another day. She is a survivor, having survived breast cancer and you know what, as simple as that sounds for some. For her in particular each moment is a miracle and after seeing her each morning smiling and thankful for another day my day goes so easy and I too am thankful. We are getting ready to share a Memorial Day weekend thinking of our fallen friends and family members. I ask with a sincere heart please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

 

 

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

 

Being reborn is listening with the heart

Bird Droppings May 5, 2020
Being reborn is listening with the heart

 

So often in life we tend to hear words and then we rationalize those utterances, develop an opinion and then in some cases logically state a response. I got thinking back to a conversation sitting discussing existentialism with my granddaughter a few nights back, it was nearly eight years ago as she cooed and babbled trying her best to formulate words. Even as an infant her emotions however were clearly conveyed. As a tiny baby she would be upset, she would cry and you would know her diaper was wet or she was hungry. As she got a few months older she become more sophisticated and she would whimper her distaste at being held a certain way or that she wanted to go for a walk or for granddad to stop the infernal conversation on existentialism and let’s go read, The grumpy caterpillar again.

 

We hear with our heads it is those vibrations from another person’s vocal cords transmitted through the air that strike the inner workings of our ears and we in our thought processes put meaning to that sound. When I see or hear the word dog I immediately visualize a four legged, barking life form and it literally pops in my mind. Generally, if only the random word dog, that visual in my head is one of my previous pets. Far too often we let the dictionary do our thinking we simply respond to the word contained on a page and how that definition has been explained to us or that has been taught to us. We do not hear with the heart. A grand baby teaches you quickly otherwise. Occasionally a tear or smile will give away from where words are coming and good listeners will understand and hear the inner workings of the words not just the definitions.

 

“Look at every path closely and deliberately, we should then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.” Carlos Castaneda

 

It has been a number of years since I first read the meanderings of Carlos Castaneda and his journey as an apprentice medicine man in the mountains of Mexico. Many writers and scientists consider his books to simply be fiction. They are a very intricate fabrication as he developed his doctoral dissertation. I find myself however fascinated with his stories of a Yaqui holy man who took him in and taught this college educated man the old ways. While the possibility of fiction is there for me, it is the story line which is depicted, in the statement above. Far too often we modern day people choose a path of logic, one of definition, one of clear concise rational thought. We forget the aspect of heart. We hear words that are provided in Webster’s Dictionary, or even more sadly google, when looking up online. When reviewed and analyzed they have a specific meaning and soon we leave behind any emotion in what was being said. People speak not in clear and concise words but in emotions and feelings, we speak from the heart. We lose the emotion in our instantaneous, high speed, immediate, and tell me now society.
Many years ago, a great story teller spoke of becoming like children and his follower’s immediate response was we cannot be reborn, physically. The author of this story was speaking of listening with the heart as do children. They haven’t learned all the words and still do not know the definitions so heart is all they have and you know what they generally get it right. As I watched my granddaughter last night grip her upper lip in her two new bottom teeth making faces at us while sitting in her grandmothers lap she knew the response she would get and a whimper her and there and people were jumping getting toys a clean diaper. There were no words spoken simply communication direct from the heart. Please keep all n harm’s way on your mind and most of all in your heart namaste.

 

 

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

 

Occasionally we need to learn again about the Rock and the Smoke

Bird Droppings May 4, 2020
Occasionally we need to learn again about the Rock and the Smoke

 

High school students always ask questions about religion. As we get into evolution especially in biology. Occasionally I get someone who wants to prove a point. A young lady brought in her father’s sermon on creation and how the earth was only about eight thousand years old. In detail or rough detail, the sermon explained the striations of geology in the Grand Canyon. Millions of years quickly developed an eight-thousand-year life span. It was sedimentation from the great flood of Noah. I did not pull out the recent law suit of the Noah Ark’s exhibit against their insurance company about flood damage. I explain my religion or lack thereof more simply. It is about the rock and the smoke.

 

“If people find no room in their lives to pray or to meditate, to reflect deeply on why they have been created and what they must do with their lives, and to listen with all of their being to the guidance of the universe, then these people are like birds who have not yet learned to fly. All the parts of the bird are present, but something is still missing. To be a whole person is to be alive in a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual way.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

I started reading this short book several years ago and recently picked up again, only absorbing a page or two a day not trying to force my read as I do so often and get through it in a matter of minutes. There is an under lying theme with the tree of life so often depicted in primitive traditions. In Native American thought the tree intertwines spiritually and physically with all. Many times, in ceremonies a specific tree would be selected after much thought by a medicine man or woman for the occasion. It would be carefully taken down and then “replanted” at the site of the ritual. Sundance ceremonies always would center round a tree as the main focal point of the entire ceremony. I could not help but think of the latest James Cameron movie Avatar and the depiction of the tree that is connected to all on the planet. Even the Game of Thrones had sacred trees connecting everything.

 

In my own life my early mornings are to sit read and write for me a mediation of sorts. When I can if time allows although that does not sound good I will wander out into the darkness to think and reflect. Listening and watching as around me life unfolds. For many being alone in the dark is not a comfortable event but as I have now for some time embraced the solitude and quiet.

 

“A sign that much work is needed in the area of personal spiritual growth is when a person dislikes being alone, and especially dislikes being alone in silence. Many people use television and or recorded music to fill the silence so do not have to experience themselves as they are.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

Years ago, I would walk out into the early morning’s darkness all about me wandering a blanket wrapped about me, thinking and reflecting on things at hand. I found as I was searching I found peace in the solitude and quiet of the early hours. As we moved over the years and my ability to walk around became hindered I started to write and read and reflect as I would sit and ponder. I started writing down my ideas and thoughts and sharing with others. I found in each of my morning’s notes; an idea was there for someone. Today as we near a full moon and the night is bright with the moons reflection of the sun perhaps speaking of darkness at night is a bit odd but always I have found within darkness there is light when we seek it. So, in effect in my solitude I have found community. It has been a few years since a dear friend shared with me and helped me remember a poet and philosopher of life that I had forgotten so many years ago.

 

“Walk easy on the earth each life has its own fragile rhythm, to be aware of it is to understand, to ignore is to abandon oneself to sadness. It is to search vainly for the wholeness that only comes in surrender to what is.” James Kavanaugh, Quiet Water, 1991


James Kavanaugh passed away a few years back and his works will continue to inspire and awaken emotions in people for many years ahead. There is a spiritual aspect to his writing as he reflects on his own former priesthood in many of his writings. But he also separates from religion that spiritual context that is within each of us. It is that individuality and uniqueness that gives us the essence of who we are and provides us with a desire to continue existence.

 

“Existing is one thing, but making a purpose for your existence is another.” Kendall Gomez, neighbor, former LHS student, California University Student, friend, and often philosophy genius

 

Kendall is one of the few who is up when I get up each morning although she was a country away in California when she wrote this. Many the day Kendall would come by my room at school and talk and even visited a few times after she graduated. She moved into our neighborhood several years ago and it was interesting neither of us knew we were neighbors for nearly a year. Granted she is a half mile away from our house if that would still be a neighbor. As I read her post this morning and one of her responses, that her purpose was to come up with riddles for others to solve, it sort of hit me. Perhaps it is “more better” stated that we find our purpose through our existence and may even find ourselves in that effort.

 

“Another sign that warns the traveler that his heart is empty of the gifts of the west is when a person does not feel respect for the elders or for the spiritual activities and struggles of other people.” The Sacred Tree, The Four Worlds Development Project, 1984

 

We live in a world so interconnected to each other and yet so disjunctive as well. So many of our interactions that fail and go by the wayside are due to inadvertent differences of opinions, distrust and differences of beliefs than to any other rationales. I recall sitting down so many years ago with a man who was very much a man of faith. He was devout in his beliefs and staunch in his moral codes and ethics. We sat down in a small restaurant in town to discuss a program I had envisioned working with indigent families and people. As a prop knowing this fellow I had brought a bible along. Several verses were marked dealing with helping others and providing for those in need. I did not indicate to this man another religious connection of any sort and almost immediately as we talked he mentioned that Catholics were not Christian. My hand rested atop a Catholic bible. I found it interesting that within his desire to do good and help people was still this animosity for another person he had no idea of any connection to any church or religious affiliation for me other than a Methodist Church I was previously involved with working with high school students. He knew I attended a Methodist Seminary along the way. So already we in some ways were opposed semantically because he found one denomination was wrong and one was right yet both evolved from the same traditions and history. We started a program Shepherd Staff Ministries and up until I left that program over seventeen years ago we never disagreed on anything and he is still involved on the board of directors. People were served in our community with food lodging and counseling.

 

“Poverty is not merely a matter of not having ‘things’. It is an attitude which leads us to renounce some of the advantages which come from the use of things. A man can possess nothing, but attach great importance to the personal satisfaction and enjoyment he wants to get out of things which are common to all.” Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 1956

 

As I was selecting passages today I was drawn to both Kavanaugh and Merton were Catholic clergy at one time or another in their lives. Kavanaugh had a falling out as he wrote about an outdated church and left the priesthood. Thomas Merton wrote out against war in a time when such things were not often politically correct and died suspiciously in Southeast Asia electrocuted in a bath tub protesting the War in Viet Nam. Merton was a Trappist monk till his death. When you read these two authors their ideas do flow and interconnect with those of the Native American concept of a world interconnected I started with. Merton often wrote about and was well versed in Eastern thought seeing a connection between all that was. Kavanaugh in his poetry wrote of the world almost as if he were a piece in a vast puzzle a part of the whole.

 

“Thus I am certain that somehow life will never end, because the assemblage of my friends and all the beauty of the world I have known, assures me that in some state, I must have a life of love to say what I feared to say on earth. To give what I tried to give and couldn’t and to thank you with all of me, when gratitude never seemed sufficient. I long to release all hurts and manipulations, any selfish expectation when pain and suffering got in the way of love and forgiveness, when age and self-pity interfered, or when my ignorance and arrogance prevented what I longed to reveal and share. When I realized I’d done the best I could with what I had from the past, when it was apparent that for one as good and fine and loving as you are: A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you.” James Kavanaugh, A lifetime isn’t long enough to love you, 1996

 

We of this modern era somehow get lost in all that is. We want to categorize and sanitize and package seemingly undefinable ideas and thoughts. We want to be able to research and develop vaccines to cure and control all that is around us. We lose our connections. I was talking with a fellow teacher yesterday a very good friend who has served for nearly twenty five years active and in the reserves with our military. He has been in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in most areas of conflict in the past twenty years. He has seen death and destruction at the hands and minds of men. We often talk about life in general and while he knows my own believes and perhaps his might differ we often find common ground. I bumped into him on my way to check on a student and we talked. I had an article I had been meaning to bring to him as he teachers’ history. It is a National Geographic article about a tribe in Africa that is one of the last known hunter gatherer societies left on the earth. What is amazing to anthropologists is that there is no strive, stress, animosity within these people. There are not items of desire or to covet. If you need a bow and arrows you make one. If you need meat you hunt and fruit you gather. As we talked I recalled another friend’s virtual game in history of having students develop society from nothing and how it is not until as humans we begin to own things that strive and turmoil appears.

 

“We live in a whirl of images and noises, sounds, lights, desires, frustrations, pleasures, sufferings. Our lives are a cacophony; insulated from wind and rain and sun, from heat and cold, we are enshrined in our own catacombs of concrete and plastic. Living in such a world is it any wonder we turn to drugs, to more sensational means of stimulation, to entertainment that renders us catatonic? Insulated from nature, ungrounded, why should we be surprised at our own brutality? Where in such a world is there room for gratitude and for what should we be grateful?” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

I am getting carried away this morning but so often an idea starts and perhaps today I need to draw to a close and continue another day. My dog is barking calling to go out and now back in the moon has set and gone behind the pines and only the stars remain to light the sky. To my right as I walked out our drive way and cars and to the left pines and darkness a seemingly distant world untouched and real. I will use another line from Versluis as he discusses primitive people’s ideas and views.

 

“There is, however a mysterious unity between people and their landscape, between people and the creatures around them. This unity is of a subtle kind not easily explained. But understanding it is essential if we are to enter into a different awareness of our world” Arthur Versluis, Sacred Earth, the spiritual landscape of Native America

 

Another day is near dawning and another day of rest. It was nearly eight Sundays since my mother passed away. I sat down at my computer much later today than normal. Today is yard work and grand babies then next week finish up the school year. For all of my students and teacher friends may peace be with you and yours and may we as a nation find some point of reference to draw us together. For twenty plus years now I have ended my morning sojourns with this line, please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

 

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

Always on my mind and in my heart

Bird Droppings May 1, 2020
Always on my mind and in my heart

 

I avoided writing earlier today as so many memories and thoughts consumed me. I went to physical therapy and had my neck stretched in traction and while laying there for twelve minutes had a physician phone chat, telemedicine about my neck issue. After traction, I had some therapy and was ice downed. While sitting with an ice pack knocking n heavens door by guns and roses was playing. I was flooded with memories.

 

I have had many friends killed in wars recent and past. Both my father and father in law fought in World war II. I do not believe in war but I do honor those who have served. For me, my father and father in law came to mind as I said goodbye to my wife this morning as she headed to work. I was standing outside last night with our dog, the moon was bright and the stars had a few clouds sliding by quietly. A very faint chorus of tree frogs and crickets kept me company in the dark. It is coming of summer and the ambient temperature is high enough for plenty of chirping this morning. I recall one day my mother mentioned seeing my father and she woke up during the night. She asked me about my father does he come to you. I calmly said yes.

 

Thinking back, to the summer of 2007, it holds so many moments of sadness. I have found that around in the sadness many moments of joy as well. It was in May I received a call to the school’s front office and was told to call my wife, I knew immediately something was wrong as she never calls the school for me other than emergency. My father in law had drowned while fishing at his favorite lake in middle Georgia. In June of 2007, one evening I was driving down to hear my son present his rendition of “Knocking on Heavens door” at a talent show after spending a few moments with my mother and father. Early the next morning my mother called to tell me my father had passed in the night. Both of these fathers were veterans. My wife’s father served in the Air Force for twenty-five years retired and went back into Civil Service it seems he was a pretty good mechanic on C-130’s. My father left college to enlist and served during World War II in the South Pacific in the Navy on an LSM delivering Marines and equipment to beach fronts throughout the area. I wrote on both days a dropping of sorts and would like to share them again today as a memorial to my two fathers.

 

May 3, 2007
I remember his hands

 

It has been nearly forty years since I first saw his hands. I recall the day as those ugly big hands reached for mine to shake my hand as his daughter introduced me to him. Those Big ugly hands were creviced and creased from nearly fifty years of working on C-130 airplanes. Nearly fifty years of work etched into those hands with the black of oil and grease clinging to his finger nails so hard to clean off after tearing down and over-hauling engines so pilots could fly safely. Big ugly hands that I remember so clearly became beautiful reaching to hold his first grand son nearly thirty-eight years ago.

For nearly forty years I watched those hands fold in prayer at meals and in church services. I watched as he placed his big hand on his daughters’ shoulder as we were wed. I watched so many times as he would hold his big hands down for a grandchild to cling to steady them as they learned to walk. I remember his hands.

 

I remember hands that looked so clumsy from being so worn and frayed skillfully cut fine curves on jig saw as he made model cars and planes for his grandchildren. I remember wondering how could those big hands carve such a small propeller for such a tiny plane that would come to sit on my sons shelve now nearly thirty years. I would laugh as his hands cut out flowers and reindeers in mass for friends and family and as his big hands painted away in bright colors each one of those potential gifts. How I remember those hands.

 

I remember hands that could cook fish so good you had to eat a ton. I remember hands that could fix a car or repair a bike. I remember hands reaching for the food bowls at Thanksgiving dinner, filling his plate and then reaching for another roll. I remember those hands holding a bird house up as he nailed it to a post and filled his bird feeders in the back yard. I remember watching those big hands put another log on the fire and poke at the coals. I remember those hands.

 

I remember the day those hands last held a cigarette so many years ago. I remember those big hands putting up pictures of grandchildren in the living room. I remember those hands filling his thermos and getting an extra jacket to head for the races in Cordele Georgia and taking ear muffs for his grandson. I remember those hands holding an ear of corn as we listened to country music down at Mossy Creek so many times. I remember those hands.

 

I often joked of how funny it would seem as those big hands held such a small fishing pole and reel. I remember those hands and the passion for fishing and being on the lake. I remember my son catching his first fish and being hugged by those big hands. I remember those hands videotaping every single event in his grandkid’s lives. I remember watching as the boat was loaded and truck hooked up. I remember those hands.

 

As long as I have all of these memories he will be here or there and I can sit and tell my children about those big hands. I remember those hands. It is hard to ponder as I do that all I now have is those memories and will not see those big hands reaching, hugging, holding, fishing, praying and shaking my hand again. It was a long drive home as I thought about what to write and say as I remember this man. I do know I remember his hands. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

June 28, 2007
A new journey

 

I had dropped off some medicine yesterday afternoon at my parent’s home and spoke with my mother for a few minutes. Two of my nieces were there with my dad standing by his bed as I went in. He lay still not moving my mother said he has been like this now for some time. It was hard leaving and going to my next stop of the day. A feeling of apprehension seemed to carry with me. But there were other stops other pieces to that day’s journey.

 

I drove down to Oxford Georgia last evening to watch the talent show of my youngest son’s choir camp. My wife was tired from a hard day at work and she had to make several calls and wanted to watch a show she had missed previously. I stopped and picked up a water bottle for the journey, I only drink Evian. Fortunately, that is about my only idiosyncrasy.

 

As I headed from the county just before dusk a tall dead tree was standing to my left as I drove by. Stark and free from bark nearly white in the waning hour. Atop the tree in the highest possible point sat two red tailed hawks. Watching me as I drove by, I thought having my camera what a picture, this could be one for National Geographic. But as instantly as the image presented itself it was gone in the speed of the car driving along and time I had to reach my destination.

 

I arrived just before they started and have always enjoyed the Emory at Oxford campus of Emory University. The grounds date back to early 1800’s and exotic trees and shrubs abound. I listened to a talented group of young people my son included as he did his rendition of Axel Rose and Bob Dylan singing a duet on the famous tune “Knocking on Heavens Door”. The song stuck with me as I drove away after the program. Bob Dylan wrote the song many years ago featured in the movie Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett in 1973.

 

Mama take this badge from me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s getting dark too dark to see
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock-knock-knockin’ on heaven’s door

 

I came home and sat talking and watching TV with my oldest son. They tend to stay up longer than me most nights. I told him how his brother played his duet again. It is sort of hard to explain as he comes out as Axel Rose of Guns and Roses fame and Bob Dylan at the same time. But the words hung with me as I continued my journey in to night, falling asleep. Around two in the morning I had a one dog night and funny it was because he was hungry. There is nothing like a dog chewing dry dog food at two in the morning.

 

I got up with my wife fully intending to get started on graduate school work I needed to be working on and walked around turning out lights finding my chair in the dark I thought my oldest son has work this morning I will awake when he walks by. I had several vivid dreams over the next two hours waking up as my son came by. I emailed a friend that knew my sons and had been a member of the Choir Camp for many years till graduating from high school and heading to college. I for some reason went and picked up my phone all I heard was “he is gone”.

 

I thought I responded and talked a few minutes and called my oldest and wife to let them know my dad had passed away. I walked into my middle son’s room and told him. This was around eight o’clock. I walked out to my quiet spot among some young pecan trees and thought pondered for a few minutes. I enjoy the smell of sage and sweet grass as the wisps of smoke rise in a morning air. Life is a circle I thought looking at some stones I had previously placed on the ground.

 

I told my son I was heading to town to get mail and such and drove off. Around ten thirty my mother called and asked if I got the message she left. I said no I talked to you earlier you said dad had passed away. She informed me she did not talk to me. I told her I would be over shortly and was fine.

 

It is strange how we respond as we consider all events all happenings and see that truly life is a circle a simple circle. No beginning and no end as we journey. We get to participate along the way interconnect and meet people. We gain understanding and wisdom as we travel this circle and for some most I would say the transitional points are painful and yet for others wondrous moments and new journeys. My father had told me numerous times he had done what he needed to do here and was ready. He passed away in his sleep content that he had been a great father, grandfather and great grandfather. There are many who knew him over the years from Scouting, Church, Red Cross, Safety and Loss Control, and his dear friends. Each has stories to tell of pieces of my father’s puzzle.

 

“Knocking on heaven’s door” keeps coming back as I recall my sons singing last night and so many years ago as another son left me a note after sitting all night with a teenager who had been in a car wreck “Life is about the journey not the destination”, a line from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I think to the past few weeks with my father in law passing and a student just last week and today my dad. I mentioned to my wife last evening that wisdom comes with experience and time. There is a new journey a new day I wish my father well on his journey. Peace my father and friend.

 

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

 

It is not always all in a name

Bird Droppings April 29, 2020
It is not always all in a name

On February 3, 2003, I officially started calling daily emailing and journaling Bird Droppings. I went back in my files and pulled up a few old thoughts and ideas. Along with my new name in 2003 some other bits and pieces as I was reading, the local paper on that day had a street poll that was asking locals about gas prices. I found another 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 two biggest gas companies and only buy from smaller ones which will drive pricing down. Idea was emailing to at least thirty people this idea which gets mailed to thirty more, sort of pyramid gas war tactics. I found it interesting that eleven years ago we were still fussing about gas prices. As I turned the pages of my old Bird Droppings from 2003 one caught my attention. It was a quote from my middle son about my former principal. He had interviewed him for the school newspaper. I ended up emailing my dear friend and former principal last week.

Going back even further it was in 2001 or so roughly I started using the name Bird Droppings and put out several issues of newsletters under that name and sitting here this morning with an old copy in my hand. I thought at the time back in 2001, Bird Droppings, that is a good title and subject for my daily meanderings. 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 over twenty-five years ago before some of you were even born. It was a shock just as this tragedy in 2003 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 in life. There is really no solace to a family when a loved one is lost even when you knew the risks they were involved in. I recall reading over the years such headlines such as the services and memorials for the miners who perished in the West Virginia coal mine several years back. 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. More recently 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 back 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 it not apply and for others who knows as I do each day. Many years ago, I read a series of books written by a socio-anthropologist about his studies of herbal medicine among the Yaqui Indians of Northern Mexico. 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 he had become 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. Today there are many skeptics about the writings and reality of Castaneda’s work. Many claim it was purely fiction albeit an elaborate fiction.

“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 as 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 over ten years ago, they could have chosen another path a simpler path and less risky path, but they wanted and chose the direction that 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 have died serving our country and nation and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always seek peace and more importantly always give thanks namaste.

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

A rock flower and song

Bird Droppings April 28, 2020
A rock flower and song

 

A journey begins with a step and apathy begins with turning your back and saying I don’t care. Before we left school for the virus I had my last IEP of the year. I recall my laptop was acting weirder than normal and all of my school emails jumped to my personal email account and then disappeared. My entire address book all of several months of writing went into computer limbo. I came home still the same on my home account and my email for school was not there and went back to school logged on again and everything came up. Something simple was not working my password was wrong according to my computer then I checked and caps lock was on a simple fix.

Then suddenly as if by magic my personal account was gone again which was very frustrating not understanding electronics and computers at times. It seems they were doing server work at school unbeknownst to those of us using it.

 

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Benjamin Franklin

 

Just as I did this morning it is so easy to get caught up in oneself and our own little troubles. The following are the words to a song sent to me many years back by the mother of a teenage daughter. I remember the song from many years ago. My friend said her mother enjoyed this song which was recorded by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmy Lou Harris among so many others to use the words as I sit here I wonder how many folks will remember them and or the song.

 

Wildflowers
By Dolly Parton

The hills were alive with wildflowers
And I was as wild as, even wilder than they
For at least I could run, they just died in the sun
And I refused to just wither in place
Just a wild mountain rose, needing freedom to grow
So I ran fearing not where I’d go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow

And the flowers I knew in the fields where I grew
Were content to be lost in the crowd
They were common and close, I had no room for growth
I wanted so much to branch out

I uprooted myself from home ground and left
Took my dreams and I took to the road
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow

I grew up fast and wild and I never felt right
In a garden so different from me
I just never belonged; I just longed to be gone
So the garden, one day, set me free

Hitched a ride with the wind and since he was my friend
I just let him decide where we’d go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow

 

So often poetry and songs have meaning hidden in the words, it might be in the way they play out and many times in a song the melody adds to the feeling and attitude portrayed by the words. Watching one of the American Idol contestants sing a song made famous by Garth Brooks, several even commented on great song writing. Keith Urban a singer songwriter too offered the actual song writer Tony Arata from Nashville. Although Tony went to Georgia Southern by chance and will often show up in small venues in Statesboro. Tony was my brother in laws college roommate. I throw out another song while I am on Tony Arata it is The Dance words are powerful as is Garth’s delivery of the song.

 

Back to business as I was reading this morning so many teenagers feel as did this wildflower desiring to be or wanting to be free. Yet as I read the words to the song an image of a wild rose growing in a sidewalk crack in New York popped in my mind and a line from another song made popular in early 1970’s.

 

“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They took paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell

 

In the past months I have addressed apathy and a recently dear friend in a teacher meeting in Conyers was discussing apathy with teachers and how we can combat it. I was thinking about that all night; first apathy is like a virus it replicates rapidly and soon over whelms. Soon it takes over but what does apathy look like and feel like. There are key words and phrases, such as whatever, because, no reason, I’m passing, I’ll do it tomorrow, everybody else is doing it, it’s not mine, and a good one let me copy your homework. The list goes on and on apathy, procrastination and not caring can be rampant.


I am reading again a book, Neither Wolf nor Dog, written by Kent Nerburn about Native American Spirituality. The Introduction to the book is a few pages long telling of a motorcycle ride into the plains and of a large rock considered sacred to the Sioux. It is called the buffalo rock. A rather simple large boulder situated in the migration path of the buffalo that looked somewhat like a buffalo. Today it has a plague on it telling its historical significance and an iron fence around it to protect it. Nerburn writes of how he was taken to tears looking at this ancient symbol caged as he wrote and as he walked around pondering the thousands of years of people who would touch the rock for luck in the hunt or simply honor and respect as they rode by this rock in the plains of America. As he walked about sitting on top of the rock very carefully placed a crumpled cigarette not snuffed out by a careless tourist carefully crumpled and the tobacco spilled out onto the surface of the rock. Tobacco is sacred to the plains Indians and someone had carefully honored the rock and memories. Someone still cared.


As I look at schools and look at the concept or possible illness of lack of apathy. I wondered first is someone caring enough to seek a cure. Second could it be possible to weed out teachers who teach and lecture apathetically which then causes apathy in students. It is not just a school thing for many students learn apathy at home. I remember many years ago a professor who would walk in never address the class, go to his podium and start reading the book and when the bell would ring stop, leave the room and that was it. In a semester he never addressed a question a student had, an issue was never brought up, he gave a final and who knows if anyone passed. Was his class or was it his classes that were apathetic. Most assuredly he had some symptoms and from there the degree of apathy can vary, although I would say it was serious with him.


Apathy is much like a vacuum however once the seal is broke once learning is allowed in it fills rapidly. Curing apathy however often requires others to lend a hand. Begin a new day with a new thought reach for the stars as last night with a clear crescent moon and stars. I read if you can see more than eleven stars in the constellation Orion you have a clear night, I saw twenty-eight earlier this morning. Seek out something new, wonderful, and interesting. Apathy breeds within itself and upon itself. It is thinking and learning that keep apathy away. Another wonderful day for each of us please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste. I will end with one of my favorite quotes borrowing from the Governor of California, “I’ll be back”.

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

Driving up a mountain takes considerable effort

Bird Droppings April 27, 2020
Driving up a mountain takes considerable effort

 

I am looking forward to another trip to Black Rock Mountain in North Georgia, the site of the Foxfire Museum property. In the past, the site was used as a focus of Piedmont College’s teacher’s class in The Foxfire Approach to teaching. My oldest son took the course as a piece of his master’s degree program at Piedmont. But interestingly enough several folks who graduated from Loganville High School my son’s old HS attended this course. One of the teachers, as we went around the room doing introductions, made a comment about an interesting point for her was the first time she had ever held a snake was in my old classroom at Loganville High School, holding Stevie my ball python. Sadly, Stevie has passed away after nineteen years of being around students. Sitting here thinking actually there is a picture of her 2003 State Champion Softball team in my files.

 

As I recall my past sessions sitting and listening to teachers and teachers to be in the discussions that went around the room with the lead facilitators providing a frame work; I was always amazed at how quickly others began to expound or expand the conversation which was a starting point of a weeklong session. Depending on the facilitators the initial start could take a few minutes for those gathered to realize it was a joint venture of teacher and students searching for answers.

 

Just prior to leaving our house to drive up I had hit on an idea for my dissertation topic which has been eluding me for some time. I had been sitting in a discussion with a former student and he offered the idea of that I had shown him or helped him find, how learning was an artform.  As I pondered deeper into that morning this idea stuck with me and from it a topic. I would use my passion for story telling which for me toed directly into the Art of Learning and using the Foxfire Core Practices as a palette and it was only a few days ago my idea evolved again and now is, Birddroppings: Passionate learning through story telling. I have come across the word improvisational through discussion on my own style of teaching. It is that combination of student and teacher thinking is just that improvisational.

 

When I left Mountain City on my last trip and drove back to the lower lands of Walton County I felt excited about the possibilities and my own epiphany that morning with the idea of learning is an art form. John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education sits to my left as I write and the past few days I have borrowed from it several times as I jotted ideas down. But it is within the community of fellow learners and teachers we find answers and again more questions to ask. I thrive on the idea of learning even though I am sure many of my high school teachers and some college professors would argue. When students want to learn and desire to learn amazing things can be accomplished. Core practice one sums it up.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Core Practice One from The Foxfire Core Practices

 

John Dewey and his thoughts run through the Foxfire Approach to Teaching with an emphasis on a democratic classroom, experience as a means of learning and student input into the process of learning. I find that this is a rather simple statement this initial core practice which along with the other nine have evolved over the past nearly fifty years of teacher interactions and discussions from literally around the world. But so often a key attribute is missed and that is that students and teachers do this undertaking together. At my last course attended listening to sixteen nearly teachers and active teachers respond to why they were involved in this class provided me with a sense of maybe there are a few who get it in the world.
In education we talk about test scores which are also what is used to measure in most schools to federal and state guidelines. Standardized tests given to all students at the end or near end of a school term on specific subjects that are to measure what students have learned. Sadly, many students could take the same test at the beginning of the term and score the same so is that really a valid measure of what is learned probably not. Far too many teachers avoid discussing the concept of learning; they are engrossed in standards, curriculum, forms and teacher manuals on the subject. So, I sit here offering learning is a stream to cross and or an art form. Both of these ideas are fluid, moving and ever changing.

 

“Measuring tools lead to quantification; the tools in the arts lead to qualification.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

Do we ever truly measure learning? I have been wondering this since I started back into teaching although in various different words and meanings. A simple measure would be giving a pre-test and post-test which would show where a student started and where they ended. On a far more involved scenario would be that of using portfolios gathering the evidence as the student progresses through material. They are effectively used in some schools to measure learning and student’s growth. These would consist of gathering artifacts along the way from the student. Essays, reports, assignments, any piece of material that is involved in the student’s educational life could be considered an artifact.

 

“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

So, I am wandering as I sit here this almost summer like morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy. I sat down yesterday trying to write but my energy level has deteriorated even after two five-hour energy shots and I did little more than ponder a moment. 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

 

Using Pronouns

Bird Droppings April 26, 2020
Using Pronouns

 

It was one of those days yesterday and a word caught my attention as I was listening to a friend talk. The word was them. I never realized the extent of prejudice till a pronoun was used. Such words as they, them, or those people never were clearly a term used to delineate who they or them was but it was obvious within moments. It was about then that they took over in that area or verbiage to that extent. I wrote a whimsical tale of observation this morning to a friend about watching a leave floating along a stream. My premise was do we allow the leave to pass or do we interfere lifting the floating leave from its journey to observe or interact.

 

I recall I had lunch with a dear friend a few years back, someone who reflects with me on many topics. This person does not use they or them unless referring to political parties or politicians. I recall my oldest son came along as he was helping me at school move and such to my new abode on C hall. This was over sixteen years ago. We talked of education at lunch of why so many teachers have difficulty and of why some parents have a hard time and why some children end up the way they do. We discussed scholars and philosophers and we talked of my son’s journey in school which is only a few months away and he finishes his Masters hopefully he will have a firm job offer nearby.

 

We reflected on my own life’s journey and directions and that of several mutual friends and the paths they had taken. We compared our observations, made notes and reflected on new directions and pathways ahead. I raised the question as I heard earlier in the day of them and we talked of them and is there a difference in teaching us or them is there a difference in attitudes between us and them. It is so funny when two people, three actually my son was there talking about life and attitudes and are very positive, it is hard to use pronouns of us and them it changed to we continually. We should do this or this, not us and or them.

 

“There is a destiny that makes us brothers, No one goes his way alone; All that we send into the lives of others, Comes back into our own.” Edwin Markham

 

As I talk with people and email I find I am no longer simply an observer I am now interacting altering by my words that moment of destiny and of the future. My choice to use or not use a word or even discuss a subject and respond positively or negatively affects the journey for myself and that other person.

 

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

We need to sometimes take a stand and try to alter destiny it really isn’t destiny till it happens anyway. We can change the direction of the leaf floating by, a slight movement a word and perhaps light can permeate even the darkest of corners and a person who sees only in black and white may be allowed to see color and realize in an instant what has been missing in their journey. A professor and I were discussing the butterfly effect. The flap of a butterfly’s wing in the Andes of Peru could create enough turbulence to alter the path of a hurricane. As I thought deeper, never simply let a leave float by if you know only a few feet away is a waterfall. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and pull a few leaves from the current when you get a chance as I will and always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Are you a Weginahsa?

Bird Droppings April 23, 2020

Are you a Weginahsa?

 

“The work of a teacher – exhausting, complex, idiosyncratic, never twice the same – is at its heart, an intellectual and ethical enterprise. Teaching is the vocation of vocations, a calling that shepherds a multitude of other callings. It is an activity that is intensely practical and yet transcendent, brutally matter of fact and yet fundamentally a creative act. Teaching begins in challenge and is never far from mystery.” Dr. William Ayers, To Teach: the journey of a teacher, 2010

 

It was just barely four o’clock in the morning and I miss having my grandkids waking me up. They had been coming to visit with us till all this craziness started. My son is a nurse and my daughter in law is a nurse as well. Some weekends both are working and kids come visit with us.  We have been face timing quite a bit with all four of our grand kids lately.

 

Our husky needed to take a run outside to do his morning thing. Lately he has slept most of the night but today after I had gotten up and rambled around the kitchen in the wee hours he started barking and I went and took him out. it was cold again and rain coming. Several whippoorwills were calling through the pines and a crazy mockingbird has been up literally round the clock lately calling away. It is unusual to hear a bird calling at this hour. But maybe he was calling for some warm weather to stay I have been hoping for myself so music and song made for a wonderful morning awakening.

 

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done …. Men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

 

I have always been a fan of the great developmentalists and the process of each piece leading to the next and so forth. Piaget while well respected in educational fields did his research on his own children. I still find that a bit weird. Although watching my granddaughter growing up I do very much the same watching her interactions with parents, other children and with me. However his ideas seem to be sound in many aspects even though his demographics are a bit shallow.

 

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

 

In our age of standardized testing and how much we can force feed into our students so they can pass a test I had to think twice as I read France’s quote. We constantly test for content daily in our school systems and wonder why we still lag behind. “Education Weekly featured an article on science programs in other modern nations and how they were so far ahead of ours. Every program featured context over content. John Dewey one hundred years ago preached context.

 

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

 

Every day I drink several liter bottles of water after my morning tea. I never started drinking coffee till recently and then only mixed with my tea and Starbucks is the wrong direction in the morning for Chai Tea with a shot of expresso. Although I do brew my own now which is nice but it takes a few moments to heat up. For several years the liter bottle has reminded me of how we teach. For so many teachers it is simply trying to fill a liter bottle period. I visited a museum in the mountains of North Georgia and was looking at an old moonshine still when it hit me. We need to teach kids to distill information. Concentrate on the important and the pieces that can lead to other pieces. Stop trying to cram it all in to a confined space.

 

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So, the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

 

Many years ago, there was a folk song entitled “If I were a carpenter”. As I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. I used a similar passage many months ago from another great thinker, of our time.

 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

During the folk song era which probably in some circles including my own, still exists, Pete Seeger was very famous. He would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl days, songs of the depression. He would borrow from various other current and past sources for his songs. He wrote music for and developed one song that was made famous outside folk circles by a group called “the Byrd’s”, entitled “Turn, turn, turn”. This song was based on words from a book in the Old testament Ecclesiastes to be exact, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born a time to die”.
As I sit here writing this morning I got thinking about the late great Spike my bearded dragon, a former resident of my class room who had passed away a year ago Friday after five years and how he would spit out grapes. He must not have liked seeds in his grapes. I was thinking back to Independence Day and flags flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, emblazoned on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our independence. I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. By the constitution of the United States all people are equal all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness.
As we go about today remembering we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our ideals and beliefs on others which was the founding father’s key tenet. That is so easy to say but I was reminded many months back of the innocence of youth as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School moving back into my room from having new carpet put in.
The Chinese restaurant owner’s sons were sitting playing at the next booth. As they talked, some was in English some in Chinese as the chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do. The boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought about how there were so many possible meanings to that. I know his family; both his mother and father are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in local schools and the community. So was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage. I would like to think it was simply youthful innocence. “There is a time to ever season”, we cannot choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions we exhibit. Earlier today I read a post wondering about genetic preference for music and I responded it is deeper than genetics. Spiritual is the energy tying all together.
Several years ago, as I wrote the word black indicating race I was reminded that it is politically correct to say Afro-American. I was intrigued, I am still called a white person within the context of the discussion not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish person. After a moment or two I came up with WEGINAHSA that would work. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa if they would be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other. I am a Weginahsa pronounced Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row. I am reminded of another politically correct nomenclature Native American. The late Russell Means asked a reporter who was speaking about Native Americans where he was born. He responded in New York and Means said you too are a Native American and then said I prefer to be called Indian.
We choose the roads and pathways we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitudes that formulates them. I was thinking back to Piaget and theories of development of children and at what age do we see color? At what age do we begin to find differences in humans? Pondering and looking again at Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, as he made the comment about a street sweeper. It is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. That is not in the devlopmentalist guide book that is ours to decide. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are and that we are able to think act and be free, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and a key is to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird