Seeing each piece as we live

Bird Droppings December 5, 2011

Seeing each piece as we live


It has been several years ago that I began looking at life as a journey each piece building to the next. Yesterday I was reviewing my jaunt to take our granddaughter home to North Georgia. I got up to go run by the school and check creatures in my room I had to detour around a car accident as I did my immediate thought was what will I experience new as I go this different way. I did talk with several people and see things I would not have seen otherwise adding significantly to my day. But what of those strangers in those discussions that took place, did they continue the talk. I wondered was the idea engrained so it was carried farther and that is why my morning had a change. It was about pieces of the puzzle falling in place the great mosaic of life unfolding before us.


“People have the illusion that all over the world, all the time, all kinds of fantastic things are happening; when in fact, over most of the world most of the time, nothing is happening.” David Brinkley


So much of what we do we try and think perceive what everyone else is doing and miss the focus on now on where you are at the moment amazingly if you do you may see so much more.


“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through chinks of his cavern.” William Blake


Nearly fifteen years ago I was involved on taking a group of high school students on a retreat. We journeyed up to the mountains of North Georgia where one of the sessions was facilitated by a good friend. He asked folks in his group to find a spot and observe. Some saw great oaks and pines untouched for many years while others saw the great boulders in the river. However the one with the smallest vision saw perhaps the most. One girl who was going through some difficult times saw a beetle crawling along the ground and it came to her foot and rather than disturb the beetle she did not move and intently watched. It would start crawling over and tumble back start and tumble, time after time trying to crawl over her foot. She watched rather than help the beetle and on the twentieth try the beetle succeeded and crawled over her foot. When she came back to the group she was one of the last to tell what they saw and her story became the focus for the group. Others had not looked so minutely only seeing the big picture but that beetle story will be remembered by all success is there if we try.  


“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it “creative observation.” William S. Burroughs, Creative viewing


You know that the beetle story would have occurred even if not observed but no one would have known about it.


“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Max Erhmanm


 I watch this happen daily in the halls of a high school where constant comparison is a daily process. Why not be yourself? Why not be true not simply a copy of that which you think you should be? It is a very hard sale to teenagers always wanting to be the coolest and the sharpest dressed and in style. When we have a decade dress up I am always suitable for 70’s, 80’s and 90’s since I still wear the same clothes.


“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein


I have been working on essays about a black and white picture of a bridge. It is an effort to get students who have never imagined, to be creative and to imagine what could be happening in a static photo. But with enough prompts and discussion amazing things happen.


One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful. Sigmund Freud


I am always amazed at how today I write about the hardships and troubles of days gone by and often teach lessons based on those events.


“A penny will hide the biggest star in the universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.” Samuel Grafton


For fun try it a simple experiment. Hold a penny up to your eye and if close enough a star, a sun, a building can be covered up it is all about perception.


“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.” Helen Keller


Perhaps one of the most humbling experiences of my life was working with deaf children for two years. One of those pieces of the puzzle I speak of and remember so fondly. I often would imagine what it was like to be deaf and blind. Many the time to be better in tune with my kids I would go on field trips and be deaf with them wearing ear muffs from the speech pathologist I would listen through hearing aids the crackling jumbled sounds of the world. Oreo cookie wrappers wreaked havoc with hearing aid’s back in the day.


“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” Al Nueharth


How we see life and all around us is perspective and yes it could be Mt. Everest and or an ant hill. Often we get so stressed all we see are mountains. Relax and eventually even the greatest mountain erodes away with time.


“A weapon that you don’t have in your hand will not kill a snake. Looking for something can get in the way of finding it.” African Proverb


After so often spending a day looking at snakes at a herpetological convention I liked the sound of this. A local reptile expert was doing a demonstration and had a large diamond backed rattlesnake out on a table. Several times the snake nearly got loose as I watched maybe to add to the show although as I sat I was wondering about this fellows insurance.


“The wolf is upset about what he left behind, and the shepherd is upset about what he took away.” Armenian Proverb


It is all in the perception. The momma wolf is feeding pups and the shepherd too has children to feed. The shepherd is in the wolf’s territory and is exacting a price for being there. The wolf however has upset the shepherd and a price could be exacted as it has for wolves for thousands of years. It is all in how we look at it. Currently in our own country out west around Yellowstone Park livestock owners want reintroduced wolves killed off. Even though the wolf kills are a tiny percent of annual deaths and wolves have reduced coyote numbers which were a major predator. Only a few years ago they were endangered. In all of this the funny thing is ranchers want to use federal land to graze on they want to kill off grizzlies and wolves on federal land to graze their cattle for free.  


“Happiness is… usually attributed by adults to children, and by children to adults. “ Thomas Szasz


Far too many people are happy where they are. I have heard so many times I wish I was young again or I wish I were an adult. Enjoy the moments and experience all you can.


“You can never step in a stream the same way twice” Zen saying


On my desk at school is a photo of my son stepping across rocks at the same retreat the girl mentioned previously saw her beetle. John fell in several times but continued to try and eventually did go rock to rock across the stream. I wondered about this saying the first time I saw it. I find it is true in so many ways with each experience that is unique and no matter how hard you may try will never happen again exactly the same way. Enjoy life, live life but most of all listen see and be. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.



Just do it! But when?

Bird Droppings August 15, 2011
Just Do It! – But when?

“I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Helen Keller

I have always held a great respect for Helen Keller. To have overcome such odds and become the world traveler and speaker that she did is almost unfathomable. Maybe this is why the story of her childhood is entitled “The Miracle Worker”.

“There are two kinds of people: those who do the work, and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” Indira Gandhi

As I read this morning these two statements stood out. These two great people were tremendously influential in their time. Helen Keller blind and deaf yet addressed world leaders and lectured throughout the world. Indira Gandhi daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and the first woman prime minister of a leading world country. To simplify their remarks, “Don’t just sit there do something”. So often people sit and wait many times for someone else to do whatever needs to be done.

“Don’t wait for someone to take you under their wing. Find a good wing and climb up underneath it.” Frank C. Buraro

“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” Benjamin Franklin

Each day I see teachers and students hesitate, myself included, “I can get it done tomorrow” or “I can’t do it”. In the end so often what gets done is only adequate and could have been so much better. We hesitate, we procrastinate, and we except partial over a whole, and or we will take a 70% on a paper “its passing”. I see and hear red when I hear that and yet I remember when I too would accept that grade and walk away happy. It was less work and much less studying.

“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!” Donald Gardner

“There is nothing so fatal to character as half finished tasks.” David Lloyd George

Everyday it takes effort to try and explain that it only takes a bit more effort a bit more energy for a A over a C. Is it human nature to seek the easy path in life?

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right”. Napoleon Hill

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.” George H. Lonmer

I had a student explain why it took so long for him to finish projects. He wanted to be sure it was right. I told him it was because he didn’t work at it. However he assured me it was seeking perfection was his down fall. But is it the data, the key to many choices in life. Yesterday my perfectionist unknowingly was observed for ten minutes. In each half of ten minutes anytime someone mention anything he would get up and walk over to see what it was or come over to me to see what I was doing. So in perfecting his work nearly two thirds of his time was getting out of doing it. I made a comment, “if you put that hard work from the three or four minutes out of ten you actually worked into all ten minutes you would be done in time and have plenty of time to spare”.

“How soon not now, becomes never.” Martin Luther

“Don’t wait for extraordinary circumstance to do good; try to use ordinary situations.” Charles Richter

We wait, we pause, and we hesitate so often in life. I wonder at what point in our evolutionary makeup pausing came in. Perhaps it was a modern contrivance, maybe with remote controls invention. I would think if you paused when a saber toothed tiger was chasing you it would only be once. It had to be when remote controls came around.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Haile Selassie

“During a very busy life I have often been asked, “How did you manage to do it all?” The answer is very simple. It is because I did everything promptly.” Richard Tangye

When it is time rather than putting off and often doing only a partial job of knowing when to and when not, but not wasting time either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have back those ten minutes here and there?

“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.” Dawson Troutman

“The best labor saving device is doing it tomorrow” Source unknown

Each of us will have excuses for waiting but in the need perhaps we should put aside excuses and get the job done myself included. Today keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

How do we measure a man or woman?

Bird Droppings July 19, 2011
How do we measure a man or woman?

So many times in life over the years I have seen and heard others talk of others both good and bad. In a high school rumors run rampant literally all the time. Gossip is a way of communicating for teenagers I believe. Over a summer a few years back I attended several funerals of family and friends. In two of the funerals the lives of the folks were what impacted all those in attendance and yes people were grieving and upset yet the influence and discussion of that person is what surmounted the grief. It was easy to measure those people through their lives.
I attended a teenager’s funeral and it was of a different nature more about religion and salvation than the child who was taken at such a young age. It has bothered me as I knew this young person. Back nearly four years ago during school days on a daily basis if she was in school she would stop by my room to talk. I have participated in several websites and blogs in memorial that have helped ease that void that was left after the funeral for so many and still is being used today. People were addressing the life and measure of this young person. As I read the comments left and notes added to the facebook and myspace sites I can see a wonderful person emerge, one that will impact others for many years.

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Samuel Johnson

Several times I have pulled this quote out the past six years. It is a good one, a philosophy of life that truly presents a universal truth in a sense. When social status has no significance and means nothing to someone to a degree they will not let that be an issue in life, nor is it simply treating people as you would like to be treated. Doesn’t that sound familiar; literally every religion has that philosophy running through it. I have always found this to be an interesting concept.

“Ah, when to the heart of man was it ever less than treason to go with the drift of things to yield with a grace to reason and bow and accept at the end of a love or a season.” Robert Frost

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Oh to often we sit back seeing and knowing what is right but not saying anything. We know we need to treat people differently than we do and just cannot seem to take the step or climb up and do it.

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest. It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” Mahatma Gandhi

As I sit thinking reading through various writers thinkers I always seem drawn to Gandhi, a simple man who in his simplicity changed a nation. From his thoughts sprang new ideas and a determination with the ideas and philosophies of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. “ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have been trying for this summer to come up with something along that line, how can we judge man truly judge man. If we devoid ourselves of senses such as sight, hearing, and smell can we judge a man purely on character?

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. – When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” Helen Keller

I have always felt strongly that of all the famous people I have read about perhaps today’s youth need to read more about this remarkable woman. She stood out among people and was recognized as a great individual beyond the fact she had overcome so many obstacles. She spoke in front of the powers of the world in her time yet never saw them or heard them. For those of you who do not know Helen Keller at a very young age due to an illness lost her sight and hearing. Later on down the line a book and then several movies addressed her life in “The Miracle Worker”.
Essentially the story goes how a teacher would not give in to a child with no sight or hearing who had basically become a spoiled brat. With her teachers help a great mind was opened to the world and, “we can never know what miracle is wrought in our life, (or more importantly) or in the life of another.” Take a moment this morning and review where you are in time, in life and step forward boldly offer a hand up if needed and do not be afraid to ask for that hand if you need it. Keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Doc Bird’s Herb garden:

Simple Sensation
from Susanne Elliot LaCranda Ca.

Couple handfuls of lavender or rose petals (half this amount if dried)
1 cup fresh lemon juice
½ – ¾ cup honey or maple syrup

5 cups boiling water over herbs in a pan and cover – steep 10-15 minutes
Strain and add lemon juice and sweetner

Searching for wisdom

Bird Droppings May 30, 2011
Searching for wisdom

I started my day a bit later than normal being Memorial Day and most stores and such are closed and my plans included yard work writing and a family gathering later today so I was lazy. I ran by my corner store and shock of all shocks it was closed as I pulled in which is unheard of at seven thirty in the morning. So I went on about the day but some how ended up at one of my favorite stores QT and got a paper. On the front page the lead story was how high school graduates are not ready for college. Essentially in Georgia twenty five percent of the graduates have to take remedial courses in college. As I thought about this pondering as I do I recalled I too took a remedial language arts course my freshmen year. Actually took it twice since the first time I did not go to often.
Why did I have to take a remedial college course and yet I was accepted into all three colleges I applied too. My SAT was a few points too low for the school I applied too. As I think to my days in High School Literature with the exception of maybe one or two years I hated it and could not understand why we needed to listen to a teachers opinion on why Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. As I think back I really did not like Math classes, Spanish classes and all but one science class. Considering we had math, literature and science all four years of High School I really did not like high school and perhaps my GPA reflected this. Even though my Sat scores were what got me into college and conversely in a remedial class, my saving grace in education was standardized tests which I seemed to always do well on. My first set of SAT scores were in today’s terms over 1300 for verbal and Math which really would get me into most undergraduate schools shy of Ivy League today. The second time I took SAT I decided I would see how fast I could actually take the test and in twenty three minutes had completed the SAT and scored only a few points lower than my previous test.
So where am I wandering today. My conclusion that I came to after reflecting on my own High School experience and many kids I talk with in High School today is that we are teaching subjects that many consider irrelevant to them, even kids going to college. Some students will strive and get high grades acquiring the content that is provided so they take End of Course Tests and do great. But as I look at High school subject matter and even the photo used in explaining how deficient students today are in Math I looked at the problem on the board behind the teacher being interviewed and in real life shy of being in physics or math as a job you will never see that material. Learning is what is missing from education today. It is about that desire to learn and making it relevant to students who more than likely do not even want to be in that class. So how do we get teachers on board that have been brought up in the same system?

“The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results; all his selfish desires have been consumed in the fire of knowledge. The wise, ever satisfied, have abandoned all external supports. Their security is unaffected by the results of their action; even while acting, they really do nothing at all. Free from expectations and from all sense of possession, with mind and body firmly controlled by the Self, they do not incur sin by the performance of physical action.” Bhagavad Gita 4:19-21

I can easily substitute learning and wisdom as I read through this ancient passage from a Hindu holy text. It is a matter of who you are with and when and how you have been told is this learning? But as I read this passage many years old a person is wise when what you do is done without anxiety about results. You are not concerned about your grade or what college or who has the highest GPA. We sadly live in a competitive world where being number one is even a marketing tool for advertisers. I often wonder if politicians get stressed out, other than around elections over what they do. I always thought of my grandmother as wise for her understanding was what she needed to know to raise her children justly and correctly and how to make really good chocolate chip cookies.

“This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety….It becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” The Dalai Lama

As a society we seem to encourage anxiety and stress often at the expense of our children and grand children. Our previous elected government pushed to spread democracy through numerous wars and our current government has continued and added a war or two to the pot which has caused a tension and insecurity in our children according to Curriculum Theorist Henry Giroux. Is it turning to a deeper meaning a spiritual center as “the only firm base” as The Dalai Lama states.

“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble

How many if us take this approach to life I use often the term of being a searcher in that I am always searching. When walking in the forest I have the urge to check under rocks could be the unrelenting herpetologist in me searching for a snake or lizard. As I sit or stand in the hallway at school observing, searching faces, listening, empathizing and trying to understand.

“To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.” Dietrich Bonheoffer

I used a statement several weeks back about seeing the bubble in a thousand clear oceans. Bonheoffer addresses that same issue here. In education it is about context not content, that is being able to apply what knowledge we have and that can be more significant than an encyclopedia of information.

“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” Helen Keller

Many the times, I will sit and think about people I would like to meet. My biological grandfather on my mothers side is one, Gandhi another and Ralph Waldo Emerson but if I was allowed another it would be Helen Keller. There are few people who have overcome such insurmountable odds and then accomplish what she did. The title to the book about her life does not do justice to the real life situation, The Miracle Worker.

“It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Henry David Thoreau

I need to be more cautious as I write yesterday Thoreau was searching for clam rather than calm spell check does not read minds as of yet. But Thoreau eludes back to that thousand plus year old statement from the Bhagavad Gita,”when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results”. Being wise is being in tune so to say with all around and to borrow another word perhaps harmony could be used.

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” Immanuel Kant

In education there are in The Georgia Performance Standards points of reference in each subject to attain or to have knowledge of. Georgia had a system in place of Quality Core Curriculum which literally was each and every aspect of what the educational committee thought was important in that subject. Teachers were teaching to QCC’s and it was almost purely content. There was excitement as standards came out and the school curriculum people got hold and unpacked and now we have curriculum maps and curriculum pacing and what was to be wonderful has become a monster. The heart and soul has been stripped out and in its place organizational overload.

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Lin Yutang

I have several times used my example of a liter bottle and having three gallons to put in it, how do we do it? A funnel still only fills to a liter and the rest spills out. I use this illustration in educating special needs kids and I believe it applies to all children and adults. It has been a few months since my last trip to Mountain City and the Foxfire property. I am heading up in a week or so. If you are in Mountain City Georgia take a look it is well worth the drive up the mountain. The museum will provide a guide to take you around. I recall the late Robert Murray and numerous walks with him around the property, here and there he would pick a plant leave or three or four telling about what they do and what they can be used for.
As he would go building to building explaining mountain life he eventually gets to a shed with a large copper coil sort of device and asks “So what is it” and answers run the gambit? Finally laughing he explains it is a condenser for making moonshine. So how do we fill a liter bottle? We condense and we synthesize and much like making cane syrup we boil the cane juice down to get the good stuff. Wisdom is knowing what is the good stuff and being able to transcend the frills and extras.

“The perfection of wisdom, and the end of true philosophy is to proportion our wants to our possessions, our ambitions to our capacities, we will then be a happy and a virtuous people.” Mark Twain

Make that number five on my list of people who I would like to meet somehow Mark Twain could always have the right words and thoughts. As I meander about today searching for books and ideas I will end with a line from a founding father and one maybe our current in power folks should read.

“I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” Thomas Jefferson

I hope we will listen to Jefferson please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.