Walking and Listening among the Cotton Woods

Bird Droppings August 4, 2011
Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

I walked outside earlier as I took our infamous dog Lil Girl out for her morning constitutional. The sky was overcast this morning with a mist of rain falling and wisps of fog scattered about on the warm earth were visible. Over the years I have spent many days in the mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes even wrapped in a blanket for the cold. I would spend my time listening and watching as time went by. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of their attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry and verses logging down emotions events and moments in my journal of sorts. Not too long ago my mother bestowed on me nearly twenty years of ramblings in old cardboard file boxes. I had forgotten she had been going through them. There are even a few rejection slips from publishers on poetry ideas.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife; “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I really wanted an answer to boost my ego and she said, “it really depends on who you are talking too.” You know at first I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands their vocabulary as well. I instantly felt better.

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

In days gone by and even today I will pick up an encyclopedia and read the volume much like a book, ok tonight’s light reading is H. I just put up an old set of Encyclopedia Britannica donated from the media center as they replace there set every so often and give teachers old ones.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We have all grown up with the statement about how curiosity killed the cat but a lack there of will also keep the world at a standstill and nothing will happen.

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

A great guru of business Peter Drucker has written many books helping people manage their businesses. If you look at our society and the pace of new information and technology we are living in a world where while you sleep things change. This statement is even truer today than when Drucker wrote it in the sixties.

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have come to enjoy Emerson and I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man. When I read this I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. It should be literally a teacher, as a door. With the teacher or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in. As the student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts.

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

I sat and spoke at length over lunch several days ago and walking back to class with a good friend who had just returned from nearly a year in Afghanistan, we were talking of cultural differences to us sometimes these differences are ridiculous and yet to a people they are a part of life. I have been fascinated with a tiny group of people and have been reading several books lately dealing with the Sans or “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa as well as several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of their homes and culture for the sake of mankind we are told.
It seems diamonds have been found in the Kalahari and the Sans who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, hunting and gathering now must leave and go learn to farm to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner. What if the antelope has escaped during the hunt as a Bushmen you know the signs to track and finish the job.
Knowledge is of when and where you are now going back to my wife’s comment to me this morning and my own vocabulary learned through so many experiences and books read.

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

Mogetse Kabokikanyo was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. We citizens of the United States talk of human rights and dignity but in a case closer to home, it is very similar.
In about 1909 or so Geronimo was told finally he could not be allowed to return to the White Mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort Sill Oklahoma on the Apache reservation literally a prisoner of war where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to Lawton Oklahoma. Driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights are even noticed only the rustling cotton wood trees and the flow of water over the stones in the river alongside the grave yard. A rolling landscape and meadow of grass go up from a small gravel parking area. Not many people come to this corner of Fort Sill.
Many times as I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive ethereal entity flitting about as a monarch travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind we can make a difference it is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s who are the real teachers.
It may be one step one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day hopefully mankind has learned. One day maybe not today knowledge will truly be. But till then please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and try to offer a hand to any slipping as they cross the stream.
namaste
bird