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.



Thorns really only hurt by surprise

Bird Droppings October 21, 2011
Thorns really only hurt by surprise

It has been an interesting week spending time with my granddaughter amazing how many different things she can find to get into. We recently had homecoming week and each day we the teachers and students could dress up according to various themes, 1980’s work out day sort of threw me until someone said Flashdance, the movie. Needless to say there were many shredded sweat shirts and leggings. Hero day found me wearing my Steve Irwin shirt since he is a real hero of mine. One day was college colors day so I was divided which of seven or eight do I choose from and it seems Georgia Tech won out and I only had a son graduate from there. I also had an episode of interest as I started working on questions about benefits yesterday. I bumped into another teacher who was complaining of increasing health insurance costs as we talked and I made a comment borrowed from a recent article of a health insurance executive who took home almost one hundred and fifty million dollars last year. I made a comment about this is why so many protestors are said where is the line of greed versus profit, and was told well you are a socialist and I am a capitalist I do not see anything wrong with that. Well why complain about health costs and rising insurance prices if it is ok to make an exorbitant profit off of them and in this situation does not impact my health care.

“Love is a rose but you better not pick it. Only grows when it’s on the vine Handful a thorns and you know you’ve missed it. Lose your love when you say the word mine” Neil Young

I first heard this song many years ago, Linda Ronstadt was singing it. It was years later that I learned it was written by Neil Young. Coincidently I have been a Neil Young fan since 1968, the Woodstock era. He is an interesting character, Neil Young that is. But the words in his lyrics are always powerful. I used my exercise from several semesters back when I gave out an assignment to find a song and print out lyrics. Several students printed out favorite songs that were a bit difficult to translate into anything, huh, huh, huh, yeah, yeah, yeah, huh, huh. That was a line actually ten lines of a fifteen line song lyric of a top ten song recently, entitled perception.

“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’.” From Creative viewing, by William S. Burroughs

What was Neil Young trying to say when he wrote that line so many years ago? It is not all as it seems. Burroughs looks at an artist creating and others will manifest that creation through perceiving that creation.

“The seeing of objects involves many sources of information beyond those meeting the eye when we look at an object. It generally involves knowledge of the object derived from previous experience, and this experience is not limited to vision but may include the other senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and perhaps also temperature or pain.” R. L. Gregory

We so often grasp at that first image, or first impression. “Love is a rose” to borrow from Neil Young, but the hidden aspects the thorns we don’t see till we try and pick it and a “handful of thorns and you know you missed it.” Trying to teach students to go beyond that first impression, use their prior knowledge and other senses can be difficult.

“Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Their highest merit is suggestiveness.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Suggestiveness as Hawthorne states, perhaps teachers too are “suggestors”, first giving alternative other views in a world where so often views are limited. I think back to my first thought of health insurance. I suggested a line may have been crossed where someone was taking advantage of a situation to reap a profit. It has been a number of years since I first read Maslow’s works. One line stands above the rest. Do I look at the world and every problem as simply a nail and all I have is a hammer or was it the other way around yesterday discussing health car and insurance.

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Abraham H. Maslow

This is a key point, in life so often people are limited by what they know or do not know. I put this very quote up on a bulletin board in my hall at the high school. So often I see kids who only have a hammer, as a teacher it is important and actually far too often a highly guarded secret knowing where the other tools are kept and that there are other tools.
Parents and teachers spend too much time teaching how to nail only and not enough showing the tool box. What if I carefully pruned that rose with clippers and gloves and grafted to a new bush. We then have a different outlook and a different view. What if instead of a hammer a wrench is needed or needle nose pliers. Suggest rather than tell, as a teacher or parent and always offer alternatives instead of solutions. Provide insight instead of tunnel vision. We all have room to grow and to see anew. “Love is a rose” and thorns or no thorns I will still pick it. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

Small is often BIG

Bird Droppings May 23, 2011
Small is many times BIG

Yesterday I took care of my grand daughter so my son and his wife could spend the day with some friends at Six Flags over Georgia. I find it amazing how a conversation with a five month old can be so enlightening. Her eyes sort of watched as I spoke about the various sounds we heard as we walked around the yard. A morning dove was cooing and I called back. A mockingbird called in one of its many voices. A woodpecker hammered away in our old black walnut tree and I pointed out the holes almost out of view. We sat down at my special place in the back of the yard where I sit and meditate and still early in the day the spider webs were glistening in the rising sun. I explained how the threads of life are woven through all things. After our walk we went in and had breakfast and read, The grumpy caterpillar by Children’s book artist and author Eric Carl. My grand daughter is barely an arm full and yet the wisdom of youth shows in her eyes.

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

Last week a student asked about a plaque hanging on my wall. It is rather simple one, just a slip of wrinkled paper with the word pass written on it. Why you have a piece of paper hanging up, I was asked. It got me thinking about a day many years back when I was finishing my masters degree. I was looking at some power point slides as we waited between committee meetings at Piedmont College. This process was the culmination of two years work and studies and at Piedmont College entitled the capstone. As I think back and relate to what a capstone is within an arch it is that which hold all together. Our project was a summary of all we learned in two years.
As I thought back nearly nine years now, one set of slides was of my son’s old ten gallon aquarium, a nano reef or mini reef for those less verbally aware. The object is you can have a beautiful salt water aquarium in a small space with very small creatures. The up keep is actually significantly more than a larger tank because there is no margin of error in a small tank, but when you start looking at these tiny almost insignificant creatures they become breathtaking. In the space of ten milk cartons an entire world exists. A two and a half inch pistol shrimp lives in a burrow with a three inch blenny a small fish. The blenny is very wary and the shrimp is blind when trouble seems to be coming the blenny pulls the shrimp back in the hole. When a tasty morsel is coming the fish encourages the powerful shrimp to grab it. In that small space two tiny creatures working together in a symbiotic relationship.
A few days ago one of the teachers brought in a tiny green tree frog they had caught we arranged a little cage for observation. Over the years I have found the world close up can be more fascinating than great big world we live in. There are pieces revealed that may other wise go unseen and life takes on a different aspect. Often I enjoy my macro lenses more than the telephoto. Seeing up close often reveals bits and pieces we might never see otherwise.

“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.” Creative viewing.” William S. Burroughs

So often we miss the small pieces always intent on the big and little bits of life will pass us by. As we used to watch my sons nano reef explode when he dropped in a feeding solution of microscopic particles of plankton, algae and such. I do not even see what the tiny corals anemones and polyps can sense in the water, closed animals open into beautiful living things seeking their prey. Soon after glimpsing the power points I was handed a small piece of paper with my name on it written in blue ink and the word in capital letters PASS on it as well. That was the closure to two years of study and a door to another journey. I took my note and placed in a frame on my wall at school a reminder of how so often small things can be so important. Amazing how a small piece of white copy paper can be so significant. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.