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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Mount Hood

It is better to travel than to arrive, it is because traveling is constant arriving – John Dewey.

Kathy and I have spent time in the Portland Oregon area several times. It is such a fun place to visit. One summer we were there we went to Hood River, toured, golfed, and took pictures.

One of our excursions was a ride on the Mount Hood Railroad. I lived the first years plus in a hamlet on the Athabasca River in Alberta. Back in the day, it was a long way to Edmonton by car, but I vaguely recall riding the rails once or twice to go into Edmonton.

This is a working train. When I got back to school, one of my students asked if I knew the gauge of the tracks. I did not and he told me what it was sight unseen. I took him at his word. Another time he asked me if I knew how many penalty minutes a particular player took during an NHL season during the 1960’s. When I looked it up, he was dead on. I cannot remember how many penalty minutes I took in any season, but know I exceeded 100 minutes one season; not bad for a goalie. A favourite artist of mine is Johnny Cash. I enjoyed every element of his career from the Sun Record days to the American Hero days. Here is a song that fits: The Rock Island Line. It comes from his Sun recordings.


At various places you can take pictures of Mount Hood. It is snow-capped year round and has summer skiing on one its faces. I don’t ski, but I used to golf. There is pretty good course on the mountain and we played 27 holes in almost 100 degree heat.

Here is another view.

One of the stops was a museum and this was some of the equipment on display. Reminded me of the farm. There were a variety of old cars, tractors, a caterpillar, and parts of an old planer mill where Kathy’s family farmed.

Hood River is basically on the Columbia River Gorge with other modes of transportation available. The paddle wheel is more a last resort. When we lived on the Athabasca River, my dad built a boat with a Willys Jeep engine as an inboard motor. I impress my mother when I tell her I remember that, about the train rides, our dog, Brownie, and chasing my older brothers through the coal shed and jumping down onto the chopping block underneath the back window.

Some evidence of a way of life that is not totally lost but reshaped by the damming of the Columbia.

The majesty of the end of the day revealed in various colours and shadows.

I am now listening to Johnny Cash singing I’ve Been Everywhere. Not quite, but no reason not to dream and try. There is a Canadian connection to the song. It was originally written by Geoff Mack, an Australian, and recorded by Hank Snow, a Canadian, using North American place names.

Tuned In and Fired Up

I mentioned this book in Culture of Peace and Angry Young Poet. It was worth a read. I start with a haiku which emerged from the book.

 

Who stretches the teacher?

Journey into their essence

Reveal the learner.

I read Tuned In and Fired Up by Sam Intrator for two reasons: as a teacher and as a graduate student preparing for the dissertation process. Sam contributes to the work of the Centre for Courage and Renewal which based on Parker Palmer’s writings and thinking.

The book is enjoyable, informative, and motivating. Teachers need to take time and pause, reflect upon, and recall the reasons they were called to teaching. There are alchemical moments of discovery we artfully use and define teacher, students, and subject. It is surreal and its magic can never be underestimated as the three blends into a single whole and respects individual integrity.

Part of the magic in this book is Mr. Quinn, the teacher. He took risks and students tuned in and fired up to his genuine presence. Parker Palmer, in The Courage to Teach, suggested “teaching is always done at the most dangerous intersection of personal and private life” (p. 18). Mr. Quinn’s teaching was learning and realized he could wrong. The magical aspect takes a teacher onto the boundary and, then, into uncharted waters. Good teachers take that risk and students sense it.

Towards the end Sam cited William Ayers: “Since teaching is always a search for better teaching, I am still in a fundamental sense becoming a teacher. I am stretching, searching, and reaching toward teaching” (p. 134). This is a virtuous cycle of learning-teaching-learning to infinity.

Sam leaves the reader with an incredible list of those things teachers can reflect upon and use according to their setting. Many are well-known: cultivate rapport with students, compete tenaciously for their attention, and spark their desire to create. Others were ones I felt were lesser known: embrace your role as a performer, tap into their senses, and acknowledge boring. That last one is challenging. At the adolescent level, treat them like they are becoming adults.

Questions: A concern expressed by Sam was a need for genuine collaboration. What practices do you use in your workplace or learning that foster collaboration between adults? If you teach, what ways do you include students?

Recommendation: I loved the book and let me leave you with just two ways. It was easy to read without losing meaning. Sam used simplexity and achieved his aims. Second, he left a thorough recipe without the quantities. I need to figure those out with students and subject.

Intrator, S. M. (2003). Tune in and fired up: How teaching can inspire real learning in the classroom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Palmer, P. J. (2007). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

Sabbaths by Wendell Berry

What do I gain from taking a break; disconnect to reconnect? I think this poem speaks volumes. Jay F. Smith contributed the idea for this poem along with a brief reflective essay in Leading from Within.

In his essay, Rev. Smith indicated the Sabbath mood is “a mood resulting from a deep sense of knowing that no matter what the immediate visible, tangible, measurable ‘results’ may be, [something bigger than me] God is at work in the world” (p. 114).

Whatever is foreseen in joy

Must be lived out from day to day.

Vision held open in the dark

By our ten thousand days of work.

Harvest will fill the barn; for that

The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled

By work of ours; the field is tilled

And left to grace. That we may reap,

Great work is done while we’re sleeping.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood

Rests on our day, and finds it good.

Berry, W. (2007).  Sabbaths.  In S. M. Intrator and M. Scribner (Eds.), Leading from within: Poetry that sustains the courage to lead (pp. 115). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sabbath’s Circle

Have a great 23rd of July, 2012.

A virtuous circle

Begins at the end

Ends at the beginning.

A source of refuge

Moments of discovery within

No urgency

Besides just breathing.

Just be

With all nature’s cycles

Brings wholeness

Sabbath liberates.

I find life events are increasingly filled with synchronicity. When I posted the poem Auditory Illusion, I had listened to a thunderstorm chase itself in and out of the Spokane area. It thundered overhead, moved off, and returned several times circling in and out of the area for about an hour. After the post, I reflected on life’s circularity as it is and scribbled some thoughts down before going to bed last night.

I heard the rain differently than it was. It sounded like the storm was over, yet, when I got up, it was raining hard. The eaves of the building had tempered the sound. Today, in Wayne Muller’s Sabbath, he wrote about the etymological roots of the words absurd and obedient. Absurd is from the Latin surdus which means deaf and obedient from the Latin to listen. Yesterday, listening or mislistening to the storm and its intensity reminded me of the frequency I misunderstand parts of life and its relationships. Wayne Muller was friend of Henri Nouwen and said he was “a fiercely astute observer of our worried, overfilled lives [and that] … the noise of our lives made us deaf, unable to hear when we are called, or from which direction” (p. 84). I am commited to daily moments of silence and a weekly Sabbath to help me listen when called.

Wayne Muller concludes each short chapter with a brief reflection for Sabbath. The chapter Let it Be is also the title of my favourite Beatles’ songs. Today, the reflection was from Brother David Steindl-Rast an Austrian monk.

“Let the silence drop like a pebble right into the middle of the day and send its ripples out over its surface in ever-widening circles” (p. 86).

Muller, W. (1999). Sabbath: Restoring the sacred rhythm of rest. New York: Bantam Books.

The Auditory Ilusion

Drops of water

No rhythm

Fall from eaves.

Seemingly,

Out of tune

An orchestra warms ups

Occasionally, silence breaks out.

The aftermath

Thunder chased itself in and out

Lightning lit the mid-day sky.

Now, a steady rain

With a different view

More than sound

More than intermittent drops

From the protected, artificial eave.

When I laid down, an afternoon thunderstorm had just started to move into the area. I listened and it sounded quite different from what I saw when I got up. Now, I am up on the fifth floor, or the penthouse, so it might sound quite different at street level.

I wonder what other illusions we have based on position and perspective on life?

Haiku Haven

Last year, I found I was tired and often in pain and began to look for ways to deal with these issues. Cautiously, I examined the concept of meditation and a mindful practice. This morphed into more, as I began to read about the topics and I completed an individual and directed study as part of my doctoral process. I am provided with an opportunity to explore the self who teaches and lives this life during these quiet moments. I discovered a need for a mindful life, where I was fully present and meditation serves me well.

Each morning, I get up and begin my day with a quiet, mindful space:

Each morning’s practice

I fall awake into day

Embrace the calmness.

Most days, I walk to the local coffee shop where everybody knows my name and continue my practice. Even in the noise of the place, I mindfully read and drink my tea. Part of it is the walk.

With each of life’s steps

Earth receives me graciously

And we become one.

Each afternoon, I try lay down for an hour. I rarely sleep. My neck and shoulders ache and they are asking for a break. I focus on my breath and let thoughts flow by on my stream of consciousness.

Embodied mind speaks

Rest the mind and body

Take refuge, sabbath.

Take care and have a great 21st of July, 2012.

An Angry Young Poet

Each year, I spend time on poetry with the students. Two years ago, a student asked if I wrote poetry in junior high school and I was able to say, “Yes!”. He asked me to share with them. I found them in a small lock box I keep at home and shared several with the class.

I mentioned in Culture of Peace Sam Intrator. He suggested teachers expose adolescent students complex, existential questions of life as they move through those formative years. I wrote my poems in about 1969. It was a time when identity was increasingly rooted in the global nature of the world, not just immediate community and family. War, even in Canada, entered our homes via television. I found voice in poetry and expressed an abhorrence to institutional and government approved murder. What set me apart from my peers, was I took no sides. Each was equally wrong in my mind. Mr. McKenzie, an innovative English teacher, encouraged that in us-find our voices.

I shared the following poem with my students. I concede it is not exactly the original, as it was pretty angry. I hope the original message is still there. Students asked for more poems and I complied. These past few months I rediscovered my poet’s voice. It is a gentler voice, I hope.

Win or Lose: What Difference Does it Make?

 One game

If it is one

No fun to lose

No great thing to win.

War!

Hollow

Men, women, children gone

In no time

Woe! The vanquished losers;

No winner

Each, vanquished in every sense.

Divided

In ruins

Rebuilding

On countless graves

Rudderless.

Without pride

Beggaring citizens

Values of others

Resenting conquerors

What does war bring?

No jobs

No hospitals

No schools

No homes, but the streets

Destruction everywhere.

What does war bring?

Death of innocence

Loss even in victory

Comrades fallen

But see an enemy vanquished.

Killing

Proving nothing

What fools

Going on forever

Will we learn?

We must

I pray

For human survival.

Take care and have a great 20th of July, 2012.

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