Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Haiku, Can You?

"You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you." (Joseph Joubert)

I've always enjoyed writing haiku - the short (3 lines, 17 syllable) Japanese poetry that we all probably learned in 4th grade, and then never practiced since.  I'm not surprised I love it; I have an eye for detail, a love of nature, and find joy in choosing "just the right words".  So, I thought I'd write some tonight...

"Summer Night"
Green hills brightly glow
Shadows paint the neighborhood
Twilight brings day's end.

"Even Trees Like to Play"
Silently, I wave
Leaves rustle, as kids run beneath
A tree says "Pick me!"

"Izzy's Night Job"
Ears erect, tail stiff
Sharp bark, "What's going on there?"
Chihuahua sentry!

It's good to remember to lend an ear to the poet's voice that lives in all of us. There's much in life that can only be lived, and learned, through the heart and soul. I spend too much time in thought, and miss the beauty whispering to me in the silences.  I keep working to change that, as I get older...

Finally, I had to share this last haiku.  I didn't write it, but it made me laugh!

The only problem
with Haiku is that you just
get started and then
(Roger McGough)

...Loved it!... Hope the inner poet in you smiled!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tugging As A Team

"Individually, we are a drop.  Together, we are an ocean." (Ryunosuke Satoro)

Today was the first "official" day back to work for the teachers of South Medford.  Though many of us had already been bustling around the building for weeks, like squirrels trying to find our winter nuts, today was the first time we were all together in our new building.

A part of many "first day's back" are "Team Building Activities" (especially if you have a new principal or a very enthusiastic one).  Many times, teachers grumble at these, but I like them!  Probably due to the 20 years I spent coaching basketball during which I would do many of the same things.  This year's "first day back" seemed an especially good time for this kind of thing.  We were opening a new building; we had a rare opportunity to both create a "new culture", and to renew those things we held dear. 

My colleagues, and I, seemed to approach the activities with a surprising level of enthusiasm!  We ran like crazy kids around the school, competing to be the first to finish a scavenger hunt (and managed to learn the layout of the school at the same time - amazing!).  And then we grunted, and groaned, and sweated and strained, and heaved and huffed, and then gloated like victorious gladiators in the Team Tug of War (My team won!  Arrrggggh!)

And, in the end, I walked away with some welcome reminders.

That we ALL will be successful this year, if we're willing to be patient and to work together.  We teachers, are so often "captains in our own little boats".  But if we sail as a fleet of "Horatio Hornblowers", tooting the same tune, we are so much more effective.

That there is no substitute for hard work.  Day after day, week after week - trying to help kids.  But being willing to have a little fun - to laugh and play while toiling - makes it a little bit easier.  I want to look for those "playtimes" more often this year.

And that, every school year... every school day... is a NEW one - even for this "old veteran".  Something new can be learned, if I'll just dare to BE new.  The world that I'm part of is a product of the decisions I make, especially inwardly.  It really is that simple.  It really is my choice.

I'm glad to have stumbled across those "pearls" again today.  But I paid a price for them.  I gloated like a 20 year old after the Tug of War, but I'll be hobbling a bit like the 52 year old that I am tonight! 

"On y va!" (in search of some Ben-Gay)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Take The Road Alone

"One travels more usefully alone, because he reflects more." (Thomas Jefferson)

I was so excited when I began this blog, and even more so after writing my first two entries.  I couldn't wait to share what I had done with family and friends, so I forwarded a link to it to all of my family and friends.  I just knew they would be happy about my fledgling attempts to write - to pursue a passion.  I was certain they would be at least interested in this "peek" into what was going on in my life.  I'm horrible at calling people - but my musings here - and their comments in reply - could be our little fireside chats; our chances to catch up.

And a few people warmly responded... "Keep it up", they said.  "We didn't know you were so thoughtful".  "I'm proud of you."... "You could write the Great American novel!" (not sure about that!)

But the silence from my family was deafening - especially since they usually complain that "You don't keep in touch".  And the one family member who did respond curtly said, "What's the point?  Seems like a lot of words to me."  Not what I had expected.  Not what I had hoped for.  It stung to have a ice-cold glass of indifference poured on my "eager as a puppy" heart.

But I realized a valuable lesson was being offered me - one that I could only learn through both the compliments from some, and the negativity from others.

If I was truly writing out of a genuine love of doing so, I would do so without the need to bask in the approval of some, or be shaken by the disapproval of others.

I would be willing to walk my own road alone.

I asked myself, "What is it that I love?"  Writing for the approval of others?  If I only did that, I'd be quickly disappointed; a meek slave to judges I could never satisfy.  I wouldn't fully explore the gifts and talents that God has given me.  And where is the love in that?

How badly did I want to try something new?  How much did I want to explore "my world" and learn something new?  The answer came clearly to me.

I wouldn't wait for others to tell me they liked the road I was on.  I wouldn't wait for companions to join me.

What I truly loved, what I wanted to give myself to, would return the Love to me - if I'd only take the first step towards it.  And in response, it would reward me in ways I could never imagine.

Learning that is a "pearl" worth keeping...

So, the journey continues..."On y va".... with a smile...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

That New School Smell

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning." (Louis L'Amour)

Today has been an exciting (and long!)day. I've been at school, helping with registration - will be here until 8 pm (but I'll at least get some pizza!). Here I am, a veteran of over a quarter century of teaching (26 years to be exact!), and this week I am experiencing many of the same feelings that a beginning teacher would - things you'd think I'd "outgrown".  In many ways, I'm glad I haven't...

This week I'm setting foot in a brand new school building for the first time ever!  Wow!  A new South Medford High School - replacing the Great Depression-era building that has been my "home" in southern Oregon for the last 18 years.  Here I sit; in my room - in awe at how beautiful our new campus is!  I can look out at a sunny August afternoon, and see trees waving in the breeze; brown hills and mountains (dusted with smoke from a forest fire), and green everywhere - what a treat!  In all of my years of teaching, I've only been in a room with windows 3 times!  How did I ever keep a smile on my face spending so much time in "dungeons"?  Don't know!

But along with all the excitement, and all the luxuries of a new school and classroom, comes some anxiety as well.  So much work still needs to be done around here. Classes start in 10 days and my room is still mostly unorganized, undecorated, unconnected technologically. 

"Where will I put everything?  How do I get anything printed?  Where can I eat lunch at? Where can I park my car and not have to walk a 1/2 mile to my room?  When will I get the table they promised me? Will the air-conditioning work?  How am I going to get all of this done?  I just know there's going to be way too many meetings next week!"  Like little gnats buzzing around my head, the worries swirl and whisper...

But then I take a deep breath and remember.  Remember that it will all work out as long as I keep my attention on what I'm doing - not the pesky "gnats".  Instead, watch the breeze outside, and remember to be flexible like the trees it's gently pushing.  Look at the sun on the hills, and remember to keep a smile on my face and a light heart.  See the green trees and grass, and remember that there is goodness in change; freshness in growth.  As I remember to do each of these, I can't help but smile, even though I'm tired.

All good reminders as I begin again:  a new year, a fresh start... rare opportunities that not everyone who's been in the same career for a quarter century get, or take advantage of.  Lucky me!

Those thoughts are definitely "pearls" worth remembering for the rest of the year...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Steps

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” (Lao Tzu)

Me at Dun Aengus on the Aran Islands years ago (1998)
...And so I begin.  I have always wanted to write a blog, if for no other reason than I just like to write.  Writing has always been the one "art" that I've had a passion for.  I can't draw; I sing like a braying mule (just ask my wife!); the only musical instrument I've ever mastered is my MP3 player (I know how to turn it on!), etc.  But I've always had a passion for crafting a thoughtful sentence, paragraph, or article.  Just as I see myself doing now, I spend time carefully choosing words, placing them, honing and shaping them - like a quiet farmer, rocking on a porch, whittling a piece of maple.  But the funny thing is, I've never devoted a lot of time to doing something I loved so much.

Why do we do that?  Spend most of our time, doing so many things other than what we are passionate about?  Finding excuses, reasons why we can't do what we want to?  Good questions!

Which leads me to another reason why I started this blog.  I want to use it to explore - to learn.  We learn through asking questions, and then being open to the answers Life offers.  We learn through being brave enough to try new things, and to share these with others.  We learn through admitting we don't know everything already...

I called this "Looking For Pearls" because I am interested to see what unexpected "lessons" I will learn from doing this.  What types of "gems", of insights, will I stumble across on this journey?   I'll write about whatever's on my mind.  I'm a teacher - lots to reflect on there!  I'm a lover of history, travel, good food, and a laugh.  I'm a incurable romantic, lucky to be married to a beautiful woman (and her impish chihuahua, Izzy!)

So, as I learned to say when I travelled in France,

Me at Mont St. Michel (2004)

"On y va!"... Off we go!