Tomorrow will be my first real day of retirement. While I will not miss the convocation, association meeting and staff meeting all that much, I will miss reconnecting with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen all summer. There are more than 60 people on staff at Roberta G. Doering School. You’ve been a huge part of my Life for the past several years. . . a Family enjoined in a great common endeavor. I suppose it would be more noble to say I will miss working with the kids (I surely will) . . . but what I’m really feeling right now is not seeing all of you tomorrow. Believe me . . . there is no shortage of things I will NOT miss. This is the least stressful Labor Day I’ve experienced in a long time . . . maybe ever. . . but I will miss you. Wishing all of you all the best.
As August winds down my head is filled with Teachers. . . long ago Teachers who’ve left their legacy and moved on . . . future Teachers, like kids I’ve met recently whose Dream is to be a Teacher . . . and right now Teachers, like my colleagues who call out on late summer evenings, “Here I come . . . ready or not”. . . This is for all of them. . .
“What is the meaning of Life?” a great Teacher was once asked:
Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.
And what he said went like this:
“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.
“I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine — in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
“I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light — truth, understanding, knowledge — is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world — into the black places in the hearts of men — and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.”
And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.
Much of what I experienced in the way of information about Greek culture and history that summer is gone from memory. But in the wallet of my mind I carry a small round mirror still.
Are there any questions?”
(from the book, It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It , by Robert Fulghum, the same guy who wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten )
Ready or not, a new school year is upon us. You’re already aware of some of the challenges before you. You can also be certain there will be challenges that are totally unforeseeable at this time. Thank you . . . all of you . . . for being there.
You are Teachers.
August 24, 1972, was, in terms of popular music anyway, a hot August night as Neil Diamond took the stage at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles for Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show. “So pack up the babies and grab the old ladies” and follow my musings on this not so hot August night.
Here in New England the nights begin to cool in late August as the katydids and crickets join in their farewell to summer chorus. To me it always sounded like they were singing “Back to school . . . Back to school”. After a pretty routine summer, the not so hot August nights are stirring my sensitivity to retirement. I’m not going back to school . . . at least not in the same way I have for the past sixty years. So here I sit with my laptop (didn’t see that coming in 1968) trying to sort through a huge mixed bag of feelings.
I honestly don’t remember walking into Louise Hill’s first grade classroom in September 1952, but that’s when it began (there was no kindergarten in those days). I’m not sure if it was Mrs. Hill who instilled a love of reading or if it was being a star in all those Dick and Jane stories (I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to me next). Anyway, I loved school . . . I still do.
After Mrs. Hill came Miss Monat, Mrs. Rowe, Miss Lundquist, Miss Louth, Mrs. Rogers, Mr. Della-Guistina, and Mr. Desmond. When I moved on to high school there were Mrs. Benway, Mrs. Kellogg, Mr. Syrenne, Mrs. Hardy. I mention them here because they deserve to be remembered, and because I channeled every one of them to become a teacher. At the same time I think of Donna, Dave, Kathy, Grace, Dawn, Teresa, and other former students who, themselves, have become teachers. I find great comfort in knowing they are carrying on. Henry Adams said it: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
As September approaches I travel the Circle of Life to share with the next generation of human service providers my years of experience. I will be teaching part-time at a local community college. It feels right . . . “Hot August night and the leaves hangin’ down
And the grass on the ground smellin’ – sweet. . .”
On the first full moon of August my Daughter, Erin, and I made a pilgrimage to Goshen, Connecticut. We were drawn to the Mohawk Bison Farm where a white buffalo calf had been born in June. To Native Americans the birth of a white buffalo calf is the most prophetic of signs. The coming of the white buffalo brings purity of mind, body and spirit and foretells of the unification of all nations – yellow, red, black and white. The birth of the sacred white buffalo is a message of hope and a promise of harmony.
Although most tribes have their own version of the legend, the oldest and most well-known is the Lakota story of White Buffalo Calf Woman:
“One summer a long time ago, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota came together and camped. The sun was strong and the People were starving for there was no game. Two young men went out to hunt. Along the way, the two men met a beautiful young woman dressed in white who floated as she walked. One man had impure desires for the woman. “She is beautiful” he said to his friend. “I will make her my woman.” When he tried to touch her he was consumed by a cloud and turned into a pile of bones. The woman then spoke to the second young man and said, “Return to your People and tell them I am coming and I bring them a gift.” This holy woman brought a wrapped bundle to the people. She unwrapped the bundle giving to the People a sacred pipe and teaching them how to use it to pray. “With this holy pipe, you will walk like a living prayer,” she said. The holy woman told the Sioux about the value of the buffalo, the women and the children. “You are from Mother Earth,” she told the women, “What you are doing is as great as what the warriors do.” Before she left, she told the People she would return. As she walked away, she rolled over four times on Mother Earth, turning into a white buffalo calf before she disappeared. It is said that after that day the Lakota honored their pipe. They walked a path of honor and respect, and buffalo were plentiful.” (from John Lame Deer’s telling)
We were met by Peter Fay, the calf’s caretaker, who was a most gracious host. He escorted us past a fence line adorned with many offerings from other pilgrims. Erin left the traditional 28 prayer ties she had assembled during our drive, and I offered a medicine bundle that I had prepared before setting out on our journey. After going through a number of gates we arrived in a lush meadow of green grass and wildflowers that stretched out beneath Mohawk Mountain. We crested a small rise and there he was standing with his mother and another cow and her brown calf. Our host cautioned us to move slowly as these were wild animals and might spook easily. We approached to within about a hundred yards. They seemed to sense the respect with which we came and calmly looked at us as we stopped and offered our prayers. We left, our Spirits infused with peace and gratitude for this message of hope for the future.
This gallery contains 9 photos.
Growing up in the eatly sixties on Granville Road in Southwick we would ride our bikes the 5 miles or so to the Granville Gorge. The uphill ride was hot and tough, but we were rewarded with the ice cold waters and pristine pools of nature at her best. Then, it was a long coast downhill as […]
Seems to me that those opposed to marriage equality define marriage in terms of sex . . . while those who support marriage equality define marriage in terms of love . . .
The deaths of Phoebe Prince, Carl Walker-Hoover and Tyler Clementi are terrible tragedies for all of us. My heart goes out to their families and all who love them. The aftermath has brought countless forums, seminars, interviews and editorials. Our schools, churches and youth organizations offer programs and curricula to address bullying. We have new state laws. Still, we can’t seem to grasp what’s gone awry. We scramble to assign blame. Then unrelentingly bash those upon whom the finger comes to rest. We complain that our schools are not doing enough to teach social skills to 12 year olds who should have learned them long ago.
It’s time to look in the mirror. We live in a culture of meanness. It is pervasive and insidious. It is no longer fashionable to work out our differences. We must annihilate those who don’t share our views. We see it in our politics. We see it in sports. We see it in foreign policy. We see it in video games. We see it on sitcoms and reality shows. We even see it at the funerals of our fallen soldiers. Our kids see it, too.
We (and even more so our children) live in an amazing world of technology. It offers us entertainment, organization, and an avalanche of data. We can analyze anything and everything. We have become so enthralled with our technology and the data it provides that we have failed to recognize its sinister partners, objectification and dehumanization. When people are reduced to objects, numbers, test scores, screen names, and avatars we don’t have to be concerned with feelings.
It’s time to look in the mirror. How do we, ourselves, participate in the perpetuation of this culture of meanness? What are the lyrics we and our kids listen to? What video games do we give them money to buy? What movies do they go to? Do we watch TV with them and laugh when the characters insult and hurt each other (as the canned laugh track prompts us to do)? What language do we use when we talk about those who are different from us? Do we provide our children with communication devices without providing the wherewithal to use them humanely?
Yes . . . humanely!!! We need to reinvest in the Human Connection by doing whatever we can to stop the pervasive spread of dehumanization in our society. If we want our kids to stop bullying, then we must stop applauding, reinforcing and voting for it.
It was Walt Kelly’s Pogo who said . . .“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
236 years ago today a group of brave patriots declared independence . . . independence from George III . . . independence from the British government . . . and independence from huge British corporations, such as the British East India Company, which through its vast holdings and deep pockets largely controlled that British government.
We need to embrace the spirit of that declaration and revisit our constitution to end corporate personhood once and for all.
“. . . corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”
~Supreme Court Justice Stevens, January 2010
As near as I can remember, my interest in photography goes back to the mid fifties. I was 10 or 11 years old when Mom and Dad gave me a Brownie camera for my birthday. It was a pretty simple bakelite point and shoot, but I loved that camera. It shot medium format 120 film, and I had to do all kinds of odd jobs to earn money to afford it and the processing. That camera remains one of those birthday presents I still remember more than fifty years later.
In college in the sixties, a buddy of mine discovered that there was a budget for a photography club, but no club. We went to the dean and were told that if we could enlist a faculty advisor, we could activate the club. I don’t recall who we drafted, but we found someone who agreed as long as we wouldn’t bother them. My buddy, Rich, became President. I was VP, and Rich’s cousin, George, served as treasurer. The three of us were the entire club. We had a well equipped darkroom, a few cameras, and an operating budget. We began shooting for the yearbook and college newspaper.We held exhibits, sponsored contests (which we usually won), and increased the equipment inventory. It was pretty much all black & white photography. We taught ourselves darkroom techniques like dodging and burning-in. We purchased (for the club, of course) a number of interchangable lenses. That’s when I discovered 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) photography.
I bought my first Canon 35mm camera (I think my son has it now) at the Fort Dix PX in the late sixties. I did a few weddings for friends, some baby photography, and kept entering contests. In the seventies I joined the Springfield Photographic Society which met monthly at the Museum Quadrangle. I learned a lot from other photographers, both amateur and professional, read a lot of books and took a course or two. Somewhere along the line I bought another Canon (I think my son has it now).
The kids arrived in the eighties, and my photography became documentary family life. We have several bins of prints and slides like most families with adult children. Both kids are artists (and bloggers). Our daughter is a writer and our son’s a web developer/photographer. My own photography kind of faded into the background until my retirement gift rekindled the spark that still seems to be there.
Lynne gave me a new Canon EOS as a retirement gift. The day after she gave it to me I took it on a morning walk near our home in Western Massachusetts. We might not live in the mountains or at the sea shore, but nature’s beauty is all around us wherever we might live.