Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gratitude: Student Teachers

Amanda teaching a few days ago.

Tonight I'm feeling grateful for my two student teachers, Amanda Brice and Kendall Deay.

Amanda taught a lesson on rhyming words today and she did a masterful job. I felt happy for her success.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gratitude: My Work

Yes, even in California we can have cloudy weather.

Today I was feeling grateful for

  • My work as a teacher. Some of the students wrote "newspapers" in the writing center. I took pictures and posted them over on the Mr. Kindergarten blog. Here's one of the pages. This was spontaneous. The pride the students was infectious, but it filled me with joy.
  • Staying completely unruffled when my van didn't start this morning. I haven't driven it in about 2 weeks and the battery's too old to gracefully accept so much neglect and disuse. I've got jumper cables, so it's really not worth getting all lathered up about it.
  • A remark I overheard in the lunchroom, "I'm not worried about swine flu. More people die of diarrhea every day." If you're going to go out and catch something, catch some kindness and some fearlessness, O.K?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gratitude: Sunday Night

Tonight as I wait for Ted's call from Togo, I am thankful for:

  • the wonderful spring weather we had for the Apple Blossom Festival,
  • singing in the Love Choir this morning on the pool stage,
  • Robin's group up on Burnside Road.

It's been a good weekend off work. I'm ready to tuck in and start a week back at school.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Peacetown Parade

Sebastopol celebrate apple blossom time each spring in the last weekend of April. I'm very grateful to live in this town where we know so many many people.

The Chamber of Commerce organizes a weekend full of events that feature among many other events:
  • an art show on Friday night,
  • a 2 hour long parade that shuts down Main Street Saturday morning,
  • a festival in Ives Park that includes a crafts fair, live music on two stages, and
  • lots of tasty festival food.

The City Council. That's Mayor Sarah crossing over towards the camera.

Sarah and I marched Saturday's parade route twice, first as part of the Sebastopol City Council's entry. We quickly walked back to the start and joinedthe Love Choir's entry just as they entered the street. We sang a favorite Negro spiritual, "Down by the Riverside," and John Lennon's "All You Need is Love" as we made our way down the parade route.

Jim Corbett a.k.a. "Mr. Music" led the singing from atop the float.
Jim was named 2009 Sebastopol Citizen of the Year a few months ago.

We must have sounded good: The Love Choir won the Grand Prize.

Current and former students.
Pictured here left to right are Rylee, Mr. Gurney, Max, and Logan

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gratitude: Homemade Music

Here's a sweet way to end a day: make some music.

I've got a dulcimer which I enjoy playing before bed. It makes sweet, soothing music and invites a relaxed, non-technical approach to music. Dulcimers are folk instruments with no rules built in. You play them any way you wish.

I'm grateful for:

  • my dulcimer
  • for no TV satellite or cable service to my sanctuary of a home
  • the very busy community art show we spent the evening at tonight
  • having a job that gives me golden moments.
Over on Mr. Kindergarten I posted a story about the one thing you might do to sweeten your life. Two parents at my school have tried my suggestion and thanked me for it. It's here: Friend to Friend Conpiracy

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gratitude: Youtube

Today's gratitudes go to:

  • Mark Cowell over at The Butler and Bagman for his video of "If I had a day to live" song. I had not thought to add a little video clip of my own to the blog. Now thanks to Mark, the seed of this idea has been planted in me. Perhaps someday I'll throw some video on to this blog.
  • Delwyn for her educational and entertaining posts over on A Hazy Moon, and
  • Sarah Lulu for her courage and trust in the world as she reveals herself in Normal...
  • And a whole host of other inspiring bloggers out there. It's just a little overwhelming how many worthy writers/thinkers are out there blogging away...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Teacher Post

Today's post is really over there on my Mr. Kindergarten site. I'm grateful to have had work so fulfilling for so long and for the good sense to get out while I still (mostly) love it.

I'm going to write about my feelings about retirement more fully once I've actually retired. But I will say that it's a mixed bag of excitement and mourning. I still love teaching itself. Little incidents like the story I told over there on Mr. Kindergarten. Here's the link.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Evidence by Mary Oliver

While in Mendocino, I purchased Mary Oliver's newest book of poetry. Her poetry captivates me. I'll be sharing a few of my favorites from this collection in the weeks ahead. The third one in this collection captures the experience of having heart palpitations. Goes like this:

Heart Poem

My heart, that used to pump along so pleasantly,
has come now to a different sort of music.

There is someone inside those red walls, irritated
and even, occasionally, irrational.

Years ago I was part of an orchestra; our conductor
was a wild man. He was forever rapping the music-
stand for silence. The he would call out some
correction and we would begin again.

Now again it is the wild man.

I remember the music shattering, and our desperate

Once he flung the baton over our heads and into
the midst of the players. It flew over the violins
and landed next to a bass fiddle. It flopped to the
floor. What silence! The someone picked it up
and it was passed forward back to him. He rapped
the stand and rasied his arms. Then we all breathed
again, and the music restarted.


I am grateful to everyone who writes and reads poetry.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gratitude: Health

A recent dip in my health (hypertension, palpitations) makes me feel grateful for:
  • the generally good health I have enjoyed,
  • the medical care that has been available to me,
  • my body for talking to me. (I need to listen.)
I went to the doctor today and we're going to begin a thorough review of how things are.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mendocino Getaway

I am grateful to be able to get away for a little rest and relaxation from time to time.

Mendocino coastline

We rented a cozy cottage with a little gas fireplace at Sea Rock Inn.

This blossom eavesdropped on our dinner conversation.

Other cabins nearby were empty. This is the view from our cabin's front porch.

Often there is fog on the coast of Northern California.
Thursday we were treated to a real sunset.

The fireplace kept us warm.
I bought a copy of Mary Oliver's new book of poems, Evidence.

The Bishop Pine that inspired me to write a poem.
This was right across from our inn.
I sat here for about an hour after a wonderful breakfast.

We hiked in Van Damme park's Fern Canyon Friday morning.

Pay It Forward Award

Thank you, Delwyn, for passing along the Pay It Forward Award. I feel honored to have received it.

Now, I'll have to think about to whom to pass it along....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bishop Pine

A sonnet, written at the edge of the Pacific while on vacation this morning:

Rooted at the cliff’s precipice
A solitary Bishop Pine leans
Back into the continent

Its lifeless seaside shoulder
A tangle of twigs and bare branches
Scrubbed gray by blasts of fog.

Dead wood that mysteriously
Shelters life in its lee—
Where slender, supple,
Paired needles quiver and nod greenly
Now, in a soft morning breeze
That whispers gently offshore

Under a last quarter moon
Sailing west to set just past noon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poem by Portia Nelson

Note: I'll be on a short vacation until Saturday, feeling grateful for time with my beloved.

Until then, enjoy this poem:

Autobiography in Five Chapters

by Portia Nelson

Chapter One:

I walk down the street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I’m lost.
I’m helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two:

I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three:

I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I fall in.
It’s a habit.
But my eyes are open.
It is my fault and I get out immediately.

Chapter Four:

I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five:

I try walking down a different street.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gifts from Japan

When our Japanese exchange students visited Sebastopol last month, the official delegation brought four gifts to our city. I photographed them this morning to share them here before they go to City Hall for display there.

The Japanese have a special fondness for wrapping things, and each of the gifts came in elegant wooden boxes so special that I thought I should photograph some of them, too.

When I was in Japan in 2004, we visited the town of Arita, famous for its ceramics. I can remember looking at the fine work and marveling at how expensive it all was. I have no way of guessing the value of these gifts, other than to say they are very precious, indeed. Our sister city in Japan, Takeo City, has been most generous!

The first gift is this hand painted vase.

This box has a front panel that slides up to open.

The exquisite detail in this is beyond words.

It's the year of the ox, so here's a hand painted tile for 2009.

A hand-painted plate.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gratitude: 3 Haiku

Gratitude’s Partner, Generosity
by Dan Gurney

Feeling gratitude
Feeling content and grateful
Feeling greatly full.

It’s like an in-breath
An inhalation: great, full
Full with life’s bounty.

For more, first exhale,
Give away our great fullness:

Note: Delwyn over at Hazy Moon commented that the treasures she finds on her walks are for sharing. Her posts seem both expressions of gratitude and gifts to her readers; they inspired this poem comprised of three linked haiku.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gratitude: Time Off

Today was the first day of spring break. I grateful that I had

  • time to get 90 minutes more sleep than I'm accustomed to (still not enough, though)
  • time to catch up with household chores
  • time to meet the internet cable guy
  • time for laundry
  • time to weed the garden beds for spring plantings
  • time to cook dinner without hurrying
  • time to get to square dance lessons early
  • time to meditate in the middle of the day, too
  • time to write a tanka.

I'm grateful for the time off.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Global Warming in Australia

I ran across an article in the Chicago Tribune about the effects of global warming as they are being felt in Australia. Apparently Australia epitomizes accelerated climate crisis.

Here's a quote from the article:

"Suicide is high. Depression is huge. Families are breaking up. It's devastation," he said, shaking his head. "I've got a neighbor in terrible trouble. Found him in the paddock, sitting in his [truck], crying his eyes out. Grown men—big, strong grown men. We're holding on by the skin of our teeth. It's desperate times."

A result of climate change?

"You'd have to have your head in the bloody sand to think otherwise," Eddy said.
You can read the whole article here: Global Warming: Australia.

And, if you need something to lift the despair after reading that story, read this interview with James Lovelock who sees a silver lining on the fix we've gotten ourselves into. To read the Lovelock interview, go HERE.

Another Hike

Sarah and I were so pleased with yesterday's hike that we decided to repeat it today, but taking the same loop in reverse this time.

This evening I'm grateful for:

Health good enough to enjoy whole day hiking,

A life partner with whom to share the day,

The sun, the wind, and the sea.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lemonade Award

Like Bagman, said.

Thank you.

Coastwalk: Bodega Head

Today's gratitude goes to Richard and Brenda Nichols who led an 8 mile Coastwalk day hike on Bodega Head. Richard was Coastwalk's Executive Director for a 18 years. Coastwalk seeks to preserve public access to the California Coastline and to build a border-to-boarder trail along the coast. It's a great organization and I plan to volunteer for them in my retirement. Besides advocating for sensible use of the coastal resource, Coastwalk organizes hikes and walks along the coast. Sarah and I have done a number of them, and I highly recommend them.

Today's hike began along Bodega Harbor. We visited the site of a proposed nuclear power plant. The local utility actually began work on it digging this hole, now filled with water, 120 feet deep. They built roads, got quite far along before someone pointed out that this nuclear power plant would upwind of a large population (where I live) and that they were building this most dangerous of all human buildings


Well, fortunately, Bill Kortum was there to lead the fight against this crazy project and now all that's left are the roads and parking lots built and this lovely pond.

This is a santized history of the project.

The site of the "Hole in the Head" from above.

Views from Bodega Head

Bodega Dunes.

There were 12 of us on the hike. Richard stopped now and then to tell us a bit about the history and natural history of the place.

Salmon Creek Beach.

We had a lovely hike.

Gratitude for Friday

Here I am, again, a day late on my Friday gratitude.

This one, posted Saturday here on the west coast of North America, goes to Sarah Lulu for sending me the Lemonade Award, my first.

Thank you, Sarah Lulu. I feel honored.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gratitude: Poetry at Many Rivers

When I moved to this town almost 30 years ago I would never have guessed that in my lifetime it would have more than half a dozen Buddhist groups scattered about, a bookstore featuring tea and tools for spiritual practice and offering poetry readings on a pretty regular basis. But that's what Sebastopol has. I had the pleasure, for the second time this year, of attending a reading at Many Rivers Books and Tea by poet and friend Jim Wilson. My post from earlier this year is here: Link.

Here are two more poems of Jim's, cinquains:

The Perfection of Patience

Older than this country,
Silently watch humanity
And wait


Cool and aloof,
Waiting in stark patience
For the day when human beings
Are gone

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eknath Easwaran's Passage Meditation

About a quarter of a century ago, I attended Eknath Easwaran's Tuesday night lectures in Petaluma. He was the founding teacher of Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. I first became aware of his work by reading a cookbook that Blue Mountain published called Laurel's Kitchen. I was amazed to discover that I happened to live very close by his world headquarters.

For a couple of years, I practiced his Passage Meditation practice which consists of these eight steps:
  1. Meditation on a Passage
  2. Repetition of a Mantram
  3. Slowing Down
  4. One-Pointed Attention
  5. Training the Senses
  6. Putting Others First
  7. Spiritual Companionship
  8. Spiritual Reading
It's outlined in his well-written and engaging book called Passage Meditation. His meditation program is down-to-earth and eminently practical and can be applied by all people of all religious affiliations. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, atheists, and agnostics alike can apply these suggestions and benefit from them.

Since those days I've migrated back to Buddhism, but I am grateful to have studied under Easwaran.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ancient Indian Story

I feel grateful for my friends: Christian, Louise, Marc, Roger, Sue, and the others who were away this time. You leave a good vibe.

I am grateful, too, for the Native American flute music of R. Carlos Nakai. It sends me into a wonderful realm.

I'm grateful to be able to share this story culled from a book written by a former teacher of mine, Eknath Easwaran. Goes like this:

In ancient India, a king named Vipashchit breathed his last breath and journeyed to the afterlife.

He had been such a kind ruler, a model for all kings, that the devas in heaven were all anxious to set him up as their teacher and guide. When he reached his destination, he was welomed with smiles and embraces and even tears of gratitude.

Some time passed and Vipashchit settled down in satisfaction to his new life. Heaven, he remarked to one of his new companions, was a happier place than even he had ever dreamed it could be. "Heaven?" the man replied. "This isn't heaven, your majesty! This is hell. The people here are miserable. But in your presence their suffering turns to joy!"

Just then some heavenly messengers arrived with abject apologies; a terrible mistake had been made. "All of us in Heaven are waiting for you, O Great King," the said.

Vipashchit looked around and smiled. "I am staying here," he replied. "I have already found my heaven."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gratitude: The Whole Catastrophe

Sometimes these gratitude posts get to feel cloying, Pollyanna-ish.

People might think my life is a walk in the park. It's not. There's no way of knowing, I suppose, how one's happiness compares to other people's.

My effort to incline my mind towards gratitude each evening is intentional and intended to deliberately sweeten my mind which is actually often somewhat sour.

Lately I've been pretty upset at the whole human race for fouling its nest through pollution and environmental degradation. I'm not pointing fingers here. I'm as responsible as anyone else, probably more, being a relatively well-off human being living in the United States. For example, I don't fly much, but I've flown more than my fair share. I heard that the earth could not sustain ONE jet flight for each human being. I've flown a lot more than once, and I'll fly more than once more in my life. So I'm already way over my fair share. But I am trying to shrink my carbon footprint as much as I can.

In any event, I'm grateful for:

  • giving some thought to the world I'm leaving behind for my grandchildren,
  • clean water to drink,
  • a house in a quiet neighborhood in a walkable town,
  • clean air to breathe, and
  • wholesome, local, organic vegetarian food in my belly.

Sunday's Gratitude: Slice of Life

I am thankful for the long-time presence of Sebastopol's vegetarian restaurant, Slice of Life. They've saved us time and time again when we're too busy to cook for ourselves. They serve food similar to our home cooking (veggies, rice, pasta in Mexican, Italian, or American settings) so, it's as close to eating at home as we can hope to find.

The back of their menu has interesting quotes on it. Here's one:

"The human body has no more need for cows' milk than it does for dogs' milk, horses' milk, or giraffes' milk." —Michael Klapper, MD.

(posted a day late)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gratitude: Coastal Heros

Peter Douglas front center; Bill Kortum back row, with straw hat.

I had the pleasure today to hike and dine with people who have given their lives to preserve public access to the coastline in California. There were actually about two dozen of us who've taken active roles in the work to save the coast of California from the very wealthy who'd like to deny all of us access to the coast so that it could be reserved for their own private pleasure, but two shining citizens stand out from the rest: Bill Kortum and Peter Douglas.

Bill Kortum, the person for whom the Kortum Trail is named, is a true modern-day hero. Many years ago he began the fight to stop Pacific Gas and Electric from putting a nuclear power plant on Bodega Head. Thank God he did. Bodega Head sits right on top of the San Andreas Fault, probably the worst possible location for such a facility. He went on to protect countless acres of coastal lands.

Peter Douglas wrote the California Coastal Commission Act, a law passed by voters in 1972 and now serves as the Executive Director of the Coastal Commission. He's devoted his life to the work of saving the coast from private developers so that all people may enjoy a day at the beach.

Bill gives a little talk at the top of Peaked Hill.

Friday's Gratitude: Simplicity and Relationship

Friday's gratitudes (posted Saturday morning):

  • The April Awakening Joy class videos and materials that arrived this week. Sarah and I got started into the materials last night. The theme for this month is, of all things, Gratitude. Well. On this topic I've got some familiarity. And I am grateful for my gratitude buddies on this blog whose participation inspires me to keep me going.
  • The simple pleasures of a simple meal made from scratch with organic ingredients in collaboration with Sarah Friday evening. We have pretty active lives, and it was nice to share this evening when neither one of us had a meeting to go to or friends to see.
  • And, too, the darker difficulties and worries that arise in these worrisome times to trouble my consciousness. Ordinary dark fearful thoughts and anxious feelings surround the pleasant moments. But the dark doesn't overcome the light. It actually helps the light glow with warmer comfort.

Finally, this quotation from the Dalai Lama who manages to express a thought I've had a lot, but don't know how to say as simply as he:

"If one's life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing and shelter to protect you from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation."

—The Dalai Lama

If I had one thing to add to the Dalai Lama's quote here, it would be that contentment arises, too, from being in good quality relationship with everyone in your life. So go out there and do some random acts of kindness and senseless act of beauty.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gratitude: Art Walk

My wife and I walked over to the Senior Center to a party welcoming our new city manager, Jack Griffin this afternoon and chatted with the community there and then we went on to our fair city's first "Art Walk" of 2009. Then home to a dinner of salad, braised asparagus, and steamed sweet potatoes. A peaceful, easy evening.

I ran across this short video. If you decide to watch it, please see it all the way to the end or you'll think it's depressing. (It's not depressing; it's hopeful.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Venus, Birthdays, and Love

Acacia blossoms as they looked about a month ago...they're almost gone now.

Tonight's gratitudes go to:

Crescent Venus which has appeared in the morning sky just before dawn. When these blossoms were out less than a month ago, Venus was in the evening sky. Look for it just before dawn rising in front of the sun.

Brad and his 60th birthday party in his backyard. It was good to see friends and neighbors over pizza and cake in honor of his milestone...

And the Love Choir after. Newbies Brenda and Marc came along with me and we sang our hearts in.