Monday, August 29, 2005

A New School Year Begins

Again, I have just embarked on the 22nd year of my career as a teacher! I have 22 4th graders to start with on this present adventure. Today, we developed our "Ground Rules".

I have to share the first one with you.


• I keep my hands and feet to myself
• I treat others in the same way that I want to be treated
• I don’t use unkind words when speaking to or about others

The future is still bright, even as clouds and hurricanes shroud our present......

What I'm Listening To: #3

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Great Album.

Soraya is an Argentinian singer who performs in Spanish. She is also a cancer survivor, which is part of her persona.

Her voice is amazing. And this album showcases this more than any other. She is a little "Sarah-MacLaughlin-esque"

And well worth the dime/peso.

Friday, August 26, 2005

School Begins On Monday

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Here I am with my dear colleagues, Ms. E and Ms. D. All of us are grade 4 teachers at my school. We have just completed a week of pre-school activities and preparations. The show opens on Monday. My 22nd season (Yes, I started at age 2!).

I work in a great school, with amazing people. Our kids do well on standard assessments, our parents are involved and very caring. You hear so much negative stuff about education in America. And like any crisis, bad news gets attention.

Bless teachers who have the courage to teach the truth and trust their students to think for themselves.

Random Quotes #20 thru #22

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."

~ The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929 - 1968

Monday, August 22, 2005

Zimbabwe Memoire #5

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The first place that I visited in Zimbabwe was the southern city of Bulawayo. At the time the second largest city in the country after the capital of Hirare. Perhaps owing to the timing of the end of the dry season, it presented itself as a rather beige and dusty place.

I had the privilege of staying in the home of a retired British couple, who knew no end to the concept of hospitality. On our first full day there, they took us to Matopas National Park just south of Bulawayo. There we toured in their jeep and eventually hiked around.

The fame of Matopas is based on its natural rock formations. Huge stones found perched upon other bolders. Many have names, like the one in the top photo -- "Horse-rider". It was the place were I saw my first rhinocerous in the wild.

As we penetrated the park, we eventually reached a unique grave and monument. The final resting place of Sir Cecil Rhodes. The namesake of both colonies of Northern (Zambia) and Southern (Zimbabwe) Rhodesia. The basis and namesake of the Rhode's Scholars. Historically, an important person. Yet his grave was hewn into a piece of granet in the middle of nowhere....

What will future generations make of this? What should they? Explorer, Oppressor, Imperialist, Adventurer.... How do we judge a man against the backdrop of his age?

How do we judge ourselves?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I Am A Quilter

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
Not necessarily something a man does. But I have always been creative and have chosen various mediums of expression over the years. At one point I was deeply into watercolor painting, for example. But since around 1990, I have been quilting.

This is one of my latest creations. A piece of what I hope will become something larger as I play with it. I used batiks for the most part and so it's really not unlike watercolor painting in that you get the general color you expected, but the particulars remain on some level random.

Closest thing to a definition of "control" in this life that I can think of.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Kudus to the AVAM in Balitmore

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I had the chance this last week to take in the American Visionary Art Museum's current show on the theme of water. And it was again, an utterly amazing experience. Ending on September 4th, I was happy to catch it on its tail end.

On display were paintings and sculptures; some relatively small like this one by "Mr. Imagination". Themes included Haitian Voudoo chambers, carefully carved mechanized wooden scultures, and images created by an NYC recluse out of hundreds of clipped up postage stamps, to attempt to describe but a few.

And this is the genius of the AVAM: attempts to describe what you've seen always fall short. The visions are to be experienced and shared with those with whom you experience the art, but others will never get it. The vision is just too intimate.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Random Quote #19

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board."

~ Zora Neale Hurston, 1891 - 1960

Monday, August 15, 2005

Haiku #2


It’s not like anything
they compare it to—
the summer moon.

~ Basho
1644 - 1694

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Random Quote #18

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

~ Albert Einstein, 1879-1955

In Praise Of Sunflowers!

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
I love many flowers. I am not a one note gardener. And I love them for a variety of reasons: Bee Baum for its “punk-ish hair-do” splash of color, and its tangy aromatic oils; milkweed for its gift to the Monarch butterflies (if any of them are still alive....I have not seen a single one this season); Black-Eyed Susans and Coneflowers for the same gift that they afford the Golden Finches who still manage to feast upon their tightly packed seeds and flit away in a stab of yellow at the slightest provocation (survivor's instinct, to be sure). And I love Sunflowers! Mine have just entered into the zeniths of their blooming. They are so majestic and evocative -- they really have personality.

The poet, Mary Oliver, sees this distinction, too. She writes in her poem "Sun Flowers":

"Come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends"

And indeed, they are wonderful friends. To the bees, they are the mother load! No matter when I approach mine, there is always at least one bloated bumble bee obsessed with discovering every ounce of pollen that the gigantic yellow disc of the sunflower has to offer. And later, as the pollen is whiped off, and the seeds mature into zebra-stripped pods, the birds will take up where the insects have left off. Too daunting for the golden finches, the advance will be lead by the Cardinals, who have exhausted the nutrition in the dangling pods of the hosta in the garden, and the various berries beyond. And they will be followed and joined by everyone from the Sparrows to the Crows.

After delighting me with their luscious golden gleaming orbs, the sunflowers will selflessly spend all their capital for the sake of my aviary friends. .

They may indeed be shy, but "No greater love hath any thing..."

Random Quote #17

"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction."

~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, 1900 - 1944

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Costa Rican Memoir #6

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
As I have mentioned before, I am a Christian by choice of my spiritual path. Obviously, NOT a Christian in any orthodox or fundamentalist mode...a Christian more like Jesus!

And while I lived in Costa Rica, my faith found several outlets. One of the most significant was my association with the missionary organization "Latin American Mission" (LAM, for short). I met such wonderful people through them. People from many denominations who were not trapped by their traditions. People with physical limitations that would have defied the "faith" of other organizations, but whose lives and missions were embraced my LAM. I have no idea what they're like these days, so this is NOT an endorsement, just a memoir.

As an available soul, I was invited to participate in a couple of their programs, the most elaborate of which was an extended weekend youth camp. It was held in a very remote valley in which LAM was constructing a retreat center. The main building was being built around an enormous protruding bolder--You know, "upon this rock...." stuff. Yet it was amazing.

There are 3 things that I remember from this experience most vividly:

#1) meeting this incredibly gentle and insightful young man from Cuba (Top Left). Up until then I had many preconceptions about Cuba, Castro, the Revolution, etc. And he taught me to question my understandings of the world and the authority that provided such views to me.

#2) A killer game of capture the flag during which I took a phenomenal fall off of a fallen log, which crossed the rock-strewn stream bisecting the valley. It was nothing short of a miracle that ALL I ended up being was embarrassed and wet!

And #3) the trek out on the afternoon after the camp ended. The vehicles that could drive us down to the site where not able to transport us back out of the steep and treacherous slopes. So we were informed on the morning of the last day that we would be hiking out with all of our equipment. My God, it was one hell of a HOT hike! And foolish me didn't think to cover my head -- my scalp was severely burned by the tropical sun's more intense rays.

This last lesson has led me to be much more committed to hats!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Holy H2O: Fluid Universe

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
In this world there is nothing softer
or thinner than water
But to compel the hard and unyielding,
It has no equal.
That the weak overcomes the strong,
That the hard gives way to the gentle -
This everyone knows,
Yet no one acts accordingly.
      --Lao Tzu 6th c. B.C.

One of the MOST amazing and thought provoking museums in the world is in Baltimore. It's call the American Visionary Art Museum, and anyone visiting "Balmer" must make this stop a priority. You'll see contemporary art like you've never seen it before.

The above quote from Daoist Master Lao Tzu is part of their current show. And you have until Labor Day to experience it. I can also commend to you the top floor restaurant. The museum sits on the harbor just below Fort McHenry and on a temperate day, a gourmet lunch on the deck is a treat all unto itself.

Homage to My Little Girl

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
It was a hot and oppressive afternoon in late June in 1990. I was taking my routine afternoon walk from one end to the other of Haggin Lane (2.1 miles) when she entered my life. Strutting past the old antebellum mansion on the left and my friend's horse farm on the right, I suddenly was confronted by a Siamese-esque kitten whose plaintiff cries demanded my attention.

What could I do? I knelt briefly to comfort this little urchin and then continued my regemine of exercise on to my home. And she followed me....of course! So I gave her a little bowl of milk out of dumb compassion.

And that was it. We were lovers.

And you can do worse! Trust me.

She soon took up with my two dogs, a Doberman and a Beagle (Both real whimps in their own right). And both realized early on that she was in charge, thus the monicre "Buster". Many's the time that a vet assumed "her" to be a "him" based on her name.

I cannot begin, in this post, to do our relationship justice. So I won't even try. Therefore, let's fast forward to the spring of 2003 and her diagnosis of feline diabetes. It really surprised me at the time...I had never fed her anything but manufactured cat food and mostly the dry kind. Yet, I then became her doctor, and we bagan a regime of twice daily injections of insuline. It was a routine that she never balked at. It was something that she actually participated in with a typically faithful heart that made it easier on me.

Her life took a couple of downward turns in the autumn/winter of 2004/2005 and she finally died in my arms on the Monday after Easter in 2005. I buried her in my backyard and placed a statuary of a cat over her grave as a marker. I also planted an Easter lily there, which bloomed and then died back. And then, about three weeks ago, it sent up another shoot, and this past week offered two new glorious blooms.

Gifts that flourish. Life continues to bless.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Since I Have A Hammer.......

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
There's a Russian proverb that equates manhood with three acts: The planting of a tree, the fathering of a child, the building of a house. Well, I've planted more trees that I can count. I have never fathered anything, but I have contributed significantly to the raising or more children than I can likewise count. (In a confluence of these acts: When my mother died, my students planted a tree in her honor!)

So what's left? -- A house! Ain't likely that I will ever be in a position to build one. But I have with some gusto redesigned a few in my life. My latest project is the finishing of the "unfinished" half of my basement.

My home was built in the early 1940's, and it's really a wonderful building. The aspects that most attracted me to it were it's hardwood floors, slate roof, fireplace, sun porch, brick exterior, and enclosed yard. The pluses were the large deck off of the back, it's location near to a wonderful park that snakes along both sides of Sligo Creek just north of Washington, DC. It's also in an established and diverse neighborhood. But one thing that has long nagged at me is the condiiton of the unfinished half of the basement.

So I have recently taken to renovating it. The first phase involves constructing walls to enclose the unfinished framework that divides the paneled portion from the unfinished half. The pics are from this work. (A) & (C) are of the area around the underside of the stairs. I only have the trim to complete and then paint. (B) shows a wall portion at the cusp of the rear door entrance. It's done and painted. I used a tongue and groove pine paneling to build the walls on frames of 2x3's. It was relatively easy to construct and the final product has a solid and crafted appearance.

Hope this encourages you to go for it. Home Depot is a wonderful place for supplies and advice, as long as you're patient and gracious. Happy hammering!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Zimbabwe Memoir #4

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
As long as my thoughts are near to my time on the shores of Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, let me share this photo. I took it in the morning as the sun was rising over the lake.

Random Quote #16

"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."

~ H. G. Wells, (1866-1946)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Zimbabwe Memoire #3

Originally uploaded by Randuwa.
The fourth leg of my tour of Zimbabwe was a day spent on Lake Kariba. It's the largest man-made body of fresh water south of the Sahara, and second on the continent to only Aswan in Egypt. The day consisted of a boat trip across the lake with a brief visit to one of the islands that the dam created called Zebra Island -- where we only saw these awesome storks, and some comorants.

On the return journey, we were given box lunches by our hosts. Now I must say that Lake Kariba was hands down the most oppressively HOT place I visited in Africa. The lunches contained hard boiled eggs, an orange and a ham sandwich dressed with mayo. Now I'm no rocket scientist, but the only thing I ate was the orange. My companions chose a more trusting posture and devoured it all. That was a mistake on their part.

Afterward, we settled into our motel. All I could think of was taking a swim in the pool to cool off. The pool was very alluring, unfortunately it was also lined with black volcanic-appearing rock. When I dove into it seeking respite from the heat and found myself in a steamy bath, I don't know which was more acute; my surprise or my disappointment.

Appearances really can be deceiving!