28 August 2011

Harvest

Follow me and we'll step on stones
to a place just across the creek
where I know there are blackberries.
Together we'll pick them
'till we've a small harvest's worth
of the dark black fruit.
Then we'll carefully ford the stream again
back to the opposite bank.






27 August 2011

Rocks & Daggers with Rockman

Rode with good-friend Joe (Rockman) and new-friend Paul today. On the way back down I shot a little video while riding behind Joe with my 808-microcam.  Grass as tall as your handlebars this time of year...

Anyway, I think it came out okay... a nice montage to recall a great ride.  And that really is the point of the whole riding-video-thing, I think.

Music by a band called Noah and the Whale.  The song is called Rocks and Daggers.

Thought the title seemed fitting.

22 August 2011

Atop my list of Favorite Things To Do

Atop my list of Favorite Things To Do is Take Pictures Of My Kid.
Recently, I've had some good fortune in that regard. 
She is, to my mind, a most compelling subject when it comes to composing interesting portraits.

11 August 2011

SOS

Some time ago, in another post, I mentioned that it was my belief that "Public Education needs a good apologist right about now... I truly believe it's a system well-worth defending."  I still stand by those remarks.  

But, at the time I made them, I did not know of any such Defender-Of-Public-Ed.  

Today I learned: He exists!

Meet John Kuhn, Superintendent of Perrin-Whitt School District in Texas.  He spoke to the gathered crowd of thousands at the Save Our Schools (SOS) March and National Call To Action in Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2011. Just days ago...

How great is his speech?  I would rank it among the very best rousing orations I've ever heard.  It's that good.  But, as a public school teacher, it carries even greater weight than that.  

This speech alone rates as our professional version of King's I Have A Dream. No kidding.



Here's the transcript of his speech:


Let me speak for all public school educators when I say, unequivocally: We will!” We say: Send us your poor. Send us your homeless. Send us your kids who don’t speak Spanish [speaks a phrase in Spanish]. Send us your special needs children: we will not send them away! But I tell you today, public school teacher: you will fail to take the shattered children of poverty and turn them into the polished products of the private schools–you will be unacceptable, public school teacher, and I say: that is your badge of honor!


I stand before you today bearing proudly the label of unacceptable, because I educate the children they will NOT educate! Day after day, I take children, broken by the poverty our leaders are afraid to confront, and I GLUE their pieces back together! And at the end of my life, you can say: those children were better for passing through my sphere of influence. I am unacceptable, and Proud Of It!


The poorest Americans need equity, but our nation offers them accountability instead. They need bread, but we give them a stone. We address the soft bigotry of low expectations so that we may ignore the hard racism of inequity! Standardized tests are a poor substitute for justice!


So I say to Arne Duncan and to President Obama: go ahead and label me. I will march head-on into the teeth of your horrific blame machine and I will educate these kids. You give me my scarlet letter, and I will wear it proudly! Because I will never cull the children who need education the most so my precious test scores will rise! I will NOT race to the top! I will stop, like the good Samaritan, and lift hurting children out of the dark.


Let me lose your race, because I am not in it for the accolades! I’m not in it for the money! I’m in this because it’s RIGHT!!! I am in it because the children of Perrin, Texas need somebody like me in their lives!


Our achievement gap is an opportunity gap. Our education problem is a poverty problem. Test scores don’t scream ‘bad teaching!’ They scream about our nation’s systematic neglect of children who live in the wrong zip codes! Listen to me, Arne Duncan! It’s poverty, stupid!! And that’s not an excuse! That’s not an excuse! It’s a diagnosis! We must as a nation stop assuaging the symptoms and start treating the disease!


Let me ask you a simple question. Where is adequate yearly progress for the politician? Will we have 100% employment by 2014? Will all the children have decent health care and roofs over their heads by the deadline? But wait! They don’t HAVE a deadline! They aren’t racing anywhere, are they?! When will our leaders ensure that every American community offers our children libraries and Little Leagues instead of drugs and delinquency?!


Lawmakers send you into congressional districts that are rife with poverty, rife with crime, drug abuse and poor health care, but lawmakers will never take on the label of legislatively unacceptable because they do no share the courage of the common school teacher. I say, I say, let us label lawmakers like they label teachers! Let us have a hard look at their data! Let us have merit pay in Congress!


Understand, politicians, if you want our children to grow lush, stop firing the gardeners and start paying the water bill! Politician! Your fingerprints are on these children: what have you done to help them pass their tests? President Obama: why don’t you come and join me in the crucible of accountability? We have talked enough about the speck in our teachers’ eyes: let’s talk about the plank in yours!


Thank you!

06 August 2011

Out And Back

It's a rare ride in Flagstaff that doesn't make a good loop.  Somehow.  But, if you're out riding unfinished trails, like we were today, you're left with little choice.  Unfinished trails almost always dead-end.  The Arizona Trail in the vicinity of Arizona Snowbowl dead-ends.  That's where we rode today. From town up to the dead-end and back again.  Out-and-back.  Uncommon words in these parts.

This new section of the Arizona Trail is already a great trail.  Once it's finished, and we're able to make loops out of it, it's going to be awesome.  Good to ride with old friends today, too: Ken, Art, and Jason.

I put together a 5-minute video of our descent, from the dead-end back down to Snowbowl Road just so you can get an idea of how cool this trail already is, in its raw form. For whatever it's worth, I captured this footage with my $20.00 808 micro-camera, velcro'd to my helmet.  It ain't HD, but heck, ya get what ya pay for...  Featuring music by Silversun Pickups [Growing Old Is Getting Old], for all you music lovers out there.

05 August 2011

Reverie

My poor blog has grown stale while I've struggled to learn a new job this past month.  Many, many hours have passed these last long weeks, between sunrise and sunset each day, with me doing nothing more than sitting all-the-while in a chair behind a desk. Several days I have sat so long typing and talking, that my elbows have ached painfully by days-end. Naturally, this new schedule and the demands of this new job have eaten into the hours I would normally have spent on my bike or, more importantly, with my family.   And yet, despite all the changes and rigor that this summer has brought, I have had good times with my family.  And I have had time on my bike. Perhaps not in the same quantities as I've become accustomed to, but, as happens when you're busy, you find time for the things that matter when you can.  Today, it would appear, I have a little time for blogging...

As is my habit, I took a prolonged break at the top of my ride this morning.  Whenever I ride alone I like to take a few minutes off the bike once the majority of the climbing is done, to sit and reflect and relax.  Not exactly good for training.  But who's training?  I'm just glad to be out.

So I sit and think. Or I pray. Or I compose an outline for a blog post.  Which is basically where my head headed today.



I took several poetry-workshops as an undergraduate, many years ago.  Enough that I was able to take a minor in creative writing along with my journalism degree upon my graduation.  Most of these classes were great, filled with compelling people who possessed, as I likewise did, a sincere interest in telling good stories in verse.  One or two of them, as I neared the upper echelons of undergraduate poetry courses became a bit too competitive or something. Anyway, for whatever it's worth, I began to develop a real disinterest in them as too much attention began to be paid to things like "magical realism" and other poetic ideals or techniques that just seemed like so much nonsense to me.  I almost never write poetically anymore.

I remember in one of my first poetry classes, perhaps during my sophomore year, there was this girl.  Smart. Pretty. Quick with a smile.  Three things that have always been sure to smite me.  She wrote good poems, too, as I recall.  I wanted to date her.  Probably even asked her out.  Pretty sure she said no.  And that was the end of it.  Except for our classtime. I got to see her, and bask in her smile, in class everyday.  And though she had rejected my suit, I was nevertheless still a part of her class for the balance of the term.  And that and her smile would suffice.

I remember one day, she came to class with a poem she'd written entitled Reverie, which is a neat, almost archaic word which means "to be lost in thought."  And I remember that almost everyone said nice things about the poem when she had finished reading it to us aloud.  Except for our instructor, who seemed to dwell, during her critique, on her observation that the smart-pretty girl had misused the word reverie, going so far as to suggest that perhaps she had meant reviellie instead, which, of course is a word that usually describes a trumpet sound.

I was embarrassed for my teacher, who was an otherwise excellent teacher and quite knowledgeable, and who is now an accomplished poet and university instructor, too.  Likewise, I was embarrassed for the smart-pretty girl who had written the poem, an excellent poem and a lovely reflection on life, if recollection serves.  She, by the way, is also a rather well-accomplished university professor now, if Google has its facts right.

I should have said something.  I knew our instructor was in the wrong.  Might have changed the way the smart-pretty girl perceived me.  But I'm pretty sure I held my tongue, not wanting to call out our instructor on her error. I liked her.  And she liked my poems.  And I've never been one to take sides against a teacher.  But in hindsight, I think I made the wrong choice.

Amanita Muscaria
That word, reverie, came to mind today as I sat out in the woods near the top of Newham, just to one side of the hill from the fork in the trail where it either heads down Upper Moto or up to Twisted Sister.  "Reverie: a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts,"  is precisely the correct word for my practice of stopping for a time of meditation, no matter what form or direction it takes, at the top of my solo-rides.  It's a practice I intend to keep.

So I'm grateful, to that smart-pretty girl, for etching the memory of reverie into my mind.