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Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

And inch by inch, and row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rains come tumblin’ down

And pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand

And rain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature’s chain
And tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

Inch by inch and row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

And inch by inch, and row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
And someone warm them from below
Till the rains come tumblin’ down

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
And mother earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care

An old crow watchin’ hungrily
From his perch in yonder tree
And in my garden I’m as free
As that feathered thief up there

Inch by inch and row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

And inch by inch, and row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
And someone warm them from below
Till the rains come tumblin’ down

Lyrics by Dave Mallett

A reposting from To Keep Things Whole, with thanks…

Recently I watched the critically-acclaimed film The King’s Speech. I’m not a huge movie fan and certainly not a reliable critic, but I have to say that this film deserves all the praise.  It’s amazing.

In case anyone doesn’t know the basic story, here’s a recap:
 
Prince Albert, Duke of York (“Bertie”) has a severe stammer. It’s the dawn of radio broadcasting as a political tool, and the film opens with his inability to deliver a speech across the empire. Having tried multiple approaches to overcoming the stammer, the Prince begins to see Lionel Logue, a speech therapist found by his wife Elizabeth. In short order his father dies, his brother both ascends to and abdicates the throne, leading to Bertie being ordained as King George VI. Meanwhile, war is declared against Hitler’s Germany. The film climaxes with the king’s speech about this event. (If you want to know more of the basics or delve more into the film and the history, here are the official site and the Wikipedia page.)
               
The main plot and various sub-plots reveal insights into most complicated human relationships. Leadership, marriage, family, therapist-patient, politics, social class—certainly I’m missing some others. Naturally, I had on my education lenses. Without spoiling anything, I want to highlight how the film reaffirms some essential truths about education:
 
  • Meet the Student Where He or She Is—Lionel has treated many patients and experienced a great deal of success. But he doesn’t assume what has worked for any other patient will work for Bertie. Instead, he studies his patiently carefully and asks numerous probing questions. He learns exactly how to help Bertie with specific sounds and in particular situations; in one scene he literally becomes a conductor attuned to every nuance of Bertie’s speaking. It’s emotional and intellectual empathy.
  • See the Possibilities—One of my favorite quotations is by Bengali artist Rabindranath Tagore: “Every child that is born is proof that God has not yet given up on human beings.” Keeping this idea in mind stresses what each child may be able to become. Lionel sees the greatness ready to burst out of Bertie. He helps Bertie believes it’s there.
  • It’s Always about More than the Subject—Lionel determines quite early that the problem is not a physical one, meaning that Bertie has all the basics in place. In other words, he can learn the subject. Other factors are in play. And what enables the men to work together is not just Lionel’s expertise, but also the relationship that develops between them.
  • Create a Safe Place—The entire situation is unnerving for Bertie, and from the beginning Lionel seems a threat because of how he breaches standard royal etiquette. Yet he gradually makes Bertie feel safe with him, enabling the breakthroughs necessary for him to progress in his treatment. Almost always emotions rule over the rational.
  • Motivation is Major—Bertie has pressures and the related motivation that few of us could imagine. It’s an extreme response to the age-old student question, “When am I ever going to use this?” It also reminds us that students learn best when they see some relevance, and they want meaningful opportunities to use the skills they are developing.
  • Resilience is Huge—Unless a person develops the tenacity and grit and determination to overcome challenges, he or she will suffer from limitations, particularly in difficult situations. In many ways, failure of some sort is necessary for learning and growth to occur. Great teachers know to frustrate students in just the right way, then help them build themselves back up. We aren’t really helping kids if we are always clearing the path for them and/or picking them up when they stumble. If we do, how do they learn to persevere?
  • It’s about Who You Are and What You Give—Lionel is not a doctor or even a licensed therapist. Yet his personal gifts and his generosity with them make him a master teacher. Bertie’s heart and courage override his shortcomings. It’s like the strengths finder concept.
As I ponder this list, I’m reminded of Parker Palmer’s oft-quoted line, “You teach who you are.” It also suggests that learning in many ways means finding out who you are…and what you can become.
 
Amen.

Yesterday evening I stopped by my husband’s grave.  Near his gravestone are two small trees we planted that now reach two to three feet of height.  Dangling among the branches were several lovely feathers an anonymous friend of Lewis’ had attached in his honor.  My tears began to flow as I recognized their kindness and how the friend must remember Lewis’ love of fine-feathered tetrapods and their veined plumes. He would keep his feather collections in bottles or in his top drawer or at his office on a shelf. 

Sometimes he would take time with adults or children in the practice to share his feather cache of the week.    

The day of his burial I went to his office and found a large jar filled with a variety of feathered specimens.  I brought it to the burial and invited friends and family to decorate his burial urn with feathers in his honor.  

A few weeks later our office manager stopped by the gravesite and found an owl resting on his stone and later that year I found an owl feather in its shadow.  Nature itself honors him.

I am thinking more this morning about my dear husband and was struck by this thought: 

Lewis had an incredible lightness of being and was never a burden to love.   A feather, then, is a perfect tribute to his memory.

I googled and found an apt poem by Eileen T. Waldron from which I have lifted (and repositioned a bit) these fragments:

Light as a feather
Dancing on air

Nothing to hinder
Flightless no more
Wind is my passion
With it I soar

Like Eagles on thermals
I have been freed
To fly over rainbows
With dauntless wings

The sky ever beckons
With new joys to share
I’m light as a feather
Dancing on air

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory