Monday, 30 July 2012

Colourful Overlapping Concentric Circles

I, like all of us in the human race, am a member of many intersecting circles. One is a group of women who gather from time to time to write. Today, they are writing in one place and I am in another. I vowed to myself since I could not be with them physically, I would sit and take a prompt (this is the model we use - to collect interesting words we have read and use them to inspire us to write) and write. The set of prompts were collected, in early July, by Val for a session where the group passed so much time reconnecting that there was no time to write (yes, sometimes we are weak in our discipline).

These two prompts are twisting in my mind today:

         They keep coming up new all the time – things to perplex you, you know. You settle one question and there’s another right after it. L.M. Montgomery

         And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. John Steinbeck

Currently, I am reading two library books that I sought out because my mind has been returning time and again to India, my December experiences there and Gandhi. The Way to God is a small sampling of his writings pulled together by M.S. Deshpande. Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life by Kathryn Tidrick is a biographic attempt to bring some context to this fascinating human being by examining texts and experiences that influenced Gandhi’s life. The first I have read through once (I am inclined to reread it – seeking out the parts I found resonated with me and skipping the ones I found disturbing); the second is thick and written in an academic style I find I do not push through the way I used to. Simon Winchester has spoiled me. These days, I prefer my non-fiction rich in story and not burdened by so many detailed footnotes.
But lately, Maria Popova has peppered my brain with more books to consider and a video about how brains work and each time I stop to connect the threads of some idea and weave them into the fabric of me, a new batch of cotton fiber appears by my brain hand loom and my dendrite fingers start to add them to whatever is on the cortical spindle. What I hope is being created is some mental khadi fabric to clothe my intellect in, preferably silk that will make my writing look just as good as Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

In the publisher’s notes for The Way to God, thanks is given to Vandana Shiva who Googled is revealed to me to have come to Canada in the seventies to study at Western University Ont. and there wrote her thesis on a Quantum Physics topic. She is, like me, 60 this year. This drives me to see where she is right now (in northern India) and the circle comes back to my interests in seeds and kids and planting and school gardens and agricultural education and Northlands.
Yesterday the will of the people who voted reveals they choose K-Days as a new name for the exhibition and today a 15 year old Lithuanian girl has won a gold medal in breaststroke at the Olympics. Are these tiny fibres yellow or pink?

The brain graphics in video look like riverlets, creeks and streams but what I experience is a never ending set of raindrops on the oil slicked surface of a pool of water – colourful, overlapping, concentric circles.
The things that perplex my mind keep choosing to follow the compass spin instead of one direction. I find I can’t get more undirected than that.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing

One of the biggest rewards of getting kids (or anybody) out of the box or away from the screen is just how absolutely brain filling smelling, touching, tasting, seeing and hearing can be.

My grand-daughter and I went to the Ex this afternoon. No matter what they rename it, that’s what it will be for me because that is how old I am. So in Name Your Fair I have voted for…… wait for it ….. The Edmonton Exhibition. You can go and vote yourself (just do it by July 29).

My primary objective was to share Fred Penner with her. We listen to a CD of his LOTS and our two favorite songs are The Cat Came Back and Happy Feet (a wonderful 1930’s song which I like to imagine inspiring an animated movie about a dancing penguin). He performed them bothJ He also sang A House is a House for Me; the lyrics come from one of my all time favorite children’s books for looking at the world creatively.
Before Fred’s show, my grand-daughter and I shared a trip through the Farm at the children’s area. She got to put on a denim apron and carried a bucket with real feed corn. To be honest (she gets this tendency from her mom) she spent most of her time picking up spilled corn from wherever she spotted it.

That is the great part about real stuff. When surrounded by it, You can find something that interests You wherever You look.

Her favorite part was when we reached the Save On Foods’ sponsored store at the end. We were given a shopping list and on it was macaroni and cheese, one of her favorites! Now I am pretty sure that she has not yet started making a connection between the stuff we saw in the barns, the stamps in her little booklet and her food. She is after all only 21 months old. But we had lots to talk about and it was fun.

We saw and smelled some real pigs. We love the story the Three Little Pigs.
We talked about cows making milk and shared some ice cream. We love ice cream.
We looked into each other eyes when Fred Penner began Happy Feet, smiled and started moving our “ten little tapping toes”. We love dancing to that song.

There is nothing like the real thing baby for making connections.
(Absolutely could not resist that Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell link)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

To infinity and beyond

I am pin-balling my way on this blogging, Tweeting thing in ways that look a great deal like Buzz Lightyear after he speaks his “famous” words, “To infinity and beyond!” and jumps.
It is common for folks my age to worry a great deal about the future: health issues and care, living on fixed incomes and the current pace of change, change, change.
I am trying to follow the advice of my mentor in Tweeting, Karen Unland, to treat the Tweet world (try saying those 5 words quickly 5 times) like a stream and dip in it when I can. She says not to worry about what I am missing when I am not there. This zen-like approach has freed me to discover many wonderful writers and thinkers.
As the internet has a larger population of digital natives than digital immigrants (like me) I am finding to my joy that many of those natives are deep, deep contemplators who are passionate about things I care about and are using their techie powers for good.
Karen has also helped me discover that the internet is full of lots of accurate and current information. I do not have to be afraid of the great deal of misinformation out there. 
I don’t even have to look at it. Another freeing concept!
Which leads me to her recent Tweet about media change from MASTERMAQ. It contained lots of insider type notes about that changing media world and yes, I found it interesting, so I practiced my new “Retweeting” skill.
But what should I see on his recent posting list: a careful, deep and thoughtful piece about Edmonton’s work on food and agricultural strategy. As I read through it, I find he has pulled together ideas from my personal journey in this area – Edmonton’s recent Food in the City Conference, GEA, Doug Kelly’s book $100,000 an Acre and has added graphics and links and all the stuff a dinosaur called teacher/librarian LOVES.
But the icing was on the top and bottom of this cupcake. On the top, under What I’m Reading I found an article called Twitterology: A NewScience and at the bottom where I found a link to an old piece he did on Edmonton’s Future Leaders.
Ching, ching, lights flashing: my brain “to infinity and beyond”.

I am going to mow the lawn nowJ
From my Twitterology reading I learned folks can tell a lot about you from your emoticonsJ

Monday, 16 July 2012


Maybe it’s because yesterday was a rainy day and things were moving underwater slowly.
Maybe it’s because I am approaching my 60th birthday.
Maybe it’s because I spent much of the last year looking at the world through my grand-daughter’s eyes.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’ve returned from a week-long visit of family and friends on Vancouver Island that flew by quickly although each moment was deliciously relaxed and well spent.
Maybe it’s because I sat down for the first time in about a week and followed a Twitter string of connections that started with MariaPopova @brainpicker and her recommendation about “the mysteries of time perception” transitioned through (following Twitter connections always seems to make time disappear) fond memories of reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking while nursing my new-born daughter 30 years ago (a mind expanding experience for someone who had stated for so many years that she hated physics) and ended listening to Gershwin.

Time: a wonderful and valuable dimension of learning
Taking time is one of the basic elements of site-based education.
Time to watch, revisit, ask deep questions, reflect, collect.
Time to lay down connections deep in a brain.

I listened while driving Friday, to CKUA’s Don Hill explain the Roman origins of the “dog days of summer” and that made me long to hear every recording I have of Gershwin’s Summertime. Thinking about a white, Jewish male writing in an American black voice caused me to reflect on how it is universally true that human beings have much more stuff deeply in common than we have apart.
A desire to hear led me to YouTubes of a few of my favorite Summertimes and since I could not decide which I liked best right now, I link you to the young woman, Nora Jones, whose roots are in Texas and India and the mature black woman, Ella Fitzgerald, recorded in Berlin. This could go on forever and isn't  forever a mind blowing time concept.

Time as experienced through those wavy mirage visuals that lift off the pavement on a hot summer day. 
A mystery of perception indeed.