Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter In Lascun

A photo of a churchyard in Lascun Posted by Picasa

How can I construct my humble hut right here in the midst of Oxford Circus? How can I do that in the confusion of cars and buses? How can I listen to the singing of birds and also to the leaping of fish? How can one turn all the showings of the shop window displays into the freshness of green leaves swayed by the morning breeze? How am I to find the naturalness, artlessness, utter self-abandonment of nature in the utmost artificiality of human works? This is the great problem set before us these days.

---D.T. Suzuki, addressing a conference of world religions in London, 1936

Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.

---Rainer Maria Rilke

Winter having come,
the crows perch
on the scarecrow.


Ilona is in the Pyranees this Easter weekend, where snow may cover the mountaintops all the Kikaku's observation may not be completely inappropriate today. Besides, the cross is something of a scarecrow too...and in the winter of our discontent the crows sit on it and caw away.

No more sermons today in this quiet day of expectation and hope---unless I can't help it. The 6:00 morning here was utter mystery. We have a new pup that Jeroch rescued, as his chain had become entangled in a bridgepost. He must have broken loose with no ID, so we've welcomed him in. We named him Jacques in honor of Ilona's school quarter in France...and that was before the vet told us he's mostly Jack Russell terrier. Down the hill he went after a herd of deer breakfasting in the meadow, waking the late risers among the bird population.

It stormed here all night with lots of rain, but thankfully little thunder and high wind and no tornadoes, at least through our land. I haven't checked the news yet, but of course we were worried given what Iowa got yesterday in the full explosion of this storm system. I think I heard the news say there were so many tornadoes in Iowa no one even could count them. I dread the next time I'll hear my rightwing friends tell me all this weather of the past couple years is a natural cycle. "People have NO effect on the climate," I heard taught in a Middle School science class this week.

The air was wonderfully clear and just a little cool. A miststeam was everywhere. The dispersing clouds revealed a brilliant Jupiter in the southwest, but the gold decoration on the cloud fringes told me the moon was just below. Sure enough, a few minutes later there she was, looking still full but rather frowzy and tired, as if she'd been kept up all night by a stormy lover. The conjunction is a magnificent moonset to look for if you're a Sunrise Service person tomorrow.

We've been missing Ilona especially as Easter approaches. She is active in the Episcopal services we attend, helping the priests...and her absence around the altar hurts. No Easter baskets this year for the first time in our marriage. Empty basket syndrome. But she called us Thursday at dawn here. Her friend Keenan's mother had arrived from Cincinnati, where she is a physician. His stepdad is an avid hiker, so off they were going to a little town of population 200 called Lescun. The place is right on the major trail that traverses the entire mountain range.

Ilona says she definitely will be in a church tomorrow morning, and I imagine the experience is going to be just amazing. We went to a service at a little church on Georgian Bay a couple years ago, and all the references were to a great tradition of fishing in the town. I wonder if the people of Lescun herd sheep or something. This is the heart of Basque country up there, and I know she is curious about that culture. O gee, I am so envious!

I think on Tuesday they're going on into Spain to Pamplona for a couple days. This is where Jeroch's friend Karin just spent the last couple months. Both girls were at DeGaulle the same day, missing each other by one hour. Then some more time at San Sebastian before returning to Pau. Maybe they'll even get to attend some school finally!

This all seems so auspicious in my life. Yeah, I've lived in big cities and loved it, but at heart I'm just a country boy who likes hearing the peepers and frogs leap and dance in the increased wetlands this morning at dawn. May this time of transition revive us all!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

How To Be A Nurse In Appalachian Ohio

Chris Mackler / Senior Photographer /
School nurse Janalee Stock administers a color blindness screening to Jared Ricadonna, a student at Morrison Elementary. Stock has been a nurse for the Athens’ City Public School system for 13 years. Stretching her skills among seven schools, Stock spends much of her work week juggling medical emergencies with everyday scrapes and bruises. Posted by Picasa

No matter how much I contemplate this tea bowl
It is still---a tea bowl!
THUS I arrive in San Francisco.

---Soen Nakagawa

At first you will think of practice as a limited part of your life. In time you will realize that everything you do is part of your practice.

---Baba Ram Dass

Living beings are numberless; I vow to serve until all are liberated.
Ignorance and grasping is boundless; I vow to transform and uproot it all.

---Vows of the Boddhisattvas

Wow, this must be the season of features about esteemed friends! I hope this auspicious Spring is the sign of a stirring and fertile change. First it was a treat to see the article in the Athens News about Elisa Young, and her struggle to farm simply down on the Ohio River in the shadow of more and more power plants crowding the territory.§ion=news&story_id=24086 The very next day, yesterday, Ohio University's daily The Post ran a front page story on Janalee Stock, whose nursing serves the Athens School District.

One becomes friends with Janalee in a very practical way. You could be doing almost long as it is a help somehow to someone else...and you look up, and there she happens to be, doing it too. It could be washing dishes after a community dinner of some kind. It could be setting up for a bake sale or selling the cookies on a street corner. It could be putting away folding chairs from a town meeting. You exchange pleasantries to ease the work, and before you know it and if you discover each other this way enough times, you're friends.

But there's a mystery of some kind to it, a spiritual quality to what Janalee does and how she does it. In the dozen years I've known her, I doubt I've ever talked to her about religious things. She even may shy away from topics like that a bit. (And I mean "shy" in a very good way.) If you say something "spiritual" to her she usually definitely gets it. Mostly she is very down to earth and practical...but in an impressively spiritual way. Let me explain that: as my mother-in-law, Esther Kuhre, and I were talking about Janalee and this article last evening at dinner, I found myself saying, "Janalee never complains." She states facts, she emphasizes goals and objectives, she plans for change...but I think she feels inherently nothing is accomplished by complaining. In fact, that activity can only be negative, spread more exhausting negativity, and ultimately alienate people with its destructiveness. And she just goes around living that way! I look at her do that, and I think, "Janalee is a miracle of some kind!" I hope you take a look at this very impressive piece and feel inspired too~~~

School nurse finds no cure for demands
Kantele Franko / City Senior Writer /

Before Athens students scuttle between buses and classrooms each morning, district school nurse Janalee Stock pulls her office into a parking space, grabs an armful of files and heads to work.

Stock, the only nurse for all seven Athens schools and their nearly 3,000 students, carries a heavy workload on the shoulders of her thin, 5-foot frame — and in her car, which doubles as an office, she said.

Her workload is close to twice that of the nurses serving in nearby districts such as Alexander, where one nurse, a health aid and a part-time AmeriCorps worker serve more than 1,600 students. Because Ohio does not mandate school health service, the 1,100-student Federal Hocking school district is one of more than 50 districts with no nurse, according to the Ohio Association of School Nurses.

A nationwide shortage of nurses is well-known among many people, but few realize how that translates to health care in the school environment, Stock said.

Healthy People 2010, a plan by federal government agencies in the late 1990s to outline national health objectives, recommended a goal ratio of one nurse per 750 students, far from the ratio Stock manages every day.

But she seems to view the challenge through rose-colored glasses – though on this particular day, her focused eyes are framed by bold blue specs.

In her absence, Stock has an AmeriCorps aide, and school staff members handle minor medical problems and call emergency responders for more serious cases. “I trust them implicitly. I have to have that trust in them,” Stock said of her helpers.

Amid her colleagues and students, the graduate of Ohio University and Hocking College has made a name for herself as much more than the band-aid lady.

“She does her job with a smile on her face and never misses a beat,” Athens Superintendent Carl Martin said. Stock even drops by periodically to check Martin’s blood pressure. “She’s just totally interested in the well-being of the students and staff,” he said.

In her thirteenth year with the schools, Stock has chosen to tackle student health risks, including obesity and AIDS, through education and preventative care.

“I’m tired of reading about it. I don’t think school can be the end-all, but I think they can be a part of it,” she said.

And she practices that preaching. The 51-year-old maintains her energy by eating healthy foods (and the occasional chocolate) and running in preparation for a triathlon she’d like to try this summer.

Like many other school nurses in Ohio, she also makes time to research news about nursing and education, including the Healthy People 2010 recommendation of one nurse per 750 students.

The OASN supports those goals but because the state’s education budget is tight, “Unless we find a way to discover some money, it’s not going to happen,” said Gail Pohlman, OASN president and school nurse for the Gallia County school district, about 40 miles south of Athens.

Improving school health care in regions of rural poverty, which keeps more families from seeing medical professionals regularly, is especially important to Pohlman. “We [school nurses] are the health care professionals that students see in Southeast Ohio,” Pohlman said.
Chris Mackler / Senior Photographer /
Stock and teacher’s aid Debi Chonkl plan for the care of an insulin-dependent student. Although not in her job description, Chonkl consults with the student’s family daily and monitors the student’s sugar level about 3 or 4 times during a school day. “I trust them implicitly. I have to have that trust in them,” Stock said of her helpers.
Chris Mackler / Senior Photographer /
Stock administers a routine vision screening to preschooler Blake Stover, a student at Chauncey Elementary School. Most Chauncey students come from a lower-income background, which increases the need to perform simple medical tasks. “I’m the parents’ first line of defense,” Stock said.
Chris Mackler / Senior Photographer /
Stock checks a student’s head for lice at Chauncey Elementary. Lice can be a problem in poorer parts of the school district, causing students to be out of class for weeks at a time.
Chris Mackler / Senior Photographer /
Stock leaves the main office of West Elementary, where her makeshift office is located, and travels downstairs with her vision machine to checkup on students’ vision. Her machine, like much of her equipment, was donated to her.

PS I think Katele Franko has done a wonderful job of writing---and just keeping up with Janalee's daily itinerary. But I don't think she wears blue glasses. She sure does have blue eyes though!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ilona Carlson And Tom DeLay

Après leur succès du 4 avril, les syndicats se réunissent mercredi 5 avril pour fixer une ligne commune pour les futures négociations sur le CPE. Posted by Picasa

Man is the matter of the cosmos, contemplating itself.

---Carl Sagan

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

---Carl Gustav Jung

I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time---just one, one, one. So you begin. I began---I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn't pick up that one person, I wouldn't have picked up forty-two thousand.... The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin---one, one, one.

---Mother Teresa

I feel as if I'm in a unique position this morning. Essentially I'm trying to get all the information I can on 2 stories of concern, strangely related. Of major interest to me is what's going on in France. Our daughter is completing her high school freshman year in Pau, a short distance west of Toulouse. She is a bit young to be doing this, but she is in the care of a family that is there under the auspices of Ohio University. Now in her 3rd week, and 2nd week of classes, she has made adjustments very well and seems (on the telephone) to be having a wonderful time.

I talked with her last evening (her time), and again yesterday she and her friend found most of their classes were not in session, as the teachers were participating in demonstrations downtown. Despite US State Department warnings , which I made sure they knew about, they went to the rallies both this week and last. Ilona says the "parades" have been happy, peaceful and impressive. She told me yesterday's march appeared larger than last Tuesday's, when the unions claimed 40,000 people participated in Pau...which number is half the population.

Here's a little background to this kind of situation that I learned. High school particularly is conducted rather like college here in the States. In fact, that's even the name they use for it there. Students have a schedule of classes and they show up for those...but otherwise they don't have homerooms or study halls and all that. If you don't have a class, you can go home or downtown or to a library or whatever you want. Classes are held most days from 8:30 until almost 5:00, with a lunch break of about an hour and a half. Wednesday is a half day. There are no substitute teachers in France, so if the teacher isn't there you leave.

There is a long and honored history of civic participation of French educators. It is to be expected if there is some kind of question being put to the government in public demonstration, the teachers will be there. Last Monday it even was announced at the school that probably there would be no classes the next day. This time there was no announcement, and it was up to the discretion of the teacher whether any class would occur or not. Ilona went to math and the teacher was there, so they had class.

At the demonstrations themselves, the young people are seeing a range of political expression and a quality of participation they've only heard about. Despite the kind of news coverage some media sources think satisifies the market, the reality Ilona sees is that diversity of opinion is understood and welcome. She remarked yesterday all she has to compare this with is unfavorable, namely the heckling she endured from the sidelines at a John Kerry rally. As far as I'm concerned, as an American social studies teacher for some years, I couldn't ask for a more wonderful education in representative government for this young lady.

Please notice that in these weeks of demonstrations---and the negotiations that follow each one---the government slowly and methodically is accommodating to the will of the people. Yes, a referendum eventually may be held on this issue, and indeed on the continued operation of this government entirely. These political figures are held in account by the outcry of the population. This is understood and accepted as how things are done in France. There are "hooligans" who appear AFTER the rallies and overturn cars and things...just as there are in the States. Over here, this is the kind of thing that grabs headlines...if any.

The other story I'm watching...and indeed it's hard to avoid the cheerful resignation of Tom DeLay. He sees it as an important opportunity for career change. The Hammer will be working in the private sector entirely now for the continued success of the Republican Party. After all, to whom can Jack Abramoff's clients turn these days?

Progressives really are dancing with glee this morning, and some brilliant writing is happening. Most stirring to me was William Rivers Pitt's essay, entitled He's Gone, for TruthOut yesterday afternoon . Teachers should read it aloud to their classes. Neverthless DeLay is leaving on his own, still calling his shots. No one has forced him, not even outraged public opinion, to do anything at all, except sit for his photograph at the indictment. I remember a Bill Moyers' NOW feature on DeLay in June of 2004, which exposed the man's funding chicanery. Moyers showed us Abramoff's casino deals in November of the same year. I saw no news items elsewhere following up these stories.

And my unique position this morning is I'm looking at a republican form of government in operation in 2 different countries. In one, a people rise up to question a bill that calls into question the issue of just cause for dismissal from a job. In the other, my own, the people sit, apparently docile and mute, as issue after critical issue is paraded before them. Are Americans just too stunned or bloated to react to anything...except a sale or a new TV show? Here's a report about the Ohio Secretary of State's investment in Diebold voting machine stock. The man, having shaken off demands for legitimate recount of 2004 Presidential election results, is running for Governor. Here's a report from students who spent Spring Break still trying to clear Katrina debris in New Orleans. Where's the United States I studied about in my social studies classes?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Man In The Cave

Posted by Picasa

Only those concerned with the matter of life and death need enter here.

---Inscription on a plaque at the entrance to Eihei-Ji Monastery

The higher part of contemplation is wholly caught up in darkness and in this cloud of unknowing, with an outreaching of love and a blind groping for the naked being of God, himself and him alone.

---The Cloud Of Unknowing

Which do you think is larger, the highest mountain on earth or the pile of bones that represents the lives that you have lived over and over in every realm governed by the patterns of your own karma? Greater, my friends, is the pile of bones than the highest mountain on earth.

---The Buddha

Last weekend we met for coffee and conversation at a quiet pastry shop in Athens, with a friend we made during the 2004 election campaign. I hadn't seen Dick McGinn since the election, partly because he left pretty quick for Indonesia where his work often takes him. He's Associate Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Southeast Asian Studies, which combination or parts thereof he directed or chaired for at least 15 years. He had emailed to suggest we get together to catch up on things political, share what groups we've gotten involved in, and see if there's any hope anywhere.

After some chitchat he brought out a folder and produced a letter he just had written to the Dean of Engineering at Brigham Young University. In it he uncovers a sort of interdepartmental feud he claims has been going on there, in which the College of Engineering and Technology publicly disavows research done by a professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. I'm sure I'd be the last person on earth to know if some facts were wrong in a dispute like that; but our friend pointed out the issue that concerns him here has to do with academic freedom to pursue the research in the field where you have expertise...and not be bound by government grant funding politics. In this case, the BYU professor's field is metal-catalyzed fusion and his presentation is about melting metal at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

I knew nothing about any 9/11 conspiracy theories...and have to confess I didn't want to know. I had had enough trouble with all the assassinations in the '60s, and have ended up like the Joe Pesci character in Oliver Stone's movie about JFK: "It's all a conundrum inside an enigma," or whatever he says. The letter, and a petition to sign about release of government information on 9/11, are part of a campaign by Scholars for 9/11 Truth ( ), which according to a Popular Mechanics article last year is only one of 628,000 web sites about the "World Trade Center conspiracy." Google it yourself and see. Besides that, there are 3000 books on the subject.

The main view seems to be the airplanes were decoys or fuses or something, but the actual collapse of the towers was a controlled demolition set earlier. Apparently there was a 3rd building in the area that came down at the same time and in the same way, which wasn't hit by any airplane at all. Some say there wasn't an airplane involved in the Pentagon blast. Then there's this passport that came fluttering down intact, found among the ashes at WTC, that supposedly was on the disintegrated body of one of the hi-jackers. It's evidence identifying Osama Bin Laden as the mastermind. So the big question is how could some guy, sitting in a cave in Afghanistan, pull all this off?

The paranoia of All The President's Men comes back easily. I hear Jason Robards' voice, as he huddles on the lawn outside his character's own home with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, too cautious to talk indoors because the house is bugged. I thought about writing something on this after our talk and coffee, but decided I'd wait until the thing hit me in the face. Then comes the March 27th issue of New York: The Magazine. For those of you outside New York's direct influence, this is not The New Yorker, which has been around a lot longer. Spunky New York magazine has managed to stay in publication about 40 years though...but not usually by getting into something like 9/11. The main article is called "The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll," by Ted Jacobson, and it takes up 9 pages, with pictures, on the web. I started reading it, darn it, and couldn't stop.

Then this weekend, all this other news was breaking...including of course the coincidental (?) release by the New York City administration of some of the emergency phone calls from 9/11.,10117,18675623-401,00.html And the hearings Friday to censure President Bush maybe...and John Dean's testimony. . Obviously from the links I've chosen, these stories are resounding around the globe. Do they drown out or accent the conspiracy story, I'm wondering. On Friday Doug Thompson at Capitol Hill Blue put up a post asserting the incredibility of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, and immediately drew so many comments the site became paralyzed and he had to shut down the thread. And then there's France: will the demonstrations quiet down or not?,13005,901060410-1179311,00.html And so here I sit, awaiting a dawn that Daylight Savings Time will make a little "later" this morning, and wondering things about the truth of it all. And I ask myself, Who's the guy in a cave? Osama or me?