Category Archives: youshow15

#Twistedpair : Epictetus | Mojo Nixon.

In the spirit of infinite play I am following a recent prompt from Steve Wheeler:

Choose a strange pairing from above (or make up one of your own, the weirder the better). Let your imagination run wild, go very slightly unhinged and dig deep into your knowledge of those characters. Some of the connections may be tenuous. That’s part of the fun.  Come up with an inspirational, satirical or thought provoking blog post about teaching and learning. Share it and include the tag #twistedpair. Don’t forget to also challenge at least three other people. If we get enough responses, I will create a page that links them all together.

My twisted pair are Mojo Nixon and Epictetus, the profane rocker and the profound Stoic.

OK, I am feeling resistance here.  I have had my fill of writing prompts over the years.  They often feel false.  Other times I recognize them for what they are–pump priming fuel that gets burned up in order to start the engine.  In this case we are asked to play.  I like play, but generating inspired, satirical or thought provoking stuff about teaching and learning?  This feels like managing chaos and a little forced. Isn’t the nature of the imagination that you don’t so much as give it permission as it seizes it?

It is true that both of these figures taught me something. I learned from both of them.  It is also true that I could draw many other connections.

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So I get to have cake and eat it and save some for later.

Here’s some Mojo to listen to, his only big hit, “Elvis Is Everywhere”

Here’s some Epictetus to listen to, his biggest hit, “The Enchiridon”

I recommend that you play both at the same time.  Twisted, dude, twisted.

Creating Ritual Space in #Rhizo15: Why and How

 

 

typical_cricketI have been closely annotating my way via the Rhizo15 Diigo Group through a rich repast of a blog post by Sarah Perry on Venkat Rao’s blog, Ribbonfarm. One of her purposes is to explore how identity  is created or as she terms it, ‘peopled’.

Perry draws on the writing of Philippe Rochat in his book, Others in Mind: The Social Origins of Self-Consciousness.  According to Rochat we create each other’s identities through a recursive process where 

…each person learns to be aware of himself – is constrained toward self-consciousness – by other people being aware of him. He learns to manage his image in the minds of others, and finds himself reflected, as in a mirror, through the interface of language and non-verbal communication.

According to Rochat we see ourselves through the constraining influences of other people, through the ‘peopling’ of others.

I think this idea has significance in #rhizo15. How? We are all seeing ourselves through the eyes of others.  How accurate is that subjective view?  Sometimes it is off by degrees of magnitude.  For example, I see some pretty effusive praise for my stuff that by its nature is half-baked.  I know the negative connotation inherent in the term ‘half-baked’, but I cannot help but feel that what I create has not grown all the way to fruition and that my comments and interactions with others are sometimes just dashed off and ill-considered, certainly not worthy of the work done by those I am responding to.

Yes, some of our work is very good for a first draft, but most goes little past this initial draft and into further revision. Your mileage might very much vary.  This shoe I am putting on might not fit you.  I beg your forgiveness for this if you feel I have been unjust, but…  I expect further recursion, further refinement through reciprocal action. Sometimes I get that social recursion, mostly I don’t. Part of me takes no offense while another part is deeply disturbed that our responses are so cursory.  And the cursory nature of most responses and in the desultory considerations of others, we have generated a default behavior.  And, worse, those defaults have become internalized as the default mutual mental modeling that Rochat calls peopling.  We are peopled by shallow necessity, by force of circumstance, and by the barest reciprocal exigency.  If you feel this is unfair,then just view this as a sample of one, of me ranting and venting and feeling inadequate.

In our offline social life we have ways to compensate for this–shallowness.  It is called ritual.  Perry notes

People are able to accomplish this feat of mutual simulation by use of two tools: language and ritual. Ritual allows for the communication of information that language can’t convey – hard-to-fake costly signals of commitment, dependability, harmoniousness, and cooperative intent.

So how do we play this infinite game of mutually modelling each other’s identities to each the other? Through language and ritual. Language for the surface, intellectual stuff and ritual for the deep, social stuff. I believe that language is so fragile that without the reinforcing social power of ritual it becomes brittle and ‘unbelievable’. We need ritual if for no other reason than that it is the substrate for language.

That begs two questions: what are the #rhizo15 rituals and what should they be?

I am not sure if we have any.  Dave’s introductory videos are something we all share, but what else?  Perhaps folks can comment here on what they think #rhizo15 rituals might be (that #rhizo15 hashtag, for example), but I want to suggest some we might try.

The sparseness of ritual environment in rhizo15 is very painful to me.  The sparseness of feedback from language is just as painful, but the lack of ritual makes it even more so.  Dreadfully more so.  In fact I am on the edge of withdrawing all the time.  I think it is the ritual that might save me. So bring on the salve of ritual to rhizo15.

[Aside: I am patterning these rituals after the work done by the Group Pattern Language Project. ]

Here are some of my suggestions for potential ritual activity in #rhizo15:

Ritual 1: greeting folks as often as possible in familiar digital spaces–I need to make this overt in my own online rhizo15 activities.
Ritual 2: Breaking Bread Together–actually eating and talking online about whatever.  No, really being seen with each other in a Hangout for example having lunch/dinner.
Ritual 3:  Share natural spaces through YouTube and  make part of any group meeting (e.g. Hangout) opening.  What I suggest here is that you record and upload an environment near you and share it on YouTube. This does not have to be just Nature.  It can be street traffic, a market, a bus stop, or any place that renders the ‘spice’ of your environs. When we meet we can share begin the meeting with one of our spaces.
Ritual 4: “With joy and zest, publicly celebrate milestones and recurring events. Affirming shared history, we nourish community, crystallize a sense of accomplishment, and build group identity by unifying our stories and common goals. Can be planned and ritualized, or as spontaneous as a group cheer.”  Celebrate | Group Works. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://groupworksdeck.org/patterns/Celebrate
Ritual 5:  Feedforward with the imagination.  In other words project your self into the future and ‘recall’ all that ‘happened’ from the beginning of #rhizo15.  In a way I think this defines what rhizomatic learning is.  Each of us creates identity for the group by being who we are with the voices we have.  Why not imagine that forth along with others instead of relying solely upon our individual strivings.  Feedforwardings would allow us to compare rhizomatic identities and from there decide where we might be drawn to as a group as well as individually.
Anyone interested in doing ‘feedforwarding”  might look at a this journaling activity taken from the Presencing Institute.  I am working on adapting it for our use, but you can do that just as easily on the fly as I can.
Or you might simply stand at the point where #rhizo15 ‘ends’ and reflect on what happened.  Perhaps if we shared this as a ritual activity, a future prototyping of a kind, then we might be able to see each other’s identities more clearly and pull together in the newly visible harness of shared vision.

I plan on doing this later today and hope I can get others to share.  Here is a common space for storing your feedforward and for talking about it as well.

Don’t Just Derive | Engender and Thrive

Just finished reading Tania Sheko’s blog post about Pinterest as well as viewed her SlideShare presentation below. Go ahead and check it. I’ll wait.

You can tell she has thought about Pinterest and its thoughtful uses for quite awhile.  Sometimes you just know someone else has paid her dues just in the self-assuredness that shines through.  Tania is self-assured in her Pinterest practice and knows what it affords.

I commented on her post because I have been thinking about my own tool use of late, and about how I have lost  one of my favorites–Zeega. I feel its loss so keenly because it helped me create.  I got the dopamine rush when I used it and now its gone. I have looked far afield to find something to give me the same feeling, but no joy suffices so far.  This has made me think about how I need to embrace the undifferentiated creative life, the one that cleaves close to the heartwood and releases the Muse there.  Tania’s post made me write the comment below:

Love the uses for Pinterest. Wondering what other wild uses might be made of it not intended by its creators, what re-purposes? Could we make a paper-style Pinterests for the classroom? in the hallway? for parents to create, too. Could Pinterest be like a seed packet? How about a mystery gift used one time and then discarded? Could we collect badges together? or pictures of weeds and wildflowers which we assign ours and others’ names to?

I find myself looking at your blog’s background photo and thinking to myself, “That is a much more authentic Pinterest board than Pinterest could ever muster. So why can’t Pinterest be more like it?”

Back to your post, I find all of these “annotation/curation” tools to be great for helping me to process the world, but I also ask myself, “Why?” You answer so ably here and I want to go …differently,too. I am not saying better, just saying further. There is a natural progression from collecting without comment to curating to creating. I think that creating is where I want to be. I want what Pinterest is and what Pinterest does to serve the Muse. That is what my paragraph above dithers about. Just thinking about how so much of what I do is secondary, indirect and adaptive. I get this powerful voice inside me that says, “Don’t just derive, make and thrive.” Of course, the irony is that I am replicating what you have started. For that I thank you, Tania.

I am struck by this progression and would add a bit more by using a Pinterest template from Canva (is that hopelessly derivative or what?)

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Now the final reveal.  I derived these thoughts from the very interesting ideas here.  Sigh.  Is it habitually derivative all the way down?  Commenters are invited to help me out of this quicksand.

 

 

The 13th Donut or Gift from the Gods

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This post was inspired by a comment on my other blog by Joe Murphy.
Tweedy Impertinence

If you click in the box above you will see Joe’s post and my annotation of Joe’s post, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. Not sure, but I think Joe came to my post via #YouShow15 and I really wanted to reciprocate or as Joe puts it, express a little “lagniappe”.  I have always understood this to mean “the 13th donut”,

Missing from the rebus above is the

 

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The annotated link is a way to do this kind of extra reciprocation, an extra donut. The beauty of the tool, Diigo, is that it allows lots of extra little embedded donuts to be hidden in the box.  You can respond with text, you can share with others en masse or in a group, you can embed sound and text and animations and pix.  All of this is free to Joe, but the ‘equal sign’ above lets me tell the rest of the story of that equation.  Honestly, it should be an approximation sign:

 

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The beauty of giving more than you get is that it seems to prime some magical pump.  Bread thrown on the waters does come back, almost always in unknown ways. Here are the ways I know that I didn’t know before:

    • A new word, lagniappe,
    • A new re-acquaintence with an old credo-the 13th donut,
    • A new connection with Joe,
    • The idea that we are simultaneously part of the hierarchy AND the wirearchy,
    • Wise advice: don’t make a fetish of the tools. Valorize the act of serving–the tools will get their due as a matter of course

I also got to share some cool gifs, pix, songs, and personal observations, but here is the important part for me: there are many unknown unknowns that will redound to me. The reciprocation, the equal sign, is always approximate…and mysterious. For me the most mysterious manifestation so far has been how this has prompted me to reconsider an important idea from another point of view:  black swans.

I know this is really far afield, but it is one of the gifts that Joe’s post has washed onto my shore.  Since I am a cargo cultist, I naturally assign preternatural meaning to it.  A black swan is an idea that Nasim Taleb cast into the world to describe the unknown unknown, the wave we do not see coming.  Hell, that no one sees nor can see looming.

There are many global examples of black swans. the internet being one, but they all hold three traits in common–they’re surprising, they’re big, and they’re rationalized by hindsight. So…Joe’s gift to me, the one that I did not know I was going to get until after I had cast my manna on the water, was this question:  can there be local black swans?  And by local I mean a sample of one–me.

In a very uncertain world where I am snapped about by  the crack-the-whip of larger events, am I also subject to personal black swans generated in my own timeline? Could the world be even stranger than I think?  My first thoughts are, “Yes, far stranger.”

If I am subject to global and local swans, how must I live? I take my lead from Taleb. First , I must be on the lookout for black swans as they happen. I have to identify them as they happen.  Second, I must, as Taleb says in The Black Swan, have coping mechanisms in place for dealing with them. The embed below quotes from the second edition afterward in Taleb’s book and outlines ten ways to cope as a society.

Ten Principles for a Black Swan-Robust Society

Now comes the thinking about how to adapt and adopt these principles to the sample of me.  Then that manna goes back out on the water.  Thanks, Joe, for the coke bottle from the sky.

 

PowerPoint Karaoke, Improv Presentation & the Infinite Game–Playing to Learn

I have known about PowerPoint Karaoke for years.  If the idea is new to you think “improv for presenters”.  Terrifying?  To some, any kind of presenting is next to losing a family member or having a tarantula crawl on you…

and that is why  I am exploring this as end-of-class fun for everybody.

So big deal, I have a depraved funny bone, but let me explain anyway.  The main focus of my English 300 writing course, Writing in the Disciplines, is to produce a research project that uses all of the skills most folks in rhetoric consider critical to being a competent writer: summary, critique, analysis, and synthesis.  I prefer to simplify that whole categorical mess by using Harold Jarche’s triune approach to knowledge management–‘seek/sense/share’.

Every class I try to help students do each of those elements.  I might combine a new search tool like Topsy with a sense-making tool like critiquing and use peer discussion to share.  Sometimes the mix is eclectic and weavs technologies (Google Scholar/Zotero/Scoop.it). Other times I flip the classroom and have them go totally paper and pencil and face-to-face.  The goal is to always be doing all three at some point in the class period or as part of an assignment.

One opportunity/challenge/terror they face at semester’s end is The Presentation. I have always thought of it as a festival of their ideas while many of them (especially my international and public speaking phobic learners) regard it as Professor Terry’s Cabinet of Horror.  

The theory is that since they have had the entire semester to explore their project that they have become experts and are, theoretically, more confident.  Well…while almost all are more expert than their peers by far in their research arena, most do not feel expert at all as presenters.

This fits.  Consider the presentation habits of our greatest presentation practitioners–standup comics.  Almost all of the major comics (Chris Rock and Louis CK come to mind) have a similar workflow.  Their goal is about an hour of comedy once a year. And…it takes them about a year to do that.  (Aside: Think about that and then consider how little time we allow students to get ‘good’ at presentation.)  Typically,  the comedian will work up a few minutes of stories or jokes and then do short standup sets at very intimate comedy clubs.  Some stuff kills, some stuff sucks. Over a year of trial and error (and occasionally some new material created on the fly) a coherent hour emerges. A year of starts and stops and this and that.

And what do we give students?  I won’t even say because it is the definition of the word unfair.  Hence my crazy embrace of Powerpoint Karaoke.  What are the rules?

There are no rules so much as there are…guidelines, but if you are like Crazy Walter–

then here’s yer rulez:

  • The presenter shall NOT see the presentation slides in advance.
  • The presentation time shall be limited. 5 minutes is the most common time limit.
  • The jury shall have a sense of humor.
  • The speech must be related to the Powerpoint slides. General nonsense is not allowed.
  • Imporant: Everybody shall remember that the reason to do it is to have fun

What I am doing is a slo-mo embrace of the game.  First, I introduced it and showed a few video examples.  I then asked them if they were interested in trying it out on Fridays just for fun.  Horror dawns in their eyes.  A few brave souls with the hearts of middle schoolers willing to try anything including jumping off a bridge agree to try it.  Not an auspicious start but not unlike the first days of a drama class as you practice warmups.

Next, I asked some folks on Friday if they wanted me to demonstrate.  Of course, I was terrible compared to some of the great examples I had already shown.  Then it hit me.  Let them use their own research questions/topics, let them sit at their seats and let them do just one or two slides in a variation we call “pptx-relay”.  I see a bit more enthusiasm.

Next week we will try more.  The point (heh heh, maybe I should say the powerpoint? Oh, ok that would be mega-lame) is to ease them into the water with small successes.  I create the slide decks and I advance the slides while they just do the improv.

The main purpose is to play the long game– have fun , but if you insist on having cover then find some CYA in the Common Core (good luck) or just note that we are getting students to use the oldest trick in the book–teaching others in order to learn better ourselves.  An added CYA bonus is that we begin to increase the amount of time doing at least some extra rehearsal in front of others.

I sincerely believe that if you play the infinite game, you reap infinite, ever-expanding rewards.  If you play the finite game, you get winners and losers.  Needless to say I will be the entire judging panel and I will make sure I “cheat” so that the points don’t matter.  I am endlessly creative and improvisational in ways that make sure that everyone ends up getting the same amount of points. (Aside: you should hear the howls when I do improvisational team quizzes and my strategic students discover that there is no way to win or lose OR I rig it where I am the ultimate winner.)

Here is an exemplary ppt-karaoke to gnaw on.  Tasty. Wish me luck.

 

Camera Non-Obscura: Or Why the Brain Sees Better than the Camera

I was inspired to write this post by the work of Kim Douillard and Kevin Hodgson in a project called “Slices of Life”.

I was especially struck by Kevin’s photos here (and I am avidly awaiting Kim’s).  In Kevin’s night picture, however, I found myself wondering about what I could not see just as much as by what I could see.  Having taken night photos before, I also thought about how limiting the camera is as it tries to record the fullness that the night can seem.  I know that is not a fair comparison in many ways, but technology is almost always like that.  In other words, in the fair light of day or night, technology reduces, delimits, and otherwise ‘cheapens’ experience. It makes the world more legible, but less wise.

For example, below is a photo of a rectangular platte of ground shot this morning just outside my back door.

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What we see has little to do with it means.  For one thing, the metaphor of the ‘frame’ makes legible only a very small portion of the available universe.  In a way this is exactly what the brain does so very well–it uses an ‘ignorance’ filter.  And by ‘ignorance’ I mean that we accent the second syllable.  Based upon some idiosyncratic and lifelong evolving algorithm, each of our brains takes from the picture above what it will and ignores the rest. A collander metaphor jumps to mind.  Or maybe it actively pays attention to some stuff in favor of other stuff, a pattern bias unique to each of our own sets of experience.  Schrodinger’s Cat? Or Maxwell’s Demon?

But our views signify uniquely.  Each of us comes to the photo with a different filter.  Thinking out loud here, perhaps the metaphor is a loom, a Jacquard loom with a punchcard template (read schema) that weaves the sensorium back and forth.  Or as early neuroscientist Charles Sherrington called it “the enchanted loom”. The quote below is the loom in action according to Sherrington  as our brain wakes from sleep.

 The great topmost sheet of the mass, that where hardly a light had twinkled or moved, becomes now a sparkling field of rhythmic flashing points with trains of traveling sparks hurrying hither and thither. The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of subpatterns.

I  am not thinking of the  kind of loom below as a metaphor although it is cool and tempting.

This weaving of the senses in with the schema we already have in our minds, that’s what I have in…mind.  Now, back to the matter at hand, the practical matter of what is seen in the rectangle of ground outside my back door.

First, I see or infer dozens of holes in the ground. Worms, beetles, and other critters are pouring from the warming soil looking for I know not what.  Perhaps they are like Mole in The Wind in the Willows. They’ve  got spring fever and are saying to themselves, “onion sauce”. The are holing out of the ground and checking out the surface because they can and because they feel the need.  Fanciful? Yet the holes are there and my mind weaves in some Kenneth Grahame

Second, I know what the holes signify–soil health.  There is much to eat and many to eat it.  In a way it is as the hermetic philosophers insisted, “As above, so below.”  Another weaving of the loom that contemplates the health of the soil.

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Third, it means that spring has sprung. This cliche is reinforced by the ‘frogged’ thrum of peepers in the background ready to move and mate and carry on with the ancient seasonal struggle. And all the other heaves and sighs and blats and tweets of spring. Not to mention the smell and breath of spring, its earth and touch moving in between what I see and hear and what I have seen and heard in sixty years of springs.

The camera’s purpose, like the brain’s, is to limit.  An example of this is filtering within apps.  I have been playing with two such tools of late: Adobe Shape and Waterlogue.

Here is how Waterlogue uses its “It’s Technical” filter to view the ground above… and so below.

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Reminds me of a topographic map without text.  In this case the map is both the territory and not the territory, what Vedantic philosophy calls “neti-neti”.  This filter is not like the brain’s enchanted loom.  It simply renders the photo into something legible.  It does not mean anything independent of the brain that views it.  Does a photo rendered in a forest by a filter signify if no one is around to view it? Nope.

The other app, Adobe  Shape is even more stark in its mapping of filter onto photo. Hard to believe it has the same picture as its source.

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Photo filters and apps are more like the chain of punch cards for a jacquard loom than Sherrington’s magical shuttle metaphor.  This Adobe Shape filter seems more like a reduction of the original to that of a photomicrograph of…brain tissue, neurons and glia.  But, of course, that is what I am ‘weaving into’ the filtered picture.  I love the image of my mind shuttling back and forth into what it sees and carrying with it the partial, conjoined datum of the the brain (what it knows past, present,future) and carrying back the sensorium.   The gif below does not even begin to approach the speed and complexity of the process, but it begins to point at how meaning might begin to be made.

I return to the original inspiration–overlooked moments.  I think that every photo by design is an overlooked moment.  Each one has an audience that o’erlooks it.  That ‘overlooking’ is the meaning making moment, the time when the brain fills in the blanks or, using Sherrington’s metaphor, uses the enchanted shuttle to weave meaning back and forth.  And because there are many possible weavers, any picture can be a nexus for even more complex brocades, quilts, and damasks.  Is that what Kevin and Kim are doing. And me, too. We are “flashing shuttles weav[ing] a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one.” And always there is something overlooked that someone else can weave in or (and this is something I am only now considering) weave out, Penelope-like in the night.

Now what do you see that has been overlooked. I invite you to invoke the Muse, grab the enchanted shuttle and make.  We live in a world of connection and construction that is beginning to fit our minds better every day.  Carpe neuron!

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Hope Is At Very Least A Verb and Not A Noun

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Hope Is At Very Least A Verb and Not A Noun

Hope within and hope without,

neither mete nor bound,

but instead

a “beating of the bounds”.

A road not taken

is still the path 

whose right-of-way

is an end.  

So,

where does hope abide?

The smoke of words curling

from the waking of our minds?

No,

from the bowsprit pointing to the dolphin

and beyond  the dolphin to the terminus.

Bowsprits and dolphins and the folk drumming down the bounds

just a little beyond and in front.

Hope is the thing with finsThat clambers

Scraped and Scratched and Scrabbled and Scrooged

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I love reading and learning  blog posts like the one below.

How ‘appflows’ reveal the true power of the iPad Air 2 | Electronista.

The image above comes from my new play thing,  Adobe Shape which I found in the ‘appflow’ post above.

And ones like this.

I get a serious ‘feelgood’ from things and people using things.  For now, ideas, while interesting, are increasingly unappealing to me. My farm and the rumblings of spring fever are just too powerful with yearning to ignore.  I am Mole in the opening lines of  Wind in the Willows:

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said ‘Bother!’ and ‘O blow!’ and also ‘Hang spring-cleaning!’ and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gavelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, ‘Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

‘This is fine!’ he said to himself. ‘This is better than whitewashing!’ The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow till he reached the hedge on the further side.

‘Hold up!’ said an elderly rabbit at the gap. ‘Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!’ He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. ‘Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!’ he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply.

In the final analysis I am not too keen on memes about rhizomes so much as I am interested in real rhizomes.  I’d rather grow bamboo than woolgather about the idea of a rhizome.  I am glad that there are folks who do find that palateable. Eat on.  Your mileage may vary, but it is yours to vary. I rely on you.  As for me?

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A Shepherd’s Journal: February 22, 2015 | The Night Stage

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There are three ewes ready to drop.  Or so it would seem.  I got up early this morning (2:30 am) to see if they were going to lamb.  I don’t know who was more expectant, me or them.  Me, I guess, because there were no lambs.  The expectant leaving me expecting.  I am glad, but there is no certainty that they would not lamb in the next thirty minutes.  This seems to be the year of the sheep with precipitous births.

An outrageous combination of 14-inch powder snow, rain/sleet/more snow, and temps above freezing has left a heavy, cloying fog everywhere.  I could easily lose the ewes in this milky mess if I didn’t make a head count. Six in the barn.  Eight in the field. I guess that makes me the pitcher to round out a baseball squad of sheep.

Yesterday was exhausting.  The barn flooded as all the rain and melting snow gushed downhill and straight into it,  sliding over our filled and frozen drains installed to prevent that very thing from happening.  My wife and I spent the better part of the morning digging trenches in the frozen ground to divert the torrents.  The barn still became a manure pond.  We moved the ewes and their babies into a barn space that we usually reserve for hay.  More work.

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A mama of triplets is deciding whether or not she wants to accept her third baby. Our experience says no.  That means we will raise this big healthy ram lamb as a “bummer”.  Milk replacer is expensive and the time needed to bottle feed three times a day is even more dear.  Thank God school has been cancelled all week.  I couldn’t get out our half-mile farm lane if I wanted to.  I tried to pack down a path to drive out yesterday, but it was just too risky to try.  More cold weather coming.  Refreezing might actually help.  Please no more rain.

I don’t want to make it sound like I am doing all of this by myself.  My wife is the real lioness here.  She patrols the barn during the day, tending to them all as if they were her own children.  I am beyond lucky to have her as my friend.  Sheep farming is one of the shared loves that has kept us working together for so long. Over 30 years with lambs and life. Lucky me.

The thick fog of thirty minutes previous seems to lift like a white proscenium fire curtain.  Gone, revealing a starry sky and Nature’s night stage.  I walk it with a torch for a prop  and a role to play.  I am mostly a reluctant actor, shy and so full of stage fright I act just to survive. Stage left. Stage right. Prologue. Epilogue. Comedy. Tragedy.  In the amphitheater,  standing in for an indisposed actor, reading my lines “from the book” as the theater folk say.  Eyed by my sheepish audience. So I end.