My cousin, Charmaine,
(we nicknamed her, 'Charmy), called to remind me of my brother's lecture to
the alternative learning students. The weather was blustery to say the least
with cold temperatures making me miserable when I stepped from my warm car.
“This better-be-good. I hope it is
interesting enough for me to come out of my warm house,” I thought to myself
as I watched the dry leaves rustling in tiny circles around and around on
the sidewalk while the wind jerked and pulled them into a spiral.
Life has a way of laying the cards on the
table in opposition to what I see in my mind regarding my brother for when
he was the baby of the family I held him so much of the time because of
being the oldest. He was the favorite of everyone and was treated by each
one of us as special. Today, I had to realize my brother is an ageing man
whose vocabulary and speaking ability is decidedly not that of a baby.
There wasn't time to charge the batteries on
the camcorder so I took the smaller camera even though I had no idea of how
to operate it. As I seated myself and began to listen to his lecture it
suddenly struck me why he was and is a leader.
Dan opened his lecture with the words, “I
spoke before a group of Chinese youngsters and later asked their superiors,
"Where are the children of alternative learning?” With this statement he,
today, caught these normally restless kid's attention.
“They told me,” he continued, “Oh! We have
these children, but they are the future leaders and we give them a special
Probably from that moment forward my
brother, Dan, held the attention of the young adults who are often like
angry children with feelings of being isolated, and in a less desirable
situation. They often feel less than that of the “normal” student. The
tenderness with which he held their minds and emotional state I felt was so
much to be admired. In fact, he did identify with them and admitted this was
where he himself had been at one time when he was their age.
His introduction was brief and covered some
of the achievements he had been able to make in his career with filming
documentaries. To be the first American Indian invited as a member of the
most prestigious group of film makers in the United States was something for
which he was proud. He skipped over this and then introduced his film I had
seen only as he was working on it. This was a narration of his book of
poetry by very good readers who were people like Peter Coyote. The actors
and actress's ability with words making the poetry come alive along with the
striking landscape photography and soothing music caused the presentation to
be altogether beautiful. Occasionally, the photographer would switch back
to Dan speaking and explaining about one of his poems.
After the film was finished Dan involved the
students in a method of mind exercises, that was to hold the kid's attention
but became equally informing to the adults in attendance. He started with a
word, one word. That word was, “shoe.” By working in a clockwise circle
around the central word he asked the students to add words pertaining to
shoe. There were the words; laces, leather, cow, boot, sandal, Nicki, size,
color, and so forth and so on, that were called out from the young audience.
These kids were involved. Then he went to the word boot and asked the
students for words on that. There was cowboy-boot, steel toed boots,
engineer boots. It was interesting to see how suddenly, the mildly
interested boys were now participating.
From this Dan went to a pictograph of a
Native American recording of a story and told how these ancient writers
worked clock-wise, in a spiral around a central word to tell of the event,
much in the same way.
When he called for questions from the
audience the first question was, “How long did it take you to grow your
In my reverie I began to think back to when
Dan wrote his first work on poetry. It was during the time when my Dad was
able to influence him with the great works of ancient historians he so much
enjoyed. No one would have recognized this other than, myself. It gave me a
strange melancholy. I felt happy to know this truth and wisdom in the poetry
dealing with such popular issues of today was there so many years before.
The issues of ecology, respect for the earth, spirituality of the Native
American, were the values Dad always tried to inculcate into us and this
was all in Dan's poetry.
Someone asked me, “when was the last time
It didn't take me a moment to say,
“Yesterday! It was the day I heard my brother, in a most humble and gentle
way speak to the children of the middle school at the old Administration
Building. This is where the kids with learning problems are only at the
width of a hair away from the time they will have to go out on the streets
to deal with, heaven only-knows, what circumstances. If some small ray of
light came through to these youth while my brother spoke his gentle truth to
them, then a lifetime of toil and struggle will have been worth the effort.
I didn't cry aloud and tears slipping down the side of my face were never
seen, only felt, and quickly brushed away before anyone could notice.
So, here I am. Today, I struggle along with
promoting my book at a snail's pace, it seems. We are closer to the goal. I
had to purchase Rhonda the low rider bike from my own book sales. The
weather caught up with us but there will be warm days yet when she can use
it. Somehow or another, this seeing my brother's efforts and work encouraged
me to continue with my own. Rhonda, my cerebral palsied daughter, has few of
the joys and escapes the people in the world around her have. The low rider
bike when she was a child was one of them and this will have been good for
something else, now. It will provide her with the exercise she so
desperately needs. Every once in a while there is a triumph in this old
system of things.