Blog Archives

Gone to the Dogs

_DSC0671

Becoming a teacher of dogs

 

Whereas most of my previous jobs have been working as an educator for humans, my latest job has me working towards the education and training of dogs. All of a sudden I find myself thrust into the task of tending and training a pack of 41 Alaskan Husky sled dogs as a musher and a kennel hand. Walking into a kennel is much akin to being a substitute teacher and walking into a classroom and trying to figure out the social dynamics that are in place. Much like humans, all the dogs have their own distinct temperaments and personalities. A dog-kennel, in a sense, represents a microcosm of humanity—one that is just less inhibited in their behavior such that no one feels shame at eating their own poop or dry humping in public.

Meet my canine classroom:

_DSC0018

Pearl: a member of the Mean Girl Clique

 

The Mean Girls: Frenchie, the leader of the Mean Girls, is outwardly vocal and confident but inwardly insecure and in constant need of approval by others; Elsa is cool and stand-offish; Rizzo is the attractive girl who teases all the boys with her flirting; Pearl is the preppy girl; Zee hangs out with the mean girls not because she’s a mean girl at heart, but because she thinks it’s better to be in the in-group than to be an outsider;

Flight is the small, introverted, artsy girl who is a dreamy soul and is the recurring target of the mean girls’ jeers;

The Jocks: Danny is the football stud who always wears his varsity jacket and pushes smaller kids into the lockers in the hallway; Tuff is the very popular meathead tight end on the football team who is a total bro; Peddler is the boy who excels at sports on the virtue of being precociously large;

Lindy is the exemplar scholar-athlete who excels in track and field;

Daisy and Skyee are the tomboys;

Duchess is the girl who could beat up any boy she wants to;

Tude is the punk girl sitting in the back of the classroom purposely making you aware that she is ignoring you;

Affirmed is the boy who acts really nice to the teacher, then slaps the other boys when the teacher’s back is turned;

_DSC0009

Affirmed acting nice to the teacher

 

Toby is the mischievous boy who always gives the teacher that gleam in his eye that he just did something naughty and got away with it;

Bo is the skinny nerdy boy who doesn’t realize that people are sarcastically making fun of him;

Hula and Jazz are the set of fraternal twins who most people will think of as identical and similar until they actually get to know them;

Forrest is the kid who is incredibly nice and all his teachers think of him as a ‘sweetheart’;

Joe is a kind-hearted soul who is incredibly reliable and hard-working, but has a life plagued by sheer bad luck and he ends up taking crap from everyone without ever dishing any himself;

_DSC0479

Poor ol’ Joe

 

Rascal is the kid who knows how to get an easy A without much effort, but still willingly obliges when the teacher asks more work of her;

Rani is the teacher’s pet who always serves as an example;

Titan is the dull boy sitting in the back of the classroom who is mindlessly drawing circles on his math worksheet for reasons even he doesn’t know why;

Aileron is the painfully shy boy who will never come out of his shell;

Smokie is the bookworm;

Roscoe is the extremely extroverted boy who greets everyone with a hug whether they want one or not;

_DSC0006

He’s a Hugger: Extroverted Roscoe

 

Mambo is the boy with raging ADHD who gets easily amped up on sugar or by games;

Ozark is the boy who wants every classroom topic to be taught using a kinesthetic exercise, regardless of what subject;

Clark is old beyond his years and is the class’s grouchy curmudgeon;

Brownie is the girl who has overcome her physical disability to live fully and capably in a way where it’s no hindrance to her bubbly outgoingness;

Ike is the boy who really wants to join in with what the others are doing, but who has to wait nervously on the side watching what the others do first before joining along;

Wonka is the boy who transferred to this school from an elite private school on the East Coast, and who wants to flaunt his family’s wealth and status to all the ladies, but who just comes across as self-absorbed and aloof;

_DSC0478

Elwood the Loner (left) and out-of-touch Wonka (right)

 

Bea is the good girl who doesn’t make any waves;

Duke is the kid who will spend his entire school career trying to match up with his older sibling’s accomplishments;

Brule is the skater girl;

Rockstar is the kid who really digs into her work without making a fuss;

Sandy is the girl who is just a little odd and will most likely grow up to be a crazy cat lady;

Reece is the girl who asks to use the restroom at the start of class, then spends the entire period wandering the halls only to show back up a few minutes before class is dismissed;

Luke is the boy in the classroom who the teacher will forget is even in the class from time to time;

and Elwood would rather everyone just left him alone.

 

_DSC0493

Gym Class. All Day. Every Day.

Advertisements

The Loves List

book-with-heart-pages

 

“For when there is a question as to whether a man is good, one does not ask what he believes or what he hopes for, but what he loves.” –St. Augustine 

 

Years ago, when I first moved into an intentional living community, one of our initial get-to-know-you activities was to create what was known as a ‘Loves List,’ a collection of things, experiences, and ideas that each individual described as being among their loves. This exercise was a novel way to get to learn more about my new housemates right away. In the course of everyday conversation with new acquaintances, a lot of the things that people admire don’t frequently get brought up. The Loves List, instead, aims to put all those loves out there in the open right away. It is a way to discuss and learn about the things people love—that is, to say the things and ideas that people value and cherish and esteem. These things are the tiny traces and connections that make up the gestalt of who people are. As philosopher Gideon Strauss put it (who is a mentor to my mentors who taught me the Loves List) “it is in consideration of what we love that we come to know, most deeply, who we are and who we can become.”

My first Loves List was created in 2011. I have since created subsequent versions of my Loves List, some as revisions from past lists, and others created independently. It is an act of self-discovery to look and re-look over past lists to see what made the list and what was left off. My own loves have migrated through time, yet have also stayed fairly consistent too.

The latest version of the Loves List that I have made, stemming from an independent re-evaluation in 2016, has gotten pretty complex. I guess it turns out that I have been growing fond of quite a number of things. For the sake of clarity, I categorized my latest Loves List into different categories, but this is not necessary. I encourage you to try the activity yourself. Take some time to write down a list of what you love, and see what you learn about yourself. Here is my Loves List as an example, or perhaps inspiration for you to try it yourself.

 


Ty’s Loves List

Natural Loves
Beachcombing for seashells
Botanical Gardens
Cold snowy moonlit winter nights
Crisp, cold winter days
Fireflies
Hot Springs
Living in a place with four distinct seasons
Michigan Beaches
Natural History
Plants and trees—of all sorts
Quiet walks through a garden or forest
The changing seasons
The first few crisp nights at the end of summer, signaling fall is on the way
The way clouds are colored at sunrise and sunset
Warm, humid, breezy nights
Watching ants crawl around
Watching plants grow
Watching thunderstorms roll in—and getting caught in the rain
Weeds growing in the cracks of the sidewalk
Intellectual Loves
Always trying to learn something new
Cuddling up with a good book
Eastern philosophy and religious traditions
Finding a good podcast unexpectedly on the radio
Keeping a journal of my thoughts and activities
Learning about geographical differences
Local History
Making plans/alternative plans
Mental Stimulation
Monastic Life and Monastic Communities
Personal Reflection Time
Pop Psychology
Popular Science
Public Media (i.e. NPR, PBS, BBC)
Reflecting on shared experiences
Sitting in quiet contemplation
Understanding how things work.
Urban Planning and City Design
Philosophical Loves
Adopting second hand goods and giving them a good second life
Avoiding clichés
Avoiding doing things the easy way
Being friendly to people
Being tolerant about how others live
Encouraging positive growth in others
Envisioning possibilities for the future
Having well-thought out reasons for even simple decisions
Imperfection—loving things with visible flaws that don’t hide behind the veil of artificial perfection.
Living Intentionally
Looking for the good in the situation
Mindfulness
Reading the directions—and then doing it my own way anyway
Sleeping on any important decision I have to make
Subjectivity
Supporting local communities
The Circle of Life
The feeling that what I’m doing might make a difference in the world
Thinking about things philosophically
Throwing myself wholeheartedly into what I do
Virtue Ethics
Object Loves
Abandoned objects and places
Alternative music (or instrumental/foreign language songs)
Aquariums, big and small
Artisan’s markets
Brown Road Signs
Cacti and Succulents
Chaco Sandals
Cuttlefish
Dr. Bronners Soap
Exotic fruit
Ginger, prepared in all kinds of varieties
Hummus
Independent coffee houses/cafes
Koi Ponds
Locally brewed micro-beers
Mason Jars
Nalgene Water Bottles
National Parks
Orchards
Puzzles, of all varieties
Saunas
Activity Loves
Aimless Wandering
Being Barefoot
Browsing used bookstores
Buying something used and giving it a second life
Coin Collections
Collecting rocks
Dehydrating Fruit
Dumpster Diving
Factory Tours
Finding seaglass on the beach
Fixing broken things
Germinating Seeds
Growing a garden
Making food items from scratch—especially if it’s grown or foraged by me
Making Granola
Making music on an instrument—or at least trying to
Outdoor Pursuits
Perusing Thrift Stores
Picking up litter
Polishing Rocks
Recycling
Riding Bicycles
Road Trips
Spending time on the water: in kayak, canoe, paddleboard, boat, etc.
Staring at maps
Swimming—pools, lakes, and oceans
Taking photographs
Writing letters
Yoga
Experiential Loves
An evening at a wilderness campground
Being outside in inclement weather
Caring about those who are close to me
Collecting things—and experiences
Creating something one-of-a-kind for myself or someone else
Finding coins on the sidewalk
Group meditation
Hanging around people who know who you are and are ok with it.
Having a discussion after watching a movie with others
Indie bands and coffee-shop performances
Living communally with others
Lying on my back staring up at the sky through the branches of a tree
Nighttime walks along the ocean
Receiving mail
Reducing our impact on mother earth
Sharing a home-cooked meal
Sharing conversation with friends over a beer
Singing in my car or in the shower
Trying anything once for the sheer experience of it.
Using my hands to perform a skill
Waking up before the sun rises
Watching campfires burn wood down into embers
Watching the sunset
Working outdoors
Woodworking

 

“Of Love,” by Mary Oliver

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.
They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many. You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed. Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some—now carry my revelation with you—
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes every morning. So I imagine
such love of the world—its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself—I imagine
this is how it all began.