A Teacher and School Violence

My voice will not be the only voice speaking this morning in anger, sadness and disgust.  My head will not be the only head filled with media images and sounds of violence, sadness and fear. Many voices stronger and louder than mine have spoken powerful words of sadness and condemnation for the state of our country and its love affair with guns.  I will speak none-the-less.

As many of you know, I am a retired teacher.  I have helped children deal with school violence since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Seeing children flinch in their seats at the sound of a banging door, watching children respond with disdain at the feeble attempts at safety protocols and rehearsals for potential threats ins school, and imagining our response to a live shooter in the building or visualizing ourselves trying to staunch the flow of blood from a mortally wounded child in my classroom is the silent burden every teacher carries every waking minute of every day. Sometimes our dreams are haunted by fears and worries, too.

You see, adult teachers know that they face death at any moment every morning when they walk in the school door. We know how many hurting and damaged children are in the seats every day. We know that despite the hard work of counselors and administration, hurting and angry children face us with thoughts of violence — every day.

Perhaps, if, like teachers, Senators and Congressmen had to carry the daily burden of a real and imminent threat of facing death, we would have some movement in the regulation of deadly weapons. Perhaps, if Senators and Congressmen, had the physical responsibility of keeping twenty-five young lives safe at any given moment of their day, they would be able to see beyond their wallets stuffed with IRA dollars.  Perhaps, if, the children, grand-children and wives of Senators and Congressmen, were facing the daily terrorism of imminent school violence, we would have some authentic conversation about guns in America.

But, in this country, we are in love with the idea that our politicians are public servants; when, in reality, many of our politicians are self-serving: favoring cronyism, self aggrandisement and the accrual of wealth.

When will it stop? How can we reconcile the right to bear arms with the proliferation of high powered guns designed to inflict death on a massive scale? As I sit here and write this, I question my activism, my willingness to get my butt off the couch and become involved in the social and political issues that concern me.  Today is a new day.  Get up with me and make your voice heard.

Sri Lanka Travel

My non-fiction writing centers on my many trips to Sri Lanka.  I have a creative non-fiction piece titled Like an Elephant in production now with Austin Macauley Publishers and a self-published ebook called Three Buddhist Treasures in Kandy.  Today I will explore two awesome but overlooked places near Bentota, a popular beach resort just south of Colombo:  Brief Garden and Lunagana.

Geoffrey (1919 – 2003) and Bevis (1909 – 1992) Bawa are two of Sri Lanka’s famous sons.  Geoffrey was a talented architect renowned for tropical modernist design.  His work is spread throughout Asia including India, Singapore, Pakistan, Japan and Fiji.  Geoffrey’s older brother Bevis was a soldier, a lawyer and then a landscape architect.

I imagined that their combined talents made for some beautiful spaces and was eager to see these two estates.

Lunuganga, the home of Geoffrey Bawa. The house was begun in 1947 while Bawa was a lawyer. Working on this project inspired him to become an architect.  Bawa’s designs were an important departure from the British colonial style as he sought to merge hardscape with landscape to create buildings that worked with both the climate and natural elements specific to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

The road from Bentota to Lunaganga follows a road that winds its way through coconut plantations and brilliant green rice paddies before crossing an inlet.  Eventually the road ends with a fence. When I visited, there was no sign, but my phone map said we were at Lunuganga,  Lucky, my Sri Lankan friend,  found a buzzer and spoke to someone on an intercom. We were asked to wait.

A few minutes later the gate opened and a man dressed in a white shirt and white sarong greeted us.  He introduced himself as Nadu and announced he was to be our guide on a garden tour. “We have guests from Japan at the hotel, so we will not go inside that building,” Nadu explained as he led us on a leisurely walk through some 15 acres of lovely gardens incorporating water and local as well as exotic plants.  The property was once part of a rubber estate.  The verdant landscape was lush with plants, terraces and pavilions.  Birds flitted from tree to tree and filled the misty humid air with song. Huge silver-trunked frangipani trees spread their limbs contrasting starkly with the dark greens of the foliage surrounding them. Our mouths hung open when we walked onto a terrace that would have been at home on the Amalfi Coast. Romanesque statues lined the edge of a terrace overlooking Dedduwa Lake. Through breaks in the greenery we glimpsed several buildings for guests.  We were also able to go into some rooms designed for parties and relaxing scattered about the property.  The high ceiling rooms were very cool and airy – perfect for Sri Lanka’s humid high temperatures.  The light filtered through the adjacent foliage dappling the walls and casting the cream colored walls with stipples of soft greens and light.  Stunning.


IMG_0074 Lunaganga Gardens

After a quick lunch of rice an curry, I went to Brief Garden, the home of Bevis Bawa,  located about 10 kilometers from Bentota.  Bevis Bawa was quite the character.  He was a heavy smoker and drinker and openly homosexual in a culture where being gay is often hidden.  He entertained movie stars and artists.  His sense of humor is clearly manifest in some of his statues that have strategically placed carrots.  How funny.

Faces, phalluses and female genitalia are recurring motifs in the garden as are flowing lines and lush planting.  Several ornate reflecting pools adorn the gardens along with grand stairways and meandering paths.  Lucky and I helped each other spot hidden treasures one of which was a large but harmless snake lounging in the sun.

Once finished outside, the caretaker took us through the house decorated in an eclectic style with Sri Lanka antiques and contemporary pieces.  We saw Bawa’s study, and enjoyed looking at the period photos and the artwork.

Buddhism, Broken Ribs and Writing

It has been a slow couple of weeks in the writing department.  First, I had my sister staying with me for a few days.  Then I fell off a ladder and cracked a rib. Yes,ouch.  I have a huge old Live Oak looming over my house in Florida.  It constantly sheds acorns, leaves and sticks with a limb falling, too, now and then.  I had a mild leak during the hurricane in September and needed some screws on the roofline sealed, but the leaves and debris had to go first.  My neighbor Larry got on the roof with his leaf blower and I got to work cleaning the gutters.  On my first descent from the ladder, I missed the lowest rung slamming my chest against the ladder and hitting the ground.

I got right up and finished the job and have not really curtailed my activity as much as I should have. I raked up all the debris and bagged it up, re-arranged the furniture in my main rooms and moved my bed.

My rib only hurts when I move or sneeze or cough, but gets a little less tender every day.  My approach to writing is the same as my approach to injury — keep working through the pain and eventually it won’t hurt any more!  Lately, I have been having trouble working on the sequel to Bea’s Tale: The Next Chapter — Chasing Bees.  I instead reworked some of my old English teacher stuff and self-published a writing manual for essays about literature. My proof copy should arrive today!

I did get some news about Bea’s Tale: The Adventure Begins.  I sent a manuscript off to Austin Mcauley — they are publishing my memoir Like an Elephant.  They offered to publish it in partnership with me for an investment on my part of about $2500.  That was good news, but I have not yet decided what to do there.

I had a free offering of Bea’s Tale: The Adventure Begins through Amazon Marketing Services and had about 25 downloads.  I need some reviews; perhaps one or two of those readers will write a review.  I added about 30 key words so that the book will come up on more searches. Actually my little pamphlet Three Buddhist Treasures has the best history of views and clicks.  Maybe I should write a story with a Buddhist heroine, lord knows Buddhism is an adventure!

AMS photo