The Beleaguered Southland


March 27, 2023- I got a text, and an e-mail, from the Red Cross, early this afternoon, wanting to know if I would be available to assist in the recovery efforts following the latest wave of tornadoes in the mid-South, especially in Mississippi. I will be available starting Sunday, so we will see what RC’s response is.

The South appeared to have endured a triple whammy, these past few days. Tornadoes have come to be expected, yet those which hit rural areas at night have tended to not get as much forewarning as their diurnal counter parts and are thus deadlier.

School shootings, sadly, have come to be expected-and are dismissed as “an unfortunate trade-off for the protection of rights under the Second Amendment”. That codicil says no such thing, but has been interpreted as protecting the “rights” of the craven and the mentally ill, to the extent that it is, itself, no protection at all for those who either don’t own firearms (the vast majority of underage students, for example), or do not bring their weapons to the workplace or leisure spots , OR are outmaneuvered/ outgunned by the aggressor. Oh, for the days of a well-trained militia and firearms safety classes, as the prime missions of the National Rifle Association.

Thirdly, the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Waco Massacre should have been a day of national reflection and shame. Instead, it was turned into a political circus. Fortunately, a good many of those who went there to reflect, grieve and process their emotions did their processing and quietly left, well before the politicizing and venting had come to a close. To me, the carnage that day was every bit as reprehensible as what followed in Jonesboro, San Ysidro, Lakewood, Sandy Hook, Sutherland, North Charleston, Fort Hood, Pittsburgh, Roseburg, Arlington, Peoria, San Bernardino, Uvalde, Parkland, La Plata, Oxford and Nashville-as well as the places which escape my recall at the moment. The deaths of people, in misguided loyalty to one man are a supreme cautionary tale-and I pray the Divine that this never is repeated, for the sake of any one leader, father figure or surrogate neurotic means to power.

I’ve spent many enjoyable days in the South, as in other parts of the country and the continent, over the years. My heart hurts for those affected by each of the tragedies above-and while certainly praying, I am also willing to go and help in the recovery process, should my presence actually be welcome-as it was in Louisiana and Dallas, three years ago.



March 26, 2023- The scattered piles of cottonwood, ash and Gambel’s oak that greet the visitor to the area just north of the Agua Fria River bear testimony to the force of last week’s floods. Driftwood has long been seen as both a bounty-for those who rely on wood to heat their homes and cook their food and a bane, for the effects of deforestation on further soil erosion and both air and water pollution.

We can see analogies to other elements of life, in the presence of driftwood. Those of no fixed address are sometimes likened to these branches, logs and stumps. Their value to society consists of their accumulated knowledge and experience, to their compassion for others that is borne of their own pain and struggle. There is a similar view taken of the disabled, for much the same reason-and yet, many severely impaired people shower their families and caregivers with love-which some of those family members and caregivers may not get elsewhere.

Simply put, every element of creation has a benefit-and many have several. Everyone who has given me fits, for example, has imparted a lesson. In some cases, their presence in my life needed to be curtailed, but the lessons I drew from having encountered them was hardly diminished by the difficulties they brought to my life, however temporary those were. Likewise, the lessons of the Flood of Spring, 2023 were not diminished by the suffering it has wrought on those who have lived in the areas close to the banks of rivers and creeks whose depredations are intermittent and seasonal.

Here is what I found on a last-minute visit to Badger Springs, southeast of Prescott, early this evening.

The Fallacy of Coercion


March 25, 2023- Once, after Penny’s funeral, when I found a modest, but pliable, insurance deposit in my checking account, I got a call from someone who used the fact, that I had only myself to support, as a springboard to ask that I help fund a surgery that was needed. In those days of some confusion and recovery that accompanied the grieving process, I did not project ahead to the expenses of the ensuing four months before the final life insurance settlement would find its way to me. It felt like it was my bounden duty to help this individual, who had little. The choice was made to proffer a substantial amount in that direction. Fast forward three months, and I received a proposal from my handyman to renovate the house. Without giving it the proper amount of thought, I initially agreed to his offer, only to do the math afterward-and to end up cancelling the project, thus burdening him with returning the materials-and burdening myself with the loss of a friend.

I have come to the realization, these many years later, that there really was no coercion from anyone. I made both decisions, conflicting as they were, out of a desire to make someone else happy. To what extent the first person achieved happiness is a matter of opinion. I have not been willing or able to continue to dole out money in that direction. It goes without saying, that the second person is just as glad if he never sees me again.

In life, there are relatively few matters that are imperative. A parent must do the best to raise any child, who is birthed or adopted, to adulthood. A pet owner must see to the animal’s well-being. A citizen must contribute to the support of community, state and nation-both financially and civically. A worker must do the best to fulfill the basic requirements of a job. Communities must provide for the education of their young and for the basic care of disabled and elderly residents.

All else, however, is a matter of choice. In the 1970s, the comedian Flip Wilson had a routine, on his television program, in which he played a character whose retort to being chastised was “The devil made me do it.” We Baha’is know the “devil” to be the ego of a person, when it entices one to overindulge base instincts or desires, acting against the better nature. It was anthropomorphized long ago, in the days of Babylon-and has had a physical image ever since. This has the effect of allowing a person to deflect any blame for actions-which was exactly Wilson’s point. That such self-indulgence can generate negative energy, which can and does harm self and others, does not change the essence of its nature.

There is much that I take on, both paid and volunteer work. In each case, I have come to the understanding with myself that my choices are made strictly in consulting with my conscience, and not because of any pressure from outside. Guilting, whining or yelling and screaming have only made me turn away from the supplicant. There is no such real thing as coercion, when you give the matter some thought.

Snow, and Then No


March 24, 2023- When I rounded the corner, coming back into Home Base after a night minding an empty shelter, I found the vehicles parked outside were covered with snow. An hour later, it was gone. This is a harbinger of what seems likely to be the rule, rather than the exception, of the days to come.

In recent weeks, I have seen the wishes of a departed friend be countermanded by his heirs, all for the sake of vengeance against others, who for the life of me have done them no harm. I am not directly involved in this, but a dear friend is-and so is the single mother of a small child. All one can wonder is, what benefit does a man in late middle age get from savaging the less fortunate?

There are numerous occasions when people have used ruses, machinations and straight-up aggression, to overturn policies and negate previous actions that have come to benefit the marginalized. Mostly, this seems to stem from a sense of entitlement, based on tradition and a long-standing state of affairs. It can result in reversal of fortune for the downtrodden-but to them, this is also more of the same, and yet, we wonder why they get angry, or despondent, or just plain defeated. Where is written that one class of people has an inherent right to dominate the rest, or even a segment of that rest? There is “The Divine Right of Kings”, but that has ever come with an equally valid “Divine Responsibility” for those same monarchs and overlords. No justice, no peace.

The water cycle mandates that what comes down, whether liquid or solid, must flow, be absorbed or evaporate. It must go where it can be of benefit to life, whether immediately or over time. Water can never just “disappear”.

The cycle of justice mandates that what is reasonably given, in good faith, by one person to another cannot be simply taken away, under any pretext, by a third party-even if that third party has convinced self, against all evidence, that he, or someone who has ingratiated self to him, is the victim. “Thou shalt not steal”; “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”. This applies as much to the ongoing claim of “election fraud”, vis-a-vis 2020 and 2022, or the miser who finds self expected to share with others, as it does someone taking liberties with the last will and testament of another. Justice may be deferred, or denied for a time, but it can never just disappear.

Snow can seem to disappear, but the well-being of a person, or group of people, must not be made to seem so.

The Age of Elasticity


March 23, 2023- When I was a child and adolescent, I was consumed with the study of geography, history, paleontology and all things having to do with the world being a unified whole. I couldn’t put my finger on “why”, and to most people around me, these interests were both intriguing-and seemed rather odd, even pointless. All I kept thinking was-just wait. Fast forward to this century, and the information that was important to me, back then, is now commonplace. There are hundreds of thousands of people who know more than I do about the fields that long captured my interest. Their knowledge has come from their day-to-day work or their travels for various reasons.

I read that there has been a “momentous” cosmological shift, in that Pluto is entering the sign of Aquarius, from that of Capricorn-albeit only for several weeks, before going back again, until November, 2024, when it will go to Aquarius and stay for 20 years. This is the first such state of affairs since 1777-which, as we all know, was the low-water mark of the American Revolution, followed by this country’s successful fight for independence. There were other marked changes in the life of humanity: The Scientific Revolution; the French Revolution; the wars for independence of Latin American nations and Haiti; the European settlement of Australia and New Zealand; the rise of industry. Progress has not slowed in the 250 years since: Chattel slavery was brought to an end, after several brutal conflicts, including the American Civil War; women gained the suffrage that should have been theirs all along; Civil Rights were also granted to Indigenous peoples, in several nations and to people of African descent in the United States, Canada and Brazil-as well as the Apartheid system being brought to an end, in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia; most nations ruled by European countries, in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific Basin became independent, with those remaining attached to their colonial masters gaining a measure of dignified autonomy; science and technology have advanced, in various aspects of life, and in ways only dimly imagined by thinkers of times past. Spiritually, the Teachings of Baha’u’llah have found an increasingly receptive humanity, and enlightened ways of looking at the Teachings of Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Zarathustra, Moses, Muhammad and earlier First Nations Messengers have arisen in tandem with Baha’u’llah’s Revelation. In short, mankind is coming closer together, with all the grand experiences, both wonderful and problematic alike, that this entails.

A similarly momentous Age of Progress is foreseen by cosmologists, and other thinkers, in the years that are upon us. Most people alive today, and certainly those of my generation or older, will witness only a glimpse of the advances that are no doubt likely. The basic premises underlying all of this are two: There is, underway, a sizable increase in the individual’s taking responsibility for own learning, decision-making and acceptance of responsibility and, simultaneously, a not incongruent increase in the levels, both qualitatively and quantitatively, of communication between individuals, groups, communities and nations. Humanity is moving in a wave, but each drop in that wave is coming to know both own part and those of others, and how these can work together. That missteps in communication, errors stemming from those missteps and excesses that result from incomplete thinking and communication are being more readily called out should come as no surprise to the careful observer.

These thoughts are what come about, when one is manning a Disaster Shelter with no clients and one partner, who is busy watching a movie on his i-Pad. This is the Age of Elasticity, and my mind is quite flexible.

The Atmosphere Delivers


March 22, 2023- Dad would have been 96 today. He grew up with a love of flowing water, especially salt water, which soothed his psoriasis somewhat. We inherited that love, though something in my physical make-up has hampered my swimming skills. Nevertheless, being around water is soothing. Aram picked up that love of water and is a top notch swimmer and diver. He has translated that into success so far in the U.S. Navy-nowadays in the Naval Reserves.

I thought, when moving to Arizona, from Maine, in 1978, that I might miss the ocean. California, as it happens, is not far away-and on occasion, I have visited seaside resorts in Mexico’s northwest corner. The desert, however, is an ocean in itself-just storing its water safely, in pockets-oases, tanks and the storage components of trees, cacti and succulents. There are also plenty of mountains, which in northern Arizona are quite similar in vegetation to the mountains of New England, albeit with cacti thrown in for good measure.

The atmosphere has delivered copious amounts of precipitation this Winter-and into the first days of Spring. Most people are aware of the mixed blessings this has brought to California and Nevada. Arizona has had the same experience as its western neighbours. So, as mentioned in the earlier post, the rivers and creeks of our area, as well as near Flagstaff and parts of the Navajo and Hopi Nations , have assumed monsoon-level flows. This has opened shelters, as those living near the overflowing banks have had to be evacuated. Some have headed down to the Phoenix area or further afield. A few have stayed with us, in the Red Cross facilities.

Thus, my tentative schedule has set me to working nights, possibly through Friday, and doing minimal activities during the daylight hours, the rest of this week. I have, however, kept my basic exercise routine-and in the event of an empty, “stand-by” shelter, I can walk many laps around the gym, without bothering anyone. Life goes on nicely.

Celebration and Standing Watch


March 21, 2023- It was a well-attended party, rich in repast and with lively dancing, after the meal. Forty=three folks, from three to seveny-eight, rang in the Baha’i New Year, properly called Naw-Ruz, and began the 180th year since al-Bab declared His Mission (1844). Anyone delighting in Persian cuisine would have been in glory and there was plenty of salad varieties to go around as well. Jasmine rice, some with beef and some with vegetables, was abundant. Chicken thighs, baked in sour orange juice, were also a highlight. Then, several of us danced, led by an elegant couple and a seasoned ballroom veteran. The kids, though, were the best-just by virtue of their authenticity.

About an hour after I got back to Home Base, a call came from the Red Cross and my services were secured for at least tonight. Once again, the Verde River, and some of its tributaries, were overflowing. The hour’s drive through pouring rain wasn’t all that hard, but it took longer than I had wanted and if there is one thing that still gets me rankled, it is not being on time to relieve the previous crew. I made it in with three minutes to spare, got the lowdown from the initially stone-faced crew and managed to send them off on good terms.

The rain has stopped, as of 10 p.m., but for the people staying with us this evening, the level of water is jarring and our simple task is to make them feel re-assured and safe. That is something I can manage, even in a tired state. May tomorrow bring the sunshine and a receding water level.

Springing Forward


March 20, 2023- My weight reduction coach gave me some abdominal fitness exercises, and foresaw that I may need three more weeks of the current dietary regimen, after which he will provide maintenance instructions and send me on my merry way.

He has helped me make permanent adjustments to both diet and exercise regimen, so whether I go to his club, after mid-April, is superfluous. The last big tendencies to gorge on certain foods are gone. A dietary shake will take the place of at least one meal each day and the solid meals themselves will be smaller. The digital scale can help in that vein.

Around town, the weather did not seem to know what it wanted to do, so the clouds just hung, grey and almost in grief, over the passage of winter. I, though, am not sad to see the destructive season go-and for the sake of those in saturated areas, may there be a benign period of drying out-with any rain falling on the places that have had too much aridity these past three months.

Here in central Arizona, we anticipate a couple more days of wetness, followed by a lamb-like end of March and a dry April. This may lead to my covering a shelter, for a day or two. It could be a benign fire season, and we could very well see Pacific hurricanes that take the place of fire as a source of concern. After May’s journey, I will be closer to Home Base for the summer, so will be in the thick of whatever disaster response comes to call.

As many of you know, Arizona-outside of the Navajo Nation, does not observe Daylight Savings Time. We do, though, have to time our actions in sync with the places which do-so any calls to the east coast will be made earlier in the morning and those to LA or the Pacific Northwest-or Nevada, for that matter, will be made later in the day. This is the stretch of year where, if I do go over to Texas, figuring in a two-hour leap ahead, in any planning, is de rigueur.

As this first day of Spring draws to a close, I am off to celebrate a Baha’i Spiritual Feast, our first in-person event in several months. COVID still affects a couple of people here, but it is nowhere near the menace it was, not so long ago. As always, humanity is making its way, springing ahead-even in the Southern Hemisphere, where time has fallen back.

The Power of Farsightedness


March 19, 2023- I stood atop a small hill, this afternoon. It was the site of a settlement of the Huhugam (also spelled Hohokam) people, at what was the northern edge of their settlement. Salida Gulch is an area where one may take any one of five trails, most of which go up and down fairly steep hills. I went up and down three of them, as a cardiopulmonary exercise-but I digress.

The promontory has a clear 360-degree view, and so was very likely an outpost for sentinels, who kept watch on behalf of villagers living in the creek valleys below. If there were rivals, adversaries or even friendly visitors on the move, over Mingus Mountain to the east, the Bradshaw Mountains to the south, the Sierra Prieta and Granite Mountain to the west, or the forested valley of Granite Creek, to the north, these would easily have been spotted.

The sentries made homes here, and the excavation and retrieval of household implements, when this site was first uncovered by archaeologists, early in the Twentieth Century, indicates that their families stayed in the area as well-contrasting their security system with those more conventional to our own time, in which security patrols live apart from their loved ones, whilst on duty. Recalling that the ancient Aboriginal People had no wheeled vehicles or large draft animals, as far we presently know, the relative proximity of families to sentry sites is quite logical.

The physical farsightedness of these ancestors of the Yavapai, and other central Arizona nations, reminds me of the power that each of us, in our time, can exercise by social and spiritual foresight. Seeing looming challenges, and moving to face these, is needful of 360-degree vision, as well as the presence and support of those closest to us. These features take time, energy and attention-with the requisite maintenance of health and well-being, both physical and emotional.

The larger challenges of life on Earth are not overcome by insistence on one’s own way, by hiding from the world or by seeing oneself and those immediately tied to self as somehow separate from all others. Only through an inherent sense of unity may things like climate change, the attainment of true social justice and the rebuilding of society in such a manner that neither the extremes of wealth and poverty nor the dominance of nations by one self-appointed entity or small claque be faced and the inherent strengths and goodness of humanity be brought to the fore. All people and points of view must be heard, considered, and the most useful ideas brought into the mix.

These thoughts occurred to me, in that time of solitude, atop the small hill, above Salida Gulch.

Broken observation platform, Salida Promontory

Walking Our Own Paths


March 18, 2023, Scottsdale- I almost didn’t recognize a young friend, with her hair pulled up and wearing glasses. Once that was corrected, I asked about her immediate plans and learned she was taking on a challenging course of study in the Public Health area. I mentioned another friend who had completed a similar course of study, and had also recently married. She noted that her life had proceeded in the opposite order of the other lady. As I see it, both women are doing great things for the human race and for our planet.

Each of us does what we need to do, according to our particular life plan. Some complete their education first, then find a life partner and have children. Others marry first, get their schooling and either start a family or live as a couple without children. Some do only one of the above. Others do none of it. Penny and I took the first course of action. Plenty of my friends and family have pursued a different course.

Regardless, we all have a role to play in the scheme of things, and surely, if we didn’t each pursue our own wondrous course, what a sad world we’d have. I consider myself greatly enriched by each of the diverse members of this large and beautiful family circle both biological and collegial, that surrounds me. I am proud of all of them.

There are those who wish I had taken a different path, in the years since Penny left this Earth. All I know is that I essentially have no regrets, as to the path I’ve followed and few regrets as to specific things I’ve done, these past twelve years. I hold that others are due the same consideration.