How She Saw Things

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September 30, 2022, Flagstaff- Today would have been Penny’s 68th birthday. She would have joined me in cringing, if anyone said sixty-eight YEAR anniversary. We were of one mind, about language purity, and if anything, she was more adamant about precision, when it came to names of people and things.

She saw beauty in most things, although acts of racism and sexism were called out for what they were. She struggled, mightily, to throw off her own vestiges of prejudice, and would have made overcoming “white fragility” a major focus of her life, had she been here when it rose as a social construct.

The most important creatures in her life were animals, especially dogs. People could be the source of disappointment and letdown, but dogs and horses were blameless. Cats were outside animals, and they could come and go at will, but dogs were a source of comfort. Horses were the epitome of nobility, and visits to her horse-owning parents most often meant a ride or two, until she could ride no more.

She would be happy at what women and girls have achieved, in terms of resisting paternalism. Although she, like me, abhorred the idea of abortion, she would have remained adamant that it was the woman’s ultimate choice-not to be relegated to others, especially men. She was of a mind to challenge and argue with doctors, when she saw fit. That, besides the undying respect I had for her judgement and dignity, was why she kept primacy over decisions to be made regarding her health. She was a steadfast advocate for holistic health practices and organic foods. I have tried to keep the faith, in that respect.

She had a strong love for children, and fought with herself-a lot, to put their well-being above her urge towards ego-centrism, the legacy of having been raised as a “princess”. This didn’t do her health any favours, but she was a good mother to Aram, and a fine wife to me. She was also a strong and dedicated teacher, even at the end-when declining health and unsympathetic administrators made her professional life a nightmare. The children always came first.

I like to think she would approve of my autumnal years, and how they are playing out. I get inklings, every now and then, like the image of a spirit that appears on the wall calendar, as if to say, “You are not alone”.

Curing Inflation?

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September 29, 2022- In the midst of the destruction that has taken place across Florida, and may well spread into nearby states, the mass media has chosen to focus on its answer to curbing inflation: Vote Big Business back into power. These are the same folks whose idea of stopping price rises lies in wage controls, tax breaks for the wealthy-and curbing high employment. Of course, not paying as many workers puts more money in the pockets of a favoured few. It just won’t be sustainable over time, and I dare say it won’t bring prices down by that much, for very long. The downward spiral will have to be maintained in perpetuity, and will probably be accompanied by stagflation-as it was from 1974 until 1982, or so. Then, of course, all the giddiness in the economic stratosphere led to over-speculation, and the Tech Stock crash of 1987. Fast forward to 2008, and another round of over-speculation led to the Madoff scandal, the Great Recession and a lot of bankruptcies-many of which were among the lower and medium middle classes.

So the media moguls instruct their puppets to promote the same shopworn ideas, yet again. After all, the alternative would be a greater degree of social equality, and who wants that? Certainly not the Federal Reserve, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

I am far from an economic genius, but I do see a different, and far more workable solution, than going around in the same circles: Profit-sharing, and joint ownership of enterprises, by both management and labour. The managerial class is needed, to keep enterprises going smoothly-but there is no reason that workers cannot be educated in the ways of systematic prosperity and genuinely share in decision-making and well-earned profits.

The other side of the coin, of course, is financial literacy; especially learning to make wise purchases, to navigate the worlds of simple and compound interest and to be able to avoid phony or unsafe investments. I had to learn some of that the hard way, but for a long time, I felt compassion for people whose view of life was strictly unilateral transactions. The recent downturn has extinguished that impulse, which I had already been curbing, anyway.

I don’t want to be a ward of the state, or other organization. Neither do I want to see many peoples’ hard -earned savings be absorbed by sell-offs, prompted by the Federal Reserve Board, or by accompanying greed at the upper echelons of business and finance. We have a worst case scenario that resulted from just those phenomena: October 29, 1929.

Those thoughts come to mind, as I read Yahoo’s call for a return to the governance of the past.

Common Ground

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September 28, 2022- One of my family members, and a high school friend, let us know they were safe and well, as Hurricane Ian made its slow move through southwest Florida, for several hours today. The sometimes contentious state and Federal governments are on speaking terms for this one, and there is no daylight between the arrival of the storm and that of Federal aid.

There are a few troublemakers trying to disrupt things- a bogus article claiming that President Biden has “abandoned” Puerto Rico, with the theme that “a whole week has gone by, and nothing has been done.” Sorry, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency has no drive-through window. It usually takes three weeks to a month before tangible results can be seen and felt. Just yesterday, funds to help Mora County and Taos, New Mexico recover from the wildfires of May and June, were approved by Congress-meaning that those who felt abandoned by FEMA will shortly begin to get actual relief.

The larger picture is that when disasters like those mentioned above, or in Alaska, or further afield in Pakistan or the eastern Caribbean, happen, we feel a genuine desire to help. I am somewhat indisposed to physically go to Florida right now, owing to a commitment to be available for two Social Action prep courses, between now and the end of December. These are Friday morning classes, online, so work of any form would be disruptive. I trust that there will be a multitude of people going to help-with the Florida Emergency Management director telling people to go through official channels, when volunteering, and not to just self-deploy.

The big picture, though, is in seeing that we all are standing on the same common ground-and in times like these, no one gains from throwing stones at others, including government workers.

The Steamer: Day 2

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September 27, 2022- I was unsure about how today would go, after yesterday’s fussing and fuming-from the aforementioned child, and from a couple of adults, on the periphery of the class. I went in, anyway, because my word is my bond.

Neither of the complaining adults were in the room today-and I was informed by the front office that one of the gripes was found to be without merit-and was dismissed. The other, from someone who was out sick today, never went beyond the immediate classroom staff.

The child, conversely, took an opposite tack today and showed nothing but gratitude for my concern. Although the day did not go all that well, behaviour-wise, none of the tantrums were directed towards staff. Much of my day was actually spent with a nonverbal and non-ambulatory child, who showed the best work ethic I’ve seen in a long time-proceeding through online tasks for nearly ninety minutes-stopping only for lunch.

At the end of the day, four of us escorted the students down to the bus and pick-up area. There was exhaustion in the faces of my co-workers, but also relief that-with one step forward and two steps back, progress was nonetheless being witnessed.

The Steamer: Day 1

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September 26, 2022- The child sputtered and fumed at anyone who was found to be even mildly annoying. I was one of those, especially after foiling child’s early morning dash to the playground. Solo actions aren’t generally found to be in a minor child’s best interests, and the more impulsive the act, the more it is seen as a potential source of problems.

I call today’s and tomorrow’s worksite “The Steamer”, because the environment is intense and a few of my co-workers feel it is like being in a pressure cooker. A number of Special Needs children placed together in a fairly small room is never guaranteed to be smooth sailing. They do, however, respond to gently-applied and consistent classroom management. The two paraprofessionals run the show, as is common in Special Needs classrooms. I followed their modi operandi, as I have learned to do, so as to remain afloat, in this extended period of professional afterglow. Besides, they work like tomorrow is not guaranteed, and their dedication to the welfare and safety of the children is magnificent.

The team is working out their game plan, even contemplating, but not yet executing, a division of the three-room workspace into two evenly-split classrooms. The issue there is that there are not, as yet, enough paraprofessionals to man both classrooms, on a regular basis. I am not going to work every single day, anymore, so there will be the necessity of attracting and keeping 2-4 more people, to work alongside the two classroom teachers and the aforementioned parapros. There is a half-time paraprofessional working in the room, as well, but he is not going to single-handedly meet everyone’s needs.

At the end of the day, after the children had been placed on buses, or re-united with their parents, I bid the team goodnight, said “See you tomorrow”, and was asked, by one of the teachers, “Are you sure?” Yes, I’m sure. I feel a bond with the children and am glad to be part of the team, however intermittently.

Resilience

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September 25, 2022- The image stays in my mind, of the effervescent couple, greeting everyone cheerfully at their lakeside restaurant, in the village of Bras d’Or, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Then, there were the hardworking Miqmaq people, across the lake, in Eskasoni, their workshops and tool sheds, so vital a part of their community life. Across the strait, in the southwest corner of Newfoundland, the people of Channel-Port aux Basques greet hundreds of visitors each day, during the summer months and send off equally as many, who are at the end of their visits. Nearby, in the village of Doyles, are the cabins along the Codroy River, providing quality accommodations, in a supremely rustic setting. At the northwestern tip of the island, the communities around L’Anse aux Meadows hold their own, in a climate that is already severe, nine months of the year. On the Burin Peninsula, in southeast Newfoundland, a well-kept series of gardens form the centerpiece of an exquisite Bed and Breakfast establishment, honouring its late founder.

These communities, as well as Prince Edward Island and much of New Brunswick, mainland Nova Scotia and eastern Quebec, suffered immense damage from Hurricane Fiona, the same storm that blasted Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands, earlier this month. I spoke with the proprietor of a motel, in an area that was spared damage this weekend. She said that much of Cape Breton and the Chignecto/Bay of Fundy region to the west of the island will be in extended recovery mode, for quite some months to come. The area has winter to keep in mind as well.

Many of us are used to thinking of tropical islands and forested lands of the north, in terms of vacations and scenery. Now, we are, more and more, coming to see the entirety of life in those communities. Every location that provides others with rest and relaxation, has its own human communities, whose members have needs, aspirations and dreams of their own. Let us stay in contact with those friends in the affected areas, and encourage their resilience as best we can.

I know that the Caribbean, Alaska and Atlantic Canada, like all places affected by disaster, will rise again.

These Happened

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September 24, 2022- The little girl, no more than two, came up to me while I was sitting in my “director’s chair”, at the large music festival. She tried to climb on my lap, which, as I knew neither her nor her mother, I gently declined. Her mother came over and led her back to the spot where she was preparing the child’s stroller. With mother so occupied, the girl came right back, and tried again. This time, both mother and I explained that this was not something she should be doing. There was no yelling or finger-wagging, just gentle dissuasion. Conversely, while the mother said I should have ignored her daughter, that, too, is something one doesn’t do to a person who is experiencing so much, for the first time in her life. I feel that I have a duty before the Creator to lovingly assist other people, especially children, to the best of my ability.

Earlier today, a small group of us honoured a revered community leader and beekeeper, on the first anniversary of his passing. There was a man who embodied loving assistance to all he met. Even the bank manager, who oversaw his mortgage, was given instructions on what to do with his house-upon the occasion of said passage. Hopefully, those instructions were followed and the home sold to the certain type of family who would honour its feng shui. The bees themselves were carefully dispersed to various other apiaries, prior to GK’s passing.

I went from the memorial service to VortiFest, in Sedona, particularly to meet up with a friend I had not seen in 2 1/2 years and to possibly see other friends from the Synergy/Apotheca complex. The centerpiece, for me, of the music festival, was an appearance by Camille Sledge, the scion of Sister Sledge, and her band, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. Camille, as it turned out, was off, touring with her mother and aunts, so PAO’s superbly talented instrumentalists managed a delightful and rousing 45 minutes of non-vocal ear candy, and got many of us, up and jumping around, much as they and Camille did, when I first heard them, four years ago.

That set was what brought about a brief encounter with a Sedona friend, that puzzles me, even as I write this. She greeted me, danced around for a bit, then spent the rest of the set alternately acting like she was scared to death of me and that I no longer existed. I will refrain from trying to explain that, other than I am aware of certain threats to her safety, from someone other than myself. He could have been around and have made his presence known to her. For a good part of the rest of the Festival, she was escorted by other men, including one of the security detail members, so who knows? For my part, I would not harm a hair of anyone’s head, much less a dearly loved friend of three years.

My newly re-connected friend served as a reality check on the whole matter, cautioning against personalizing the incident, in any way, shape or form. I followed her advice, knowing that forming a narrative, based on incomplete information, is worse than a fool’s errand. So, I headed homeward, ahead of the mass exodus that was sure to happen after the last set of the festival. Even having parked in a smaller lot, across the highway, I would have been stuck in the scrum of traffic, had I stayed to hear the last, excellent band.

Besides Afrobeat, there were two other fabulous bands that I did encounter: One was the festival founder’s group, simply named “Decker”. The other was a group called “G-Love”, which offered several peace-themed tunes, that were nonetheless rousing, and which had what seemed to be 2/3 of the audience standing and bouncing, in front of the stage. I chose to sit for most of that set, getting up mainly to take video of three friends who were wearing lighted costumes and were engaged in performance art. There was a third band, which performed well, but their vibe was a bit on the angry side. Turns out, they had a shortened set, due to some misunderstanding with the festival organizers. The final band, Arrested Development, a hip-hop group, also performed well, though I heard their offerings only as I walked back towards my vehicle.

So, that was Vorti-Fest, and my Saturday. This is also my 3000th post, on this platform. Goodness and ill abound in this life, and I do not hesitate to bring you both, in the right measure. My feelings right now are well-covered, if obliquely so, by Paul Simon’s “America”.

Mean?

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September 23, 2022-

The complaint was registered: Why are people so mean? The response was offered: What makes you call them such? The retort: No one gives me what I want!

I am glad to have been raised with a work ethic and to be able to hear “We owe you nothing!” , without sulking or arguing. The same people, after all, do reward me, handsomely, for doing the job that I was hired to do.

This makes it hard for me to identify with someone who does little or nothing, and finds people mean.

Equinox Abundant

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September 22, 2022- Equinox always seems to coincide with heavy physical energy-especially in September. So, we see intense storms affecting an area from the Windward Islands to Newfoundland, the southern Caribbean (and onward, next week, to Florida and beyond), western Alaska to northern California, and Pakistan. Earthquakes hit Mexico (twice), Chile and Indonesia this past week, with minor quakes in several other spots , including California.

Anything that affects Earth also affects its inhabitants, so there appears to be an upswing in aggressive behaviour, as well as its opposite, passivity, with Learned Helplessness accompanying the latter. I saw plenty of both today, in my work assignment. Fortunately, the school where I worked has effective systems in place to address both extremes.

Mostly, though, I see Equinox as a celebrant of both fertility (in the southern hemisphere) and productivity (in the northern hemisphere). Whenever there is an uptick in constructive energy, it is met by converse forces that tear down that which no longer meets the needs of humanity. There is resistance to both, and when that resistance can no longer be justified by logic and the scientific method, conspiracy theories arise. Yet, because the Universe is about the generating of life, and follows several levels of order, those theories and the resistance that generated them, tend to fall by the wayside.

I believe, very strongly, that this is what will happen with the current resistance-all the authoritarianism, denial (of climate change on the Right and of fetal humanity, on the Left) and closed mindedness across the political spectrum. Chaos is not going to be the order of the day.

The Equinox is about abundance.

Looking Past the Shrillness

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September 21, 2022- The call came, with about fifteen minutes left in the class. The tone was furious, and decidedly personal. It was clear that the caller felt let down and that in her mind, the rest of the day was about damage control. The students carried on, and did a fairly good job at completing the assigned task.

It was actually all about process, procedure-and will have scant effect on the learning of those particular students. I know little about the caller, so maybe other parts of her life were not going well today. It doesn’t take much to trigger a tirade, these days.

It was, all in all, a nice day. I was working with a group of children who I particularly treasure. The classes accomplished a lot, with the second and third groups following the procedure that was reiterated to me, albeit in angry tones. I choose to look past a person’s rage, because when it’s all over, we will both be standing in the same spot. So long as there is no harm to children, or other innocents, I walk away.

There will, I know, come a time, maybe as early as next Thursday, when I will face that person again. I will not be swayed, one way or the other, by anything she has to say. At this stage of my life, it’s all about the children and teens, and their progress, their well-being.