His Social Contract

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June 22, 2017, Prescott- 

Dad left us, thirty-one years ago, today.  He sometimes told others, but not me, that he couldn’t quite figure me out, but that he was sure I’d end up okay.  I heard all this, from my less-reticent father-in-law, a few years after Dad had passed.

He did teach us all about the social contract.  His tenets were succinct:

  1.  Your word is bond.  The few times I caught Hell from him were mainly centered on not doing what I had promised.  I’ve made it a priority, as an adult, to keep my promises.
  2. Individual relationships are the cornerstone of all else.  His take was,  “What good is the ‘greater good’, if it’s based on everything bad?”  This was in reaction to both the left-wing excesses of the late 1960’s, and to the conservative backlash of the Nixon years.  Dad held court, each weekday evening before supper, in the screened front porch, during late spring, summer and early fall, while switching to his recliner, in the living room, during the colder months.  One or two men, either relatives, or guys from work, would show up and kibbitz, over a can of beer.
  3.  Women “did best” by tending to home and hearth; though he saw it as  good, that  Mom earned money of her own, by styling hair, in the kitchen.  She was a top flight cosmetologist and hair dresser, so it was a marvelous arrangement.  I also got to hear very interesting commentary, on a variety of topics, from the women who came for her services, whilst doing my homework or hand-writing my little “newspaper”.  He also forbade us from making messes or asking for clothes to be washed, on weekends.  His view was that Mom worked five days a week, on housework, and that was enough.  We learned, early on, to make our own beds, put our clothes away, carry anything that was on the stairs up to the appropriate room, and fix our own breakfasts and lunches. (I never did subscribe to the idea that a woman was best off staying home, but it was the reality, in the 1950’s, for many.)
  4.  A real man could party late into the night, (he seldom did), but would dutifully get up the next day and do a full day’s work.  I took that one to heart, even in my lowest days of drunken excess.  It was, to my mind, the best cure for a hangover, anyway.  Many a Saturday morning would find me out in the yard, making myself useful, after having come home a useless wretch.  He liked the first, as much as loathed the second.
  5. Don’t spend more than you take in.  He’d have been apoplectic, had he lived to see us go over the financial edge, in the 2000’s.  Then again, he’d have seen it coming, and raised his voice, well before we bought the house, while Penny was struggling with her health issues.  It would have been, “Stay the damned course!”.  He’d be happier with me now.  Some lessons are just that way.

Longest, Hottest

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June 21, 2017, Prescott-

I tend to disregard the temperature, to an extent..

When we lived in Phoenix, I did what I needed to do,

indoors or out, even in summer.

It just was done in smaller increments.

Today, the solstice, was the longest day,

north of the Equator,

and the shortest day, to its south.

What was necessary, here, got done.

Stepping Stones has more cards,

stationery, an egg beater

and a couple of old, professional-type books.

Days for Girls has several more covers

for the washable products they offer

to disadvantaged girls and women.

I have more space,

in the dining area closet,

in the tall kitchen cupboards

and atop the refrigerator.

Solstice is also a time of accounting.

We friends talked, first of what is pure

and later, of what is really sweet,

in terms of deeds,

as opposed to silver-tongued promises.

Solstice is a time for gathering.

So, the neighbours are outside,

enjoying the coolness.

Solstice is a time for reflecting,

so, after a hearty day,

I am thinking,

how fortunate I am,

to have friends in

just about every community

I’ve ever visited.

Paper Erase

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June 20, 2017, Prescott-

My last day of Spring was spent, hydrating, of course.

There was a meeting for Hope Fest, the annual spiritual event,

that this year precedes the Bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s birth,

by a week.

My main concern, otherwise, was clearing out the dining area closets.

These were filled with lots of stationery,

extra greeting cards, loose-leaf binders, paper clips,

and a couple of board games, which were once meant

to stimulate Penny’s interest, in the last year of her life.

She loved that I tried, but it was all too much.

I will keep the games, and one box of holiday cards,

but it will likely be to the Women’s and Children’s shelter,

with the rest, tomorrow.

My clean-up goes on.

One comment was about the minimalist garden.

We will soon see a minimalist apartment.

The Time Necessary

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June 19, 2017, Cave Creek-

This morning, I read of Juneteenth, the delayed news of southern slave emancipation, and how it took two years, minimum, to reach Texas.

Shopping for water and ice, to help with a brief trip to Superior, I encountered the daughter of a friend, whom I have not visited in some time.  She was mildly cordial, the consequence, I’d say, of my lengthy physical absence, from their lives.  I feel the need to connect with them, at least for a few hours, before heading out of the area for nearly a month.

Driving to Sun Flour Market, for a brief visit with one of my closest soul connections, I was able to communicate all that was essential, in snippets of conversation, punctuated by intuitive insight, in ninety minutes, or so, around her busy management of the restaurant.  Like me, she gets the most accomplished, in a short time, through close attention to detail, while still being able to converse a bit- and put things together.  We can understand, and care deeply for, each other and for each other’s loved ones, with minimal talk.

Driving back to the Valley, I stopped at Local Jonny’s, to visit with  some of  my young angels.  They had today off, and were nowhere to be found.  A respite is always vital, if only for a day or two.

I need little of anyone’s time, or so I tell myself.  A new friend, whose acquaintance I made today, has a wealth of insight into the realm of the spirit.  I look forward to delving into her treasury of awareness,  and its connection to my Faith,in the days and months ahead.

There is time for me to finish downsizing; time to complete a set of cotton covers for the products of Days for Girls; time to help with any fire emergencies; time, always, for spiritual growth.  How much time will I have to devote to each?  It’ll depend on how much is necessary, to fully and lovingly attend to the task.  My lilies know this.

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Fatherhood

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June 18, 2017, Prescott-

The little girl told her father that she wanted to go over to an open area, at the memorial service for one of her school mates, so that she might do flips and somersaults.  “Go ahead”, said the man, while casting a wary eye about the grounds, “I’m watching you.”

This is among the fastest moving years I can remember.  Even staying closer to Home Base, for much of June, there has been no end to full days of activity, geared towards the betterment of the world.  That’s what we are expected to do, though- leave the world a better place than we found it.

I believe I have made a step in that direction, by raising a human being to adulthood, and pointing him in the direction that seemed most sensible to me- and most importantly, to him.  He has not disappointed me, once, since taking the vow of service to his country, and moving forward as an intelligent, hard-working young man.

My Dad saw me through some tough times, never giving up.  I miss him, yet I’m glad he didn’t have to see the difficulties through which we lived, in the first ten years of this century.  On the other hand, I will do all I can to support Aram, if trials and turbulence come again his way.

As to those hard ten years, 2001-11, commitment as a father means commitment as a husband.  I stayed true to Penny and did everything possible, to make sure she was in charge of her own life, to the end, no matter what pressures were brought on us by “experts” and well-meaning people, who just wanted to “get ‘er done”.  We honed our consultation skills, which were more something I, more than she, had to develop. It’s academic, as to whether we would have been better-served by using a debt reduction service, rather than filing for bankruptcy, but we chose the latter, and it’s all in the past, now.  Good life lessons were learned, late, and not lost on our son.

I see the vast majority of fathers, at least those with whom I have some contact, being wonderful, dedicated men.  None of us walks on water, yet we are producing fairly well-grounded young people.  Some are intensely vigilant; others, like the man mentioned above, are cautious, but relaxed enough to let their sons and daughters step out on their own, according to ability.

Fatherhood, even when children mature, and seem a million miles away, is an eternal blessing.  I look forward to many more years of that blessing and, if God wills, to its logical outgrowth:  Grandfatherhood.

 

“Not Afraid of the Rain”

10

June 17, 2017, Chino Valley- 

The youth pastor, at a memorial service for a slain child, this evening, used these words, in reference to Christ facing His trials.  He chose this example, in encouraging the friends and family members of the little boy  to not be dissuaded, by the dark forces assailing us, from looking to the Higher Power for signs as to how to react to such adversity.

I have now either helped lay to rest, or to memorialize, 9 children, over the past 37 years.  Most died of disease, or were killed in accidents.  This is the first time I’ve dealt with the murder of a defenseless person, on such a personal level.  The boy was one of several, with whom I worked, while a substitute teacher, in his elementary school.  This particular school does a fine job of imparting a sense of community, and at the service, his former teachers and a recently-retired principal, each had a positive remembrance of the boy.

Earlier today, whilst driving to another service activity, I listened as the pop singer, Lorde, commented on one of her songs, her point being that she has sometimes thought her place in the lives of her loved ones might be too intense, that maybe she takes up too much space.

That resonated with me.  I limit my time with others, for the very sake of NOT taking up too much of their space and time.  Conversely, though, I don’t think anything of giving others as much of either, as they need.  I haven’t quite gotten to the origin of that dichotomy.

The memorialized child seemed to have had the same dilemma, and the youngest of the children who spoke,  remembered him as comfortable with giving, but not receiving.  I hope he has a better understanding of it all now, in the Realm of Light.

 

A SoCal Break, Day 2: Crystal Cove

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June 13, 2017, Chiriaco Summit, CA- 

Not that much has come easy to me, over the years, largely because I grew up among impatient peers and had to do things quickly, or not at all.  Fortunately, my parents were a tad more sanguine, and gave me the space to master things at my own speed.

I mention this, because camping, while dear to my heart, has certain aspects, like putting up the tent, that have taken awhile to master.  So, it’s been a wonderful affirmation that my tent has gone up, three times in a row, without a hitch.  I know now that the whole discombobulation thing was a contrivance.  Even with the wind, at San Onofre State Beach, my tent stayed up all night, as did the others.

So, the day dawned with a fine view of the ocean, and I felt a strong sense of confidence.

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Coffee, another morning staple, has always come easier.  Billy the Barrista, at Dana Point’s Crank and Grind Coffee House, put together a superb Cranked Up Americano.  As the name suggests, it’ll get any sluggish beast firing on all cylinders.

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My next impulse was to stop and smell the roses, so up to Doris Walker Overlook, I went.  There is a commanding view of Dana Point Harbor, from this quiet redoubt, and I was able to offer my morning prayers in peace.

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A sea of flowers is complemented by a sea of boats and the Pacific, itself.

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After one further stop, at Corona del Mar public Library, to check my correspondence, it was time to head to Crystal Cove State Park, for a  lunch meeting with a long-time friend.   We have a mutual interest in the fortunes of the California coast, and the cottages of Crystal Cove are among our concerns.  Her news was that the California Coastal Commission had granted Crystal Cove’s Preservation Society permission to renovate the north side’s dilapidated structures.  In real terms, this means drawing blueprints, razing the existing structures, and building replicas.  That is certainly far better than putting up more high rises and condos, which would be a travesty here.

Here are some scenes of the north side cottages.

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After a fine lunch and lengthy catch-up conversation, at the Beachcomber, we walked a bit along the south beach, in search of sea shells.  Those we found were embedded in several rocks.

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Among the rocks which line this section of coast, here are two which are aligned perfectly.

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There were many people enjoying the beach, as one would expect, on so fine a day.  A couple had found the perfect perch, atop a rock that resembled a whale’s head.

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After a couple of hours, it was time to say farewell, and I headed south to Aliso Beach, in the southern part of Laguna Beach, and collected a Ball jar of ocean water, for a grieving friend.  Aliso, too, was packed, and as I was gingerly looking for a parking space, a beach ball sailed into the parking lot in front of me, pursued by a boy of about 10 or 11, just as I hit my brakes.  No one was any worse for the wear, but it reminded me of the TV ad, where a little girl, pursuing a soccer ball, runs pell mell in front of a car- whose brakes are shown to be of superior quality.

The drive from Oceanside, through Vista, Fallbrook, Temecula and overland to Palm Desert, was uneventful, save for a couple of crazed drivers doing 80, on a winding road that safely can support people doing 60, if that.  I always manage to pull off and let them go on their intrepid way, though seldom as quickly as they seem to want.  The second one chose to pass a tractor trailer, on a curve, against a double yellow.  I’d say his luck will run out, sooner or later.

Lastly, here is a scene at Cactus City Rest Area, uphill and east of Coachella.  There are no cacti, at Cactus City, but I had a peaceful supper break.

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Back to Arizona I go, if only for a couple of weeks, before family time ensues.

 

 

A SoCal Break, Day 1, Part 2: Point Vicente

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJune 12, 2017, San Onofre-   

Since first visiting Palos Verdes Peninsula, west of Los Angeles, a couple of years ago, I have wanted to go back and actually walk a bit, from one of the overlooks, down to the beach and back.  This afternoon, I chose the southern end of the peninsula, at Point Vicente, to make that hike.

The Point Vicente area is the site of a U. S. Coast Guard lighthouse, one of three in southern California- the others being at Point Loma, in San Diego, and at Point Conception, between Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.  As an active Coast Guard facility, it is off limits to visitors, save for a few hours on a certain day of the week.  This was not that certain day.

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Point Vicente does have a lovely Interpretive Center, operated by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.  The small museum, focusing on marine mammals and other aquatic life, is supplemented by a crew of docent volunteers.

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There is also a spacious viewing platform, with a particularly fine view, today at least, of Santa Catalina.

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In between the platform and the island, however, there is much to hold a visitor’s attention.  Beach plum is as plentiful here, as it used to be at the beaches of Massachusetts, when I was a kid.

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Once down to the narrow beach, it is possible to walk for about 1/4 mile, before a field of boulders renders the walk questionable, at least in the eyes of locals.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Small rocks jut out of the open water, as they do all along the Pacific Coast, the result of continuous volcanic activity, over the eons.

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Kelp is also plentiful, though the mollusks which feed on it are much rarer in southern California than they were, even ten years ago.

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The rock below gave me the sense of a stranded turtle, looking seaward.

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Flowering plants, like these daisies, always seem to find a niche, whether on the shore or in the desert.

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I could not remember whether these are hydrangea or Oregon grape.

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Palos Verdes’ trail system is also part of the California Coastal Trail, which “when completed” will provide access to 1200 miles of California shore line, from San Ysidro to the Oregon state line- after which, of course, the Oregon Coast Trail takes over, clear to Astoria.  I’m not getting any bright ideas, mind you, though there were four middle-aged people who made the trek from Crescent City to San Ysidro, in 2003.  The Trump Corporation has even granted an easement across its National Golf Course, south of Point Vicente.

Point Vicente, by the way, got its hybrid name from Captain George Vancouver, after his friend, Friar Vicente, when his ship rounded the peninsula, in 1790.   The connection, then, is with Mission San Buenaventura, some 92 miles to the north northwest.

A good day’s exploration done, I called it a rest, and headed southward, arriving here at San Onofre State Beach, a bit after 7 PM.  Tomorrow will bring a more sanguine visit with a friend of several years and a bit of collecting ocean water.

 

 

A SoCal Break, Day 1, Part 1: Recreation Park

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June 12, 2017, San Onofre, CA-

I am camping at this underutilized state beach, just south of a former nuclear power plant.  The plant’s presence may explain the underutilized part of the equation, but no matter.  Every time I pitch my tent, arrange comfortable bedding and have a pleasant visit, my confidence grows- something that may be hard for many to understand- but it’s been a work in progress, for several years.

My main objective, today, was a hike in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, between Long Beach and Redondo Beach, in LA County’s South Bay area.   First, though, was a visit to Long Beach, itself. I set out from Indio, where I’d spent the previous night, and where I stretched my legs, this morning, with a 2-mile walk.  It’s fairly mild, across Southern California, though that’s not expected to last.  The I-10 was fairly busy, as it always is, though once past the turn-offs to Riverside and San Diego, traffic thinned significantly.  I enjoyed a stop at one of my favourite eateries:  Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in Banning.   After lunch, and taking CA routes 57 and 22, I was in Long Beach, in less than ninety minutes.

I found myself in a pleasant, but definitely untouristed, part of town- the south side.  On Anaheim Street, there is the large, and multiple use, Recreation Park.  Several young ladies were engaged in a variety of artistic activities, on and around the band shell.  I don’t take photos of people, without their permission, as a rule, so any people seen in the next few photos are strictly incidental.  My main focus in Recreation Park was Yokkaichi Friendship Garden, a small, but heartfelt project, in concert with Yokkaichi, Japan- one of Long Beach’s sister cities.

There are three essentials of a Japanese garden that are evident here:  The open gate, arranged flowers (usually in a semi-circle) and carefully-placed rocks.  A fourth essential element, flowing water, is not present.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES I felt a fair amount of serenity, with most of the  “recreationists” very busy with sporting activities and practicing dance routines, elsewhere in the great city park.  Below, see the back of the band shell building.  I did not photograph the dance practice taking place in the front.

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Next up, Palos Verdes’ Point Vicente.

 

 

 

Only In Indio

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June 11, 2017, Indio-

Before leaving Prescott, this afternoon, I called my very inspirational youngest living brother, on the occasion of his birthday.  He’s legally blind, yet has never failed to work, steadily, over the past thirty-five years since his college graduation.  His work has always involved a high level of responsibility, and on he goes.

A nice little brunch party followed my conversation, this one in a lovely garden patio, in Prescott Valley.  The conversation there centered on the fine line between creative thought and following one’s own path, versus the “right” to be willfully disobedient to the institutions of one’s chosen Faith.  I am no one’s idea of a Yes Man, but breaking a covenant is as far from where I want to be, as the proverbial Hell  itself.  The person who conjured thoughts of having one’s own sect, gingerly retreated and hopefully will remain so.  The party continued, a pleasant, lovely affair.

I headed out, towards southern California, around 3:30 PM, successfully avoiding whatever back to LA traffic slog might have ensued.  Dinner at a fine, best-kept-secret place, Nichols West, in the tiny old mining town of Congress, certainly helped in that avoidance.  Run by an acerbic, but somewhat cordial, New Zealander, Nichols offers a variety of burgers with unusual toppings, intense salads, exquisite Mexican fare and a surprising variety of seafood.  I chose the brie & avocado burger, with a modest helping of shoestring fries.  The burger was fabulous, grass-fed beef, crispy bacon and moist, ripe avocado wedges, held together by a generous coating of melted brie.  A lovely, very pleasant team of waitresses didn’t hurt the occasion, either.

I digress, though.  I decided to stop here, at City Center Motel, given that what lies ahead of me is I-10, CA 57 & 22 to Highway 1.  At the end of that jaunt lies Palos Verdes Peninsula, where I will make the hike from a gorgeous overlook, down to the shore.  Then, it’ll be a fair drive, with stops at Long Beach’s pier, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, before securing a spot in one of the state beach campgrounds, en route to Crystal Cove.

“Only in Indio”?  That is an ubiquitous sign, along Hwy. 111, and Business 10.  It alludes to the Coachella Music Festival, held in this area every April.  Then, this area fills to the brim with alt-rock lovers from all over.  Now, however, it’s a cool night in June.  Motel rooms cost less than $ 100 per night, and I gratefully parked my carcass in a nice one.

It happens, in Indio, that one can walk, safely, along the 111, for two miles, and not find anywhere, other than an AM/PM., to get a cup of coffee.  This is, as much as anywhere else in southern California, a city designed for the automobile, while those whose fortune, or whose choice, it is to be without wheels, manage to walk along wide and well-kept sidewalks, taking the time they need to get from A to B.  Somehow, I enjoy being among them, walking the flat surface of the Colorado Desert cityscape.

Now, it’s bedtime.  I pray for a little boy who didn’t survive a beat-down, allegedly at the hands of his stepfather.  It’ll take some time before I can pray for the stepfather, and all I can do right now is resolve to be ever better at being kind and loving to those children I, myself, encounter, every day.