Deadwood

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I drove into South Dakota, around noon on Saturday, July 20.  Stopping in the town of Belle Fourche (“bel foosh”), I found the Information Center closed, and moved on, past Spearfish, to South Dakota’s rendition of a town too tough to die:  Deadwood.  There was certainly lots of life there, that sunny afternoon.  A shootout re-enactment was going on, uptown, and children were being given the chance to be “sheriff’s posse”. SAM_5611 SAM_5613   SAM_5614   SAM_5615   As always happens in Deadwood, the situation was resolved with a meeting of the minds.  Please note, I heard no cussing that day. Al Swearingen must still be away on other business. Main Street was a bit quiet, beyond that point.  No matter; I was concerned with getting to Main Street Espresso, and Wifi.   Along the way, I spotted the site where Wild Bill Hickok was shot, in 1876.  Sheriff Bullock’s hotel is also still prominent. SAM_5617   SAM_5619   After a refreshing frappe and some time catching up with my world, I said farewell to Deadwood, SAM_5620 and headed on towards the heart of the Black Hills, past Pactola Reservoir. SAM_5623   SAM_5625   The fisherfolk were out in abundance that day, but I kept my camera lens off them, so they could concentrate on the important stuff. Next:  Heart of the Black Hills, Part 1:  Harney Peak’s North Slope

A Deva Evening

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This morning, when I went to Prescott Farmers’ Market, I saw a poster for the Grand Opening of Deva Healing Center.  A young woman with a rescue dog greeted me and explained this was her center, established to help women and teens, in the manner of a sanctuary.  This has been sorely needed here, as it has elsewhere.  The mission is to help women of all ages “heal from trauma, pain, abuse and addiction through yoga, expressive arts, and therapeutic wilderness adventures.”

The Grand Opening was this evening, and I went for an hour and 15 minutes, being one of 32 people to help Bri Boertman in the launching of this most worthy effort.  While there, I received a chair massage, watched, and joined in, interpretive belly dancing.  Yes, I became the 62-year-old male belly dancer, joining five women and a little girl, in various gyrations, hip shakes  and arm waves, for one of the more interpretive of the selections.  Bri dancing in high heels was a bit painful for this everyfather to watch, but she seemed okay with it, for three minutes. Several women won raffle prizes, the group gathered for one last belly dance, in honour of the women of the world, and I headed back home, for an evening of listening to Celtic music, while those who knew each other previously, stayed around to support each others’ struggles and successes.

This will be a major focal point of what promises to be a concerted effort to help the women of Yavapai County, in raising their voices for curbing the disempowerment of their sisters, mothers, daughters and nieces.  There are a few of us men on the team, also.  We follow Bri’s lead.

Out-of-Bodyness

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The night before last, around 2:30 AM, I had my first out-of-body experience, in nearly 25 years.  When I’ve had these before, they lasted 30 seconds-2 minutes, and were just my spirit pulling out of its host long enough to realize this gig won’t last forever.

This time, it lasted for about five minutes, Penny was with me, and she showed me where she was- in a seeming pin point of bright white light.  She told me to stay on my present course, and to be patient with others.  She is also advancing, it seems, to a higher spiritual level.  I pray for her, as well as for my corporeal friends and family, every day, so I felt great  joy at this.

My present course involves being here until the end of this academic year.   Beyond that, who knows?  Penny said it was up to me, and to serve my friends in the way they want; to assume nothing, without asking first.  This is a lot to pack into five minutes, yet I found myself relaxed and back in my body, in what seemed a split second.

I’m always amazed at these events, as infrequent as they are.  My health is excellent, says the doctor:  Heart , kidneys, liver and knees of a 35-year-old; strong lungs; brain still operating on all cylinders.  That there is something beyond, far down the road, is nonetheless comforting.

A Brief Diversion Along A Spiritual Arc: The Aladdin Tipple

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No, it’s not THAT kind of diversion.  I don’t take alcohol, and this is not that sort of “tipple”.  Aladdin was a coal-mining community, and a tipple is a system for sending coal down a hillside.   Aladdin Tipple is no longer in use, but it is preserved by Crook County, WY, as an historical place.  Informational signs are placed appropriately, so we may know this aspect of our heritage, whether one likes the idea of burning coal or not.

Here are some views of the equipment that is preserved in the park, 1 mile east of the Aladdin Store.

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A short climb up the stairs brings one to the top of the sluice, now being reclaimed by nature.

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This was Wyoming’s swam song, for this trip.  I will be back in the Equality State, someday soon.  It has given me more than I can ever repay.  Now, on to South Dakota- the Spiritual Arc leading through the Black Hills, to Harney Peak and Crazy Horse Monument.  An iconic diversion will be covered:  Mount Rushmore.   We will consider the brilliant prairie sunsets, Corn Palace and decaying farm structures, as well as the openness and camaraderie found in small wayside cafes.  The human warmth found in a town named for one of  America’s most controversial military commanders also radiates well for the Artesian State.

Thank you, Wyoming, for honing my spirit.

Crossroads

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I am putting this post, from 13 months ago, back up, to check and see where I am now, vis-a-vis then. Since no one commented on it the first time, I think I’m safe. 🙂

A Sagittarian Seeker

Before diving into my recent visit to San Juan Capistrano, I need to reflect a bit on my blessings at this stage of life.  A few days ago, I met a few people whom I will henceforth regard as dear friends. I left at least one of them with a sense of puzzlement, as to what sort of person I am, and for what I stand in life.  So, for her, and anyone else who is a bit uncertain, these are nine things that mean everything to me.

1.  No one can know the true nature of God.  I just know He is in all things, yet above all things.

2.  Every person has value, and that value is unique to that person.

3.  I had thirty beautiful years with the person who gave me the best of everything in her life.

4.  I have the honour of calling a…

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A North American Spiritual Arc,Part 4: The Northern Bear Lodge

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It was a kind, and delightful, suggestion made by the KOA counter lady, that sent me north, through Hulett and Aladdin, rather than east through Sundance, as I had originally planned.  These are solid little towns, with tough, but friendly people, and good stories to tell, as communities.

Hulett has a couple of fun little cafes and a kickass shop- Rogues Gallery.  It brings in Native American art from as far afield as the Arizona reservations, and has plenty of local stuff as well.  Just outside town, one sees the rolled bales of hay that are common to the upper High Plains.

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Then, we come to Rogues Gallery.

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I had to buy SOMETHING here, so I got a little ceramic bear.

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After bantering with the shop clerk for a while, about Indian art and cowboy culture, I had to choose between the two restaurants nearby.

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I chose Hitchin’ Post, as that’s where my car was parked.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The teen waiter seemed a bit befuddled, but he got the order right, and there was enough lunchtime camaraderie that I felt I had grown up here.

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Once lunch, and the tall tales, were finished, I headed out through the Bear Lodge Mountains.  These would be a worthy destination, in and of themselves.

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A few miles or so later, the genie presented me with- Aladdin, the village.

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The Aladdin Store is ready for anyone.

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I’ve seen a similar sign, in Tombstone, AZ, aimed at politicians.  I was welcomed, as is, given a free cup of coffee and purchased a jar of pickled okra.  I understand, from my friend in Oklahoma, that the contents of the jar were quite tasty!

Outside Aladdin, a mile or so, east, lies Aladdin Tipple Historic Park.  I will show that, next.

“Dancing in a Sky, Filled With Light”

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Last week, I received two copies of an amazing book: “Amber, The True Story of a Courageous Young Girl”.  Yesterday, I was honoured to take the second copy down to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and offer it to the hospital’s Family Health Library- The Emily Center.  Like Emily, Amber was a person struck down by childhood cancer.

She was the child of a friend, which made reading this book, and sharing it, all the more important for me.  It is said, quite often, that growing old is not for sissies, and I’m sure I will experience some of that, down the road a bit.  Let me say what else is not for “sissies”:  Watching someone you love waste away.  I have been there, first as a brother, then as a husband.  Yet, I can only dimly imagine being there as a parent, and how much more as a single parent.  Amber was courageous, and that courage was matched by the steely, fastidious, undying determination of one of the finest human beings I have ever known:  Her mother.

The title of this piece comes from a song by Bruce Springsteen, entitled “The Rising”.  He wrote it and offered it, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.  The children he mentions were those sent to their heavenly home that awful day.  He chooses to see them as an inspiration, not as anchors, or albatrosses.  Such are children like Emily and Amber. They move us in all sorts of directions:  Charitable fundraisers and ongoing donation programs; medical schools researching cures for such deadly plagues; prayer vigils; meal preparations for the parents and siblings keeping watch over the fighting child.  They move us, most importantly, to treasure just what is in front of us, just how fortunate we are.

Everyone’s problems are important, to them, and to those closest to them.  Everyone’s issues deserve a measure of attention, a resolution.  It is, however, no cliche to say that when the Most Important is front and center, the Important has to wait its turn.  There was, in those dark, painful, inspiring days, a decade or so ago, nothing more important in all the world than a child named Amber.  I would have been there, in spades, had I known.  Stay vigilant, stay involved, stay loving.   This world is not for sissies.

A North American Spiritual Arc, Part 3: Tower of the Spirits

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Devils Tower, aka Spirit Tower, or Bear Lodge, was originally to be the third stop on a summer-long journey across North America.  Several things combined to effect a change in that plan.  I’m happier for it.  I will reach all the postponed destinations over time.

As it stands, the Tower is close to the culmination of a drive across Wyoming, which lasted three and a half days, and has provided fodder for several posts.  It is also near the western terminus of what has served me as a spiritual arc, along which I have focused on discarding baggage, that would ill-serve me in any future relationship and on putting spiritual energy into focus for several greater goods.

I awoke early on Saturday, July 20, and got myself together by 5:30 AM.  You have already seen the Tower at dawn.  Here are views of the phonolite monolith, from each direction, as well as of the boulder fields that lie at its base.  I started at the Visitor Center, which is one of the oldest log cabins in the region.

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My route that morning was counterclockwise, mostly because I had not woken up enough to focus on going through the boulder field and finding the southern part of the trail, which would have gone in a clockwise direction, far preferable in circling a place such as this.

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So, here are scenes on the southeastern face of the Tower.

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The phonolite, which gives the Tower its unique surface, is the result of an igneous intrusion, caused by volcanic uplift.  Devils Tower is still rising, throwing boulders out of its way as it shoots slowly skyward.

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Many people regard this laccolith as a sacred place.  Shoshone people associate it with  a boy, who turned into a bear, thousands of years ago.  It is held, in this legend, that the bear still lingers here, thus some call Devils Tower “Bear Lodge”.  The mountains north and east of the Tower are called Bear Lodge Range.

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Now, we see the Tower from a northeastern perspective.  Note the rougher corrugation of the phonolite on this side.

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The north side brings us to a  scene viewed from the top of  Bear Lodge Mountain.

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The phonolite is smoother on the west side of the Tower.

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Here is a full-on view of the Tower, from atop a rock, due west of the laccolith.

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When I rounded the corner, I  found the southwest wall looking slightly like the Temple of Karnak, with stone”guards” jutting slightly from the slats.

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At each place that is regarded as sacred by indigenous people in the uplands of the Plains region, prayer flags are very common, as people come for Vision Quests and other devotional exercises.  The Tower is no exception.

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Once I completed the Circle Trail, I went back to the commercial area and spent some time posting.  Then, it was time to greet my little friends.

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I was advised by the volunteer at the KOA counter to take the northern route to the Black Hills , through Hulett, and to stop at Rogues Gallery.  So, I took her advice, saying thank you and farewell to this Tower of the Spirits, from a northeasterly perspective.  I felt a very strong resonance, leaving this magnificent site.  It would give me great strength, in moving through the Black Hills.

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Next:  The Northern Bear Lodge Region

Compassion

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I heard from my dearest friend, this morning.  It was a brief message, but it meant the world to me, knowing that she is okay, and in charge of her own life, as always.

This brings to mind just what is the purpose of this life.  We are told, in the Baha’i Writings, that the purpose of physical reality is that each of us comes to know and love God.  As God is, in His Essence, unknowable, how are we to reflect such knowledge and love?

The answer that comes to me is that we show compassion for His creatures.  Baha’u’llah admonishes us to “Be fair to yourselves and others”.  We each must regard our own bodies as human temples, thus not abusing these bodies with excess of food and drink, much less an excess of mind-altering substances, however tempting such substances might seem, in times of stress.

Beyond self-care, the knowledge and love of God is reflected in one’s care and love for : Family members; fellows in faith, or, in the case of atheists and agnostics ,fellows in philosophy of life; co-workers; casual friends, and those who inhabit our in-most hearts.  Finally, compassion for those we encounter randomly, in the course of a day, and for the non-human- the plants, animals, and inanimate resources, is also a sign of knowing and loving God.

I will have something to say, in a later post, about those who presume to hate God.  For now, though, let us consider that, without a deep and abiding compassion for all of the above, including our own selves, we relinquish our mandate and toss aside the very purpose of our being.  None lives for self alone, and gets to feel alive, for very long.

I’m happy knowing you’re okay, my friend.

A North American Spiritual Arc, Part 2: Medicine Wheel to Devils Tower

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This will be short on photos, mostly because it was largely raining that night, from Gillette to the Devils Tower park campground.

As I came down the mountain from Medicine Wheel, my heart was still very much in prayer.  Aram called at about the halfway point of the descending drive, just shy of Dayton.  It was a good 45-minute break from driving, and we covered all of what was up with him, and with me.  It’s always worth the time, and we come away understanding one another’s positions.  So, he knew how I felt about things, and people, and why.  There’s nothing earth-shaking about it, but I think maintaining clear communication channels obviates messy interpersonal situations later on.

Dayton and Ranchester are lovely, now quiet farm towns.  In the 1890’s, though, the area had its share of the conflict between the U.S. Cavalry and Plains Indians, being not that far from Little Big Horn.

The Battle of Tongue River took place in what is now Ranchester.

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Indian Wars always leave me in a dumpy mood.  The whole concept of owning the Earth is rather dicey, though I know we have to have some form of identity.  Still, setting oneself apart from others, by means of ownership, kind of countermands the sense of responsibility that ownership implies.  There are homes of friends, which I cannot visit, because one or more of the owners has/have serious trust issues.  Fortunately, most of these are places I seldom visit, anyway.

The Tongue River, and its commemorative park in Ranchester, provide relative peace and solace for about two dozen people, on any given night between May and October.

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After eating a picnic supper here, I headed on through Sheridan, Buffalo, Gillette and Moorcroft, without stopping,  It was raining, hard, all the way to Devils Tower National Monument.  A friend had shown me photos of shimmering lights circumnabulating the Tower’s summit, while cautioning that these might be Photoshopped.    Still, I had hope for the magic to break out of the clouds, and elected to sleep under the stars, when I awoke in my car, at 1:30 A.M., and saw a beautiful, clear sky.  Rolling out my tarp, mattress pad and sleeping bag, I reveled in the silhouette of the Tower, set under the shining canopy.  Sleep came easy, until 5:45, when it was time to hustle over to the Tower Trail.

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Next:  Tower of the Spirits