The Road to 65, Mile 151: Smoke and Fire


April 28, 2015, Phoenix-  I’ve been in Baltimore three times.  The second, and longest, stay in the city was a week, in 1972.  I got off a bus in East Baltimore, and walked about ten blocks, through an old and visibly proud African-American neighbourhood.  There were hints of a place going to seed, but more common were the well-kept yards and people greeting one another in friendship, as I’ve found in lots of places.   At no time did I feel unsafe.

Similarly,I have driven through south Chicago,  south central Los Angeles,the Bronx and Harlem, and walked all over Washington, DC, and not felt at risk.  The thing to remember is:  “Black on Black” violence is far more frequent than “interacial” crime.  I have never been struck, or held at gunpoint, by a person of African descent. There are many, I know, who have had very different experiences, and my sorrow for your losses.

The violence in Baltimore, yesterday and today, will end up hurting Black people more than any other group.  This has been the experience of countless other people, in too many other cities, large and small, across the United States, in the United Kingdom, France and South Africa.  The poor end up poorer.

There is a dynamic at work, at the opposite end of the social scale:  Pursue the well-being of society, only to the extent that it doesn’t upend the current economic system.  Thus, we have calls for “soul-searching”, each time a riot breaks out, or a high-profile person is killed.  What is needed, and sorely, instead, is soul-action.

One can best effect change locally.  I grew up in what many would call a “white-bread” town.  There was still a lot of need there.  Lower-class whites were somewhat “privileged”, but they were still regarded as lower-class. I tried my best to call attention, as a teenager, to issues like economic disparity and civil rights, seeing them as closely-tied.  I was ridiculed for this, but I noticed that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were saying the same things.  The Irish kids who cheered their assassinations were biting the hands that were outstretched to them.  The Italian and Polish kids who groused about Affirmative Action, seeing it as permanent, and a privilege system all its own, were way off the mark.

My conclusion was that, unless and until people saw how they were being manipulated to separate themselves from others, and did something to build a bond with people to whom they were more closely tied than they thought, there would be the same cycle of riot and rebellion, followed by oppression (by the same people who used divide and conquer), followed by a period of acquiescence, then more riot and rebellion.

Solutions?   The disenfranchised must vote.  Citizens attending, and speaking out at, public meetings is crucial.  Parents actually bringing up their kids is not subject to substitution. The politician must be held to viewing the title public servant as more than a sobriquet.

Further:  Women are the equal partners of men, and not just within the bounds of matrimony.  There is neither a favoured class, nor a protected class.  Political Correctness, the ultimate band-aid for society’s boils, deserves to be consigned to the refuse pile.  Human decency could ably take its place.  See someone who looks different from you walking in your direction?  Stay on the same path, and offer an appropriate greeting.  “How’re you doin?'” or “What’s happening?” are words I have heard from countless people, in cities all over the country.

These are simple thoughts, but the great innovators have brought change to society, not by quantum leaps, or fell swoops.  The changes have been systematic, and through persistence.  This has been true of everything from the automobile industry to the expansion of civil rights.  So it must be for the reconstruction of neighbourhoods:  Not through gentrification, not through creation of urban deserts, but “brick by brick, block by block” , designed by and for the benefit of those already living there, as well as artisans and entrepreneurs who are actually invited by the community, rather than by the real estate market.

Extinguish the fire and clear the smoke.

The Road to 65, Mile 150: Sagarmatha


April 27, 2015, Chino Valley-  Nepal, and the Himalayan region in general, is suffering deeply from the effects of Sunday’s earthquake and the ongoing aftershocks.  A great deal of attention is going to the Westerners who are stuck on the slopes of Mount Everest.  To be sure, the deaths of climbers are as tragic, in their way, as any other loss.  Trekking is a key source of revenue for the Nepalese, as for those in Indian Sikkim, in Pakistani Swat and in Bhutan, which is only recently opening up to the mountaineers.

The immediate concern of most of the international community, though, is the plight of ordinary Nepalese.  The one silver lining for them is that the Himalayan winter is drawing to a close, and the monsoons are a ways off.  This gives the army of native and international aid workers a chance to accomplish the slow, painstaking work of clearing rubble, burying the dead, healing the injured, replanting fields and initiating long-term reconstruction.

These are orders as tall as Sagarmatha, the Sherpa name for Mount Everest.  The process is as delicate as the ice sheets which now present an obstacle to several climbers who are trying to descend the mighty overlord.  It will require fortitude as enduring as the great mountain itself.

There remain, though, the vagaries of the News Cycle, and by Wednesday, much ado will again be made of the Clinton Foundation (about which, more later) and due attention will be paid to Baltimore (about which, more tomorrow).  The marriage issue will also supplant matters abroad, for a time.

I am neither young, nor financially wealthy.  The skills I would bring to the table, were I to go to a disaster area, would be the ability to teach the young, a well of compassion and the willingness to get my hands dirty, doing whatever is needed to rebuild the community. I am unlikely to just jump on a plane, though, and show up with a bright, but determined, face.

These are my scattered thoughts about the shattered and beautiful land and its people.  For now, I will finish the academic year, comforting those closer to home, getting a rootless man on his way to a better life in another state and pushing forward with my Spirit Quest to the northwest coast.

The Road to 65, Mile 149: Confluence


April 26, 2015, Prescott- The downpour, yesterday and today, has come at an unusual time, in the climatic sense.  We very seldom see any rain here, between March and July.  It is always welcome, though, as we approach the so-called “fire season”.  The storm brought cold in its wake, but the temperature will rise soon enough, and Phoenix may well see 100 degrees on May 1.

M was laid to rest today.  As befitting a balanced soul, the rain and sunshine alternated, as three women took turns reciting the verses of the Baha’i Prayer for the Dead, a reflective repetition of six verses, each said nineteen times and interspersed with the Arabic “Allah-u-Abha”, God is the Most Glorious”.  A few other prayers were said after the lowering of the casket, we all greeted and consoled one another, and the confluence of her earthly and spiritual lives was reached.

I left the family to its privacy, finished an errand which resulted from last night’s downpour, and took a meal of haddock, baked potato and corn, accompanied by a salad and some red apple tea, in M’s honour.  A slice of French Silk pie is here for tomorrow’s enjoyment.  M loved nothing more than to offer a balanced meal, and a well-steeped cup of tea.  Adding malt vinegar to the pieces of haddock, I felt she was hosting this repast, albeit in a neighbourhood restaurant.

Many times, I have felt Penny’s unseen hand, or that of my father, in events that have happened, in the past few years.  The spirits are as close as we let them be to us, and almost continuously they see us through periods of joy, trial, growth and triumph.  M will be there for her loving husband, and for all who stayed with her during her own trials and sorrows.

The Road to 65, Mile 148: Slingshot Day


April 25, 2015, Prescott– I woke this morning, at 2:35, got shaven and dressed, then headed down to Phoenix Zoo, where an Oral Cancer Awareness Run/Walk was being held.  My volunteer position was the Raffle Table, where I sold tickets, oversaw the placement of tickets in various jars that were in front of prizes being raffled, and encouraged a couple of high school students who were walking about the grounds and selling tickets, as well.  The activity was most enjoyable and our happy mood drew many more people to the table, as they were curious as to the joyful atmosphere.  The old saying goes “Laugh and the world laughs with you.  Cry, and you cry alone.”  I have always found that to be a bit harsh, but I will go with the first part of it.

Around 8:20 AM, I left to go back up to Prescott, the reason being that I also planned to help out at the School Garden Project, at Mountain Oaks Charter School, where I have a loose association with the administration.  Plus, Slow Food Prescott has made school gardens a priority, and I support that group’s legitimate activities, even if I don’t always like the people it attracts.  Anyway, I got back home, napped for an hour, and got over to the school in time to put together a woven bamboo fence, in front of the back vegetable garden. After a quick lunch, the project ended with weeding a section along the front fence, and spreading manure, for the sunflowers, gourds and corn that were planted there.  These activities, also, were done in a joyous atmosphere.

That’s what service should be.  Contrasted with the sometimes grim and guarded posture that I find myself adopting, when dealing with aggressive homeless veterans, today’s activities were a breath of fresh air.  Tomorrow, I will focus more on paying respects to my departed friend, who served others constantly, in her own way.

The Road to 65, Mile 147: The Appointed Hour


April 24, 2015, Prescott- A friend of twenty-three years passed on, last night, after a three year battle with cancer.  She had brought our then homeless family into the loop of our community’s activities, in the harsh winter and spring of 1992, while not lowering her standards of decorum and good taste.  She never wavered in that regard, over the years.

An Anglophile of the highest order, M.  kept her home immaculate, knew and practiced the art of High Tea, on a regular basis, and always served refreshments in/on ceramic ware, to be enjoyed using either silver or stainless steel, never plastic.  We were all made well aware of the distinction between the first two, as well.

She spent all her adult married life in the same house, not far from where she grew up, though she was well-traveled and had familiarity with just about every place I mentioned I had been.  She felt as much at  home in Tokyo as in Prescott, or Savannah, GA.  A daughter of a military man, she nonetheless shuddered at the carnage amok in the world, and would not suffer crudeness or profanity in her presence. Her own speech was clear, concise and polished.

M. could have been viewed as an anachronism, but she mastered technology, and was a regular presence on Facebook and my e-mail network.  I felt I could discuss virtually any subject with her, as well as with her husband of nearly forty years.

She weathered the vicissitudes  of her disease quite well, all things considered, and would be aghast if she were to hear anyone cast blame for her condition upon the physicians, support staff, or her family members.  Her family were exemplary, and as far as I can tell, so were most of the hospital and medical staff.

M.’s last great enjoyment was connecting with her newborn fifth grandson, and the last photograph of her that was shared by the family showed her and the infant reaching towards one another, and holding hands, as they lay facing one another, at opposite ends of her in-home sick bed.

The impact of such a soul, on each and every person who entered her presence, was one of abiding reassurance and confirmation.  I feel that now, as ever I felt it over the past twenty-three years.  As we lay her body to rest, tomorrow afternoon, I will also feel another soul at the side of my wife, gone homeward, at the appointed hour.

The Road to 65, Mile 146: Inward


April 23, 2015, Prescott-  Today was a mixed bag.  I had a good day at school, helping several students deal with technophobia and connecting with, encouraging, another autistic person.  I will return to that school again on Monday.

Home was a bit different, coming back and finding my client in the back yard- looking quite at home, which was not part of our agreement.  I left him sitting there and went about my business. As it stands, I am driving him to Kingman, AZ on Sunday, and from there he is to board a bus to Las Vegas and points northwest.  He wants to head to Oregon; at least that was the plan, yesterday.  There are two days intervening, and I sense a pair of heels digging in.  This will be a push- and-pull, to the very end.

Downtown was bustling this evening.  Tomorrow, there will be a Mountain Bike Race.  It’s great for business, but I will be as far away from there as possible.  I find the bikers very arrogant and aggressive, even when they are not in the heat of a race.

My response to pushy, argumentative people is to stand my ground, as long as is prudent, then to turn inward and guard my spirit.  I feel this will be the case tomorrow and on Saturday, just as it had to be on Tuesday evening. On Sunday, the pushy, argumentative person will have little choice but to follow through on his promise- to me and to himself.  There will be peace in the valley, and here on this hillside.

The Road to 65, Mile 145: Gaia


April 22, 2015, Prescott-  A good man posed the question today:  Does picking up other people’s trash change anything?  I think it makes the place cleaner, and sends the message that at least some of us are unwilling to live a disordered life.  As for huge, earth-saving acts, these are awesome and wondrous.  They need to be well-planned, like the Rio or Paris summits.  Question:  Do these change anything?

Mother Earth has been ravaged by mankind before.  The Dark Ages and the Industrial Revolution certainly didn’t affect the planet on the scale that the current Globo-Industrial brood is so affecting it.  We are experimenting with a worldwide American lifestyle. Many want a piece of the Good Pie, understandably. It just can’t continue in the manner with which it is now being attempted.

Roundup is a serious poison.  It saves time; after all, who wants to get down on their hands and knees, and pull weeds out by the roots?  Well, I did, for the sake of healing the soil, and letting ants and worms do what they do best- work the dirt.

Tweaking genes will give well-meaning, educated people the illusion that they are producing sufficient food to satiate the multitudes.  Question :  How will the monocultural crops feed anyone when a) the soil is depleted of nutrients, from not having fallow time and b) the people eating these crops are unable to digest them?

Mass, net-based or dynamite/cyanide based fishing brings in lots of meat for the hipster sushi bars, and other eateries.  Question:  What will such people eat, once the oceans are empty and the fish farms collapse in their own filth?

Wealthy people in east Asia revel in the horn, ivory and body parts of animals whose numbers are shrinking.  They dangle huge sums of money at poverty-stricken people in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Arctic, for the sake of keeping the trade flowing.  Question:  What will happen when animals large and small (think elephants, tigers, walruses and pangolins) are hunted to extinction?  Item:  The lowland black rhinoceros already has been rendered extinct, this year.

Mining firms and agribusinesses, across the globe, buy up huge tracts of land, get governments to enact laws that gran them protection, carry out policies which deplete land and water resources, and use large teams of attorneys to try and intimidate the Great Unwashed.  We even have provisions in free trade proposals, now being considered, which would force governments and people to acquiesce to the demands of international corporations, or risk being bankrupted by a blizzard of lawsuits.  Question:  When everyone is forced to use toxic chemicals, eat genetically-modified foods, even to smoke cigarettes- then where will be, as a species?  Will we be so wealthy that we don’t care?  I wonder- Steven Jobs, Nelson Rockefeller, J. Paul Getty were wealthy men.  Did they die happy, with their financial wealth and their incurable illnesses?

Gaia, our Home Base, is watching, knowing she may always exercise the option of ridding herself of the errant stewards.  I am overstating things, somewhat.  Question:  Are those with overblown, simplistic solutions to the great issues likewise overstating matters?

The Road to 65, Mile 144: Education


April 21, 2015, Chino Valley- After a frenetic day of rushing here and there, I found myself in a sublimely beautiful, rustic part of town.  Here, among some well-intentioned, but rather judgmental individuals, I enjoyed a tour of the organic farm, and a delicious, varied vegetarian meal, while doing my best to observe silence.

Then, the discussion turned to education.  Some representatives of one of the area’s least progressive school districts were bemoaning the lack of interest in things like organic farming, art and music, shown by their peers and the community’s parents.  These people exuded powerlessness.

That set me to thinking- exactly what is education, and what is it not?  So, here are my thoughts, few of which I saw fit to share with the group last night, given their own rather narrow minds.

Education is:  Observation– Pestalozzi, Audubon, Einstein- in fact, just about anyone associated with achievement, throughout history, has begun his/her quest with keen observation of their surroundings. and expanding outward.

Note-taking- The observer takes copious notes of what is experienced.  No one can commit all the essentials of an experience to memory.

Synthesis-  Distilling “wheat from chaff”, so to speak, gives us the tools for adaptation.

Application- What makes our species a surviving species is the ability to make good use what is observed and internalized.  The same could be said for microbes, but we have been given the role of stewardship.

Wonder- I will never be done exploring, and hopefully, neither will the best of students.

As to what education isn’t:

It is not Test-taking, for its own sake; repitition; blind imitation.  “Teacher (or Coach, Principal or parent) says so” doesn’t work, once one is past the age of seven, if it even works that well before then, except in cases of personal safety.  Basing our education practices on a misunderstanding of how education works in China, Singapore or South Korea (which has the highest suicide rate, among teenagers, in the developed world), is just throwing good resources into the money and energy pits.

Those are thoughts which went through my head, and which I chose to keep to myself this evening, while in the presence of self-styled heavy hitters.

The Road to 65, Mile 143: The Veil


April 20, 2015, Prescott- Several people with whom I am either close or am at least aware, are approaching the spirit life.  One passed this morning, in Missouri.  A young lady lost her dog, in a street accident.  Several others are very close to passing.  A dear young woman in another city was severely beaten, and will be scarred for a long time to come.

This is a very cruel time, between April 15-20.  We’ve endured three national tragedies during this time period, in years passed, and today saw the comfort of the peaceful Boston Marathon, five days after the second anniversary of its date with tragedy.  We will not know the extent of the casualties in the refugee ship sinking, off Lampedusa, for some time- but it was an enormous loss for mankind.

I have had many communications with beings on “the other side”. I loved them as people, and still feel they are guiding me, day by day. When I get flustered with demanding, or emotionally needy, people on this side of the veil, gentle thought waves encourage me to be patient.  I also get guidance regarding my small and big decisions, as I have mentioned before.

This evening began the twelve day Ridvan Festival, during which we mark the Proclamation by Baha’u’llah, of His Mission on Earth.  This took place in April, 1863, so it was an auspicious time for Baghdad, where the event took place, and for all the planet, in energy waves which it may well take most people a long time to ascertain.  There is much communication back and forth between us and those who are in the Spirit Realm, at this time, just as there is during the Day of the Dead, on November 2. That which we sometimes call the Veil, is then more like a mirror.

The Road to 65, Mile 142: Chalk It Up, 2015


April 19, 2015, Prescott- I spent about half the day in meetings and a couple of acts of service.  Still, my mind fell into a funk, because of the suffering endured by some dear families and because of various critics, both here and in the Phoenix area, whose venom keeps playing in my head, though I know it’s wrong of me to buy into their negativity.

Chalk It Up, an annual art festival here in Prescott, and associated with Earth Day, is the perfect mood lifter.  I present several of this year’s entries, without commentary, so that you might get some enjoyment out of the gallery, as well.





















With this  little tour, and a small dish of frozen yogurt, all the sorrow melted away.  It doesn’t take much.