The Road to 65, Mile 306: Sis


September 29, 2015, Chino Valley- I spent the afternoon up here, meeting parents of some of my students and going over materials and procedures with which I will carry on this teaching enterprise, starting October 12.

Today is my only sister’s birthday, so I gave her a call.  She and her husband are in the midst of a long-desired trip, seeing fabulous wilderness, in another part of the country.  It does my heart good to see this, with her life of service having in some ways eclipsed my own.  Her four children and seven grandchildren stand in testament to this.

Sis has been my friend and confidant for most of our lives.  She has survived challenges that would make a lesser person fold up the tent and head for cover.  She has kept on, taken one day at a time, and has never lost her joie de vivre, or ever-present smile.  She  has never lost her love for family, or sense of what is right.

On this day, I can only offer thanks for her presence, and for her unwavering support through the tough years of my beloved wife’s decline.  I am blessed with the best of families, and Sis is no small part of that.  May these birthdays long continue.

The Road to 65, Mile 305: Gran Fondo


September 28, 2015, Prescott- One of my outwardly less successful endeavours, over the years, was my principalship at Chilchinbeto Community School, between Chinle and Kayenta, on the Navajo Nation, in northeast Arizona.  It was, in more ways than one, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of the silver linings, in that dark academic year, 1998-99, was the presence of Youth Empowerment Services, and Tom Riggenbach, who was my second-in-command.  YES, led by Tom, has empowered the youth of the Navajo Nation, for nearly twenty years.  Their Chuska Challenge, a bicycle marathon, through some of the Nation’s wildest and most beautiful country, has brought people from the world over into contact with local youth, in a far more up-close manner than is provided by jeep tours through Monument Valley, or the purchase of a rug at Hubbell Trading Post.  The Dineh’s traditional love of running has also been rekindled, through efforts such as this.

Tom refers to the enterprise variously as Tour de Rez and Gran Forno (an Italian term for the type of bicycle marathon, typified by Tour de France.  The Chuska Range is not for the faint of heart, and Tom has never been in that category.  We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, in the tumultuous aforementioned year, but I always commanded his respect, and he, mine.  He has given a tremendous amount of his energy and drive to the betterment of thousands of Native American youth, and so it continues.

To the extent that I was able to encourage YES, and see the program expand throughout the Four Corners region, my time in Chilchinbeto was not misspent. I look forward to seeing many more years of Gran Forno in the Chuska.

The Road to 65, Miles 303-4: In Sync


September 26-7, 2015, Prescott- 

More doggerel, as my schedule has been hectic, of late:

I read the words of love and caution

Warding me from onward rushing.

Despite the hint of harshness

Your honesty dispels much darkness.

A walk around town cleared my head

Know that your words will never bring dread.

These words spring from a couple of conversations with young people whom I love dearly.

The Road to 65, Mile 302: Pontification


September 25, 2015, Prescott-  I spent the day with groups of students, in a couple of Band Rooms- one at Prescott High School, the other at Mile High Middle School.  Supervising band, for someone who can barely read notes, is an interesting stretch of my exchequer.  Two or three students lead the class, actually, and I am there mostly to maintain order.  There are always a few who challenge the authority of whoever is leading the class.  Today, however, I needed only remind the assemblage that it is the upcoming concert that matters, and not the whims of the moment.  The young people set back to work.

Challenges to authority have always been the lot of the common man.  They most always result from a disconnect between the aspirations of the worker and the “Big Picture” agenda of the overlord.  So it is with our current crop of candidates for President, with their immediate predecessor and with the Pope of Rome.  Seven billion souls are each going to see things differently from their neighbours, from their family members, and even from their former selves-or later selves, for that matter.  Baha’u’llah states, with regard to a married couple, “Between them is a barrier, that they overpass not.”  By this, He is referring to the DNA-rooted individuality of every soul who ever lived on this planet, and of every soul who will ever live.

I think of this, while pondering the current visit to the United States, by the philosopher king formerly known as Jorge Bergoglio.  Pope Francis I is astride two worlds, and receives advice and criticism from those in each world, and from those who regard themselves as living in neither.  On the one hand, he seeks to define humaneness as ‘seeing each and every person as a true human being, an individual worthy of respect.’  On the other hand, he, along with every other man who is in a position of sectarian authority- with the possible exception of the Archbishop of Canterbury, sets limits on 50 % of the populace.  Women are given only a certain place in the papal firmament- and there is, to his mind, to be no deviation.

Everyone of us has a duality about us.  We have higher aspirations, most of which have to do with doing right by other people, and by the environment in which we live.  Then, there is the “Me” factor.  Self-preservation is a constant weight on our upwardly-springing feet.  From time immemorial, this self-centeredness has been given a countenance:  The demon.  Putting a face on something, especially on a vile something, separates it from us.  We go to great lengths to lengthen this distance- with talk of Satan walking the Earth and infesting the minds of the wayward.

In the end, though, it falls to the individual to rescue him/herself.  The only one who can take me out of my lower nature is yours truly.  The only one who can overcome the deeply-ingrained senses of racism, sexism, class prejudice and nativism that infest so many, is the person who is weighed down by them.  Others can only stand aside and criticize, point fingers, or turn their faces away in disgust.  They may also offer constructive criticism, which is welcomed by any sincere soul.  The change, however, comes from within.

As Krishna is credited with saying:  “Point a finger at another, and, behold three fingers pointing back at you!”  Godspeed to Senor Bergoglio, and to all who seek a better world.  Let them continue to push away the weight that ties them down.

The Road to 65, Mile 301: I Hear the Rolling Thunder


September 24, 2015, Phoenix- I drove a friend down here, this quiet and subdued evening, that she could pay homage to a woman for whom she cared, in the last throes of the lady’s battle with Alzheimer’s.  I did not, of course, know the woman, yet seeing the story of her life, on video, and listening to my friend’s account of her interactions, I was as moved to tears as I would have been, had I known her.

We all have our differences of opinion, and for some, that is the be all and end all of relationships.  Sitting in the chapel, though, and listening to the words of the immortal hymn, “How Great Thou Art”, as sung by Carrie Underwood, I can honestly say there was a total unity, that I have only rarely felt, when in a group of people previously unknown to me.

There are those who anticipate a cataclysmic occurrence, this very weekend, or not long afterward.  I am a skeptic, along those lines.  I believe that something such will happen, but on God’s timetable, not on Man’s.  The truth is, each of us experiences our own personal calamity, from time to time.  The Alzheimer’s and its aftermath were catastrophic to the departed woman and to her family and friends.  Penny’s illness , of nearly eight years, was heart-wrenching to me, to our son and to our families-and how much worse it must have been to her, a woman of high intelligence, drive and achievement.  Every day, people endure natural and man-devised crises and acts of destruction, such as few onlookers can appreciate.

Our strength, as a species, lies in our resilience.  I am entering a phase, in my own recovery, that I could not have anticipated, even three months ago.  This is how it has been, for the last four years and eight months:  One step after another, relying mostly on faith, doing things that are humdrum and ordinary for  many, but for which a person like me, come only with struggle.

I will surely thrive, even through the worst of whatever may lie ahead- so my spirit guide tells me, and I believe her.

The Road to 65, Mile 300: Cinquain


September 23, 2015, Chino Valley- In this third day of my trial run at Mingus Springs, one of my teaching tasks involved breaking down the writing of a cinquain, one of the simpler forms of poetry, so that it was comprehensible to my 21 eight-year-olds.

It is only fair, therefore, that today’s “Road” entry be a cinquain of my own device.  It  is a reflection on the episode that was the season premiere of “NCIS”.


Ever reliable

Poised and ready

At a moment’s notice,


My teams are thus:  Son and siblings, Faith Community, colleagues, students, dedicated friends.

“I’ve met your team.  How can you say you’re alone?”- Jon Cryer to Mark Harmon, in the above-mentioned episode.  Indeed, and neither am I, really alone.

The Road to 65, Mile 299: What Is School?


September 22, 2015, Chino Valley- I am gratified that my sleep and energy levels are proving more than adequate to do the job I have been given- and will get more in tune with the students and their needs, in short order.  A lot of time and energy will need to be devoted to shoring up their skill levels, to say the least.

Much has been said about the “dumbing down” of the curriculum, with an idea that the common denominator, in a polyglot world, is pop culture.  There are uses to which phenomena, like Hip Hop can be put, but seriously, I see no good use for lowered expectations,double negatives, coarse speech and mangled grammar.

A longtime friend complained today, that teachers are getting all the blame, for students’ lack of success, and that people should stop crying Victim, every time they are criticized.  She is right on both counts, and I attribute these phenomena to false pride, if not narcissism- and both are rooted in insecurity.

Teachers are just part of the team that raises and nurtures a child.  Parents, extended family, community members, and the child herself, are equal partners in this effort.  No one should get off the hook, when a child fails.

I will need to do a lot of one-on-one and small group tutoring, both during, and outside of, the school day, in order to bring my students up to speed. There will also need to be consistent parental encouragement and efforts to provide a stable home life.  The child needs to be taught responsibility, as one of the finest supervisors I  have ever had kept saying, day in and day out, in the Fall of 2001.  That supervisor was 18 years of age.  She was a prodigy, and is now a Master Teacher, at age 33.

School is more than just a building.  It is a community, a center, a medium of exchange (in the ideal sense, not in the financial sense).  It needs to be a refuge of hope and of strength.  We have a long road ahead.

The Road to 65, Mile 298: Equinox and Equity


September 21, 2015, Granite Dells-  I spent the evening of the Autumnal Equinox, observing the International Day of Peace, with a host of kindred spirits, enjoying the music of a local artist, Celia, and of our host, Johnny Light.

Heaven on Earth, where I find myself fairly frequently these days, is the home of John and his beloved, Happy Oasis, whose poetry is another draw to the blessed Dells- one of three “Rainforest”-type environments I have found in Arizona.  Johnny built the place himself, from the ground up, after their earlier home was leveled by a forest fire, little more than a year ago.

Celia was moved to thus dedicate a song to the victims of northern California’s ongoing wildfires, arguably the worst natural disaster we have had in this country, since Hurricane Katrina.  Over 23,000 people have now been displaced, with many living in tent cities.  Her song was simple:  “Rain”, chanted over and over, for about five minutes, with a Chilean rain stick furnishing the percussion.

John and Celia are each in superbly equitable relationships.  Many others in the assemblage, this evening, are in that situation, as well.  I enjoyed equity, in my marriage, and know that it is hard work.  It is also the most satisfying effort there is.  Yet, perhaps, Celia’s song, “Everyday Goddess”, puts the whole matter of gender and roles into perspective:  “It’s no big deal”.  If we just be, and not cast ourselves into untenable roles, then it seems that true equity will come about, as a matter of course.

I arrive at an exquisite realization, every time I set foot in Heaven on Earth.

The Road to 65, Mile 297: Where I Stand, Part 3


September 20, 2015, Prescott-  I spent this day alone.  Tomorrow, and for almost every day for the next three months, I won’t need to be concerned with being alone.  In fact, my aloneness has often been a good part of the reason why I have brought so many difficulties on myself, over the years. Penny brought me out of it; then when she passed, and I drifted back into torpor, various people came into my life and helped our son keep me on the straight and even.

“Development Comes From Within.  The process of human and community development unfolds from within each person,relationship, family organization, community or nation.”- Four Winds International Institute

This second principle for building a sustainable and harmonious world correctly states that it is the individual who feels the impetus to build self, from inside out and from the bottom up.  Without a determination to focus outward and concern myself with the needs of others, I would remain stuck- trying to live above my means, casting about to blame a chimeric force, bigger than myself, for all my woes and looking to an imaginary solution for those problems.  Each of us is capable of a certain degree of good.  It is towards that capacity that one best focuses.

Once a relationship is established, it is essentially either 100/100. or 0/0.  For one person to do all the work in a relationship is the same as a sluggard, dragging thrice his weight in rocks, along the ground. I had to work at not trying to do it all.  Fortunately, I had an exemplary partner in that, and most other regards.  Only when a couple has this balance set, can a family successfully begin.  Mother and father set a united front, and child(ren) have a clear sense of wiggle room.  Family organization, even in the age of the nuclear family, or rather, ESPECIALLY in this age, is best set in stone, with room to expand outwardly, to grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins- clear up to as many generations as can meaningfully participate. Community is only as strong as its members can manage, through cooperation, due to recognition of several common goals, and despite differences of opinion.  I was raised by a conservative, business-minded father and a liberal, civic-minded mother.  The town was close-knit, first by neighbourhood, then community-wide.  We did knock on doors before entering, once people from Boston started moving into the newly developed suburban “projects”, which in those days meant new, single-family homes, and there were no longer just the “old families” around. Neighbours minded each other kids, and everyone respected the Irish cop on the beat. Dad had a few men over, each weekday evening before dinner, and they would sit on the porch and solve the problems of town and state. The Town Meeting was held, once a year, and further discussions addressed key issues, almost in Athenian style.  Things were accomplished.

The same is true at the national level.  Too many unwieldy interests, motivated by entitlement, are pitting themselves against one another.  My father told me to never regard the “other side” as an enemy, to be vanquished, but rather as a teaching unit, to which I do best to listen, and to expect them to listen to me.

The “what” and the “how” do not need to be at odds with one another, ad nauseam.  Perfect is Good’s younger sibling, and needs the example borne out first.

The Road to 65, Mile 296: Where I Stand, Part 2


September 19, 2015, Prescott-  For the next several posts, I will be centering my comments on 16 principles, developed by Four Worlds International Institute, in Surrey, BC.  It is led by a man for whom I have a lot of respect:  Hereditary Chief Phil Lane, Jr., of the Blackfoot Nation.  All quotes herein are from the document, The Fourth Way:  An Indigenous Contribution to Building Sustainable and  Harmonious Prosperity in the Americas, Update, October 2008.

Nobody asked me to do this, but I share both genetic memories and spiritual values with the Aboriginal Peoples of the Americas, specifically with the Penobscot Nation, of central Maine.  There is no barrier between us, except those that people choose to put between each other.  So, let me begin.

Principle 1: “Human Beings Can Transform Their Worlds. The web of our relationships with others and the natural world, which has given rise to the problems we face as a human family, can be changed.” –  

The author, savant and change agent, Star Hawk, has written that, for Man to regard himself as divorced from nature, is an arrogant mindset.  In fact, we in our physical state are very much connected to the rest of Nature.  It’s pretty much a given, to me, that each and every thing we do in this life is a matter of choice.  Some choices are more difficult than others, but they still need to be made.  So, with regard to relationships with others, we can choose to respond to people, or to ignore them.  I have found that I can only ignore those who irritate or are disagreeable to me for just so long, before one or the other of us presses for a resolution. The converse is also true.

How much more is this true, with regard to nature.  One can, in the name of stockholder profits, order the spewing of poisons into the atmosphere, water and soil, for just so long, before the toxins find their way into the Web of Life- with cancer, dementia and neurological ills becoming pandemic.  One may, in the name of Science, release Genetically-Modified Organisms into the food chain, while demanding that the rest of the planet toe your line, or face crippling litigation.  Then, because living things are just not ready to digest your products and therefore, in the case of humans, RESIST purchasing them or, in the case of scavenging rodents, birds and insects, just IGNORE the stuff, you redouble your efforts, getting shills to write articles that ridicule those who won’t buy GMO’s, and prodding normally thoughtful, even-minded people to jump in the fray and try to analyze the case against your products, with a view towards “talking some sense into those who would starve humanity, for the sake of romanticism.”  Still, the illnesses, and the wreckage, pile up.

My plans, with regard to relationships, are these:

  1.  Accept all offers of friendship, unless and until such offers prove to be based on ulterior motives.
  2. Respect those, online and in real time, who indicate they wish me to not contact them, either for a time, or permanently.
  3. Be a trustworthy person, more than I have been towards some people in the past.
  4. Listen, listen, and listen some more.
  5. Own the mistakes I have made with people, and do better by them , and others.

My plans, with respect to Nature, are these:

1. Tend the seeds I have planted, in my back yard.

2.  Honour animal and plant life, wherever I encounter them.

3.  By all means, continue hiking and other acts of personal exploration, both in my home area and          further afield.

4.  Carry a trash bag in my pack, so that the unwarranted intrusion of the thoughtless may be mitigated.

5.  Recycle, as much as possible, while recognizing that not everyone regards this practice as truly beneficial to the Planet.

I have gone on longer than usual, but these matters are very basic to my human and natural states of being.