On Solid Rock


December 31, 2015, Prescott-  “You need to step on solid rock!”  So advised an eight-year-old girl, to her grandparents, and anyone else who was listening, as several of us began descending Lookout Mountain, a couple of days ago.

From 1982 until 2014, this day was important to me primarily as my in-laws’ wedding anniversary.  Pop went to his eternity in May of last year, so now New Year’s Eve is, to me, what it is for everyone else: A turning of the page.

Here are a couple of photos of five of my favourite people.  Three others could have been included, but begged off, when we gathered at my brother’s house, last Sunday. Each of us is unique, and while that has caused one among us to feel a fair amount of discomfort, it remains how things are.  Being with those who love me is a great passion.

Following  are some scenes of Lookout Mountain, in Phoenix’s North Mountain Preserve.  Hiking remains one of my other great passions.  I took in Lookout, and Shaw Butte, on Tuesday, after flying back to AZ.  The two are moderate hikes, and not striking, scenery-wise, but they do allow some fine views from the top.


Lookout Mountain, 12/29/15


Lookout Mountain, 12/29/15

There were several people at each location, including the girl who remarked about solid rock.  Here are some of the other views I found, on top of Lookout Mountain.

The lower right shot is of the West Peak, a boulder-strewn outcropping, where one of the men in the group climbed up and sought solitude.  I kept on going down, and drove over to Shaw Butte, the other peak in the North Mountain Preserve that I had not yet visited.

Shaw is just north of North Mountain, which Aram and I hiked a few years ago.  This time around, I meandered a bit, checking out a box canyon just to the west of Shaw Butte’s main trail.  Going up the side of the canyon was relatively easy.  The communications towers on the summit are a constant point of reference.

So, my year ends, on narrow, but still solid rock.  Things will get better in 2016, as long as I make them so.

Four Days’ Reflections


December 29, 2015, Phoenix- The period just passed, from Christmas  until Transit Day (yesterday), saw either sporadic WiFi connection, or time when being on the Internet would have been just plain rude.  As it was, my non-technological mother saw any time spent on the computer as an imposition, even when I was sharing what I found with the group.

Few are in a place of honour, when among those who knew them when.  I was delighted to have felt welcome, when I visited with a couple of friends from my late teen/young adult years, and the three of us were actually having intelligent, respectful conversation- free of the oneupmanship that seemed so prevalent back then.  Now, we are all mid-sexagenarians and have a grander view.

Mom was not feeling all that great, but kept a game face the whole time I was in Saugus.  I know better, though, and I also know that her current aches and pains will subside.  Andrew Wyeth remarked, on his own father’s passing, “It took a freight train to kill N.C. Wyeth!”.  It’ll take a lot more than that to bring down my mother.

The siblings will always be my treasured core group.  I spent time as the bete-noire, in my twenties, and it was largely deserved.  Now, each of us has our niche and when we get together, we have genuine nuggets to share.  This was my sister’s year to break out- to see the Mountain Northwest: Montana and Wyoming.  Her list of travel goals is also growing, and I hope she gets to a few more, in the years immediately ahead.

One of my seatmates, on the plane back, recommended a book entitled “The Third Target”, by Joel C. Rosenberg.  She was looking at the piece as if it were non-fiction, much the way some of us interpreted Tom Clancy novels, in the ’90’s.  Indeed, many fictional works are vehicles for disseminating information that would otherwise be “classified”.

I got a lot read of “The Witches:  Salem, 1692”, that is a nonfictional study of the events, and backdrop, of the Salem Witch Trials.  Kids were unruly back then, also, and, wonder of wonders, because they were roundly ignored by parents who were pre-occupied with the day-to-day grind of an oppressive life.  That teenaged girls and young women would react to being treated as chattel, by staging near-psychotic flash mob attacks on the reputations of their elders, somehow comes as no surprise.  Children have been my life, for nearly forty years.  The more neglected they have seemed, in their larger lives, the more I have sought to understand them and be of value.

Now, I am back in what has come to be Home Base.  My coming to Arizona, initially, was rather random and happenstance.  As with any such move by a rootless youth, it morphed into a place of growth.  I am still growing, and my octogenarian mother is till lucid enough to tell me that I’ve seen nothing yet.  The “Greatest Generation” will never concede to their Baby Boomer children, or anyone else, the place of the pioneer.

I look forward to the rest of this decade, and to my seventies, eighties and whatever else the Good Lord deigns to offer.  As the great Dick Van Dyke writes: “Keep Moving”. (I’m reading that book now, also).






Christmas Eve


December 24, 2015, Saugus- This day has always been an “icing on the cake” sort.  In my younger days, the parties were full-on, booze-fueled.  Of the past thirty-four years, the booze has gone away, but the revelry, whether of the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference sort, or spent hiking on one trail or another, has remained integral to my year.

I spent today walking along the east shore of Lake Quannapowit, in Wakefield, which I last visited in 2011.  The day was foggy, which only added to the sense of mystery in the area.  One of my paternal aunts lives at the south end of Wakefield’s downtown, so I stopped by her place for an hour.

This evening, my brother, Glenn, hosted a few of us family-members.  Two of his grandbabies added a an amazing level of energy to the festivities.  We also tucked into some glorious sirloin steaks, before the Santa Parade, actually a one fire truck ride-by.

Here are some more photos of the day.


Shedding More Baggage


December 23, 2015, Saugus-  It is no secret, to those who knew me when, that I have limited myself, over the years, and that there is much that I could have achieved, had the self-shackles come off.  Penny released me from a good many of these, and I learned through the years since her passing, to release myself from still others.

Here, in the town, and home, of my childhood, I have come to grips with the basis of all these limitations:  Self-confidence.  Mom has always been my strongest advocate, so it was no surprise when she confronted me with what she sees as my greatest flaw.  There is no real reason for lack of self-confidence.  Fear of criticism had a lot to do with it, but what is criticism, other than a message from the Universe to open more channels of awareness- and act on them.

So, here I am, enjoying precious minutes with family, and poised for a far better 2016 than I have allowed its predecessors to be.



December 22, 2015, Saugus-  So, to mark the shortest day of the year, it is raining.  Many here, though not all, are bemoaning the lack of snow. To me, though, given how so many drive, on these all-too-narrow streets of my home town, with their dearth of left-turn accommodations and over-stressed fellow motorists, the lack of snow and its step-child, ice, is a blessing.

The four of us, my brother, Glenn, sister-in-law, Barb, our Mom and I, will mark the longest night of the year at Borders Cafe, a local Mexican food establishment.  I get my adventurous nature, at least with regard to food, from Mother.  We have long agreed that spice is the variety of life, to twist around the old bromide.

Wiccans, and those who toast the Sacred Geometer, have ever given us a special sense of this auspicious time, as well as of its opposite, the June Solstice, and of their arms, the Equinoxes.  Then again, I enjoy anyone’s celebrations, and our family’s turning the holidays into a virtual fortnight just makes for a sense that rain and a gray sky are irrelevant.

So, Splendid Solstice, everyone!  Northerners, rejoice as the days get longer, and Southerners, enjoy your still-long days at the beach and in the pool.

In Brief


December 21, 2015, Saugus, MA- I had a smooth and uneventful pair of flights from Phoenix to Boston, on Friday.  Mom is in good spirits, despite a few minor health issues.  I will be at her house, in which I grew up, until the 28th.

It was a great pleasure to visit my sister’s home, on Saturday.  The place was packed to the rafters, with people of four generations, animals, gifts and FOOD!  So many wonderful souls are in our extended family.  The Georgia Boivins will be here, next weekend, so it’ll be a similar scene at Ma’s, on the 27th, though most likely sans enfants.

I went hiking at Breakheart Reservation, on the north side of town, yesterday, with my younger brother.  He’s legally-blind, and one of the most amazing people, ever.  We did a two-mile loop, sticking to the pavement, of course.  The weather here is rather mild, by Northeastern standards- no snow, and in the 50’s.

The rest of the week will see a series of gatherings, and when I have the chances, I will post more on here.  Mom doesn’t have Wifi, so it’ll depend on what’s going on with her.



December 14, 2015, Prescott- 

Early to rise,

looked upon whitened skies.

A brief text,

said don’t hurry, rest!

A delayed drive to work,

didn’t see many jerks.

Children discombobulated,

by the start of school, belated.

Practice for tomorrow’s song,

interrupted by mindless chatter- all wrong!

In the end, melodic voices,

overcame the miscreant’s disruptive choices.

Back at home, I encountered a bug,

Removed from the wall, it sits in a jar,


Adventine Hope


December 12-13, Prescott- It seemed this weekend saw no end to meetings and gatherings.  Saturday dawned with the placing of wreaths on most of the grave sites at Prescott National Cemetery.  The event was part of Wreaths Across America, in which I have participated for the past four years, in honour of my late Uncle Carl, who was intensely active in Wreaths, when it first started, and remained so until his passing in 2010.  Snow made it interesting, but we’ve had a white ground cover every year, except last year.  The children who participate are a major reason for its success.

Yesterday afternoon, we Prescott Baha’is had our Spiritual Feast, a worship service held every nineteen calendar days, or so, which features devotions, consultation about the business of the community and a social gathering.  We have a good rapport with each other and the home-based gatherings add to a family feeling.

In the evening, I joined the staff of Mingus Springs, for their Christmas party, also held in a spacious home, with a lovely view of the valley below.  Exquisite food, raucous camaraderie and intelligent conversation on a variety of topics lit up the four hours we had together.  The party games were both wholesome and spirited-one involving a question and answer competition between two teams, and the other an unravel-the-ball-of-tape, which involved rolling a pair of dice, and getting a chance to peel back on one of two taped balls, which had small treats inside.  Rolling doubles was required, in order to have at the ball.  It got quite energetic, when two people rolled doubles at the same time, and we were down to one taped ball.  The evening ended with the usual White Elephant gifting.  I came away with Ben Goode’s “857 Habits of Annoying People”.  I’ve seen some his other books in various truck stop diners in the Southwest.

This morning, after such a frenetic day, saw me get up a bit more hesitantly than usual.  I got it together for a short meeting, first thing this morning, then went to a Legion gathering to honour one of our members who is going to California for a while.  Of course, there was yet another full buffet. The cooks of Yavapai County do supreme justice to our community meals!  Somehow, I am not packing on the weight, but it sure is fun being part of things.

Now I am just enjoying the quiet of my little place.  Someone asked me, last night, if I found it lonesome since my wife passed on.  There are such times, but in the presence of so many loving friends, I haven’t found them to be all that frequent.  Besides, she is taking good care of me, from the place beyond the veil.

I called my replacement teacher, this evening, and will meet with her, at the end of December.  In the meantime, the kids and I will finish up our quarterly business, and I will tie up loose ends, before heading off to Boston, at the end of the week.

Acker Night


December 11, 2015, Prescott- What could be more American than jazz rock belly dance?  That was one of the features of this annual education fund raiser, that graces Courthouse Square, and most of the businesses that surround it, every second Friday of December, from 5-9  P.M.

The fusion number, “Jingle Bells”, was done by the ladies of Flying Nest Dance Studio, and took place in the area once occupied by the Bird Cage Saloon, now occupied by a lovely outdoor theater.  Bird Cage burned down, two years ago, and has since relocated a block or so to the south, on Prescott’s Whiskey Row.

I spent about ninety minutes soaking up the crisp air, crowded downtown and a variety of musical efforts, after enjoying a hot bowl of Murph’s albondigas soup,cheesecake and coffee, at Shannon’s Deli.  Shadowbox String Quartet, four young ladies who are among my favourite local ensembles, performed several tunes, en classique, at the Old Sage Bookshop, in the boutique area of Hotel St. Michaels.  I then crossed the street to Bashford Court, another venerable indoor mall building, to hear several selections from the Christian and folk group, Manzanita Road.  After checking in at Clothes Hound, also on Whiskey Row, I found that Lady T and The Tramps, a  country and classic-rock cover group, which features a friend from Chino Valley, had finished for the night.  So, it was off to Lifeways Book Shop, for more Rain Forest coffee, and the delightful acoustic tunes of The Larsens.  As a bonus, I picked up a book that is sure to delight my little darlings, next week:  “The Man Made of Stars”, by M. H. Clark.

It’s been a tough week, but thanks to Acker Night, a couple of re-assuring horoscopes, more reassurance from friends, and an extended olive branch, the road ahead looks better.  Now, if we could only do something about Wall Street.  Oh, well, ya can’t fix stupid.



December 9, 2015, Prescott- One of the things that harkened the collapse of the Roman Empire was the degree to which the elite maintained power by appealing to the baser instincts and cravings of the  masses.  I see a fair number of parallels between Rome, and both the United States and the Islamic State.  Both current entities maintain their status quo by pandering to the xenophobia and self-absorption of those who have struggled to merely make ends meet. How odd, that the worst of politicians maintain control by villifying those who are just like them.  I see little difference between the xenophobes here, and those in Iraq and Syria.

I am seeing this unfold, too, in local communities.  Those who grasp at power will obfuscate, dissemble and spread rumours, to keep those they fear from getting involved too intimately with their public.  This happens both in government and in business- especially in “non-profit” enterprises.  I have been invited to join an effort, and have seen others be so invited, only to have the leadership who issued the invitations devolve into games of “gotcha”.  They, too, pander  to the fears of some whom they serve.

True public service puts the needs of those who are being served above all other considerations.  When last I checked, such needs did not include having one’s baser instincts honed and exacerbated.