Clearer Vision

6

November 29, 2016, Prescott- Now that my backlog of stuff has cleared up, somewhat, it’s time to consider what 66 has in store for me, or I, for it.

Fitness:  I like going to Planet Fitness, as there is a place for everyone, with a feeling of community and non-judgement.  People of all ages, sizes and ability levels exercise together and support one another, either silently, or as “spotters”.  My current plan has me there, three days a week.

Hiking:  Related to fitness, and to photography, my hikes vary in length and in difficulty.  They have sustained me, in many ways, for nearly 58 years.  The next twelve months will take me to:  Prescott Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell;  the southernmost three segments of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, in New River; Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek; McDowell Mountains Desert Preserve, Scottsdale; the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff; the Grand Canyon and who knows where, in AZ and elsewhere.

Work:  I was asked to consider being lead teacher in my current classroom.  I respectfully declined, preferring to see a younger person have a shot at that opportunity- as I am not devoting more time to the courses necessary for re-certification, and  given that I plan to work full time, for 4 1/2 more years, then go on to other pursuits, at the end of May, 2021. Children, and their well-being, will always be one of my highest concerns, though, wherever I am.

Family:  This means both biological and of choice.  Thankfully, there is no one in my biological family who would not be in my family of choice.  The former consists of about 140 people, including my mother, siblings, son, maternal and paternal relatives, and in-laws.  The latter has grown to at least 300, including many who will read this, over the past twenty-five years.

Travel:  My main immediate priority is time with Aram, after Christmas and before he heads to Korea for his next Navy assignment.  Between now and the end of May, I will be mostly in the Southwest and southern California, as work and my Baha’i activities keep me close to Home Base.  Mid-March may find me in west Texas, re-connecting with old friends.  The summer’s focus leans towards the Northwest, and possibly the Great Plains, but much could change, in the interim.  My Back-East visit looks to be in December, 2017.

Spiritual:  As most of you know, I am a fervent Baha’i.  We will observe a significant anniversary, on October 22:  The bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Founder of our Faith.  A committee is planning a dignified and welcoming commemoration of the event, here in the Prescott area.  I will support and take active part in the event that is put together.

I also support the ecumenical event, known as Hope Fest, which will also occur in October, for its sixth year.  We all are living under the same blessings, coming from One Heavenly Source, in my view.

Writing:  I still very much plan to put together, and publish, a volume of mixed short prose and poetry, between January and March of the coming year.  Online, a series of posts on this site will be called 66 Days of Sixty-Six, being a random group of days that celebrate this age.

It’s going to be a great, if often challenging, year.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Sixty-Six

8

November 28, 2016, Prescott-Someone close to me says I am officially an old man.  Well, yes and no.  Consider today:  I went to work, told no one it was my day (though it’s posted in the office kitchen, which none of my co-workers ever enter) and had a normal work day, which means I put forth an effort.  I came home, took a 20-minute power nap.  Then, it was time to mark the occasion, so I went by a Christmas display, at Prescott Resort Hotel, had dinner at Texas Roadhouse and went to see the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, a Harry Potter prequel of sorts, with a fine ensemble cast and a great story line; definitely four-stars.

Age does not affect what I have ahead, over the next few months, either.  December, though, is as far as I have planned, concretely, and then only in terms of those events that have to be planned well in advance.  It’s more a matter of keeping the bulk of my focus on my work and on my Faith, than it is of slowing down.

I will have more to say about the weeks ahead, but now it’s time to keep my bedtime routine- 10:30 is late enough.

Always Welcome

0

November 27, 2016, Banning- I am fortunate to find many places, to which I can return, no matter how long it’s been since I have stopped by.  One such is Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in this small, but pleasant city along I-10, east of Riverside.  The decor reminds me of both my Godmother’s kitchen, when I was a child, and various places in which I’ve stopped in the Midwest, over the years.  The owners and waitresses always seem to remember me, from previous visits and the place just feels like home.

My son’s place, in Chula Vista feels likewise, it goes without saying.  It will be strange to go to San Diego, after February, and not have him there to visit.  He will be doing other tasks, in his next duty station, though, and I will continue to feel pride in his achievements.  We had a quiet, but comfortable, visit, over Thanksgiving and will have a few days together, here and there, between now and the time he heads out.

I got back, easily, to Prescott, and it will be a busy, fruitful month ahead- with work for both the Prescott schools and my Faith occupying a great deal of time.  Needless to say, there are plenty of places here, where I likewise always feel welcome.  At the end of this week, for example, the town’s Christmas tree will be lit and all of us in attendance will feel an abundance of welcome, from one another.

As I will write tomorrow, I personally will welcome another year to my chronology:  66. Hope all are rested from a joyful Thanksgiving!

 

Keyholes

9

November 26, 2016, Chula Vista-

We went to see the film “Doctor Strange”, this evening.  It’s a highly entertaining account of mystics being able to bend time, space and matter- for good or for ill.  One of the characters mentions to Dr. Strange that, in being concerned with his own ego, he is seeing the universe through a keyhole- and imagining his view to be all-encompassing.

So many of us seem to be seeing the world through keyholes of our own device.   The two extremes in out national politics have been doing so, for sometime. The keyholes seem to be also getting smaller and smaller.  It is also apparent that the backdrop, behind the door, is getting dimmer and dimmer.

Any time in history, when people feel totally disenfranchised, has been fraught with severe pendulum swings.  The decline and fall of Imperial Rome, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and the fall of the Soviet Union  are each an example of this, albeit differing in severity.  Jacobin France is one of the deadliest examples of people looking at the world through keyholes, and seeing nothing but enemies- even in the faces of those who were their allies, only a short time before.

It is no coincidence that the leader of a White Supremacist splinter group identified his personal role model as Napoleon Bonaparte.  This, to me, is a clear indication of the intentions of his particular entourage.  Sowing chaos, in this large and disparate society, may seem impossible- but look to Rome, and to Russia.  It only takes a relative few opportunists to bring it about- and with the advent of false news reporting, the mayhem can come about rather quickly.

Once again, to be safe, at any given time, is to be vigilant beforehand.  I do not see the answer to our nation’s current growing pains to be drawing our wagons into  tight circles, such as supremacist or nativist fantasies, or safe zones.  The real solution, in my humble view, is wider inclusion.  There will never be a time when I cut off my conservative friends to curry favour with people on the Left, or vice versa.  I will not shun my friends of colour or of sexual identities that aren’t my own, just so that my White and heterosexual friends are assuaged- or vice versa.

It’s time to open the door, for a broad view.

Insightful

2

November 25, 2016, Chula Vista-  Son is steadily healing and uses a “space boot” on his left foot, so he’s more mobile than a month ago.  Still, this is not the time for him to go back to full-on hiking mode, and this weekend will find me taking short, but beneficial walks, as I did this afternoon, on a loop of Rice Canyon Trail and the parallel Rancho del Rey Parkway.  It was fitting that I began at Discovery Park and ended at Explorer Park, both named by children of Chula Vista, and geared towards families.

Another aspect of the day was that I finished re-reading “The Celestine Prophecy”, a novel which speculates on the evolution of the human spirit.  It postulates nine insights, which are summarized at:

http://www.gurus.org/dougdeb/Courses/bestsellers/Celestine/Insights.htm.

There is an interesting mix of profundity (the insights and the challenges they present) and hokum (“The Mayans went to a specific spot near Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon, and built pyramids”; Peruvian agents broke into an American scientist’s home and stole his copies of the first two insights).  Nonetheless, each of the insights is compatible with my own Faith.  What is also true, though, is that the state of human consciousness described by the ninth insight is probably a good thousand years in the making. We could easily achieve the goals described by the first eight, in the meantime.

I am particularly interested in the notion that children deserve more respect than many are willing to give them.  Adults are seen by Redfield as exemplars and mentors, not as controllers. Also, speaking about anyone in the third person, when they are present, is correctly viewed by the author, James Redfield, as an onerous practice.  So, too, is the notion that an authority figure is needed to interpret Scripture to the laity.  This cornerstone of the concept of clerical primacy is challenged by Redfield, in the nine insights, and is the basis for the conflict in the story.  The near-infantilization of the human race is viewed as outmoded and evil.

I have gone through many of the personal growth dilemmas presented by Redfield, including a host of what he calls control dramas (Intimidator, self-pitier, interrogator and aloof).  Entire decades have seen me in self-pity mode, and a fair amount of my life has found me aloof.  There is also his concept of “addiction to another person”, which he views as a misguided attempt to unite a person’s male and female sides, by attachment to a person of the opposite gender.  The eighth insight prescribes a person finding those two sides, and making peace with both, within oneself, and being a platonic friend to members of the opposite gender, first, rather than “rushing into romance”.

So, much of what is found in these pages is what many of us are already doing in our lives.  It would have a fine thing, though, if I had realized, and practiced, these concepts, a long time ago.

No Black Thursday

3

November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.

 

Thoughts on Thanksgivings Past

6

November 23, 2016, El Centro-  Upon stopping in this slowly revitalizing “capital” of the Colorado Desert, in southeast California, I made it my priority to enjoy breakfast for dinner, and have at a combo, of sausage links, scrambled eggs, hash browns and Chocolate Peppermint pancakes, at the local IHOP.

A flood of Thanksgiving memories ensued, which I now share.  My first memories are of Grandmother Kusch saying that it was a fine thing I enjoyed Roast Turkey with stuffing, as it would be my birthday meal, on many a year.  This was when I was about six, or so.  Most of the school time memories of Thanksgiving time were of the maudlin:  Paper Pilgrim hats, or, as I preferred, Wampanoag headdresses.  I later learned that the Native Peoples of the Northeast were not so given to such attire, though the deerskin clothing that accompanied them, was genuine.

Sis and I liked to mix the various kinds of soda, which we called tonic, in Bostonese.  Root beer mixed with orange Nehi was one of my favourites.  I imagined the crispy bottom of the stuffing was “buffalo meat”, for some strange reason.  Whatever, the whole meal was always marvelous, and I have been able to eat turkey, in various guises, for days on end, throughout my life.

I’ve had mostly fond memories of Thanksgiving, while wishing the good will would always be there.  in 1985, it was, until someone realized it was also my birthday, and she was angry with me, for various things I had not done, in the months prior, and a tongue lashing ensued.  Our subsequent Thanksgivings, and my birthdays since,  went much more smoothly.

I can only recall one Thanksgiving when I was alone.  It was 1981, and I ate at a table for one, at Swiss Village, in Payson.  The service was spotty, and I came away from the meal, vowing to not be totally alone that day, ever again.  I have since kept that promise.

Many Thanksgivings were observed, courtesy of the Robbins family, in Prescott, with two kinds of turkey:  Oven-roasted and deep-fried.  Both were exquisite.  There was also a tofurkey.  It was not exquisite.  The Robbins’ were once known as the family Rabinowitz, but homogenization took that away.  They remain one of the most noble families I’ve ever known.

For the past four years, Aram and I have gone to Julian Cafe, northeast of San Diego.  Penny worked in Julian, for a year, in 1981-82, so the place has a wealth of fond memories- and some of the most delectable apple pie, anywhere.

We will head there again, tomorrow afternoon.

 

Unwitting Problem Solver

2

November 22, 2016, Prescott-  

We had a two-day work week and, as ever, many children were wound-up, in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday.  Some were excited because of a good time ahead.  Others were agitated, because of the harrowing conditions, or sheer boredom, that await them for five days.

A little guy who just wanted to play, while waiting for his bus to completely load, led us to ponder the safety issues that would ensue, were he to just be left to his own devices, during the wait for a student who is released later than our class.

The answer was obvious, and our students’ time in the classroom will be increased, starting Monday.   Since they are more comfortable in the classroom than they are sitting at the bus dock, I anticipate a decline in the agitation and ennui that have been surfacing, in ways that only unsettled children can express.

This leads me to again draw the conclusion that listening, even to the most seemingly counter-intuitive ideas, can bring a surprisingly simple solution.  The boy in question will be praised as a big helper, when school resumes on Monday.

Dakota, 2016

10

November 21, 2016, Prescott-

Beneath a pale moon,

above sacred ground,

misguided footsteps

go on the offensive.

In a battle over water,

the liquid itself

becomes a weapon.

Icy water, cold hard rubber

and pepper spray

all make for a rude awakening.

There are no dead,

in the wake of

the raid by the new cavalry.

The dead hearts are

miles away,

in a corporate boardroom.

Wider and Deeper

2

November 20, 2016, Prescott-   So much water has gone over the dam, these past few weeks.  I am glad things are slowing down, for the upcoming 3-5 day holiday.  I say this, as I have no intention of partaking in either Black Friday or Thanksgiving Day shopping.  I used to gag at the thought of the latter, until a friend on the East Coast said it was her family’s way of relaxing.  Still and all, to each their own.

I am getting close to the end of being 65.  More about that, over the weekend.  Another digression, in the way of summarizing:  I finished reading “Moral Tribes” and re-reading “To Kill A Mockingbird”, about two weeks ago.  Now, my literary focus is on “The Brothers Karamazov”, my first foray into the world of Dostoevsky, and a re-reading of “The Celestine Prophecies”, as well as my Baha’i studies.

It’s raining here, for a day or two.  I hear Massachusetts is getting snow.  We are bound to have strange swings in weather patterns, over the next 10-30 years, whether people believe in climate change or not.  If the President-elect is indeed in denial about such things, he’s lucky to have his private residence in a penthouse. Change tends to happen, whether one expects it or not.

Back to business: My focus right now is on dignity- a God-given right of every sentient being, especially of every human being.  Year ago, that mold was set for me, one evening in VietNam.  A hard-nosed, traditionalist Army sergeant happened by where I was sitting, one calm evening.  I was an unabashed progressive, back then, so our conversation (which was completely civil) focused on how each of us saw things differently- AND neither of us was hurting the other, by our view of things.  We got along very well after that.

I have drifted away from politics, since then, though fairness and acceptance of different points of view, instilled into me by my father, remain the driving forces in my dealings with others.  I can’t imagine my life, if one person, or group of human beings, doesn’t matter, equally as much as the next. Everyone I encounter needs to be treated with respect.

Throughout my life, I have spent time with different people, or visited different communities, rather than staying put in a small group. This will continue, working around the constraints of a full-time job, over the next five years. While I also like having a home base, reaching out to others is nonetheless still my wheelhouse, as those in business like to say, these days.

The circle has been wider, for some time now.  The objective now is to make it deeper.