October 22, 2021- I looked up a student, from long ago, and she had some searing things to say, on her social media page. All of it is true-and is unfortunate. We ignore these messages, to our peril. She was one of Penny’s favourite people, and I link her messages to what my dearly beloved wife told me, when we first met, forty-one years ago in December.
Penny said, “Hit me, just once, and we’re done.” I wouldn’t have hit her, anyway, but the message stayed in my heart.
Penny said, “Cheat on me, just once, and I’m gone.” I wouldn’t have cheated on her, anyway, but the message took.
Penny said, “Go and get those girls, and bring them home to their parents.” She did not have to say it twice. I got in my car, found the girls and brought them home, where they belonged. No Native child disappeared on my watch.
“N” said, “Treat all children like they are your children.” This was in reference to the hundreds, nay thousands, of Native women and girls, gone missing and unaccounted.
“N” said, “Where is the concern for all my missing sisters?” It is a continentaldisgrace, the epidemic loss of sheer human talent that is in a state of limbo, or loss, or suspended animation-maybe just left to rot, by others who took their own lack of self-worth out on women, girls-and male humans, cutting their lives short, then just walking back into the community, as if nothing has ever happened.
The case of Gabby Petito has brought renewed attention to the missing Indigenous women-and countless other people of colour whose fate is unknown. Ms. Petito’s family has it right: Every missing person, every abused soul, deserves the same energy and attention that has been directed towards justice for their daughter and cousin. Her likely abductor is himself dead. Other perpetrators are living in shame.
What of a young man, whom I knew as a boy, and who has been missing for over a year? What of the three dozen or so Dineh teenaged girls, whose posters one may see in any trading post, convenience store, post office or truck stop on the Navajo and Hopi Nations, or in any border community? What of Latinas, missing from even the smallest barrios, across Arizona and New Mexico?
I know that every child matters. That is precisely why it’s imperative to listen, when a fierce woman like N, or J, or T-or my ferocious late wife, comes forward, puts up a straight-ahead message: “PAY SOME *#@!! ATTENTION!” I would have paid attention, anyway-but the work still lies ahead.
If you see, or hear, something, say something. Better yet, DO SOMETHING!
There are days when one is asked to spend small amounts of time with a fair cross section of humanity. Age levels, a wide range of personalities and interest levels are both mixed together and present, one after another, in a span of six or seven hours.
I lived and thrived on such a reality, for nearly forty years, though not always in the span of a day. A classroom rover, which is what I was today and will be again tomorrow, gets a snapshot of different-aged students, mostly focused on one task, with a few variations-like the short-term, and quickly changing, needs of Kindergartners.
Some kids asked me about the bandage I sported and accepted the real explanation, without any drama. It is something that can happen to anyone, over time, from too much of something that is healthful, in small doses. I am a survivor, and want them to be survivors, too. Needless to say, every short session was a success-and enough people had their needs met, that this format can be used on any occasion in which teachers are called to brief committee meetings, in the course of a regular school day.
I also got to notice a few things about people who have been difficult for me to understand, in times past. I saw one man’s physical pain, and how it impacts his interactions with just about everyone. There are others, who are emotionally on a knife edge, having phone interactions with those who are making their lives difficult. Not facing them in the midst of an exceptionally busy school day reveals the sources of their angst and their vulnerabilities. That alone makes someone like me more useful, than would otherwise be the case.
A potpourri of humanity, in a fairly small space, is always enlightening. That’s why I travel-and also why I work.
I had three snippies (skin tumor removals) slated for this year. The first, and largest, took place in early summer and is now a distant memory, with a faint scar. The second, which was both the smallest and the most serious, was done today. The bandage will accompany me to work, tomorrow, and I will answer questions like “How does the other guy look?” and “Are you going to get the other cheek (facial) done, the same way?” The third and last one will be done in mid-November, a week before Thanksgiving.
These events have made Manda Sunblock my friend, even if it initially gives me Ghost Face. They have also left me with scars-the first of which has mostly faded. The urban myth about scars on men being attractive to women has scarcely entered my mind, day to day. Then again, my women friends are mostly past that sort of thing. We are all pretty much into facilitating one another’s dreams and life plans.
So, the scraping, cutting, cauterizing and suturing have not been any big deal. The alternative, however, would be a VERY big deal, and I would have no one but myself to blame. Once the last one is done, dermatology will become a semiannual part of my health regimen, and life will be that much more unimpeded by snippies.
Here we are, rooted in a garden planet. The urge to see what’s beyond calls to many, nevertheless, especially to the young.
My charges today spent their time devising spacecrafts, working in teams, mostly, with a few intrepid souls working alone.
There were lunar modules, satellites, probes, landers and rovers. It all depended upon the team’s focus and level of ambition. Best of all, the projects were gender-independent. Like the great rocket scientists and astronomers who came before them, the kids offered ideas based on mind. Unlike many who preceded them, they embraced the ideas that were best for the project, without concerning themselves as to whether the notions came from boys or girls.
It’s past time for this to be, and the heirs to space will look back at Sally Ride, Christa McAuliffe, Mae Jemison, Ellen Ochoa and nearly a hundred other women, who led as much as followed, but mainly served side by side with the men pioneers.
It was a noisy, at times messy, but fruitful day of discovery.
It was more quotidian than I thought, this transfer, this purchase of an SUV. The dream of a silver warrior tooling down the TransCanada, next Spring turned out to be a fairy tale. In this realm, there are no fairy tales, and if there are any fairies, they know to make themselves scarce.
It was more quotidian than I thought, this exchange of cash, for a sound vehicle that will do its part, and sans rocket science, but plenty of regular maintenance, will see me safely from one place to another.
It was more quotidian than I thought, driving to the Motor Vehicle Department, sans license plate, with only the transferred title, to prove any validity, with regard to my presence behind the wheel. It mattered none, as in less than thirty minutes, I had accomplished what thousands of people do each year.
It was more quotidian than I thought, this putting a car legally on the road. That says more about my state of mind, than about how the world is working.
October 17, 2021- Jupiter moves direct, with relation to Earth, tomorrow, followed by Mercury. This means something to astrologers, yet also affects those to whom it means little. Everything in the Universe is connected, which goes double for everything in our solar system. Planetary energies can, and do, make us go back over old ground-both social and emotional, until we clear the baggage away and handle our old challenges well.
I feel a shift, more of a balance between duty to self and duty to others.
The loud klaxon that calls me to give all I have to those who will not do for themselves is growing fainter, and just maybe, that means they are beginning to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
They may not find it easy. I did not, when the temptation arose, to place the blame for my failures, anywhere but here.
It never brought satisfaction, only tears and discomfort. With suffering, though, comes strength.
I am grateful for the shift. It is the gift that invariably arrives when autumn summons fruition, followed by reward and rest-before a renewed season of greater effort and achievement.
May success come to those who are awakened! (“Woke” is a euphemism, not a real state of being.)
October 16, 2021- The full- on, pulsating sounds of the Latino-tinged hard rock band had five generations of people up and dancing, for close to two hours. It was the culmination of an afternoon Harvest Festival, a block party of sorts, set up by Raven Cafe and Peregrine Book Store, to benefit the Prescott Education Fund-and by extension, our public schools.
I found myself swaying to the rhythms, on the sidelines, as couples and families bounced, did the samba and even a guy doing Cat Daddy, with his lady friend and one other mutual friend of theirs. Babies in their parents’ arms were moving and grooving. Kids of all ages were jumping around, everywhere. It was just that sort of magnificent autumn evening, in a small lot that is one of Prescott’s best-kept secrets.
A couple of costumed characters briefly moved among the crowd, essentially getting the party started.
So it went, and the exercise did me good. It is ever so, that even as the twilight of the first year of my eighth decade on this earth approaches, there is still very much a relevance to my presence here. My immediate reward was a delectable creme brulee at the Raven, once the concert had wound down. The more substantial reward was an indelible viewing of Home Base for what it is: A small spot of paradise, in which my spirit can thrive and from which it may go forth, to other paradises.
October 15, 2021- In the fall of 2020, there were protests against keeping the statue of Juan de Onate, one of the Conquistadores who re-established Spanish hegemony in what is now the American Southwest, after the Indigenous Peoples’ Revolt of 1680. The statue still stands at the southwest entrance to Old Town Albuquerque. As painful as much of Spanish rule was, for both the Puebloan and nomadic tribes that were subjugated, that collective pain and the response to it-including the retributive pain meted out by the rebels upon the Spanish settlers are cautionary tales-two among many from which mankind is learning, ever so slowly. The horrors endured cannot be wiped from memory.
All across Europe, there are reminders of the grim events that forged that continent’s present state, from the Museum of Torture, in Bruges, Belgium to the preserved concentration camps of World War II. In Africa, the dreadful remnants of Slave Castles and places like Ile Goree, remind residents and visitors alike of the widespread culpability for this most heinous sustained and codified injustice. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bear witness to the ultimate fate that awaits the worst of ultranationalists, along with the millions of innocent victims that their excesses cause to be brought down with them.
Here in North America, it is surely tempting to “correct” history, by eradicating statuary that reflect the erroneous notion of one racial subgroup, or ethnicity, being superior to others. Indeed, statues of Confederate leaders and slave holders scarcely have any place, standing in communities that abolished slavery, to the extent it ever was practiced in them, well before the onset of the American Civil War. Ditto for the Stars and Bars.
I have visited places associated with controversial, even unsavory, historical figures and events, from the Confederate Cemetery of southern Maryland to the site of the Silver Creek Massacre, in eastern Colorado-and will continue to do so, for the purposes of my own understanding. I do so, knowing that I will never subscribe to either heinous mistreatment of other human beings, or to the systems that spring from it.
Careful, measured and accurate presentation of unpleasant to horrific episodes of our history, and of the blinkered systems they produced, is however part of learning. De Onate’s role in the suppression of both indigenous peoples of New Mexico, and of the lower class settlers (including Afro-Spaniards, many of whom were enslaved) needs to be kept in mind. Seeing his likeness on horseback, upon first entering Old Town, is a suitable prompt in that regard. It also brings forth further contemplation, as to the role of the clergy, including the founders of the nearby Church of San Felipe de Neri, in the oppression of those viewed as of a lesser humanity. Again, gratuitous statuary in places not associated with a given figure of history- as in a statue of Christopher Columbus in, say, Portland, Oregon or of Robert E. Lee, in downtown St. Louis, serves no purpose other than to gratify that figure’s local admirers. In such a case, those admirers should be free to keep their memorabilia on their own private turf. For the rest of us, history presented in its true context will suffice.
Those are my thoughts, after visiting Old Town Albuquerque, before heading back to Home Base.
October 14, 2021, Albuquerque- The themes expressed in the New Mexico History Museum are common, in their presentation of the call for rectification of all that has been done wrong, between one group of people towards another, over the centuries. Simply put, there is no person, group of people, ethnicity or nation that has a corner on purity, kindness, love for the Earth, etc. Any time people feel backed into a corner, they lash out.
This is true, no matter how privileged and well-off people are, in actuality. “The reality of man is his thought”, said ‘Abdu’l-Baha, on His visit to Paris, in 1911. If a person feels that he is a victim, then no amount of explaining from someone else, even grounded in real time, will change the afflicted one’s perspective. it has to come from within. Before Europeans came to the Americas, there were times when the various Indigenous nations would quarrel and wage war. Usually, this was sparked by natural disaster, combined with population growth, resulting in scarcity. The influx of large numbers of people who came from other parts of the world, and who had different values and practices, did not exactly ease the situation.
The solution, though, is never to deny another person’s reality, as some intellectuals are trying to do with regard to social justice movements. The conservative who refers to the claims of a progressive as “that hoax”, and vice versa, brings no peace. Everyone has a piece of the truth, and deserves to at least be heard, so that the feeling of being backed into a corner does not arise. I came to this realization, again, after visiting the section of the New Mexico History Museum that deals with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The rebellion succeeded, initially, because there was unity of purpose across the various Indigenous nations. It failed, in the end, both because that unity did not hold and because the victors did not see fit to treat Spanish civilians, especially women and children, in a humane manner. It was the generating of extreme negativity that sucked the energy out of the otherwise worthy campaign for relief and equanimity for maltreated Indigenous people.
The songwriter Pete Townshend warned, after experiencing callous behaviour from some attendees at the Woodstock Music Festival, in 1969, that “parting on the Left” could change to “parting on the Right”, in his song “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”. It happens when, as the initially victorious have so often found, their views on holding power turn out to be unimaginative, merely copying the practices of their former oppressors-and thus either paving the way for the return of those oppressors, as happened in the late Seventeenth Century, or worse, hard-wiring the succeeding generations in patterns of socially maladaptive behaviour.
I have paid close attention, especially lately, to the interactions of people, across ages and ethnicities, in the latest stages of COVID19. I have heard of incidents of line jumping and people flailing at each other, over masks vs. no masks. I saw nothing of the sort, anywhere in mask-mandated New Mexico, these past four days. People appear to be making an effort to get along, on a very basic level. even when, as one conservative friend said, they regard the mask mandate as inane.
Everyone’s struggle is real, and though that struggle does not become everyone else’s God-given burden, we can at least wish the bedraggled soul the best, and not actively make the onus heavier, by denying that it exists.
I left Santa Fe, around noon, after the museum visit, making brief stops in the artistic havens of Galisteo and Madrid, before settling in at the avant-garde, minimalist Monterey Motel, near Old Town, in this sprawling, but still rather charming metropolis on the Rio Grande.
Here are a few scenes of the day.
Learning, with some satisfaction, that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has sufficient rock star status as to require a fair amount of advance planning, before a visit, I made a note to wait until next time.
After leaving Santa Fe, a drive to quiet, artistic Galisteo introduced this adobe church: Our Lady of the Cures.
En route from Galisteo to the artist community of Madrid, I drove past some badlands.
Once in Madrid, I found this little gem, in the Gypsy Plaza. Mr. Shugarman carefully packaged two of his signature chocolate bark squares, for my gradual enjoyment. He also ships his wares, so some beloved friends may expect an occasional surprise, direct from Madrid.
Madrid, on the east side of Sandia Crest, is another reason for me to return to northern New Mexico, soon. After tending to a critical business matter in uptown Albuquerque, I settled into Monterey Motel, about two blocks west of Old Town. The avant-garde ambiance was welcome this evening.
October 13, 2021, Santa Fe- The serene and beautiful teenaged girl looked as if she could save humanity, at the same time looking as vulnerable as she must have felt, in that long-ago and far away place. The depiction of Mary, mother of Jesus, by an unnamed artist, is both the most heart-rending and the most hopeful likeness, of a woman of whom no one has any real idea, as to her actual appearance.
People back then were used to solving problems that we can only dimly imagine. As I walked the grounds of the Stations of the Cross Meditation Garden, adjacent to the Garden of the Saints, where the above statue is situated, the harrowing nature of Christ’s suffering and death-and the Great Being Himself, are depicted in a way I have seldom seen. Here is not the beauteous, blond-haired superman of legend, but the embodiment of pain and sorrow. Jesus appears to literally be crying out for the collective soul of humanity.
The pain and sorrow that Christ, His family and His disciples endured, would later be mirrored by the horrific sufferings brought to bear on Indigenous peoples, in the Americas and around the world, in His very Name, by those whose blinkered understanding of His Message was clouded by their own material greed and lust for power. Clergy, even the most pure-hearted, are only humans like the rest of us, and bring all their prior life experiences into their service to God.
I drew some comfort from reading the account of St. Francis of Assisi, a personal favourite among the Catholic saints, preaching to the birds.
“My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky,” Francis said, “you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah’s Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God.”- The Little Flowers of St. Francis
So was capped a full-day in Santa Fe, my first visit here since 1994. The city was packed with tourists, as always, with most of them being older people like me, taking advantage of the cooler weather and relatively smaller crowds. I enjoyed French crepes and the comfort of meatloaf, as bookend meals, and added the state Capitol of New Mexico to the photo library. How simple, and understated, is this place, when placed alongside the grand, ostentatious state Capitols of various other states! Nonetheless, it serves New Mexico well.
The state and the city have made considerable progress in both real and symbolic treatment of Indigenous peoples, fully acknowledging the heinous conditions that led to the revolt, by both Puebloan and nomadic nations, against Spanish rule, in 1680. While that rebellion was eventually put down by a superior military force, the Spaniards never really regained an upper hand, but were forced by the Unseen Hand, to grow into a gradual coexistence with the peoples who surrounded them. This has created New Mexico’s unique culture-on that is indeed enchanting.
It is at once sorrowing and gratifying, that St. Kateri’s statue greets the visitor to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. She lived only to the age of 24, a victim of smallpox and of small minds. Kateri practiced self-abnegation and refused all attempts by family to wed her to a Mohawk warrior. She was devoted only to God, as she saw Him.
My heart, at the end of the day, was both humbled and gratified.
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