Every Town Matters


January 30, 2022, Douglas, AZ- The little boy, in the room next to mine, tried to open the door separating us. Of course, after a minute or so, his parents took him away from the door and there was no further attempt at a surprise visit. I would not have minded, if he had poked his head through the door, as long as Mom and Dad were close by.

I have also had a couple of “surprise visits” on the phone, from adult friends who thought they knew best how I might be spending my time. There is the usual “You’re out of town, so you must be on vacation” mindset and the “You’re in this area, so therefore you must go to….” prescription. Prescott is not a place I regard as a 24/7 work environment and while I appreciate suggestions or networking connections, when I am on the road, my schedule is basically set, most often with a good deal of forethought and inspiration.

I came to Douglas, and spent two days here, because I felt the urge to devote spiritual energy to this area and to the border. I had also wanted to connect with a Baha’i friend in Bisbee, not far away, but the person was not available. That much more time was thus spent on the former.

Douglas was founded as a railroad town, mainly as a place to load and haul copper and gold to points east and west. The rail depot is now the Police Station.

I walked from there to the border station, being careful to not enter any area that was within the actual processing district, to dissuade the few grifters and beggars who tried to make their case for “sharing” and to show kindness to those who were obviously leery of being accosted by anyone, so soon after having crossed the frontier.

Just before I got to the bench near the crossing, I spotted a white dove, resting on the branch of a tree, in Douglas’ west side park.

Douglas matters, for more than just its border crossing. A vibrant Mexican culture transcends the border here, as it does in many places, from Brownsville to San Ysidro. There is also a core group of regenerators, people who are either willing to invest in the infrastructure or are, as a small family of siblings and cousins at an innovative bakery and restaurant called Mana’, putting in serious hours to draw people TO Douglas, not to have them just pass THROUGH the town. Mana’ has an electronic menu, accessible only by phone or computer and it is one of the more extensive I’ve seen, for an establishment of its size, with over a dozen unusual omelet and Mexican scramble items. If the town can draw a music and arts scene, the way nearby Bisbee has, Douglas can again make its mark. In fact, I had three meals at Mexican restaurants here-and all were great. That can also be a draw- a culinary mecca!

Two Kinds of Walls


January 29, 2022, Douglas, AZ- The wall stands high and firm, topped by barbed wire, and keeping Douglas separate from Agua Prieta-at least in theory. In reality, all that is happening is that the flow of people back and forth is slowed down and somewhat regulated. There are rules for entering the United States and rules for entering Mexico. Some come from one country, looking for work in the other-and occasionally the converse is true. Some seek work in both countries.

I will return to visit Mexico in earnest, at some point in the intermediate future. This weekend, though, my business is north of La Frontera. My sole journey to El Vecino del Sur today was gastronomic-a dinner of Enchilada Sonorense, a flat enchilada of maza harina (corn meal), mixed with beaten egg, then fried and topped with shredded cheese (queso blanco) and chopped onions, in a mild salsa.

I was the sole customer at El Alamo Restaurant, but it should not reflect on the quality of the food. The server, who seemed to be the owner’s son, spent most of his time in the kitchen, in between taking my order and bringing out the food. No matter; for a vegetarian Sonoran-style meal, this was very filling and tasty. I have yet to have a bad Mexican meal-at a Mama & Papi establishment, and this makes one more.

The day began with a few messages back and forth between our old friend, who I visited yesterday, and me. An hour or so was then spent on Zoom, with a group of friends from various countries, who meet each Saturday morning, in a Celebration of Unity. We mostly prayed for those suffering from Cyclone Ana, which hit the western Indian Ocean Basin and southeastern Africa, over the past several days-and for those in the northeast US, who are dealing with the “Bomb Cyclone” and an extra heavy snowfall.

I left Tucson, around 11 a.m. and drove to Bisbee. Finding a friend there to be absent, a brief stop at High Desert Market Cafe showed that it has grown in popularity, since my last Bisbee visit. The food remains delectable, and the menu has grown. All the seating is outside, but the sun was gracious today and I felt much at home. My main objective here being not fulfillable, this time around, I headed on towards Douglas.

This brings me to the second kind of wall: Lack of communication. I had made room reservations at a place that called itself Extended Stay America, Douglas. After last summer’s experience with the grifters at Quaker Inn, Uxbridge, MA, I did not pay in advance. This was fortunate, as I found ESA Douglas also closed and largely under renovation. No one was onsite , with whom I could discuss the matter-so I left, and found Motel 6 had left the light on. Cancelling the first reservation, with Expedia, was easy-as was filing my complaint.

I end the day, quite content, and ready for a day of serendipity, as Coronado National Monument, my second border area stop, will occupy my Monday morning-before it’s time to head back to Prescott. Sunday will unfold as it unfolds.

When A Trailer Is A Palace


January 28, 2022, Marana, AZ- The short, solid and loquacious woman stood outside the trailer she shares with her oldest son. Her instructions to me were concise, clear and almost unending, from the time I let her know I was in the area to the time I bade them both farewell.

There are at least six mobile home parks in the area of Tucson where G and C live. They each make the best of life here, with G doing what she has done, as long as I’ve known her (which is nearly forty years): Teaching all who will listen about Baha’u’llah and His message. She is also a vibrant champion of Native American history and the legacy of the people.

When I arrived at the trailer park, this evening, I was directed, in short order, towards the resting place of two of G’s children. We spent a half hour or so, not worrying about the chilly wind-but paying homage to two brave souls, who were cut down before they had the chance to bring their talents to the service of humanity.

Once back at the trailer, I was reminded of the admonition of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, that the simplest of dwellings ought to be regarded with dignity and respect. In G’s room, I felt I was in a palace-and her presence was regal. I, who have managed to fill a three-room apartment with all manner of stuff, stood in awe of this humble woman, who has little-yet the place seemed altogether full. I was given small gifts that I will forever treasure.

One never knows how a day will end, even when much has been planned in advance. Today was a truly special one.

No Desolation


January 27, 2022- The two boys were arguing over something that frequently seems to aggravate ten-year-old boys: A Pokemon card. My response was to make sure the card was returned to its proper owner-with a warning to him that such material is not exactly welcome at school. The reason is that the cards are too distracting-just as are any number of popular toys and fantasy items. The day, otherwise, went quite smoothly. Things seem to be settling down a bit, today, after a rather challenging month.

Much of the past few weeks has found people speaking of depression, many getting the latest subvariant of the latest variant of the ubiquitous coronavirus and a temporary downturn in the investment properties of several retirees. This all could easily spark a real time recounting of Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row”.

I appreciate the great bard’s work, both fearsome warnings and rousing celebrations. I do not, however, take to heart the downturns and forecasts of doom that seem to permeate the landscape in this fledgling year. For one thing, there is a feminine, healing energy that is earnestly trying to break through to the surface. For another, the main source of the acrimony that is behind much of the ennui is a two-pronged culture of denial. The right prong denies events that are very much playing out, in real time. The left prong denies that there is any validity to some of the still relevant elements of cultural biology.

Yet, here we are: Mothers, by and large, still love their babies; fathers want to both love their mates and children-and work hard for the well-being of the family; people are, more often than not, willing to see those who present differently as humans, deserving of a shot at life; both society and history are moving in the direction of inclusivity, validating the best aspects of human beings and away from the dominance of elites. Of course, there will be setbacks; there always are-and the resilience that follows is always astonishing in its depth and breadth.

There are pockets of despair, yes, and some are running more recalcitrant than others. Altogether, though, desolation is not in the cards, long term.

Tendons and Tendencies


January 26, 2022- It was a cloudless day, save for a small controlled burn that was instigated by last weekend’s off-season fire near Big Sur. Arizona tends to pay attention when off-season fires break out in California or Colorado.

My hiking buddy and I were far from the controlled burn, just enjoying her first long (5 mile) walk in four months, along Prescott’s flat Peavine Trail- a multiuse path built along an abandoned rail route. It is not a taxing route, especially good for a person who needs to build back strength. It was also good for me, as I have not done many hikes of any length, during her hiatus. I would later work out at Planet Fitness, for good measure.

We are keeping our tensile strength up also, with natural supplements and restorative foods. There is no need to sacrifice muscle mass or bone density, any earlier than the Universe has in mind for us. My mother continues to define growing old, with all faculties intact. I do not want to pull the rug out from under her, by being slovenly or unmindful of my own well-being. Besides, each day that I get a good night’s sleep and put my best forward, is another day won.

The last significant matter that came in front of me today was the extent to which we turn aside from any tendency to be satisfied with short-term benefits and look to long-term, systemic improvements in the well-being of our community and the least of its members. This is important to me, so to be admonished along those lines is no insult. This matter came up, during a business meeting at which I was an active attendant.

Many times, building up our physical, mental and ethical tendons helps us avoid destructive tendencies.

Coming From Behind


January 25, 2022- The tortoise, enjoying the scents of the flowers and the brightness of the Spring scenery, kept his steady pace. The hare, intent on reaching the destination, was overcome with the limits of his own body and, bored with the route he had covered countless times, decided he’d take a brief rest. Thus, did the lumbering reptile note his snoring rival, as he passed by, a short while later. So, the steady, appreciative creature was awarded the garland of flowers, to the abiding chagrin of the pompous lagomorph.

Aesop told the tale a bit differently, but the end is much the same-as is the moral. So often, people take current circumstances, or long-standing trends, and base their plans for the future on those. I noted how that did not work out, in this past weekend’s plethora of football games. I am also noting how self-assured politicians and political commentators are running into the buzz saw of uncertainty, as the people at large work the malleable clay of the country’s, and mankind’s, future. Few really saw the three-week-long financial correction coming, and neither do that many see the resilience that will happen, once the driftwood of ill-performing stocks is carted away.

We tend to see the present, no matter how well, or how poorly, things are going, as the wave of the future. Of course, some patterns endure for quite a while. Others, though, get swept away, almost instantaneously. Few people saw the election of 2016 turning out as it did. Equally few saw the subsequent presidential contest ending as it did. My guess is that this year’s contests, and those two years hence, will result in much the same.

There are many areas of life where fear rules-from the erratic weather patterns to the future of the world economy, but fear never takes human ingenuity, or the Hand of the Divine, into consideration. Our ability to handle, and transcend, the caprice of nature-and our own species’ flights of whimsy is almost unlimited.

Mankind is destined for a far brighter future than it often appears. We will, collectively, overcome our challenges, even coming from behind.

The Wolf Bunny


January 24, 2022-

The short, slightly-built young girl came into class and sat down, sporting a costume of her own design. Here was a presence covered in a rabbit’s fur, with padded foot wear, and with huge, lagomorphic ears, that had the hair of a wolf. Her face was covered in a yellow print face mask, leaving only her eyes, and the trademark surly “Present”, as her name was called at roll, to remind me of who was underneath the disguise. This was the Wolf Bunny, and anyone who didn’t like it could simply “monitor and adjust”. That point made, she set herself to work, and accomplished a lot more than most of her classmates.

Right Up To The End


January 23, 2022- Each of the semifinal games in the National Football League were decided at the tail end of the contest. Three of them had photo finish field goal-based victories. The last, a see-saw of a touchdown festival, went into overtime and one last touchdown decided the match.

It is taught to us Baha’is that staying true to one’s soul is vital-right up through the last breath a person takes. A person could very well live a life distinguished by meritorious deeds, only to collapse into moral turpitude in the last days of earthly life. Another, who has lived a degenerate existence, could conversely rise above past actions and finish mortal life in a flurry of penitential acts.

Having been told by some in our generation that this is the “fourth quarter” of life, I choose to examine my actions, day to day-and even hour to hour, with a view towards simply doing my level best, for self and others. This is not an end-game on my part, but is an acknowledgement that there remains much to be done-whether I have thirty years, or thirty days, left in this mortal frame. It actually behooves each person to proceed thusly, which would undoubtedly up the individual’s productivity and quality of life.

I also find that this makes getting up each morning, at a regular hour, much more satisfying-whether I have plans for the day, or not.

Sorry, Not Sorry


January 22, 2022- In the latest episode of the TV series, “Blue Bloods”, the great Stacy Keach’s character, Archbishop Kevin Kearns, is conflicted between his duty as a citizen and his role in enforcing the confidentiality of canon law. Civil authorities opt to breach the latter, so that a killer may be brought to justice. This sets up a short-lived spate of anger and complaint from the archbishop, who ends up feeling mollified when the Commissioner of Police, who is also his friend, basically offers an apology-with the caveat that he’d do the same thing again, if criminal law requires it.

Mature adults can handle “Sorry, not sorry”, if it is clear that the offending person’s dignity is more important than a temporary “sock in a knot”. A key example is that of a woman made to feel like she should apologize for being assertive. I was raised by a woman who never backed down, when she felt the need to speak up, so the idea of a “demure damsel” never came to mind. Society, however, provided plenty of examples of such people, as I grew up and moved about on my own. My reaction has been to make every effort to build up the woman’s or girl’s sense of self- even at the risk of looking like an archaic knight errant, and, yes, even when my own sock ended up in knot.

I know that gender equity has made great strides, over the past five decades, but there remain those men who seek to dominate, and not be questioned. There are still those women who deem it their duty to submit to the patriarch. In my humble opinion, either we are partners across the gap, or we are going to gaze across that chasm, in bewilderment.

No girl should grow up thinking that it’s her duty to apologize for speaking out, when her God-given mind and heart tell her that it’s her right. That goes double for grown women, not to mention men.

Let us all speak our truth, as lovingly as possible-but not retreating into demurral.

Filling The Cup


January 21, 2022- Everyone who seeks prolonged sustenance from the hands of other people is likely viewing life through a most simplistic lens.

Anyone older than ten has encountered at least one person whose demeanour is one of want and request. Most such people offer tokens to to others, in repayment, yet that reciprocation is quickly followed by even more requests-often higher in quantity and frequency.

Nothing arises from a vacuum. People who are constantly begging for money have either been individually deprived, and not really taught the skills needed for sustainability and self-reliance-or have grown up in a country that has been systematically robbed of its wealth, by other countries or by an elite within its boundaries, which has not seen fit to share.

I have been approached, a fair number of times, over the years, by those who have been debilitated by both sets of circumstances. My response has evolved into the slower, but ultimately more fruitful path of steering the seeker after alms to sources that can help build their self-reliance.

This was the path on which I myself was set, after a mercifully brief spate of flailing about and blaming others for my, and my family’s plight-in the mid-2000s. Now, even in the current period of setback and loss, it is clear to me what path must be followed-and what skills are needed to see the period through and to recover.

There is no call for anyone to accept a permanent state of the empty cup.