Division Street, and The Bonsai That Unite

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May 16, 2022, San Clemente- The drunken man, professing White Supremacy, yelled at me to “Get lost”, as I walked along El Camino Real, in this Orange County beach town. I guess the t-shirt I’m wearing, with its Baha’i logo, set him off. I kept walking and he drove off.
Baha’u’llah does state that “Man is the supreme Talisman. Lack of a proper education, however, hath deprived him of that which he doth inherently possess.”- Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 259. Nowhere, of course, does He limit this bounty to any particular group of people.

Last night, at FOUND Hotel, in San Diego’s Little Italy, there were a few folks who were acting mighty lost, while saying they wished others-particularly the homeless who wanted to be let in, would get lost. No hostel, or residential hotel, is equipped to handle random homeless people wandering in off the streets. There has been progress made in sheltering, in many cities, but the task is looking Sisyphean. The number of units and condominia, catering to the uberwealthy are increasing at a rate outpacing those that provide for people in lower income brackets. Those who are experiencing homelessness, particularly in communities where housing costs are exorbitant-almost to an unconscionable level, are also finding their numbers increasing. Division Street, the nominal and actual social divider, of which Studs Terkel wrote in 1967, has become a metaphor for the country as a whole. Some hard decisions, regarding the accumulation of wealth, at the expense of a great many people, will need to be made in the not-too-distant future. Everyone will need to be at the table for this one.

I needed to change the channel in my head, after seeing so many people encamped in downtown San Diego, along Pacific Coast Highway and near Mission Beach. Revisiting Balboa Park’s Japanese Friendship Garden set the right tone. My focus was on the collection of bonsai, now at 18 and looking in on the koi, who were small when I was last there, in 2015.

Here are a few scenes from the Garden. The koi in the pond nearest the entrance have tripled in size, these past seven years.

Three types of bonsai: Pine, flowering and unflowered leafy are on display, in the Garden’s Bonsai Center.

My rejuvenation complete, it was an easy trip northward to Orange County, stopping briefly to complete some business at San Diego Baha’i Center, taking a detour to La Jolla’s sandy beach and another to La Cristianita Historic Site, in Camp Pendleton, which commemorates the first baptism in Alta California.

Tonight, I am comfortably at House of Trestles Hostel, amongst surfers and other lovers of the ocean. Here, everyone feels at home, even the dachshund-chihuahua mix.

The First Nation and the People of the Future

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May 15, 2022, San Diego- Today saw two focuses: First was a pair of meetings-one on the Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah, brief, but profound thoughts on spirituality and morality, which He intended to serve as instructions to those who were undertaking independent investigation of truth; the second, in mid-afternoon, was a presentation of two children’s books, each written about a powerful Black woman.

The people of the future will, perhaps after a fair amount of suffering and changes in society, recognize both intellectually AND emotionally, that mankind is one human race. That today’s presentation comes a day after a deluded young man drove two hundred miles, specifically to kill Black people (of whom eight were killed, along with two Whites, and three seriously wounded.), is no real coincidence. There is no real future for the philosophy of racial supremacy. The unity of the human race means that there will be no replacement of one group by another. Nor will there be a return to the oppression of one group by another.

After resting for a while, upon the conclusion of the second meeting, I made a return visit to Old Town San Diego. My focus this time was on the recognition of the area’s First Nation: Kumeyaay, formerly known as “Diegueno” and on the art of the Mexican people, prior to California’s passing into U. S. control. Here are some scenes of this visit.

The above scene honours the Pico Family, one of the San Diego area’s more prominent Mexican families of the early Nineteenth Century.

Below are two Mexican ollas, or water jugs, each with its own colours and designs.

I needed a change of pace for dinner, after enjoying a visit with friends at Harbor Breakfast, this morning and planning to return there again tomorrow. There was no better place than Cafe Gratitude, a vegan establishment, which titles its offerings with affirmations. Here is a description on the eatery’s window.

It was a most wondrous day, starting with the bright faces of Melissa and Maria, at Harbor, continuing at San Diego Baha’i Center (the site of Penny’s and my wedding, nearly forty years ago), continuing with the delightful stories of achievement this afternoon, the vibrance of Old Town and the healthy fare of Cafe Gratitude.

Round and Round I Went

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May 14, 2022,San Diego- It took 45 minutes to locate FOUND Hotel. The address is 505 West Grape Street, which is easy enough for those who recognize that the east-west surface streets in Little Italy are often bisected by Interstate 5, and its entrance/exit ramps, which feed large volumes of traffic onto Grape and Hawthorne Streets in particular. Add to that, the train and trolley tracks, with which I am at least a bit familiar, and locating a small hostel becomes an adventure in perseverance.

The other “fun” part was that Google Maps has the old phone number for FOUND, which loops ad nauseam and does nothing to connect. Hostelworld has the new number, which I called, and connected with Gabrielle, the office manager, instantly. Thus, 45 minutes did not turn into an hour. I am set for the next two days.

The day’s drive from Blythe to San Diego featured three traffic-tying accidents along California Highway 15, between Murrieta and Mira Mesa. Once past those, my air conditioner stopped complaining and worked just fine. (In traffic tie-ups, I have learned to turn off the A/C and open the windows, which works just fine in anything less than the blast furnace of a Sonoran Desert summer.) A return to an old favourite, Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in Banning, brought a fine Frisco Burger and Cole slaw. I also enjoyed pleasantries with Donna and Karen, who have greeted me at the counter, on various visits over the past eleven years. Donna is “Gramma”, running the establishment with her husband, who stays mostly in the office.

Going up and over the hill through Hemet and Menifee, then inching along, through the above-mentioned accidents, I still got to the hostel before 5. This evening, after grabbing a couple of slices at Mr. Moto Pizza, and a few words of greeting to two of my hostel mates, it was time for a visit to the Harbor. Here are scenes of sunset, in “America’s Favorite City”.

I walked back up to Little Italy, on the way back to FOUND Hotel, and came upon a lively crowd, enjoying the presentations of a DJ. Here is the fountain, around which little girls ran and shrieked with delight and different young people tried their hands-and feet, at somersaults.

Harbourside and Downtown were walls of sound this evening, thanks to the mid-Spring music fest. I am destined, it seems to happen upon such revelry, no matter where I go. Yes, life has its moments, but it’s generally sweet.

Luck

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May 13, 2022, Blythe- This morning, I joined a Baha’i study circle which is concerned with the thirteenth book, in a series published by Ruhi Insititute, a social-centric academy in Colombia. Since 1985, R.I. has published study books, in text and workbook form, focusing on topics from “The Life of the Spirit” to “Marriage and the Family”. This particular session, in which I am now involved, is studying the Baha’i approach to Social Action. As it happens, we began with Section 13 of this Book 13 ( Unit 1), on Friday the Thirteenth.

I will have more to say about the Baha’i approach to Social Action later. Suffice it to say, we take all points of view into account, distilling the most useful of ideas into programs that benefit everyone.

Cosmic advisor Elizabeth Peru notes that today is the only Friday the 13th of this calendar year. Some will breathe a sigh of relief, as a common superstition in medieval Europe, that 13 is an unlucky number, has carried over into contemporary life. There is still no 13th floor, in many public buildings. Friday the Thirteenth is often the stuff of anxiety, and even has its own horror movie series.

My day was quite one of good fortune. Besides the rich and informative study circle, a package I was expecting arrived right at Noon; packing for a brief trip to southern California took less time than expected; the smooth drive itself showed good gas mileage and I settled into a remodeled Relax Inn, my go-to stop in this desert town, on the Arizona border. My needs are fairly simple, and truth be known, Friday the 13th has never been unlucky, in my experience.

It’s a tough world, I know, and my work will continue, to ease as much pain as possible, for those who suffer. Removing superstitions from our lives is one way to help.

Stay With the Energy

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May 12, 2022- Today was likely my last full day assignment for the 2021-22 Academic Year. A couple of half-days remain, the week after next, but with the year winding down, my focus shifts to Faith-based conferences, focusing on such themes as Building Vibrant Communities and Fostering Social Transformation; to making a commitment to cleaning out the remaining clutter in Home Base; to making my customary visits with friends and family and branching out to new areas.

The energy, which has been quite erratic, this Spring, is evening out just a bit. Though there are challenges each day, I feel more confident in meeting them, “in the moment”. Working with emotionally disabled special needs children can often feel like walking up a funicular, whilst carrying a sack of rocks, but it is one of those necessities in our society- at least as long as we struggle with the imperfect science of integrating the mentally ill into this mix.

Communication, never easy, is also subject to constant revision and repetition, as needs, moods and other conditions change, seemingly with the wind. Patience, forbearance and fortitude are certainly life-saving virtues! Still and all, this is a good life.

Necessity Speaks

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May 11, 2022- Necessity came to call. She asked, “When will you devote some time to deep cleaning?” I answered, “Why, towards the end of next week.”

She then asked, “And what about the clutter?” I pondered a bit, and determined, “The kitchen will be first, then the bedroom and closet, then the storage-as there is a three-week period between now and mid-June.”

Finally, she asked, “About mid-June: What are your plans, if the Universe determines you should stay put?” I answered, simply: “Stay put.”

Necessity is a kind steward, as well as being the Mother of Invention.

Viability

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May 10, 2022- My teeth are far more viable than they were when I resumed regular dental care, eleven years ago. Too much information, perhaps, but I mention today’s good report as a way of looking at viability-in its purest sense, the state of working with a natural system to strengthen it and provide mutual benefit to all stakeholders-both human and other life forms.

Viability is said to differ from sustainability, in that some view the latter as a process that comes with built-in limits. I see sustainability as a step on the road to viability. For example, an area of land is set aside as a nature preserve, with a small local herd of cattle “grandfathered in” as participants in the preserve’s activities. This is an act of sustainability. The gradual phasing out of grazing, and the preserve’s natural ecosystem adapting to it, represents an arrival at viability.

There are bound to be setbacks, along the road to this condition of stasis, which is why a mindset of sustainability is needed, at several points along the way. Simply put, as is often said, it is the journey that matters, as much if not more than, the destination.

Transitions

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May 9, 2022- The child kicked and screamed, at the moment that transport from school to home arrived. He had to be restrained, and carried bodily to the vehicle, all the while saying that school was his home now. The vehicle left, with him and his older sister in it, after the ten minute transition.

This raised more than a few red flags in my mind. Why would anyone, even a special needs child, so resist going home? There was one other occasion when a student refused to get on the bus, but that one looked at us, mischievously, and said “As long as I stay off the bus, YOU guys can’t leave, either!” His aunt came and got him, so it meant an extra thirty minutes of time on campus. This felt different, and will bear monitoring, when I go back there, later this week.

People tend to resist change, quite often. I have to wonder, though. What is so great about a particular situation, way of thinking or practice that ALL other possibilities are treated as “off the table”? I do have an understanding of inertia. To some extent, getting up in the morning requires a fair amount of resolve-especially during the months when it’s dark still, well into the morning. The understanding, that it’s not really good for my health to stay in bed too long, has helped-as well as the fact that I am in a warm home, and fairly comfortable.

Bigger changes, though, still have that aura of adventure, so I guess I am a bit of an outlier, in both enjoying routine activities while they run and being glad for even the most seismic of twists and turns as they happen. Maybe it’s a matter of seeing both as the means to personal growth.

Maternal

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May 8, 2022- The answering machine greeted me, both times, yesterday. There was thus no direct conversation between us-and I can hear a couple of people in my life saying: “Why only twice? Why didn’t you keep trying?” They don’t know my Mom. She was either out with family or friends, or was asleep from having been out with family and friends.

Keeping up appearances has never been her style. She honours each of us, three sons and a daughter, as grown men and woman, yet there is always the sense that we are still her babies. She has always greeted me, on my actual visits, or when we do connect by phone, as if I just came back from an errand around the corner. That’s because there is no separation in spirit.

Mom has been ever present, throughout the lives of each of us, and of our children-and my siblings’ grandchildren. I hold out hope that she will live to see my own grandchild(ren)-all in due time. There certainly has been no more powerful force in any of our lives than that of her love. The greatest proof of this was the love and energy she poured into the well-being of my late youngest brother. At no time did she, or my father, forsake that beleaguered soul, and he taught each of us how to love, in return.

When I next see Mom, in late June or early July, I have a sense that she will have a few stories to tell about this Mother’s Day. May it be so, for a few years yet.

Quartz and Titanium

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May 7, 2022- The small peak was still 1.5 miles away, when we first saw it glistening, on this breezy late morning. I had been here, three times before, but this was my Hiking Buddy’s first such visit. Quartz Mountain is unique in this area, and is one of the off-track places I enjoy showing visitors and fairly new residents. It is a moderately difficult hike, though, up and down three ridges of the intervening Wolverton Mountain (not the place made famous by Claude King). There is then a spur trail, that winds around to the west and southwest. Then, we were close to this:

Discretion is always the better part of valour, though, and we headed back, for the sake of HB’s well-being. As I said, Wolverton’s ridges are butt kickers.

The evening was a different sort of affair. A Galactogogues concert starts slowly and lets the energy build, until just when it seems it’s time to call it a night, the foot stomping and staccato hand clapping burns away any fatigue.

Meg Bohrman has been part of the Prescott music scene, as long as I’ve been here. Her family band, Galactogogues, takes its name from the items which help a nursing mother to best feed her child. Meg and family are all about nurturing the community, so the name is perfectly apropos.

The songs and the singers were fierce-unafraid to call out aggressors, both domestic and foreign-misogynists, racists and those who seek to dominate other countries. They included rousing Ukrainian folk dance tunes, for good measure, around a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War”. There was also a pensive offering that looked back on the life of an uncle of Meg’s daughter-in-law, Abi, who is the band’s co-lead vocalist and songs that celebrate life in a nurturing community.

Thus was the day spent surrounded by quartz-and titanium.