Things I’ve Learned

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December 31, 2022– As another Gregorian calendar year heads to the history books and memory n, what is most important, for an individual, are the lessons brought forward over the twelve months now past.

So, here are twelve things I’ve learned, some cogent, others banal-but all useful.

January- The border between the United States and Mexico is neither as chaotic as politicians away the border claim it is nor as smoothly functioning as it might be. I saw many content, focused people at the station in Douglas, AZ and no evidence of hordes of people sneaking through, at Coronado National Monument, a rural station, south of Sierra Vista.

February- Human beings, regardless of how they come to identify themselves, deserve the respect of those around them-and a keen listening ear. Losing someone who has not been completely understood by some of those around her was both unsettling and cautionary. Rest in Peace, Salem Hand.

March- Most of Man’s inhumanity to Man stems from insecurity. Andersonville showed the historical proof of that, both through its physical remnants and through the exhibits on Prisoners-of-War, both within this country and around the world. A more benign case occurred, in Miami Beach, stemming from a middle-aged man, having designs upon much younger women and threatening violence when I cautioned them about one aspect of his proposal.

April- There is no foolproof means of transport. Taking a train, when the route is secure, is a marvelous way to both see the countryside and to make good friends. The system is not without flaws, though, and a fire at a remote bridge resulted in my taking a Greyhound bus, between San Antonio and Tucson.

May- It is never too late in life for people to connect. An odd proposition was made to me, by someone much younger-and was quickly, if politely, deferred. On the other hand, two people who had been alone for several years, found each other and had a lovely garden wedding, making for several years of a solid bond.

June- There are still places where even brief inattention to surroundings can lead to discomfort, even momentarily. I found one briefly “wet” situation, checking out the depth of a bog. Fortunately, it was an “oops” moment, and caused no difficulty to me or anyone else.

July- You can go home again, but family is often going to be swamped with schedules, plans made at the last minute by spouses and friends, or just the crush of dealing with one of the greatest of American holidays.

August- No matter how well a car is maintained, the aftermath of a chain-reaction accident can lead to a total loss being declared, even 1.5 months after it occurs. So it was, for the vehicle that took me across seemingly ridiculous distances, with nary a squeak. Another person’s health issues led to Saturn Vue’s demise.

September- Not all Baha’i school events need include a heavy dose of scholarly presentations. Just being with children and youth, in crafting, dancing and fellowship, is as much a tonic for the soul as any engagement with intellectuals.

October- New friends, made in the wake of a bureaucratic flub, and clear across the continent, to boot, are as fine a result of a mistake as I can imagine. Three Bears Inn will be a place where I could definitely stay for several days, especially en route to the great mountain parks of the northern Rockies. It is all the sweeter when followed by a visit with dearly beloved friends, themselves so much like family.

November- Speaking of family, it is never necessary for my biological family to expend energy on my entertainment. They do so anyway, but just reveling in their presence and celebrating their achievements, is the finest way to spend any time-especially a holiday.

December- As an Old Guard increasingly passes from the scene, among my cohort of veterans, younger people are arising, in service to those who served our nation. I am also re-learning the rewards of patience, with those around me, as we all face increasing uncertainty. They need me, as much as I need them. I also need to be patient with myself.

Resilience

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December 30, 2022- In contrast to Christmas, when everyone was either sick or swamped, two invitations to celebrate New Year’s came my way, yesterday. I took the first one and graciously declined the second-as a New Year’s Eve celebration tends to last for several hours-and I am not one who hops between places, if I can help it. Then, too, after the lengthy dinners, there is, for those who are up to it-the Boot Drop on Whiskey Row. Prescott does two such drops-10 p.m., coinciding with the Times Square Ball Drop (12 a.m. EST) and at Midnight, MST-when we join the 3/4 of the world that is already in New Year mode.

A trusted confidant pointed out some things about last week, and about expectations in general. As I knew deep down, even while processing my aloneness, people of goodwill are often busier than heck, some just feel more comfortable being friends online and others may feel that they are always on the hook to host gatherings-and where is everyone else? I host things, now and then, and am much better at paying my share than I was say, in the 2000s.

This week is one of resilience. I found an article on the Firefox main page, that points out the interplay of happiness and pleasure with sorrow and hard times. There are plenty of occasions of each, in the life of anyone who lives fully. Frequently, the greatest joys come from having successfully faced sorrow or hardship. I won’t say that the trials of the 1970s (largely self-induced) resulted directly in the better times of the 1980s and ’90s, but they at least showed me what not to do and how not to interact with people. I can say that the frequent misery of the 2000s contributed somewhat to my strengths and joys of the past twelve years. Life has been far from perfect, since 2012, and 2013 did see me relapse into a strange pattern of behaviour, but I got over all that. The blue periods are shorter, and of less intensity. It helps to recognize, and pray for, those who have it far worse- and actually reach out and help them when I can.

It is almost time to look back on the year (tomorrow’s post) and project ahead (Sunday). Suffice it to say, I look in each direction with a sense of reality and gratitude. I could not have guessed, in 2003 or even ten years ago, that the bounty in my life would be what it is now. That is testimony to the value of resilience.

Undiminished

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December 29, 2022- The couple walked two steps in front of me, as I was heading home, past the stately Hassayampa Inn, after meeting Akuura for an afternoon of conversation over latte and tea, at the newly-opened Century Lounge. The woman expressed to her mate, that she didn’t think she could walk much further, on the somewhat slippery sidewalk, to which he replied “You can do it, Baby. Come on, Baby!”

I don’t recall Penny and I having addressed each other in infantile terms, though terms of endearment came out of our mouths on a daily basis. She was straightforward about infantilization, so much so that our son, once he reached the age of three, would say: “I’m NOT a baby!”. Children emulate their mothers, or their primary caretakers of either sex, early on.

So, it seems that the term, “Baby”, applied equally by men and women alike, towards their mates, could be neutral. Yet, given the frequency that women, in the Industrial Age, or earlier, starting with the Manorial System, were treated in a subservient manner, the connotation of the word “Baby”, or even “Babe” (used to describe an attractive female, of any age) has been implied infancy. Of course, women who use that term towards their men are hardly emasculating them. It’s just that to me, and to many others, the best thing anyone can do in a relationship is to encourage a sense of equality, of supporting their mate’s following of her/his life plan and realization of dream (s).

It may well not be a matter of if, but when, I find myself in a relationship again. At that point in time, my choice of expressing endearment will reflect how I view the person who is walking beside, not behind, me. I never want to be one who diminishes another human being.

Still A Tenderfoot Scout

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December 28, 2022- When I was in Boy Scouts, from ages 10 to 12, I started out, as all did, a tenderfoot. Eventually, I made it up to First Class, with only a lingering fear of deep water keeping me from the mandatory Swimming and Lifesaving merit badges that would have advanced me to Star, Life and Eagle Scouts. To this day, I don’t swim well with my head above water, but can do about 2 laps underneath.

Shyness still makes itself known in friendships as well. There are people I consider friends, who I am a bit reticent about visiting, mainly because they are reticent about being visited, even though when I have seen them, they wax poetic about my loving nature or gentle energy. Of course, this is on them, but it does bring back old insecurities.

I count people as friends, who are from ages 2 1/2 to 91. Each has a connection that is indelible and each brings a particular quality to the table. Children and seniors bring an unfiltered wisdom. All those in between have character qualities that may not be unfiltered, but are worth encouraging. Some of these friends are only reachable online. Others could not be bothered with cyberspace. Some are quite well-known; others are people most could not tell apart from Adam or Eve. Some are people with whom I have had only a few encounters; others have been my friends since childhood. They run the gamut from students to retired executives; from the kids across the street to my financial advisor, who lives in Florida, and the couple who run a seaside bistro in Brittany.

Only a few people, who chose to dwell on my negative qualities, because that’s all they could see, have had to be cut loose. In every other case, my loyalty remains firm-even if a friend comes up with excuses, every time I ask to visit with them, or is surrounded by “protectors”, who make it clear I am not welcome there. I am still something of a shy tenderfoot, yet feel much blessed in the friend department, as has been said several times.

Lesson Nine

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December 27, 2022- Seemingly everywhere, and handling five tasks at once-one for each finger of her hand-so to speak, the head barista caught me signaling out of the corner of her eye, saw the half- sandwich on my plate and went in the back for a take-out box. She then swept back into the ellipse, and put the box down in front of me, while directing her attention to the couple next to me, who were initially enjoying expensive drinks, but had decided they wanted what I had to eat. ‘E’ had been at work since 11 a.m. and it was now 6:30. Her boss, the restaurant manager, and her assistant barista, a slightly younger woman, were doing the best they could to keep up-but ‘E’ is a force of nature. Petite, brainy, proactive, highly energetic and absolutely gorgeous, she can name her ticket-and I would venture that by time she is 25, she will be her own boss.

”E’ is, inadvertently, one of my life teachers. The lesson she has imparted, seared into my consciousness, is to reiterate that a strong woman, a strong human, needs no initial help from anyone, in reaching for the stars. The ladder is something she will devise herself, as is the team she is building and will continue to build. I have seen, and known, several people like her, over the years. Some have imploded, due to a latent inflexibility in the face of misfortune. Others have gone on and hit the heights. Time will tell into which category ‘E’ falls-but she is both gregarious and stone-faced practical, by turns. I sense she will face whatever comes along, with aplomb.

This is the ninth life lesson, along with several sub-lessons, that living on Earth has brought. The others:

  1. I am part of a family and cannot exist just for myself.
  2. Deciding to just up and walk away from home has its consequences.
  3. It is one thing to have an unusual personality and quite another to use it as an excuse.
  4. Self-loathing is a false modus vivendi. God created no junk.
  5. All the crap I absorbed in my community about People of Colour, and about women, is just that-BS.
  6. No matter how bad a situation is, walking through it will lead to greater strength and a place of peace.
  7. Every person on Earth has a place of truth in the heart. If someone hides their truth, it is on them.
  8. There is but one race: The human race.
  9. Every person on the planet, regardless of age, is capable of wondrous things-even singly and alone.

So often, just watching how people handle their lives is an object lesson in how I might deal with challenges in mine. I am grateful for all the people who have imparted life lessons.

Not Boxed In

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December 26, 2022- Someone who is well-known is being trolled by people, or bots, who tell readers, in the person’s name, how well loved they are. This ruse will run its course, in a day or two, at least on my end. The actual person is also an online friend, and is well aware of the dodge. I expect the family’s lawyers will play the game of whack-a-mole with the trolls, for a while, until the miscreants tire of the game-or until those few of us who are drawing them out just click the “unfollow” button. The latter will happen sooner-most likely tomorrow morning. We are not fooled or trapped.

Earlier today, I visited with some friends, a few miles away and had a brief conversation about male/female friendships, with some reference to a post I wrote last week. I am well aware, to say the least, of how many-especially in American society, view attention paid by a man my age to any woman who is ten or more years younger than he. I am also not one who harbours any harmful, or uncouth, intent. My concern, with both women and men, is to support their personal life plans. It wasn’t always consistently that way, but it is now. Further, I will not hide under a rock. Avoiding people, because of someone else’s stereotypes, is not going to happen. So, essentially, I deal pleasantly and respectfully with others, regardless of any external factors.

2023 is being described by some as a year in which each person more directly pursues personal growth, also regardless of anyone else’s agenda. This gives me some idea of what I should pursue, in the next twelve months, but more on that next week. For now, I am finishing up a few loose ends at Home Base and hereabouts. It is clear to me, though, that I am not boxed in-on this Boxing Day.

As We Go

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December 25, 2022- It’s quiet, this morning, as it often is around here, on any given Sunday. Occasional cars go by, but most people in the neighbourhood are either busy with their worship services or are opening and enjoying their gifts from each other.

My gifts are more of the heart variety, this year. Just having family and friends is always a blessing, whether they are those who include me in everything, or are more selective in their invitations. All are appreciated and loved. It was an unexpected honour to help a former student’s family by transporting aod single gift to their home, yesterday. Being able to finally connect with an old friend who experienced horrific loss, earlier this year, was a bonus. On the way back, it was also a joy to find Sizzler Steakhouse open, get a good sirloin & shrimp combo, and be served by an angel of a young woman. There is a gold mine, in the ordinary.

I have no idea how this Christmas Day will pan out. Siblings are silent, probably busy with a dozen things. Friends nearby are struggling, and need space. After a devotional, later this morning, the whole of Prescott’s outdoors is waiting, along with a likely visit to Prescott Resort’s always scintillating Holiday Display. As with any organic day, I suspect it will turn out magically.

So, no matter where you find yourselves, on this special day, look to the angels in your midst, and to the better angels of your nature, and know that things will turn out for the best, even if they take lots of time.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

No Reindeer on This Ride

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December 24, 2022- The father took his teenage daughters to pick out a Christmas tree for their home. He was used to going alone, and picking out a huge spruce, that only fit inside the house after a struggle and some sawing off of limbs. Not this time: The girls saw a scrawny, mini-tree, no more than three feet tall. They fell in love with it, and wanted to take it home and care for it-“Looks so lonely, Daddy!”. Yes, the result was a foregone conclusion, and the tree is said to be sitting in the family’s front room, decorated by Dad and his eldest angel.

With this story under my belt, I headed off to deliver a gift which had inadvertently been mailed to me, by a rehabilitation worker who was confused by a patient sending “too many gifts to too many places.” Spoiler alert: There were four gifts going to two places. No reindeer were over-exercised on this delivery. It was me and my Sportage doing the honours.

After a stop in Flagstaff, to pick up a small gift for a family in the same area, who have been suffering a most untimely loss, I headed to Hopiland. Going to delivery stop # 1, I got Reservation-style directions from a woman who barely knew the recipients, and, combining her comments with the description I got from the sender, I was able to deliver the gift easily, and get the t-shirt that was intended for me and had been mailed to the other party.

The other small gift was then brought to the matriarch of the grieving family, and after a brief offer of condolences, I headed back off the Hopi Reservation, a place that has never stopped feeling like home. “Visiting” Hopi families, during periods of mourning or when the people are preparing for a holiday, is a necessarily brief occasion-unless one is of blood family. Then again, the same has been true of late, with other friends- visits pertain to the matter at hand, and vague promises of “getting together again soon” precede the farewell.

Holidays just are not easy for many.

The Ridge

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December 23, 2022-

Ocotillo cactus, late blooming and in autumn fade, Ridge Trail, Sedona

Akuura, my Hiking Buddy, and I chose the Ridge Trail as a pre-Christmas route, following a wide loop path, which ended being close to three miles-a fairly easy but vigorous workout. The Ridge in question would have taken us another forty minutes to get to the top-and thus remains a goal for future efforts.

As it was, we got at least one fine view of the great formations to the east and north.

View of Sugarloaf Mountain and Brins Mesa, from first ridge, Ridge Trail, Sedona
Sugarloaf is in the background.
The remnants of last week’s cold snap remain along the washes which drain Carroll Canyon, along which the Ridge Trail runs. Every ice formation tells its own story.
Some juniper trees tell of hard times.

After our loop, Airport Mesa called-with its Mesa Grill providing a fine repast, as always, and the views from the Mesa top offering a different sort of dessert.

Thunder Mountain and Sugarloaf, from Airport Mesa
Sugarloaf and Brins Mesa, from Airport Mesa viewpoint

Ridges, loop trails and sweeping viewpoints also happen in other aspects of life. The afternoon came and went, with no word on the work situation for next semester. Since I have a Plan B, there is not a whole lot of upset on this end. The main thing is that the students get the best possible teacher, given the circumstances.

More immediately, tomorrow will find me on a relatively brief visit to Hopi, to deliver a gift from a hospitalized former student to his wife. The spirit of Christmas will allow for no less.

Surviving The Crush

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December 22, 2022- On the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Oglala Sioux Reservations, in west central South Dakota, people are faced with piles of snow, thirty inches deep in some places, made even more impassible by the deep freeze that has followed Winter Storm Diaz, and has impacted an area from central Alberta to Orlando, Florida. There are people stranded, far from home, along the Missouri River, in both Dakotas and into Nebraska and Iowa. Drones are dropping infant formula and other necessities, as best they can, in rural areas where other transport is presently impossible.

I will be sending some money to help, through whatever avenue that will help the people of the worst-affected region, who are nearly destitute in the best of times. I have been to Pine Ridge, Wanblee, Martin and Rosebud. I have seen suffering and seen the joy that shines in the eyes of the people, when their humanity is acknowledged by those with no agenda. The warrior spirit of the First Nations people, like that of the people of Ukraine, will carry them through this, and the assistance of those fortunate enough to live in an area not as affected by the crushing cold and snow is more than warranted. Thankfully, also, there is an outreach by the State of South Dakota to the Tribal lands. This is an earnest recognition that there is no longer any daylight between the two entities. The Governor is a rancher, whose family has seen this type of horror before, albeit not to this degree. She has had her differences with the tribes, in the past, but weather has erased ideology as a basis for deciding who gets what.

Leave it to calamity to show humans that banding together is the only way any of us can survive.