Casting the Burden of a Friend


April 30, 2023- The “cruelest month” ended as it began, with the main concern being helping a desperate family accomplish a move. Good-hearted and well-connected people are making sure that the family of four has a roof over their heads, within the first few days of this week. Today, though, a group of us gathered and moved a considerable amount of furniture to temporary storage, and a sizable amount of debris and detritus to the dumpsters of their former apartment complex.

People in this country, around this planet, have found themselves isolated and disparaged, too often, for making requests that are reasonable from my perspective, but are rejected because they are inconvenient to the powers that be. I experienced such a challenge in 2003, when local apartment management in Phoenix dismissed our mold issues. I called the complex’s owner, in San Diego, and got immediate results-the mold was mitigated by the LLC’s repair crew, who came from San Diego, the day after my call. Other friends of the family, who know the ropes here, are poised and ready to make the same sort of response, on their behalf.

There were other good things that happened, as a result of the move. A barely used guitar case, which can hold up to six instruments, made its way to my young friends who performed last night, and were at it again this afternoon, playing as their other stage personae-Juniper Djinn, a classical jazz and Eastern European folk music format. I was an extra pair of eyes and ears, reminding a couple of people of oversights that might have landed them in trouble. I got to know a man who has seen the same sorts of problems I have encountered in life, only doubly and more intense. I got three chairs-two for the front patio area and another for the living room.

The month ended, better than it began, which is how life ought to be.

Their Melodious Voices


April 29, 2023- The five visitors from Tucson elevated our already high-level celebration of the Ninth Day of the Ridvan Festival, commemorating the day when Baha’u’llah proclaimed His Mission to His family and closest followers, whilst in the Ridvan Garden just north of Baghdad. This was on April 29, 1863. The family led us in two spiritual rounds, then were among the first to offer assistance, when a community member sent a texted appeal after her child was injured in an accident. Their presence alone was a confirmation of the Divine.

This was the first of two amazing musical events, the second being two hours and forty minutes of celestial bliss, courtesy of The Barn Swallows Band (so called, as to distinguish this ensemble of three woman and a man from the all-male group, The Barn Swallows.) The three-part harmony of the women, backed by their male bassist, has not failed to keep me, and their other two dozen or so followers, enthralled, in three appearances at Raven Cafe. They work as hard as I’ve seen any musicians work-taking turns in the lead, with their bandmates joining in vocally or instrumentally, in each and every song. Here, Aurelia sings lead, with Jessica backing vocally and May on banjo. Still have not caught the name of their silent bass player, whose melodies are nonetheless central to the effect of their harmonious vocals and instrumentation.

These ladies are among a multitude of young women who I would gladly claim as daughters, or nieces. (It seems, as the years go by, that Aram, Yunhee and my nieces and nephews are gaining more siblings by the minute-and that is just how my heart functions.) Their work ethic and compassion for others are what draw us in.

A local musician, Jonathan Best, aka Angiolus, led some intrepid dancers to the makeshift floor, after a brief negotiation with Raven’s management. It worked well. I was not, for once, among the dancers-these were ballroom quality steppers. It was from a cozy spot, just in front of the dance floor and stage, that three hours of reverie ensued. I could listen to these folks for more hours on end. They will be on a national tour, after the launch of their first album, on May 13. The schedule is posted on The Barn Swallows Band Facebook page. If they are in your area, I highly recommend a listen.

This special day has always produced something of great value.

A Healing Place In Home Base


April 28, 2023- The images have faded, over the last eight hundred or so years, but their messages still find their way into the psyches of the attentive and intuitive. A ring of seven petroglyphs summons the spiritual energy of those who drew them, and of their descendants who have also gone on.

Hikindg Buddy, Akuura, and I sat atop Solstice Mesa, from which one may see all of the area’s mountains, hills and buttes. Having long wanted to find a space where I might honour the solstices and equinoxes, and of finding at least one kindred soul to join, who was not lost in judgment of me-as people in Sedona and Paulden have become, the Universe arranged both. Here are a few scenes of Prescott Lakes, where the mesa is located.

Panorama Trailhead, Vista Park
Volcanic outcropping, Vista Hill
Petroglyph Point, Solstice Mesa
Message from our ancestors.
Set of ancient messages
Wheel in motion
Angel, or birdman?

We sat and talked for quite a bit longer, at this spot. It was just a much more assuring vibe-reminiscent of Airport Mesa, in Sedona, but without the crowds and the hubris of some of the locals. I guess the most important element is that Solstice Mesa is the long-sought center, in Prescott’s wheel- with Mingus Mountain (east), Wolverton Mountain (south), Thumb Butte (west) and Granite Mountain (north) as its spokes.

Upticks and Resets


April 27, 2023- After leaving my car, for an oil & lube, I walked off towards our Gateway Mall, seeking breakfast. Usually, the walk takes me over to the east side of the mall, which takes about twenty minutes. Something told me that I would not have that long, this morning, so it was time to revisit Panera Bread, which I had not patronized for nearly three years, after I found the place filthy. Today, though, it was again the Panera I love-and a hearty bowl of oatmeal accompanied my morning coffee. That gives me three choices for a mall breakfast, the others being Wildflower Bakery and Third Shot Coffee House.

Needless to say, the call came from the Service Department, that Sportage was ready, just as I had finished my meal. Everything was in order, and I got advice as to where I could take a recall notice for proper servicing-though it’s nothing urgent. No resets were needed on the car.

With little to concern me, the rest of the day, it was time to re-order weight reduction products, from Thrive by Level and Herbalife, so that I can finish what started on February 6. The two lines compliment each other and combining them is what helped shed a healthy number of pounds-and inches around the middle. It’s time to up my game-and that includes exercise, so two or three routines will be part of any Planet Fitness visit, as it is for so many others.

This evening, after having enjoyed the company of fellow Baha’is at Spiritual Feast, refreshments came-in the form of pie a la mode. It was my first such indulgence, since early February-with the discretion of valor recommending that I take what was offered-and workout once back at Home Base. So, I enjoyed a scoop of Breyer’s Vanilla and a not-too-sweet slice of apple pie-and here I am now, halfway through a set of abdominal exercises. Resetting is a constant, but there are far worse things to face.

Reconnecting, in any case, is most often a delight.

The Bandage


April 26, 2023- The dermatologist and his plastic surgeon partner pronounced the basal cell “tiny”, and took a short few minutes, for each of their actions in removing it and sewing the suture. The PA who bandaged the site was far more ostentatious, applying a long dressing, almost like the person who builds a wheelchair ramp at the entrance to a building. The bandage has to keep an area well to the sides of the wound free from dirt, and I am to keep it free from water, for about 48 hours.

These sorts of events are not as common in my life as they might have been, ten years ago. With three brands of sunscreen, each free of harmful chemicals, it is de rigueur to shelter the face, neck, ears and hands-and with the coming season of wearing shorts, the legs, before going out. I will once again purchase a full bush hat tomorrow-and this time be more careful not to leave it behind, in a room, the train or rental car.

Summer will introduce itself to us here, on Sunday, with 85 F the predicted high in Prescott, and Phoenix likely to see its first 100 F day of the year. I’ll not be shy about being outside, within the bounds of prudence, the rest of this year. May, alone, will find this one in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Reno, Carson City, and points north, at least as far as Vancouver Island. There are a lot of places closer to Home Base as well-with Yunhee and her mother stopping by for a visit, in the second week of next month, some Red Cross shelter inspections coming up next week and visits to the South Rim of Grand Canyon and Mt. Humphreys towards the end of the month, unless Disaster Responses intervene.

So, the bandage is doing its preparatory work, and will generate whatever comments it does, between now and tomorrow morning. I am greatly relieved to have such a team looking out for me.

An Original DREAMer


April 25, 2023- Back before the DREAM Act, before Mexicans desperate for a better life began arriving in this country en masse, there were Harold and Melvine Bellafanti, and their son, Harold, Jr., coming from Jamaica, and living quietly in an undocumented fashion. The Bellafantis only wanted to lift themselves up through hard work. Harold was a chef, and Melvine, a housekeeper. The three found housing where they could, with young Harry spending eight years with a grandmother in Kingston, where he attended the well-regarded Wolmer’s Preparatory Academy, before returning to New York for his high school study. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Then came his introduction to theater, where, with his friend Sidney Poitier, he would purchase a single ticket, trading off with Sidney so that each of them would watch an act, then trade off the seat, after filling in the other about what he’d seen and heard. He took acting classes with The New School, alongside a who’s who of up and coming actors, including Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis. Paying for those classes involved singing with Charlie Parker’s band; then, as a folk singer, on his own. His “Banana Boat Song” was one of the first tunes I remember hearing in the 1950s.

Harry became concerned with the conditions in which his fellow Blacks lived. Although a biracial person (both his parents were half-White), Harry Belafonte experienced his share of bigotry, yet refused to let that lead to shutting Whites out from the social dialogue. He became friends with Frank Sinatra, and through Ol’ Blue Eyes and other Rat Pack members, he came to know John F. Kennedy. Harry was an advisor to the Peace Corps, while also becoming close to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and increasingly involving himself in the Civil Rights movement.

Harry Belafonte never ceased his work in advancing social justice, while also continuously networking to bring political conservatives along in the process. One of his friends was the fiercely progressive Marlon Brando; another, the equally fierce conservative, Charlton Heston. Brando admired Harry’s feistiness and Heston, his work ethic. Harry’s only concern was social justice. In that vein, he left out no one, even befriending Fidel Castro, who he brought around to liking hip hop. He was reportedly not shy about admonishing Castro to let up on his more repressive policies, though how successful that effort was is open to question. He also furiously opposed both Islamism and the Bush Administration’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan-as well as many of the policies espoused by Bill and Hillary Clinton, the latter becoming his bitter enemy, due to his reaching out to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and opposing the invasion of Iraq.

Harry Belafonte was married to three different women, during the course of his life. His one true love, though, was justice. The polymath, patriot and artist Harold Bellafanti, Jr. deserves the gratitude of all, regardless of any differences one may have with his political sentiments. May he rest in power.

Casting the Burden, and Grasping It


April 24, 2023- The intrepid boy sang his way through five pages of three-digit addition problems, doing two pages, then taking time for his Specials class (Music, of course) and returning to work the rest of the lesson. He hit upon a method, which I’ve seen people use in “Swing Mode”-the approach to working through a given task by using rhythm and movement-that engaged his whole body in accomplishing a task that might otherwise have been seen as drudgery. Indeed, his regular teacher was amazed at the progress, initially crediting me with inspiring the child to work in this manner. In truth, I had nothing to do with it. Whatever unseen influence prompted his motivation, it was a godsend. There are many ways to cast a burden and the way that works best for an individual should be decided by him or her.

Conversely, another child has held onto his issues and setbacks, as if they are a perverse security blanket. This child accomplished little, despite an intellect that is outwardly superior to those of many of his classmates. There are, I am told, concerns with the apathy of his parents, which would certainly raise a red flag. None of us enjoys being ignored, especially by those whom we should expect to trust the most. Getting attention by clutching onto negativity is behind far too many of the issues that bedevil our communities. Then, too, there are all the intrapersonal dynamics that inhibit or dissuade the seemingly oblivious adults, in the life of a troubled child, from taking up their inherent responsibilities.

This was the last day of my assignment, and once again, I was thanked by the team for not charging in and rearranging the system according to my own predilections and whims. I do prefer to let established teams continue with what works, whether the group be a Red Cross operation, a Farmers Market activity or a well-oiled team of educational paraprofessionals. Treating people, of any age, as dignified beings who have a fair idea as to what they are doing, tends to have a good effect on their operation. The mentally ill or abused/neglected tend to need more structured support, and for a longer time than others, but it is still advantageous to note what they are doing successfully and build upon it.

Only by increasing the circle of security, can a person reasonably be led to cast a burden and free the self. That requires attention and discernment.

Chalk Art Revival


April 23, 2023- One of the most affirming acts that has followed the lifting of pandemic restrictions is the return, this weekend, of Chalk-It-Up, the chalk art festival that has accompanied Earth Day in Prescott, beginning in 2009. It was suspended during the height of COVID-19, from 2020-2022. One of many things that have returned this year, the art form seemed to have fewer entries than in the past, but those that were set to the asphalt “canvas” were heartfelt and, in many cases, reflected an offbeat artistry. As in years past, anime and manga characters were front and center, in the drawings. There were, though, a variety of other topics and styles.

“Best Buds” ,
Chalk-It-Up, 2023

“Lazy Panther”, Chalk-It-Up, 2023
“Hula Cheer”,Chalk-It-Up, 2023
“Horn,ed Lizard” Chalk-It-Up, 2023
“I Matter” Chalk-It-Up, 2023
” Back to Space”, Chalk-It-Up, 2023
“Puppy Power”, Chalk-It-Up, 2023

The chalk artists, ranging in age from 10-70, have always made my Earth Weekend that much more reassuring and joyful. Large festivals can be stressful, when my best efforts seem to fall flat, so the presence of colour is just a sign that all is well-as the moderator at this morning’s service of Center for Spiritual Living reminded those gathered for a presentation on Baha’i, by an old friend. He presented everything very well.

Even when I browbeat myself, it’s still true, “All is well”.

Many Jobs, Few Tasks


April 22, 2023- Earth Day called me to get up on a workday schedule, so by 5:30, I was groomed and dressed. There were four stops and a Zoom call waiting, so after reading the newspaper and saying a few prayers, it was off to Courthouse Square. There was not a whole lot to do at Stop # 1, an environmental group’s booth, between 8:15, when I finally found the booth, and 8:50, when it was time to race back for the Zoom call.

It seemed imperative that I join the call, since I had been absent for two weeks, due to my Red Cross deployment. The moderator of the call has had a hard time with my absence-service to the wider community is apparently not his thing, if it conflicts with his Zoom work. As it happened, he was absent today, but his trusted assistant was glad I was on the call-and has no issue with someone being away due to working with the Red Cross.

After the call ended, I stopped in, briefly, at an American Legion Auxiliary rummage sale-picking up an extra pair of sunglasses(to replace the pair that was lost during my sheltering activity) and a cake to bring to my substituting assignment on Monday. Then, it was off to Farmers’ Market, getting a week’s supply of microgreens and catching up with friend Melissa.

Job #3 was back at the Firewise section of Courthouse Square’s Earth Day, and I got to the Red Cross booth four minutes late, which led to a mild chastisement from the woman tending the booth and groans from the man who had been there since 7 a.m. Water off this duck’s back! I give a lot of myself and no longer fret about people who are overly sensitive at slight lapses of punctuality.

After an hour, in which I greeted seven visitors and explained a bit about our mission, it was back to Farmers’ Market-this time to help a group of college students break down the tents, and put away the folding tables and chairs. With an increased efficiency, on the part of the new team lead, we were finished in less than an hour.

Job #5 was back at the Red Cross booth. This time, I was early, and the tent was folded up and put away a bit after 2 p.m.

There were big crowds at both Courthouse Square and Farmers’ Market, as people are finally comfortable with being at our community’s traditional events. Chalk-It-Up is back, after a three-year hiatus! More on that delightful artistic festival, in tomorrow’s post.

It was a fine day, and not as strenuous as it might have been, had there not been full teams at each location. Topping the day were two relaxing musical events: The Bourbon Knights performed ’60s Golden Oldies and some original tunes, at Rafter Eleven, while friend Stephy Leigh, accompanied by Jonah Howard, of Cross-Eyed Possum, performed two sets of her original music, with a few covers thrown in, at Raven Cafe.

Being back at Home Base has its rewards, great music being chief among them.

Growing In The Retro


April 21, 2023- The kids were disappointed that the lady who graced the room with her presence, in every sense of the word, yesterday, was not able to join us today. There was a frenetic energy, as the crew tried an exercise that had only been used once before. We more or less made it work, with only one minor hiccup between a therapist and one of the students. I let the child know that disrespecting adults, as well as classmates, was not an option.

The rest of the day was several of us working over old ground-and welcome to the Mercury retrograde! It long ago stopped being an excuse for me to not work on myself. Shedding old barriers to growth was a seasonal exercise, for decades on end, but I kept trying. Nowadays, it seems to finally be taking hold. The physical manifestation of this has been my weight inching downwards, to 176 lbs, with a visceral fat index of 12-down from 25, eight weeks ago. A child whose eye level is at my abdomen still sees a baby bump, but that, too, will fade, with continued effort.

The sole remaining psycho-emotional task that needs work is my perception that people of intellectual bent, in a group in which I am taking part, are continuously discounting my input. There is a way out of that trap, and that is to remember that once I make a comment or suggestion, it is no longer mine. It belongs to the group. The same, actually, is true of the cerebral person’s rejoinder or glib dismissal. Sooner or later, the group as a whole will sift through, and be able to discern the truth of a matter, from among all the comments.

Still and all, it is most reassuring that so much personal growth is happening, along with the reassurance from others that used to be spotty at best. I am beginning to see that my own lack of self-confidence was like a kick-me sign, all these years. Now, in late middle age, that dearth is fading.