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.
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 12, 2021, Santa Fe- The rough-hewn log cabin greeted several of us who pulled into Ghost Ranch around noon. It’s given name is City Slicker Cabin, though BYOB (Bring your own bedding) is the obvious message for those who take a look at its plank-floored emptiness. Needless to say, the present owners of the property take care to lock it, each night at 5 p,m,
The day had started wet and cold, as I enjoyed a homestyle breakfast at Cuban Cafe, across the road from Cuban Lodge, both owned by the same family, in Cuba, NM. Rain changed to snow as the road took me over Sierra Nacimiento, and to a brief stop at Abiquiu Lake, a reservoir built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1963. The earthen dam which secures the lake was raised in 1986.
Having made a reservation at Ghost Ranch, for a day pass, I was told rather apologetically by the attendant in the Welcome Center that I would not be able to eat in the Dining Hall. Since that was not one of my expectations, I thanked her and went into the theater, to watch a brief video about the property and its history. Imagine my surprise to see a treasured friend among those who was on a group hike, a few years back.
Ghost Ranch has attracted many of us, well-known and obscure, alike. Ansel Adams, Nelson Rockefeller, Del Webb and Robert Wood Johnson (the founder of Johnson & Johnson, and the second part-owner of the property) have all treasured its serenity and beauty. Perhaps most famous of all, however, were Max Roybal, the Santera (carver of wooden saint likenesses) of Ghost Ranch, and Georgia O’Keeffe. It was Ms. O’Keeffe’s association with Ghost Ranch that first prompted me to want to pay a visit. There is much about her simple artistic style and love for basic black and white backgrounds that has appealed to me, since my teen years. She had a passionate love of desert and mountain alike, regarding nearby Cerro Pedernal as “her” mountain. In many ways, Georgia was a daughter of Perdernal. She is also regarded as the “Mother of American Modernism”, relative to painting and sculpture. She lived on Ghost Ranch from 1934-1984, when frail health prompted a move to Santa Fe, where she passed on in 1986, at the age of 98.
With Ms. O’Keeffe’s long and cherished career in mind, I set about exploring the grounds of this fascinating property. Carol Stanley moved to the former Archuleta property, in 1930, recording the deed to it in her name, after divorcing her husband, Roy Pfaffle, who had won the property in a poker game. A frequent visitor, businessman Arthur Pack, bought the property from Ms. Stanley, in 1935. It was he who developed the land to its present rustic, but economically viable, state. Mr. Pack and his wife, Phoebe, being childless, sought a non-profit entity to purchase the land, after he became infirm. The Presbyterian Church was given Ghost Ranch by them, in 1955, and uses it as an educational and spiritual retreat. The property was damaged somewhat, by a flood in 2015, but has largely been restored.
Here are five scenes of Ghost Ranch.
I spent about thirty minutes walking the nearby Labyrinth. Being in a deep state of meditation after leaving the Labyrinth, I decided to not photograph it, this time, but looking at the Medicine Water Wheel, one can get a fair idea of the appearance of the maze.
There are two museums, south of the Welcome Center: The Anthropology and Paleontology Museums. During the height of the Covid Pandemic, these were the only museums in New Mexico to remain open! Even so, only four people at a time could visit each one. I spent another forty-five minutes between the two.
When it was time to say farewell, for now, to Ghost Ranch, I was bid adieu by these two sentries:
October 10. 2021, Gallup- Today is Double Tenth, the popular name for the National Day of Taiwan. The country is on watch, as it has been since 1949. Taiwan is staying vigilant, on game.
On a smaller scale, I, too, have to remain vigilant, on game-for a different reason. Life is getting more frenetic, I’ve noticed. More people are casting discernment to the wind, with me being one of them, for a split second too long, on September 23. The lesson was to not take eyes off my surroundings-in any situation.
After a morning that became whirlwind-a breakfast at Post 6, delayed a bit by human error (not mine), I hosted an online meeting-starting on time, but with seconds to spare. It all worked out, very nicely. A phone call to my mother, before all that, soothed any concerns I had about her well-being. She was more concerned that I was recovering from 9/23. I am, and just about completely.
Packing was fairly light, though I am ready for the vagaries of October-winter gear is mixed with near summer wear. I set out a bit after noon, noticing that there was a huge volume of traffic headed from Payson to the Phoenix area, for some reason going west to the Verde Valley, then south on I-17. I was headed in the opposite direction, but found it took seven minutes to be cleared for turning left so as to head north to Winslow.
There was no further delay in moving towards Gallup. I did stop for coffee, in the small Navajo Nation border town of Chambers, AZ. The restaurant attached to Days Inn was closed, but the convenience store had coffee. A well-meaning lady brought a stray dog into the store, pleading with the attendant to find a place for the scared puppy. Apparently, the finder was from Phoenix and had no way to care for the dog, which she said had been wandering around near the large semi-trailer trucks parked nearby. It being Sunday, and Chambers being a good hour from the animal shelter in Ganado, there wasn’t much the attendant could do, save put the dog outside and tend to her at shift’s end. Me? I am driving a rental car, have no pet carrier and would not be able to keep the animal at Home Base. I left a small group of people there to sort it out as best they could.
Once here, in western New Mexico’s regional commercial hub, I found no fewer than four motels closed for renovation. All can definitely use a world-class makeover, including the Lariat, where I stayed the last time I was here. El Capitan Motel is open for business and is definitely of recent renovation. The place is at least as good as a Motel 6, if not better. Who says Mom & Pop have nothing on the chains?
I am modifying my itinerary a bit, foregoing a drive into Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as the skinny on the roads into the park says there are very rough sections of the dirt roads, just before the park entrances, on either side. I am driving someone else’s vehicle and discernment precludes taking it on a rough route. I can drive a paved road, along the periphery of Chaco, which will suffice for now. Monday will thus be a day of familiarizing myself with the edges of the Bisti Badlands and the areas around the towns of Farmington, Bloomfield and Cuba.
My vigilance, in several instances of craziness, mostly pertaining to traffic, was much sharper today. I find that most reassuring.
October 8, 2021- This afternoon, as a foreshortened school day was in its final half hour, I greeted two classrooms of 10-11 year-olds, several of whom were full of piss and vinegar, and all too eager to push the limits with one whom they saw as a dotty old man.
I set them straight, in short order, by giving a young man, who was posing as ringleader, some gratuitous time out of the room. He came back about three minutes later, and proceeded to follow the directions for the activity.
My parents told us that no one is inherently better than anyone else. I was never favoured over any of my siblings, and vice versa. My youngest brother was cut more slack, because he had more special needs than the rest of us. He was though, generally speaking, held to the same core expectations. The same ethic was dominant in our neighbourhood, in the schools and, as I experienced it, in my Army basic training and Advanced Individual Training units.
My experiences with artificial pecking orders came with active duty at Fort Myer, and more so, in deployment to Long Binh and Cholon, VietNam. I was dubbed one of the lower caste members, owing to my autism-and found myself feeling more empathy with the Black, Latino and Pacific Islander members of our units. The mantra in my head remained the same-“None are better than the rest.” I had a select job, handling accountable mail, and I did it to the best of my ability. That didn’t make me above it all, and when the bulk mail truck pulled up, in Long Binh, the lock went on the AM cage and my hands were emptying that truck, along with everyone else’s.
In the years since I was honorably discharged, every situation has also had its pecking order. Sometimes, the elitism was codified: Students answered to professors and professors, to Deans; Teachers answered to Principals and principals, to superintendents and Governing Boards; Volunteers answered to paid staff and paid staff, to administrators.
In other situations, the waters were muddier. It was then that the human animal’s penchant for an alpha to lead rose to the fore. Ad hoc authority figures have inserted themselves into my life, or tried to, at several junctures. American expatriates in Korea, retired military (whites and blacks) on the Navajo Nation, and authoritarian personalities, without portfolio, in several of the schools in which I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, have presented themselves as plenipotentiaries. In each case, my response has been: “I am not at your beck and call.”
So, in advising, admonishing or instructing the rising generations, my mantra is that of Mom and Dad: Regard yourselves as good as the rest, neither above nor beneath.
We tend to love our redundant language, perhaps for fear that someone, somewhere, will feel left out, confused or disrespected. A man is, by definition, an adult male human being. Why, then, should he be identified as a non-pregnant person? A woman is, by definition, an adult female human being. Why, then, should she then be identified as a pregnant person? A person whose gender is re-assigned, and who is of legal adult age, takes on all the trials and adjustments that come with that transition. Why, then, should s(he) be still identified as born male or born female? On a more benign note, the passage of a year, since an event, is the first anniversary of that event. Anniversary is the passage of one year. Why, then, do we speak of “year anniversary”? Tuna fish, childlike child, erudite genius, clear logic: In the words of a then-five-year-old, spoken in 2011: “We understood the first time!” Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt , that we can get the meaning, without unnecessary repetition.
October 3, 2021- Every so often, a low rumbling emanates from the people I call the Truth Seekers. Some of these come from a place of deep spirituality; others, from a humanistic place of ethics. I have yet to see any Truth Seekers derive their findings from a place of pure self-interest. A crusader who veers off into partisan politics ends up tarnishing the platinum of the original cause.
Such a low rumbling was heard today. A group of journalists, reporting in the Washington Post, presented a summation of what they titled The Pandora Papers. Most of us are at least passingly familiar with the curious Pandora, of Greek mythology, who opened a chest and released all manner of demons and ills upon mankind. The present day Pandora, however, is releasing truth that was intended to remain under wraps.
It is all too easy for a human being to become beguiled by material wealth. The more money that is offered to many, especially those who have simultaneously amassed power and influence, the more is desired. This can happen to both individuals and to institutions. It is usually, in the end, the undoing of both.
Those who took the time and energy to open offshore financial accounts, and thus hide their fortunes from legitimate tax collectors, will now begin to see those efforts unraveling. By some estimates, there is enough hidden wealth in those offshore accounts to cover the costs of a slew of social reforms and improvements-worldwide. It goes without saying that this would do my heart good. Having gone through three years of pleas, from one whose needs could be met by a mere millionth of that hidden wealth, I say let the collection and redistribution begin.
Those whose fortunes are relatively modest-even multimillionaires, in many cases, but who pay their taxes and honour the needs of the less fortunate, should retain their well-earned gains. The others, many of whom are mentioned by name in The Pandora Papers, need to own up-and pay up.
September 30, 2021- Around 4 p.m., as I was multitasking, some water spilled on my computer table and found its way to the device. The laptop is now in Tech ER. Geek Doc, being a master of reality, gave me all the sympathy I deserved: None. He wants two days, with few guarantees.
Coming as it has,on the occasion of the anniversary of Penny’s birth, I can hear her voice: ” Well, I guess you know what not to do next time!” She and I knew when to comfort each other, when to get after one another and when to do a bit of both.
Now, we are each on parallel paths. Hers is pure spirit, and thus subject completely to divine will. Mine is yet paint-by-numbers. Still, anything I do that’s worthwhile is the result of careful contemplation. Anything I do that’s messed up is the result of not giving it due consideration.
I will be back behind the keyboard, soon, and yes, no more multitasking. I had been getting a lot better, in that respect. Change, though, is a process, the result of events, some seismic, some just blips.
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