Loving the Balance

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June 18, 2022, Kingston, ON- I found myself here, near the shore of Lake Ontario, an underrated gem of a Great Lake, which I will visit briefly tomorrow, before driving to Montreal. It was a choice: Visit Kingston and get some down time tonight or plow on to Ottawa, have maybe three hours max in the capital city and “enjoy” what would eventually feel like a hamster wheel.

There is always a short-term financial balance to keep, and I at least have that down. I spent some time in London, this morning and early afternoon, in both business and sending out positive energy. Changing currency is a chore for many. I consider it an act of respect for the host country, for as long as we humans need to have different currency in each nation-or region (Euro Zone).

Another “business” action is joining online Baha’i gatherings. If I can do this, even from a distant location, and while maintaining silence, as is necessary in a public space, such as a coffee shop. then the energy shared across the space between locations is worth it.

Whenever I am off on one of these quests, suggestions come from well-intending friends and family. Invariably, unless the hint is close to my itinerary, either distance-wise or time-wise, I file it in the “later” sleeve. Ottawa will wait until another time; as will two or three days in Toronto, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and Quebec City (both of which I have visited), the Gaspe, Prince Edward Island (been there, also), the southern part of the Avalon Peninsula on Newfoundland, and St. Pierre & Miquelon, France’s last bit of “mainland” North America.

Time and spiritual energy determine the balance, and it is a many-splendoured thing.

Here are a few scenes from London’s marvelous Covent Garden Market- worthy of a place alongside Boston’s Faneuil Hall/Durgin Park, Seattle’s Pike Place and Chicago’s Navy Pier. I am sure many of you could add a dozen others to this list. Remember, I am referring here to London, Ontario. The Market was recommended to me by a bookseller, whose shop, City Lights. is across the street. He also suggested Saga Coffee House, just west of his shop. Both recommendations are spot on-as is the book store.

As I was working on my laptop, a little girl pointed out the lanterns and flowers, which she found “astonishing”. Yes, they certainly are!

Anna Turkiewicz is a Polish emigre, who runs this excellent old style delicatessen. She seemed a bit worn down, and shortly after I took my lunch order to the table, she took a break for herself. It is a hard row to hoe, this food business. Ontario apparently also has a coin shortage, and supply chain issues, much like on the American side of the border. I did what i could to be supportive.

The grounds are given some thought, by the City, as well. Here is a decorated lamp post.

There is much joy in keeping a balance.

The Sooner State’s Northern Tier

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June 14, 2022, Carthage, MO- “Hugs” helped me get up this morning, and we both got friend John out the door, a bit earlier than might otherwise have been the case. No worries, as I used all the time given me, going across Oklahoma’s northern tier and J had time to do what he needed to do for his own health and well-being.

We started as we usually do, on such visits, with a breakfast sandwich from a gas station deli and coffee at Da Vinci, Enid’s premier coffee house chain. After conversation with John and one of his friends, it was time to head east again. This time, I stayed on Route 60, eastbound, as far as the turnoff to Neosho, MO, which was a bit further south than I wanted to go today.

Passing through towns like Pond Creek, Lamont, Tonkawa, Ponca City, Pawhuska, Bartlesville, Nowato and Vinita, I was struck by the increasing greenery-even though I have been through this area dozens of times. The difference today was that there was no Turnpike involved. I was able to enjoy the back side of the northern tier.

Ponca City has preserved the properties associated with Oklahoma’s tenth governor, Ernest Whitworth Marland, who was also a philanthropist, having made a fortune in the oil industry, but seeing no point in hoarding the money. His view of wealth was to spend it “like water on my people and my town (Ponca City).” The mansion and estate he shared with his gracious and socially passionate wife, Lydie, are now managed by Ponca City.

Here are some scenes of the mansion and grounds. The Marlands’ adopted son, George, is depicted here, greeting guests as they walk in from the parking lot.

‘Abdu’l-Baha identified philanthropy as the fourth means to spiritual progress. Mr. Marland’s record of contributing, both to the welfare of his employees and to the well-being of Oklahoma’s people, is a worthy counterweight to the seeming largesse he expended on his family and himself. He seemed to have transcended the distrust for the common man that was vocalized by his mentor, Andrew Carnegie, and he actively called for “bringing the New Deal to Oklahoma. In the wake of the Dust Bowl calamity, the state needed those programs, perhaps even more than many places in the coastal regions.

Wealth is not a negative attribute, when it is shared responsibly.

Embracing the Whole

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June 4, 2022- This was a day for traveling the spectrum. Breakfast at Zeke’s was a time for recognizing that there will be a lot more to bringing about a Green Energy program than just cutting fossil fuel use on paper. Electric vehicles need those same fossil fuels in order to produce electricity, at least for now. I won’t argue the need to cut down on widespread use of fossil fuels. Towards that end, I am keeping my own vehicle in the best condition. Eventually, I will either get a hybrid or alt-fuel vehicle or live somewhere where a vehicle is not necessary.

Mid-day, a group of us discussed building vibrant communities and contributing to social transformation. These themes can only be realized by bringing people together, across points of view and by building on common ground. This is not as trite as many people seem to think, but it does entail some consistent hard work. Baha’is believe that consultation entails listening to what might, at first blush, seem objectionable points of view, and though we do not support those practices which would harm others or deny human rights, the mere expression of a viewpoint does not, in and of itself lead to tyranny. Once a point of view is expressed, it should be regarded as no longer the property of the person who expressed it, but as belonging to the group.

The final part of the day was spent helping a group of progressives at a community picnic. There were several booths, which highlighted such themes as registering to vote, banning Dark Money in political campaigns and tightening restrictions on sales of firearms to those assessed as mentally ill. I will help any group that is about the betterment of society and the preservation of Human Rights-which are God-given rights. I didn’t have to do much , but helping to break down the event was much appreciated. I even re-united a woman with her open-toed sandals.

Helping to transform society will be a lengthy process, requiring patience and perseverance- as well as an imperturbable open-mindedness.

Surprise Treasury, and Tragedy

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June 3, 2022- The four boxes had sat in my bedroom closet, unopened for nearly four years. Once I cleaned out said closet, this afternoon, it was time to open the boxes and see just how much of a treasury of record was left behind by my father-in-law, with regard to his time as a Prisoner-of-War. The four boxes have a complete account of that harrowing time in his life and all the medals not included in a framed collage, which I also have.

These are all in a safe location and will be properly transferred to someone else in the family, at a later date. In the meantime, I will examine each box more carefully. This is probably the most precious historical collection which has ever been entrusted to me, and I’m honoured.

When Pops passed on, in 2014, he was accorded great honours-though due to a backlog at Arlington National Cemetery, it took several months to inter the man’s body. It was a grand and moving ceremony, despite that delay. It came on the heals of my visit to the sites of D-Day at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, in Bastogne and Metz, and Berga, where he was held prisoner. I will revisit these and other sites, in 2045, the centenary of the end of World War II.

The day ended with the discovery that one of my neighbours had died, alone and unnoticed for several days. I did not know him well, but was under the impression that he was being tended by “close friends”. He had told us, in the past, that he was doing “alright” and did not want to be disturbed. The circumstances of his passing underscore just how wrong the culture of anonymity is. We can’t very well impose ourselves on people, yet every soul deserves a full measure of dignity. I know enough about the man to know that he lived an honest life and worked hard as a cabinetmaker. May his peace be eternal.

Progress

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May 31, 2022- After six months of diligent care for my body’s largest organ, the dermatologist gave me a clean bill of health. Safe sun screen, head covering and being sensible about time in the sun, including while driving a car, has apparently made a fair degree of difference.

I got my act together and greatly tidied up the kitchen and dining area. Three other areas remain, before my next journey begins in mid-June. Having less compunction about getting rid of stuff makes a great deal of difference, in this task. So, the bedroom, closet and storage unit remain. Many garden tools will go to Dharma Farm, this weekend, and there are several items that can be donated to the Disabled American Veterans.

I am opening up with suggestions to people who pose seemingly intractable problems-after listening to them for a time, instead of jumping right in with solutions. The latter approach just gives the plaintiff the sense that they are being brushed off. In the long run, there are no really intractable problems, but there are plenty which are very, very hard to resolve.

The other thing, which occurred to me this morning, during the running of an errand, is that my fretting over going to one clerk’s window, instead of another, is a bit on the egocentric side. This was a thing, for quite a few years-and it finally came into my consciousness that the only one who cared about such things, was me. Silly stuff like that was much more front and center, not that many years ago. I am learning to let go.

May June only hasten this sort of progress.

Doors Reopen

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May 21, 2022- As I spoke to along-absent friend about taking some of the garden tools, I no longer need, off my hands, she said that her family wanted me to stop by, anytime. Coming from people who needed to have visitors make appointments, days in advance, this is huge. Being trusted is not something I have universally deserved, especially in the difficult years after Penny’s death; but in this case, there was no breach of trust. The family just needed time to observe me from a distance, and have decided to reopen the door of welcome.

Another person, who I love dearly, has asked me to stop by her shop more regularly. This is a soul who can do a lot to heal her community, so I will honour her wishes. Time spent with musicians and other healers, this evening, underscored that I am again welcome in that community.

I get the sense that none of this is possible, without selfless acts and dedication to serving others. The better part of this afternoon was spent bagging piles of pine needles and driving a truck around to pick up said bags. The crew of fifteen was diligent in the effort, and the area around buildings at Bellemont Baha’i School is much more fire wise than it was a few days ago. This is a process that is done every year at this time. The place will accommodate several groups of adolescents during the month of July, and my own involvement in that process will begin, almost as soon as the early summer journey comes to an end. That’s okay-it means my presence is valued.

It just goes to show that many seemingly closed doors are merely ajar.

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.

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.