October 22, 2021- I looked up a student, from long ago, and she had some searing things to say, on her social media page. All of it is true-and is unfortunate. We ignore these messages, to our peril. She was one of Penny’s favourite people, and I link her messages to what my dearly beloved wife told me, when we first met, forty-one years ago in December.
Penny said, “Hit me, just once, and we’re done.” I wouldn’t have hit her, anyway, but the message stayed in my heart.
Penny said, “Cheat on me, just once, and I’m gone.” I wouldn’t have cheated on her, anyway, but the message took.
Penny said, “Go and get those girls, and bring them home to their parents.” She did not have to say it twice. I got in my car, found the girls and brought them home, where they belonged. No Native child disappeared on my watch.
“N” said, “Treat all children like they are your children.” This was in reference to the hundreds, nay thousands, of Native women and girls, gone missing and unaccounted.
“N” said, “Where is the concern for all my missing sisters?” It is a continentaldisgrace, the epidemic loss of sheer human talent that is in a state of limbo, or loss, or suspended animation-maybe just left to rot, by others who took their own lack of self-worth out on women, girls-and male humans, cutting their lives short, then just walking back into the community, as if nothing has ever happened.
The case of Gabby Petito has brought renewed attention to the missing Indigenous women-and countless other people of colour whose fate is unknown. Ms. Petito’s family has it right: Every missing person, every abused soul, deserves the same energy and attention that has been directed towards justice for their daughter and cousin. Her likely abductor is himself dead. Other perpetrators are living in shame.
What of a young man, whom I knew as a boy, and who has been missing for over a year? What of the three dozen or so Dineh teenaged girls, whose posters one may see in any trading post, convenience store, post office or truck stop on the Navajo and Hopi Nations, or in any border community? What of Latinas, missing from even the smallest barrios, across Arizona and New Mexico?
I know that every child matters. That is precisely why it’s imperative to listen, when a fierce woman like N, or J, or T-or my ferocious late wife, comes forward, puts up a straight-ahead message: “PAY SOME *#@!! ATTENTION!” I would have paid attention, anyway-but the work still lies ahead.
If you see, or hear, something, say something. Better yet, DO SOMETHING!
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.
Here we are, rooted in a garden planet. The urge to see what’s beyond calls to many, nevertheless, especially to the young.
My charges today spent their time devising spacecrafts, working in teams, mostly, with a few intrepid souls working alone.
There were lunar modules, satellites, probes, landers and rovers. It all depended upon the team’s focus and level of ambition. Best of all, the projects were gender-independent. Like the great rocket scientists and astronomers who came before them, the kids offered ideas based on mind. Unlike many who preceded them, they embraced the ideas that were best for the project, without concerning themselves as to whether the notions came from boys or girls.
It’s past time for this to be, and the heirs to space will look back at Sally Ride, Christa McAuliffe, Mae Jemison, Ellen Ochoa and nearly a hundred other women, who led as much as followed, but mainly served side by side with the men pioneers.
It was a noisy, at times messy, but fruitful day of discovery.
October 14, 2021, Albuquerque- The themes expressed in the New Mexico History Museum are common, in their presentation of the call for rectification of all that has been done wrong, between one group of people towards another, over the centuries. Simply put, there is no person, group of people, ethnicity or nation that has a corner on purity, kindness, love for the Earth, etc. Any time people feel backed into a corner, they lash out.
This is true, no matter how privileged and well-off people are, in actuality. “The reality of man is his thought”, said ‘Abdu’l-Baha, on His visit to Paris, in 1911. If a person feels that he is a victim, then no amount of explaining from someone else, even grounded in real time, will change the afflicted one’s perspective. it has to come from within. Before Europeans came to the Americas, there were times when the various Indigenous nations would quarrel and wage war. Usually, this was sparked by natural disaster, combined with population growth, resulting in scarcity. The influx of large numbers of people who came from other parts of the world, and who had different values and practices, did not exactly ease the situation.
The solution, though, is never to deny another person’s reality, as some intellectuals are trying to do with regard to social justice movements. The conservative who refers to the claims of a progressive as “that hoax”, and vice versa, brings no peace. Everyone has a piece of the truth, and deserves to at least be heard, so that the feeling of being backed into a corner does not arise. I came to this realization, again, after visiting the section of the New Mexico History Museum that deals with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The rebellion succeeded, initially, because there was unity of purpose across the various Indigenous nations. It failed, in the end, both because that unity did not hold and because the victors did not see fit to treat Spanish civilians, especially women and children, in a humane manner. It was the generating of extreme negativity that sucked the energy out of the otherwise worthy campaign for relief and equanimity for maltreated Indigenous people.
The songwriter Pete Townshend warned, after experiencing callous behaviour from some attendees at the Woodstock Music Festival, in 1969, that “parting on the Left” could change to “parting on the Right”, in his song “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”. It happens when, as the initially victorious have so often found, their views on holding power turn out to be unimaginative, merely copying the practices of their former oppressors-and thus either paving the way for the return of those oppressors, as happened in the late Seventeenth Century, or worse, hard-wiring the succeeding generations in patterns of socially maladaptive behaviour.
I have paid close attention, especially lately, to the interactions of people, across ages and ethnicities, in the latest stages of COVID19. I have heard of incidents of line jumping and people flailing at each other, over masks vs. no masks. I saw nothing of the sort, anywhere in mask-mandated New Mexico, these past four days. People appear to be making an effort to get along, on a very basic level. even when, as one conservative friend said, they regard the mask mandate as inane.
Everyone’s struggle is real, and though that struggle does not become everyone else’s God-given burden, we can at least wish the bedraggled soul the best, and not actively make the onus heavier, by denying that it exists.
I left Santa Fe, around noon, after the museum visit, making brief stops in the artistic havens of Galisteo and Madrid, before settling in at the avant-garde, minimalist Monterey Motel, near Old Town, in this sprawling, but still rather charming metropolis on the Rio Grande.
Here are a few scenes of the day.
Learning, with some satisfaction, that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has sufficient rock star status as to require a fair amount of advance planning, before a visit, I made a note to wait until next time.
After leaving Santa Fe, a drive to quiet, artistic Galisteo introduced this adobe church: Our Lady of the Cures.
En route from Galisteo to the artist community of Madrid, I drove past some badlands.
Once in Madrid, I found this little gem, in the Gypsy Plaza. Mr. Shugarman carefully packaged two of his signature chocolate bark squares, for my gradual enjoyment. He also ships his wares, so some beloved friends may expect an occasional surprise, direct from Madrid.
Madrid, on the east side of Sandia Crest, is another reason for me to return to northern New Mexico, soon. After tending to a critical business matter in uptown Albuquerque, I settled into Monterey Motel, about two blocks west of Old Town. The avant-garde ambiance was welcome this evening.
October 9, 2021– Long ago, when I was young and feckless, I briefly dated a young woman, two years my junior. It ended due to complications, involving her on-again, off-again ties to another man. We both moved on, and I lost contact with her. D was a free spirit, though, and was fresh air in my rather moribund life, at the time. I learned, a few days ago, that she passed on September 10, leaving her second husband and her child from her first marriage, plus one grandchild.
D’s passing closes the door on a chapter in my life, my twenties, when there was a lot more man-child left in me than was prudent. I began that decade extricating myself from the tar pit that our relationship had become and ended the decade easing into the personal growth marathon that was my marriage.
I thought a lot about D, this morning, in the course of sizing up some of my friendships around Prescott that have assumed a staleness. Thus, as their tide ebbs and their dunes shift, I will give a few friends the distance they seem to want. Others, especially those in my faith community, have shown themselves to not be retreating to a coolness or to offering perfunctory greetings, in place of their former warmth.
I know there are often a thousand reasons why ties get broken and iciness replaces warmth. Other than making a better effort at curbing any of my own negativity towards some third parties, I don’t see that their change in attitude has anything directly to do with me. Besides, when some doors close, others open-and people like my hiking buddy still find my presence useful and welcome.
Tides and sands are made to shift and bring change.
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.
October 6, 2021- In the spiritist classic, “The Initiate In The New World”, Cyril Scott’s Master gets the novice’s attention, by putting the acolyte’s being smitten by a comely woman, who is twenty years his junior, in perspective. The learned one cautions him to remember that there are billions of beautiful scenes, throughout the Universe, millions of cases of such salubriousness on Earth alone and even in the human realm, over a billion humans (this was 1927) who reflect one sort of beauty or another. He encourages the Initiate to nurture his friendship with the younger woman, but in the context of a deep and variegated relationship.
This, of course, is emblematic of the best of marriages, of the most enduring friendships. Yet, how easily one can turn aside from even a long-term, promising, even mutually satisfying bond, over the most trifling of disappointments or disagreements. I’ve had strong bonds fade into nothingness or turn into estrangement, because one or both of us was unwilling to see the ties from a wider perspective.
For quite some time, though, I have taken to viewing a far-deeper universe-still being appreciative of comeliness, certainly, but hardly placing physicality front and center. The closest of my friends are those whose spiritual or ethereal beauty radiates in their daily lives and in all their dealings with those around them.
Thus was the little girl showing me a heart rock, she had found on the school playground, the highlight of my rather productive day. Heart rocks show that one is paying attention to one’s surroundings and is wise to a connection with nature. So, too, is paying attention to brilliant risings and settings of the sun, to rainbows, sunbows and moonbows. Thunder and lightning can be experienced as majestic.
Thus is a smile the most comforting of all expressions, and the hug the most reassuring of all interactions between two people. The pet’s unconditional affection can soothe, after the longest, hardest of days. The baby’s coo is the payback, for all that a mother has endured over the period of gestation.
Thus does beauty transcend all the transactional thought, cynicism, unilateral dependency and outright greed that drain the spirit, crush the soul and attempt to negate the essential goodness placed in all of us, by the Creator.
October 2, 2021, Sedona- Sometimes, home isn’t where you think it is. Other times, the path to home involves going back, very deeply, into a past that has been long buried in layers of detritus. Both points were brought to me, quite clearly, this afternoon.
I made an appointment to sit in an exploratory session with Anastasia Martynova, a licensed therapist in the Sedona area, to see what revelations might arise, with regard to the impact of my early childhood on my present state. Before that, I stopped at Synergy Cafe, a place which I had, until this afternoon, come to feel as a homelike environment.
Strangely, upon entering the cafe, with the intent of enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a meditation book, until Anastasia had returned to her professional space, I found a hostile reception. I retreated to an area in the back space of the cafe and, though I was served and allowed to remain, it was made clear that my presence was to be brief and any interaction with others limited.
Fortunately, I got a message from Ana, that she had arrived at her space early. I found the place fairly easily and my exploration began, after decompressing a bit from the earlier experience. Ana guided me through the customary process of foot-to-crown relaxation, then I found myself remembering the very process of my birth. The gist was that I was turned, almost against my initial impulse, and was able to enter this world head first. My first recalled memory after that was of wanting to comfort my mother.
There was then the recollection of a flower-filled meadow, below the home where my maternal grandmother lived, and where Mom had grown up. I recalled it as a favourite peaceful place., surrounded by forest, where we were not supposed to go alone.
As the session progressed, I was visited by Penny, my brother Brian, and my father, all offering encouragement and giving the message that they were each in a good place. It was not a seance, though, and the messages were conveyed to me while I was in a dreamlike state. I also saw a vision of a former student, who has been missing for over a year now. I found myself guiding, and at times carrying, him through a narrow canyon, eventually into a place of light, where his family members were there to welcome him.
The final vision was again of me as a child, walking hand in hand with a girl, climbing up a mountain that had stairs. No meaning of this scene came to me, other than that, during this time, we were both being watched by two angels, one masculine and one feminine.
During all the scenes, the colours of peace were gold, light yellow, light blue, pink and purple. The colours of challenge were red and green. Ana’s voice was soothing and guiding, throughout the process. The other helpful aspect of the session was that magnets were laid out, under various pressure points. This added a massage element to the session, and served to greatly relieve residual stiffness, from last week’s accident.
I left the space with a greater understanding of how I have come to focus so much of my life on nurturance and trying to be helpful to others, especially to children and youth. For those interested in Anastasia’s work, here is a link to her practice. https://portalofrebirth.com/
September 29, 2021- Today is my sister’s birthday; tomorrow marks the anniversary of my late wife’s birth. Earlier this month, there occurred the birthdays of our mother and of two very powerful young women, whose full mark has yet to be made, but which will certainly be indelible.
From where does the first lesson about power derive? Boy and girl alike sense that power, in the loving embrace, soothing voice, warm smile and, quite often, the nourishment provided by mother.
The first lessons come from the mind and heart of the most dedicated teacher a child could ever want.
The first reassurance after each of life’s blows, whether they be glancing or crushing, comes from the spirit which gave life in the first place.
This love, this solid rock, stays with a child, long after adulthood has been reached. It is this which sustains throughout fire, flood and famine.
So, in all the world, as much as man or boy look to initiate, procreate and dominate, nothing of substance happens, save for the power of she.
The quiet voice assured me, “See, your soreness is fading, your range of motion is fine. The car served you well; it is now being broken into re-usable parts. The glass is swept, the tires can be re-sold. The fluids have been drained and the battery is stored safely. Your life is going on, because it must. The bullet points of your mission shall be modified, and the manner in which they are carried out may require different media, but the overall mission is the same. Some friends are cooling in their attitudes towards you because you no longer serve their purposes. Indeed, you probably never did. Others, the ones you see now and then, will stand by you, and you, them, for all time. Be gentle with yourself, as you are with the blessed children. The glass is swept. The body is recovering. The road ahead is clear. ”
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