Dear Greta

8

September 24, 2019-

Dear Greta,

I have listened to your brief remarks at the United Nations, yesterday.  They were cogent, as far as they went.  There is much work to be done, by all generations.  There is much to be done, by every nation.  I admire and honour your courage, in speaking before such a vast assemblage.  The concerns, the welfare, of young people are concerns of mine. I am also proud of you for seeing Asperger’s Syndrome, which I share, as a groundswell of strength

Now, let us go beyond the general expression of outrage, knowing that such is common to youth, as my own generation showed, in the 1960’s and ’70’s.  It only holds the world’s attention for a fleeting period.

Your work can only bear fruit if the steps followed are specific, succinct, bulleted or numbered.  Your arguments deserve to be outlined, in clear form.  Your arguments, in a field as fraught with emotion as climate, deserve to be understood, by ally and opponent, alike.  Your arguments cannot be “Pie in the Sky”.  Take your time, in formulating them.

I love the people of each of the rising generations, passionately.  Having taken your side, in conversations with more hidebound members of my own generation, I must caution you, as to what they see.  There is a sizable group, among the survivors of World War II, among Baby Boomers and among Generation X, which conflates the activism of young people today, with Hitler Youth and the Red Guards of mid-Twentieth Century China.  They see you as being dupes of well-heeled figures on the Far Left. They see you as not coming forward with your own thoughts.  They see you as brainwashed.

I have reminded such people that we, both in North America and in Europe, rebelled against political corruption, as teens and as  young adults.  Time passed, and the lure of career, success, money led all too many away from ideals.  Do not let that happen to you!  Read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, if you’ve not already done so.  Learn of the insidious power of corruption.  If you have sponsors who are wealthy, keep an eye on them and know their motives.  If they are sincerely concerned about climate change, you will know soon enough.  If their agenda is control, you must recognize that, too.

Know, and be sensitive to, the fears of the average wage earners and of those on fixed incomes.  One of the drawbacks of the Green New Deal is that it has not engaged the broad Middle Class, or the the elders who are on fixed incomes.  These people can be, and are, all too easily susceptible to the fear-mongering of those whose agenda is at variance with your own.

People can be told that, if a climate change mitigation is followed, the Stock Market will crash, and their savings accounts will crash along with it.  Too many of us elders are woefully uneducated about finance.  The wire-pullers are, even now, threatening to push for a “Bear Market”, so as to maintain control over those on fixed incomes.  Such balderdash is all too easily believed, by those who are struggling to live within their means.  Study your history, and you will see that the same tactics were used by the Fascists, in 1920’s and 1930’s Europe.  There is indeed a significant body of evidence that the economic Crash of 1929 was the work of those jockeying for control of the masses.

So, learn your finance, as well.  Using that knowledge,  plan steps that are incremental, that are focused and realizable.  Whatever you do, do not let yourself stray all over the place, especially in response to scattershot criticism-a favourite tool of political extremists on both ends of the spectrum.

Stay the course, my friend, and make sure it is YOUR course-not the hidden agenda of those who do not have your best interests at heart.  Stay fierce, and stay focused!

Full Moon Thirteenth

7

September 13, 2019-

Some topsy turvy day, this.

The work day was filled with

love and laughter.

Children with Downs syndrome

bring this about.

A crowded room,

at a ribbon cutting,

with children running about,

fully in joy and exuberance,

was better than any nap.

Another request for assistance,

from one of the most vicious people

I’ve ever known,

popped the balloon of joy.

It’s what that dark spirit does.

Am I a lesser soul,

for not putting myself at her disposal?

Prayers and chanting brought me back

to a place of light.

The power and fortitude of youth

imparts strength to those who

may be worn down, just a bit.

All in all, this Full Moon

Friday the Thirteenth

ended on a bright note.

Thus Mom Still Says

8

September 10, 2019-

Mom turned ninety-one, and doesn’t care who knows it.  She’s earned the right to think, do and eat whatever she wants.  That’s my opinion, anyway.  In our conversation, this morning, she gave me two thumbs up, for taking the joyful, positive view of life, which is mine, most of the time.  She expects me to keep on caring for myself, not depending on anyone else-for which I’m grateful.  My mother has lost none of her fire and spunk.

I woke this morning, to a report that a 13-year-old girl was sent home for wearing one comfortable outfit that was deemed “distracting for boys” ( I saw the outfit, and as a former school administrator, who held the line against bare midriffs and mid-thigh shorts, I think it was overkill, on the part of the school).  Her father brought a second outfit, which the Principal also found objectionable.  He took his daughter home, then launched a campaign to revisit the dress code.  Good for him; there are many men who still don’t take enough interest in the healthy self-concept of their children, especially of their daughters.

Body shaming has been with us for a long time-both against people of size and of slenderness.  Children are also sexualized, far too soon and far too often.  The father, in this case, pointed out that his child doesn’t flirt with her male classmates; she just wants to be a kid, and be comfortable, in 90-degree heat.  I heartily agree, as does my mother, who raised us boys to not dwell on a girl’s, or woman’s, physical attributes-one way or another.  My sister was always held in high regard, and was taught to think well of herself.  She has passed that on to her own daughters, and granddaughters.

I took a healthy lunch, this noon, at a local cafe (Ms. Natural’s) that thrives on its salubrious menu.  I was one of two men in the place, which was packed with mostly young women, all of whom take care of themselves and carry themselves with dignity and grace.  This is what I wish, for everyone, especially for those who have been kept in a dark emotional space, for far too long.

Mom wants that, also.  I hope she’s around, to reiterate the point, for several years to come.

Our House, Tonight

2

August 23, 2019-

It was Shayna’s house, tonight,

filling the air with empowerment,

and hope, for women of all ages.

Bringing the fire of the Russian steppes,

by way of Long Beach,

she made the heart of Prescott soar.

It was Dea’s house, tonight,

filling the room with dance,

and joy, to everyone who came and went.

Bringing the love of the ages,

through the grace of her aunts,

she made the spirits of

at least five Levels

of the Universe,

shine with delight.

It was my house, tonight,

sipping a cold brew coffee,

sitting  at a high-top table,

keeping a quiet place,

for one and all

to stand nearby,

to dance in bliss,

to collect thoughts,

to feel a warm safety.

The Raven was our house, tonight.

 

 

Back In The Saddle

2

August 22, 2019-

I got in a full-day’s work today, after five months’ hiatus.  Of course, there hasn’t been a lot of idleness during that time, but I have missing being around children and youth, on  a regular basis, nipping at my consciousness.

Today went very well.  The few who wanted to mess around, didn’t meet with much success.  I am long past the point where I let mischief get to me.  On the other hand, I don’t let it spread.  The rules of the day are set by the regular teacher, so the parameters are already in place.

Children and teens know this is how things work, and those with whom I interact are quite relieved that I am not here to be a slacker.  Simply put, this brief period of my presence in their lives needs to be of support for their broader plans, hopes and dreams, and of deterrence to the obstacles, both self-induced and put in place by others, that would derail those broader plans.

My goal:  To be of maximum support, to each young person who comes into a room where I am working.

A Capitol’s Quiet Hour

4

June 30, 2019, Raleigh-

Perhaps in a moment of selfishness, I chose to head to North Carolina’s Triad region, specifically to the Capitol, rather than to the west central area, north of Charlotte.  This, though, is what my spirit guides were telling me was in order.

I found Raleigh in a quiet and pensive collective mood, whilst walking about the Capitol District on this morning, when many were engaged in acts of worship.  I pretty much had the area to myself.

The great museums would not open until noon, by which time I was getting my laundry done, in south Raleigh’s International Market, a haven for the area’s Hispanic community.

Part of the Tar Heel story is told on the Museum of History’s grounds.  The frame of a Catawba home is here, surrounded by the lushness of the Piedmont.

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North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences takes up the right flank of the Museum Quarter.

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The North Carolina Museum of History occupies the left hand side.

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Three figures greet the visitor to the Museum of History: A woman of Sauratown, Thomas Day and Frederick Augustus Olds.  Sauratown is an isolated mountain region, northwest of Winston-Salem.  The independence of area residents is commemorated by this statue of an unidentified woman.  Thomas Day is celebrated as an example of how much a free Black man could achieve.  He was a skilled cabinetmaker, of the Antebellum period. Frederick Augustus Olds, a journalist, was a relentless advocate of telling North Carolina’s story, especally of “human history” and of the advancement of both Boy and Girl Scouts.

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Here is the Promenade, in its fullness.

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North Carolina is the birthplace of three U.S. Presidents:  Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk and Andrew Johnson.  They may not be the favourites of many people, but each pursued and achieved his goals.  The State Capitol looms in the background.

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Here are more complete views of the State Capitol.

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This statue depicts a naval cadet, of the late Nineteenth Century.  A woman passing by with her young daughter remarked to the child that it must have been most uncomfortable to have to wear such garb, in the heat of a Carolina summer.

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This bell tower, of First Presbyterian church, is framed by the Memorial Garden of the Harden family.

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At the opposite end of the Promenade, near the Natural Sciences Museum, is this statue depicting the naturalist Rachel Carson, listening to a story being told by a young boy.  She was passionate about educating the young, as to the dangers posed by excessive chemical use, in the mid-Twentieth Century.

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My time with the Hispanic people showed that the Tar Heel tradition continues to promote the achievements of the individual, over a mass ideological swell.  May that ethic long continue.

NEXT:  Virginia’s Eastern Shore

 

The School of Hope

4

June 28, 2019, St. Helena Island, SC-

I am of the opinion that there should be no child left behind-and I don’t mean to throw us back to the Federal educational initiative by that name, which only met the need in a limited fashion.

Truly meeting a child’s needs is something that no “one size fits all” program can possibly address. The basis for any effort to improve a person’s well-being is love for that person, as an extension of one’s love for humanity.

Penn Center, in the heart of this Sea Island near Beaufort, is a shining example of the true meaning of “No Child left Behind”.  Its genesis was the implementing of the Emancipation Proclamation. One thing that was ever in Abraham Lincoln’s mind, when he contemplated freeing the slaves in the Confederate States, was the immediate unleashing on Southern society of millions of illiterate people, the majority of whom were also not trained in any skilled trade.  “Forty acres and a mule”, the mantra of freed enslaved minister Garrison Frazier, turned into a scattershot attempt to relieve that society of its immediate burden, once it became actual Federal policy.  Lincoln himself, hamstrung by his own conviction that any given White man was inherently superior to any given person of another “race”, had no coherent plan to alleviate the situation.

So, it fell to Rev. Frazier and a council of educated Black men, in the Lowlands from Savannah to Charleston, to devise and implement a plan to establish a school for the children of the Sea Islands region. Penn School, established, as its name implies, with the support of the Society of Friends, became just such a school. It was initially established in 1862, even before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.  Truth be known, word had reached the Black community in Savannah that many slaveholders in Virginia, Louisiana and Georgia were teaching their male slaves how to read and write.  Many others had been taught, surreptitiously, by the wives and children of their masters. The former estate of a freed slave, Harvey Gantt, became the site of an expanded school, in 1864. By 1865, Quaker abolitionists in Philadelphia began supporting the school, and it was named Penn School.  In 1901, Hampton Institute, a Black college in Virginia, began sponsoring the school, which was cut off from public funding by Beaufort County’s segregationist leadership. Even with this assistance, though, the school continued to struggle.  In 1948, Penn School closed and Penn Center, a community development and cultural preservation institution, emerged on the property.

Today, Penn Center is a haven for the study and preservation of Gullah language and culture and for the promotion of Civil Rights.  Its York W. Bailey Museum has a wealth of African art and Gullah artifacts.  The Center promotes the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park, of which it is the epicenter, and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, from Florida to North Carolina.  It maintains active relationships with people in West and Central Africa, with the President of Sierra Leone visiting the Center, in 1988.

Here are some scenes of Penn Center’s grounds.  No photography is permitted in the Bailey Museum itself.

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The Gantt House  (Pine House) today serves as one of the learning sites for Penn Center.

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These storage cisterns were once the school’s main source of fresh water.

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This is Darrah Hall, Penn Center’s oldest building, built in 1903.  It is used for large events.

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The flat bottom boat is a staple of Low Country transportation.  This one was built and used by freed slaves.

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This is the Center’s Administration Building.

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Here is one of the first classroom buildings of Penn School, circa 1905.

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This complex was a beehive of activity, during my visit.  Vibrant teens were calling out friendly greetings to me, while their teachers were trying to get them focused on the activity of the afternoon.

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As in any community, a small cemetery has sprung up at Penn Center.

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I end with two shots of Brick Church, the original site of the school, and which predates Penn Center.

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There is much to learn, as yet, about Gullah Geechee culture, so I know this is far from my last visit to the Low Country.  Penn Center, though, gave me an excellent introduction.

NEXT:  The Wonder That Is Charleston

 

Staying Independent

5

July 4, 2019, Saugus-

I will continue (go back to) my photo blogs, in the next few posts.  Jumping ahead to the Fourth of July just seems best, though.

I had a conversation with someone very close to me, during the family gathering at a niece’s home, this afternoon.  One thing rings very loud and clear, from this discourse and from other conversations I’ve had, these past few months:  Many people are feeling put upon by aggressive individuals and groups, who take a point of view opposite that which they happen to hold.  Many individuals and groups ARE resorting to the use of force, when confronted with those taking such opposite viewpoints.

I was raised to hear other people out.  My parents, social conservatives, made a great effort to understand even the most seemingly ludicrous viewpoints.  I have maintained an open mind, as a result, throughout fifty-six years of adolescence and adulthood.  Civil Rights have long been a matter of supreme importance in my life, and that cuts both ways.  The Right cannot bully people of colour, of Faiths other than that of the majority in a community, or those living a lifestyle different from that which is conventional. The Left, likewise, cannot deprive people of more traditional bearing, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Violent behaviour, on either side, is the stuff of fascism (even when the bully calls self “Antifa”)

I am, as it happens, an obstinate soul, when people without authority try to force me to do their bidding.  Additionally, I question those who DO exercise authority, as to the ethical basis for their actions.  That is what I get from both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.    That is what I get from my Faith.

So, to my family-my elders, siblings and cousins:  You all matter, greatly.  Your point of view has at least some validity and is worth hearing, and pondering.  Our family is large, so there are all points covered, on the political spectrum. I will not plug my ears to any of it, so long as you do not ascribe to a coda of violence or or a policy of defamation against your opposite numbers.

To my children, nieces/nephews, and “grands”- You are, one and all, a great hope; you are people of immense promise and, especially if you are feeling vulnerable,  are worthy of all the support and love that we, your elders, can muster.  We cannot spare you from life’s ups and downs, but we can point towards the light. This is the very least we can do, in building and safeguarding your own sense of well-being and independence.

Most of the problems we face, when it comes to intolerance and reactive violence, seem to stem from the violent ones acting out of insecurity.  In truth, though, i have to ask, “How does a person expressing an alternative point of view, in and of itself, constitute a threat to my well-being?”  It may be annoying, but it is not a threat-unless accompanied by force-which then makes it an entirely different matter.

Staying independent means, to me, that one takes the time to carefully examine issues and evaluating a variety of points of view.  It also means extending that right to independence to every one else.  These are my thoughts as the Sun goes down on another July 4.

Godswood

2

June 10, 2019, Bellemont-

Those who faithfully watched Game of Thrones will know the title term, as being the spiritual retreat of the family Stark and their vassals.  There are several places on this property that serve as such a place of solace.

I have spent six of the past eight nights here, three of them in the company of middle-school aged youth, who are, as their predecessors were, far more of a blessing than many realize.

Their spontaneity needs monitoring, and correction at times, but does not need the check that some in my generation see as imperative.  We, the Baby Boomers, were after all the generation of free speech. I heard no more than three “f-bombs”, during the course of these three days.  The kids’ focus was primarily on elevated speech; on matters of the mind and spirit.  We, the Baby Boomers, had a thing about “free love”-though it was less widespread than the media often portrayed.  I saw no unwanted attention directed towards anyone.  The kids both see one another as people-first and foremost-and not as objects to help a person break from his/her shell.

There is, in any generation of youth, a cooperative spirit.  This spirit has been ravaged, among many who have aged, by the way we have approached the issues of everyday life.  Some will say that the rising generations will feature more of the same, as that’s how human beings just are.

By and large, I don’t concur.  Humanity is moving, slowly but inexorably, towards a cooperative, united front.  I find youth, basically, to be fairly more mature, at a younger age with each generation.  Their methods of communication may differ, as may their methods of spending time.  I do not, though, see a dark future ahead, on account of the “dissolute gamers”.  Any darkness that comes forth will be solely the result of selfishness and a provincial, “me-centered” mindset.  No generation has a corner on either, and no generation can point fingers at another.

These are things that came to me, during work, play and at meals, during these eight days in “Godswood”.

 

The Genesis Spirit

4

May 12, 2019-

I only had one call to make, this morning.  Mom is still very much alive and well.  Mother-in-Law is by her eldest daughter’s side, in the spirit world.  I know they still have my back, though their plans for me are somewhat hidden, at this point in time.

I don’t so much fret over my present state of affairs, as wonder where it is leading.  It could be that, tomorrow, when I contact the County Office of Education, I will be told to re-do this or that process or be told simply that everything is in order on my end, but that they need more time to finish the red tape.  Regardless, the academic year is almost over.  The needs of summer will shortly be upon me.

Enough of my quotidia, though.  This is a day, beyond Hallmark cards and the floral industry, for fully recognizing the spirit of nurturance, the raising of generations.  The vast majority of women who give birth are nurturers. There are always exceptions, outliers, who are not fit for the greatest and most honourable job in the human world.  I read of one such benighted soul, earlier this morning.  Most mothers, though, take the ball and run with it-to the eternal benefit of their progeny, or of those whom they take in as their own.

My mother has taken, and still takes, her responsibility as a nurturer seriously.  That spirit has flowed, seamlessly, to her daughter and granddaughters. It has informed the choices of mate that my brothers and I have made-Penny and each of my sisters-in-law raised their children in a sea of discipline and love.  It continues with our children’s generation. Aram and four of his male cousins have each married strong, nurturing women.

It can’t be easy, this balancing of body and soul; this overcoming the intense pain of bringing a newborn into the world of contingency.  It is certainly troubling, to sometimes feel one’s efforts are overlooked, cast aside or unappreciated, until it is often too late.  In my case, I have sometimes felt that I have had to make up for lost time, with the most important people in my life.

That, though, brings out the true beauty of  the genesis spirit:  The power of forgiveness; the strength of forbearance; the ability to get an errant child to take ownership of destiny.  A true mother does the heavy lifting of nurturance, gets a father to buy into the process and sends a child into the wider world, with the assurance that-one’s foibles and weaknesses aside, there will be success against a backdrop of trials and setbacks.  It  will be so, because of the firm foundation of love.