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.

Two Sides, Same Team

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June 17, 2022, London, ON- The DEA squad carried out a seamless check on our line of traffic, at a contraband check on the U.S. side of Ambassador Bridge (between Detroit and Windsor). The agent who was checking my vehicle asked to pop the “trunk” and was given the go-ahead to open the hatch on Saturn Vue. His dog-partner found no contraband, and I was on my way to the Canadian side, where a thirty second query as to my travel plans sent me en route to this Ontario namesake of the Titan on the Thames. (There is a Thames River here, as well.)

I left my friends, the Schroeders, around Noon, having tended to laundry and a couple of errands at establishments near their home. Saturn Vue got an oil & lube, a new air filter and scrubbed headlights, at a Jiffy Lube nearby, then I was off in search of I-94, which for some reason was unknown to Google Maps. A kind librarian in Buchanan, MI, directed me to the only entrance she knew to the Interstate-which was in Benton Harbor, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Out of the way, yes, it was, but I sensed that a full drive across that beleaguered state would at least unleash some healing energy. At least, that is my hope, having said a bunch of prayers at a Rest Area, outside Battle Creek.

It took four hours to cross the Wolverine State, and another forty minutes to go through the border crossing, most of which was the security check mentioned above. The process made me glad that I had done laundry before crossing-if only to not disgust our canine friend.

Once on the 401, I looked for a place to pull off for the night. I did drove from Tilbury to Chatham, on a back road, taking in the small town Friday night scene of a small group of teens, making the best of a weekend evening in Tilbury. They looked happy, at least. In Chatham, I spotted a small motel, with one car in the lot (a red flag of sorts, this being Friday night and all. The proprietor apologized, in advance, for the room he was letting me check, prior to lettting it out (another red flag). I found it was flea-infested, though the lights, TV and shower were all working. The final red flag was that he had no credit card reader, but he would gladly do an “e-transaction”, if I would just tell him my bank account information. Hmm, where have I heard this before? I bid him good night, and drove clear to London, where the Super 7 Motel had a fine room available, and there was a jacuzzi. I enjoy a bit of luxury, every so often, and this spa was made of marble, working perfectly.

Tomorrow, I will hopefully connect with a group of friends online, and look about London further, before heading towards Ottawa. Friends in Toronto have already said they are unavailable, so I will stay away from the metropolis this time. On both sides of the border, though, we are one team.

The Flow, and Going With It

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June 16, 2022, Mishawaka, IN- Someone just asked me, “Where the heck is Mishawaka?” It’s one of the “Tri-Cities” of north central Indiana, of which South Bend is the best known and Elkhart is the third member. Michigan City is not that far to the west, and the farming town of Goshen, a bit southeast of the Tri-Cities, could be a fifth member.

I’m here because a couple has graciously had me as an overnight guest, for four of the past five years, when the time for a journey to my home area, or somewhere else back east, has come. V and S, as I will call them, have been online friends and correspondents for many years. My visit here follows a general flow of getting settled, dinner, an evening walk and conversation in the living room. The topics range from the clothes shopping we endured, as children and teens, to the idiosyncrasies of HOA Boards.

Earlier in the day, I spent about ninety minutes at the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, IL., north of Chicago. The flow of spiritual thought and energy took the form of prayer and supplication for a variety of people and processes, from world peace, and the progress of our local communities, to the progress of the souls of a fellow Baha’i and of a childhood friend, both of whom passed on this week.

Then came lunch time, and the short drive to Wilmette’s village center was tempered by the understanding that the community’s children were everywhere, on bikes. I drive cautiously, especially in residential areas, so this feature was delightful, not a nuisance-as some would have it. The energy and presence of mind brought by large groups of kids, gathered at the movie theater, and various other parts of the center, is something I have missed, over the past two decades, with so much concern over safety-as valid as that is.

The flow of traffic, along trusty old I-94, has its reliable bottlenecks: The Madison Squeeze, as I call it, from the Madison Street offramps to the I-290 intersections near the Chicago Loop; and the area from Chicago Heights and Harvey to the I-80/90 intersection, near Gary. There is not much that can be done about the former, but the latter does have “an out”: U.S. 6 to IN 19 and back onto I-94, past the aforementioned bottleneck. It saved me twenty minutes, even with the stoplights on U.S. 6 and the mildly annoying young man who zipped in front of me, intending to make a left turn, where there was none, and zipped back out into the inside lane, where, thankfully, there was no other vehicle going about normal business.

The rest of the drive to Mishawaka flowed quite nicely, thank you.

Spirits Ever-Present

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June 5, 2022, Paulden- The four small children set the tone for the afternoon and evening, as they always do, when I visit their family home. Of course, adult conversations flowed, and went around the little rocks that sat firm in the stream of consciousness, acknowledging their presence, their concerns and their moods. Such is the way, at Dharma Farm.

My day began with a reading of the Sunday Arizona Republic, knowing that my involvement with the print edition of the newspaper will be coming to an end soon-my journeys, and the duties that will face me locally, will only accelerate in the days and months ahead.

Celebrating the Feast of Light-one of nineteen spiritual observances, during the year, that bring us Baha’is together in devotions, consultation and fellowship, was done in person, late in the morning and around Noon. We have been observing these occasions virtually, for nearly two years, give or take a couple of random in-person gatherings, during a perceived lull in the pandemic. The disease continues to hover, over our heads and in the background, infecting more people with mild cases. Outdoor gatherings, however, seem less problematic, and so it was, this morning, in the lovely back yard of some friends.

In the afternoon, I gathered surplus garden tools, relieving my storage shed of some of its excess, took along a bag of small gift items for the children and headed up the road to Dharma Farm. The Universe, it seems, lets us all know when our time for gathering is right. The family and their crew of four had spent the past two months sowing, planting trees and working on the restoration of Whispering Winds, Dharma’s predecessor in the Verde Valley, well east of here, whose core building and energy were transported to this sacred spot. One of WW’s principal residents came by for a visit today, as well, expressing gratitude that the essence of his former home was being preserved.

The day proceeded, as a couple worked with one of the children to put together a fabulous stew. The rest of us conversed, walked the grounds and took in the shade of afternoon. Each of the tools I brought will aid their efforts and the value of the coins will set the children on a journey to the independence-and interdependence, being imparted them by their parents. Watching and listening to the little people, I am comforted, reassured, by their gentle energy, wisdom and nascent collaborative skills. There is sharing, asking one another for permission and just a general acknowledgement of one another’s dignity. These are the gifts that come from their parents, and are reinforced by the crew members, who have bonded so well with the children. It was fitting that our after-dinner activity was putting together a jigsaw puzzle, selected by the three-year-old, with three teams working on sections. A mellow circle of conversation in the glow of sunset followed, topped off by a carefully-tended fire pit, that saw us into the night.

The spiritual energy of those who surround us, despite having left their bodies behind, guides days like this, indeed guides all days. For that, I am greatly reassured and comforted.

Role Model

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May 30, 2022- It’s been little over eight years since Pops left us. My father-in-law, Norman D. Fellman, regarded his two sons-in-law as the boys he never had. I got a ton of advice, the greater part of it useful, and I can credit that advice for much of how our son has grown into manhood.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Norm was taken prisoner by the German Army, in December, 1944, in the southern sector of the Battle of the Bulge. He was held, until just before V-E Day, at Berga, a substation of Bergen-Belsen Prisoner-of-War and Concentration Camp, just southeast of Gera, Thuringia. He, and a few dozen other “undesirables” (Jews, Romani and Mexican-Americans) were assigned onerous tasks, day in and day out. His crew went to a salt mine. Norm and one of the Mexican-Americans would prank the Germans, constantly, putting glue in the salt and adding gravel underneath a three or four inch coating of salt. He never said where he got the glue; in fact, he rarely talked about his experience, until President Clinton lifted a lingering gag order that had stifled World War II veterans, since President Truman’s tenure.

There were many aspects of his personality and ways of doing things, from which I have drawn wisdom. He made me realize that I was not a substandard person, and that my rights were the same as anyone else’s, but that I had to stand up and expect them. It is because of Pops that I became quite forceful in standing up for Aram, and for summoning every bit of inner strength, to care for his daughter, my wife, in her years of decline. He knew, when I was being attacked by state bureaucrats, who told him that I was lax in her care, that this was bunk. (The upshot was that they wanted her to be placed in a state home, thus giving them access to her disability payments. This, of course, did not happen-and she lived out the rest of her days in an environment of HER choosing.)

Pops-and Mother- had the bounty of being well-tended by their youngest daughter, still one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met, until their respective deaths in May, 2014 and October, 2018. That is the true beauty of a force of example: It redounds to the benefit of the role model, in one’s final days.

Gratitude, After Facing the Strange

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May 28, 2022- The strange part came early this morning, before I awoke, In the dream, I was carrying my maternal grandmother around and showing her her old house, her daughters, including my mother, and one of her daughters-in-law. The last scene was of one of my paternal uncles, and two of his sons, arriving at the house, where another of my paternal uncles was fixing a meal for everyone.

Grandma died in 1960, but my memories of her have always been strong. All my maternal aunts, save one, have also passed on. All of my paternal uncles, save two, are gone, as are the two cousins in the scenario. All the uncles and aunts in the dream are among the departed. Mom is very much alive. I have a great deal more to do, over the next several years, and I don’t want to stick her with burying another child, so I am not putting a whole lot into the dream, other than maybe I need to keep their memories alive.

On this run-up to Memorial Day, I am focused on my gratitude. These include good health, good friends, a healthy and well-balanced family, a clear vision of things, and knowing that there are places across this continent and in at least two others, where I will ever be welcome. Prescott is a salubrious Home Base; I have a good, solid place to live and a well-built vehicle to get me places-especially after I tend to its needs, at the end of next week. I am grateful for the team that handles my finances. I am eternally grateful to the Team that guides my soul. My blessings include the children, animals and vegetation that enrich this life, the rocks and water that colour it and the music that ever flows, when my ears are open to its melodies.

Gratitude is king!

Solidifying the Foundation

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May 25, 2022- A day after the horrific executions of 21 people at Robb Elementary School, Uvalde, TX, the public discussion reverted to the same, abysmal back and forth as to what is needed, in the way of response. Those who cherish ownership of guns oppose any restriction on the devices, missing the point that no one is threatening their gun ownership, per se. A few thoughtful conservatives propose measures to shore up programs for the mentally ill. To what extent they will involve restrictions on gun ownership, upon those who are not in control of their impulses, remains to be seen.

One area on which most seem to agree is that there needs to be a renewal of moral fiber, a sense of personal responsibility, of community cohesion and of a national sense of ownership of policy. Where that begins and in what direction it goes, are up for discussion, apparently.

Here is my take: Life begins at conception. With all due respect to some interpretations of the Torah, the soul enters a body at the moment of conception. That soul stays in that body until the moment of death. This, in my view, sanctifies all life that transpires between the two moments. Thus, any lessening of the value of that life, by any other human being, is contrary to the flow of the Universe.

This is the foundation of any true moral code. It is what needs affirmation, solidification. All else to the contrary is a fabrication.

The Way It’s Always Been….

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May 24, 2022- Fifteen people, who probably started their day with thoughts of a looming summer, ended it outside their bodies-gone to a higher realm. Fourteen of them had barely scratched the surface of this life. The fifteenth had so much more to offer, in the way of helping young people build their lives.

For that matter, an angry young man-raging for God knows what reason, chose to take that anger out on the helpless, the innocent. He might have chosen to state his anger in a productive way, taking the long road of peaceful protest and resistance to authority figures whose agenda seems to be the chipping away of legitimate rights for people of colour and others-but he chose to sow chaos and pain.

The reactions, far and wide, to the Uvalde massacre have been largely typical: Those who fear the loss of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are taking the lead, already, in politicizing the tragedy. Blaming their political opponents, calling for locking up the mentally ill and placing armed guards in the schools are reactions that have been offered so many times that they have become cliche’, almost cartoonish.

So, what do those who want to see the carnage stopped, be we liberal or conservative, suggest? I can only speak for myself, from a place outside partisanship.

I am not in favour of repealing the Second Amendment. I am in favour of making sure that one and all understand the U.S. Constitution, in its entirety. That takes Civics Education. I am in favour of firearms safety-handling, firing and cleaning, being a prerequisite for anyone seeking to own and operate a weapon. I had that opportunity as a child, and as a young adult-and took advantage of it. So did my late wife and so did our son. True firearms training entails having respect for the firearm.

I am not in favour of locking up anyone whose behaviour is erratic. I am in favour of locking up firearms-and other deadly weapons that may be carried into public spaces-and I am in favour of this being done-first by the legitimate owners of said weapons, or if they refuse or fail to do so, by lawfully constituted agencies of public order. I am in favour of a National Registry of firearms owners, with identification cards. This last is not 100% foolproof-no system of identification ever is- but it will greatly lessen the likelihood that a crazed individual-whether on the political right or left, or of no clear ideology at all, will be able to wreak havoc.

I come to this conversation, honestly, having actually taken action that helped prevent a school shooting-twice. The first involved locating, seizing and turning over to the police, a long rifle and a pistol that were intended to be used in a targeted attack on an elementary school. The plotters were identified, arrested and received proper retribution. The second involved notifying the police of an active threat against one of the staff members, at another school where I was an administrator. The police then took possession of two weapons, which the owner admitted he was going to use on the staff member and his family.

We have no choice but to pay attention-to our surroundings, to our family, friends and co-workers and to the pain that is being inflicted. We can learn Civics, firearms safety and acceptance of responsibility.

This is the way it has actually always been. The rest is mythology.

Transitions

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May 9, 2022- The child kicked and screamed, at the moment that transport from school to home arrived. He had to be restrained, and carried bodily to the vehicle, all the while saying that school was his home now. The vehicle left, with him and his older sister in it, after the ten minute transition.

This raised more than a few red flags in my mind. Why would anyone, even a special needs child, so resist going home? There was one other occasion when a student refused to get on the bus, but that one looked at us, mischievously, and said “As long as I stay off the bus, YOU guys can’t leave, either!” His aunt came and got him, so it meant an extra thirty minutes of time on campus. This felt different, and will bear monitoring, when I go back there, later this week.

People tend to resist change, quite often. I have to wonder, though. What is so great about a particular situation, way of thinking or practice that ALL other possibilities are treated as “off the table”? I do have an understanding of inertia. To some extent, getting up in the morning requires a fair amount of resolve-especially during the months when it’s dark still, well into the morning. The understanding, that it’s not really good for my health to stay in bed too long, has helped-as well as the fact that I am in a warm home, and fairly comfortable.

Bigger changes, though, still have that aura of adventure, so I guess I am a bit of an outlier, in both enjoying routine activities while they run and being glad for even the most seismic of twists and turns as they happen. Maybe it’s a matter of seeing both as the means to personal growth.

Stay Close to Those Who Feel Like Sunlight

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May 3, 2022- This phrase, taken from a quote by Xan Oku, a Japanese poet and philosopher, has come to define the way I am moving in life. It came to mind when I heard a jingle on the computer, a short while ago, and began musing about those in my life who reflect that image.

I’ve mentioned those who mean the most to me, several times in past posts-so briefly, my Sunshine Tribe are closest immediate family, several of my fellow Baha’is, more than a few social activists in the Prescott area and dozens across Arizona, around the country and all over the planet.

The people who feel like sunlight are named Dave, Aram and Yunhee, John and Gladys, Mike and Pooran, Dave and Annie, Linda and Randy, Molly, Ashley, Emily T., Melissa, Robert and Andrea, Annie B., Tom and Jeanie, Val and Sparky, Beth and Dave, Kathleen, Akuura, Sierra, about five dozen children and teens who wouldn’t want their names mentioned and even people I have never met in person, like Marianne, Emily D., Enya, Dan, Valentina P. and Heather, whose words or singing never fail to elevate my spirit and edify my consciousness.

To be fair, almost everyone else in my world does bring a fair amount of sunshine, often with struggles-many of which I gladly share, in the hopes that their burdens might be a little lighter. So, maybe next time, the list will be longer. Let us continue to work at bringing the sunlight, after the clouds have done their work.