Summer’s End

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September 20, 2021- This has been a strange eight days. I chalk most of it up to the change of seasons, which often finds me out of sorts and seeing darkness where none is intended. That, in turn, leads to trusted friends drawing back a bit and my being in a somewhat isolated state, for a few days. Taking the hint, this year, it’s a time to take care of a few things that have gone neglected for a while, today, and be in nature tomorrow-the day of Equinox.

It didn’t help matters any, that a planned deployment with the Red Cross fell through-only because I didn’t make a second consecutive phone call to the dispatcher-when I was expecting a confirmation call from that individual. Funny, how the protocol from last year has changed. At any rate, given my emotional state, I would not have been on game and mistakes may have happened, that would not have served well. Things, no matter how confusing, happen for the general good.

Today begins a second series of September birthdays (Mom’s and my middle brother’s being the first set, earlier this month). This one starts with the birthday of someone with whom I have had scant contact, in this life, but an inexplicable bond from some other realm of existence. It includes the birthday of my sister and ends with the commemoration of Penny’s birthday, both next week.

Summer’s end caps a season that took in a second cross-country journey, saw some friendships start to fade, others generate and renewed my bonds with good-hearted people. It included a longer work project than I had planned, but the results were fairly successful. It is now time to look towards Autumn-the season of harvest, and of my own birth. It will bring me to southern California, for a few days next week; complete Red Cross training that I feel is needed, in early October; and make a journey to places in New Mexico that have longed called out. Fall will also bring a couple more sessions with the dermatology team and hopefully see my little family come out here for Thanksgiving. I may yet also go on deployment for a couple of weeks.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Dan Wilson, “Closing Time”

Now, for another song, from a master songwriter:

Constitution Day

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September 17, 2021- It is fairly pleasant in Philadelphia, in the middle of September, as summer winds down and the gradual presence of autumn begins to be felt. Temperatures inside the hall, where the beginnings of a Federal state took root, also began to cool and on this date, in 1787, the United States Constitution was signed by 39 men, representing 13 states and collectively called “The Founding Fathers”. Later that year, the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania became the nucleus of what would become 50 states, and were followed by the eleven other entities, whose representatives had signed the document, and which ratified the Constitution between 1788-1790.

This constitution has been a model for both state constitutions and for those of nations which have come into being since 1790. It is a testament to the people of this country that, both attempts to subvert the Constitution, in 1861 and in January of this year, have, thus far, come to naught. That these actions were on behalf of those whose philosophies of governance and of social concourse were restrictive and reactionary perhaps made the matter more straightforward. That the second attempt mirrored the first shows, however, that elitism is a clever and persistent mind set, with the ability to appeal to people-of all ethnicities, creeds, generations and of both genders, and the capacity to oversimplify complex matters, in the course of making that appeal.

We are gradually moving away from elitism, of both the right and of the left, and as slow and painful a process as that is, our Constitution, with its amendment clause, is helping it along. Happy Constitution Day to all who honour the document and the ideas which it safeguards!

Life Blood

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September 15, 2021- It has taken a long time, but I think a contact in another country far from here has finally mustered the self-confidence to advocate for his children. Strong parenthood is one of the life bloods of a child who grows ready to face a life of challenges. The other key elements are strong will, a sense of humour and an inborn love for humanity.

I spent a good part of today greeting people at a Red Cross Blood Drive. 27 people donated one blood product or another-a good effort that matters in the current environment of disease, fire and flood. Blood, both actual and allegorical, is what drives human life and its various efforts.

I have had good friends tell me that money is the life blood of society. It has a key role to play, certainly, as there isn’t a whole lot of physical progress that can take place, over time, without some medium of exchange. Even a hermit farmer has to buy seeds, at least initially. I also recognize that water, which is after all the primary medium of blood, is then the “blood” of all life. Then, too, humaneness is the social life blood. No one can really thrive, unless treated humanely, over time.

Finally, though, I recognize that love is the ultimate life blood. Nothing can exist for long without it.

Steadily, They Learn

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September 14, 2021- The group of 28 entered the classroom, one fist bump and “Good Morning” at a time. They knew their teacher was on a personal “Mommy Mission” today, and that she was only a cell phone call away, but the ambiance in the room was of people concerned with their own mission: Building the skills needed to go forward into a world that could go in any direction, and which they were determined to set in a direction that will reflect their emerging values.

I spent the day with 28 very delightful 11-year-olds, all committed to task and tolerant of my initial confusion as to what time to get things started. We made it through everything that was on the agenda, with a few slow workers still to complete a set of math problems, at day’s end. The math teacher is a patient man, more concerned with actual mastery than meeting deadlines, so the stragglers are, within reason, in a good place.

We covered equations, a few detail-oriented short essays on various topics, a short story about a Lakota Sioux child who was coming of age, and essential themes of geography, including types of maps. One of the short essays was about spiders. As it happened, the day began with a girl shrieking that a spider was about to crawl into an open backpack. I went over, found the juvenile tarantula, trapped it in a cup and released the hapless creature outside in a wooded area. It was gratifying that the kids were concerned that the animal not be killed.

This is an example of why I keep going in, for selected school assignments. There are earnest people who see what is going on around them, and are not going to be caught helpless. They need, and deserve, as many advocates as can be mustered. Besides, expanding my heart family is always a good thing.

Four Courses of Love

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September 12, 2021- A longtime friend, a few years my senior, has taken to posting photos of a newborn child, whom he has nicknamed after himself, her mother and a mutual friend of theirs, in hybrid fashion. He is clearly proud of the infant girl. My hope is that he can be there for her, through her teenage years, when the voice of a good man is as valuable to a young girl as is that of her mother. Without a parent, or parent-figure, of the opposite sex, a teenager is likely to drift emotionally. This takes nothing away from the efforts of those of the same sex as the youth, but it is an essential adjunct to those efforts.

There are several girls and young women whom I love as if they were my own daughters. I had the honour of working with two of them this evening, as Prescott Farmers’ Market put on its annual Farm-to-Table Dinner. I was a server, helped by two food runners and a busser. One of the ladies to whom I referred is the Executive Director of the Farmers’ Market, and can pretty much ask anything of me, in terms of service to the Market. The other is a tireless worker in the field of sustainability, and likewise devotes her energies to the Market’s success.

The dinner was served in four courses: Soup, salad, entree and dessert. Initially, each course was served by the designated team for two tables, with a total of seven crews. Four Chefs and a sous chef carefully and lovingly plated each course, and two complimentary courses for sponsoring VIPs. We on the serving crews brought each course to the patrons, with about twenty minutes between courses.

By the time the desserts were ready to be served, the Dinner was some minutes behind schedule. It was then that the teams combined and served all tables, allowing a half-hour for dessert, coffee, aperitifs and post-meal chitchat. It is never a good idea to jump out of one’s seat in a rush, though a few patrons did (“The dog is alone”; “I need to take my meds”; “It’s past my bedtime”). The high schoolers also had to leave. Those of us who stayed until the end continued the swarming behaviour, giving the dishwashing crew and the breakdown crew a boost, mindful that those teams of two have been stuck, in past years, when the high school age workers have had to leave, due to curfew. That is how I am used to volunteering-being one of the last to leave. No less really seems fair.

So went the second day of a most fruitful weekend. I am taking tomorrow “off”, focusing on training materials for a Blood Drive on Wednesday, but otherwise staying in a state of relaxation.

It Was A Beautiful, Calm Tuesday Morning….

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September 11, 2021- I went to a Fry’s Supermarket, five blocks from my home, on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had no firm plans for the day and so, just picked up some bread and milk, before Penny had to go to work and Aram, to middle school. It was 6:10 a.m. MST, and the morning disc jockey on the rock station, whose call letters I don’t even remember, announced in a voice dripping with equal parts shock and incredulity that someone had flown an airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in New York.

An inner voice immediately told me that this was an act of terrorism. Getting home, I felt and looked shaken, and when Penny asked what was wrong, I told her, the TV was switched on, CNN fumbled a bit before acknowledging that there was an incident-and shortly after my loved ones dutifully left for their daily routines, footage of the second plane hitting the South Tower and the implosions that, as intended, prevented even further devastation and loss of life began to be shown, continuously throughout the week and month ahead. Then, there was the crash into the west side of the Pentagon (real), the crash into the back 40 of the Lambert family’s property in Shanksville, PA (also real) and the reports of fires on the National Mall and attacks on Sears (now Willis) Tower (imaginary).

In the days that followed, I paid a visit to the gas station that was operated by the Singh Sodhi family and paid respects to their slain husband, brother and father, Bubrik-killed by an angry Nativist, who thought Bubrik was Muslim. I then bought lunch at a cafe operated by Palestinian Christians. There was a job interview, at which I praised Rudy Giuliani’s leadership, drawing an eye roll from the interviewer-and no job offer. There were my own eye rolls, when a French conspiracy buff publicly stated that the whole series of incidents, especially at the Pentagon, were actually a series of holograms and that we would “know soon” the whereabouts of those reported dead-and when Ward Churchill described the dead as “little Eichmanns”.

There would be other attempts at terror, later in 2001 and over the next ten years. 10 weeks after the horrific events, a plane went down just east of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and into a neighbourhood near an apartment block in Queens. It was reported then as a crash, due to pilot error, but the apartment complex was home to many of the First Responders who had been called to duty on 9/11. This did not help any, in our national recovery, regardless of the actual behaviour of the Japan Airlines crew, in the plane that had taken off in front of American Airlines Flight 587, or of the AA 587 crew themselves. Subsequently, Richard Reed tried to bring down a plane, mid-ocean, by lighting his shoe on fire and Charles Bishara (aka Bishop) attempted to crash a stolen small plane into the Bank of America Building in Tampa. Both of these became tragicomic footnotes to the horrors of this day, ten years ago.

Today, I spent 12 hours helping with various aspects of Hope Fest, a Faith-based community service event on Courthouse Square. I go there as a jack-of-all-trades, serving in whatever capacity the various coordinators need done-from hauling pushcarts of equipment and materials for the various vendors to manning a Raffle Ticket booth. Then, there was helping with the breakdown, at day’s end-folding chairs and loading the sandbags that held canopies down, onto other pushcarts. I am grateful for the good health that allows me to still do such tasks, knowing full well that such strength won’t last forever.

Managing to fit in a grocery run for my temporarily disabled hiking buddy and leaving Hope Fest a little early (to the mild annoyance of the director) so as to greet a friend from Phoenix who was staying with me overnight, did not take away from the feeling that this event was another successful one-and that my own small role in it helped maintain the group spirit that has sustained our nation, throughout all manner of attacks from without and from within.

Adversity, of any kind, will only strengthen human resolve-if that resolve is genuine.

Every Stone, A Different Shape

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September 9, 2021- The little boy, resting his head on his father’s shoulder as the family came through the door of Wildflower Bakery, looked intensely at me while I held the door for them. He grinned at me, across the room, until his family’s breakfast came-then the toddler had a very healthy appetite for scrambled eggs. It would not be presumptuous to conclude that he had a certain level of appreciation for that small act of courtesy. Small children, and infants-even fetuses, can pick up on sounds, gentle touches and, once born, facial expressions.

After my dental cleaning, the itinerary led to a visit to Penny’s grave, where I noted that a cent coin had been laid on it. Casting about, I noted that all other gravestones, at least for three rows, also had at least one penny laying on them. Some had several coins, but no matter. It was someone’s gesture of kindness.

Next was lunch at Local Jonny’s, one of my two favourites in Cave Creek-and my most likely stop for a light lunch, on the way back from a Phoenix errand. The ladies were gracious and attentive, as ever, with everyone getting prompt and considerate service. It was too hot, even for misters, on the side patio so I stayed indoors. A young woman and her daughter, who looked to be about five, took the table to my left. There was alternately a tension and camaraderie between the two, with sternness followed by happily sharing photos. Confusion is sometimes the price we pay for seeking comfort from those who want to both please their loved ones and yet exert a level of independence.

Every atom, grain of sand, snowflake, stone, oak leaf, ant, tree sloth, elephant and human being is different from every other among their kind. It has been said that a heart-shaped rock is a special act of God, as is a person who acts angelic. In reality, the Creator does no mix and match. We are, each and all, beloved at the time of our conceptions, from the onset of our existence. Each is unique, and is thus, for reasons known only to the Supreme Being.

So it was, that I encountered and drew the interest of two very different children, and a host of varied adults, in the course of what was a routine day. I see this partly as the heightening of my own awareness and partly as the intensifying energy of a planet-wide human bond. The days of being alone in a crowd are finished.

Just Because You Can…..

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September 8, 2021- In this time of real and perceived threats to personal freedom of choice:

Just because you can run, pell-mell, into traffic, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you can have sexual intercourse with someone you just met, doesn’t mean it’s the thrill of a lifetime.

Just because you can try to fly without wings, doesn’t mean you will soar.

Just because you can live a lie, doesn’t mean that’s the road to salvation.

Just because you can ignore the turmoil taking place across town, across the country or across the ocean, doesn’t mean you are isolated.

Just because you can intimidate many people, doesn’t mean you are their Lord and Master.

Just because you can abandon those who love you, doesn’t mean you are footloose and fancy-free.

Just because you can hoard, doesn’t mean you are wealthy.

Just because you can kill someone else’s innocent child, doesn’t mean you are giving that person her freedom.

Behaviour always has consequences.

Re-Communicado

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September 7, 2021- A call came, out of the blue, and in short order, a bit of unfinished business was re-scheduled. The medical procedures that I had to cancel earlier, will now be a fait accompli before Thanksgiving, which seems appropriate.

The friend for whom I am covering, for a few more days, will be back soon. I’m sure the next chapter of needful things will be very clear, shortly after I finish this effort, on Friday. Whether this involves the Red Cross, and disaster relief, remains to be seen.

The tie between these three is that there was a fair degree of lack of communication. It was only this morning that the school situation became clear. The medical business was resolved this afternoon. Red Cross gives hints of when I might be called, but that will depend entirely on the situation on the ground, in northern California and in the areas affected by Hurricane/Tropical Depression Ida. Then, there are Larry, which may hit parts of New England, as yet and an unnamed depression that is taking aim at central and northeast Florida.

I mention these, in owning up to a fair degree of difficulty that I still have, with being held in abeyance. The lesson is to do better at contemplating the whole picture. Dozens, if not hundreds of factors can enter into any one series of events.

In the end, I always find out things when I am meant to find out.

Tribes and Such

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September 6, 2021- Today being Labor Day in the U.S., many thoughts and expressions of thanks were offered to Frances Perkins, whose reaction to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, of March 25, 1911, metamorphized into the workplace safety movement of the 1930s-1970s. That it reached many of its goals is a grand social triumph, but it will never be something that can be set on a shelf. Human greed and self-centeredness can and will seep back into the consciousness of social policy, if we are not careful. Ms. Perkins was a genuine American hero and it would not be a bad thing at all, were her visage to grace one of the bills or coins of United States currency-perhaps even a bitcoin, if it becomes part of the American exchequer.

This afternoon, I visited my somewhat laid-up hiking buddy, who was injured last week and is now on extended hiatus from the trails. Our conversation turned the matter of another friend finding her tribe. HB remarked that my tribe was all over the place, which is true, essentially. I have detailed the names of friends, extended family and those I regard as angels. That some are on one end of the ideological spectrum and some on the other end, with most in between, does not trouble either my basically progressive stance on many matters or belief in the sanctity of all life.

Some tribal members are solely seen on Zoom, these days. Others hang out in downtown Prescott, or at Rafter Eleven, or at Synergy Cafe. Some live in western Arizona, northern Nevada, eastern Tennessee, northern Indiana or all along the three coasts. My heart family, as I’ve said repeatedly, is found in any number of places and I know I will find more of them, as time unfolds.

There will always be outliers, who can be accepted for who they are, as long as they don’t hurt others. One such was a young man, with a rather pleasant voice, who sang acapella on the edge of Courthouse Square, this afternoon. He sang “I love myself and I love you (to a few random passersby). I love my backscratcher (which he held up, for all to see).” Telling him he had earned A for effort, I placed a tip in his jar and walked further around the Square, taking in the Crafts Fair and the blessed mass of humanity who had gathered along the sidewalks. I don’t mind crowds. They are proof that our species is alive and thriving.

Many thanks to all who labour honestly, today and every day.