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.
October 17, 2021- Jupiter moves direct, with relation to Earth, tomorrow, followed by Mercury. This means something to astrologers, yet also affects those to whom it means little. Everything in the Universe is connected, which goes double for everything in our solar system. Planetary energies can, and do, make us go back over old ground-both social and emotional, until we clear the baggage away and handle our old challenges well.
I feel a shift, more of a balance between duty to self and duty to others.
The loud klaxon that calls me to give all I have to those who will not do for themselves is growing fainter, and just maybe, that means they are beginning to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
They may not find it easy. I did not, when the temptation arose, to place the blame for my failures, anywhere but here.
It never brought satisfaction, only tears and discomfort. With suffering, though, comes strength.
I am grateful for the shift. It is the gift that invariably arrives when autumn summons fruition, followed by reward and rest-before a renewed season of greater effort and achievement.
May success come to those who are awakened! (“Woke” is a euphemism, not a real state of being.)
October 16, 2021- The full- on, pulsating sounds of the Latino-tinged hard rock band had five generations of people up and dancing, for close to two hours. It was the culmination of an afternoon Harvest Festival, a block party of sorts, set up by Raven Cafe and Peregrine Book Store, to benefit the Prescott Education Fund-and by extension, our public schools.
I found myself swaying to the rhythms, on the sidelines, as couples and families bounced, did the samba and even a guy doing Cat Daddy, with his lady friend and one other mutual friend of theirs. Babies in their parents’ arms were moving and grooving. Kids of all ages were jumping around, everywhere. It was just that sort of magnificent autumn evening, in a small lot that is one of Prescott’s best-kept secrets.
A couple of costumed characters briefly moved among the crowd, essentially getting the party started.
So it went, and the exercise did me good. It is ever so, that even as the twilight of the first year of my eighth decade on this earth approaches, there is still very much a relevance to my presence here. My immediate reward was a delectable creme brulee at the Raven, once the concert had wound down. The more substantial reward was an indelible viewing of Home Base for what it is: A small spot of paradise, in which my spirit can thrive and from which it may go forth, to other paradises.
October 15, 2021- In the fall of 2020, there were protests against keeping the statue of Juan de Onate, one of the Conquistadores who re-established Spanish hegemony in what is now the American Southwest, after the Indigenous Peoples’ Revolt of 1680. The statue still stands at the southwest entrance to Old Town Albuquerque. As painful as much of Spanish rule was, for both the Puebloan and nomadic tribes that were subjugated, that collective pain and the response to it-including the retributive pain meted out by the rebels upon the Spanish settlers are cautionary tales-two among many from which mankind is learning, ever so slowly. The horrors endured cannot be wiped from memory.
All across Europe, there are reminders of the grim events that forged that continent’s present state, from the Museum of Torture, in Bruges, Belgium to the preserved concentration camps of World War II. In Africa, the dreadful remnants of Slave Castles and places like Ile Goree, remind residents and visitors alike of the widespread culpability for this most heinous sustained and codified injustice. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bear witness to the ultimate fate that awaits the worst of ultranationalists, along with the millions of innocent victims that their excesses cause to be brought down with them.
Here in North America, it is surely tempting to “correct” history, by eradicating statuary that reflect the erroneous notion of one racial subgroup, or ethnicity, being superior to others. Indeed, statues of Confederate leaders and slave holders scarcely have any place, standing in communities that abolished slavery, to the extent it ever was practiced in them, well before the onset of the American Civil War. Ditto for the Stars and Bars.
I have visited places associated with controversial, even unsavory, historical figures and events, from the Confederate Cemetery of southern Maryland to the site of the Silver Creek Massacre, in eastern Colorado-and will continue to do so, for the purposes of my own understanding. I do so, knowing that I will never subscribe to either heinous mistreatment of other human beings, or to the systems that spring from it.
Careful, measured and accurate presentation of unpleasant to horrific episodes of our history, and of the blinkered systems they produced, is however part of learning. De Onate’s role in the suppression of both indigenous peoples of New Mexico, and of the lower class settlers (including Afro-Spaniards, many of whom were enslaved) needs to be kept in mind. Seeing his likeness on horseback, upon first entering Old Town, is a suitable prompt in that regard. It also brings forth further contemplation, as to the role of the clergy, including the founders of the nearby Church of San Felipe de Neri, in the oppression of those viewed as of a lesser humanity. Again, gratuitous statuary in places not associated with a given figure of history- as in a statue of Christopher Columbus in, say, Portland, Oregon or of Robert E. Lee, in downtown St. Louis, serves no purpose other than to gratify that figure’s local admirers. In such a case, those admirers should be free to keep their memorabilia on their own private turf. For the rest of us, history presented in its true context will suffice.
Those are my thoughts, after visiting Old Town Albuquerque, before heading back to Home Base.
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 13, 2021, Santa Fe- The serene and beautiful teenaged girl looked as if she could save humanity, at the same time looking as vulnerable as she must have felt, in that long-ago and far away place. The depiction of Mary, mother of Jesus, by an unnamed artist, is both the most heart-rending and the most hopeful likeness, of a woman of whom no one has any real idea, as to her actual appearance.
People back then were used to solving problems that we can only dimly imagine. As I walked the grounds of the Stations of the Cross Meditation Garden, adjacent to the Garden of the Saints, where the above statue is situated, the harrowing nature of Christ’s suffering and death-and the Great Being Himself, are depicted in a way I have seldom seen. Here is not the beauteous, blond-haired superman of legend, but the embodiment of pain and sorrow. Jesus appears to literally be crying out for the collective soul of humanity.
The pain and sorrow that Christ, His family and His disciples endured, would later be mirrored by the horrific sufferings brought to bear on Indigenous peoples, in the Americas and around the world, in His very Name, by those whose blinkered understanding of His Message was clouded by their own material greed and lust for power. Clergy, even the most pure-hearted, are only humans like the rest of us, and bring all their prior life experiences into their service to God.
I drew some comfort from reading the account of St. Francis of Assisi, a personal favourite among the Catholic saints, preaching to the birds.
“My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky,” Francis said, “you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah’s Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God.”- The Little Flowers of St. Francis
So was capped a full-day in Santa Fe, my first visit here since 1994. The city was packed with tourists, as always, with most of them being older people like me, taking advantage of the cooler weather and relatively smaller crowds. I enjoyed French crepes and the comfort of meatloaf, as bookend meals, and added the state Capitol of New Mexico to the photo library. How simple, and understated, is this place, when placed alongside the grand, ostentatious state Capitols of various other states! Nonetheless, it serves New Mexico well.
The state and the city have made considerable progress in both real and symbolic treatment of Indigenous peoples, fully acknowledging the heinous conditions that led to the revolt, by both Puebloan and nomadic nations, against Spanish rule, in 1680. While that rebellion was eventually put down by a superior military force, the Spaniards never really regained an upper hand, but were forced by the Unseen Hand, to grow into a gradual coexistence with the peoples who surrounded them. This has created New Mexico’s unique culture-on that is indeed enchanting.
It is at once sorrowing and gratifying, that St. Kateri’s statue greets the visitor to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. She lived only to the age of 24, a victim of smallpox and of small minds. Kateri practiced self-abnegation and refused all attempts by family to wed her to a Mohawk warrior. She was devoted only to God, as she saw Him.
My heart, at the end of the day, was both humbled and gratified.
October 12, 2021, Santa Fe- The rough-hewn log cabin greeted several of us who pulled into Ghost Ranch around noon. It’s given name is City Slicker Cabin, though BYOB (Bring your own bedding) is the obvious message for those who take a look at its plank-floored emptiness. Needless to say, the present owners of the property take care to lock it, each night at 5 p,m,
The day had started wet and cold, as I enjoyed a homestyle breakfast at Cuban Cafe, across the road from Cuban Lodge, both owned by the same family, in Cuba, NM. Rain changed to snow as the road took me over Sierra Nacimiento, and to a brief stop at Abiquiu Lake, a reservoir built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1963. The earthen dam which secures the lake was raised in 1986.
Having made a reservation at Ghost Ranch, for a day pass, I was told rather apologetically by the attendant in the Welcome Center that I would not be able to eat in the Dining Hall. Since that was not one of my expectations, I thanked her and went into the theater, to watch a brief video about the property and its history. Imagine my surprise to see a treasured friend among those who was on a group hike, a few years back.
Ghost Ranch has attracted many of us, well-known and obscure, alike. Ansel Adams, Nelson Rockefeller, Del Webb and Robert Wood Johnson (the founder of Johnson & Johnson, and the second part-owner of the property) have all treasured its serenity and beauty. Perhaps most famous of all, however, were Max Roybal, the Santera (carver of wooden saint likenesses) of Ghost Ranch, and Georgia O’Keeffe. It was Ms. O’Keeffe’s association with Ghost Ranch that first prompted me to want to pay a visit. There is much about her simple artistic style and love for basic black and white backgrounds that has appealed to me, since my teen years. She had a passionate love of desert and mountain alike, regarding nearby Cerro Pedernal as “her” mountain. In many ways, Georgia was a daughter of Perdernal. She is also regarded as the “Mother of American Modernism”, relative to painting and sculpture. She lived on Ghost Ranch from 1934-1984, when frail health prompted a move to Santa Fe, where she passed on in 1986, at the age of 98.
With Ms. O’Keeffe’s long and cherished career in mind, I set about exploring the grounds of this fascinating property. Carol Stanley moved to the former Archuleta property, in 1930, recording the deed to it in her name, after divorcing her husband, Roy Pfaffle, who had won the property in a poker game. A frequent visitor, businessman Arthur Pack, bought the property from Ms. Stanley, in 1935. It was he who developed the land to its present rustic, but economically viable, state. Mr. Pack and his wife, Phoebe, being childless, sought a non-profit entity to purchase the land, after he became infirm. The Presbyterian Church was given Ghost Ranch by them, in 1955, and uses it as an educational and spiritual retreat. The property was damaged somewhat, by a flood in 2015, but has largely been restored.
Here are five scenes of Ghost Ranch.
I spent about thirty minutes walking the nearby Labyrinth. Being in a deep state of meditation after leaving the Labyrinth, I decided to not photograph it, this time, but looking at the Medicine Water Wheel, one can get a fair idea of the appearance of the maze.
There are two museums, south of the Welcome Center: The Anthropology and Paleontology Museums. During the height of the Covid Pandemic, these were the only museums in New Mexico to remain open! Even so, only four people at a time could visit each one. I spent another forty-five minutes between the two.
When it was time to say farewell, for now, to Ghost Ranch, I was bid adieu by these two sentries:
October 11, 2021, Cuba, NM- The message was unequivocal, as I drove past the highway that led to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and towards Farmington: “We are giving you THIS day, to honour the ancestors!” I turned around, and drove towards Chaco, promising myself that I would not continue along the unpaved road that led to the place, if there were any spots with high centers or jagged rocks that would reach up and take a bite out of the rental car’s oil pan or gas tank.
I needn’t have worried. There were spots with mild washboard, but nothing that harmed the Chevy Malibu. My new friends, Michael and Pat, were less fortunate, losing a water jug to the one spot on the road that had a hairline rupture and shook their vehicle. I think I went over that spot at 10 mph. Probably, the harbinger for what turned out to be an excellent observance of Indigenous People’s Day was this sight, along NM Highway.
Another half-mile along, a friendly rancher had arranged this greeting.
Today’s visit brought me to Hungo Pavi, Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito. The above, and the next two photos, feature Hungo Pavi.
I moved along to Chetro Ketl, one of the four clusters of buildings in Chaco that use a mix of round and square.. Chetro is located directly west of a fine collection of petroglyphs. Here is one of these.
As large as Hungo Pavi and Chetro Ketl were, they were mere suburbs of Pueblo Bonito. The central community was also the major trading hub for the Four Corners region, and likely as important to the commerce of at least the western half of North America, as Cahokia and Serpent Mound were to the east. Here are three views of that enormous place.
I will be back in this phenomenal place, perhaps as early as December. The spiritual and historical significance of Chaco Canyon, to both those who settled here and those who came after, is still being realized.
October 10. 2021, Gallup- Today is Double Tenth, the popular name for the National Day of Taiwan. The country is on watch, as it has been since 1949. Taiwan is staying vigilant, on game.
On a smaller scale, I, too, have to remain vigilant, on game-for a different reason. Life is getting more frenetic, I’ve noticed. More people are casting discernment to the wind, with me being one of them, for a split second too long, on September 23. The lesson was to not take eyes off my surroundings-in any situation.
After a morning that became whirlwind-a breakfast at Post 6, delayed a bit by human error (not mine), I hosted an online meeting-starting on time, but with seconds to spare. It all worked out, very nicely. A phone call to my mother, before all that, soothed any concerns I had about her well-being. She was more concerned that I was recovering from 9/23. I am, and just about completely.
Packing was fairly light, though I am ready for the vagaries of October-winter gear is mixed with near summer wear. I set out a bit after noon, noticing that there was a huge volume of traffic headed from Payson to the Phoenix area, for some reason going west to the Verde Valley, then south on I-17. I was headed in the opposite direction, but found it took seven minutes to be cleared for turning left so as to head north to Winslow.
There was no further delay in moving towards Gallup. I did stop for coffee, in the small Navajo Nation border town of Chambers, AZ. The restaurant attached to Days Inn was closed, but the convenience store had coffee. A well-meaning lady brought a stray dog into the store, pleading with the attendant to find a place for the scared puppy. Apparently, the finder was from Phoenix and had no way to care for the dog, which she said had been wandering around near the large semi-trailer trucks parked nearby. It being Sunday, and Chambers being a good hour from the animal shelter in Ganado, there wasn’t much the attendant could do, save put the dog outside and tend to her at shift’s end. Me? I am driving a rental car, have no pet carrier and would not be able to keep the animal at Home Base. I left a small group of people there to sort it out as best they could.
Once here, in western New Mexico’s regional commercial hub, I found no fewer than four motels closed for renovation. All can definitely use a world-class makeover, including the Lariat, where I stayed the last time I was here. El Capitan Motel is open for business and is definitely of recent renovation. The place is at least as good as a Motel 6, if not better. Who says Mom & Pop have nothing on the chains?
I am modifying my itinerary a bit, foregoing a drive into Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as the skinny on the roads into the park says there are very rough sections of the dirt roads, just before the park entrances, on either side. I am driving someone else’s vehicle and discernment precludes taking it on a rough route. I can drive a paved road, along the periphery of Chaco, which will suffice for now. Monday will thus be a day of familiarizing myself with the edges of the Bisti Badlands and the areas around the towns of Farmington, Bloomfield and Cuba.
My vigilance, in several instances of craziness, mostly pertaining to traffic, was much sharper today. I find that most reassuring.
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