Filling Needs

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November 30, 2020-

The little boy rested his head on the sleeve of my sweater shirt, dozing off the minute our flight lifted off the ground. His apologetic grandmother was assured that there was no need to waken and admonish him. Sleep so often comes in short supply, these days. The right arm remained perfectly still, while the child-my child for an hour or so, caught up with the rest that had been interrupted by God knows what.

So often, we have no understanding of backgrounds or antecedents, preferring to stand on ceremony, or rest on principle. It can go both ways: I know people in need, real or perceived, who constantly badger and cajole their would-be helpers. It’s the adult version of “Are we there yet?”, and it betrays a lack of understanding, as to the complexities of process. I will have to so advise one such person, before heading for bed, tonight.

I have said previously that children and their well-being are my top priority. That remains very much so. My love and commitment extend outward to all ages, certainly, and will no doubt find expression in further acts of service-both planned and random. The New Heaven and the New Earth foretold by Saint John, in the Book of Revelation, will come about-but one step at a time, and with all of us pitching in.

So let the month ahead see an uptick in recognizing what can be done in the moment, what needs more time to accomplish, commitment to both-with the wisdom of knowing the difference.

Grapevine Magic

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November 29, 2020, Plano

Seven weeks from now, Texas Home Base will shift, from this sprawling corporate headquarters town to the mid-19th Century agricultural hub of Grapevine. Of course, Arizona Home base will remain primary, but little family is here-for some holiday and milestone celebrations.

Grapevine was founded in 1844, near the site of a village of Caddo people, known as Tah-wa-Karro, after the wild grapes that grew there. Despite the name, Grapevine’s mainstays were cotton, then cantaloupes. Its produce, and place on the main route from Dallas to Fort Worth, have drawn a railroad station and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, for which Grapevine has the north entrance.

Grapevine has also marketed iself as “Texas’s Christmas City”, so on our visit yesterday, we spotted many holiday decorations and displays. Then, too, there are several parks, for outdoor activities in the short-grass pririe setting. We also spent some time at Meadowmere Park, in Grapevine and at Bob Jones Park, in nearby Southlake.

Here are some scenes of downtown Grapevine and of Bob Jones Park.

Main Street, Grapevine-with a rail station waiting room
Flying Unicorn, Main Street, Grapevine
Christmas Greetings, Main Street, Grapevine
Grapevine City Hall
Fishing Pond, Bob Jones Park, Southlake, TX
Christmas display, near restored log cabin, downtown Grapevine

The Grapevine area has many other sights and treasures, which will be part of the anchor, in the coming years.

Neptune Direct

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November 28, 2020, Plano-

Seventy, as I expected, feels no different than sixty, or sixty-five. The day passed with a variety of activities: Joining a global Zoom gathering, hosted by a longtime friend from Phoenix; picking up another pair of dress casual shoes; munching on burger and fries for lunch and a delectable Pho (Vietnamese soup) and spring rolls for dinner; and exploring parts of Grapevine, TX (photos tomorrow), where Aram and Yunhee will live, come the end of January.

It has been a time of both taking stock of how things have changed, as I mentioned yesterday, and of projecting ahead. I have a sense of what I hope to accomplish in 2021 and beyond. Right now, I am focusing mostly on December, and being there for any children and youth who need me, between now and the Christmas/New Year’s Break. I had planned on taking three days off, to mark the fortieth anniversary of Penny and I having met. That would have taken me to a couple of places in New Mexico that are associated with our first encounter.

New Mexico, though, remains closed to people from most states, including Arizona and there are relatively few substitutes working with my employer, so I will be making myself available from December 1-18, straight through. With any interstate road trip over the holidays looking increasingly ludicrous, I will have plenty of time to check out places in other parts of Arizona, as well as relax with friends, during the Break.

Planet Neptune ends its retrograde, relative to Earth, tomorrow. This sort of event exhausts a lot of people, but generally focuses my attention more sharply and lets me sleep more deeply through the night. That will make it a lot easier both to give my attention where it is needed and to plan realistically for the weeks and months ahead.

The Prairie Sings

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November 26, 2020, Plano-

The prairie sings of those

who once walked among its grasses,

both short and tall.

The Spaniards came, one day,

and brought horses.

The People learned to ride

and their world changed.

The forests sing of those

who cleared useful paths

among their fastnesses,

cultivated plants, grew herbs

and managed the moose and deer.

The French and English came

and bought furs.

The People learned to trade

and their world changed.

Yhe deserts sing

of those who learned to grow

maize, squash and chilis,

by building irrigation canals

and by dry farming.

The Spanish came here, too,

seeking gold and silver.

The People learned to delude

and their world changed.

The People were here,

long before wars,

religious conflict

and pestilence

brought others from Europe,

as natural calamities,

wars and pestilence

had sent them

here, from three directions,

millennia before.

Now, the People are still here.

Nothing can destroy those

whose hearts and souls

are rooted in Mother Earth,

who sings of all her children.

I hope one and all had a Happy Thanksgiving, as the three of us had.It was non-traditional, as we grilled chicken sausages and carne asada on a gas grill outside, in Plano Home’s outside pavilion. The dessert was chocolate pecan pie. It was as close to the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner as the original meal probably was- with its menu of oysters and clams, squab, pheasant, maize and fiddlehead greens. It was unlikely that any turkey with dressing was served, nor was there any pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving, then as now, is a festival of the heart.

Forging Ahead

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November 25,2020, Plano-

On a fine and comfortable late November morning, it’s a nice touch to hit the trail, even if the trail in question happens to be paved. So it was that the three of us headed over to Spring Creek Recreation Area, in neighbouring Richardson.

November, in the northern hemisphere, is something of a shoulder month, with leaves having mostly fallen (the cottonwoods of the Southwest, in their golden glory, are an exception). Nonetheless, Nature is healing, sustaining, even in its time of faded glory.

So it was, this morning, at Spring Creek.

This ramp leads down onto the trail.
Most of the trail is flat. This is, after all, a forest situated in a prairie.
Spring Creek, a small stream, is muddy in times of low precipitation.

There were relatively few people on the trail with us. A family of five, with a mildly mischievous adolescent boy teasing his older sister, and a couple of loud younger boys from another family, punctuated an otherwise quiet, self-absorbed coterie of joggers and T’ai-Chi practitioners, who wanted nothing but privacy.

Returning back to Plano Home, Yunhee treated Aram and me to freshly- made bowls of bibimbap, a Korean dish in which is placed rice, ground meat, leafy greens, shredded carrots, mushrooms and, if one wishes, either hard-boiled or over-easy egg in an individual bowl. The diner mixes the ingredients to own satisfaction. Often, the ceramic bowl is heated, so that a raw egg will cook as it is mixed with the other contents. Today, though, all was cooked in advance. It was, nonetheless, delectable-along with her home-made kimchi and seasoned dried minnows.

Bibimbap

As will be occasional, throughout this week’s visit, I felt it proper to join a couple of Zoom calls. One was with a small group of kindred spirits, in a guided meditation. The other, celebrating the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, was based in Prescott. Today is observed as the Day of the Covenant, which was the wish of ‘Abdu’l-Baha for those who expressed a desire to celebrate His birthday. As He was born on the very day that al-Bab proclaimed His Mission to humanity, ‘Abdu’l-Baha randomly selected this day (November 25 or 26, depending on the lunar calendar) as a day during which Baha’is could celebrate His life, and Baha’u’llah’s Covenant with His followers.

As it happens, November 28, 1921 was the day on which ‘Abdu’l-Baha ascended to the Spiritual Realm. Thus, in a short span of days, we honour His life and commemorate His passing. Next year, as you might imagine, our focus will be on that extraordinary life and legacy.

So it is, that the governing body of the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, has given us a rough outline of the decade ahead- a One -Year Plan, focusing on the above-mentioned life and legacy of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and a subsequent nine years of helping to build a more sustainable and peace-focused society. So it is, that we forge ahead.

Threading the Needle

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November 24, 2020, Plano-

I set out, early this morning, for Phoenix, then by air to Dallas and on to this home away from home, just north of the Big D. My son and daughter-in-law live here, and it is the logical place to mark my coming seventieth birthday.

The flight, and its preceding and subsequent drives, went very smoothly. Although it was a full flight, I was masked from the time I left my car in Long-term Parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport until the time I got in Aram’s car at DFW-and I was seated with two young boys on the plane, thus encountering minimal risk (Yes, they, too, wore masks).

This trip flies in the face of the demands of many public health officials, that everyone stay home and meet virtually, over both Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is one caveat: I will be spending most of the next five days in this apartment. Travelers, like myself, have a responsibility to thread the needle of any departure from our primary homes in a very careful manner.

Thus, I am wearing filtered face masks, sanitizing my hands and keeping the prescribed six-foot distance in public places= as I have been doing since March. Thus, I am avoiding being in a ridiculously crowded indoor space. No, the airport was not so crowded that I could not maintain physical distance.

In a few short days, as indicated above, I will enter my eighth decade on this planet. I intend to continue most, if not all, of my acts of service and, when a modicum of success in counteracting Coronavirusdisease 2019 is reached, to resume planned travels, furhter afield.

For now, I am fotunate to be with my little family.

Small Audience Auditions

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November 23, 2020-

As near-milestones fall, I look for the special bounty that comes with a day, regardless of what lies ahead. Today, my last teaching assignment as a sixty-something was with a couple of sonnet-writing classes and three levels of drama class.

I am not much at writing sonnets, so thankfully, the students were all well along. in their own writing. The Beginning Drama class was studying silhouettes, throughout history, so we had a fine discussion on the appearance of women, and men, through the ages. Most said they are glad to have not been around when full corsets were in vogue. One objected to the very idea of what he called “grotesque exaggeration” of female body parts-such as the Victorian-era depiction of the buttocks, all by way of hyper-couture. I share his disdain; women are given to a variety of types of beauty. Putting one’s body through torture, in order to meet someone else’s expectations, is never an even trade. Ladies, you are just fine, the way you are.

The next class, consisting of four people, saw each student present a particular sonnet that had been individually assigned. I have never assessed a dramatic presentation before, but using a clear rubric, the students could not tell that I was a novice. Much depends on intuition and presence. There was some embarassment, on their part, at auditioning to a small audience, yet one pulled self together nicely, infusing a perfect blend of emotion and enunciation. Even reading off a page, a gifted actor can stir deep feelings.

Lastly, the set-builders came in, and showed finesse with carpentry and prop painting. Their work was simple, yet wondrous. I see no “trade deficit”, in the sense of young people taking to crafts and the building professions, despite anecdotes of older contractors bemoaning the lack of ambition among the rising generations.

I value in-person education, and getting in there and working WITH the kids seems to build their self-confidence and drive, more than just reading instructions aloud, and retreating to the isolation of a desk-or an office.

The East Wing

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November 22, 2020-

On this day, fifty-seven years ago, the trigger was pulled on hope and change in America, as fleeting as it seemed to be under John F. Kennedy. Too many who flew the banner of progress, in the 1960s and ’70s, had their lives cut short by those who had much invested in the status quo.

On that day, I remember sitting in a middle-of-the room seat, in a Study Hall, in the East Wing of Saugus High School. We were attending afternoon sessions, as eighth graders, as our Junior High School had been torched by a disturbed individual, several weeks before. Thus, the high school was the site of double sessions, with the upper level students taking classes in the morning, so as to be able to go their jobs, in the afternoon.

A classmate, who was sitting behind me, asked “Why did you kill the President?” I turned around and looked at him curiously, then noted he was listening to his transistor radio (the predecessor to a cell phone, for the disaffected of our adolescence), through ear buds. All the same, I went back to my reading material.

Several minutes later, the School Counselor came on the Intercom and informed us that President Kennedy had been shot and that classes were being dismissed for the day. I walked home, somberly, and found my sobbing mother, saying he had died in hospital.

The East Wing was itself torched, by the same individual, who was eventually caught by a vigilant school custodian, at our third venue of that year. 1963-64 was, for me, the 2020 of virulent mayhem. There was no microbial pandemic, but I began to wonder who, and what, were next. Five years later, we had our answer.

I will always be fond, though, of the East Wing. All the schools we used that year are now gone, replaced by consolidated school buildings, which the present administration of Saugus Public Schools regards as more efficient. For the sake of the children and youth who depend on that school system, I trust it works out well.

Like Old Home Week

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November 21, 2020-

Saturday Morning Market brings out the best in produce, organic meats and a variety of ready to eat items, from burritos to babaganoush. Then there is the home made ice cream, a pint of which can suffice me for a week.

Some weeks, Farmer’s Market is a spare affair, in terms of how many friends I encounter-besides the vendors. Today, though, I had the good fortune to visit with three or four fellow travelers whom I had not seen in nearly two months. Back in Saugus, we called such as being “like old home week”.

When people of various backgrounds and ideologies can remain civil to one another and converse about matters of mutual interest, without the least bit of rancor, it is always a good day. My friends run the gamut from New Age farmers to a conservative Christian microgreens grower, and all in between. That they are all supportive and solicitous of one another is even sweeter.

This is the real impetus behind my conscious efforts to relate to each person, based on our commonalities, and yes, I do pass over the differences. The former will get us past any challenges. The latter can only raise too many barriers.

It’s good to be in a place of Old Home Week.

Self-Advocacy

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November 17, 2020-

Two of the most odious, misguided phrases in the English language are “Don’t get smart!” and “What are you, a wise guy?” Intelligence and wisdom, viewed as threats to the security of a grown human, say far more about the perceiver than about the perceived.

In all my years in education, the single most admirable group of people I have encountered are those who not only think for themselves, but speak up for themselves and classmates, as well. I don’t mean the loud, braying complainers; rather, those who speak respectfully, but eloquently and with gravitas.

It is nice to see this, when it happens, especially in an educational setting. I have seen children as young as five years of age say “Enough! This is not how things ought to be!” It does my heart good when adults don’t quash such self-advocacy. So it was, that I praised those who made a perfectly sensible request, in the last hour of class, this afternoon.

The most cogent aspect of such early self-advocacy is that there is no slow burn, no festering, unspoken resentment. There is no ennui, no apathy being seeded. There is, instead, the organic rise of a responsible and self-assured generation, which will be more likely to take its place in society, without a perceived need to engage in mayhem.

So it is, that in the rest of my work with students, in the month that I have left of fulltime work, and in the special assignments I will be asked to take on, between January and May, the focus will be on both fostering the thought process and on their self-advocacy- which are both outgrowths of accepting responsibility for one’s well-being.

I say: “Get smart; be wise!”