The Age of Elasticity

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March 23, 2023- When I was a child and adolescent, I was consumed with the study of geography, history, paleontology and all things having to do with the world being a unified whole. I couldn’t put my finger on “why”, and to most people around me, these interests were both intriguing-and seemed rather odd, even pointless. All I kept thinking was-just wait. Fast forward to this century, and the information that was important to me, back then, is now commonplace. There are hundreds of thousands of people who know more than I do about the fields that long captured my interest. Their knowledge has come from their day-to-day work or their travels for various reasons.

I read that there has been a “momentous” cosmological shift, in that Pluto is entering the sign of Aquarius, from that of Capricorn-albeit only for several weeks, before going back again, until November, 2024, when it will go to Aquarius and stay for 20 years. This is the first such state of affairs since 1777-which, as we all know, was the low-water mark of the American Revolution, followed by this country’s successful fight for independence. There were other marked changes in the life of humanity: The Scientific Revolution; the French Revolution; the wars for independence of Latin American nations and Haiti; the European settlement of Australia and New Zealand; the rise of industry. Progress has not slowed in the 250 years since: Chattel slavery was brought to an end, after several brutal conflicts, including the American Civil War; women gained the suffrage that should have been theirs all along; Civil Rights were also granted to Indigenous peoples, in several nations and to people of African descent in the United States, Canada and Brazil-as well as the Apartheid system being brought to an end, in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia; most nations ruled by European countries, in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific Basin became independent, with those remaining attached to their colonial masters gaining a measure of dignified autonomy; science and technology have advanced, in various aspects of life, and in ways only dimly imagined by thinkers of times past. Spiritually, the Teachings of Baha’u’llah have found an increasingly receptive humanity, and enlightened ways of looking at the Teachings of Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Zarathustra, Moses, Muhammad and earlier First Nations Messengers have arisen in tandem with Baha’u’llah’s Revelation. In short, mankind is coming closer together, with all the grand experiences, both wonderful and problematic alike, that this entails.

A similarly momentous Age of Progress is foreseen by cosmologists, and other thinkers, in the years that are upon us. Most people alive today, and certainly those of my generation or older, will witness only a glimpse of the advances that are no doubt likely. The basic premises underlying all of this are two: There is, underway, a sizable increase in the individual’s taking responsibility for own learning, decision-making and acceptance of responsibility and, simultaneously, a not incongruent increase in the levels, both qualitatively and quantitatively, of communication between individuals, groups, communities and nations. Humanity is moving in a wave, but each drop in that wave is coming to know both own part and those of others, and how these can work together. That missteps in communication, errors stemming from those missteps and excesses that result from incomplete thinking and communication are being more readily called out should come as no surprise to the careful observer.

These thoughts are what come about, when one is manning a Disaster Shelter with no clients and one partner, who is busy watching a movie on his i-Pad. This is the Age of Elasticity, and my mind is quite flexible.

The Atmosphere Delivers

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March 22, 2023- Dad would have been 96 today. He grew up with a love of flowing water, especially salt water, which soothed his psoriasis somewhat. We inherited that love, though something in my physical make-up has hampered my swimming skills. Nevertheless, being around water is soothing. Aram picked up that love of water and is a top notch swimmer and diver. He has translated that into success so far in the U.S. Navy-nowadays in the Naval Reserves.

I thought, when moving to Arizona, from Maine, in 1978, that I might miss the ocean. California, as it happens, is not far away-and on occasion, I have visited seaside resorts in Mexico’s northwest corner. The desert, however, is an ocean in itself-just storing its water safely, in pockets-oases, tanks and the storage components of trees, cacti and succulents. There are also plenty of mountains, which in northern Arizona are quite similar in vegetation to the mountains of New England, albeit with cacti thrown in for good measure.

The atmosphere has delivered copious amounts of precipitation this Winter-and into the first days of Spring. Most people are aware of the mixed blessings this has brought to California and Nevada. Arizona has had the same experience as its western neighbours. So, as mentioned in the earlier post, the rivers and creeks of our area, as well as near Flagstaff and parts of the Navajo and Hopi Nations , have assumed monsoon-level flows. This has opened shelters, as those living near the overflowing banks have had to be evacuated. Some have headed down to the Phoenix area or further afield. A few have stayed with us, in the Red Cross facilities.

Thus, my tentative schedule has set me to working nights, possibly through Friday, and doing minimal activities during the daylight hours, the rest of this week. I have, however, kept my basic exercise routine-and in the event of an empty, “stand-by” shelter, I can walk many laps around the gym, without bothering anyone. Life goes on nicely.

Celebration and Standing Watch

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March 21, 2023- It was a well-attended party, rich in repast and with lively dancing, after the meal. Forty=three folks, from three to seveny-eight, rang in the Baha’i New Year, properly called Naw-Ruz, and began the 180th year since al-Bab declared His Mission (1844). Anyone delighting in Persian cuisine would have been in glory and there was plenty of salad varieties to go around as well. Jasmine rice, some with beef and some with vegetables, was abundant. Chicken thighs, baked in sour orange juice, were also a highlight. Then, several of us danced, led by an elegant couple and a seasoned ballroom veteran. The kids, though, were the best-just by virtue of their authenticity.

About an hour after I got back to Home Base, a call came from the Red Cross and my services were secured for at least tonight. Once again, the Verde River, and some of its tributaries, were overflowing. The hour’s drive through pouring rain wasn’t all that hard, but it took longer than I had wanted and if there is one thing that still gets me rankled, it is not being on time to relieve the previous crew. I made it in with three minutes to spare, got the lowdown from the initially stone-faced crew and managed to send them off on good terms.

The rain has stopped, as of 10 p.m., but for the people staying with us this evening, the level of water is jarring and our simple task is to make them feel re-assured and safe. That is something I can manage, even in a tired state. May tomorrow bring the sunshine and a receding water level.

Springing Forward

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March 20, 2023- My weight reduction coach gave me some abdominal fitness exercises, and foresaw that I may need three more weeks of the current dietary regimen, after which he will provide maintenance instructions and send me on my merry way.

He has helped me make permanent adjustments to both diet and exercise regimen, so whether I go to his club, after mid-April, is superfluous. The last big tendencies to gorge on certain foods are gone. A dietary shake will take the place of at least one meal each day and the solid meals themselves will be smaller. The digital scale can help in that vein.

Around town, the weather did not seem to know what it wanted to do, so the clouds just hung, grey and almost in grief, over the passage of winter. I, though, am not sad to see the destructive season go-and for the sake of those in saturated areas, may there be a benign period of drying out-with any rain falling on the places that have had too much aridity these past three months.

Here in central Arizona, we anticipate a couple more days of wetness, followed by a lamb-like end of March and a dry April. This may lead to my covering a shelter, for a day or two. It could be a benign fire season, and we could very well see Pacific hurricanes that take the place of fire as a source of concern. After May’s journey, I will be closer to Home Base for the summer, so will be in the thick of whatever disaster response comes to call.

As many of you know, Arizona-outside of the Navajo Nation, does not observe Daylight Savings Time. We do, though, have to time our actions in sync with the places which do-so any calls to the east coast will be made earlier in the morning and those to LA or the Pacific Northwest-or Nevada, for that matter, will be made later in the day. This is the stretch of year where, if I do go over to Texas, figuring in a two-hour leap ahead, in any planning, is de rigueur.

As this first day of Spring draws to a close, I am off to celebrate a Baha’i Spiritual Feast, our first in-person event in several months. COVID still affects a couple of people here, but it is nowhere near the menace it was, not so long ago. As always, humanity is making its way, springing ahead-even in the Southern Hemisphere, where time has fallen back.

The Power of Farsightedness

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March 19, 2023- I stood atop a small hill, this afternoon. It was the site of a settlement of the Huhugam (also spelled Hohokam) people, at what was the northern edge of their settlement. Salida Gulch is an area where one may take any one of five trails, most of which go up and down fairly steep hills. I went up and down three of them, as a cardiopulmonary exercise-but I digress.

The promontory has a clear 360-degree view, and so was very likely an outpost for sentinels, who kept watch on behalf of villagers living in the creek valleys below. If there were rivals, adversaries or even friendly visitors on the move, over Mingus Mountain to the east, the Bradshaw Mountains to the south, the Sierra Prieta and Granite Mountain to the west, or the forested valley of Granite Creek, to the north, these would easily have been spotted.

The sentries made homes here, and the excavation and retrieval of household implements, when this site was first uncovered by archaeologists, early in the Twentieth Century, indicates that their families stayed in the area as well-contrasting their security system with those more conventional to our own time, in which security patrols live apart from their loved ones, whilst on duty. Recalling that the ancient Aboriginal People had no wheeled vehicles or large draft animals, as far we presently know, the relative proximity of families to sentry sites is quite logical.

The physical farsightedness of these ancestors of the Yavapai, and other central Arizona nations, reminds me of the power that each of us, in our time, can exercise by social and spiritual foresight. Seeing looming challenges, and moving to face these, is needful of 360-degree vision, as well as the presence and support of those closest to us. These features take time, energy and attention-with the requisite maintenance of health and well-being, both physical and emotional.

The larger challenges of life on Earth are not overcome by insistence on one’s own way, by hiding from the world or by seeing oneself and those immediately tied to self as somehow separate from all others. Only through an inherent sense of unity may things like climate change, the attainment of true social justice and the rebuilding of society in such a manner that neither the extremes of wealth and poverty nor the dominance of nations by one self-appointed entity or small claque be faced and the inherent strengths and goodness of humanity be brought to the fore. All people and points of view must be heard, considered, and the most useful ideas brought into the mix.

These thoughts occurred to me, in that time of solitude, atop the small hill, above Salida Gulch.

Broken observation platform, Salida Promontory

Walking Our Own Paths

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March 18, 2023, Scottsdale- I almost didn’t recognize a young friend, with her hair pulled up and wearing glasses. Once that was corrected, I asked about her immediate plans and learned she was taking on a challenging course of study in the Public Health area. I mentioned another friend who had completed a similar course of study, and had also recently married. She noted that her life had proceeded in the opposite order of the other lady. As I see it, both women are doing great things for the human race and for our planet.

Each of us does what we need to do, according to our particular life plan. Some complete their education first, then find a life partner and have children. Others marry first, get their schooling and either start a family or live as a couple without children. Some do only one of the above. Others do none of it. Penny and I took the first course of action. Plenty of my friends and family have pursued a different course.

Regardless, we all have a role to play in the scheme of things, and surely, if we didn’t each pursue our own wondrous course, what a sad world we’d have. I consider myself greatly enriched by each of the diverse members of this large and beautiful family circle both biological and collegial, that surrounds me. I am proud of all of them.

There are those who wish I had taken a different path, in the years since Penny left this Earth. All I know is that I essentially have no regrets, as to the path I’ve followed and few regrets as to specific things I’ve done, these past twelve years. I hold that others are due the same consideration.

Green Carpet of the Heart

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March 17, 2023- The darling girl owned the room, as soon as she and her mother entered. One of those people whose smiling eyes could melt the iciest heart, she engaged anyone who would listen in a few minutes of banter. We know each other from somewhere, and her mother is a doppelganger for a much loved friend who lives outside Portland, OR. We greeted each other cheerfully, but as strangers, as if meeting for the first time. Her grandmother showed up, a while later, as the Raven Cafe’s grand re-opening proceeded, with the Joe Booth Band, a rousing bluegrass and rockabilly ensemble, got the proceedings going.

Nonna mistook me for one of the owners, as I was sitting close to their table, in a small wooden chair by the water station, with the beer and wine menu overhead. I guess the father of one of the owners overheard and came over, interrupting my description of the t-shirt that had caught her interest, and making sure that the ladies knew who he was, before walking off to his next conversation. Normality has returned quickly to the Raven, after it was closed for a month, for structural repairs.

As Joe and the guys readied for their second set, they brought the sister of a friend on stage, for her first public performance. She held her own, for two songs, and seems to be a quick study on the fiddle. There was a goodly amount of dancing, mostly by the women and girls, wherever they could find space. The girl I mentioned at the outset was up there with the rest, dancing her heart out. This time, I contented myself with bouncing lightly in my chair-not really needing to be all that conspicuous. It was enough to see so many people enjoying themselves on the scattered open spaces.

Today being St. Patrick’s Day and, by happenstance, the 29th anniversary of my youngest brother’s passing, there was a bittersweet air. This time in March has ever seemed like a time of new life, at least in the northern hemisphere- the unrolling of a green carpet. Brian’s passing marked the end of a fair period of suffering and decline, so he moved on to his own new life-as his sister-in-law would, nearly 26 years later. Festivities such as this evening’s comfort me, as a kind of green carpet of the heart. Maybe the mother and daughter, who were so happy to meet me, are angels sent to make sure that the message of joy supersedes any lingering sorrow.

It is a blessing to have the Raven open again.

The Flow Increases

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March 16, 2023- The usually placid river overflowed its banks, while I was up in New Mexico for a day or so. A large number of people, many living in RVs, fled their park, with some ending up in a shopping center lot and others settling into the parking lot of the Red Cross shelter, at a local school. The shelter itself was otherwise quiet, with a couple who had left their riverside home and three volunteers, quietly monitoring graphs that showed the progress of the flood’s subsidence occupying the small gymnasium. Thus it was, as I stopped briefly in Camp Verde, on my way back to Home Base.

Santa Fe, where I spent yesterday evening, and part of this morning, was alternately experiencing cold drizzle and light snow. Friends who “mind the fort” at King’s Court Motel, Pantry Restaurant and Henry & The Fish Cafe were nonplussed and I got my usual warm greetings. The two eateries have fare that fits nicely into my weight reduction plan. The lodging is quiet, comfortable and central to anything I might want to do in The City Different. I could always opt for the International Hostel, down the road, but it is seemingly always full. Sometimes, quieter is just better.

The road back was also alternately rainy and snowy, until I got to the turn-off that brought me down hill, from the Mogollon Rim to Camp Verde. I saw flowing water in river and stream beds that are normally dry sand. Much of this is a positive development, with the price being that nearby residents take the risk of maybe losing some personal items and of having to up and leave for a few days. It can be worse, of course. There are several places on the California coast where the land has given way. I saw a photo of an apartment complex in Oceanside, where the swimming pool is now at the edge of a collapsed cliff. There actually appeared to be people in the pool

I thought a fair amount, about how places where I may find myself once or twice a year, or sometimes once every two years, ever seem just as much like home as this Home Base of mine. Time and space don’t really seem all that much of a burden. In each case, it seems like things that happened decades ago seem like yesterday and across the country, or the ocean, seems like next door.

In many respects, the flow of time is similar to that of water. It’s productive use can yield similar nourishing results. Both can be squandered; both can evaporate. Both can also be destructive. Sometimes, neither is missed until it’s gone. I do know that we have what we need, of each, and how it’s used is up to the individual.

No Aztecs, Many Aztecans

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March 15, 2023, Santa Fe- The day featured what is almost typical of my visits outside Home Base, this winter: A light, cold, but not overbearing rain. So, I took my umbrella, donned my rain and shine hat (with its flap and wide circular brim, to aid in protection from the two elements) and set my phone to the QC-enabled audio guide, going around Aztec Ruins National Monument. A ranger spoke of Earl Morris, the driving force behind the excavation of the western sector of the ancient community and the original occupant of the house which now serves as the Monument’s headquarters and museum. She also noted that the name of the place came from a Spanish stereotyping of all Mesoamerican First Nations into a single ethnicity: The Aztecs. The Tewas, Tiguas, Towas, Keresans and Hopi who settled Chaco, Mesa Verde and Aztec, before dispersing to their present home areas, had their trade connections with the people of Mexico, but they were entirely separate, culturally and linguistically, from the nation that dominated much of that ancient land. Another focus of the ranger’s talk was the system of roads that traversed outward from Aztec, as well as from Chaco. With no vehicles or beasts of burden, the people likely had to carry cut wooden beams, building stones and other materials on foot, using hauling mechanisms and walking two or three abreast, for almost unimaginable distances, in order to build the communities.

Here are some scenes of this remarkable complex, the pride of modern Aztecans.

Great House, Aztec West ruins
Southernmost of three Great Kivas, Aztec West ruins
Connected apartments, Aztec West ruins
Interior, re-constructed Great Kiva. Aztec West
Central Great Kiva, Aztec West ruins
Doors connecting apartments, Aztec West ruins. These were created because of pot hunting by thieves, in the early Twentieth Century.
View of original doors connecting apartments, Aztec West ruins
Interior doors, Aztec West ruins

The ruins on the eastern and northern sectors of the complex have yet to be excavated to the point they may be safely shared with the public. The ranger also noted that there may well be sites buried under the modern town of Aztec. These could very well be uncovered at some future time, as so many sites have been, around the world.

The rain only intensified, after I left this UNESCO World Heritage Site, so postponed until a later time are Salmon Ruin and other sites in Bloomfield, southeast of Aztec-and a hike up Kitchen Mesa, at Ghost Ranch.

I am holed up for the night at King’s Court, a small, cozy place (and my favourite in this town) not far from either downtown Santa Fe or from Pantry Restaurant, where three people I love dearly provided me with a steaming bowl of Green Chili Stew-a perfect, healthful meal for this chilly evening.

The House By Black Mesa

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March 14, 2023, Farmington, NM- Back in the 1980s and ’90s, an earnest young family of four lived in a compound, at the foot of a mesa we knew as Dinnebito (People’s Water). Some called it Mosquito Springs, but that was nothing extraordinary, either. There are people, and mosquitoes, around most potable water-and the latter are even less discriminating than the former, so they hang around the nasty stuff also.e

Many of the people who left Dinnebito did so because of the freeze on construction and home improvements established by Congress, due to the dispute over land, between Dineh and Hopi. By the time that was resolved, and the freeze lifted, around 2010, most people had already left, or passed on, as did the former Chairman and first President of the Navajo Nation, Dr. Peterson Zah, who was from nearby Low Mountain, where he was recently laid to rest, after a stellar life of service to the Nation and to the field of higher education.

The young family grew to five members, then was at four, when they moved to the house by Black Mesa, in the early 2000s. I had not seen them for nearly thirty years, so it was high time. First came a call on the mother, at her workplace, then an hour or so was spent visiting the father and, fleetingly, one of the daughters (who I remember as an 8-year-old) and her two children. The kids keep Grandpa busy in retirement and his overall demeanour is one of a man in full.

He made a quiet request to be a part of the next visit I make to the Baha’is in Utah, an easy enough request to fill, as Tonalea is on the way. Suitable advance plans would have to be made, so next time, I will head up there. This journey, I decided to give the southern end of Four Corners some love, so I am here in Farmington for the night, and will head over to Aztec Ruins tomorrow.

Grandpa (Chee) Chester and his current project.