Godswood

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June 10, 2019, Bellemont-

Those who faithfully watched Game of Thrones will know the title term, as being the spiritual retreat of the family Stark and their vassals.  There are several places on this property that serve as such a place of solace.

I have spent six of the past eight nights here, three of them in the company of middle-school aged youth, who are, as their predecessors were, far more of a blessing than many realize.

Their spontaneity needs monitoring, and correction at times, but does not need the check that some in my generation see as imperative.  We, the Baby Boomers, were after all the generation of free speech. I heard no more than three “f-bombs”, during the course of these three days.  The kids’ focus was primarily on elevated speech; on matters of the mind and spirit.  We, the Baby Boomers, had a thing about “free love”-though it was less widespread than the media often portrayed.  I saw no unwanted attention directed towards anyone.  The kids both see one another as people-first and foremost-and not as objects to help a person break from his/her shell.

There is, in any generation of youth, a cooperative spirit.  This spirit has been ravaged, among many who have aged, by the way we have approached the issues of everyday life.  Some will say that the rising generations will feature more of the same, as that’s how human beings just are.

By and large, I don’t concur.  Humanity is moving, slowly but inexorably, towards a cooperative, united front.  I find youth, basically, to be fairly more mature, at a younger age with each generation.  Their methods of communication may differ, as may their methods of spending time.  I do not, though, see a dark future ahead, on account of the “dissolute gamers”.  Any darkness that comes forth will be solely the result of selfishness and a provincial, “me-centered” mindset.  No generation has a corner on either, and no generation can point fingers at another.

These are things that came to me, during work, play and at meals, during these eight days in “Godswood”.

 

Days of Heaven

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June 2, 2019, Bellemont-

The past few days have seen confirmation of my path, this summer.   The last minute invitation to an event by Global Stilt Alliance, entitled Congress: The Legislation, brought me to Arcosanti, normally a place I visit in Autumn, on Friday evening.

A performance of young stilt artists, accented by two spoken word performers, drove home the point that we need to move beyond solving our problems through separation and the building of walls.

Yesterday, I felt the sadness of some who have bonded deeply with me, when it was time to let my friends at the Farmer’s Market know I would not be back there until August 3. This gave me another perspective on the occasional objections to my wanderings, from some of my fellows in Faith.

Saturday evening, though, did accomplish the laying of a foundation for regular meetings of a group of spiritual tutors.  We had a fruitful discussion and sharing of expectations and concerns for the practice of our tutoring activities.

Today, I was greatly pleased to see a young Navy veteran join our breakfast group, at American Legion Post 6.  The perspectives and ideas of the newest generation of military veterans are long overdue for inclusion in service organizations.

This afternoon and evening, I spent the first of several days at this Baha’i retreat property, west of Flagstaff.  Clearing brush from the area took about ninety minutes.  Then came an evening of quiet reflection and meditation.  Arriving at a more present state of mind is one of the sweetest results of the relative isolation I enjoy this evening.  Thinking over a couple of minor faux pas, which occurred yesterday evening and this night, during routine dinner outings, I see things more form the perspective of those inconvenienced.  The solution lies in my own heightened awareness, even when somewhat fatigued.

Seven of the next eight days will be spent preparing for, and assisting with, a camp for middle school-aged youth.  I look forward to continuing my own reflections and meditation during this time, as well.

Destiny and Metamorphosis

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May 13, 2019-

A dear friend posted, on another media site, that we are ever in a state of metamorphosis.  This has nothing to do with the shape-shifting that was all the rage, on television and in film, as recently as two years ago (“Game of Thrones”, “Power Rangers”, etc.)  Metamorphosis is best-seen in terms of growth.

I have also read quite a bit, elsewhere, on narcissism.  I once had a touch of that affliction.  My mother never let that horse out of the gate.  She told us that one who regards self as above reproach is dead in the water.

That’s true beyond doubt.  In the course of dividing up the contents of a bin, I re-read some old papers from my administrative and college-teaching days.  One, invaluable, summary of my students’ evaluation of a rather paltry teaching effort, in 2009, pointed out that I trended towards hidebound monotony, complete with soft, unchanging voice, in presenting what should have been a vibrant, challenging course.

When I returned to teaching, after Penny’s passing, the presentation became more vigorous and engaged.  The old dog had to master new tricks.

Likewise, in younger years, my disciplinary tactics included the bellow, and a harsher tone.  Being a full-time counselor “metamorphosed” my demeanor towards favouring my empathic side, and the hardness of my teacher training went out the window.  I have kept that empathy, yet have also learned to employ a modicum of taking people to task, when that appears necessary, though without being rough or demeaning.

Nowadays, my life-change continues. I am in the process of giving many of my professional materials to others.  Work, as I have known it for the past forty-three years, has a light at the end of its tunnel:  One and a half years remain, until my focus becomes largely travel-journalism and Work Away-based, with a healthy mix of family, perhaps even grandparenthood.  There may be some money, in the former, but I am not worried about that.

My destiny, it seems, has always been to go forward, to build bridges and to not be held to anyone else’s notions of success-no matter how well-meaning those may be.  This may require a few more positive life-changes.

 

Another Distant Mirror

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May 9, 2019-

I have spent much of the past several days, sequestered in my house, waiting for the corporate entity which employs substitute teachers in our county to finish its processing of my papers.  I am sticking close to home, mainly to stretch my dollars as, while I have a sufficient income, it will still be an involved summer and economy is critical.  The activities that occupy me are sorting out unneeded possessions, exercising, reading- and Netflix.

I have taken to a series, called “The Last Kingdom”, an historical fiction loosely based on the life and times of Alfred the Great, who began the process of unifying the regions of what is now England, in the 9th Century.  It is similar to Barbara Tuchman’s  “A Distant Mirror”, in tone and scope.  Many of the themes with which we are familiar today, occurred in both long-ago times, and most likely have appeared in every era of human endeavour.

I focus here on two recurrent themes in human history:  The tendency to gloss over a person’s achievements, whilst calling excess attention to the same person’s failures; the dichotomy in the level of treatment of women and girls, between those interested in maintaining authority and those living a simpler life, closer to the soil.

In “Kingdom”, Alfred is depicted as one more concerned with maintaining the primacy of the rich and powerful, including himself, than with dispensing true justice.  It is noted, as we know about the Dark Ages, and on into the Renaissance/Reformation, that alliances rose and fell on a whim.  It is noted that manipulative figures operated with impunity, and those who challenged them were either killed or banished-as the central character in “Kingdom”, Uhtred Ragnarsson, experiences banishment and redemption, several times.  It is shown that women had to assert themselves, fiercely, if they were to avoid battering and a life of humiliation.

Of course, as in any depiction of events not occurring in real time, there is undoubtedly a fair amount of amplification and embellishment in the series, based in turn on Bernard Cornwell’s  “Saxon Tales”.    The human struggle will long be what it has been, as man deals with the issues of justice, equity and the balance of power in society.

I have my sense as to how the series will pan out.  I also have a sense as to how the human race will continue to evolve-and the ebb/flow inserted into both processes.

#MeToo-and Me

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April 9, 2019, Phoenix-

I had planned, initially, on waiting until tomorrow to make the trip down here, to renew a certificate that had lapsed.  Things being what they are in Prescott, that proved unworkable, so I joined the multitudes dealing with an early mini-heat wave- and started the processing of my new certificate.

The new Superintendent of Public Instruction is proving to be as meticulous in her work, as her predecessors were lax.  The result is that many who are jump-starting dormant careers are facing renewed scrutiny.  That, to me, is a good thing.  There is no daylight, when it comes to the safety of children and teens.  Besides, I have nothing to hide.

Some blame the #MeToo Movement, but really, when, as one of my early mentors would have said, “your pants are down, they’re down.”  Getting caught in wrongdoing, even if it was done forty years ago, is part of one’s cleansing.  I was raised to own up to things I did, and I’m a very bad liar-so that has all made me a far better person, than I would have been, if I had a silver tongue.

Recently, as I’ve posted earlier, a local politician was caught in a lie, about what he allegedly did in his younger years-and with regard to how he still feels about the underlying issue.  I am, unequivocally, in favour of the evolving nature of male-female interactions and relationships.  Anything that presents a person, female or male, as the equal of any other person, is spot-on.

It’s important to not go overboard, by getting caught up in hysteria.  I can understand, though, the conditions which produce such overreaction.  The only way to curb hysteria, in the first place, is to treat each and every person with the respect and decency that is her/his birthright.

So, I will sit back and wait for the SPI’s team to complete their review of my record.

 

Feet First, Again

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April 3, 2019-

I began the work day ready to help keep our charges occupied, and relatively productive, as ever.  I ended the day, back in retirement mode- at least until I can get another position.  I chose to leave, after a brief pitch for me to take a position for which I am even less-suited than the one I have left behind.  I declined the offer, and the end game was set.

For all the platitudes that my co-workers and I have received, over the past two years, regarding loving and working with autistic children, there are people watching who do not have the best interests of those children in mind.  They are the ones who call the Governing Board, Human Resources-and the hapless school administrators.   I know this, because I once took the calls that my former boss has been getting.  I know this, because I heard the veiled threats and “you don’t know who you’re dealing with”- from individuals like the person who has been threatening me, personally, with the loss of my job, since last October.  I know this, because for refusing to take the earlier threats seriously, I was relieved of my position as Principal, in 1999, twenty years ago, this month.

So, it behooves my former supervisors to protect themselves.  Follow due process, but do not fall on your swords for others.  You are doing excellent work and deserve to remain in your leadership roles.  I will make my way, just fine, and being of “retirement age”, no one can come out of the woodwork, on the other side of the equation, and blast me for “not delivering”, as has happened a few times during my checkered career.  I will find work to tide me over until I hit 70, and, no, I will not heed the threats from last Fall.

My former co-workers remain like family and have already been in touch, wishing the best-as I do for them.

 

The Black Hand

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March 30, 2019-

In the Planet Fitness where I work out, there is a large seat, shaped like a Black Hand, in each of the stations where a hydromassage bed is located.  It strikes me that this is a symbol of challenge, that there are always difficulties to be overcome, whether self-imposed or brought on by others.

I have had to do a lot of re-assessment, after a rough past few days.  What I have determined is that: 1.  I am going to make fitness a higher priority than it’s been, having shown that I can make time for a workout, even on the busiest of days.

2.  I am going to cut way back, if not eliminate, my appetite for pastries and other high sugar-based food items.  Neither having my cake nor eating it, at least for the last two months of work.

3.  Doubling down on avoiding violence, no matter how violently I might be attacked, either by one of my charges or anyone who is deranged.  My reaction, from now on, will  be to distance myself, until assistance is at hand, at least in the work setting.

4.  Being more mindful and present.  Neither Alzheimer’s nor Parkinson’s has knocked on my door, but problems have presented themselves, through a combination of fatigue and autism.  I have done better, today, and need to continue getting enough rest, so that there is no repeat of incidents on Thursday and Friday.  The same old story:  When I am challenged by an authority figure, when I’m in a fatigued state, I come out with a blather of telling the person what I think they want to hear and making myself look guilty of something that, in actuality, never happened.

5.  Tax returns are done and I have worked out a more efficient system of time management, so despite some of the above, things are on an upswing.

Busan’s Magnetic Side

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March 16, 2019, Busan-

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This ancient port has become, like many large cities across the globe, a place of high rise, high density apartment buildings and intense, often grid-locked, traffic.  Nowhere is this more clear than in the area called Marine City, close to the popular Haeundae Beach and Strip.

We used our God-given feet today, the final day of my entry into a Korean family.  Our foci were two:  Dongbaek,  site of the 2005 Convocation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Council and Haeundae itself.

The night before, shortly after our arrival back in Busan, we headed directly over to an older section of the city, to patronize a restaurant owned and operated by family friends, the Paks.

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As the sign implies  it is a place for people to get a dose of quality American-style food.  The father and son also serve what I regard as the best coffee in Busan, if not in all Korea.  I was fortunate to have been given some, to bring back with me to the U.S.

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Here is a view of Dongbaek, from Gwangan Pier, near Marine City.  Conversely, once at Dongbaek, we had a fine view of Gwanggalli Bridge. It is said to rival the Golden Gate and George Washington Bridges, when lit up at night.

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We spent several minutes looking at the APEC House, site of the aforementioned conference.  We joined a group of visitors from west Africa, on this fine morning.

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Miniature pines abound, on this small headland.

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Below is a fine view of the traditional pavilion and of Dongbaek Lighthouse.

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This mural of a Korean country scene greets visitors to APEC House.  I refrained from photographing the auditorium, to protect the privacy of a young Korean family, who were making a detailed visit to the conference center.

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Above, is a statue of Choi Chi-won, regarded as the first great Korean advocate of Confucian teachings and etiquette.  He lived during the Silla Dynasty, in the Tenth Century A.D.  Below, is a shrine to the great teacher.  At the summit of Dongbaek, it is a serene place, most of the time. We were there only briefly, as an older man started to pester us.

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Here is a view of Dongbaek’s southern tip.

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This Mermaid Statue commemorates the legend of a princess from a foreign land, who pined away for her homeland, day and night.

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Haeundae Beach Park includes this shady, forested area. We walked there, easily, from Dongbaek.

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Modern Korean etiquette eschews photography of people, without their consent.  I was able to catch a glimpse of Haeunedae Beach, sans bathers.

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Rabbits are seen as good fortune, as well as being symbols of fecundity.

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Here is the southeastern edge of Haeundae Strip, a bustling commercial tourist area, where we had lunch.  Looking for a chicken restaurant, we found they open at 2 p.m., which is averse to my schedule. So, we settled for more burgers-at one of  the ubiquitous Hello, Patty cafes.  The people in this photo shrugged their shoulders at being photographed, so no harm, no foul.

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With that my time in Korea is drawing to a close.  My time as a member of a gregarious extended family is, however, just beginning.

NEXT:  Further reflections on Korea-and the trip back to Arizona

 

 

 

Jeju, Part 7: The Fox In The Cave, and The Peacocks Above- II

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March 15, 2019, Hallim, Jeju-do-

Emerging from Ssanyong-gul had, momentarily, an other-worldly ambiance.

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We were re-entering a place with the sense of Paradise, and one taking the shape of 2/3 of a heart.  This was appropriate, given the theme of this journey.

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Some observers liken this piece, at the entrance to the Stone and Bonsai Garden, to an eagle. To me, it seemed a mighty angel.

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This is so very true.

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A patient and long-suffering mother comforts a squawling child, just shy of the Gift Shop.

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I found myself looking at Dino, from “The Flintstones”.

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This wind-polished basalt presents several smug-looking likenesses, especially on the top front.

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Despite the chill and drizzle of the past several days, the cherry and apple trees are starting to fully bloom.

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So, too, are the camellia bushes.

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The incredible range of the sculptures in the Stone Collection could enchant a visitor for days.

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This piece evokes Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”.

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The superimposed basalt here reminds me of likenesses of Queen Nefirtiti, of ancient Egypt.

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As is common in water parks, koi have a considerable presence, here in Hallim Park

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As in Seong-eup, preserved thatched-roof homes of old Jeju are found here in Hallim.  There seems to be a tighter binding of the thatch, among those homes of the western part of the island.  This style is specific to Hallim, Hyop-jae and Aewol villages.

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Peacocks abound here, especially in the area designated Bird Park.

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Ostriches cap the offerings of Bird Park, and it is fascinating to watch the great birds eat.

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A faux waterfall invites visitors to consider going to Jeju’s authentic cataracts.

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This Peace Monument expresses the hope of the Korean people for eventual unification of the peninsula.

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Thus, we caught a snapshot of Hallim Park, which could easily have occupied a full eight hours.  There was, however, a plane to catch, back to Busan.  My final day in Korea, on this trip, will take in some of the port city’s highlights-around Marine City and Haeundae.

 

Jeju, Part 3: Where the Sun Greets Jeju-do

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March 14, 2019, Songsan, South Korea-

After a robust meal of kalbi (grilled ribs), at Kyodong Dok Kalbi, we retired to the Golden Tulip Hotel, in this eastern fishing and shellfish diving center.

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Our first stop, on a robust and happy day that will take us across the island, was Songsan Ilchulbong, a small promontory that is a favourite of locals and tourists alike, for greeting the sunrise.  We did not do so, as the sumptuous breakfast buffet of Golden Tulip beckoned first.

Once we did get to the site, though, we found a small course for riding a Cheju pony, similar to the ponies of Shetland.  Yunhee gladly rode the pony, even though it was a very brief experience.

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Although the coastal areas of Jeju are treeless, in most spots, an effort is being made to plant windbreak in some places around Songsan.

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Here is the volcanic promontory that beckoned us.  I was last up this hill, in February, 1992, with a small group of freshman students.

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Here is a view, from halfway up, of Songsan, in the morning light.  Halla-san, the highest peak on Jeju, and in South Korea, is seen in the distance, on the near left  side.

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There are many igneous boulders along the route.  Here is a particularly popular photo point for many Korean visitors:  Lamp Rock.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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The image on the right side evokes a Grandmother’s kind visage.

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Two eyes appear to be watching, at this site of twin caves.

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The indentation below seems to fit my daughter-in-law perfectly!

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We made it to the top, so I chose this as my next profile picture on social media.

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Below, is a view of the crater, for which the summit of Ilchulbong is famous.  Yes, the hill is a dead cinder cone.

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Here is the southern, less inhabited part of Udo, an islet just across a small channel from Songsan.

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Here are the effects of constant saline deposits on this sedimentary boulder, in an area that hosts haenyo, or women who dive for abalone and sea cucumber.  The traditional divers are mainly found in Jeju, though some are in a handful of towns on the southern mainland coast.

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One haenyo is seen in the water, wearing a yellow diving vest.

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Here is the bell of Dongam-sa, a Buddhist temple at the foot of Ilchulbong.  A funeral was in progress when we visited, so we kept our visit quiet and short.

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Contrasting images of the Buddha are seen here.

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We ended our visit to Songsan, with a brief visit with an old friend.

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With that, we are off to Songeup Folk Village, for some reconnection with the farm folk of old Jeju.