The Struggle Was/Is No Hoax

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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.

The Daughter of Pedernal

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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:

None Are Better Than….

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October 8, 2021- This afternoon, as a foreshortened school day was in its final half hour, I greeted two classrooms of 10-11 year-olds, several of whom were full of piss and vinegar, and all too eager to push the limits with one whom they saw as a dotty old man.

I set them straight, in short order, by giving a young man, who was posing as ringleader, some gratuitous time out of the room. He came back about three minutes later, and proceeded to follow the directions for the activity.

My parents told us that no one is inherently better than anyone else. I was never favoured over any of my siblings, and vice versa. My youngest brother was cut more slack, because he had more special needs than the rest of us. He was though, generally speaking, held to the same core expectations. The same ethic was dominant in our neighbourhood, in the schools and, as I experienced it, in my Army basic training and Advanced Individual Training units.

My experiences with artificial pecking orders came with active duty at Fort Myer, and more so, in deployment to Long Binh and Cholon, VietNam. I was dubbed one of the lower caste members, owing to my autism-and found myself feeling more empathy with the Black, Latino and Pacific Islander members of our units. The mantra in my head remained the same-“None are better than the rest.” I had a select job, handling accountable mail, and I did it to the best of my ability. That didn’t make me above it all, and when the bulk mail truck pulled up, in Long Binh, the lock went on the AM cage and my hands were emptying that truck, along with everyone else’s.

In the years since I was honorably discharged, every situation has also had its pecking order. Sometimes, the elitism was codified: Students answered to professors and professors, to Deans; Teachers answered to Principals and principals, to superintendents and Governing Boards; Volunteers answered to paid staff and paid staff, to administrators.

In other situations, the waters were muddier. It was then that the human animal’s penchant for an alpha to lead rose to the fore. Ad hoc authority figures have inserted themselves into my life, or tried to, at several junctures. American expatriates in Korea, retired military (whites and blacks) on the Navajo Nation, and authoritarian personalities, without portfolio, in several of the schools in which I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, have presented themselves as plenipotentiaries. In each case, my response has been: “I am not at your beck and call.”

So, in advising, admonishing or instructing the rising generations, my mantra is that of Mom and Dad: Regard yourselves as good as the rest, neither above nor beneath.

Acknowledging Changes

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September 26, 2021- Today is another of the birthdays of women who mean the world to me, and which just happen to be clustered in the month of September. I don’t see her all that often, unless it is to support one of her laudable efforts on behalf of our community, as well as of our planet. She is one of dozens of special souls to whom my message is “Do you, and we’ll connect our efforts at the right time”.

The changes that we want to see in the world are those that will benefit everyone who draws breath, and those who will in years, decades, centuries to come. Those changes, of course, start with the ones that are taking place now. Decisions being made far from here, for example, will ripple downward and sideways-especially with regard to the economy. Some of those decisions are being made in a skewed manner, and without consideration to their deeper ramifications. Part of this is due to the fact that the lives of those making the decisions will not be greatly affected by the choices made, at least initially. The decision-makers “have theirs”, so it is no big deal to them, if the ordinary people of the nation have to go without. I refer, as an example, to the blase’ attitude being shown towards the National Debt ceiling.

I have lived a full life, up to now, and can make do with whatever the powers-that-be decide I should. I do, however, take exception to the idea that my son and daughter-in-law, my nieces and nephews, my younger friends, their children (including those yet to be born) and the generations yet to come should suffer because Senator ____________, Representative _____________ and the President are largely concerned with poll numbers and re-election.

I had a vision, early this morning, of my granddaughter (who isn’t even, as yet, conceived)- of how vibrant and talented a person she would be. That image will stay with me for a long time, and will be a good part of the basis for any and all decisions I make, going forward, about the course of my remaining life on Earth. I will also consider the potential needs of her yet unborn sibling(s), of my grandnieces and nephews, of other children close to me (the Sandovals, Schaellings, the kids in my neighbourhood, in the area schools and in the world over). I will consider any child(ren) my yet unmarried young friends might someday have, as well.

All of them matter far more than the re-elections of the elite, especially of those my age and older. Changes are coming, and they will be in the interests of the rising generations.

The Death of Elantra

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September 23, 2021- At 7 a.m., this morning, I was three blocks from the place of my work assignment. Stopping at a country intersection, I found the sun glaring intensely as it came up over the horizon. I counted to five, and having looked once in each direction, proceeded northward. The screech of the tires was followed all too swiftly by the crash of the large red truck into Elantra’s rear driver’s side door. It missed me, and missed the gas tank, but airbags deployed and I crawled out the passenger side door. Elantra had met its end.

Five years ago, when my Nissan Altima, already on borrowed time, fizzled and died in front of a gas station in Newtown, CT, I was able with family help to buy a 2013 Hyundai Elantra. The intrepid little car took me across the country and back, five times. Its windows were broken out, in 2018, when someone who had been tracking me, in Montreal, wanted my nearly dead computer. Quick action by my insurance carrier got the windows fixed, and I was able to get back back into the United States with no trouble and go on to attend a major family wedding.

Elantra took me back and forth, twice, this summer alone. I may well seek to replace it with another Hyundai, once the insurance paperwork is done and the money part is settled. There was nothing more than a slightly bent bumper on the truck and the police noted the sun factor, though we all concurred that I should, somehow, have been able to see the truck coming, before entering the intersection.

Stuff happens, and each time, another lesson is registered. From now on, I will count to ten and look right and left twice, on even the most countrified of roads, as is already the practice in the city.

As for me, I am home and feeling a bit sore, but better than I was before the chiropractor treated me, this afternoon. Elantra will be missed, but it was time.

More About the Circle

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September 22, 2021- The pleas were almost incessant, but in the end, they were about maintaining a fragmented, capricious view of the world. They were a biproduct of the colonial mentality-that those perceived as rich should help a small number of those who regard themselves as poor, to become a new elite.

In the unbroken circle which I inhabit, there is no trading one elite for another, or for simply welcoming a select few into some kind of upper echelon-especially since I have no interest in occupying that echelon, myself. I am only about the kind of family bonds that are treasured by the sincere among conservatives and progressives alike- and I know plenty of people across the spectrum who hold that ethic dear. I am only about the kind of community bonds that open the door to all of good will, regardless of any physical trait, ethnicity or method of worshipping the Creator. I am only about empowering children and youth, from where we may find them to the point where they might thrive on their own and achieve their dreams in an authentic manner.

Two things happened today: First, Dr. Donald Streets, an international educator, whom I knew for many years, was laid to rest, after a long life of promoting holistic, empowerment-oriented education-in the United States, Canada, and the Czech Republic. He is out of pain now, and knows how much his work achieved.

The second thing, infinitesimal in the Universe, but huge to one person, was that the humble soul, sitting on a curb with his dog and a splayed out deck of cards, got a fresh muffin from a passerby. It was the first food he’d had in two days.

Life plays out, and changes form, in many wondrous ways.

Steadily, They Learn

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

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

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

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

Playfulness

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September 2, 2021- The rambunctious teen ran, full tilt, into a locker. He winced, just a little, and momentarily looked puzzled: “Wow, that hurt!” My response: “Ya think?” He walked towards the classroom door, as I sized up both him and the locker for any indicators of damage. As there was none, I had him take his seat and thirty-two of us slowly, but earnestly, started class.

High School freshmen can be a lot like toddlers in pre-school, trying out several advanced roles, whilst not entirely wanting to give up their immature selves. College freshmen often mimic the same behaviours. For many, this doesn’t last very long, especially as the reality that being able to participate in sports or other interests depends on keeping grades up or that love interests may well have the expectation of a higher level of maturity.

There are always the goofs, though, and walking them through the transitional phase is often dependent on near magic. I have met some of these same types, a few years down the road. Those whose next encounter with me didn’t involve them being a corpse at a funeral, or an inmate at the State Prison, had found their footing-and even if they still had their rowdy side-jumping out of airplanes or bungee jumping, they also had a sense of responsibility.

Playfulness hasn’t entirely left me. Snarky bantering happens all the time. So does lively dancing or just being silly around younger children. Somehow, though, I don’t quite see myself testing a metal locker’s tensile strength as part of my journey of exploration.

Best Laid Plans

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August 26, 2021- To those hoping for a sestina, followed by an octina, in the next two posts-sorry, I worked extra hard today and am ready to do so again tomorrow-so, rain check on the two big kahunas. I don’t go by other people’s schedules anyway.

My day began with a phone call from my colleague, for whom I am covering classes. We have worked as a team, these three weeks-I, in person, with the students and she from her family’s home, in another state. I was on my own today, with basic, but well thought-out plans, which kept five groups of potentially rambunctious teens happily engaged. Not everyone got all the concepts being considered, but when does that ever happen? The students made my day dance.

Plans, these days, are made to be changed. This is a poster year for flexibility, and methinks it is not the last such year that lies in wait. I thought for sure that I would visit Canada in the Spring and Europe in the Fall. Instead, two cross-USA trips took place this Spring and Summer and New Mexico will replace Silesia and Old Prussia, in October. I am very fortunate, regardless.

A man in another country thought for sure that glomming onto me and calling me “Brother” would guarantee him a steady supply of money. Instead, he got some help and a few lessons on forbearance and trying to network, rather than the old “You owe us” guilt trips, which are fast running out of steam.

This has become the year of shattered assumptions and of resilient self-reliance. I am feeling finer, with each day that I face whatever fire happens along. I wish everyone the same.

In My Element

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August 23, 2021- Friend Jupiter glows in the eastern night sky, encouraging me to dream big. Friend Venus shimmers in the west, telling me that to love is celestial. These orbs will trade sky spots, as summer moves into winter, by way of autumn. Venus will, additionally, become a “morning star”. The abundance of heat and water will shift southward, and we in the north will enter into a modicum of rest.

It occurred to me, this morning, that I am most in my element when in the company of those who have youthful energy and vision, yet are fairly self-sufficient and can contribute mightily to the mix of ideas. This does not mean exclusively those who are chronologically young. Such people can be as young as three and as advanced in age as 100. The prime loci of these individuals are middle schools, high schools and institutions of higher learning.

Maybe that’s why I continue to work on special assignments in school settings or in places where people are both loving and fierce. It’s also the prime reason why I am both comfortable here in my Home Base of Prescott and am prone to visit other places where ideas and achievements are happening. It is why I devote the sharing of my resources as I do. It is why I continue to grow as a person and as a soul. It’s why my cup is ever at least half full.

Dream big; love celestially.