Looking Past the Shrillness

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September 21, 2022- The call came, with about fifteen minutes left in the class. The tone was furious, and decidedly personal. It was clear that the caller felt let down and that in her mind, the rest of the day was about damage control. The students carried on, and did a fairly good job at completing the assigned task.

It was actually all about process, procedure-and will have scant effect on the learning of those particular students. I know little about the caller, so maybe other parts of her life were not going well today. It doesn’t take much to trigger a tirade, these days.

It was, all in all, a nice day. I was working with a group of children who I particularly treasure. The classes accomplished a lot, with the second and third groups following the procedure that was reiterated to me, albeit in angry tones. I choose to look past a person’s rage, because when it’s all over, we will both be standing in the same spot. So long as there is no harm to children, or other innocents, I walk away.

There will, I know, come a time, maybe as early as next Thursday, when I will face that person again. I will not be swayed, one way or the other, by anything she has to say. At this stage of my life, it’s all about the children and teens, and their progress, their well-being.

Ambiguities

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September 20, 2022- The young man remembered me, from seven years ago, and launched into the playful antics for which I remember his eight-year-old self. He livened up the web-based class, for which I was the in-person monitor, maybe a little too much-but we got through the material offered by the online teacher. He showed up twice afterward, during the day, once to hang out during lunch and correct a prank he and his buddies had played on me and once, hoping to hear that his class was my favourite of the day. It wasn’t, and the shoulders slumped-but he’ll get over it. He did allow as to having been furious, when I was abruptly dismissed from that Third Grade teaching position, in favour of a dour local resident, who needed a job. Many of the students in that class felt the same way, and I’ve encountered three of them, elsewhere, since then.

I created a mild set of problems for myself, this morning, by overlooking the time for the onset of class, arriving a bit late and thus having to navigate the ambiguities and idiosyncrasies of the online Spanish class, on the fly. Things were a bit hectic, for the first two hours, but the learning curve was mastered by the start of Third Hour. The rest of the day went smoothly.

Ambiguities have never been my strong suit, yet I am having to master them more often, these days. Thus I will arrive early for tomorrow’s assignment, so as to read the instructional fine print more carefully. Even then, there are no guarantees of immediate success, as the connotations of words are different sometimes. Sometimes, sparks have to fly, in order for the communication to be made clear. Today, the teachers and admin were patient; not all teams are.

I also sense that there is a bit of tension in the air, as the seasons change. This evening, while at the gym, I found a bottle of energy milk on the floor, and asked a woman who was nearby, working out with her ten-year-old son, if it were hers. She said it was his, so I gave it to him and advised as to a safer place to put it, which he did-and then got self-conscious. The two left the area shortly afterward, so I wondered about the ambiguous situation again being an issue. In any case, I can’t ignore anything that compromises the safety and well-being of a child.

As I headed over to the massage chairs, a man was loudly complaining about what he regarded as an affront to his dignity and threat to his personal safety. He was gently guided outside by a gym employee, who continued to hear him out. I heard the same mother who had been in the whole body exercise area, telling the front desk clerk that if the man had gotten any closer to her son, she’d have called the police. Ambiguities, again, were exacerbated by the assumptions made by two different personalities.

It was, in the end, fitting that my own horoscope told me to not make assumptions about people. So I have learned, time and again.

Homage and Outrage

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September 19, 2022- The world’s longest serving Head of State received a well-deserved send-off, this morning, with all but the most pompous of politicians taking their prescribed places, either in an assigned seat at the funeral service or in the background at home, patiently waiting for their own countries’ memorial services.

That is how homage is done. There is no braying, “Hey, what about me?” It is the life of the deceased that gets honour and attention. In recent days, a paternal aunt, a second cousin and a revered Baha’i elder in Phoenix have gone on to their own places in the spiritual world. Each had people, myself included, who treasured them and focused on their positive attributes. Each had lessons they imparted to anyone who was willing to listen and pay attention.

There are, however, those who subsist on outrage. Their whole being reflects back on all the mistreatment, real and imagined, that occurred in their lives-sometimes clear back in childhood. Life is not guaranteed paradise for anyone. I’ve had my share of misfortune, some of it self-imposed, but in each case, I have been able to listen to voices of reason and overcome any lapse into self-pity. Outrage at my lot is no longer an option. It is a different matter when the well-being of children is at risk.

I spent the day, as it happened, making sure that Special Needs children, in a small class, were maintaining safe practices around self and others. These students, more than others, are also inclined to live in the moment and resist correction. Only a strong dose of encouragement and patience gradually makes a difference in their demeanour. There is the occasional need to stand up for them, against adults who persist in trying to knock down their sense of worth. Thankfully, the team with whom I worked today are just as vigilant in that regard.

I continue to work for the best of the community.

Depth of Purpose

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September 14, 2022- The clerk happily told me that the school had managed to fill their remaining vacancies in Special Needs, so any time I am asked to help them, henceforth, will be to cover for a specific person, rather than a nebulous “vacancy”. This represents progress in both creating a nurturing learning environment-and a stable working environment as well.

I spent the day covering for several teachers, over a six hour period, as each attended a ten-twenty minute meeting. Each time, the lesson was carried out, even when a select few students wanted to spend time on their personal business. My focus, anymore, is primarily on purposeful behaviour and what will benefit the children in both the long-run and the short. So, while taking what time was needed to address behaviour issues, my focus was otherwise on the children who were having trouble learning, and explaining concepts to them in ways they could understand.

The notion has also occurred to me, over the past several days, that it is all well and good to feel love for so many people, but that it’s time to take it up a notch-and conduct my visits to, say, coffee houses and restaurants in ways that truly provide both support and encouragement of those for whom I care most, and recognizing that it’s best if I minimize occupying a table for four, especially on what looks to be a busy time. More take-outs will be in order. Nuance is coming increasingly into my view, which is both progress in handling autism and deepening of my sense of purpose.

Love is best shown by recognizing what the loved one needs, and doing what one can to fill that need. Most often, the matter requires both keen observation and forethought. I’m getting better at both.

Saving Grace

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September 9, 2022- I woke this morning, after a vivid dream, in which I had overextended myself, while working in what was a mishmash of high school and university. My first hour class was a high level physics class, in which nearly thirty students submitted intensely detailed project synopses. As they left, I was organizing the submissions into a manageable stack, then realized that I needed to be across campus in short order, to conduct a physical education class, which had not met for two weeks-because I was too involved with the first hour. Surely, the P.E. students had given up on their wretch of an instructor. A visiting professor from Canada appeared and wondered aloud, as to why I had not delegated more to Teaching Assistants-“since that seems to be an American thing”.

It was then that I woke and realized that I had no such responsibilities, and was not going to let anyone down, today, and for the foreseeable future. My substituting tasks are pretty cut and dried, mostly at the upper elementary level, so there is scant chance that any such negligence will be my lot.

In other parts of my life, there is a nagging feeling that I have let people down, by not being where they seem to expect me to be. On the one hand, it is a fine thing to be needed, but on the other, I know that my obligations are primarily to the Creator, then to my own health and sanity, and to family, and only then to the outstretched hands. Someone I admire and respect has seemingly, and unfortunately, taken the brevity of my recent visit as a sign of disinterest on my part, and cut off contact. This is bound to happen, fairly regularly, as the world’s transition to a society at once more connected and yet composed more of self-reliant individuals, struggles to find the balance between those who are self-reliant and those who are needy.

The saving grace, as I was reminded by a dining companion at lunch today, is to recognize that not everyone’s demands of us have an inherent sense of urgency-even when histrionics are employed. My work in this community, and further afield, will stand on its own merits. This is the best that I, or anyone else, can offer.

Fresh Eyes and Heart

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September 7, 2022- There is no better breakfast burrito, anywhere, than a Red from Glenn’s Bakery, on Gallup’s near west side. At least, that has been my experience. I don’t like a BB filled with potatoes-starch upon starch, so there’s that factor. Glenn’s Red Burrito has bacon, red chili and scrambled eggs-nothing more, nothing less and there is a choice of spinach or pumpkin tortilla. I chose spinach. It had not long been out of the oven.

That was the start of the home stretch, of a brief journey of stellar upliftment. The Colorado East Baha’i Summer School was not a treasure trove of scholarly talk, which so many Baha’is my age seem to expect. It was a re-connection of souls, after nearly three years of all COVID, all the time-and its attendant Zoom/Microsoft Teams “gatherings”. It had a devotional focus and considerable attention to our Nine-Year Plan, which itself already seems to dovetail with the enormous changes we have seen, these past two years. Mostly, though, it was a joyous reunion of hearts- and I was glad to be a part of it. To have followed that with an evening of equally heartfelt spiritual connection, along the West Rim of Rio Grande Gorge set my heart afresh.

Then came Taos and the return along El Camino Real, always refreshing to the eyes. I return to places out of love for those whose spirits shine-and there are more of those, with each stop along the way. It is that way in Cortez, Santa Fe, Madrid (NM), Moriarty, Albuquerque’s Old Town, Gallup-and Winslow. A little place called Sip Shoppe, across from Standing On The Corner Park, has been my go-to place in Winslow, for a few years now. I was delighted to get into town, in time for an early lunch.

There was, however, a pall on the occasion, as I received word that one of my paternal aunts, whom I had visited in Maine, a few years ago, had passed on. After lunch, I walked over to Route 66 Park, which Winslow has established along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. I wanted only peace and quiet, hoping to sit in the gazebo and pray. The spot was taken up by a disabled man, who seemed to be needing solitude of his own. After some further walking along the sidewalk that featured three or four verses of doggerel, I chose a north-facing bench, and engaged in my prayer and meditation.

Thinking further, about a friend who had done a marvelous series of posts on Winslow, a few months ago, I took a few shots of Route 66 Park, before heading back to the Sportage and driving the rest of the way to Home Base.

Classic VW Beetle, Route 66 Park, Winslow
Sculpture in honour of Indigenous peoples of the Winslow area
Ode to Hubbell Trading Post, about two hours northeast of Winslow

The towns and cities of the Southwest are particularly given to being seen with fresh eyes, each time one passes through.

The Future of Power

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September 4, 2022, Colorado Springs- I had breakfast with a group of children, this morning. The topic of conversation (to which I was largely relegated to the role of listener) was the quality of schools and of those schools’ schedules. There was a fairly lively debate about the advantages of sacrificing an hour of sleeping-in, four days a week, for the joys of a Friday off. Siblings from a rural community, in southeast Colorado, have that reality. The rest, living in various communities along the Front Range, are attending schools with standard, M-F 8-3 regimens. Quietly, I empathize with the four-day week, though I would have to LIVE near the school that starts at 7 a.m., in order to work there-especially in winter. The children, ages 6-10, have definite expectations about what they want from their teachers-and recess is not their “favourite subject”.

Another aspect of child life these days is, as it has ever been, the angst of adults, especially of grandparents and their contemporaries, over “What will become of humanity?”, as they observe little boys fighting, throwing things from rocks to tantrums and being generally aggressive. “Where do they get that from?”, asked one grandmother, while fretting that the generation will become inherently violent in their own adulthood. The answer to the question is: We are, physically, animals, and thus have one part of ourselves that is territorial and defensive. The answer to the second fear is: It falls to us to nurture the rising generations, intervene, nonviolently, in the fracas and offer alternatives to trail by combat. It is going to take a long time to get past the genetic memory of spanking, a practice which I admit I used, albeit sparingly, in bygone days. Yes, adults who hit, with the best of intentions, sanction present and future hitting by their offspring. Thankfully, I saw only nonviolent firmness and loving care by parents, even when they thought no one was watching, these past three days. The toughest of men were as steel and velvet, and the women were, as ever, firm and gentle. The little boys will grow up, by and large, to emulate their fathers.

I am coming away from this gathering of Baha’is, and some of our friends from the wider community, with deep-seated hope. The emphasis here has been on cooperation and creativity, as well as the deepening of faith. The power invested in children, and the channeling of energy in a constructive direction, is being replicated in any number of communities, nationally and worldwide. It is this phenomenon which is actively competing with the acquiescence to the above-mentioned violence, and the use of electronic media as passive diversions, for the hearts and minds of young people. The children, based on what I heard this morning at breakfast, prefer the former.

Power thrives on encouragement and nurturing.

“Manitou Likes You!”

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September 2, 2022, Colorado Springs- After edging along I-25, due to an unfortunate collision, I made a detour over to Manitou Springs, a most pleasant town west of Garden of the Gods and north of Seven Falls, as well as being a gateway to Pikes Peak. My once favoured lunch spot there, Hearts of Jerusalem, closed during the COVID period. In its place is Good Karma Coffee House and Deli, a thoroughly delightful husband and wife-operated spot, with a short, but well-conceived menu. After an “Inside-Out Grilled Cheese”, I walked on over to The Taos Maos gift shop and bought a nicely-made wind chime, which will accompany another that will get from Arcosanti, in a few weeks. Maos is as interesting as its name implies, and has small items that can enhance even the simplest home.

After that was done, I remarked to the parking lot attendants, two very agreeable and helpful ladies, how much I like Manitou. Their response was: “Manitou likes you!” Moments like that are always affirming. I got up to La Foret Conference and Retreat Center, just northeast of downtown Colorado Springs, in mid-afternoon, and checked in to Colorado East Baha’i School an hour early. We began study and discussion of meaningful social action, this evening and will continue over the next 2.5 days.

I am in a comfortable little cabin, with one roommate-a nice gentleman, and six other cabin mates, all very considerate and agreeable people. There is an abundance of children and teenagers here, also very considerate and high-functioning people. As we are preparing to get ready for sleep, thunder and lightning are all around us. Rain has come to CS to the first time in two weeks, a welcome easterly extension of the monsoon.

I bid you all good night, with a scene from Manitou Springs and one from La Foret.

Yes, Manitou is ONE of Colorado’s Christmas cities.
Inglis Hall, named for La Foret’s founders.

Questions About the Ordinary

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August 30, 2022- The students were asked to draw their non-dominant hand, to examine both front and back and to write down any questions that came to mind about the hand. This was all by way of the commenter explaining how great discoveries are made, just by taking time to look at things that one sees every day. He pointed out that Galileo, using a telescope that Italian military scouts employed to keep watch on intruders, managed to see the physical features of Earth’s Moon. Mary Anning’s curiosity about rocks on the beach at Lyme Regis led to her finding the complete fossilized skeleton of a plesiosaurus. She helped identify a skeleton her brother had found, of an ichthyosaur, and later herself found the fossilized remains of a pterosaur.

With that background, the two classes of 10-year-olds were set to the examination of the non-dominant hands of themselves and of a partner. Some came up with as many as ten questions. Others could not think of any. Such is the range of curiosity, even among children. Some are ready to examine the world and all that is therein-or far beyond it. Others are like the baked earth that follows a period of warm rain. While we ought give up on no one, a goodly dose of patience will be needed, in encouraging some to learn-while others are just late bloomers, who will eventually find the stirrings of curiosity breaking through, like shoots through a hard soil that is cracking open.

So many times, I have asked, with regard to an ordinary phenomenon: “Why is that?” As long as that persists, I will wake each day with a sense of anticipation.

Hiatus for The Rushing Streams

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August 29, 2022- Lynx Creek was impassible, as friend Akuura and I looked out over it, on a short hike celebrating a break in the monsoon. That is okay by me, as the creeks and streams of our area need to have a high flow, if for no other reason than to ever so slightly raise the water table, and flow level of the rivers into which they feed: Agua Fria, Verde and Bill Williams (which in turn feeds into the Colorado River.)

The monsoon itself is on hiatus, with sunny weather predicted from now until Friday, when there are expected to be more storms throughout the weekend. Next week, from Labor Day until Thursday, 9/8, will bring another hiatus, then more monsoon rains, the following weekend. Still and all, this summer has brought the best monsoon we’ve had here in many a year.

Here are some Lynx Creek scenes.

This was at the west end of a residential area.
Scene just off a Forest Service road, in Salida Gulch area
Upstream, in Salida Gulch

Where a cross-creek trail washed out

This area is one of those in which I have spent little time, up to now. It is definitely worth more exploration, in the weeks of early October and those of November.

I returned to a frequent haunt today, finding that the return of hot sunny days affects some adults and children in a not altogether pleasant way. I sense that humidity makes many people disagreeable-and there is also the difficulty that some have with sleeping, on sultry nights. I am fortunate to have ceiling fans that keep my sleep patterns from being interrupted. There is AC, in a pinch, but I try to keep the use of that to a minimum. Other people, particularly in high rise apartment buildings and in older houses,are not so fortunate.

I like the idea of living each day to the fullest, though, regardless of weather.