The A-Team

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May 17, 2017, Prescott-

In my twelve years of public education, 1956-1968, there were mostly competent educators, a few misfits and twelve stand-up, top flight professionals, who either were my teachers of record or served as mentors beyond the immediate classroom.

One, Miss Bernis Hanlon, passed on, over the weekend.  She was my fifth grade teacher, and one of two at the Felton School, Saugus, MA, who went above and beyond, when it came to building character.  It was largely Miss Hanlon’s influence that brought me out of my shell, had me at least approach a modicum of competence in a few sports and join the Boy Scouts.  She taught us that boys and girls, working together, accomplish three times as much, as the genders working separately.  She taught me that having a  then little-known disability (mild autism) was never an excuse for not doing one’s level best.  She built on the framework which my third grade teacher, the then Miss Joanne Nugent, had started.

Fast forward, to 1966-67, my Junior Year at Saugus High School.  I had survived junior high school, the awkwardness, the quirky behaviour, which had generated taunts from otherwise good people, and the fires of our eighth grade year.   Only the stalwart protection of Mr. Paul O’Brien, who died earlier this year, and Mr. Ron Ahern,  and the character education of the late Miss Gladys Fox,kept me on an even keel.  I had endured inept teachers, in three of my freshman classes.   I had mastered grammar and punctuation, with the guidance of Miss Miriam Kochakian, as a Sophomore. It was the junior year that brought Mr. John Quinlan and understanding of Algebra,  Mr. Bernard Hussey and a stellar United States History class, Mrs. Lillian Pittard Bisbee, and love of prose, and the renewed mentorship of Miss Hanlon, by then a colleague of Mrs. Bisbee and a full-on enthusiast of poetry and drama.   The two ladies set the stage for Mrs. Katherine Vande and the best creative writing instruction I have ever had (Senior English).

Miss Hanlon was an integral part of that A-Team of mine, and I can’t imagine how my life would have played out, without her presence.  I know she is smiling down on all of us whom she loved, with that reassuring, infectious Irish grin.

Conversation

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April 20, 2017, Prescott-

Boy:  “You’re old!”

I:  “True, that.”

Boy:  “You have no friends.”

I:  “Actually, I do.  One is very special to me.  Many others are also in my heart.”

Boy:   “No one has friends, so that’s a lie.”

I:  ” Well, I have friends.”

Boy:  “Pants on fire!”

I:  “Her name is _____”.

Boy:  “She doesn’t exist.”

I:  “She would beg to differ.”

Boy:  “People treat ME, like I don’t exist.”

I:  “You very much exist, to me.”

Boy:  “Well, no one likes you, or me.”

I:  ” That’s sad to know.”

Boss:  “Alright, you two.  Quiet in there!”

I:  Silence

Boy:  ” See what I mean.  She would rather we don’t exist.”

I:  “No.  You just need to follow rules.”

Boy:  “I’ll never follow rules, ever!”

I:  Silence

Second boss:  “_______, sit against that wall for one minute, then come out.”

Boy: (After five minutes of not sitting against the wall:  “Let me out, so I can do what the first teacher said.”

I:  “Certainly.  Go clean up your mess.”

Boy:  Goes and cleans mess.

Second boss:  “Hey!  You didn’t follow MY instruction!!”

I:  ” Look at what he’s actually doing.  Let’s choose our battles.”

Second boss: “We’ll have this conversation later.”  (Leaves room in a huff.)

Boss, to boy:  “Welcome back, _______!  Thank you for following instructions.”

I:   “Let’s follow the rest of the plan.”

Boy:  “Okay, Mr. B.  Thank you for putting up with me.”

(The above is an altered version of a tale out of school, indicating what is wrong with both the education system and the American concept of hierarchy. The biggest lie ever told is “Children should be seen and not heard.”)

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XX: Genuineness and Imposture

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April 1, 2017, Superior, AZ-  I returned, briefly, to this roughly beautiful little town, at the edge of central Arizona’s Queen Creek Gorge, to partake of the Gorge’s eastern flank, popularly known as Devil’s Canyon, (I prefer “Spirit Canyon”), and a sandwich, coffee and butterscotch brownie prepared by a friend, Kathy, at Sun Flour Market.

She and the market’s owner, Willa, are prime examples of people who make everyone entering their enterprise feel genuinely welcome, like royalty.  They work hard, as well, and their efforts show: The place was hopping, despite the relatively quiet Main Street.

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I have spoken before, of places where I feel safe.  This establishment is another such place.  I consider the ladies as friends, who love their spouses, AND have intensely caring hearts, when it comes to people in general.  The Easter Tree is a nod to the children, whose parents bring them in, regularly, on Saturdays.  You might note some Easter dresses, to the left of the tree.  While I was there, a little girl talked her parents into buying one of the dresses.  Needless to say, Sun Flour Market will see me, whenever I’m in the area.

I mention imposture, in the title, as well.  I pondered, a great deal, whilst hiking in the canyon, after lunch, as to my own state of being.  Friends will say that I am a genuine soul, and I am honoured by that.  There are plenty of others, including several family members, who would say otherwise, and I have to live with that.  My own personal jury is still out, on the matter.

Most such self-ambivalence stems from work.  Going back to when I first entered the workforce, there were supervisors, like Phil Mitchell, Bob Powers and Sgt. Dave Cummings (United States Army), who saw my rough edges and used whatever sand paper they had available, to turn me into a fairly decent worker.  Fast forward to the late seventies and early eighties, men like Peter Webb, Dr. Mike Duff, and the late Patrick Giovanditto also helped me hone my skills, often ignoring objections from less compassionate supervisors.  My colleagues at Jeju National University, in Korea, were uniformly supportive of my work, during the five years I served as a trainer of English teachers.  Back in the States, in the 1990’s, I got support and encouragement from Eugene Charley and A.T. Sinquah, whilst serving as a school counselor.  Truth be known, many students, teachers and parents also believed in my abilities- far more than I believed in myself.  The people with whom I worked last Spring, at Prescott High School, remain advocates, as well.  These were the people who could see inside my heart.

The people I mentioned above are counteracted, to a great degree, by the majority of those under whom I have worked, including my current supervisors.  Their negative opinions, unfortunately, only bring me back to a state of doubt.  None of them have been able to see inside my heart.  My own vision, often cloudy, requires constant cleansing and refocusing.  All I know is that the safe zones in my world are what make such recovery possible.  Perhaps some day, my work place will be a similar place.  For the next eight weeks, though, I do the best I can, with six of my eight students as beacons of light.

 

Blame

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March 30, 2017, Prescott-

Some brief observations,

after a long day.

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Humans seek to fill a void,

any void,

with whoever, or whatever,

is nearby.

If a child leaves a classroom,

program administrators cast about,

for another child to fill the slot.

No vessel can hold more than capacity.

If a human psyche is filled to rage,

it explodes, at the nearest target.

A system seeks to perpetuate itself,

even if it is unwieldy, inefficient,

and uncaring.

People are dismissed,

others enter, stay a while,

and are themselves dismissed.

I’ve seen this, each time I have been let go.

My successors have fared no better.

The present situation is not a crash and burn,

yet.

We have a few miles to go, on the treadmill.

Year’s end will tell a lot, about everyone involved.

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XVIII: Queen Creek, as A Moat

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March 14, 2017, Superior- After an intensive review of the desert plants, with which I have become so well familiar, thanks to both Boyce Thompson Arboretum and its sister institution, Desert Botanical Garden, I headed up along the High Trail, to have a look at Picket Post House’s exterior (the house doesn’t re-open for visits, until either next year or 2019), and  Ayer Lake, a small reservoir that was drawn from Queen Creek, for the purpose of attracting water fowl and aquatic reptiles.

High Trail goes between  Ayer Lake and Picket Post House, then loops around to the west and south, along the eastern base of Picket Post Mountain.  The first twenty minutes of my hike, on this relatively easy trail, found me in a wealth of company- it being Spring Break for Arizona schools.  There were birders galore, at  Ayer Lake, teen girls with selfie sticks, on the rocks above the reservoir and adventurous boys, who followed me in exploring a couple of ledges, overlooking a western spur of Queen Creek Gorge.  The parents of the kids were close by, enjoying the relative comfort of the thatched-roof ramada.

Here are further scenes of this very full visit.   Ayer Lake, rather still on this mild day, has at least one resident turtle, and several Black Phoebes, enjoying the cold water.

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I saw a couple Red-tailed hawks circling around, as well.  They are said to nest in the rhyolite boulders, which abound in this park that was built from nature, not imposed on it.

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This overlook was most popular with the girls.

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Of course, it had the best view of the reservoir.

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Speckled and striated rhyolite, between lake and mansion, testify to the presence of both copper and iron, in the area.

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Picket Post House itself looms just above these boulders, and almost seems protected by the creek and canyon, which loop around its northern and western flanks.

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The boys and I saw this hint of the coming spring, from the canyon’s edge.

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Here was a sight that caused the boys to turn back from the overlook.

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Picket Post House, seen from a southwestern vantage point, shows its retaining wall.

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I look forward to seeing the place, in its full magnificence, once it becomes part of the park’s exhibits, a year or two hence.

Next up:  The High Trail’s western course.

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XVII: The Amazing Fruits of Sand

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMarch 14, 2017, Superior- No doubt about it, this area has me hooked.  Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, a combination of Desert Botanical Garden and the Prescott Circle Trail, is the centerpiece of an intensely spiritual region.  Queen Creek, which runs through the park, on the south side, has carved Arizona’s best-kept secret, in its network of canyons.  Picket Post Mountain, to the west, watches over the Arboretum, like a strong big brother.  The people I met, from a gentle wanderer who is exploring all the National Forests west of the Mississippi, to a  vibrant,passionately caring barista, exuded the sort of spirituality that comes from tapping into the extant energy field that is found in places that stay close to their natural origins.

I will present Boyce Thompson Arboretum in three segments:  This first post looks at the various desert plants, from all corners of the world, with an emphasis on the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, which are closest to the central Arizona highlands, in which the park exists.

The next post will feature Lake Ayer and the terrain around Picket Post House (Boyce Thompson’s residence)  The last  will take in the High Trail and the west end of Queen Creek Canyon.

Here are four scenes of the Sonoran Trail, which offers the flora of Arizona, Sonora (MX) and Baja California.

This is a Fire Barrel Cactus, found in both the Sonoran and lower Mojave Deserts.

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Maguey de Pulque is the source of a medicinal fermented beverage, popular first with the indigenous people of northwest and central Mexico.  It was originally used to relieve intestinal discomfort.

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Palm trees, of various types, are found throughout the deserts of Mexico.  This San Jose Hester Palm is found only in Baja California.

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Here is a testament to the full botanic splendour of the Sonoran Desert, holding its own with the exhibits of Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix) and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum(Tucson).  The flowering has not reached its peak, but anticipated rains, next week, may change that.  I may even catch some of the colours, when I am here next, on April 1-2.

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The Curandero Trail, named for the traditional healers of Mexico, focuses on medicinal plants, both of the Sonoran and of the Chihuahuan Deserts.

Desert lavender has a calming effect, similar to that of its cousin, in the temperate climates to the north.  Here it is, in a dry tributary of Queen Creek.

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Snakeweed, seen behind the informational sign, had a wide variety of uses, from treating snakebite to serving as a laxative for horses.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBoyce Thompson Arboretum has an extensive catalog of course offerings, on the uses of desert plants.  I am likely to make good use of those courses, in the intermediate future.

Finally, here are a few South American and Australian desert scenes.

This is a Toothpick Cactus, from Argentina’s Gran Chaco.

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The Chaco, like the Sonoran Desert, gets quite verdant, with winter rains (July).

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The interior of Australia  is, as is widely known, a place for only the hardiest of man and beast.  This water tower is indicative of what might be found in a swagman’s camp.  Swagmen herded livestock, in oases of the Outback.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Here are  eucalyptus trees, found in the eastern part of the Outback.

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This gum tree does not supply chicle, as its Mesoamerican and African cousins do, but did give swagmen a supply of resin, for their workaday adhesive needs.

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This is, of course, a minute sampling of what is in store for the visitor to Boyce Thompson.  Two greenhouses, just shy of the park exit, offer sensitive African and Arabian desert flora.  These will have their own segments of the park, in the near future, as will Central Asian and Mediterranean plant life.

Next up:  Geology’s Turn to Dazzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which None Can Really Know

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February 16, 2017, Prescott-

I work for someone who doesn’t entirely trust me,

and is constantly seeming to be under the gun.

I work with children who don’t entirely trust anyone,

and are each very much under siege.

I work in a community which thrives on trusting its own,

yet views the wider world with a flinty eye.

I am a native son of a country which is not sure who to trust,

yet asks the rest of the planet to go with its judgement.

I am a citizen of a planet which is getting more intimate,

and is entering a future which none can really know.

And Then, There Are These

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February 11, 2017, Prescott-

I did a routine workout at Planet Fitness, this evening, after having visited a tax prep office, finding out I was short a critical document, and getting that document printed off a website, which will serve me well- the NEXT time I go to that tax office.

On the way out of PF, I passed some young adults flirting/ connecting.  This is as it should be, especially of a weekend evening.  Life, even in hard times, should continue with certain features:  Infants learn to walk and speak for themselves; toddlers should say “No”, and thus begin learning their limits; children should continue that process, while acquiring life skills-hopefully in a safe, nurturing environment; teens and young adults should be able to visit confirming situations, in which they might feel an ocean of hope and a wealth of encouragement; older adults, like me, should be in a fully affirming, supporting role, for those on their way up the ladder, supporting,.

I am concerned about what lies ahead, for our nation and for the human race.  I know, in my heart of hearts, that our species has a grand future, long-term.  I also know that, in the short run, there are forces of reaction that will play on the fears of some basically decent people, many of whom I know and love, perhaps leading them to do harm to others, who I also know and love, because of the divergent ways they express themselves and live their lives.  I cannot, will not, choose to participate in any movement, group action, or, certainly, any pogrom directed at a people or groups, based on ethnicity, faith, gender, sexual orientation or political affiliation- in either direction.  For having said this, I have already been excoriated by a bitter, diffusely angry man, in another online forum.  So be it, as long as necessary.

My life, by year’s end, will feature: An end to a business affiliation of 36 years;  the second of four school years, in which I work full-time as an educational paraprofessional, with the possibility of a fifth, and more attention to qualitative aspects of my service to others.  I may take stands that will cost me friendships, but it will always be the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the kicked-around, who have my heart.   There, will go my heart and head, in synchronicity.

Two-Hour Delay

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January 24, 2017, Prescott-

School started at 10,

instead of 8.

Ice clogged the streets,

many pick-up drivers feared being late.

So, as I drove carefully along,

there were several who swung around me.

Arriving safely at work,

I was glad to, rid of traffic, be.

Shortened schedules bother our students,

a lack of mid-morning breakfast,

also an unwelcome surprise-

how imprudent.

We made it safely through, with no bumps and bruises.

A fair amount of learning,

even a short day infuses.

 

Seeking Light

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January 22, 2017, Prescott-

I spent much of today in spiritual study, first attending a Baha’i group, which is focusing on our Supreme Administrative Body, the Universal House of Justice.  Afterwards, I continued a simultaneous reading of “Apocalypse:  A Spiritual Guide To The Second Coming”, by Dr. Jim Richards and “The Standing Stones Speak”, by Natasha Hoffman and Hamilton Hill.

Many of us are on a spiritual quest, of one sort or another.  My purpose, in reading the two, rather divergent books, is to find the common cord, which Baha’u’llah says exists in any faith that is based on Divine Revelation.  Dr. Richards cautions the reader against taking everything, in conventional religion, at face value.  He offers a good compendium of religious trappings that appeal to one’s ego, or are drawn from darker practices of the past.  Ms. Hoffman and Mr. Hill advise the reader to open spiritual channels and meditate, deeply, on the positive and pure  elements that reveal themselves to the discerning, while being wary of negative forces.

In other words, both the conservative Christian and the spiritualists are warning us away from negative forces, and pointing us towards the forces of light.  This is what I’ve seen, so far, and verifies my learnings from Baha’i Scripture.  It’s important, to me at least, to not be too attached to names and titles, but to look, carefully, at the lives of the Great Spiritual Teachers and to sift out any indication of self-aggrandizement, on the part of the writers.

All I have read, thus far, encourages more comparative study- including a simultaneous study of the New Testament and the Quran, later this Spring, Summer and Autumn.  Baha’u’llah teaches that each individual is to learn spiritual truth for her/himself.