Works of Inspiration and Edification

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December 29, 2020-

It’s time now to look back at this year that is grinding to a close, and sending some of its aspects spilling over into the new calendar year. I deem it pretty safe, though, to take stock of books read, since last January.

Spiritwalker: Messages from the Future, by Hank Wesselman (An account of meditations and insights)

Geology Underfoot In Northern Arizona, by Lon Abbott and Terri Cook

Native Roads: The Complete Motoring Guide to the Navajo and Hopi Nations, by Fran Kosik

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann

The Other Slavery: The Untold Story of Indian Enslavement in America, by Andres Resendez

Democracy In Chains, by Nancy MacLean (An examination of an authoritarian political and economic agenda)

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander (The effects of incarceration on people of colour in America)

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Dr. joy DeGruy (a re-reading, on the long-term effects of slavery on the descendants of enslaved people in America)

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Cosmic Messengers, by Elizabeth Peru (Insights on the nature of our relationship to the Cosmos)

The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene (Insights on quantum physics and its expression, throughout the Universe)

Edge of Eternity, by Ken Follett (The third of his fiction trilogy on the Twentieth Century)

The Standing Stones Speak, by Natasha Hoffman, with Hamilton Hill (An account of messages received while among ancient raised stones, in Carnac, France and in various places in Cornwall, England).

The very restrictions imposed by Coronavirusdisease 2019, and our society’s learning how to deal with it, has made intensive reading easier. I have also been motivated to see things from points of view other than my own, and so have focused on the above titles, as well as on Baha’i study.

Looking ahead to 2021, I have begun reading:

Spirit of the Stones: A Retrieval of Earth Wisdom, by Amalia Camateros (The author’s spiritual experiences, in various parts of Australia, Hawaii, Mexico and the American Southwest)

The Gullah People and Their African Heritage, by William S. Pollitzer (Examines the culture and language of the Gullah people of coastal Georgia and South Carolina)

Before California: An Archaeologist Looks at Our Earliest Inhabitants, by Brian Fagan

Coming Home to Earth: Seeing the World Anew, by Annabel Hollis ( a mini-book by an online friend from England)

I am grateful for the ability to read attentively and critically.

Raise Your Hand, If…..

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December 28, 2020-

The two families came in to the sandwich shop, and dutifully posted their orders. The two men in the group paid for their respective families, and the tables were arranged- the four kids sat at one, near the wall, and the four parents at the other, in the middle.

There were, before long, two separate sets of conversations. I tuned out the adult version, as most such exchanges are about things that don’t concern anyone outside the fold. The children, though, were engaged in a game I’d not encountered since my son’s childhood- “Raise Your Hand If You …. “, followed by some silly possibilities, and some, offered by the only boy at the table, involving things that were designed to be gross, though not in a profane way. (Mothers’ ears were taking in BOTH conversations).

The children were loud, save for the few seconds following being shushed by one of the women, and uniformly entertaining. This is one of those times when I enjoyed the banter of others, and didn’t need to give the slightest bit of eye contact. Three cheers for Sriracha ketchup on a worm burger!

A few minutes later, I crossed the street and got going on my laundry. Another, hybrid, family was in the laundromat, each having been given a slice of pizza. The little boy, his grandfather and an aunt dug into theirs with abandon. The little girl was tentative about everything-sitting away from the boy and man, only gradually eating the pizza slice,at first. Grandpa calmly sat down with her, and told her that she was as important to him as her brother. Then, the slice was gone in a matter of seconds. I had to wonder what had transpired earlier, that would make the child hang back from her family. They wound up their business, a few minutes later, though, and were gone.

This evening, I joined an online drawing class. The instructor is someone I know from another inspirational group, and find to be a very gentle soul, who allows broad lattitude, within some general parameters. We drew a Treasure Map, with an accompanyong legend. Mine was somewhat a traditional sketch- a pirate, physical barriers to avoid, and a treasure trove in a hard-to-reach location and a few whimsical creatures, thrown in for the fun of it. With music in the background, I found it a most enjoyable way to spend a Monday evening-and engaging a rarely-used part of myself is always something welcome.

As an underdeveloped artist, I get a fair amount of amusement from what gets cobbled together, in an hour or so.

OverZoomed

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December 10, 2020-

The spread of teleconferencing during this time of worldwide pestilence is probably the single most useful occurrence of the year . I can only hope it remains, especially as when I find myself away from Home Base, come late Spring onward, carrying on regular communication, via Zoom, YouTube or what have you, will be a much easier task.

There is, though, the matter of working out synchronicity. This evening, there were four events occurring simultaneously. Two were parties, one was a memorial gathering and the last was a worship service. I focused on the latter two, just barely greeting folks at the first of the parties, before it was time to leave.

We will, as with any other endeavour, need to work out etiquette and protocols of expectations for Zoom gatherings, lest feelings be hurt, unnecessarily. I know that, just because one is among many on a teleconference does not mean feathers won’t get ruffled by someone’s absence or abrupt departure.

So, I have worked out a set of priorities for my own Zooming- Offering condolences and memories will have to come first, then regular worship and devotionals, followed by special celebratory events and lastly, someone’s random informational offering-which ought, by definition, be recorded for later viewing.

In any case, may your Zooming be helpful and a source of connection.

The Hotel Project, Day 8

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October 2, 2020, Dallas-

Today was a reminder of how well something can be accomplished, on short notice, and how badly something can be done, when the interest just isn’t there.

Our team put on a wonderful movie night, attended by 24 children and 7 adults. The activity involved building mini-cars, out of cardboard boxes, which the children could then decorate, whilst watching the film, in a simulated drive-in. Each child was allowed to keep their car. Being a diverse group of people, there were those who watched the film from start to finish, those who went to their rooms in the middle and those who engaged in non-disruptive activities, on the sidelines-much as takes place at a real drive-in theater.

Contrast this, and the well-conducted routine activities of the shelter, with a haphazard laundry “service”, which managed to either mix, or mislabel, at least three of the fifteen bags sent them-with a thinly-veiled disinterest in the outcome. The “service” was curtailed, after only three days, with some cases still outstanding. One way or another, it will be resolved- even if our supervisor has to go to the location, tomorrow, or one of us has to go there on Sunday or Monday. I can’t imagine a situation more degrading to a human being than to be deprived of one’s clothing, through someone else’s negligence.

For now, my attention goes to my little family, tomorrow, then back to business on Sunday.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 93: That Hamilton Woman

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September 1, 2020, Alexandria, LA-

The Disney enterprise once had a masterful cartoonist, in Bruce Hamilton. His signature characters were Donald Duck and his family, His back-up, his leading lady, was Helen.

Bruce passed on, several years ago, after a lengthy illness, leaving Helen as matriarch of a talented family of artistes. She was the focused eye of reality, keeping all her dreamers on track.

The Hamilton home, in Prescott, was well-appointed and always welcoming. Hollywood posters, from the Golden Age, abounded-with the signature “That Hamilton Woman”, promoting a period piece from 1941, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Disney memorabilia, and Bruce’s life’s work, adorned all common rooms.

Helen passed on, yesterday, after a lengthy illness. Her legacy is one of clear vision, cultured generosity, and a structured approach to life-all coming forth from a gentle demeanour. She made the finest brownies-and I’m told, delectable deviled eggs and egg salad. She and Bruce traveled widely-across Europe and South America, as well as all over the United States.

That Hamilton woman was regal, and will be sorely missed.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 50: Bingeing

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July 20, 2020-

I only occasionally binge watch Netflix or Amazon Prime. It takes a special character, usually a spunky kid or a compelling character, to get my extended attention. Likewise, in following a blog site, I may lose track of someone i’m following, but when I catch back up, the tendency is to at least read a month’s worth, and comment on every single post. If the blogger sees this and thinks I’m Spam Stalker, I guess I’ve had that coming-but that’s never my intention.

Bingeing is rare occurrence, precisely because, even in this time of not working, there are all sorts of expectations from online and real time friends, family and Instant Family-the last group being people who address me as “Brother” or even “Father”, even though we’ve never met. I’m always glad to lend a hand, when time allows. Budgeting, though, even with time, is still key to living a full life-of one’s own. God knows, there are plenty of people out there who will gladly have me living THEIR lives.

So, to the blogger of whose posts I read and commented on 30 posts, this afternoon, know that it was done out of appreciation for your extraordinary writing. No harm, no foul.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 46: Where To?

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July 16, 2020- Today is the birthday of one of my best friends, so I will be in her luxuriant garden, later this afternoon, honouring her with gifts and exchanging stories.

As is well known, I am choosing to stay around Prescott for most, if not all of the summer-and am not going outside of Arizona, barring an emergency, until at least mid-October.

Nonetheless, I think it perfectly fine, if people in places less affected by COVID than we are, get out and enjoy salubrious places in their home states. Travel further afield is, in most cases, best saved for less infested times.

So, in the interests of such travel, here are my own top two favourites for in-state jaunts. Many of them, I’ve visited; others are the favourites of friends.

Starting here and working outward:

Arizona- Thumb Butte; Texas Canyon

Southern California- Carbon Canyon; Julian

Northern California- Point Reyes; Lassen Volcanic NP

Nevada- Valley of Fire; Cathedral Gorge

Utah- Natural Bridges; Bryce Canyon

Colorado- El Dorado SP; Seven Falls

New Mexico- Taos; Sandia Crest

Oregon- Crater Lake; Bandon

Washington- Neah Bay; Leavenworth

Alaska- Sitka; Talkeetna

Hawaii- Volcanoes NP; Kauai

Idaho- Hell’s Canyon; Craters of the Moon

Montana- Glacier National Park; Bob Marshall Wilderness

Wyoming- Grand Teton NP; Spirit Tower (“Devils Tower”)

North Dakota- Peace Garden; Theodore Roosevelt NP

South Dakota- Black Elk Peak; Badlands NP

Nebraska- Scotts Bluff National Monument; Henry Doorly Zoo

Kansas- The Hollow Park,Sedan; Flint Hills

Oklahoma- Lakes of the Cherokees; Black Mesa

Texas- Falls of the Pedernales SP; Palo Duro Canyon

Louisiana- North Side of Lake Pontchartrain; Bayou La Batre

Arkansas- Crater of Diamonds; Petit Jean State Park

Missouri- Lake of the Ozarks; Sedalia

Iowa- Lewis & Clark SP; Ledges

Minnesota- Lake Superior shore; Pipestone NM

Wisconsin- Apostle Islands; Door Peninsula

Illinois- Baha’i Temple, Wilmette; Cahokia Mounds

Mississippi- Ocean Springs; Emerald Mound

Tennessee- Shiloh; Lookout Mountain

Kentucky- Land Between the Lakes; Mammoth Cave

Indiana- Indiana Dunes; Brown County

Michigan- Picture Rocks; Keweenaw

Ohio- Bass Islands; Serpent Mound

West Virginia- White Sulphur Springs; Harpers Ferry

Alabama- Tuskegee; Muscle Shoals

Florida- Everglades; Nature Coast

Georgia- Sea Islands; Amicalola Falls

South Carolina- Sea Islands; Travelers Rest

North Carolina- Tryon; Outer Banks Region

Virginia- Shenandoah National Park; Chincoteague

District of Columbia- Rock Creek Park; C & P Canals

Maryland- Eastern Shore; Antietam

Delaware- Cape Henlopen; Fort Christina

Pennsylvania- Valley Forge; Bushkill Falls

New Jersey- Pine Barrens; Ramapo Mts.

New York- Ausable Chasm; Niagara Falls

Connecticut- Taconic Hills; Mystic

Rhode Island- Block Island; Narragansett Beach

Massachusetts- Mt. Greylock; Cape Ann

Vermont- Green Mountains; Lake Champlain

New Hampshire- Presidential Range; Mt. Monadnock

Maine- Mount Desert Island; Moosehead Lake

For the most part, these are sites in nature. In another post, when we are further along in recovery, I will mention my favourite cities, large and small.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 33: Staying Un-Ugly

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July 3, 2020-

In the end, the Fourth of July observance at Mt. Rushmore did not result in death, explosions or wildfire. I don’t share, in wholesale fashon, either the conservative or liberal vision of America’s future-but I see good points in both.

I believe in hard work, and I believe in equal pay for that hard work. I believe in preserving, and learning from, history; I also believe in not sugar-coating the hard aspects of that history. If a story is brutal, tell it anyway. If a story is uplifting, so much the better.

I believe in freedom to innovate, and I believe in following a fair and just set of laws-which do not fall victim to either the urge for vengeance or the urge for unbridled anarchy.

I see many good things that have come out of our hybrid culture. I also see much room for improvement. I see goodness in a pioneering spirit. I also see that it is only a good thing for this country to acknowledge and celebrate the foundation that was already here, with my First Nations ancestors, when that pioneering spirit took root on the periphery of this continent, and our neighbour to the south.

European-Americans have given much to our society, but they are far from the whole ball of yarn. We would be, and could still be, a lesser nation, were it not for the African-Americans who are yet rising from the ashes of enslavement; were it not for the First Nations, who already had a civilization when Europeans arrived; were it not for the Asians who built the transcontinental railroads, only to be kicked and beaten, literally and figuratively, by those who saw menace in what they did not understand; were it not for the Hispanics, who also predated English-speaking people, in much of the country.

Some, on both ideological ends of the spectrum, have given in to a subculture of fear-with its propensity for violence, for lies about the other side and for hubris about the “superiority” of their arguments. In both cases, there is much anger, rooted in pain. That is why, while cutting off and deleting messages and comments that I know are completely false, I will listen to those of any philosophical position, who come from a place of truth.

No group of people is lacking in value, in strength, in beauty, in worthiness.

The Summer of the Rising Tides,Day 27: Grass Stains

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June 27, 2020-

Today was largely spent in a Zoom conference, concluding Unity Week, an 8-day conference, in which I only obliquely participated, largely through addressing topics that need to be faced, if true unity is to be achieved. The closing sessions, therefore, caught my undivided attention, addressing the Four Roads one must traverse, in reaching a point where contributions to society will be meaningful.

More about these Four Roads (or Vias), in the next several days. This evening, my mind went back to simpler times. I walked downtown, after the conference had reached its closing remarks and extended farewells. The aim was to sit up on the roof of Raven Cafe, and catch the salsa and funk that was emanating from the rooftop’s makeshift stage.

Wouldn’t you know it? There was an hour’s wait, for any spot on the roof. I’d already eaten dinner at home, anyway, and so went up the street to Frozen Frannie’s, and grabbed a refreshing cup of goodness, then headed further, over to the Courthouse steps, enjoying pina colada and berry frozen yogurt. A group of children buzzed around me, alternately sliding down the short incline, tussling, and engaging in a game of hide and seek. It’s always reassuring to see that, COVID or no COVID, life is going on, and parents are taking their families to places where fresh air and exercise are not monitored by draconian elements.

After enjoying my frozen treat, a seat in front of a tree beckoned, closer to the Bluegrass band that was occupying a festival stage. Sitting on the lawn, taking in a bona fide North American art form, was a perfect ending to the evening. Another group of kids was dancing up a storm, twirling around, as the band played the songs of Bill Monroe and John Prine, among others. When it was time to get up off my haunches, I noticed something was missing from my childhood: Grass stains. Lawns sure have changed, in 60 years.

Elasticity, Drums and A Nerf Torpedo

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March 8, 2020, Phoenix- 

I drove down here, this afternoon, to take in the last day of a the three-day McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F), held in my former home base’s spacious Hance Park.  This is a time when I touch base, however briefly, with a hyper-energetic artist friend, Pam Mayer, who dances, with and without hoops, encourages young women to do the same and rivets the attention of many, with her irrepressible mien.  Today was more of the same- I may not be Pam’s favourite pest, but  do get in enough quips, and pitches for the Drum Circle that is M3F’s spiritual centerpiece, to get at least a few eye rolls out of the Valley’s most mature “teenage girl” (my term, not hers).  I don’t go looking for her, mind you, but if I turn around at the right moment, there she is, hoops and all.  So it was, this afternoon, at two of the five locations to which I wandered.  Good hoop dancing requires elasticity, which God knows I fairly lack and of which Pam has an abundance.  She’s a treasure.

The other riveting thing about this festival, besides the music, is the mass of humanity.  There was no climate of fear in this gathering- with people of every age, generation and ethnicity-in abundance.  I spent a fair amount of time bouncing along to both reggae and country rock bands, as well as taking in a show by a techno-pop DJ.  He calls himself Bardz.

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At the country rock set, Los Colognes, a band out of Nashville, kept us leaning in and bouncing along. They have not been back to their own homes, to assess any damage from the recent deadly tornado, so the poignant musical tribute to Music City was one of the auditory high points of the day.  I wish the guys safe passage home.

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In between the reggae set  by The Green, not pictured, as I was too busy bouncing up and down, and practicing my shaka (easier with the right hand, than with the left, for some reason), and LC’s performance, I took a brief rest, along the black mesh fence at the park’s northern edge.  There, I was captivated by two adorable children, who were tossing a Nerf torpedo back and forth, sometimes getting in the personal spaces of other concert goers.  Everyone played along though, and when the toy ended up in The  Green’s buffer zone, event security people gleefully came over and gave the torpedo back to one of the kids.

That brings me to the Drum Circle.  This time, I sat in on both of the sessions.  Hand drumming, besides bouncing along to the music, is one of my favourite sound-centered pastimes.  Today was no exception, and as I kept up with the drum master’s rhythms, it was enjoyable to also encourage a variety of people to join in.  A couple of  families were led by one or two of the children to sit in and a couple of elders joined the festivities.

The festival’s energy and vibrations were perhaps best summed up by a group of five friends, who clasped their right hands together, towards the end of Los Colognes’ set.  Even in this challenging month and season, with Coronavirus and the accompanying economic setbacks, we are together in this joyous thing called life.