The Fast: Day 16- Cultural Preservation


March 17, 2018, Tucson-

This is a day when all the world loves what is Irish, or at least what the world thinks is Irish.  Of course, there is more to the Emerald isle than Guinness Stout and shamrocks.  Corned beef is an American addition to the day.

I came here, to Arizona’s Second City, to attend the dedication of The Loop, a trail network around Tucson and its suburbs of Oro Valley and Marana.  There were many festival booths, offering everything from meticulous examination of various animal tracks to fried food offerings, which I would not eat anyway, but which the Fast gave me an excuse to politely decline.

I walked about the grounds of a former Mormon settlement, called Binghampton Rural Historical Settlement, in which is found Brandi Fenton Memorial Park, dedicated to the memory of a much-loved 13-year-old girl, who was killed in a traffic accident, several years ago.





Here, I watched as 12 Mexican-American children and teens performed exquisite folk dances of their ancestral country.



After these dances were finished, I took a walk along the path above the Rillito River, currently a rather sere landscape, but be not fooled.  The Rillito has wreaked havoc in the Tucson area, on several occasions, most recently in 2006.

I leave you with this thought:  Baha’u’llah teaches that the positive and honourable traditions of each culture, such as the dances shown above and many musical/artistic styles, are to be preserved.  Humanity needs to avoid uniformity of thought and culture, the goal being unity in diversity.


Doing Becomes Finding Out


February 11, 2018, Prescott-

Thursday afternoon, as I was leaving work, I stopped backing out, on instinct, as a black SUV blew past me, in my blind spot.  The driver of a red pick-up, who was a few car lengths behind the SUV, then began to mock me and, following me close behind, pulled into the strip of driveway to my right.  He was laughing, and shaking his head, as I made room for him to pull around and find that…there was only room for one vehicle to turn at a time, whether right or left!  He couldn’t have been a regular student or staff member; we all know this to be true. Grimacing, the hot shot waved “Thank you”, and made his turn.

Friday afternoon, I drove home from work and found my street was closed, a SWAT vehicle was in our driveway, with a half-dozen police cars and at least a dozen armed officers standing in position.  One of the neighbours had committed a felony and was taken into custody.  It was a matter of his having beaten his lady friend and allegedly threatening responding officers with a deadly weapon. (I did not see any of this, but I trust that it happened, as reported. )  I drove around the corner, and waited at the next block up, talking with other neighbours, until the operation was completed.  Do the crime, and the time awaits.

Last night, I went over to a “Paint Jam”, at Wild Iris Coffee Shop.  I was given a canvas, a palette, three brushes, some rinse water and a mixing plate.  Realizing I had forgotten to bring a sketching pencil, my free-style painting commenced.  It ended up, as a little girl who was observing remarked, being “a very funny painting.”  My mind, after the fact, recalled several basic truths about the art of painting:  Backdrop gets done first; remember how to blend primary colours;  never, ever, forget a sketching pencil.  A photo, to copy, is also a nice thing to have.  Such are the consequences of not having painted a scene since sixth grade- 56 years ago.  I am keeping the painted canvas, in a place known only to me, as a token of humility.

Do, and you will find out.

A Chrysanthemum Morning


October 21, 2017, Prescott-

This was a crisp, cool respite from the ongoing summer onslaught.

Coffee came before, and after, a Farmers’ Market breakfast,

of quiche, and a lamb samosa.

My favourite cold brew purveyors have taken to the wind.

Jonathan Best was there, though, bouncing the air around,

and waking up the mountains, with his enormous energy.

Becky was there, too, with her mother, Bonnie,

and Dalke Farms’ unique toffee bar.

A comely lady was selling gourds and squashes.

I picked up an acorn squash, and a small gourd.

I will get more gourds, next weekend,

with a view towards a painting project,

on Halloween.

The last stop was the Whipstone stall,

and chrysanthemums will grace this afternoon’s


The 198th anniversary of the Birth of Al-Bab,

Herald to  the Light of the World.




Medicine for the Soul


September 17, 2017, Prescott- 

The poor man is, no doubt, sitting with his head in his hands, wondering what his beloved will conjure next.  Rebecca spoke, sympathetically, of her husband’s reaction to her doing things like writing a song a week, for a year or writing a song and a related poem, plus painting a picture, each week, for so many weeks.  I would guess that a certain number of said works are about him.

Last night, Rebecca Folsom and Sally Barris offered two hours of rapturous song, interspersed with the kind of banter indicated above.  They came to us from Boulder and Nashville, respectively, and offered “medicine for the soul”.  The repertoire ran from Rebecca’s songs of her beloved Colorado;  an homage to Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Carole King (see below); and a bluesy paean to what women can do, to Sally’s  impromptu “Halloween Love Song”; a tribute to those who accomplish much, with a “Little Voice”; and her signature “Let The Wind Chase You”, which earned a Grammy nomination, in 2009, when it was recorded by Trisha Yearwood and Keith Urban.

The ladies captivated the vast majority of the audience, including me in my box seat, just to the right of the stage.  We joined in, on cue, for the choruses of the Halloween Love Song and “Wilder Girl”.  Their nearly matching red dresses were a sign of the slight ache in their hearts, at not being with their sweethearts, on a Saturday night.  The loving audience at Prescott’s Elks Theater did what we could to make up for it, and like so many of us who have traveled far, in the line of work, they carry on.

There was a bit of personal resonance in the ladies’ presence.  Rebecca’s voice resembles that of my mother, in her prime.  Sally both looks and sings like my late wife did. Both  despite, and because of, that eeriness, I was all in with their performances.  Their work speaks of liberation and trusting love.  They stood, solidly, for the achievement that is in every woman’s soul and by extension, in the soul of the person she loves.

I’m sure I’d be fast friends with either one of them, should I encounter her in a more casual setting.  Perking up a visibly tired Sally, by thanking her for a lovely evening, was enough for last night.  I wish them, and all women, full progress towards that sense of attainment.  In the end, it will serve to benefit us men, as well.



February 27, 2017, Prescott-

A little observation about the Academy Awards:

Seems there was confusion about envelopes.

Perhaps colour-coding is in order.

Colour was, in itself, not an issue tonight.

The ceremony was bathed in full Moonlight.

The auditors, though, remained in LaLa Land,

jarred only by the stunned expression

on the face of Warren Beatty,

and the concern for justice,

in the eyes of Emma Stone.

Mahershala Ali calmly waited his turn,

knowing, in his heart of hearts,

that the prize was his own.

The gauntlet has now been run,

and the people have won.

Oscar is no longer a grouch,

the voice of reason has spoken out.

Facing reality has trumped sweet escape.

Several notions of beauty,

now leave the beholder agape.

Sea of Trees


January 30, 2017, Prescott-

Saturday evening, after my hike, I headed for a friend’s house, in Phoenix, where I spent the night.  I had experienced a fair amount of spiritual resonance, whilst on the trail, particularly in the alluvial stone deposits, just north of the New River. As I’m reading “The Standing Stones Speak”, which some of my more jaded friends regard as New Age hokum, I found a bit of a connection, through my meditation, between the book and the spiritual climate.

It was not a coincidence, in my view, that “The Sea of Trees”, a 2015 film that was slammed by hipster critics, was my friend’s Netflix choice for viewing, that evening.  Like the central character in the film, I was caretaker for a deathly-ill spouse.  The wife in the film was not ill for very long, though, and ended up being killed by a distracted driver, while riding in an ambulance (the one plot twist I had a hard time accepting, as I have never seen anyone T-bone an emergency vehicle, especially at a high rate of speed).

The protagonist and his wife struggled, at times, just as many couples do, when differences of life energy become personalized.  Penny and I worked through our issues, and ended strong.

When the protagonist chose to travel to a forest, east of Japan’s Mount Fuji, with the intent of committing suicide, he encountered another suicidal man, who was struggling to get out of the forest, as he had changed his mind.  Through trying to help the other man, he realizes his own suicidal impulses were not all that deep.  It turns out that his late wife’s spirit was working, through the presence of the other man, to help the protagonist work through his grief.

Again, this was no coincidence that we viewed this particular film.  I reflected that there have been so many times, in which Penny’s spirit has helped me, through one difficulty or another. This, it is apparent, is what loving spirits do for those they leave behind, here in the physical realm. Indeed, are there really any coincidences, at all?

One Less Smile


August 29, 2016, Prescott- 

Far from here, in an historic colonial house,

a funny man breathed his last, today.

There is so much,

and there are so many roles,

by which to remember him.

Like all comics, he was complex.

Like anyone who knew joy,

and then lost it,

he felt anger at that loss.

Like anyone who became known

for a particular role,

he longed for the next project,

the one which would give him his due.

Like anyone who learned to love again,

he held on to that love,

and gave it back,

in spades.

Frederick Frankenstein,

Willy Wonka,

The Waco Kid,

Max Bloom,

Gene Wilder.

Jerome Silberman gave us all a long run,

of both laughs and tears.

Shalom, Jerome.



May 13, 2016, Prescott- Yesterday was a very tightly-packed day.  Work was routine, at the small school where I spent one last, pre-arranged day,punctuated only by a snafu involving our paychecks.  This was nicely counterbalanced by a timely check from another district, where I spent another “final” day, late last month.

Dashing hither and yon, after work, I voted in an American Legion election, facilitated a Baha’i study session and finally settled in for the evening, at 7:30 P.M.  Someone remarked to me, earlier in the evening, that perhaps those with hyper-busy schedules are covering up something.  Maybe, but in my case,  there is more of a sense of responsibility.  Trust me, I do like my unwind-time, and am comfortable in my own skin.

Now, I am back at Prescott High School, for the last ten days of the academic year, with a very strong possibility of returning in the Fall.  It’s Spring Festival time, so a school end-of-year assembly was held this morning, and Carnival is now being held, somewhere on campus.  I am with a few of my kids who just need a place to sit and feel safe.  That’s always been my wont- in too many places in the world, there are marginalized people.  In any high school, most find a niche.  Some end up in niche like mine, a good-sized, comfortable classroom, with a few computers, three round tables and an air of “you matter”.

Festivals, like surfable waves, hiking trails and 5 P.M., are always to be found, somewhere in the world.  Most are modest affairs, appealing only to locals. Yet,  each of them makes a big difference in the lives of several people.  So, great and small, they sustain us.  I have felt sustenance from many festivals, from the annual Ridvan gatherings, Thanksgiving Dinners and the camaraderie of St. Patrick’s, Fourth of July and Hallowe’en to the  every-so-many-years that I might make it to Mardi Gras, Chusok or Diwali.

Mostly, though, it’s what you make of every single day, that constitutes a festival.

Patty Duke


April 1, 2016, Prescott-  I close my eyes and see her adorable face, times two, engaged in banter- with itself.  Such was the life of “identical cousins”, with whom, the snappy theme song promised, “You could lose your mind”.  Patty Duke, Hayley Mills, Debbie Watson, and Ann Jillian had my adolescent brain quite engaged, in the days when my female contemporaries were screaming about the Beatles.  I enjoyed the lads’ music, along with that of just about every one of their fellow British invaders, and American/Canadian imitators.  Until the likes of Marianne Faithfull and Mary Hopkin, though, I found my  thrills more on the TV and movie screens, than on vinyl.

Patty Duke had substance, as well, playing one of  recent history’s most complicated characters:  Helen Keller, in her breakout role.  Her range allowed a redo of “The Miracle Worker”, on television, and she made playing Anne Sullivan look easy.  I was not allowed to go to see “Valley of the Dolls”, but even at 17, I was discerning enough a movie goer, that I would have passed on it-Patty or no.

Teens grow up, and so Patty became, for a time, Mrs. John Astin- and gave us Sean, of the Rings, and dozens of other film roles. She continued herself, in television, periodically and never quite left our generation’s collective psyche.  Now, she is at rest and it is for the boy of long ago to look back, and say “Thanks, my beautiful screen friend.  You played your part in a magnificent youth, very, very well.  I’m only sorry there was pain attached.”


No Foolin’


April 1, 2016, Prescott-

In honour of the launch of the annual Poetry Month:

Jesters gather, on the street curb,

Prepared to mimic, mock, perturb.

A small child gets away again,

with pointing out his grandpa’s  shirt’s imaginary stain.

Even the family cat, it seems,

Gets a rise out of her lady,

by feigning screams.

A cynic once proclaimed April

to be the Cruelest Month.

With such ubiquitous mirth,

is his judgment debunked,

or is it a wise, prescient verse?