Destiny and Metamorphosis

5

May 13, 2019-

A dear friend posted, on another media site, that we are ever in a state of metamorphosis.  This has nothing to do with the shape-shifting that was all the rage, on television and in film, as recently as two years ago (“Game of Thrones”, “Power Rangers”, etc.)  Metamorphosis is best-seen in terms of growth.

I have also read quite a bit, elsewhere, on narcissism.  I once had a touch of that affliction.  My mother never let that horse out of the gate.  She told us that one who regards self as above reproach is dead in the water.

That’s true beyond doubt.  In the course of dividing up the contents of a bin, I re-read some old papers from my administrative and college-teaching days.  One, invaluable, summary of my students’ evaluation of a rather paltry teaching effort, in 2009, pointed out that I trended towards hidebound monotony, complete with soft, unchanging voice, in presenting what should have been a vibrant, challenging course.

When I returned to teaching, after Penny’s passing, the presentation became more vigorous and engaged.  The old dog had to master new tricks.

Likewise, in younger years, my disciplinary tactics included the bellow, and a harsher tone.  Being a full-time counselor “metamorphosed” my demeanor towards favouring my empathic side, and the hardness of my teacher training went out the window.  I have kept that empathy, yet have also learned to employ a modicum of taking people to task, when that appears necessary, though without being rough or demeaning.

Nowadays, my life-change continues. I am in the process of giving many of my professional materials to others.  Work, as I have known it for the past forty-three years, has a light at the end of its tunnel:  One and a half years remain, until my focus becomes largely travel-journalism and Work Away-based, with a healthy mix of family, perhaps even grandparenthood.  There may be some money, in the former, but I am not worried about that.

My destiny, it seems, has always been to go forward, to build bridges and to not be held to anyone else’s notions of success-no matter how well-meaning those may be.  This may require a few more positive life-changes.

 

The Genesis Spirit

4

May 12, 2019-

I only had one call to make, this morning.  Mom is still very much alive and well.  Mother-in-Law is by her eldest daughter’s side, in the spirit world.  I know they still have my back, though their plans for me are somewhat hidden, at this point in time.

I don’t so much fret over my present state of affairs, as wonder where it is leading.  It could be that, tomorrow, when I contact the County Office of Education, I will be told to re-do this or that process or be told simply that everything is in order on my end, but that they need more time to finish the red tape.  Regardless, the academic year is almost over.  The needs of summer will shortly be upon me.

Enough of my quotidia, though.  This is a day, beyond Hallmark cards and the floral industry, for fully recognizing the spirit of nurturance, the raising of generations.  The vast majority of women who give birth are nurturers. There are always exceptions, outliers, who are not fit for the greatest and most honourable job in the human world.  I read of one such benighted soul, earlier this morning.  Most mothers, though, take the ball and run with it-to the eternal benefit of their progeny, or of those whom they take in as their own.

My mother has taken, and still takes, her responsibility as a nurturer seriously.  That spirit has flowed, seamlessly, to her daughter and granddaughters. It has informed the choices of mate that my brothers and I have made-Penny and each of my sisters-in-law raised their children in a sea of discipline and love.  It continues with our children’s generation. Aram and four of his male cousins have each married strong, nurturing women.

It can’t be easy, this balancing of body and soul; this overcoming the intense pain of bringing a newborn into the world of contingency.  It is certainly troubling, to sometimes feel one’s efforts are overlooked, cast aside or unappreciated, until it is often too late.  In my case, I have sometimes felt that I have had to make up for lost time, with the most important people in my life.

That, though, brings out the true beauty of  the genesis spirit:  The power of forgiveness; the strength of forbearance; the ability to get an errant child to take ownership of destiny.  A true mother does the heavy lifting of nurturance, gets a father to buy into the process and sends a child into the wider world, with the assurance that-one’s foibles and weaknesses aside, there will be success against a backdrop of trials and setbacks.  It  will be so, because of the firm foundation of love.

The Shortest Distance, and The Longest

2

May 5, 2019-

“Civilization is precisely the human capacity to say no…….”- Rob Riemen, To Fight Against This Age

Viewing the film “Room”, this evening, I prepared myself for a variety of possible outcomes, none of them good.  Having worked for so long in child protection and recovery from abuse, I know the permutations that such cases can take.  I know that attorneys for the abuser will sometimes do their job all too well, and the cycle will repeat itself, ad nauseam.  I know that sometimes, the good guys win, and people like Erica Pratt, Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart go on to achieve at least a fair amount of normalcy and success, on their own terms.  I’ve seen a mix of the two outcomes, with identity mix-up and role confusion, only resolvable with the maximum amount of patience and sensitivity.

In a complex world, where everyone gets to jump in and have a say, many times with an agenda that has nothing to do with the recovering child, the cases can take  a long sideways route, often twisting like a corkscrew, until nothing is left.  In these cases, money is made, but no one wins.  Fame is achieved, sometimes for people who had nothing to do with the original case-and sometimes for those who did, but who have moved on, past the reality of the victim.

It’s been long enough, since the film was in theaters, that I can applaud how the story panned out.  “Jack” used native intelligence and common sense to save his mother twice- first from their captor, then from herself.  “Joy”, the mother, did well to keep both of them alive, and to recover, from both abandonment by her father and a misguided barrage of criticism from a sensation-seeking journalist.  The film is thus a cautionary tale, for several sectors of society.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  “Jack” was young enough to use that logic, in describing his former place of captivity to the police, and in avoiding the long, twisting, jagged-edged road to recovery faced by his mother.

I like to think that I prefer taking the short route, in my own life, but time has proven that sometimes, the long route has ended up being chosen.

The Ties That Bind

5

April 25, 2019-

I spent Tuesday honouring a longtime friend, who had passed on about ten days earlier.  As many of you know, Penny, Aram and I lived for seven years, on the Navajo Nation, working and living life among the Dineh and Hopi people.  Previous to that, Penny and I spent our first years as a couple in another Navajo community, where we similarly enjoyed life with both nations.

Dinnebito is a small, isolated Dineh community, between the two areas where we lived.  It was, at the time we lived there, included in a disputed land area- and the people found themselves hogtied, I daresay, by a Federally-mandated freeze on any improvements to land or property.  That merciless, unnecessary interference in relations between Dineh and Hopi has now gone away.  The pain it caused, however, has left a lasting scar in the lives of many.  That’s the way it is, with “Divide and conquer”.

I have friends, people I regard as family, in both nations.  One of them was KJ Manybeads, in whose honour I prayed and whose remains I helped inter on Tuesday.  John’s family welcomed me, at the service and afterwards, as we celebrated his life, the way we celebrated so many things in the years gone by- gathering at long tables or around in a circle of chairs, primarily outside.

When I drove back to Prescott, Tuesday evening, I took the long way around, driving on a back road, from the Hopi tribal seat, Kykotsmovi, to the Dineh town of Leupp. It gave me a long time, to recall what blessings and timeless character lessons are afforded those who honour the First Nations.  Yes, indigenous people are just humans, but those who are deeply connected to the Earth, to all Creation, have much to offer the wider community.

When I reconnected with “the world”, on Tuesday evening, I found time conflicts were causing me problems I had not fully processed.  That brought me to these conclusions:

  1.  In scheduling myself, while at Home Base, here on out, the priorities will be- a. Faith Community; b. this immediate area (Prescott and Yavapai County); c. everyplace else.
  2.  If it is someone’s sincere understanding that I have promised my time and energy, I will honour that, (even if I did not, in fact, make that promise),  for the sake of unity.

That  has been my standard, more or less, all along, and it just needed to be refreshed.

 

 

 

 

Niners

2

April 18, 2019-

Age nine found me whimsical,

lost ever in my own thoughts,

save when it came to lessons,

in Mrs. Kimball’s class.

Age nineteen found me lackadaisical,

flitting in and out of other people’s lives,

with no thought as to my effect on them.

Age twenty-nine found me desultory,

often lost in the bottle,

floating along Arizona’s highways,

or the backroads of the  wider West,

yet making a stab at conveying math,

to myself and my students.

Age thirty-nine found me devoted,

to my wife and toddler son.

The fragrance of Jeju,

and the progress of my English-teacher candidates,

filled out my world.

Age forty-nine found me wary,

of any and all politicians,

of a wayward shaman,

whose stated goal was

to bring about my ruin.

Age fifty-nine found me crumbling,

about to lose the most important

person in my life,

to the dis-ease that had

stalked her,

for over fifty years.

Age sixty-nine is seven months off,

yet it may well find me

in a state of flux.

Regardless,

I know my life is aimed

towards wholeness,

towards growth,

ever looking past

mere survival.

 

Desiderata- Part II

6

April 12, 2019-

In the last post, I looked at the first half of Max Ehrmann’s 1927 prose- poem, which attained wide popularity in the 1960’s, due to a mass, unattributed distribution of the verses, the result of the author’s having not copyrighted the work.

In this post, the second five lines are the focus.

“Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

By Max Ehrmann © 1927
Original text

I have yet to pretend to like someone, much less to love them.  I have had friendships which turned sour, because one or both of us failed to meet pre-conceived expectations.  I have learned, in very ingrained fashion, to approach friendships more carefully. Cynicism about love, though, is out of the question.  It is as perennial as the grass.

As one in late middle age, I do not act like, or pretend to act like, the youth I once projected.  I still have energy and drive, and I also get arthritic aches, if I sit for too long.  I make regular use  of essential oil supplements, hydromassage and therapeutic exercise, as those are the counsels of age.

I have, with help from skilled financial planners, shielded myself from later distress.  Strength of spirit is there, to help keep distress, and any external threats, at bay.

Being gentle with myself, and recognizing my right to life, has come hard.  I went through a long period of self-loathing, which was mitigated, but not extinguished, by my late, beloved wife.  Only standing up to critics and challengers, including the most recent bunch, has given me the sense that gentleness with self is my due.

I know, finally, that all that is happening, for short-term good or ill, will result in what’s best for the Universe and for mankind.  I have, even recently, seen sham and broken dreams.  Those who jive others, or try to fool themselves, will learn the hard truth sooner or later.

Yes, it is still a beautiful world, and I intend to experience more of it.

“Part of The Experience”

15

April 4, 2019-

This morning, I read a news report that a recently dismissed Arizona state legislator had remarked to a fellow diner, at  a recent luncheon, that, hypothetically speaking, sexual behaviour towards children, by adults, would be “part of the experience”  The comments are supposedly on tape, having been streamed.  Sexually activity should not be part of any child’s experience.

In all my years of working with children and teens, I have seen this mindset rear its ugly mug, time and again.  It has never been part of my own mindset.  Many of us, in the course of our daily work, have hugged or held our charges, boys and girls alike.  It is not for our own physical or emotional gratification.  The child comes up to us, is reassured that all is going to be okay and goes off again, free of any trauma.

This same ex-legislator, in a couple of instances, has minimized the extent of sex trafficking of minors. That mindset is, woefully, far more rampant in our society-and globally, than one might imagine.  The judiciary is rife with men and women who pronounce themselves “disgusted” with the young people brought before them, on charges of  prostitution.   The implication seems to be that the poor, deprived old man who is found in the child’s/teen’s company is actually entitled, under the law, to gratification.

I am an older man, and I will pass on that entitlement, thank you.   I agree with the judge who stated:  “Children should be at home, with their parents.”  That is why human trafficking, especially of minors, is an abomination.  Children, under normal circumstances, ARE at home, particularly at night,  especially after hours.  This is true, even if they run away, for a bit, in fits of pique.  Many runaways find their way home.

Normalcy, though, is not always on everyone’s plate.  The streets abound with teens, and children, living in insecure environments.  Predators smell money and power, and the hook-ups happen.  The causes of the kids being away from home are almost as many as the number of young people.  Generally speaking, though, it boils down to a person-parent, parent’s live-in friend, other family member not regarding a child or teen as fully human,  totally worthy of respect.

Having grown up in a home, where even my deeply-flawed person was loved and cherished, with parents who blocked my running away-more than once, my deepest inclination is to love those who aren’t.  I have seen adults who were battered, pummeled, sexually-assaulted as children.  The resulting human being is an horrific sight.  That visage underscores the vileness of the comments made by the above-mentioned ex-legislator, the judge who sentenced two teen girls to the maximum penalty, for “being aggressors” towards the man who purchased them from their pimp, and the Catholic priest who told me, during an interview in 1975, that there was “no such thing as child abuse”.  Shame on all such blinkered mentalities.

I stand ready to help any victimized, trafficked human being mend and heal.

 

Another One Out Like a Lamb

2

March 28, 2019-

There is one more work day and one more trading day left in March.  A quarter of my sixty-ninth year will end on Sunday.  March has been roiling, as we have seen, in the areas of weather-based crises and human conflict.  It has also been a time of great joy for me, personally.

As I get ready for the last two months of a fairly successful work year, and begin to ponder what life might be like, after I leave full time employment and devote my time to family and to several months of the year as a traveling writer, there may be a catch.

Having said, a few times, that I am likely to leave Prescott, and Arizona, after nearly thirty years straight and thirty-eight years, all told, in the Grand Canyon State, there is the matter of who might prevail on me to remain here.  Most of my friends here will wish me well, regardless of what path I choose to follow.  There are some, not  counted as friends, who will be glad to see me leave.  One or two special people, who will remain nameless, could yet get me to stick around.  In any case, I know my meanderings would bring me back here, time and again.

This is all conjecture, at present.  I have two very full and rewarding years left, before “retirement”.  The March Lion will bow out, and April will bring pesky standardized testing, the beauty of Ridvan and of Easter, and the Proms.  May will likely see the first 90-degree day for Prescott, and 100-degree day in Metro Phoenix.  The weekends seem to be fully-booked, but I could very well get in a day trip to Grand Canyon, on the Centenary of its National Park.  This one would be to the east side of the Park, and Desert View Tower.  That was my Dad’s favourite spot, when he and Mom visited, in 1985.

Enough meandering, word-wise; I had a busy day and rest is of the essence.  See many of you, tomorrow.

All Those Meanwhiles

9

March 26, 2019- 

For a good part of my time with my little family, in Korea, I was drawn away from anything to do with the wider world.  It felt only natural to narrow my focus, with only a relatively brief microburst of heavy rain, upon our return to Busan from Jeju, on March 15, to let the potential of havoc remind me that there was indeed “life’s mud and stone”, in the words of the great Kenny Rogers, of which to be ever mindful.

Nothing was more jarring than the shootings in Christchurch, something for which I ached, for days afterward, upon reading a digest of news in a copy of The Korea Herald.  Spiritual truth is one, continuous flow, throughout history and will remain so.  The wanton slaughter of 120 people in northern Nigeria, yet another episode in the back-and-forth atrocities between Christians and Muslims in that country and the ongoing bloodbath in Mali, orchestrated by the Islamic State and pitting the Peuhl people against IS’s Dogon opponents, have stayed on the back burner of the world’s awareness.  This is the wrong approach. At the very least, what happens in Africa, especially in the west and north of the continent, will spread to Europe, eventually, just as conflicts in the west of Asia are feared to do.  More essentially, the deaths of hundreds-anywhere- is a humanitarian crisis, worthy of the full attention of the wider world.

We seem to at least be paying closer attention to the horrific cyclone-caused damage and casualties in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.  Americans can identify with such events, especially when simultaneous horrors are ravaging the North American Great Plains and riparian areas of the Midwest.  Nature is in a highly-charged state right now.  Whether it is cyclical or the result of intense man-made climatic disruptions, unified responses are necessary.

Then, there were the more personal individual tragedies:  A young lady who had survived last year’s Parkland, FL shootings was overcome by her emotional pain, and took her life.  A week later, the esteemed economist, Paul Krueger, overcome by suffering of his own, followed suit.  Closer to home, two teen girls in our area and a Phoenix police officer were killed by inattentive drivers.

I learned my lesson, that even during the most basic and intensely personal of life events, there is no separation from all that surrounds us.  Meanwhile, family thrives, near neighbours may struggle-and those who live in areas, where life’s larger problems seem intractable, continue to warrant our love and efforts to help, where possible.

The “meanwhiles” never take a vacation.

Fighting Headwinds

2

March 16-17, 2019-

Having hugged my kids farewell, I found processing out of Korea, at Gimhae (Busan) and at Incheon (Seoul), to be a breeze.  The flight back to San Francisco was, longer, as we were flying into the wind currents and things got a bit rough, when we passed through the North Pacific, between the outer Hawaiian Islands and  the Northwest U.S. coast,  I was able to sleep for about five hours, and ended up viewing  “Kin”, which had an interesting Sci-Fi premise, loosely echoing John Sayles’ “The Brother from Another Planet” (1984), except, in this case, the alien is a 14-year-old boy, who is very vocal and is being raised by his adoptive Caucasian parent.  He comes across a weapon, from his home planet, links up with his ex-con foster brother and is subsequently pursued, both by the foster brother’s angry loan shark creditors and by his relatives from Home Planet, who at least want the weapon back.  It all ends, fairly well.

My arrival in San Francisco was not too shabby- C & I was quick and welcoming and the walk from International to Domestic is nowhere near as cumbersome as is that in LAX.  Nevertheless, I was not able to reach the United terminal in time for the scheduled flight, and end up on the next one, reaching Phoenix at 11:20 P.M., five minutes late for the shuttle. That, in turn, put me on the last shuttle, at 12:15, and long story short, I made it to Home Base by 3:30 a.m.

One incident still rankles: A nice young lady, a flight attendant, on the domestic flight, had her skirt lifted by a female passenger’s shoe, as she was helping to go over the pre-flight safety instructions.  She handled it with grace and poise, before a male flight attendant switched stations with her and she spent the rest of the flight away from the errant passenger.  Having just finished welcoming my daughter-in-law into our family, and being welcomed into hers, I was angry that this even happened.  That young woman, someone’s child and probably someone’s beloved, should never have experienced this.  We are not in the bad old days of the 1950’s-early 70’s.

That brings me back to Korea.  Chauvinism and machismo were starting to fade, as we left the country in 1992.  There is scant evidence of it now- as Korean women have stood up for their rights and for one another.  It ought to be a global phenomenon, and I will be responsible enough to speak out against such shameful behaviour, whether it comes from a man or from another woman, wherever it happens.

Korean cities have been very similar in appearance to the U.S, since the rebuilding efforts of the 1960’s, following the Korean War.  Now, prosperity has made them even more so, with high rise apartment and office buildings, echoing those of North America, Japan and China.  Standing in the sun room of my family’s apartment, in Busan, I envisioned a parkour master trying to leap onto the nearby building’s roof. This is something I, with my stumpy legs, would never dare to try-but a good running start would give a practiced parkour enthusiast a chance- maybe.

Enough of whimsy, though, I am back in the quotidian world and have done little, other than sleep, on this St. Patrick’s Day- leaving the apartment only for a two-hour meeting. Work resumes tomorrow, and I don’t plan on going very far afield, for at least the next few months.  The just-completed journey, though, was astonishing. a good reflection of why I travel.