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.

Radiance

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August 27, 2022- In the middle of the 1990s, a gentleman took the helm of Native American Baha’i Institute, which heretofore had been a project of local Dineh and White residents, and persuaded a good number of us to adopt a series of best practices. The focus was to remain on serving the needs of the local community, but with a wider vision-improving the educational programs, both spiritual and academic, which were beginning to be offered by the Institute. The gentleman and his wife administered the Institute for 3 years or so, then were called to do other work in the Phoenix area. Their philosophy and programs, while being put in the background by their immediate successors, never went away and have found new life, in the present administration.

Joel Orona, MBA, PhD, worked tirelessly on a variety of programs during his long career, which ended a year ago today. His soul’s work was to uplift both the view that the First Nations peoples of North America have of themselves and the view that mainstream America has of its Indigenous inhabitants. Academic standards held by Dr. Orona were very high, and so was his commitment to presenting the culture of his ancestral Apache people. He did both, and with his wife, sons and grandchildren, was a familiar face at various cultural institutions associated with Native American art, music and dance.

This morning, several people from around the planet celebrated the life of Joel Orona, his radiant spirit and long list of accomplishments, in a special First Year remembrance. He accomplished much, to the betterment of the Dineh (Navajo), the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and his own Apache (Inde) people, over four decades. None of those achievements, however, eclipsed his role as husband, father and Tata (grandfather). This was underscored by the remembrances each of his family members had of him.

Radiance remains, long after a person of substance is gone.

A Day of No Nap

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August 14, 2022- The sun peaked through the considerable cloud cover, as I woke in Lake Havasu City, earlier today. There was a full slate of activities planned for the morning-first, an interesting take on a breakfast panini- with egg and potatoes baked inside the toasty bread, Monster donuts were also provided. I ate a portion of one, and took 1 1/2 others back with me, to freeze and eat in small portions, over a few days.

Next was a life coaching-type activity, called B100- “B” stands for balance. The basic premise to evaluate one’s scores in the areas of Health,Wealth, Spirit and Fun. We each did a self-evaluation, and I came up with a total of 82, fairly evenly scored, but with higher scores in Spirit and Fun, good score in Health and a slightly lower score in wealth. None was far removed from the others-the range of scores being 4. It was basically a fun exercise for me and showed that I am on the right track in every area.

Lastly, we had a study of Baha’i writings on “Life after Death”, with the focus being on the life of the soul in the hereafter. This study brought on a lively discourse on the ethics of euthanasia. My own take is that the dying person should have the right to make his/her own decisions on living or dying, hopefully letting nature run its course, as long as one is of sound mind. Penny made her own decisions, until nearly the end. So did several others who have since gone on, after long illnesses.

On the way back to Home Base, I stopped to check in with friends at Westside Lilo’s, in the wayside community of Seligman. The place has some of the best bratwurst in northern Arizona, so along with a helping of the mild, but warm sauerkraut and a side of potato salad, brats were an unusual 3 p.m. meal-essentially, “linner”. The ladies are always full of gab and taking careful stock of each other’s well-being.

The day came to an end around 10 p.m., without a nap. I was determined that I would focus on just finishing the day, in robust fashion-so I did. Sleep came easy. The shadows were sure to gather, come Monday morning.

Triple Decker

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August 13, 2022, Lake Havasu City- One by one, friends of a young man whom I have known for about three years came filing through the door of the home he shares with his father, in this desert community overlooking the Colorado River. It is his thirtieth birthday. He allowed as how this was the biggest birthday bash he has ever had-and I would not have missed it for the world. He sees today as a confirmation of his change in mindset. This was bolstered by going around and asking each of us what one piece of advice we would offer him.

I admit, I don’t know what it feels like to have a birthday where no one attended the party. Even when it was just initially the three of us, others have always showed up and made the day festive. Not everyone is so fortunate-and God knows, there are those who get arrested, or even killed, on their “special day”. Thankfully, this has not happened to anyone I have known, save one person, back in the mid-90s. There are many who do, however, end up noting their birthdays nearly alone. Today’s celebrant was one of those, on several occasions, over the years.

Another aspect of this day is the marking of three decades. Often, the “Big Three-Oh” is a mark of maturity, or at least the glimmerings of such, in a person’s life. For me, back in 1980, it was the day when a woman in San Diego told me I didn’t need to try so hard, in starting a relationship. She was in a bond of her own, so was not dropping any hints-but she said I was more physically attractive and personable than I was allowing self to acknowledge. That was borne out, a week later, when I met Penny in Zuni, NM and my life changed-for the next thirty years, if not forever. My thirties, which my last landlady in Maine had told me, two years earlier, would be enjoyable, were also the period in which I shed a long-standing bugbear: Alcohol dependence; and changed the scope of my faith, from Catholic to Baha’i- more in keeping with my own belief in the essential unity of all people-and the wholeness of Creation.

I became a father, towards the end of the decade, and now our son is in his own thirties, a loving husband, a diligent student, and a man on the cusp of a senior rank in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He has a solid life plan, a tad more organized than I had at that age, and which is also flexible enough that no change in humanity’s fortunes can derail it.

So, I see my young friend also finding a viable path, one that he and his best friend here can navigate together, if they wish. I sense that his days of viewing the world though the half-empty glass, a worldview rooted simply in fear, are over and that his considerable gifts are going to bear fruit.

Life in one’s thirties is indeed a triple-decker, of knowledge, wisdom and meaningful action.

The Quiet Moon

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August 1, 2022- Waking this morning to a sunny and quiet Home Base, there was not a whole lot ahead of me for the day. Two routine tasks did end up rewarding my inner peace and patience. There is only Bank of America in our metro area, so depositing my rent check meant standing in line for nearly a half hour. At the laundromat I use, half of the washing machines were out of order, so I put everything in one machine, which was okay, as it was not overloaded. While at the laundry, the 15% chance of rain turned into a forty-minute full on monsoon storm, the power went out twice and there was a cozy crowd watching “Abducted: The Jocelyn Shaker Story”, until the first power outage cut the cable service, right at the predictable “Lifetime” movie’s ending.

For all that, August is looking, initially, to be much quieter than June or July. I had two conflicting activities set for the first half of the month, Both, as it happens, will go on without me-as they, in turn, each conflict with a faith-based meeting that can only take place on Friday mornings. Saturn will get its rear bumper repaired, in the latter part of next week, and that is as far as I have planned for the bulk of the month. Sub calls will likely come, at least a few days this month, and there is a chance of local Red Cross activity-especially if we continue to have an active monsoon. This is the most rain I’ve seen here in several years, and I’ll not complain, as long as there is the balance between wet and dry.

The new moon promises to come in quietly, and to reward patience with sustenance. This will be a month for nurturing my little family, from a distance, and local friendships, in occasional gatherings. It’ll be a fine month to be low key and gather energy for September and October, which will see a somewhat more robust schedule.

Now, we’ll see how long the quietude lasts.

Fatherhood Does Not End

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July 31, 2022- The teen boy was moaning and complaining that he could not take it anymore. The “it’ in question was the pain from an injury he had sustained the previous night, and which he was trying to tough-out. That was not working, and I asked a team mate to help me find a First Aid kit, which she brought me from the kitchen at Bellemont Baha’i School. I got out the appropriate materials and handed them to the boy’s stepfather, who was standing nearby. He gladly applied the dressing to the injured area, and the boy had a much better day.

I observed this man taking his parental responsibilities seriously, with all four of his stepchildren and the daughter he himself sired, a toddler who was delightful. Seeing him play with her, and be constantly guiding her to show good manners and respect for others, was a treasure. The girl already knows to share and to say please and thank you. She will also grow up strong and forthright, under his watchful eyes.

Fathering is more than a figurehead position and, like motherhood, never ends. My son is facing a plethora of challenges right now, and my place is to offer encouragement, support and belief in his ability to rise to them. If he falters, I will at least, as my own father once said, be there to catch him-even from a physical distance. One cannot deprive another of dignity, nor make decisions for that person-even one’s own child, after a certain age. Support, however, is the due of every soul who is facing own life with honour and effort.

Parenthood never really ends.

Under A Gentle Mist

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July 26, 2022- I woke this morning, to a router/modem combo that was struggling to even fully load, and a candle pot that had somehow crashed to the floor and shattered, overnight. After cleaning up the pieces of ceramic and vacuuming the shards, I looked carefully at the device, and found its power supply was running very hot. So, the whole thing was unplugged and will remain so, until a technician from Sparklight comes over, tomorrow at some point. Thus do I write from the pleasant surroundings of Wild Iris Coffee House and will communicate with others, this evening, from Raven Cafe.

There is a misty rain in Prescott, this morning, a gentle reminder that, no matter how difficult things may seem at times, there is always a Guiding Hand that will help keep things on an even keel. Last night, as I walked from Bill’s Pizza, following a pleasant dinner served by a precious soul, I was approached by a longtime friend, who is a Youth Pastor. He asked my opinion on the political events of the past two years, then stated his disaffection with a certain defeated candidate for the presidency. My contention that any one of us can be dumb at times, but few are stupid, was reinforced by our conversation. My conservative friend has a good heart and a discerning mind.

I got a reasonable estimate from the auto body shop that I use here, so Saturn should be repaired, relatively easily, sometime in August, courtesy of the culpable party’s insurance company. In the meantime, it’s roadworthy and will get its welcome back oil & lube on Thursday.

Late August and early September will find me in Colorado and northern New Mexico, with a Baha’i school in Colorado Springs as the centerpiece. The second half of October will bring a visit to northern Nevada and eastern Idaho. I had considered a train ride to Sacramento, and renting a car from there, but the time and money required to drive up there is actually less than a train/rental car combination. So, once again, it’ll be Saturn and me going forth together. Thanksgiving will, most likely, be a Texas affair, with Christmas right here at Home Base, but more on those, later.

This is a community of very finely-tuned synchronicity. I left the coffee house, momentarily, to change parking spots, as there is a two-hour limit. Spotting an empty space in Iris’s lot, I went to the car, turned around and, lo and behold, the car in front of me got the empty space. Having been raised with a mindset of abundance, I pulled around the corner and found several spaces available. There is, most often, room for everyone in this world.

Unbaffled

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July 18, 2022- Acts of love never baffle me.

The day greeted me, freshly-washed as it was, after a thorough overnight monsoon soaking. I had several tasks ahead, so it was easy to get up and greet the day right back. First up was a preliminary visit to the Auto Body Shop that I use, to get a sense of when I might be able to get an estimate on the damage from July 7’s kerfuffle in Pennsylvania. Then there was the considerable amount of mail that I needed to sort. Finally, my body was treated to its first real workout since last Thursday.

I am never surprised by acts of kindness that come my way. This evening, I went to one of my favourite pizzerias in town. It was unusually busy, and even with a full staff, I waited quite a while to even have my order taken, another little while before getting my salad, but not too long afterward for my one slice of pizza. The waitress, who I have known for about a year, gave me an extra slice, for my patience. In the end, she was flustered with herself, for making me wait yet another twenty minutes, before bringing me the check-and said my meal was on the house. The owner, based in Palm Desert, CA, would have expected as much. After tipping my young friend well, for her trouble, I headed back to the Nest.

Loving does take practice in a world that is often lacking in it. The waitress’s act was likely noticed by several others and to the extent she was able to serve them in a timely manner, it probably redounded in her favour. Nonetheless, J is someone who will go far in life, just by holding herself accountable.

For my part, I know that my own accountability is an ongoing process. Everything, from how often and how well I write my mother (who needs to have letters written in large print) to keeping my own affairs in order, will remain rooted in love. From love, comes dignity and the two are inseparable.

I remain unbaffled by it all.

Golden Wrap-up

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July 17, 2022- Upon the conclusion of each journey I’ve taken, since 2011, at least one family member asks “What was the highlight of your trip?” I can most often rattle off something that stands out, yet there is, truth be known, more than one highlight-especially when I’ve been away from Home Base for a month.

The two anchors, as it stands, were the first stop, Homolovi State Park, where I returned an arrowhead to its guardians, the ancestors of the Hopi people, and L’Anse aux Meadows, where the first Europeans of record met the Indigenous people of the Americas. It would seem an ironic twist to have laid the artifact back in sacred soil, when so much of the San Francisco Peaks, an area holy to many First Nations people, was under siege from a fire, apparently ignited by a random camper trying to burn his refuse. It was my first instruction from my spirit guides.

From there, the road presented a mix of family and friend visits, with stops at places of historical, social, natural and spiritual significance. The historical gems included Marland Mansion, in Ponca City, OK; Prescott, ON Riverwalk; St,. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal; Provincial Assembly Building, Fredericton, NB; Shediac, NB; the villages and towns along the Cabot Trail, NS-especially Cheticamp and Ingonish; L’Anse aux Meadows, NL; St. Croix Island International Peace Monument, ME; State Capitol, Nashville TN. These, of course, each have natural features that add luster to the historical aspects of the place. This is especially true of L’Anse aux Meadows, with its stark subarctic and maritime beauty.

The natural treasures also included Lake Ontario Park, Kingston, ON; Moosehead Lake, Greenville, ME; Wilmot Park, Fredericton; Bras d’Or Lake and Cape Breton Highlands, NS; Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks, NL; Pippy Park, St; John’s, NL; Deer Lake Park, NL; Fundy National Park, NB; anywhere along the coast of Maine; Natchez Trace Parkway, TN. and of course, the open Atlantic Ocean.

Spiritually, I felt especially at ease in and around the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL ; Lake Ontario Park; St. Lawrence Riverwalk, Prescott, ON; Waterfront Park, Shediac; looking out anywhere along Bras d’Or Lake; Grand Faillante, French Mountain and Green Cove, Cape Breton Highlands; Matthew Head, Fundy National Park; Green Acre Baha’i School, Eliot, ME; Natchez Trace; and Centennial Park, Nashville.

Socially, my family and I were there for one another, in Sarcoxie, MO; Boothbay Harbor, ME; Saugus and Lynnfield, MA; Exton, PA and Grapevine, TX. Likewise, long-time friends in Enid, OK; Mishawaka, IN; Oley, PA; Crossville, TN; Amarillo, TX and Moriarty, NM made travel a lot lighter. I also feel like lasting new friendships were made in Montreal; McAdam, NB; Wycocomagh, Bras d’Or Village and Eskasoni, NS; Doyles, St.Lunaire-Griquet and Grand Bank, NL; Jonesboro and Perry, ME (the last, as long as the cranky restaurant owner isn’t around); Hohenwald, TN and Tallulah, LA. I missed friends in Wilkes-Barre and Bedford, PA; Harrisonburg, VA; Wildersville, TN; other family members in Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania- and I will see them again. The purpose in all this journeying is indeed to “make new friends and keep the old”, as the old children’s tune goes.

For the time being, I will quickly get back into life here at Home Base. Baha’i camp, near Flagstaff, a day of dog-sitting and whatever else surfaces will keep me in peace and harmony for the rest of July. We’ll talk about August and September, a little later.