Musings, On Another Half-Way Mark


May 28, 2023- I weigh under 170 lbs, for the first time since I left Korea (1992). The work and the discipline are worth it-and while some are already trying to get me to EAT more, the nutrition I am giving myself is more than adequate. As with anything else, when someone pushes me one way, I go the other, at least as far as it suits my own greater well-being.

Exercise is also a key, and I find it easier to do more cardiopulmonary stuff than I did four months ago, when the whole weight reduction plan started. Shedding bulk works. Of course, I also walk more and will get in plenty of hikes, over the next several months, including early morning walks to my favourite grove of trees, about 1.5 miles from the camp I will be managing from June 2-16 and possibly over Solstice Week. I won’t know about the latter until, maybe, June 16, but there we are.

Being 72.5 doesn’t feel bad at all, and actually feels better than 65 or 68. Much is in how one views the world-and oneself in it. I spent the day fitting a friend wh,o is in pain, with a back brace; holding space for a devotional online; driving down to the cemetery where Penny is laid to rest; putting flowers in a plastic vase, provided by the cemetery, and placing the vase at Penny’s grave, then sitting foe a while and communicating about the next few months. Finding the vase was itself an interesting process. Being Memorial Day weekend, most of those vessels were already in use-and people were using the vase bins as trash cans! I drove around and checked a few other bins, finally finding several in a bin near the Cemetery Office. Some people who had pulled in behind me, near the row of graves, were also looking for a vase, so I directed them to that bin, and it was win-win.

Upon returning to Prescott, a dinner was being held in honour of a Baha’i craftswoman, who has a booth at the festival on Courthouse Plaza. So, I attended the delightful meal, and will certainly visit her booth tomorrow, in between all the Memorial Day activities. Tomorrow also marks the 131st anniversary of the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, thus imparting extra meaning to the concept of commemorating the lives of departed loved ones. It will be 106 years since the late former President John F. Kennedy was born. It will also mark 59 years since my late youngest brother was born. I get messages from him also- “Stay true to yourself; you’re on a good path and people love you.”

I feel that energy, especially lately. It’s always good to get messages from departed loved ones, though.

Where We Go


May 20, 2023- I met a second cousin only once-long ago, at a family Christmas party. He could not have been more than three years old. Time passed, he became a grown man, most likely a father-and even more likely, did his level best at an honourable line of work. I can’t say for certain, because he died prematurely, a few days ago. His father, who survives him, has done his level best, in an honourable line of work, so there is a lot of hope in that regard.

I have no way to contact my cousin, but if that changes, I would say to him that. in addition to condolences, I know that he was a good parent, as was his wife. We can sense such things from a distance, even with people we never see or hear once separate paths have been taken. We can always tell, knowing even a small amount about struggles and triumphs, how a person’s life has gone, in general.

Today was spent preparing the grounds and buildings for a series of camps that will begin on June 2. The team that I will lead is to provide logistical support for those guiding groups of up to twenty youth or pre-teens. The guidance is not dogmatic, but is moral, ethical in tone. The young people, for the most part, come from disadvantaged families and neighbourhoods; yet they do have a capacity for learning discernment. It is that discernment that changes lives, communities-and even nations.

Where we go in life depends largely on the choices we make. Those choices only work to our advantage, if they are made with discernment, with information, with honest assessment. I am willing to bet that my departed second cousin lived well. God rest his soul.

Moms and Hearts


May 14, 2023, Sparks- The young girl was all expectation and delight, as she left for an afternoon of cooking and honouring a friend’s mother. Three hours later, the same child returned to her home, crestfallen, on the verge of tears. Her grandmother, who had hosted us for a lovely Sunday dinner and watch party, took her place by the girl’s side, on a couch. My friend and I left, with quiet wishes that all would be better for her soon.

Another child, cousin to the girl mentioned above, is expectantly planning to be in a play, later this summer. Her mother and grandmother are carefully arranging the participation of various friends in supporting her efforts-and she expressed the hope that I will be there, when the play is staged, in late July. The women will remind me, though that is not necessary, for a child I have long regarded as a grand niece.

A mother who joined a virtual meeting earlier today was philosophical about not being able to see her family, as both she and her husband are in the late stages of recovery from COVID, and are waiting for final clearance from their physician, before taking a chance on visiting any loved ones. Her poker face fooled no one. She is no doubt in constant communication with both children and grandchildren, and will give them all they need of love and attention, in a fairly short time.

Mother’s Day was born in 1870, with the mothers of those killed and maimed, from both sides in the Civil War, coming together to seek healing, both for themselves and for their families, in the wake of the most horrific conflict this nation has ever seen. While the second Sunday in May has now largely assumed a festive air, there is still the basic element of heart sharing, in the course of the day.

My own observation of Mother’s Day is muted, to outward semblance. Mom doesn’t answer her phone, so sending her greetings and a small gift is all that physically transpires. from my end. We have a strong spirit connection, though, so that when I do manage to connect with her, in conversation, she will happily let me know that she felt blessed today. She will also be able to tell, by the sound of my voice, how I am doing, on that day. It has always been thus, between us.

The love of a mother, and of a grandmother, is the bedrock for just about anyone’s functioning, through life’s ups and downs.

Rising, and Being Raised


May 13, 2023- The objections offered by the woman sitting in the next room, to the Disney versions of classical children’s stories, which her child, grandchildren-and yours truly were watching, were cogent and well-taken. A woman does not need a dashing man of means to swoop in and solve her problems. A human being does not need another, more “superior” human being to decide how life’s difficulties may be overcome.

Those problems and difficulties are best solved by the person facing them, though they are NOT always to be resolved by one soul, singly and alone. There are reasons why we have issues to overcome and there are reasons why we encounter the people we do, including the parents, children, siblings, friends and adversaries in our lives. Each person has something of value to impart, even if it comes in the form of a challenge or setback.

A couple of times today, I found myself admonishing the little boy in the house I was visiting-a place where I am regarded as a brother and as an uncle. His well-being, and that of his sister and cousins, is of great importance to me. So, I speak up, sharply when needed, and calmly the rest of the time. My lesson, though, was to remind myself that his understanding of life is limited-he’s only f our years of age, and controlling impulsivity is a work in progress. Still, keeping the little one safe from physical harm is a duty of every person older than he. Guiding him to not harm others is also a major concern.

There is a further consideration here. Each of us, in addition to (hopefully) raising the young people around us, is also raising self. Parents and nearby adults (again, hopefully) do the best they know how in raising us. The job is not complete, however, when one reaches the age of 18, 21 or 25. Most of the heavy lifting, from those milestones of maturity onward, falls to the individual soul. We can, many times, consult our elders on a continuing basis, but the final choice is our own.

I learn something new about my remaining challenges, both ongoing and novel, each and every day. How I deal with them, what I choose to do, is not on anyone else. I’ve never been Prince Charming, and have never known a Fairy Godmother, or a Sleeping Beauty. The joys and sorrows that have come from each of the friendships and familial ties I have known, though, are more than enough to inform what I need to do, going forward.

If I can offer the same to the children in my life, that is all that is needed.

Their Joyful Freedom


May 12, 2023, Carson City-

“What we have here, is a failure to communicate”-Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke

The seemingly forlorn young woman remained holed up, in our shared Mixed Dorm room, speaking briefly, when spoken to, but not offering much, in the way of information about herself. She was functioning and while not outwardly fearful of her two male roommates, had clearly been through a bit of trauma somewhere else, and recently.

The little girl was chatty with her mother, and with another woman, who was from China and who conversed through a translation app on her phone. She went back and forth to her grandmother, in the next car of our train from Sacramento to points east (mine being Reno) and was a kind big sister to her toddler brother, when he got sick and vomited- to which their parents tended, without making a big scene. The family was friendly, but were a self-contained unit. They considered, and politely declined, offers of help from me and from the Chinese woman.

The Turo automobile renter apologized profusely, when his wife took the car I had rented from them, and went to work, returning about ten minutes after my appointed pick-up time, and having put a full tank of gas in, on her way back. While we waited, he told me of the struggles that face both the fast food industry and the truck stops that house many such establishments, as mergers and AI make decisions that are out of whack with reality on the ground. The representatives of High Management are “shocked” to discover that the lay-offs and budget cuts, which their overlords demand, will actually serve to make things far worse, as staff is frequently already at bare minimum.

The two winsome pre-adolescent girls stuck together, brought an issue to the motel owner’s attention and looked after me, while I was checking into my room, later remarking to one of their other friends that they thought I was “special”, though I barely said much more than “Thank you” to one who had picked up a dropped item. The group of children later gathered in a small play area that the owner has established where families can relax and where children can safely enjoy the fresh air.

My extended family, here in Carson, communicated their plans to me, via their matriarch’s texts. It sounds like a delightful two days, as always. We spoke a lot, back and forth, about how essential unconditional love is for children and how that love is most always passed on to the next generation, as well as how it can be brought into the lives of those whose lives have been hell. The woman I call my spiritual sister has raised countless foster children, her two adopted children and her natural-born daughter-and has been a rock for her grandchildren of two generations. Communication has been her staple.

Communication once came hard to my autistic self, but as the love that has always been in my heart overcame the reticence that consumed my mind, connecting with others has become an essential part of being. With Artificial Intelligence and more distant decision-making, often based more on incomplete information and wildly overblown assumptions, being de rigueur, even the most seemingly banal texts and IMs have assumed essential status, in order for the right thing to happen for the good of the order.

Miscommunication can be a snowball going downhill. It is our lot, to prevent it from becoming an avalanche.

Quiet Streets and Sweeping Vistas


May 8, 2023- We stood atop Airport Mesa, one of Sedona’s premier places to get a quick look at several landmarks, in one fell swoop. My daughter-in-law, Yunhee, and her mother, Mrs. Park, were my visitors for a day. It was Mrs. Park’s first trip out of Asia, and only her second out of Korea- with Vietnam being the only other foreign destination. She is mesmerized by the differences in this western half of the United States-the prairies of Texas, desert around Phoenix and the three microclimates of northern Arizona.

Her questions, as to where are the pine trees and mountains of Prescott were answered, as soon as we turned a corner and saw Douglas firs and Alligator Junipers, then drove down a street and had full view of the Bradshaw Range. All this was within Prescott’s city limits, of course. What surprised her the most, though, was the fact that our city is walkable- unlike the areas in Metro Dallas that she has seen thus far. I hope she gets to walk along Mill Creek, in Grapevine, when they go back, at the end of this week. She will see a mix of walkable and not, when they visit Las Vegas, in a day or so. The ultimate walkable area, the South Rim of Grand Canyon, will cement her image of North America’s vastness.

Airport Mesa was the last of the spots I chose for the itinerary. Lunch was at Raven Cafe, photo stops included the summit of Mingus Mountain, a ravine just west of Jerome and, of course, Airport Mesa. Coffee, from Mesa Grille, was enjoyed whilst watching the small planes take off and land at Sedona Airport. It was a bustling day, more from their perspective than mine-as it had begun with rising very, very early, catching an early flight from DFW and driving from Phoenix to Prescott, then following me over Mingus Mountain to Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood and Sedona. As we proceeded through the Red Rock city, to our point of adieu, we were each in a queue that was dealing with the aftermath of a serious traffic accident. I took Rte. 179, towards Oak Creek Village and the Interstate highway. The ladies were not so lucky, and inched their way up through Oak Creek Canyon, by choice, and found the backlog was inching along with them.

We all made it to our respective destinations, and tomorrow, while I am in my last day at work for the school year, Yunhee will show her mother what I first showed her of the South Rim. It was a splendid first day for this perky, spirited extended family member to really see what makes our continent such a marvel. In a few days, my own latest journey, by train, will get started. I may even opt for a roomette.

Their Melodious Voices


April 29, 2023- The five visitors from Tucson elevated our already high-level celebration of the Ninth Day of the Ridvan Festival, commemorating the day when Baha’u’llah proclaimed His Mission to His family and closest followers, whilst in the Ridvan Garden just north of Baghdad. This was on April 29, 1863. The family led us in two spiritual rounds, then were among the first to offer assistance, when a community member sent a texted appeal after her child was injured in an accident. Their presence alone was a confirmation of the Divine.

This was the first of two amazing musical events, the second being two hours and forty minutes of celestial bliss, courtesy of The Barn Swallows Band (so called, as to distinguish this ensemble of three woman and a man from the all-male group, The Barn Swallows.) The three-part harmony of the women, backed by their male bassist, has not failed to keep me, and their other two dozen or so followers, enthralled, in three appearances at Raven Cafe. They work as hard as I’ve seen any musicians work-taking turns in the lead, with their bandmates joining in vocally or instrumentally, in each and every song. Here, Aurelia sings lead, with Jessica backing vocally and May on banjo. Still have not caught the name of their silent bass player, whose melodies are nonetheless central to the effect of their harmonious vocals and instrumentation.

These ladies are among a multitude of young women who I would gladly claim as daughters, or nieces. (It seems, as the years go by, that Aram, Yunhee and my nieces and nephews are gaining more siblings by the minute-and that is just how my heart functions.) Their work ethic and compassion for others are what draw us in.

A local musician, Jonathan Best, aka Angiolus, led some intrepid dancers to the makeshift floor, after a brief negotiation with Raven’s management. It worked well. I was not, for once, among the dancers-these were ballroom quality steppers. It was from a cozy spot, just in front of the dance floor and stage, that three hours of reverie ensued. I could listen to these folks for more hours on end. They will be on a national tour, after the launch of their first album, on May 13. The schedule is posted on The Barn Swallows Band Facebook page. If they are in your area, I highly recommend a listen.

This special day has always produced something of great value.

The Bandage


April 26, 2023- The dermatologist and his plastic surgeon partner pronounced the basal cell “tiny”, and took a short few minutes, for each of their actions in removing it and sewing the suture. The PA who bandaged the site was far more ostentatious, applying a long dressing, almost like the person who builds a wheelchair ramp at the entrance to a building. The bandage has to keep an area well to the sides of the wound free from dirt, and I am to keep it free from water, for about 48 hours.

These sorts of events are not as common in my life as they might have been, ten years ago. With three brands of sunscreen, each free of harmful chemicals, it is de rigueur to shelter the face, neck, ears and hands-and with the coming season of wearing shorts, the legs, before going out. I will once again purchase a full bush hat tomorrow-and this time be more careful not to leave it behind, in a room, the train or rental car.

Summer will introduce itself to us here, on Sunday, with 85 F the predicted high in Prescott, and Phoenix likely to see its first 100 F day of the year. I’ll not be shy about being outside, within the bounds of prudence, the rest of this year. May, alone, will find this one in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Reno, Carson City, and points north, at least as far as Vancouver Island. There are a lot of places closer to Home Base as well-with Yunhee and her mother stopping by for a visit, in the second week of next month, some Red Cross shelter inspections coming up next week and visits to the South Rim of Grand Canyon and Mt. Humphreys towards the end of the month, unless Disaster Responses intervene.

So, the bandage is doing its preparatory work, and will generate whatever comments it does, between now and tomorrow morning. I am greatly relieved to have such a team looking out for me.

Pushing Back On The Mud, Day Five


April 7, 2023, Aptos, CA– It was, to many people, a day suitable to their mood-rainy and a bit cool, reflecting the feelings of many people about the Crucifixion of Christ. Yet, throughout the day, the sun shone through the clouds, periodically. There is, in fact, progress being made on the determination of water potability, which is one of the factors that will affect the return of people to their homes. The bigger issue, of course, is the presence of mud in and around those homes. Finally, there is the issue of accessibility to the houses.

To many people, the ordeal feels like a crucifixion, of sorts. Most will recover, to a greater or lesser extent. The lessons learned from this inundation may not be immediately clear to the victims, yet there seems to be a very strong sense of “We will go on and show our children that these kinds of events are not the end of life.” This is much in the spirit of what Christ was telling humanity, by submitting to the ignominy of the Cross.

The best of parents deliver this message to their children, both verbally and by example, on a daily basis. The ethic of picking oneself up and going forward is also what will carry human civilization and sense of community.

“And still we rise”.

The Fallacy of Coercion


March 25, 2023- Once, after Penny’s funeral, when I found a modest, but pliable, insurance deposit in my checking account, I got a call from someone who used the fact, that I had only myself to support, as a springboard to ask that I help fund a surgery that was needed. In those days of some confusion and recovery that accompanied the grieving process, I did not project ahead to the expenses of the ensuing four months before the final life insurance settlement would find its way to me. It felt like it was my bounden duty to help this individual, who had little. The choice was made to proffer a substantial amount in that direction. Fast forward three months, and I received a proposal from my handyman to renovate the house. Without giving it the proper amount of thought, I initially agreed to his offer, only to do the math afterward-and to end up cancelling the project, thus burdening him with returning the materials-and burdening myself with the loss of a friend.

I have come to the realization, these many years later, that there really was no coercion from anyone. I made both decisions, conflicting as they were, out of a desire to make someone else happy. To what extent the first person achieved happiness is a matter of opinion. I have not been willing or able to continue to dole out money in that direction. It goes without saying, that the second person is just as glad if he never sees me again.

In life, there are relatively few matters that are imperative. A parent must do the best to raise any child, who is birthed or adopted, to adulthood. A pet owner must see to the animal’s well-being. A citizen must contribute to the support of community, state and nation-both financially and civically. A worker must do the best to fulfill the basic requirements of a job. Communities must provide for the education of their young and for the basic care of disabled and elderly residents.

All else, however, is a matter of choice. In the 1970s, the comedian Flip Wilson had a routine, on his television program, in which he played a character whose retort to being chastised was “The devil made me do it.” We Baha’is know the “devil” to be the ego of a person, when it entices one to overindulge base instincts or desires, acting against the better nature. It was anthropomorphized long ago, in the days of Babylon-and has had a physical image ever since. This has the effect of allowing a person to deflect any blame for actions-which was exactly Wilson’s point. That such self-indulgence can generate negative energy, which can and does harm self and others, does not change the essence of its nature.

There is much that I take on, both paid and volunteer work. In each case, I have come to the understanding with myself that my choices are made strictly in consulting with my conscience, and not because of any pressure from outside. Guilting, whining or yelling and screaming have only made me turn away from the supplicant. There is no such real thing as coercion, when you give the matter some thought.