Staying Independent

5

July 4, 2019, Saugus-

I will continue (go back to) my photo blogs, in the next few posts.  Jumping ahead to the Fourth of July just seems best, though.

I had a conversation with someone very close to me, during the family gathering at a niece’s home, this afternoon.  One thing rings very loud and clear, from this discourse and from other conversations I’ve had, these past few months:  Many people are feeling put upon by aggressive individuals and groups, who take a point of view opposite that which they happen to hold.  Many individuals and groups ARE resorting to the use of force, when confronted with those taking such opposite viewpoints.

I was raised to hear other people out.  My parents, social conservatives, made a great effort to understand even the most seemingly ludicrous viewpoints.  I have maintained an open mind, as a result, throughout fifty-six years of adolescence and adulthood.  Civil Rights have long been a matter of supreme importance in my life, and that cuts both ways.  The Right cannot bully people of colour, of Faiths other than that of the majority in a community, or those living a lifestyle different from that which is conventional. The Left, likewise, cannot deprive people of more traditional bearing, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Violent behaviour, on either side, is the stuff of fascism (even when the bully calls self “Antifa”)

I am, as it happens, an obstinate soul, when people without authority try to force me to do their bidding.  Additionally, I question those who DO exercise authority, as to the ethical basis for their actions.  That is what I get from both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.    That is what I get from my Faith.

So, to my family-my elders, siblings and cousins:  You all matter, greatly.  Your point of view has at least some validity and is worth hearing, and pondering.  Our family is large, so there are all points covered, on the political spectrum. I will not plug my ears to any of it, so long as you do not ascribe to a coda of violence or or a policy of defamation against your opposite numbers.

To my children, nieces/nephews, and “grands”- You are, one and all, a great hope; you are people of immense promise and, especially if you are feeling vulnerable,  are worthy of all the support and love that we, your elders, can muster.  We cannot spare you from life’s ups and downs, but we can point towards the light. This is the very least we can do, in building and safeguarding your own sense of well-being and independence.

Most of the problems we face, when it comes to intolerance and reactive violence, seem to stem from the violent ones acting out of insecurity.  In truth, though, i have to ask, “How does a person expressing an alternative point of view, in and of itself, constitute a threat to my well-being?”  It may be annoying, but it is not a threat-unless accompanied by force-which then makes it an entirely different matter.

Staying independent means, to me, that one takes the time to carefully examine issues and evaluating a variety of points of view.  It also means extending that right to independence to every one else.  These are my thoughts as the Sun goes down on another July 4.

The Home Base That Wasn’t

2

June 25, 2019, Tryon, NC-

In the gloom of Spring, 2011, I was casting about in my mind, as to where I might plant myself.  At the time, I had one immediate goal:  To make my way to New Hampshire and attend the wedding of my sister’s youngest daughter- for whose happiness Penny and I had prayed for several years.  Other parts of life were in a state of suspension.  Though I worked the rest of the academic year, following Penny’s funeral and Aram’s life was slowly coming together, with the Navy on the horizon, I had ME to get settled.

Several locations presented themselves:  I could have relocated somewhere else in the metro Phoenix area, or somewhere else where I had family nearby.  Then, there were places with no family in the area.  One such place, to which I’d never been and of which I knew nothing, was Tryon.

I happened upon this town, whilst en route from Knoxville to Columbia.  It was dinner hour, so at long last, I left the highway and found a space for my car.  The place seemed magical.

It had been a fairly good day in Knoxville.  The East Side was hardly as intimidating as the earlier news reports had suggested.  There were troubled people in the room directly below me, but they kept their troubles to themselves and I had a good night’s rest.  A nice lunch, a workout at Planet Fitness and a car servicing at Big O all took place across town, and by early afternoon, I was back on the road.  If you’re ever in Knoxville and want a good, quick lunch, I recommend “Best Bagels in Town”- a small place, behind a Walgreen’s, just a couple of blocks north of Big O, at 120 S. Peters Road. I promised the owner I’d send a shout out, so here it is:  Best Bagels is true to its name.

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Back to Tryon: The downtown is compact, with a well-known equestrian resort a few miles further east.  I am more of a cozy downtown type, so while resorts are nice and all, give me a small coffee shop/cafe restaurant, any day.  One such place is Huckleberry’s.

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One of the recurring themes in my life is how much I want for the younger generations to realize their dreams, to succeed-often in spite of the powers that be “moving the goalposts” and recognizing when a young man or woman gets things right.

Georgia got it right, albeit being rather self-effacing and business-like. The sign that Huckleberry’s owner put on the wall says it best:

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Georgia did keep busy, though, greeting, seating and doing half the serving.  I’ll say it again and again:  We Boomers are in good hands,  as we hand off the baton.

Tryon has a thing for bears-and for its claim to fame:  Horses.  The first sight that greeted me, as I parked was a wooden bear.

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Horses adorn a couple of spots along Tryon’s two main streets.

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This multi-coloured horse is found near the Post Office.

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Any town which claims Nina Simone as a Native Daughter has my fullest admiration.  A consortium of artists is working to restore the home of her birth.

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I chose Prescott, AZ, of course, as my Home Base-largely because it was familiar and the family had property, for the first 3 years of my time there.  I will continue to call Prescott my Home Base, until we see where my little family settles, next year.  A place like Tryon would not necessarily be out of the question.

NEXT:  Fair Columbia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Few More Reflections

5

June 24, 2019, Crossville- 

I have also had occasion, whilst packing up for the further road, to think about why certain people are more like family to me than others and about just what my role in the scheme of such things actually is.

I am not much for patriarchy-as despite my gathering age, I don’t have all that many of the answers, in my own right.   Also, there has never been a time when the women and girls in my life have felt subservient. Groups tend to solve problems, better than do individuals.  In order for my various groups to do that, regular communication needs to happen. This little group of three, this weekend, got an aging dachshund through a very uncomfortable bout of the cruds.  Greater things require people’s attention, but there is none so heart-rending.

There is,as I alluded in the last post, a lady west of here, who I met on last year’s visit and who I would  get to know better, in a heartbeat.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of souls I have befriended-if only by electronic means and each means something special-as blood relatives, as surrogate children-and surrogate siblings, and as trusted friends/mentors.  My two friends here are high in the sibling category, as well as in the last one.  I spend a lot of time thinking about each of you, day and night-which is as much an impetus for my time spent in community work, when at Home Base, and in connecting with so many, when the Road calls.

So, now, I head down to Chattanooga, to see what makes a friend in Wisconsin so enamoured of Ruby Falls- and perhaps check out Rock City, which a couple of friends in the Southeast love.

Open-ended

6

June 11, 2019-

Back at Home Base, for a couple of days.  I find peace has returned to some parts of my life which had been in upheaval, just before I went up to Bellemont.  A friend who was mildly irritated with me has reached out and it’s all good.  A person who was livid at my very presence, last summer, was gracious and helpful, this evening.  Time does heal wounds, without necessarily having to wound heels.

I had a nice conversation with my next-to-youngest brother, whose birthday is today.  He’s one of the stars in my life- a man who has overcome serious odds to successfully lead a team of Research & Development pros, for a small Boston-area company.

My hometown, so far, is the only solid East Coast venue on my upcoming journey, and it is by far the most important-Mom is there and a couple of childhood friends have been hurting.  In between, there are several friends and family, across the Southwest and South, and a few feelers have gone out-so we’ll see how it plays out.  This year, I’m told, it’s especially crucial to be open-ended and let the road lead.

There will be time, after my New England visit, for Chicago, the Great Plains, Rockies and Great Basin, en route to the other solid venue of the summer, a dear little girl’s stage debut.   The road will lead.

This will be, as things stand now, my last coast-to-coast road trip wholly within the continental U.S.- save a possible run out to Florida, over the Christmas-New Year’s break.  Summer, 2020 will focus on the Pacific Northwest, southeast Alaska, Trans-Canada and back across the northern tier of states.  After that comes retirement, and time with my little family and with friends in other parts of the world.  These, too, are open-ended and the road will lead.

Camaraderie

8

May 25, 2019-

I have, very recently, met someone who has hit me like a ton of bricks, and much in the way Penny did.  I have no idea how this friendship will go, but it is bound to be one of substance.

For the past eight years or so, I have, to outward seeming, gone at times from pillar to post with my meanderings and efforts at working day jobs.  This is who I am, though, and my purpose remains to be a friend to as many who cross my path, as do not mean either me, or the world, harm.

I used to be a loner.  Penny changed all that- and even when it was the two of us, quietly reading or thinking, in our own spaces, I was no longer just one living for myself.  Since she passed, I have been aware that, if I ever reverted to loner-hood, she’d come back and haunt me.  Thus, there is the sense of belonging to a community that’s bigger; to groups that have an aim.

I have ties, camaraderie, with so many communities, it’s hard to pin down to one place.  That remains a good part of me, and so:

Prescott- Here, I have become grounded, made an effort at being part of a day-to-day community and have established many friendships-with people across the political and social spectra, who, in their own words, might not be able to stand being in the same room with each other.  While that’s sad, it is the human condition. I’ve been doing this sort of networking since high school, though, so it is second nature.

Phoenix- It’s no secret that this city, this sometimes choking environment, nearly buried me.  That is as much present in the circumstances of my time lived here, being a caregiver, especially for a loved one, is both labour of love and slow asphyxiation.  She often said she couldn’t wait to “be out of my way”, though to my mind, it could have gone on forever-until leaving was what was best for her.

I love the desert mountains, which the city has had the foresight to keep out of the harm’s way of uber-development (Prescott, take note:  You have no idea how close you are to losing the very places which make you special.) I also love the people who stayed close to me, when the feckless around us were seeking to quarantine my wife and me.

Arizona- You took me in, when I was still very much a mess.  Flagstaff, Superior, Casa Grande, Cochise County, the White Mountain region, Kingman-and the eternally blessed Dineh and Hopi Nations all have given me friendships that will draw this one back, time and again.  Tucson, for reasons both long-standing, and yet to pan out, is a special draw.

The West- California, in the words of Debbie Boone, will “keep calling me home.”  The beaches, the expanse of Mojave and Imperial Deserts, the Coast Ranges, LA, San Diego, Santa Barbara, the Bay Area-and the Sierra Nevada underscore my ongoing friendships, which will remain.  Nevada, Colorado, Utah- your treating me like family will only be an ongoing comfort and draw this one back time and again.

The same hold true, for those in my heart in the Northwest, Alaska, the Midwest, Northeast, South, Canada, Korea and western Europe.  I cannot see myself staying apart from any of you, my friends and family, in perpetuity. Nor, for that matter, do I wish to preclude time with those friends in places yet unvisited:  The rest of Europe, the Pacific Rim, South, West and Central Asia, Africa and the rest of the Americas.

Time will tell whether my solo wanderlust, or this newfound friendship, sets the parameters of  the future.  It is a comforting place to be.

 

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.