Nine Tasks

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January 19, 2019-

Many people make resolutions, the first thing, when the calendar rolls over.  I don’t indulge in that particular practice, knowing that making firm commitments to new practices takes time.

There are nine task areas, labours of love, that have defined my life, since the passing of  Penny, nearly eight years ago.  I will focus today on what these mean, relative to 2019.

1.  Family- With Aram and Yoonhee based in Busan, for at  least the rest of this year, my focuses are: To be in Korea for their sacred wedding ceremony, in March; to tend to such of their needs as can only be addressed on this side of the Pacific; to meet them in the U.S., should they visit here in the summer.

2.  Work- I remain committed to working, during the regular academic year, through at least December, 2020 and no later than May. 2021, depending on the needs of the school, preferably in the High School Autism Program.  Thus, work is a major daily focus through the fourth week of May and from August-December.

3. Faith- No day has gone by, since February 23, 1981, that I have not begun my morning in devotions and a fairly long recitation of prayer.  Service to Baha’u’llah remains  a prime expression of my inner joy and love for humanity.  This year marks the Bicentenary of the Birth of al-Bab (The Gate), Who we revere as both Baha’u’llah’s Herald and His Twin Messenger of God, as al-Bab’s spiritual Dispensation took place from 1844-1853, immediately before the beginning of Baha’u’llah’s.   Their birthdays also fall on two consecutive days, on the lunar calendar.  This year, these are October 29-30, with al-Bab’s  anniversary occurring first. (Historically, Baha’u’llah was born in 1817 and al-Bab, in 1819).  There are also regular Spiritual Feasts and other Holy Days, throughout the year and I  am participating in regular study groups and other activities.

4.  Community Life-  I take part in volunteering on community projects, with the American Red Cross and Slow Food Prescott.  The focuses are on disaster response, home safety, school gardens and,  new this year, food recovery.  These activities largely define my giving back to Prescott and Yavapai County, for having been a large part of my solace, in the Fall of 2011.  The American Legion’s Post 6 celebrates its 100th anniversary, in May, and I will have a part to play in that celebration.

5. Writing- Blogging and journaling have also been critical to my inner healing, even in the midst of my caretaking, in 2008-11.   They remain an integral part of who I am, and so Word Press, with its being extended to Facebook and Linked In, remains my primary means of self-expression, through this year and beyond.  I also maintain a pen and ink private journal.

6, Hiking-  This has been a huge lifelong pastime, pretty much since I was old enough to walk.  Since I’ve been old enough to take off on my own, without getting into trouble, many trails and paths, from my native Massachusetts to the desert Southwest, Colorado, southeast Alaska, Korea and northwestern Europe have seen my bootprints.  This year, my focuses will be on further segments of the Maricopa Trail, at least two visits to the Grand Canyon, more beach walks in southern California, Fall hikes in Utah and the Navajo Nation, and several walks with Aram and Yoonhee, whilst in Korea.

7. Travel-  This has also long been one of my passions, often dovetailing with hiking.  The Korea trip will take me to Gwangju and Jeju, as well as Busan.  Prior to that, will be a Presidents’ Day weekend visit to southern California, hopefully connecting with friends in Orange County and the San Diego area-with La Jolla, Dana Point, San Clemente and possibly Crystal Cove being on the itinerary.

June and July largely hinge on my little family’s schedule.  Carson City, in late May, is a given, with a new extended family member having been born, this past week.  A 1-2 week visit to the Northwest, Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast and southeast Alaska is likely-as is the now customary jaunt through the Midwest to New England and back through the mid-South.

October (Fall Break) will find me in Monument Valley and southeast Utah- returning to Capitol Reef and Natural Bridges, as well as the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.  Christmas, God-willing, will see a return to Massachusetts.

8. Diet and Exercise- Planet Fitness and our daily Adaptive Physical Education regimen have largely provided my continuity as a healthy physical specimen.  Stretches at home have also proven critical, as I recovered from a posterior knee strain, over the past ten weeks.  Things are 99% back to normal and I want to keep it that way- up to, and maintaining, 100%.  I am cutting back on coffee consumption, not out of any pressure, but because my body tells me that’s what it wants.  Less red meat is also finding its way onto my plate-and what there is, is certified grass-fed and organic.  A greater percentage of my diet being of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is on tap for this year, as well.  Yes, I will drink more water-that’s not an empty statement. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, including Lifelong Vitality Supplements, are a continual source of sustenance.

9. Study-  My mind is always looking to keep current with advances in health, trends in positive thought and expanding my awareness of subjects in which I have scant knowledge- as well as continual study of Baha’i texts and new correspondence. This will continue, as 2019 progresses.

This is a longer post than usual, but there you have my year’s plan.

 

 

 

Seared into Community

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January 8, 2019-

The local Sears may well be closing soon, along with most others of that company’s sites.  That fact has nothing to do with the title of this post, though.

Prescott has taught me how to be fully part of a community-actually a lesson that Saugus, and later, the Hopi Nation, tried to teach me, years ago, with varying degrees of success.  I guess that now, in my advanced middle age, and with a few knockabouts under my belt, people are more easily understood by me, and vice versa.

There is a move afoot for several of us to go to a National Park Service property (to be determined), and engage in a clean-up, this weekend.  This is just the latest of examples of why this community has a commitment from my heart to stay and work for the next 2-2.5 years, before family, and the curiosity about the wider world, take primacy in my life, once again.  My Faith community, the Red Cross, a local school gardens group, various individual friends-and my co-workers at Prescott High School have kept me well-occupied and quite happily so, especially these past two academic years.

This evening, I went to a fundraiser for our school’s Future Business Leaders of America.  Wildflower Bakery, a regional chain, has a new restaurant, within the shopping mall where it has been a fixture for several years.  It is visible from the road, and draws a fair crowd.  FBLA thus decided to hold its event here.  I support as many of these “club dinners” as I can, just out of love. Teens, in my view, deserve all the support they can get, in finding their way to a solid and sustainable future.
I guess this is the impetus to having all these other elements of community take root in my heart.

Alpha and Omega

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January 1, 2019, Prescott-

It is bright, beautiful and 18 degrees outside, on this first morning, of the last year, of the second decade, of the Twenty-first Century since the birth of Jesus the Christ.  Life has not changed much, outwardly, from yesterday-other than that the storm has moved eastward.

Thus far, this decade has brought both great joy and intense pain.  The pain came first, and Penny spent 2010 in agony and decline, before being delivered from all suffering, in the early part of the following year.

I have since left my Phoenix home, gone through the recovery phase of Chapter 7, lived in, and sold, my in-laws’ Prescott home-at their behest and settled in this comfortable, one bedroom apartment, which will remain my residence until it is time to move on, at the point of my retirement from education, likely in December, 2020.

I have seen our son, Aram, blossom into full manhood, going full force up the enlisted ranks in the United States Navy, though he currently plans to return to civilian life at the end of this enlistment.  He’s a husband now, with he and his wife, Yoonhee, affirming their marital vows in a sacred setting, this coming March.  They have fine examples, of dedicated marriage, on both sides of the family.

I have said farewell to my parents-in-law, in 2014 and in 2018.  Uncles, aunts, cousins and friends have gone on, also, though many remain.  I am also blessed that my mother is still keen of wit and able to live on her own, in the very home in which my siblings and I were raised.

I have always been a wanderer.  The first time I can remember going off on my own involved crossing a street unaided, which earned me a few strokes of a hairbrush, on the backside.  My subsequent sojourns have not been quite so problematic.  While some of my travels have left family members, and others, shaking their heads, nothing has befallen me that was not able to be rectified in fairly short order.  To be sure, even greater adventures are, God willing, in store.

The same is true of my friendships.  Since being on my own, I have found just what a fallacy “on one’s own” is.  Hundreds of people have come into my life.  The best of them have remained, even if some of them are only present electronically.  The worst have, thankfully, moved on.  All have taught me valuable lessons.  There are good friends across the North American continent, in Europe, India and Africa- and I would be overjoyed to visit with them, at least once.  For now, we can see one another here.

Finally, there is the question, “Where is home?”  I could choose the grandiose answer:  “Why, all the Earth is my home!”, and I would be telling the truth-as I feel relaxed, anywhere.  Practically speaking, Prescott is home, for now.  After this phase of my life comes to an end, “home” could be in the Pacific Northwest, in the Heartland, in southeast Alaska, on the East Coast or, for a time, on the road-with my permanent possessions largely in storage.  My little family, good friends and the needs of the wider community will all play a part in where I find myself.

For now, let’s enjoy the sunlight.

Hails and Farewells

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December 31, 2018, Prescott-

Many are itching to put this year to bed.  We even had a fireworks display in the downtown area, at 9 p.m., three hours ahead of schedule.  Me?  I am tying up loose ends, with regard to the year being shown the door.  Earlier this evening, I went down to the Salvation Army dining room and helped serve dinner.  17 hardy souls are taking shelter there tonight and gratefully took a meal of hot chicken noodle soup, Subway sandwich, Asian salad, chips, carbonated fruit water and chocolate cake.  My job was to dish out the cake, and I managed a slice for each shelteree who wanted one-not easy, with salivating staff members wanting a slice, as well. There was plenty for all, though.

The year brought several people into my life.  Some, like my daughter-in-law and infant grand-niece, will be here forever.  Others, like a good friend in Missouri and several people I met this summer, whilst crossing the continent, will be around for a good long time.  Another came into my life, found it not to their liking, and left swiftly.

I said farewell to several- a childhood neighbour, Ed Wolfe; boyhood friends, Stan Norkum and Alan Belyea; the sister of a friend, Claire Lindquist; Penny’s cousin, Jean Haithcock; her maternal aunt, Averala Boyd and, closest of all, her mother and my mother-in-law, Ruth Fellman.

Now, 2019 is little more than an hour away from our part of the continent.  I know the souls who have departed are looking out for those they love.  I feel my share of that love and it has helped refine my character, still further.

I look forward to ongoing friendships, some of which were clarified, refined and strengthened this year. I look forward to those new friendships that are sure to come in the year ahead, as well.  I know I will have to say goodbye to some souls in 2019; that’s the way of it.  They will be there, in the In-Gathering, when my own time comes.

Happy 2019, everyone!

The Old Year’s New Friends

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December 30, 2018, Prescott-

This fading year brought new people and places into my life, and filtered this life, quite vigourously.

My new friends, both online and in real time, have greatly enriched my life- being both sweet/warm and hot/ferocious.  One needs both in a balanced life.  I am blessed with a new daughter-in-law;  two wonderful branches of a blended family being brought into ours-courtesy of another family  wedding this past summer; a very bright and much-loved grandniece born in February; a smattering of vibrant, creative friends, from this year’s Convergence at Arcosanti; all manner of beloved souls from that site called “Archaeology for the Soul” and so many with whom I just happen to bond, in my wanderings both physical and ethereal.

I have filtered some- though I continue to feel great love for a place called Dharma Farm, prudence has led me to keep physical distance from there, for the time being.  A brief encounter with a distraught soul, this past Autumn, was also brought to an end, at her insistence, and no doubt with the blessing of the Universe.  I am more in tune with the needs of a good friend, here in Prescott.  Communication is everything!  I also dispensed with Twitter, though that means saying farewell to some friends who are only reachable on that medium.

This year brought some new cafes and restaurants into my life, here in town: Ms. Natural’s, Rustic Pie, Firehouse Coffee, Outlaw Donuts , Rosati’s Pizza and Danny B’s (actually in Chino Valley). I have lost none of my older faves here, save Black Dog Coffee,which bid us farewell in November.

New to me, on the road, this year, are Old Town Albuquerque; Moriarty (NM); Salina (UT); Sedalia (MO); Nauvoo and Carthage (IL); Ridgeview Grill ( Wilmette); Lafayette/West Lafayette/Prophetstown State Park’Tippecanoe and Mishawaka (IN); Ridgetown and London (ON); Toronto; Auberge Bishop, Chicha Donburi and La Pantere Verte (Montreal); Plattsburgh/Ausable Chasm (NY); Valley Forge; Alexander Inn and Independence Hall (Philadelphia);  Hostels International, Fort McHenry and Iron Rooster (Baltimore); the Western Shore of Chesapeake Bay; Jamestown/Yorktown/ Virginia Beach/Newport News; Louis Gregory Baha’i Institute/Hemingway (SC); Hot Plate (Timmonsville,SC); New Moon Cafe (Aiken); Calhoun Falls State Park /Edgefield (SC); Falls Park on the Reedy/Smoke On The Water (Greenville, SC); Walterboro (SC); Salisbury and Asheville (NC); Crossville (TN); Hostel Memphis/Young Avenue Deli/The National Museum of Civil Rights/Arcade Restaurant/Beale Street (Memphis); Old Town Alexandria. Each of these just added richness to this much blessed life and I would gladly visit any of them again.

NEXT:  Hails and Farewells

Cleaning Up Ashes

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December 26, 2018, Prescott-

There is always a reckoning,

when one fails to heed the inner voice.

Christmas, 2018 will be remembered

as much for what I lost,

as for what I received.

There will be a reckoning,

sometime this week,

in one part of my life.

Then, I will go on,

though thankfully,

not without a job.

I may have one less friend,

and one less close relative,

in my life.

I will go on, though,

because there is no other way.

On the other hand,

I have a little family,

who  bring me joy,

and will continue,

for a good many years to come.

Prescott may not be the same.

after this week,

but I have my work,

my team,

and my students.

Family may not be the same,

in terms of its extension,

but I have my son,

my daughter-in-law,

and my siblings.

I have my Faith,

my co-worshipers

and my own determination,

to just be a better soul.

His Timeless Love

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December 25, 2018, Prescott-

The conference over, it is back to Christmas City.  Two gatherings graced me with their invitations today.  A small group of friends has taken to observing special holidays, with a noon meal, sparing no celebratory detail.  On Thanksgiving, it was a full-on turkey dinner.  Today, it was ham; broccoli and kale salad, in poppy seed dressing; sweet potatoes and acorn squash.  Homemade fudge and chocolate chip cookies were the desserts. We watched a fresh performance of “The Nutcracker Suite”, on PBS.  It got Christmas off to a fine start.

In the late afternoon, I headed to another gathering of friends; family members who have been consistent friends of mine for the past five years.  We enjoyed four kinds of homemade pizza, then watched a segment of “Bolt”, followed by a Hallmark love story-much needed by some, after the intensity of the holiday.

Two things jumped out at me about the day.  First, I encountered a part of myself that needed to be let go.  Without going into detail, one of my friends let me know, very subtly, that this unattractive aspect of my personality had worn out its welcome.  I also recognize that a small leap needed to be made, in my personal growth- so here goes another small step for a man.

Second, and most importantly, the day may have had Wiccan roots, centered on the Winter Solstice and acknowledgement of nature’s rhythms, but it has long become a universal recognition of the power of Divine Love.  We can say, with some assurance, that Jesus the Christ was actually born closer to the coming of Spring, perhaps late March or early April, yet here we celebrate love and the work of peace.  Once again, it’s obvious that peace is messy, at first, and comes hard.  So, Christmas can be tortuous for those who feel unappreciated or shut-out.  I have been there, in my youth, and fortunately had family members who knew how to assuage my fears and anxieties.  I will do what I can for those who are going through that now.

I hope all have a blessed Christmas season- clear to New Year’s, and beyond.

Season’s Greetings

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December 18, 2018, Prescott-

So now, my full days of school, for 2018, are in the rear view mirror.  Three abbreviated school days remain, before we all take a break for the period which, for many, is a time of celebration and revelry.  For others, it will be a time of remembrance of a Great Being, Whose sacrifice and teachings are fully intended to bring peace to those who understand them.  For still others, it will be a time of lying low and making do with very little.  Then, the Gregorian clock will reset itself, and we will have 2019 AD/CE. (I am old school, and prefer the former, in figuring time since the Birth of the Christ.  Further disclosure: We Baha’is determine our place in time, dating from the Declaration of al-Bab, in May, 1844 and thus will refer to next year as 176 Baha’i Era, or B.E.  For general social purposes, though, I will continue to date my posts by the Gregorian system.)

During this period of  revelry, rest, reflection and resilience, I wish these things, to the following:

Seniors (75 and onward):  May your curiosity continue and may it bring you the recognition and relevance that ought to come with accrued wisdom .  The elder among you raised our generation and can take large credit for the best that we have been able to offer the world, through your parenting.  The younger among you are our older cousins, siblings and mentors.  It would have been harder growing up without your shared experiences and occasional babysitting. You remain friends, and vital presences in my life-Mom, Uncle Jim and Aunt Jackie, Aunt Janet, Aunt Carol, both Aunts Helen, Aunt Gail, Uncle Jerry,  and my online friends and older cousins, (you know well to whom I am referring).

My Contemporaries (55-74):  My siblings, many cousins, classmates, immediate elders and juniors, and a good many of my friends-We have gone through many of the same experiences, hard times, great celebrations, triumphs and tragedies, victories and losses.  We have seen Woodstock and the Men on the Moon; the gradual “shrinking” of Planet Earth, and changes that we never anticipated. Considering that my first phone call, to my late Aunt Hazel, was aborted by a shrill voice telling me to get off the phone, as it was a party line “used  by grown-ups, for important matters”. I did as I was told, and remember my mother’s eyes rolling, as she quipped, “important matters, like everyone else’s business!” Now, the picture phones and calls between vehicles, of which I once dreamed, are de rigeur.  May our days not be hamstrung by health-related woes, to the extent that we can use natural remedies, exercise and a well-varied diet, to keep us going.  May we continue to love those older and younger than we; and because we first know to love ourselves.

Millennials and Generation X (20-54):  You have brought many of the ideas of which I once dreamed, as a child and teen, into being.  Many of you were my students and counselees.  I helped a fair number, confused some and let others down, but loved all of you.  Among you are my nieces and nephews, and my own beloved son and daughter-in-law.  You grew up in my hometown of Saugus; or in the woods of central Maine;  or in the elite families who sent you to  a boarding school in the midst of the Sonoran Desert; or on the Navajo and Hopi nations, reared by loving, but often struggling extended families, who gave me more than I could ever repay; or in the western Sonoran Desert, a string of communities that gave newcomers a wary, if cordial, welcome-even when several were newcomers, themselves; or you grew up, as our son did, moving from town to town and making the best of life, even when it felt lonely.  I wish you a future far better than the recent past has shown you, and know that you have it within, to make wondrous things happen.

Generation Z (Newborns to 19)- I am thrilled to see the older among you come of age, shed the misgivings of your elders and take on the challenges that the Universe has sent your way, either because of the nature of life or because of what the rest of us have managed to create.  Every generation hands down both blessings and banes to its progeny, so do forgive us and know that you are also very much loved.  You have come into my life, as my working years are winding down and you have given me the confidence, the sense that my volunteer, travel and, quite possibly, grandparent years will be as bounteous and fulfilling as all that has gone before. May we all greet and nurture the generations  that come after you, as well.

To all, I treasure my time among you and may it long yet continue. A Merry Christmas, Bountiful Kwanzaa, Joyful Solstice and Healthy, Prosperous and Happy 2019, to each and every one.

 

Boomer-Rang

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December 16, 2018, Prescott-

At this morning’s breakfast, a fellow Legionnaire voiced his occasional plaint about “the kids”:  “I’m glad that I’m at the age I am now.  I don’t think I want to see the world, after the younger generation has been in charge.”

Ho-hum!  This man is a member of “The Silent Generation”, those born between 1935-48.  Another member of that generation retorted that this is how it always has been- everyone dumps on the young.  I concur with that last assessment, remembering the reaction of both the aforementioned age group, and the GI Generation who preceded, to the antics of us Baby Boomers.

I admit it- I was too crazy about girls to care about much else, before joining the Army and learning  a goodly amount of discipline.  Even then, lovely  female faces and physiques had my near full attention, when I didn’t have a weapon in my hands, wasn’t in military formation or wasn’t focused on keeping accountable mail in a safe and secure channel of post.  My work history, though, has been a quite fair record of achievement and at least I have maintained the work ethic my parents instilled in all of us.

Penny and I imparted that same work ethic in our son, a Millennial. He has hit his stride in the military and has never ignored his considerable responsibilities, especially in his late teens and twenties.  I have a higher opinion of Millennials than even some later Gen-X’ers, those who were born in between our two generations.  No one actually seems to like the generation that comes right after them.  I had a cynical view of Generation X, until I actually worked with some of its members and  saw that there is, in reality, no full-on generation of slackers.  The world won’t let this happen, and few people like the results of slacking:  Poverty, debt and an authoritarian regime.

From what I’ve seen, I am certain we will, as I’ve said before, be just fine-with all of the generations working together.  Millennials and Generation Z will make it happen, just as we did.

December’s Ides

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December 15, 2018, Prescott-

In Renaissance times, as we know from Shakepeare’s Macbeth, the dividing point in a month was called “the Ides”.  This hearkened from a time when all months, save February, had 30 days,  and the 15th served as the dividing point.

We’ve reached this point in December, in which the work-a-day cares and tribulations of the first two weeks, being as they are combined with holiday planning, give steadily away to the mix of moods and accent on celebrating that characterize the period, right up to January 1.

I spent the first part of today helping to lay wreaths on the grave sites of those who served in the military or were married to those who did.  There were about eighty people, of all ages, doing this, following a forty-minute ceremony of patriotic music and short speeches, culminating with a 21-gun salute and playing of “Taps” (Il Silenzio).

Wreaths Across America is a national program of wreath-laying at the graves of those laid to rest in military cemeteries, on the third Saturday in December.  It began with a wreath-maker in Harrington, ME, in 1992 and became a national effort in 2007. One of my maternal uncles, who served with distinction in the U.S. Navy, during World War II, was among those who helped organize the national effort.  I learned of his involvement in this, upon his passing, in 2010 and have been involved in this effort, myself, since 2011.

The rest of this Ides of December saw me get out the last of my family Christmas cards and put up a hand-made wreath on my front door.  The weather outside is far from frightful, but I aim to keep the atmosphere, around home and work at least, delightful.