The Healing Garden

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September 13, 2021- With no agenda for today, other than a load of laundry and a look at the protocol for the Red Cross Blood Drive, in which I will assist on Wednesday, the morning rolled out blissfully quiet.

I revisited Crossroads Cafe, which is Prescott College’s eatery, and the place where I first connected with the Sustainability Club. The interior is still off-limits, but the patio is lovely and relaxing, so I enjoyed Breakfast Quesadilla as a few groups of students ruminated aloud, about everything from sexual identity to the stresses of just getting out of bed on a Monday morning.

Just past the patio lies a Healing and Meditation Garden, which in the future will be my favoured place to enjoy breakfast or lunch, on a Crossroads visit. Gardens have vied with the wilderness as places for me to recharge- so long as there are not loud and boisterous souls about, who don’t seem to realize what salubrious means.

Don’t get me wrong-the energy of youth, however noisome, is a major source of regeneration. Several of the most treasured, beloved young people in my life are effervescent enough to power a freight train, figuratively speaking. It is the balance of the calm and the hard-charging that has gotten me to this point in life.

The quiet, though, was much-needed, after two very intense days of service, with a cast of collaborators ranging from those who are elated at my presence to those for whom five minutes of that presence is about all they can handle. It may well be that solitude becomes ever more rare, in the coming months of Autumn and early Winter. Thus will the Healing Garden, along with Acker Park, a few select trails in Prescott National Forest and in Sedona, and the gurgling coolness of the Agua Fria, at Badger Springs, be ever more precious.

Each day and hour have their indelible places in my soul.

July Road Notes, Day 24: Connectivity

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July 28, 2021- When stopping for a meal, traveling alone, I like to sit at the counter, if one is available. It often gives a chance to converse with the server(s) and anyone else who happens to be sitting nearby. This evening, dropping into The Wiggly Pig, in Cortez, it gave the young server, who was fairly sweltering, a chance to express her feelings about the “Swamp Cooler” A/C system. The rooftop box set-up is financially efficient, but does little to provide comfort to anyone doing physical labour, within. I noticed the cook didn’t look too happy, either, when he emerged from the back, momentarily. He did, however, serve up a fabulous bleu cheese burger.

The journey back to Prescott was serene, and comfortable, offering a chance to recap.

Amarillo: Wes was a bit quieter than usual. I was the one yakking away, though I forget what about. Smoky Joe’s did give me a chance to give back to him, for all the times he has been a gracious host.

Grapevine: It’s always relaxing to be with my little family. Son has reached his “Third of a Century” mark, and is growing into something of a paternal role-even if the children are still in the future. He looked after me, and got my Bluetooth installed in the car-and made certain Elantra was not a toxic environment. Life in this apartment complex seems more satisfying-with more families than single men, clustered in groups.

Tulsa: Approaching my Greenwood District visit, by stopping first at Sherman, TX, offered a prologue to the study of the 1921 Massacre-as one of the key families in Greenwood had moved there from Sherman. The little north Texas town would, itself, have a few days of infamy, in 1930. Greenwood’s slaughter has, thankfully, not prevented people of colour from rebounding-and those who have gone on to succeed in life are less likely to suffer depredations than their predecessors of a hundred years ago.

Memphis: Many people wonder why I stop here. It’s about the heritage-and making note of the pockets of vibrant culture that sustain what is actually a wonderful hub of art and musi: Beale Street, Sun Studio, Cooper-Young District, and the area around the Museum of Civil Rights. Yes, the parking lots are scruffy and Super 8, by the river, was a bit on the rough and tumble side, but I’ll take those as trade-offs for the cultural richness and youthful energy that transcend the heat and humidity.

Crossville: Another place of extended family, who have my well-being in mind. The pond, the unique pets, the interesting conversations that flow from talk of travel, independent businesses and the history of people of colour in Massachusetts-these made for a sweet two-day respite. The hike to Fall Creek Falls, in the rain, no less, just accented how soothing the little plot of paradise can be.

Harrisonburg: Two years away from another of my homes away from home made only a slight difference. I miss Jess and Mike, but Duke’s has taken up where Artful Dodger left off. Dan and Naomi are doing just fine-and there is Village Inn, to provide comfort after a long slog up the Appalachian spine. Any number of interesting small cities and historic districts may be found, either south or north of “H”, as well. Though I could have done without encountering the voice from the past, at White’s Fort, in Knoxville, one does need to remember that such people are not uncommon, and patience is still needed, to a degree.

Oley: Glick’s is undergoing quite a transformation-Next Gen horticulture is going to be as fabulous as what has come before it, if not more so. As much as I enjoy visits with Beth, it was a pleasure to get to know Dave and the crew better. My D’s stopover, this time out, left me concerned for the well-being of the “May/November” crew, in a rare period of swelter. I tend to be very concerned for the young people, especially the women, I encounter- being patriarchic and avuncular comes naturally, after my upbringing.

Saugus: The town of my childhood is no longer “hometown”, per se. Mom is in the next town northward. Family still abounds, nearby, though, and I had a long overdue visit with dearly cherished cousins, in nearby Lynn. It was a pleasure to honour my brother and sister-in-law, for all they have done, and are doing. Mother herself is adjusting to her “new apartment” and still has the spunk that inspired me to achieve. Hammersmith Inn is still there, serving great breakfasts-and I noted a competitor, uptown’s Iron Town Diner-maybe next spring.

Maine and New Hampshire: Another long overdue visit, with cherished cousins, and along a beautiful stretch of Maine coast, highlighted this day. Stonewall Kitchens is a fine place to stop, perhaps for a breakfast, but definitely for gift shopping, ahead of any visits further afield. The solemnity of my visit to the graves of an aunt, uncle and cousin, who were veterans, was broken by the sudden cold rain that had me rush back to the car. What’s past is prologue-and seemed to be a short-lived trend: I had my third dinner, in five days, at a Ninety-Nine Restaurant, as the place in Augusta was just outside the cemetery. Maine’s and New Hampshire’s capitols grace two fine historical towns: Augusta and Concord, respectively. I just wish Concord had few more places of accommodation-though Holiday Inn filled the bill nicely.

New York and Pennsylvania: I will definitely make time, in the future, for a day or so in Albany, if for the architecture, alone. D’s was much more comfortable this time around, and a very strong-willed and proactive young lady seemed very much in charge, even though the owners were present, and interacting with the regulars. DuBois is a nice little town for an overnight stop.

Mishawaka: It’s just good plain fun to stop and visit with Val and Mark. That I took a wrong turn, abetted by a balky GPS system, and ended up just over the line, in Michigan, was a non-event, though it made for a late dinner. I learned to turn the phone off and back on, thus picking up the WiFi that WAS available.

Chicagoland and Wisconsin: It is ever a joy to stop at the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, north of Chicago. The price is always to participate in the Windy City’s eternal rush hour, but no matter- I have an EZ Pass transponder now. I only need to plan ahead and load the account. That the Temple is as much of a draw for visitors as ever, brings joy to my heart. Madison offers a shimmering and impressive Wisconsin State Capitol-easily accessible.

Twin Cities: What a joy it was to meet members of the family’s Minnesota branch-and to learn of their Arizona connection. Family is family, and being blended just adds that much more strength to the unit. I feel a tight bond with cousins Darah and Amarah, and their crew.

St. Paul has an impressive Minnesota State Capitol-and Cathedral. George Floyd Square- in honour of an unassuming man, who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, has brought disparate people together- and has brought focus onto the underlying shared humanity of us all. This was easily the most interesting experience, on a most interesting journey.

Great Plains Highways: Fairmont is Anytown, but it was special to meet Tericca, an engaging soul who came here from the Phoenix area, and who has a special appreciation for the back country of the Plains. Why I didn’t take more time to make sure the radiator cap was on properly, I’ll never know, but it was a good reminder-even though I had to sit for four hours, while a skilled mechanic, named Alex, gave my car’s cooling system a complete once-over. Falls Park is a fine reason to visit Sioux Falls, and a great place for locals to spend the three-digit summer days. Making it as far as York, NE, after the car service, was indeed a near miracle.

Castle Rock: It was a sublime surprise to find Max’s Diner, near the junction of I-80 and I-76. Navigating detours and road construction is just part of the deal, in summer travel. Max’s, with hand-made burgers, is a true gem, in a place called Big Springs, NE. Castle Rock, south of Denver, has experienced explosive growth, in the five years since I was last through this way. It was joyful, though, to be surrounded by young families, even to be next door to three very chatty and outspoken little boys.

Down the 160: This route feels like home to me, in so many spots. I could stay in Walsenburg, Fort Garland, Del Norte, Pagosa Springs, Mancos, or Cortez, and feel right at home. Alamosa, Monte Vista and Durango are a bit congested, but are also fine places to visit for a day or so-maybe longer, in the Fall. Del’s Diner (Fort Garland) is an unassuming spot, with plain fare, but the ladies are supremely gracious to all who stop for a meal. I miss the old “hippie” spot in Del Norte, and didn’t see anything that has taken its place. The drive over Wolf Creek Pass featured rain, in buckets. In Cortez, it’s always a coin flip: Wiggly Pig or The Farm Bistro. This evening, Wiggly won the toss. Love that Blu Burger! The rest of the road, through Dinetah, Flagstaff and the Verde Valley, just required that I stayed awake. Even with no place to get a cup of coffee, I found it easy to manage.

Tomorrow is S-Day (for Snip) and I will be well-rested for it.

July Road Notes, Day 22: Too Slight a Twist, and then…Sizzle

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July 26, 2021, York, NE- The auto heating and cooling technician took a hard look under Elantra’s hood, then a hard glance at me, and went to work on the grizzled grey one, having set aside a few other projects, that I might go on towards home, by day’s end. It turned out to be a simple matter.

The day started tamely enough, with continental breakfast at the Super 8, Fairmont, MN and a serene drive through the prairie of western Minnesota, to Sioux Falls, with the INTENT of taking in the Queen City’s signature Falls Park, and heading on to Nebraska. Wouldn’t you know, though, that in checking the water level of Elantra’s radiator, I managed to not put it on as tightly as I thought?

The piper came calling, as I drove out of Falls Park, towards I-229. The radiator’s warning signal came dinging (not silently, like the “Check Engine” light, but earnestly. I managed to turn the blower off and found an auto body shop parking lot, let the receptionist know why I was there, and called AAA. An hour later, I had added water to the radiator, determined there were no leaks and Elantra was loaded onto the tow bed. Four hours after that, the good folks at Twelfth Street Auto Care, on the west side of Sioux Falls,had squeezed Elantra into their already impossible schedule, determined that SOMEONE had not tightened the radiator cap properly, and that there were no other problems with the grizz. Properly chagrined, I thanked all concerned, profusely, and headed out.

Now, back to Falls Park. It was discovered by early settlers, in the 1850s, though the Yankton Sioux people had long celebrated the beauty and bounty of the cascades along the Big Sioux River. https://www.siouxfalls.org/parks/parks/locations/falls-park

Here are some scenes of my meanderings that followed a fine picnic lunch.

Foreground, Falls Park, Sioux Falls
A view of the lower Falls, from an observation deck
Local volunteers clean up algae and debris
The upper Falls
Ruins of the Queen Bee Flour Mill, destroyed by fire, in 1956.
The bed of Big Sioux River

It is not the Big Sioux at its fullest flow, which suited the many families who came to visit, just fine. Falls Park is a marvelous place for whiling away hot summer days-at it is expected to hit 102, in Sioux Falls, on Wednesday.

Thanks to Alex and Josh, I won’t be there. Instead, on towards Nebraska I rolled, through Elk Point and Jefferson, taking care to give a little girl on her bike, a slow and wide berth. (Jefferson is still the type of town that many of us knew, growing up, where such activities were the norm.) Sioux City came next, along with a casino town, to tis south. In both cases, restaurants were shuttered, due to lack of staff ( a temporary, but still nettlesome issue). I finally hit upon an Applebee’s, in Fremont, NE, getting a satisfying meal, despite the laconic and distracted bar tender/server.

Yorkshire Inn, in this I-80 town, became my resting place for the evening. Tomorrow, it’s on to North Platte, Sterling, Denver and as far beyond as I can get by 7 p.m. MDT.

July Road Notes, Day 10: Rainy Day Fun

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July 14, 2021, Crossville- After a sumptuous meal of R’s homemade pizza, and a restful night, the suggestion was made to visit Fall Creek Falls State Park, about 20 miles west of here. As state parks in Tennessee have free admission, and they are invariably filled with natural wonders, I was game.

C and I headed over, around 9:30, and found relatively few people on the trail to Fall Creek, one of two waterfalls in this park of short, but relatively challenging trails. Here are a few scenes of the main trail.

Fall Creek Falls, from overlook
Hard sandstone wall, Fall Creek Trail
Sandstone scramble, Fall Creek Trail
Fall Creek Falls, from the base of the trail
Falls emptying into Fall Creek pool
Millikan Overlook-In this area, Dr. Glenn Millikan, a professor at Vanderbilt University, fell to his death, in 1947.
Suspension Bridge, south of Piney Falls Trail. Of course, when I was on it by myself, I had to bounce on it, just a little.
Piney Falls, south of Fall Creek, is the more robust of the two waterfalls, at least right now.

It rained, off and on, while we were on the main trail, and it was rather slippery in spots. As we were coming back up from Fall Creek, we encountered at least two large groups of hikers coming down the trail. Fortunately, by the time they would have had to come back up, the sun was out again. The trooper of the day was a woman who went down and back up, in her flip flops-very gingerly and carefully. Two children wearing crocs get second and third place. I was shod in regular sneakers, and thus blended into the crowd.

July Road Notes, Day 6: In Good Repair

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July 10, 2021, Grapevine- Today started off undefined, which is suitable for a summer Saturday. We opted for a short walk along the paved trails of Heritage Park, in nearby Flower Mound. There were wildflowers aplenty, and a large number of families about. The water slides, practice fields and disc golf courses were very popular, as they should be. The northern suburbs of Dallas seem to take good care of their public, recreation-wise. Disc golf, for the unitiated, is a sport that involves throwing a disc at a wire basket. The rules are similar to those of golf, but it reminds me somewhat of horseshoes. It takes serious focus, in any case.

The day turned, after a fashion, towards attending to the inside of Elantra. The Galloping Gray One was looking a lot shabbier than I have cared to admit, so Aram and I set about wiping the dashboard, doors, compartments and rear ledge. The windows got treated, as well, and Son vacuumed the seats and carpeting. The day concluded with a round of online trivia games and a trip over to an East Asian shopping center, with a variety of ethnic cafes, stores and restaurants. We chose a place called Too Thai Street Eats. The food hold its own, in quality and portion size.

I am in good repair, other than the bump on my face-which has a limited time left. I did a plank for a minute, and could have gone longer-but this was a trial run. I know that some parts of this septuagenarian frame need more individual work, and will do better by them, as the year progresses.

Tomorrow, this family time will come to an end, and I will head north, to Tulsa-for an homage to those who tried to embrace the American Dream and found that those around them were far from ready to embrace them.

A Path for Healing

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June 8, 2021, Bellemont, AZ– The events of this year have not lost their ability to surprise, though each one, both joyful and sorrowful, has had roots in what has been bound to occur, sooner rather than later.

I have lost friends and family, recently, yet all of them were suffering from chronic disease. Mom moved, of her own volition, from our family home of 66 years, but that had been in the cards for quite some time.

It was a surprise, however, when a man to whom I had been quite close, when he was a child, walked into the kitchen of the summer camp here, at which I will be director for the next few days. “A” did not recognize me at first, as we hadn’t seen one another since 1995. Life has taken him on several rides, but has not dimmed his intellect, or his drive.

Once he did remember who I was, we had a long overdue conversation regarding a mutual loss, which occurred in mid-summer, in the Eighties. He proposed to me that we undertake a hike, what will amount to a healing walk, in mid-August, in the area where the loss transpired.

Healing journeys have occurred throughout my life, and in particular, over the past ten years. This one will close a small hole in my heart, and at least begin to close the much larger hole in his. Indigenous people, the world over, know the importance of ceremonial walks, in bringing the deepest of hurts to the surface, where they can dissipate.

So it goes, that I am continuously being brought to places where the connections that are necessary are made. This is a particularly strong year of healing and correction.

Two Links, One Finish Line

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April 26, 2021, Sedona- I could have sworn that the destination of today’s hike was not the same place where I ended up, eight years ago. I could have sworn that the Chuckwagon Trail went around to a point east of Devil’s Bridge, a wildly popular hiking destination-even by Sedona standards. Alas, the sole difference between then and now is that today, hiking buddy and I trudged along a road of rocks and sand, whereas “the Chuck” is more hard-packed dirt, and winds around through canyon country. Looking back at my post on the first trek to the area near Devil’s Bridge, I see that the last 7/10 mile is the same.

Oh, well; it would at least be easier on HB’s knees. Hiking with another person is good for my real world connection. I had been getting a bit disconnected, in that regard, going any which way I felt like going-even bushwhacking on occasion. We stopped about 1/4 mile from the actual arch. It was merely a different vantage point from the granite bench where I halted, eight years ago.

There were several awesome sights along the way, though. Here we go.

Lizard Head, visible from Dry Creek Road
Second Lizard Head, just east of Dry Creek Road
All the news that’s fit to paste!
Upper Dry Creek Canyon, with Capitol Butte as its bulwark
West view of Capitol Butte’s Balancing Rock
The road hard taken
One of several cairn piles. There were some larger ones, each of which had a line of selfie-takers waiting their turn.
Eastern view of Capitol Butte’s Balancing Rock
The granite bench, where i stopped eight years ago. Capitol Butte rises above.
Devil’s Bridge, with what looks like a small cave underneath.
West face of Brins Mesa
My PlantSnap app identifies this as a Sweet Cherry tree. Brins Mesa rises, across the canyon.

Thus went a cool weather hike. Devil’s Bridge Trail would not have been a good fit for a warm weather trek, though thousands do such a hike, every year.

Five Little Pools

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April 19, 2021, Sedona- A prime hiking buddy and I set out, fairly early, for a trail here that passes what are called Seven Sacred Pools. The area was frequented, in bygone times, by people indigenous to northern and north central Arizona. The area now called Sedona and Oak Creek Village was known, even then, as a place with healing waters and a spiritual air about it. The people we know as Sinagua settled around the region, and their settlements in this area are known to the Hopi, who are among their descendants, as Palatkwapi-“Place of Red Rocks”.

Soldier Pass Trail is one of those for which parking is limited. A and I found a spot near a city tennis court, and walked along the side of the road, for about 1.3 miles. On the way back, we noticed several people taking a parallel trail through the woods, so that would be a likely route for subsequent visits. Today, though, we saw amazing views from the roadside.

View towards Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, from Soldier Pass Road. The people who have settled in this lush canyon have settled well.
Zoomed images of the iconic rock formations, accessible from Oak Creek Village
The lushness of the forest canyons, that were carved by Oak Creek’s tributaries, are a wonder unto themselves.
We came to the trailhead for Soldier Pass Trail, finding it of moderate difficulty.
Above, is Sphinx Rock, which remained watching over us.
Devil’s Kitchen is a sinkhole that sits just under Sphinx Rock.
This shows the position of the two great features.
Zoomed view of the southern end of Coffee Pot Rock.
My selfie with Coffee Pot Rock
Light glints off Sphinx Rock
We came to the Seven Sacred Pools, finding five of them with a small amount of water in each. Three are visible from this vantage point.
Looking carefully, note the remnants of a cairn building contest, of some time ago.
This is a section of Brins Ridge, to the east of Soldier Pass and separate from Brins Mesa.

Thus, my first visit to the Seven Sacred Pools introduced me to five of them, with the hope that there will be monsoon rains this year, and perhaps a view of the storied gushing stream, with small cascades heading where the cairns are now.

The Lamb’s Turn

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March 31, 2021- A common saying is that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I have seen years in which this month now ending has been as leonine at the end as it was at the beginning, and indeed it looks like Easter weekend will be of that ilk, in the Northeast.

Here in the American Southwest, though, it appears as though we are in for warmer weather, with only the slightest chance of rain, through April and probably May, as well. So, with the gentleness, I find I have somewhat more energy. I am at the age where it takes more effort to start the day facing cold and dark and the fullness of Spring is ever welcome.

I also know, however, that cold and dark will always be with us-and that extreme heat is far from a bargain, also. The lamb can grow into a snorting, cantankerous ram, in short order. Life is ever a process of falling down, getting up again, confronting oneself and delving deeper into what is needed, in order to grow more confident. The lessons offered by every infant who goes forth into toddlerhood, without any of the self-pity that often comes later, come to mind. A baby keeps at the work of turning over, lifting self up, scooting along and finally, walking without falling.

It is an achievement, as well, for anyone who casts aside self-pity, who rises above both depression and narcissism by doing the hard work of emotional turning over, psychological self-lifting, moving along with some support and, finally, moving through life without stumbling and falling. It takes lots of courage and true self-confidence, but at some point, it is more than doable.

Striding into April, I see a clear schedule of special assignments in schools, the Baha’i Festival of Ridvan, lots of hiking and maintaining my vigilance against the pandemic (this last, through May-and June, as needed.). I have made small changes (new pillows for my bed, additional exercises and dietary adjustments to bring my abdomen into compliance with my own health regimen) and commit to deeper exploration of this amazing world.

Sometimes, Word Pictures Work Best

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March 29, 2021- Usually, when I go off on a trail, my camera is with me and photos follow. Today, knowing that the terrain would be the same as that of my most recent hike on Limekiln Trail and that the features will also be visible from the next, and final, segment of that system, I went with eyes only.

There was a slight rise from the trailhead to a vantage point, from which I could see my car and another bowl-shaped ravine, just to its north. From there, a pinon and juniper scrub forest hosted the next 1/4 mile of the route, which headed down into a dry ravine and a creek bed smaller and not as alluring as Dry Creek-at least in terms of coloured stone varieties.

As I walked up and out of the ravine, a young couple walking ahead of me were a bit suspicious, so I took an alternate route, on a trail of volcanic soil, which ended up leading me around to the same road which I had followed in the previous segment. The couple were also nearby, but went about their exploration of the pinon forest, while I stopped at my last little nook and enjoyed gluten-free crackers (rather tasty, with garlic parmesan) and cool water. Though I can digest wheat and other grains, gluten-free products are a nice addition.

As this was the stopping place from last week, turnaround was in order. The cool breeze and bright sunshine made everything seem a whole lot easier today, and I could smell the juniper leaves a lot more fully than I could, even a few weeks ago. Spring will be a nicer hiking season.