The Lamb’s Turn

0

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

2

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.

Walking Gently

7

March 24, 2021- This morning, I introduced a hiking buddy to Thumb Butte, one of Prescott’s majestic surrounding promontories. I chose the route that allowed a gentler ascent, thus giving her a good first experience on the butte, which also offers a steep climb on its other main route.

In any encounter with other people, it is most often the best course of action for the individual to take a gentle tone. Of course, there are times when a firm “NO!” is, in the long run, the true gentleness. The key is always to attend, carefully, to the person or to the group. Intuition is far more important to me now than it ever was in times past. Maybe the times are tougher, but I doubt it.

I simply find that, day to day, my path and that of any given person who crosses it are intertwined, in ways that never occurred to me, even a dozen years ago. I find that a lot of the cues I missed, when clouded by both preoccupation with Penny’s state of being and my own baggage, are front and center now. If those situations that were so problematic, seven, eight, ten years ago, presented themselves again, at least I would know to tread a gentler path-both with myself and those I am sure that were hurt.

Coming out of the pandemic, which I feel we are now, I sense myself staying more in tune with those around me. The gentle path feels the better, stronger way.

The Butterfly’s Heart

4

March 22, 2021, Sedona- After an unexpected, but necessary flurry of activity, both online and around Prescott, I set out around Noon, and came up to the southwest corner of this ever-delightful town, to complete another segment of Limekiln Trail, which I have been walking in segments, these past five months.

Today’s route took me from Deer Pass, where I had left off last time, to Dry Creek, a distance of 5 miles, roundtrip. The route primarily follows Forest Service and ranch roads, with Dry Creek Road (FR 9845),leading up the creek’s small, but captivating, ravine. Here, I saw a lone jogger, a few tents in strategic places, and a pair of Shelties, poised and ready to protect their person.

I saw rolling grassland, long white irrigation tubes, people in jeeps and trucks struggling to navigate the rocky canyon road, and a beckoning wall of red rock-off to the northeast. I saw lots of heart-shaped rocks-and a butterfly rock, embedding an inner heart.

It was an inauspicious start, at Deer Pass Trailhead.
It looks like someone from Wickenburg lost their hat.
After a half mile walk along a ranch road, the descent into Dry Creek Ravine began.
A small field of volcanic rock and silt lay at the bottom of the hill.
After passing a few tents and wishing Godspeed to some slow-moving vehicles, I reached Dry Creek.
It was, well, dry. The creekbed is alluring, though, in and of itself.
I walked a bit further up the hill, to my stopping point for the day, from which Red Rock Loop Road is 2.3 miles further, and thus a good parking spot for the next segment, which will bring me back to this spot.
Delights can be small, as well as large, around here, This butterfly-shaped rock reveals its oblong heart.

Secret Cove

2

March 16, 2021- My hiking buddy and I got up onto the rocks above one of Watson Lake’s most beautiful sections. As she is not quite up to clambering around the more difficult rock sections as yet, we turned back. Another time will suffice; Secret Cove is not going anywhere.

There are a myriad trails through the Glacial Age’s gift to Prescott: Granite Dells. The hoodoos and small granite mounds that dominate the northeast corner of this town have been a draw for residents and visitors alike, since the mid-Nineteenth Century. The dells form an arc, rising on the north side of Watson Lake and swinging west, to its fellow reservoir, Willow Lake (that sector being called Willow Dells), the area is a hodgepodge of City Park and private residences that have, for the most part, been built in a manner that respects the wilderness.

We walked mostly along a converted rail bed, known here as Peavine Trail. Its wide, flat mien allows bicyclists, equestrians and disabled people equal space, with hikers free to go off on any one of a dozen trails, mostly leading to overlooks of the lake.

Below, is an old photo of Secret Cove, from a hike I took there in November, 2011. The tranquility of the place doesn’t change, and even being shy of the cove itself, we felt a deep serenity.

There will be several visits to this hidden gem, in the near future-especially as the weather gets mild again.

The Big Snow

6

January 25, 2021- The heaviest snow we have seen, since 12/24/2018, arrived late last night, and has continued for most of today. It is expected to go on, until about Noon, tomorrow. As I write this, the white stuff is indeed coming down, in robust fashion.

I grew up, in eastern Massachusetts, with snow being a staple of our winter experience, from mid-December to early March. As with many people, I recall snowdrifts being as tall as, or taller than, my ten-and eleven-year-old self.

I recall reading about the Great Blizzard of 1967, when President Johnson sent military food and fodder drops to the Navajo, Ute and Hopi Nations-and the Southwest was blanketed with snow for days. In 1978, I lived in Bangor, Maine and experienced the three-day blizzard, when it was possible, for those so inclined, to cross-country ski in downtown. I also found myself stuck in Skowhegan, Maine, one snowy February night, and blew off the early morning alarm, only to wake to clear blue skies and scrambling to call in “sick” to my workplace, some thirty miles away. In the mid-1980s, setting out in light snow, from the Navajo community of Tuba City, the storm followed three of us, clear to Tucson, with snow even on the streets of downtown Phoenix. In December, 2000, Aram and I were pursued by a snowstorm, from Roanoke, VA to El Paso, as we took a route across the Deep South, with a view towards avoiding winter weather.

Snow can be fickle, but it also can be intense-and so it is, this evening-with accumulation in even lower-elevation areas of Yavapai County. I was to have gone in to two different COVID-relief school assignments, but Mother Nature simply said “Enough!” Instead, I went out, twice, and did some shoveling, as will likely be on the agenda tomorrow. That, too, is something that was a staple of my childhood-and Mom didn’t even need to ask- we just put on our boots and winter garments, and did it.

It is nice, for now, to have a throwback. Prayers, though, go to those who may have lost power, however temporarily, or who had to find shelter, rather quickly.

The Walk that Took Forever

2

January 4, 2021- There was a stretch of time, last night, when I wondered whether I would see Home Base, or any place away from Copper Mountain, ever again. That feeling subsided, with focus on a couple of people who are no longer in my life. I spoke, psychically, with the two of them- forgiving one and apologizing to the other. As I walked the re-found trail, which turned out to be not a loop, but an out-and-back, it was enough to know that I would soon be re-united with my car and with Home Base. I also was just glad to be around people again, even if it was just the sight of a few RVs and a still-lit demo room at a place called Creekside Cabins, whose owner had gone to bed and had left a notice saying to call his number, in case of emergency.

It was then that I discovered my phone was out of juice, with not even enough to call 911. After sitting on Creekside’s porch swing a bit, and taking a short walk around the property, I crossed the empty highway and began to walk in what I thought was the direction of the Black Canyon Recreation Area’s Big Bug Trailhead parking lot. (I had come off the trail about a mile too shy, but reached Mayer’s Circle K, right around 5 a.m.

Coffee and a sandwich led to the kind clerks hearing my story, and making an attempt to enlist the help of our County Sheriff’s Department. As I suspected, that didn’t pan out. The officers did come by and ascertain that I was physically and mentally okay-and that I had not left anyone else stranded in the wilderness. A Circle K regular customer gave me a ride to the parking lot, I drove home and slept for about six hours, and the series of life lessons, that came last night and into this morning, settled further into my consciousness.

There is the part about, at 70, certain limits that weren’t front and center when I was a kid and young adult, tend to assert themselves. The specter of mortality is always in the background. There is, more cogently, however, the realization that when misfortune strikes, it is a good time to assess on just what parts of life-and with whom, one ought focus. Thus, as I was walking, and communicating with various people, psychically, a sense of peace came over me. I knew, at that point, that I had much more to accomplish in this lifetime.

In all, I walked 22 miles, the most I have done, in one activity, since I had to walk from Carmel to Dixmont, Maine, in 1977. Then, I did 23 miles. The weather, though, was not as bracing as it was last night and early this morning. As I mentioned in the last post, however, there are some things which, if one is paying attention, only happen once or twice.

The Joy of Underestimation

4

January 3, 2021, Mayer,AZ- There are two kinds of stupid: The one is, sadly, unfixable. The other is the kind that the person exhibiting it can fix, and definitely should. Today, I set out to hike a new loop segment of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail. There are three measurements given for this loop: 8.3 miles, 13.2 miles and 15 miles. As I learned, to my eternal chagrin, the last measurement is correct.

Before showing you, dear readers, the delights of this segment, (There are many), let me share my take-aways from today’s adventure: 1. Make sure your phone is COMPLETELY charged, before leaving the car. Yes, I let people know, via Facebook, as to what I was doing, from the crest of one of Copper Mountain’s many satellite ridges. Sarcastically, I referred to the experience as “camping”. More on that in the next post. 2. Make sure there are fresh batteries in your auxiliary flashlight. Just because it worked well, on the most recent night hike, does not mean that is true in perpetuity. 3. Print off a PAPER copy of the trail map. Having AllTrails.com does not amount to much, when the phone dies, as it did when I needed it, towards the end of my hike. 4. Of course, if possible, hike with a buddy. That means ADVANCE PLANNING, which I do-but my tendency is to go it alone, and not want to bother other people. Postitive results, though, also came out of this: 1. Recognizing that any winter hikes need to either be started in the MORNING, or put off until they can be started in the a.m. Fitting in a long hike (more than 5 miles round trip) does not work, when begun only after a regular Zoom call is finished. Trust me, scenery at night, even in winter, is beautiful, especially under clear skies and with the Moon to help light one’s way. Still and all: It’s cold, people who know your whereabouts get worried and as, a local resident of this town observed, not all wild animals are either friendly or shy. He was referring to javelinas- not bears or mountain lions. I have seen and heard bears and mountain lions, on shorter hikes, but they’ve kept their distance-and I report those sightings on my phone, rather quickly.

So, there is the foolishness of complacency, rent asunder by the fact that every hike is different. Now, for the good news: Copper Mountain Loop, done properly, affords some exquisite geological wonders. It is a treasure trove of volcanic debris.

Here are five examples, and Mickey Mouse puts in an appeareance.

View of scattered igneous towers, southwest corner of Copper Mountain Loop
Igneous bench, top of southwest ridge
Igneous tower, top of southwest ridge
Igneous bench and tower, southwest ridge
Igneous benches, northwest ridge
Copper-infused slate-slabs and figurine-shaped rocks, northeast ridge.
Prickly Pear Mickey

As the light that provided these scenes faded, and I lost-then re-found the trail (Thanks to the Moon and my spirit guides, including Penny, I had enough sense to plod on, rather than try and tough it out at one spot. Smidgens of sense are better than none-but for the next hikes, things will change.

The Past Prologue and The Fulfillment Ahead

4

January 1, 2021

The year just passed has given us a few gifts, as well as having taken some treasures from us. Chief among the gifts is the ability to conduct mass meetings online. This will ease active participation in Baha’i activities, regardless of where I happen to be.

It is a poorly-kept secret that, if it be the will of God (and the creek stays within its banks), I will be back on the road, and in the air, for a fair portion of the next four years. Prescott will remain Home Base, at least for this year. There is much for me to do here, and in the Southwest at large, between now and the middle of May. The stage was set, as it were, by callings I received and followed in the 2010s.

So 2021, any larger issues notwithstanding, is looking like this:

January– The agenda set by response to the pandemic will probably find me continuing to help out in the schools on a fair number of days. Involvement with a regional sustainability group will also be a priority. Then, there is a little group that meets each Wednesday at 1 p.m. (MST), and which has my heart’s attention. I will be on the trail, looking at a couple of extensions of Black Canyon Trail, northward from the original trailhead, outside Mayer; finishing Limekiln Trail, with the Sedona segments; and spending time in Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Desert Preserve. There is also the homefront downsizing: Paper-shredding and discarding of unnecessary belongings will begin this month and extend into next.

February- It’s likely that COVID-19 will factor into this month as well, in terms of being asked to help out in the schools. I already have agreed to a four-day stint, in mid-month. Hiking will take me to the Hualapai Mountains, of northwest Arizona and to Picketpost Mountain, outside Superior. Ayyam-i-Ha, the Baha’i Intercalary Days, will find me preparing hand-made gifts, for the first time since I made a bird house in Grade 8. These won’t be that elaborate, but will be done carefully, and from the heart.

March- It will have been ten years, since Penny passed on, March 5. I will invite other friends to join me at graveside, on that day. This is also the month of the Baha’i Nineteen Day Fast, and although I am no longer required ot abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, having reached the age of 70, my thoughts and actions will be in support of those who are abstaining. I will also make a road trip to Texas, in the middle of the month. Hiking will include a first visit to Phoenix’s South Mountain Park.

April- The Festival of Ridvan marks the twelve days of Baha’u’llah’s preparation for His second exile-from Baghdad to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) and His Declaration of Mission, during that twelve-day period. It also ends a Five-Year Plan we have been following, and begins a twelve-month celebration of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as November will mark the Centenary of His Ascension. Much of my activity, this month, will revolve around these events. Hiking will take in the Hermit’s Rest area of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and parts of Sycamore Canyon, which runs south of Flagstaff and east of Sedona.

May- Preparations for the summer and autumn will occupy much of this month. Hopefully, New Mexico will re-open itself to us Arizonans, and I will spend a few days at Chaco Culture Historical Park. If California is open, and safe, by then, a visit to the coast will be in order,

June- If Bellemont Baha’i School is open for in-person groups, I will devote this month to that endeavour. If not, then I will make an early drive northwest-to my soul families in Nevada and Oregon, as well as to Vancouver Island, Haida Gwai’i (The one place Penny wanted to visit together, that has not happened yet) and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast-north of the City of Vancouver.

July- The Plan B for June will fall into this month, if Bellemont is open. Otherwise, I will head east through Canada, and visit as many family members and friends, en route to and around Boston, as have time.

August– Atlantic Canada will take up part of this month, then it’s back southward and westward, again visiting family and friends along the way.

September and October– Take care of some necessary business in Arizona, spend quality time with Texas family and then off to Europe, with Iceland a first stop. This journey will also be oriented towards the ancestral home of my mother’s family, in what is now western Poland, with other stops in Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, northern Italy and France. A few stops in the British Isles are also possible.

November- This month will be devoted to specific community and regional celebrations, in Arizona, of Abdu’l-Baha’s life.

December- This will be whatever my family wants it to be.

These plans are what my meditations have told me, as of today. Recalling that last January, I was fully intending to do a cross-Canada journey in the summer, I will simply accomplish as much as reality on the ground allows.

May all have a Happier 2021!

The Christmas Star

2

December 21, 2020-

Today being the start of winter, north of the Equator, we look to the days getting longer-a minute at a time. The entire planet also has the bonus of seeing Jupiter and Saturn, still discernable as separate planets, but close enough to one another to complement one another’s light, from this Earthly naked eye’s vantage point. Legend has it that the three Magi regarded the convergence of the two planets, in the night sky of 2020 years ago, as sign of great portent, thus giving rise to the term “Christmas Star”.

I will take anything that lifts people’s spirits, and besides, there are no mistakes in God’s Plan, which includes the orbits of planets around stars. It is no concidence that we honour Jesus the Christ’s arrival in this world, right around the time of Solstice and that the convergence of these two planetary giants in the evening sky should happen right about now, as well. Christmas is rightfully a celebration of Light, as was Hanukkah, earlier this month, and Diwali, in mid-November.

I spent the afternoon of Solstice outside, visiting Prescott’s unsung treasure. Covered in quartz crystal, and thus named Quartz Mountain, the peak of modest height is reachable from either of two trailheads-Aspen Creek, on the north and White Spar, on the south. I took Copper Basin Road to Aspen Creek trailhead, and hiked the three miles each way.

Quartz Mountain, from the Wolverton Trail

I had been here once before. On that Sunday afternoon, four years ago, a family of four was gathering pieces of quartz. I was told by a Forest Service ranger, after the fact, that this was illegal. Since it occurred to me to not remove quartz, myself, well enough was left alone, that day and today. It was enough for me to be in this inspiring setting, during a bright and mild Solstice afternoon.

There was a fair amount of company, in the area today. On the way to the trailhead, I stopped as a family of five deer crossed the highway, single file. The last animal hesitated, then crossed after apparently getting my message that it was safe. On the trail itself were five bicyclists and six hikers, though none were at Quartz Mountain at the same time as me.

So, there was solitude, enveloped by fellowship, as so often has been my experience on these trails.

West face of Quartz Mountain summit
West face of Quartz Mountain summit

I got back to the car, just as it was starting to get dark. After dinner at the Raven Cafe, I went back to Home Base, in time to catch the two points of light that made up the Christmas Star. Sorry, my camera does not take detailed photos of distant orbs.