The Fireball That Blazed

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February 19, 2020-

A few days ago, just as I was walking from my carport to the apartment (12 a.m.), I looked up to see a meteor, blazing northward.  Some people in town reported hearing a loud boom, right about that time.  Two days later, many people heard a second loud boom, around 7 p.m.

I had not seen a blazing meteor, prior to Sunday midnight, outside of high school Earth Science videos.  I took the sighting as some sort of affirmation, that those of us who saw it are on the right path, in whatever direction each is headed.  I also  sense that there will be some discomfort, some pain, but that it is the cost that must be borne.

This would mean that our communities, as well, are on the right track.  For Prescott, that could mean that showing prudence, with respect to striking a balance between preservation of our natural treasures-Granite Dells, the five man-made lakes, Thumb Butte and Granite Mountain Wilderness- and new construction is the right course of action.  For the whole region, taking care to not deplete our water resources is also huge.

Natural phenomena do not happen in isolation, so I imagine there will be other portents to come, during the course of this year.  I intend to keep my eyes and ears open.

 

The Life We’ve Planned

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February 8, 2020-

“We must let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”-Joseph Campbell

Over the years, I’ve learned that planning, while it offers the benefit of a loose framework, is both preferable to chaos and inferior to serendipity.  In 2014, I overplanned my European journey, day by day.  When the opportunity of joining an American troupe at Omaha Beach, in Normandy, presented itself-I found myself turning it down-as I had a hotel reservation in Rouen, and didn’t want to sacrifice the night’s lodging.  It’s academic, as to whether this would have been a worthwhile sacrifice, as the night in Rouen was uneventful.

Of late, I’ve been going more with my deeper feelings-turning down jobs, when I sense that taking them on would not do the students any good, and accepting them, when I feel that I have something definite to offer.  The same remains true of leisure pursuits.  I generally roll with my gut, or with my heart, when deciding which path to follow, of a weekend or day off.  There was a time, a few years back, when I was looking towards a three-year Trifecta of through-hikes:  Arizona Trail, Appalachian/East Coast Recreation Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.  A strong sense that I needed to stay put, during much of the year, has borne fruit, during this period-2017-19.  As we’ve seen, I was on the road, anyway-just on a route that proved more beneficial to self and others-and let me serve this community, for 8-10 months.

The life that’s waiting for me, after December, is a cipher.  In the meantime, there are several paths on which I may find myself-with the anchor of this Home Base, a small group of reliable friends, and  several more, who are a bit more mercurial.  I have confidence that Dr. Joe was right, and that accepting the life that is waiting will be just as rewarding, if not more so, than what I had planned.

No One Should Be Pushed Along

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January 8, 2020, Sedona-SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

I can remember, when I stood in front of Mona Lisa, in case and air conditioned room, in the Louvre.  All manner of frenetic tourists were jockeying for position around me,  not rushing me-but bickering with one another, in a variety of  tongues.  All this, for a few seconds per person, to take a self-portrait with the Lady of Mystery.  I did not take a selfie, but was content to have her countenance recorded in my photo album of France’s premier art institution.  I needed ten seconds.

I think of this, when waiting for fellow hikers or other visitors to complete their time at a an overlook or striking scene.  Each of us has the same right as anyone else, to enjoy wonders great and small.  No one who might be impatiently toe-tapping, while waiting for the people in front of them to be done and move on, can know just how important these small moments in the midst of grandeur might turn out to be for the seeming dawdlers.

My little family and I waited, atop Submarine Rock, at the end of Little Horse Trail, while the people in front of us, finished taking photographs, and taking in the astonishing view.  This took about five minutes, and was, as often happens in my experience, followed by one of the men offering to take photos of the three of us atop the rock.  My daughter-in-law then took more shots of the men, from another vantage point.

This is one way that friends are made, and everyone’s enjoyment of a wondrous tableau is enhanced.  How much more pleasant would the afternoon been, for the tourists in Chez Mona Lisa, had there been a bit more camaraderie!  I may be dreaming, but that is my wont.

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The Golden Path

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January 1, 2020-

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My daughter-in-law and I wandered up the easier of two trails leading to the saddle overlooking the rocky summit of Thumb Butte, one of Prescott’s signature landmarks.  It was about the fifteenth time, I’ve been up there, and Yunhee’s first.  As we spotted four intrepid rock climbers and a dog, in the area shown above, I thought of all I’ve faced and overcome, in the past ten years, and how much there is still ahead.  I have not wanted to walk in the area of the the summit, not because of fear, but for concern it may be damaging to the ecosystem, as no regular trail goes beyond the saddle.  Evidently, the area is safe enough, even at this time of year-with its ice and snow.  So, I could very well be up there, in the near future.

The path ahead, in this new decade, could diverge in any one of a number of ways, and as with anyone, the choice is mine as to which I take.  Those closest to me here have lives and dreams of their own, some of which might involve me, and others in which I need not be included.  That comes with the territory of a late-sixty-something, and I am just glad to have them in my life.

The converse, of course, is also true.  I feel the pull of the road, to my greater tribe, and I feel a bond with one soul, above all, here in Prescott.  My little family is a key factor, too. They will live in the Dallas area.  There will be much that will become clearer, as the winter proceeds, fades and passes.  That I am happy with whatever road, on which my spirit guides take me, has been evident from the last decade.

These next five months will be fairly serene, or so I think now.  My focus will be on generating as much work as possible, whilst working around a few volunteer commitments and personal appointments.  Travel-wise, Valley of Fire State Park, east of Las Vegas, beckons in mid-January; I will take in a concert in Indio, CA, in late February and various outings around Arizona, some on the spur of the moment, will happen during Winter and Spring.

The Golden Path led up Thumb Butte, today, and could lead just about anywhere, over the year, and decade, ahead.  May your paths be fruitful, also.

And It Was….

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December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

The decade took Penny, my wife of twenty-eight years and nine months, both her parents Norm and Ruth (“Bunny”), two of her aunts Averala and Helen (“Honey”), two of  her cousins, Tom and Jean, and a cousin-in-law, Richard.

It took my maternal uncles, Carl and James,  Carl’s two children-Keith and Carla, and our cousins Ronnie and Lorraine.

It did not spare my father’s side of the family, either, taking Uncle George, Aunt Adeline (“Sissy”) and her son Bob.

It brought several others to the Life Beyond, friends all:  Christie Serino, Drew Crotty, Larry Silipigni, Alan and Rick Belyea, from my hometown of Saugus, MA;  Alison Sipes, from Indiana; Mildred “Mildoo” Forney, who, along with her daughter, made my visits to Oley, PA an annual pleasure; my American Legion comrades Bob Wittmann, Dennis Young, John Mortimer, Sue Chambers, Al Tercero-among several;  a host of Baha’i  fellows- Ali and Violette Nakhjavani, Nancy Coker, John Cook, Firuz Khazemzadeh, Avid Navidi, Dick Sloman, Moses Nakai, Russ Garcia, Chester Kahn, Roy Dewa, Tom Smith, Keith John Manybeads.

 It was a time of change.

It saw me get out of town, leaving Phoenix, after ten years.  Prescott, once more, became Home Base.

It saw our son, Aram, follow in the footsteps of many of his forebears, on both sides of the family and enter the service of his country, serving in the United States Navy, for nine years.

It saw him enter into matrimony.  Having returned to Korea, the land of his birth, as part of his service, Aram met and married Yunhee, a superlative addition to our family.

It saw us honour two of my nieces, who preceded him down the aisle, also bringing spouses who add luster to the Boivin brood.

It was a time of growth.

It brought in fourteen new members of my Grandniece/nephew Club and some new additions to my Greater Tribe.

There were a couple of good years, working full time, at Prescott High School, and several others spent substitute teaching.

The decade brought me the joy of giving back- with the American Red Cross, Slow Food, school garden projects, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as American Legion Post 6 and the Baha’i community.  It has brought me many new friends, members of my Tribe, who consistently make this life a thing of beauty.

Then, there were those journeys- annually to see family, on the East Coast, in the South and in the Midwest, which is never “Flyover Country” to me; my first solo visit to Europe, partly on my father-in-law’s behalf and partly because  I wanted to connect with the lands of my ancestors;  I returned to Korea, to  fully embrace my son’s wedding and to recap our life in Jeju; Hawaii welcomed me, in advance of the Tiger Cruise from Honolulu to San Diego, as Aram & crew returned from a Pacific Rim deployment; I fulfilled some of the dreams I shared with Penny, and explored the Pacific Northwest, a bit of British Columbia; southeast Alaska and eastern Canada; California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado were constantly seeing my face-largely to spend time with far-flung members of my Tribe.  Shorter, but no less meaningful, jaunts around Arizona, Utah and New Mexico filled in the blanks.

Now, the sun has risen on a new decade, for much of the world and the year, which once loomed as a pinnacle in my life, has a remaining shelf life of nine hours, here in the Mountain Standard Time Zone.

This decade of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, advances and setbacks will soon give way to another, likely much more of each.  Happy 2020, one and all!

Everyone’s Big Hole

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December 23, 2019, Grand Canyon Village-

The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park is drawing to a close.  So, naturally, the combination of  time to spare and my daughter-in-law’s visit led to us going up to the South Rim, this morning, and spending the day, walking along the paved Rim Trail, from Mather Point to Maricopa Point.

We had spent last night in our respective rooms, at the comfortable America’s Best Value, in Williams.  The high point of yesterday was a visit to the Scheinlen-Pena family, in Paulden (of whom, more tomorrow).  After being warmed by thick, nutritious soup and salad, we headed to Williams, so as to not spend time going back over the same route, this morning.

The Grand Canyon seemed to strike Yunhee in a way similar to the impression it first makes on others:  It’s almost incomprehensible in its size.  Of course, photos don’t do it justice (though I’ll post a few, anyway.)  The best thing to do here is to choose a few spots where the magnitude of the place can be somewhat encapsulated.

So, here are four such interludes:

Mather Point- An introduction to the Canyon, for many, as it is near the Visitors’ Center.  Yunhee opted out of the 22-minute intro video, in favour of direct contact with the view from the Rim.

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Yavapai Point:  Here is a view of a cave that would seem to be a rock climber’s dream and probably something on which I’d pass.

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Along the Rim Trail, just shy of this village:  There is a fairly new display, all along the Rim Trail, which shows stone that is from increasingly ancient layers of rock.  This Dox Sandstone dates from one billion, one hundred thirty million years ago.

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The El Tovar Hotel:  Grand Canyon Village, being home to some, and a welcoming host to countless others, does holidays up nicely!

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Kolb Brothers Studio:  Here is a place that’s both historical and full of artistry.  The brothers were photographers here, alternately in conflict and grudging cooperation with Fred Harvey’s Lookout Studio, from 1901-1976.  Today, both the Lookout Studio and Kolb Brothers Studio are gift shops and prime places from which to view the Canyon,

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as well as the Village:

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Near Hopi Point:  Crevices always interest me, though not to the extent that I’d try to straddle one.

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Near Maricopa Point:   The Canyon is evolving, and that means there will be collapses along its many walls, as well as continued uplift.

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Next year will bring a few more visits to Everyone’s Hole:  A jaunt from Maricopa Point to Hermit’s Rest, on the west side of South Rim, in late March and a hike on the Uncle Jim Trail, North Rim, on what would have been my late Uncle Jim’s 86th birthday, June 3.

Kaleidoscopes, Courtyards and Red Rocks

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December 17, 2019, Jerome-

Today being a day free of commitments in the Prescott area, I took my daughter-in-law, Yunhee, on an excursion to the fascinating Red Rock area, via Jerome.  We made this little town that clings to the east face of Mingus Mountain our first and last stop of the day.  Yunhee is not put off by winding roads and steep drop-offs, so we made good time, getting to the Kaleidoscope Store, in Nelly Bly’s old office, around 10:30.  This amazing little shop is actually the largest kaleidoscope shop in the world and sports at least two dozen kinds of the visual treats.  Yunhee was shown how to take a cell phone photograph, with a kaleidoscopic image as the backdrop.  I had a kaleidoscope as a child, so I picked up a small one for myself.  Then, I got one for a friend who celebrates a birthday, this month. I can see myself making another excursion up the mountain, just to spend a morning or afternoon trying out the many other kinds of image-shifting toys.

We took a straight shot to Sedona, afterward, and I first brought her to a courtyard, with the intent of taking lunch at Momo’s Kitchen, a Korean Food Truck.  Momo’s turns out to be closed on Tuesdays, so we headed over to  the stylish and avant-garde HP Cafe, which offers exquisite, reimagined Mexican fare.  After that great lunch, I brought Yunhee to  a viewpoint, where she was able to photograph Midgeley Bridge, a breathtaking sight over Oak Creek Canyon.

Then, it was off to Tlaquepaque, a replica of the large, charming market city of the Mexican state of Jalisco.  As it was not the weekend, we nearly had the place to ourselves.  Here are several photos of Tlaquepaque’s courtyards and bric-a-brac.

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Having had  a chance to digest lunch, we went to Synergy, a small shop in West Sedona, which specializes in healthful chocolate and digestive-enzyme beverages, as well as organic chocolate treats.  We both opted for Norwegian Wood, a chocolate mocha, maca, chaga and Surthrival pine pollen libation.  One of my friends from Prescott Farmers’ Market happened to be there, as well, so we had a fine conversation about keeping our dietary focus keen, balanced and organic, to the extent possible. Yes, Pegasus greets the visitor to Synergy!

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Red Rock State Park was on the hiking agenda.  The office people seemed to know that we were there for a walk outdoors, and said “Good Afternoon”, without looking up from their desks.  So hike, we did, on a loop up to the fenced-off  House of Apache Fires, a defunct resort, and back to the Visitors’ Center.

The views of Sedona’s many sandstone spectacles were well worth the jaunt.  Besides, when is a hike ever wasted?

 

Oak Creek runs through the middle of the park.

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The red sandstone formations in the distance, are part of the Schnebly Hill formation.

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Here is a view of the House of Apache Fires.

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This sandstone giant appears to be keeping tabs on everyone.

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Here is another view of the Schnebly Formation, taken from Eagle’s Nest Overlook.

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So, that was my daughter-in-law’s introduction to the Red Rock country.  We will be sure to return there, when Aram comes back from his final active duty, in the Puget Sound area, in early January.

For now, it’s a pleasant dinner at Haunted Hamburger, on the west side of Jerome, then back over Mingus Mountain we go.

 

My Gratitudes

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November 28, 2019-

A year ago, my shoulder was getting better and my left knee, injured by what seemed to be a psychic attack, as I walked down a short, routine set of stairs, was also well on the mend. The “woo-woo” aside, my health has been fabulous this year.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, hemp-based CBD cream, a team of physical therapists, my dental team in Phoenix, Planet Fitness and my chiropractor for helping me maintain that fabulous.

My family has been extraordinarily gracious and generous this year, as always.  Being with Aram, Yunhee and the Shin family, on the occasion of their Baha’i wedding, and the travels around southern South Korea that followed, remains the greatest of blessings.

My Baha’i community and other dear friends, around Prescott, continue to keep me grounded.  Those whose aim was to bring me down also had a role to play. Rearranging my priorities this year, has only made my life richer and more satisfying.

Prescott, and Arizona as a whole, continue to be inspiring, good hosts.  I never tire of the view of Thumb Butte, from my front window or of any of the exquisite scenes that unfold, no matter which direction I go.

My many friends and family, across the United States, and beyond, are ever present and encouraging, even if we rarely, or never, see one another in person.  I am grateful to have spent time with some, from California to Massachusetts and in-between, over the past twelve months.

Being ever expansive in my view of the world, visiting new places and making new friends is always a plus.  I found new perspectives on Albuquerque, Memphis, Charleston, Raleigh, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, West Point, Pittsburgh, Chicago/Wilmette, Kansas City and Los Angeles, over the past twelve months. Youth hostels, Airbnb and the comfort of friends’ and family homes made all the difference.

Time in nature is always huge, in my life.  The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park saw me visit both North and South Rims.  The Navajo Nation’s Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock  and Monument Valley ever warm my heart.  Being in New Mexico’s El Malpais was a comfort, after a case of food poisoning upended my Father’s Day.  There were meanders along the banks of the Mississippi and above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River; focused exploration of  Utah’s Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Lake Powell’s Wahweap area and the urban solace of Los Angeles’ Venice Canals re-affirmed who I am,at my core.

The greatest gratitudes are reserved for what is ongoing:  My mother’s continued presence in our lives, my little family returning to the United States, having three of the finest people as my siblings, my Faith in God being reaffirmed, each day, and my physical, financial and mental health remaining optimal.

Thank you, 2019, for having been, and remaining, a space of strength and comfort.

Canalside Ruminations

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November 11, 2019, Venice, CA-

As I set out to walk alongside the canals of this down-to-earth beach community, I noted that its namesake, in Italy, is at serious risk of sinking into its swampland underpinnings.  California’s Venice has its own concerns:  Earthquakes and a large homeless population being two very different such points of focus.   This is a part of Los Angeles where it is not unusual for people to set up impromptu “shops” along South Venice Boulevard, across from the north entrance to the Canal Walking Path.  There are many who sleep where they can, around the village.

The canals themselves are lined by eclectic houses, which seem to have many students and artists, in residence.  The quirkiness of the district is as much of a draw as the serenity that radiates from an early morning, canalside.

I chose to walk mainly along Grand Canal, which is the western boundary of the District.  My route took in the bridges of Carroll, Linnie, Howland and Sherman Canals, at their juncture with Dell Street.

Here is a long view of Grand Canal.

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I turned left at Carroll Canal, looking to cross the bridge in the foreground.

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From the Dell Street Bridge, here is a view towards the Eastern Canal.

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A couple of Little Egrets were on hand.  Here is one, grooming herself, along the Grand Canal.

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There is plenty of kitsch here, as well, including a Pink Flamingo paddle boat.

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Linnie Canal is the next feeder to Grand Canal, going north to south.

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As is seen in a previous paragraph, Halloween has a lingering presence, in the Canal District.

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Howland Canal came next, on my southward jaunt.

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These peace-infusing homes are at the junction of Grand Canal and Howland.

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This Gingko Tree nearly overwhelms the towpath.

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An upside-down dinghy strikes a pensive mood.

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Various messages appear, along Grand Canal, between Howland and Sherman.

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Canalside gardens also tend to be polychromatic.

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Here is a view of Grand Canal, as it bends towards Sherman.

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As I crossed Sherman Canal Bridge, and was walking northward again, I caught this Little Egret on its way to “safer” perches.

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This mural, outside the Canal District, depicts some whimsical creatures out of Dr. Seuss’s lesser known tales.

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With a peaceful counterpoint to the noise and energy of Venice Beach, I felt ready to take a look at Santa Monica’s vibrant Third Street Promenade.

 

A Day of Small Parades

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November 11, 2019, Santa Monica-

For the first time in several years, I was not in Prescott for Veteran’s Day.  The three-day weekend coincided with key events that I have already described and with a long-standing visit to Orange County and Los Angeles.  I honour my fellow veterans and my own service, almost on a daily basis, in thought, word and deed.  Coming by other communities’ parades, if it came to that, would not be such a bad thing.

As it happened, a few veterans were at Gramma’s Country Kitchen, when I took a seat at the counter.  We quietly enjoyed our breakfasts, the regulars gathered in their group and I headed off, towards Hemet, Menifee and Lake Elsinore.  Traffic in the Riverside County suburbs was rather light, for a day of considerable commercial activity.

I chose the winding Ortega Highway as my route to the coast.  There were clusters of commuters, for whom I pulled over, as my first order of business was checking the water level of the reservoir for which the city of Lake Elsinore is named.  It looked to me that the lake is hurting, a bit, which is surprising, given the high water levels of reservoirs north of Los Angeles.

The views from the bluffs east of town were nonetheless impressive, though.

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There is a face, of sorts, chiseled into the limestone bluff, in the middle.

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Winding along Highway 74, as the Ortega is otherwise known, I came upon El Cariso, a wide spot in the road, which hosts the California Wildland Firefighters’ Memorial. It was initiated to honour the six firefighters killed in the Decker Fire, in 1959.  There is a trail from the memorial plaque to the actual site where the men died.   As I was due to meet a friend at Crystal Cove State Park, the trail was put off for another time.

Here are some scenes from the Memorial site.

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These scenes show the general area where the tragedy took place.

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My next stop, a bit north of Laguna Beach, was Crystal Cove, a state park which features beach cabins, in various states of disrepair-especially on the north side of the park.  My friend, J, who lives about an hour away, has visited the site several times.  I’ve been with her on four such visits, and am always interested in the progress, or lack thereof, in the renovation.

It appears, this time, that the work is being done in earnest.

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There were scattered birds looking for their meals, as the tide was out.  This little one appears to be a kind of sandpiper.

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Some children had compiled a cross between a cairn and a rock castle.  The stone on the front left reminded me, a bit, of Spirit Tower, in northeast Wyoming.

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With that, our table ringer vibrated and we went to lunch at Beachcomber’s.  The problems of the world, or at least our individual corners of it, were resolved over a fresh repast. I even was given a second bowl of tomato soup, whether by mistake or because I was wearing an American Legion t-shirt, is open to interpretation.  The meals were great, in any case, and I made dinner out of what was left, this evening.

On the way north  along the coast, from Crystal Cove, I stopped in Lomita, where I had stayed at a reasonable motel in the past.  I found it had become a residential motel, whose owner would not accommodate anyone staying one night, and that  it was a cash only operation.

I continued on, past the South Bay beach towns and Long Beach, opting to stay in Santa Monica, at Rest Haven Motel, as Venice and Santa Monica are on my itinerary for tomorrow.  Rest Haven’s  staff are very kind and accommodating. This day has been a full one, but also very affirming.

NEXT:  Canalside Reflections