Regina

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September 8, 2022- She passed, as she had lived-Stoically, without the pain that some blinkered souls had wished upon her and mindful of the overarching love that many, even in nations that are rivals to her own, felt towards her in life.

I was never much for the idea of colonialism-or paternalism, for that matter. That there are still countries which are “owned” by others, including the territories of the United States, seems quaint, in an insipid way. That there was ever a legal system that permitted one ethnicity to subject another to legal chattelhood, or to a second class status, seems sinister at the least, and pure evil at worst.

Some fuss has been raised at the fact that a 22-year-old Elizabeth Windsor visited Cape Town, at the inception of apartheid, and did not send thunderbolts down on its initiators. She was probably kept from the decision-making process, but no matter. A ceremonial royal can occasionally mount a bully pulpit, but not often. Her influence in most issues was far more sublime, delivered with a sly remark or a piercing look.

To most, Queen Elizabeth II’s life, and its end, have been occasions for catharsis-either love for how she conducted herself on the world stage, or vitriol for the way Britain treated some of its colonies, prior to the decolonization of the mid- Twentieth Century. She herself struck me as a benign presence, who nonetheless rose to greet her challengers and critics with the same stoic mien that she employed with well-wishers. She was also capable of listening to her Prime Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries, and of advancing with the times. How many nonagenarians keep a Twitter account or a YouTube channel?

When Donald Trump, on an official visit, walked ahead of her, the Queen just shook her head and kept walking at her own pace. She knew that certain people would just do as they’ve always done, and would have to reap the consequences of their actions, regardless of input from anyone else.

In seven decades, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, “Her Majesty” to most, and Elizabeth, to a select few, kept her nation’s image far more cogent and vital than a lesser personage might have. There may not be another like her, for a good many years.

Rest in Peace, Your Majesty.

El Camino Real

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September 6, 2022, Gallup- Last night, it came to me that much of the messaging I’ve been getting of late, as to what course of action should be followed, has come to me through other people. This morning, though, the message was loud and clear-devote the morning to Taos and its surroundings, especially along El Camino Real-the “King’s Road” towards Santa Fe, along the East Rim of Rio Grande Gorge.

Taos has been a town through which I passed, not spending much time there-until today. With a commitment to myself to drive as far as this old mining town, I freed up a few hours to make friends in Taos, as well as time to stop and see people I love dearly in Santa Fe, Madrid and Moriarty.

So, parking KIA in a free dirt parking lot, I walked a long a row of art galleries, not purchasing anything this time, though I will spend more time picking out at least two art pieces, on a future visit, weather-permitting, in December.

Here are a few of the shops along Kit Carson Way.

View of Couse Center, a forum for promoting arts in Taos.
Garden in courtyard, Mission Gallery

As last winter’s New Mexico visit was centered on the O’Keeffe Museum, so I fully expect to devote a few hours to the Couse Center, in the days between Christmas and New Year’s. I will be able to get a good cup of hot coffee at World Cup, at the east edge of Taos Plaza.

Drink for thought, World Cup Coffee House, Taos
World Cup is the Taos link in my chain of connections

An energizing visit with a mix of very hard-working people and laid-back former attorneys and factory workers established this connection, much as prior encounters at Henry and The Fish and Double C’s Diner did for Santa Fe and Moriarty, respectively.

Like Santa Fe, Taos has La Fonda Hotel in its Plaza. Here is a look at the lobby and its hearth.

Lobby of Taos La Fonda Hotel
Fireplace, lobby of Taos La Fonda Hotel
Alley, off north side of Taos Plaza

After this, I went south, about three miles, to Ranchos de Taos, the original Spanish Land Grant settlement. Here, there is a smaller plaza, and Iglesia San Francisco de Asis.

This is the central church of Ranchos de Taos

Heading towards Santa Fe, I came upon a spot where Rio Grande is flowing rather rapidly, and another, where the river is more languid.

Note the small rapids in two spots along the Rio Grande. (East Rim of Rio Grand Gorge)

A few miles south, here is a fishing spot, favoured by local residents.

I will be back, again, weather-permitting, very soon. The rest of the day saw short, but very genial visits with friends at Henry & The Fish, Java Junction (Madrid) and Double C Diner,where I got a take-out meal, as it was too early for dinner. The chicken enchiladas were just as tasty, when I got to Colonial Motel, here in Gallup, as they would have been had I dined in. Having good friends at a coffee shop or eatery is even more important to me than the fare itself.

Finding friends all around, this has been a marvelous journey.

Golden Wrap-up

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July 17, 2022- Upon the conclusion of each journey I’ve taken, since 2011, at least one family member asks “What was the highlight of your trip?” I can most often rattle off something that stands out, yet there is, truth be known, more than one highlight-especially when I’ve been away from Home Base for a month.

The two anchors, as it stands, were the first stop, Homolovi State Park, where I returned an arrowhead to its guardians, the ancestors of the Hopi people, and L’Anse aux Meadows, where the first Europeans of record met the Indigenous people of the Americas. It would seem an ironic twist to have laid the artifact back in sacred soil, when so much of the San Francisco Peaks, an area holy to many First Nations people, was under siege from a fire, apparently ignited by a random camper trying to burn his refuse. It was my first instruction from my spirit guides.

From there, the road presented a mix of family and friend visits, with stops at places of historical, social, natural and spiritual significance. The historical gems included Marland Mansion, in Ponca City, OK; Prescott, ON Riverwalk; St,. Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal; Provincial Assembly Building, Fredericton, NB; Shediac, NB; the villages and towns along the Cabot Trail, NS-especially Cheticamp and Ingonish; L’Anse aux Meadows, NL; St. Croix Island International Peace Monument, ME; State Capitol, Nashville TN. These, of course, each have natural features that add luster to the historical aspects of the place. This is especially true of L’Anse aux Meadows, with its stark subarctic and maritime beauty.

The natural treasures also included Lake Ontario Park, Kingston, ON; Moosehead Lake, Greenville, ME; Wilmot Park, Fredericton; Bras d’Or Lake and Cape Breton Highlands, NS; Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks, NL; Pippy Park, St; John’s, NL; Deer Lake Park, NL; Fundy National Park, NB; anywhere along the coast of Maine; Natchez Trace Parkway, TN. and of course, the open Atlantic Ocean.

Spiritually, I felt especially at ease in and around the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL ; Lake Ontario Park; St. Lawrence Riverwalk, Prescott, ON; Waterfront Park, Shediac; looking out anywhere along Bras d’Or Lake; Grand Faillante, French Mountain and Green Cove, Cape Breton Highlands; Matthew Head, Fundy National Park; Green Acre Baha’i School, Eliot, ME; Natchez Trace; and Centennial Park, Nashville.

Socially, my family and I were there for one another, in Sarcoxie, MO; Boothbay Harbor, ME; Saugus and Lynnfield, MA; Exton, PA and Grapevine, TX. Likewise, long-time friends in Enid, OK; Mishawaka, IN; Oley, PA; Crossville, TN; Amarillo, TX and Moriarty, NM made travel a lot lighter. I also feel like lasting new friendships were made in Montreal; McAdam, NB; Wycocomagh, Bras d’Or Village and Eskasoni, NS; Doyles, St.Lunaire-Griquet and Grand Bank, NL; Jonesboro and Perry, ME (the last, as long as the cranky restaurant owner isn’t around); Hohenwald, TN and Tallulah, LA. I missed friends in Wilkes-Barre and Bedford, PA; Harrisonburg, VA; Wildersville, TN; other family members in Maine, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania- and I will see them again. The purpose in all this journeying is indeed to “make new friends and keep the old”, as the old children’s tune goes.

For the time being, I will quickly get back into life here at Home Base. Baha’i camp, near Flagstaff, a day of dog-sitting and whatever else surfaces will keep me in peace and harmony for the rest of July. We’ll talk about August and September, a little later.

Certitude

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July 14, 2022, Grapevine- The Republic of France celebrated the day, 233 years ago, when the Nation’s most-hated prison, La Bastille, was stormed by a mob, as the people were fed up with the dissembling of Louis-Auguste (Louis XVI) and what they perceived as the oppressive policies of the nobility, acting in concert with the Church. The chaos that swirled around that nation, both before and after the trials and executions of Louis and his wife, Marie Antoinette, led only to the rise of the equally autocratic, if more effective in leadership, Napoleon Bonaparte.

The life of a nation, like the lives of individuals, families and communities, depends upon a delicate mix of certitude and flexibility in the face of change. The former without the latter can easily turn into rigidity and oppressiveness. The latter, without the former can be just more wishy-washy foolishness, changing with the wind and tides.

The great Spiritual Teachers have each told us to be discerning, thoughtful and motivated by love. This requires a lot of work, daily and long-term, to maintain both one’s individual life plan and to support loved ones in theirs. My own certitude actually depends on flexibility. I have seen people I love dearly end up feeling broken and hopeless, because their way was not chosen over the highway; because things did not proceed according to what they, alone, deemed best -especially for others. It could have been the same in my life, had I not accepted the concepts of listening to even my harshest critics and gleaning the best of ideas and beliefs they espoused, which actually turned matters around, on a few occasions.

While none of us is spared the grief and pain that accompany life on this plane of existence, neither is that life solely a matter of gritting one’s teeth and enduring excruciating pain, for decades on end. There are opportunities and there is always a way out of the rubble-even if it takes a lot of digging.

The Parthenon, Natchez Trace, and The Sanctity of Family

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July 10, 2022, Florence, AL- The woman, standing 5’2”, and looking for all the world like a present-day Madonna, arrived at her family’s gathering, and instantly commanded the room. Her strapping teenaged son, who had been alternating between being a responsible big brother and goofing around, for the benefit of the three girls at the teenagers’ table, straightened up with a brief, sharp glance from Mama. Her husband, likewise, exercised a measure of control- distributing portions of food and drink from the adults’ table. to the teens and the younger children. The after-church dinner thus proceeded smoothly, in the small, cozy southern Tennessee eatery. I sensed, though, that there was nothing but love in this family-no patriarchy, per se, just a devoted couple who treasure all their children, and one another.

I had left my friends’ house, in a bucolic section of Crossville, a little after 10 a.m., stopping for a few photographs along the route I had taken to yesterday’s Food Truck event. The most breathtaking was this view of Sparta, TN, from an overlook.

I was given an inkling to spend a bit of time in Nashville, a city that I have tended to overlook, in many of the journeys across our home continent. So, a brief visit was first made to the Tennessee State Capitol.

I headed out of downtown, along a route that took me to The Parthenon, a recreation of the original building by that name, in Athens, Greece. Tennesseans treasure the Classical Age, and this museum is the centerpiece of Centennial Park, a vast and salubrious gathering place for all of Nashville. This lush urban park was dedicated in 1897, one year after the centenary of Tennessee’s statehood. Parthenon has two floors: The first hosts special collections of art; the present exhibit being selections from the private collection of James M. Cowan, a Tennessee native and businessman base din the Chicago area. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5e305abfabc0e4424fd1454a/t/5f0ceb6694be7a33f9f830bf/1594682228862/15139+Parthenon+Cowan+brochure_PROOF+%281%29.pdf

On the second floor, there stands an impressive statue of the Greek goddess Athena. Here are some scenes of the lady, the building and the park itself.

The true circumstances of this woman’s life are lost in the mists of time; yet it is clear that she had a powerful personality, being influential in a variety of areas, from education and craftsmanship to the conduct of warfare. That such personages were dubbed gods and goddesses, by pastoral people, is not surprising.

I wandered about the park itself, after spending about a half hour in the museum, which was about to close, anyway. Here’s Lake Watauga, just north of the Parthenon.

After this long overdue attention to the delights of Nashville, I headed west and took in a sliver of Natchez Trace Parkway, which I encountered while looking for Loveless Cafe, a small restaurant southwest of Nashville. The Trace runs for 440 miles, from Nashville to Natchez, and offers a fine cross-section of Southern wilderness.

The Falls themselves were a trickle, as were other waterfalls in the area. The South could use more rain, as could any number of places. I left the Parkway and spotted a sign for Hohenwald, a town whose name means “High Forest”, in German. It has a sanctuary for elephants and is a haven for people in recovery. It is also home to very devout people, including the family mentioned above. The women and girls were conservatively dressed; the men and boys looked more like they had been working a bit. Nonetheless, they were all very relaxed and could have been any close-knit family, anywhere-an attractive, happy bunch. The very sweet waitress took good care of all of us, and it made for a pleasant end to a solemn (Martyrdom of the Bab) but hopeful day. I came to this northern Alabama town, on the Tennessee River, around 9:30.

I will long remember the strong women, both real and stuff of legend, encountered today. It was interesting that, just before leaving Centennial Park, I encountered two young men who claim to worship God the Mother.

Down East Meander

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July 1, 2022, Boothbay Harbor- A “just-in-case” phone call to a cousin and his wife, in this salubrious bay view town resulted in a dinner and accommodations invitation, which came at just the right time. I had enjoyed the drive down the Maine coast from Jonesboro, and had deposited my rent check at a B of A branch. The search for my cousin’s gravesite, in Augusta, was futile, though, and a brief visit to his parent’s tombstones at the same cemetery at least gave me a sense of purpose and a chance to regain focus.

I chose to mostly bypass the numerous idyllic scenes that dot this magnificent state’s coast. Despite how it may appear to some, this is not a journey that is focused on scenery. It is more one focused on spirit. There are family connections, especially in and around my hometown-though holiday plans will no doubt affect how many people I actually see. So, visiting cousin Tom and his wife, Jamie, will likely prove more the exception than the rule.

Around lunchtime, I found a delightful spot, Warren’s Waterfront, overlooking the Penobscot River, and Fort Knox-the Maine version, where no gold is known to have been kept. Like its Kentucky namesake, though, it is named for General Henry Knox, who was the first Secretary of War, and who lived in nearby Thomaston, after his public service was over. It was a key post during the War of 1812.

After a light lunch at Warren’s, I took a stroll on Bucksport’s Riverwalk, which features a series of Alphabet Exercise cues.

After this, I headed directly to Bank of America, some ninety miles south, via backroads. Doubling back to Augusta’s Blue Star Cemetery was, at first, a bit nerve-wracking, as Google Maps has the place close to downtown (It is not) and involving the city’s busiest roundabout. (Yes, but not in the direction indicated.) It took a trip to Augusta City Hall to get things straight. A helpful pair of workers gave me the right directions and before long, I paid my respects to Aunt and Uncle-and by extension, to their son.

The grilled salmon and fixings, served by Tom and Jamie, were followed by a discussion of an interesting extended family member, and reminiscences about our branches of the family. Now, as with all days-serene and hectic alike, it is time to enjoy the comfort of the Guesthouse.

An Invisible Frontier

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June 30, 2022, Jonesboro, Maine- The breakfast serving room was stifling, at the Comfort Inn, Amherst, NS, and I had some concern for the well-being of the attendant. She was quite vocal about the heat-mainly from the ovens in her immediate food preparation space. I thought it would be a good idea for the management to consider better ventilation. A good worker, to paraphrase the old United Black College Fund ad, is terrible to waste. We patrons at least were to take our food to our rooms. COVID protocols are still in place, in many establishments.

Two very different reactions to my presence in Amherst were to present themselves, as errands were discharged. When I went to the laundromat, the attendant was friendly at first, but once I told her where I was from, the smile faded and I was asked what I was doing in Amherst. At least I was left alone to complete my washing and drying. The people at the car wash were a lot nicer, and gladly exchanged four quarters for a dollar coin, so the wash could proceed.

My business in the Chignecto area complete, I drove over to Fundy National Park, in New Brunswick, and caught a few scenes of that home of high tides.

Any thoughts I might have had of further exploring Fundy were brought to a close by the approaching rain. It got quite heavy, at times, as I drove west, on TransCanada Highway 2. In and around Saint John, the province’s largest city, the rain was the heaviest. Being rush hour made things go that much slower-and of course, there was road construction, with lane closures. Nonetheless, the people along the Loyalist Trail (Saint John was a haven for those loyal to the Crown, during the American Revolution.) have the rush hour thing down to a fine art, with taking turns entering the open lane de rigeur.

A relatively short time, maybe forty minutes, later, I was at the border crossing, where the inspector briefly peered into my back seat, glanced at my passport and said “Welcome home”. If only we lived in a world where everyone could have that kind of a border greeting, each time. The invisible frontier, however, attracts its share of grifters and smugglers-so sometimes, the rest of us need to exercise forbearance.

Beyond Calais, Maine, I took note of these scenes along the St. Croix River.

A few miles further south, the St. Croix Island International Peace Monument commemorates the first, ill-fated French expedition, led by Pierre Dugua, an explorer, soldier and fur trapper. The group landed on St. Croix Island in the Fall of 1604, with the intention of claiming the area for France. A harsh winter ensued, and despite the assistance of the Passamaquoddy people, who were native to the area, the party lost about half of its members. In the spring of 1605, Dugua and his group departed the area, for another point on the Canadian mainland. Canada and the United States jointly maintain this historical site.

The presence of this monument underscores the value of seeing that “The Earth is but one country and Mankind its citizens”- Baha’u’llah.

I continued on to the small town of Perry. There, a restaurant called New Friendly featured a cheerful, talkative waitress, who seemed to connect with everyone, a shy teenaged girl, who was looking around for something productive she might do and a visibly flustered, rather crochety woman, who seemed to be the owner. I was served by the waitress, and enjoyed a nice meal of fried clams-with full bellies, which I love, being a son of New England. I was the last one in the door, and so was about the last one to pay. The owner took my payment, seemingly glad to see me leave.

The end of the line, for tonight, is Blueberry Patch Motel and Cabins. I am in a tiny cabin, recommended to me by the night clerk, who said I had just made it through the door, before she turned out the Welcome sign. Yes, I got the last cabin-with one motel room going unclaimed. Rural Mainers do things a bit differently, and the invisible frontier, between being hard at work and being tired enough to stop for the night, takes on a different hue up here.

Breakfast of Champions and A Long Ride

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June 27, 2022, Channel- Port aux Basques, NL- I was warmly welcomed this morning, into the main house of Abbie’s Garden, and directed to sit in a place by myself at a well-set table. The arrangement, of each party being seated separately, apparently is a Newfoundland tradition, derived from the British Isles. Having not been anywhere in that archipelago, other than London, this is new to me. It was very pleasant, though, as the host took egg orders, poured beverages and proudly presented a superbly-plated hot breakfast of eggs, crisp bacon, pancakes and fresh biscuits. Condiments were in serving vessels, not in their store containers. Juice (orange, in my case) was the last item presented. My maternal grandmother would be very pleased.

Prior to breakfast, I went around the garden and over to the chicken coop, where the flock, still inside the predator-proof coop, came to the netting and greeted me. All the little beaks were at the wire netting, clucking or peeping away.

Here are some scenes of Abbie’s Garden. First, here is The Loft, where I spent the night.

Upon bidding a fond farewell to the family at Abbie’s, I resolved to check out some spots along the road in the Burin Peninsula. Here are a few of these.

About an hour after leaving the Burin, I came upon Joey’s Lookout, named after Joseph R. Smallwood, the first Provincial Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. The place overlooks his home town of Gambo.

As dinner hour approached, I was at a park overlooking the Humber River, just outside Deer Lake. A few other picnickers were at the lone table, so I took a bench and watched a lone fly fisherman, in the river, with his hip waders on.

As I got closer to this port city, the grandeur of the Long Range Mountains made itself known again.

Once settled in my room, at Hotel Port aux Basques, the chatter and antics of a group of teens caught my attention. They were likely enjoying the first days of summer, as school just let out in Newfoundland, last Friday. This is part of the park where they were hanging out. No, I did not photograph the group!

The long drive was not so bad. Tomorrow, I bid farewell to this consummately civilized people and their salubrious island.

Abbie’s, and Pippy’s, Gardens

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June 26, 2022, Grand Bank, NL-

The scenes went from jaw-dropping to heart-warming, as the day was spent traversing a more sublimely lovely part of this island. After a packaged breakfast, indicative of the ongoing seriousness with which the Canadian government still takes the pandemic-with considerable merit, I bid farewell to Memorial University, and went-across the street, to Pippy Park. This large and ecologically rich urban park was established by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in 1966, and named for one of its prime boosters: Chesley A. Pippy, a St. John’s businessman and philanthropist. I focused on the area of the park around Long Pond. Here are some scenes.

Seeing a family go to this area and examine the plants, with the children playing some of these instruments, I naturally went there, after they had left and was delighted to see what is being done, in the name of autism research. The autistic children with whom I have worked love tending gardens and are comforted by soft vibrational sounds, as am I.

Returning to the parking lot, via the South Shore of Long Pond Loop, I picked up a snack of potato wedges, from an Irish gentleman, who proudly told me of his progress in curbing his smoking habit. Congratulating him and commiserating, just a bit. with his plaint that the day was too hot (I told him I was from Arizona, which gave him pause in bemoaning the 70-degree heat), I said his taters were mighty tasty.

I next made a brief drive over to the Fort Amherst area, near the south bank of St. John’s Harbour. From here, are views of Cabot Tower, on Signal Hill and of the confluence of the Harbour with the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, more time is warranted in St. John’s. I sense there will be an Avalon and Burin-centric visit back to the island, in two or three years, along with everything else. For today, though, it was time to head over to the Burin Peninsula, three hours away and settle in for the night at Abbie’s Garden Bed and Breakfast.

I arrived here around 5:45, was warmly greeted by Abbie’s widower, his second wife and his daughter, who is the proprietress of her mother’s Garden. My room, in a lovely house called The Loft, has all the comforts of home, including a thick Newfoundland comforter. The gardens, which I will photograph tomorrow morning, are indeed Abbie’s legacy. The houses and the trails are the work of her husband, Bruce. Their daughter has maintained and built on this legacy.

I enjoyed a fine meal in town, at Copper Kettle. A finer lobster and bacon wrap has never been had by man. This, after being followed by a utility worker, who the waitress at Copper Kettle says is a self-appointed pair of eyes for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, until I pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. I guess they don’t see too many vehicles with Arizona plates around here. For my part, I saw a vehicle with St. Pierre and Miquelon plates, which makes sense, as the French territory is a short set of nautical miles off the Burin. Marystown, the Burin’s commercial hub, is “town” for the St. Pierrois, and their “mainland” neighbours.

After a lovely time relaxing around Bruce’s firepit, and enjoying some of his homemade rhubarb pie, it is time to go up and crawl under that comforter. Thanks, Abbie, for all you did.

The Towering Guardians

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June 25, 2022, St. John’s- Some days, like today, present themselves with two themes. At L’Anse aux Meadows, to which I was directed to go, way back nine years ago-and again in January of this year, the focus was on connecting with the spirits of the past-both First Nations and Scandinavian. As I headed towards this oldest European city in North America, predating St. Augustine, FL by four decades, my focus was knowingly on its modern aspects-especially Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, where I am spending the night.

In between the northwestern and southeastern areas of this vast island, there is much of both natural and human accomplishment. The most striking example of the former are Newfoundland’s two National Parks: Gros Morne and Terra Nova. The first was easy to stop and appreciate. There are several areas visible from the TransCanada Highway. Terra Nova, on the other hand, has no safe turn-offs from which to photograph, along the highway. It was also very foggy and rainy as I passed the lovely park. I’m getting ahead of the story though.

Here are a few scenes from Gros Morne and two other places along the Viking Trail, between L’Anse aux Meadows and Deer Lake. First is River of Ponds, a mecca for fly fishermen.

Next, came the ocean, at Parsons Pond.

The beauty of the north is indeed rather stark, with lots of rainy days, foggy nights and as someone commented, low light-even in summer. I am fortunate to have been raised far enough north that these things are not so much a factor in my appreciation of this sort of beauty. Then again, I also enjoy lower latitudes.

What I did not enjoy so much was the rain, fog and wind while driving between Gander and St. John’s. I saved time and money by getting a handheld sandwich from a convenience store in Springdale, a bit west of Gander. That was a good thing, because the inclement weather started right around the aviation center. Some may remember that Gander was important to connecting with the rest of the world, during 9/11/2001. It is still a bustling-and growing community.

St. John’s has welcomed me, even at this late hour (midnight), and I am settling in to a university dorm room, single occupancy. Thank you, Memorial University, for this Summer Accommodations Program.