The Decorated Ones


May 29, 2023-His name was Richard Daniel Devine. He died in combat, in Kontum, VietNam, on January 10, 1968.

His name was Stanley Joseph Egan. He died in combat, in Hua Nghia, VietNam, on November 23, 1969.

When we were children, every year, just before school let out for the summer, we gathered in the yard of Felton School, and recited a poem that began “Tomorrow is Memorial Day. The soldiers will be marching, with banners waving high.” The day was officially called Decoration Day, as we honoured those who had died, after having served in the military and had been decorated for their efforts. Another meaning of the day came from the practice of decorating graves of departed loved ones with flowers and other tokens of remembrance.

In 1968, the last Monday in May was designated Memorial Day. The actual practice of this three-day weekend began in 1971, along with Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February) and Columbus Day (second Monday in October, and now mainly known as Indigenous Peoples Day). The three days have been observed as Federal holidays since then. They were joined in that status by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January),in 1986 and by Juneteenth ( June 19), the date of the last documented informing of American slaves that they had been emancipated (Texas, 1865), in 2021. Other Federal holidays of long standing, are New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

There were a myriad observances of Memorial Day, across the United States, and in some other nations which have been allied with the United States in various conflicts, today-as there will be on the traditional Decoration/Memorial/Remembrance Day, of May 30. The men mentioned at the beginning of this post, and over a million people like them, are the decorated ones, the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners and a fair number of civilian ancillaries, who gave their lives, this nation and other countries around the world, might continue to know the reality of freedom.

I knew Stan Egan, and on the day he passed on I chose to spend Thanksgiving in fasting and prayer. It just made no sense that a vibrant, athletic, engaging and confidant young man should have been blown to bits, as it were. It never has-and never will. Until the quest for dominance, for ownership of land, for subjugation of others is given up, the nonsensical will remain commonplace.

In honour of the fallen, across the globe, I give you this rendition of Il Silenzio (The Silence), by Dutch trumpeter Melissa Venema, who first played the tune at the age of 13, in Maastricht, NL. She is now 28, and regularly offers the melody in concert.

The Crowded Restroom, Stable Central Valley and Sac’tology


May 11, 2023, Sacramento- The congenial man, who seemed to be in his 50s, entered the crowded restroom, as I was shaving after the long train ride from Flagstaff. LA is LA, and Union Station is as much a place where street people can purchase a decent snack or light meal, and take care of their business in a socially acceptable manner, as it is a place for train passengers to meet their needs. The man looked about, did his business and thanked me for being understanding. Trust, me, I have been there, (though I have never used his particular method), no one was bothered and no further details are needed.

He was followed by a man who expectorated a substance that should never be in the body of any human being. He left, and I found some tissue to safely clean the residue and throw it in the trash. The gentleman at the sink next to mine, also a street person, remarked that I treated the other guy better than he would have. It struck me that the poor soul has probably not caught a break in quite a few years. There was plenty of soap and water to take care of matters, and I am no worse for the wear. The third guy and I went to the snack shop, once I was clean shaven. It’s as fine a thing to have friends on the street, as anywhere else.

Union Station does have its paying guests enter secure waiting areas. Guards check tickets and, on occasion, IDs. I thanked the young man who kept our gate. He looked surprised, but felt glad to be appreciated, I’m sure. We rolled out of Union Station, in a chartered bus, right on time. I got a fair look at downtown Los Angeles, from a northbound perspective.

East Building, Union Station, Los Angeles, seen from a chartered bus.

The journey through San Fernando Valley certainly had its share of mountain scenery and interesting buildings, but I chose not to take any more haphazard shots, whilst the bus was in motion. We rode through forested mountains, then promontories shorn of all vegetation, save grass, until we came to Grapevine, and the southern edge of Central Valley. An hour or so later, Bakersfield, a surprisingly vibrant and attractive city, came into view and we swapped out the bus for a train that was headed for Oakland.

Being a local train, we hit every major city and a good many smaller ones, before arriving in Stockton, my transfer point for Sacramento, about ten minutes late-due to the demands made by freight trains (pride of place, you know). All the areas visible from the train appeared to be in good shape, the waterways were at a comfortable level and the crops were all on track-though I know there are other fields, elsewhere in the bread basket, that will not be as productive this year. Fresno, Madera and Modesto all seem quite bustling. Stockton is a bit under the weather, and there were a fair number of tents along the sidewalk near the train station there.

Sacramento had experienced tremors from a 5.4 earthquake, whose epicenter was near Lake Amador, quite a way to the northeast. I spoke with a man named Max, who had been on the thirteenth floor of a state office building, paying his taxes, when the tremor hit. He hadn’t been so scared since 2001, he told me. He was at Ground Zero, when the towers fell, so he comes by the fright quite honestly, in my book. I told him I was glad he’s okay and went on to check out the state capitol and its grounds. “Sac’to” has a rather interesting vibe to its downtown. Here are some photos of the area, as I was on solid ground and could again focus the camera in a proper manner.

Front room, HI Sacramento, where I spent the night and will return on Monday afternoon.
HI Sacramento’s exterior. Across the street is Sacramento City Hall, with probably the neatest and cleanest tent camp I’ve seen. It is not impossible for street people to be orderly, much as i long for the day when no one feels it necessary to live on the street.
Elks Building, downtown Sacramento
The city’s namesake, Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
The State Capitol of California, seen from the north. It is under construction on the east side.
Sweet fragrances adorn the west side of the Capitol.
California Live Oaks and Incense Cedars offer a wealth of shade on the East Lawn.
Lastly, the First Nations of California have not gone away.
The Capitol bid us good night, and now I do too.

All Places Matter


May 1, 2023- The curious students watched us from a short distance, as the Logistics Lead and I worked with their school’s Maintenance Chief, to assess its readiness as a Red Cross shelter, should the need arise, particularly in the event of an active fire season.

Seligman is a small community, known best to Route 66 aficionados, for its small stretch of motels and restaurants-especially the former burger and soft ice cream establishment: Snow Cap, which Juan Delgadillo opened in 1953. His brother, Angel, ran a barbershop in town, as well. Since Juan died, in 2004, his family has kept the restaurant open. Angel has now retired, but still may be seen around town. There are also colourful cafes like the Roadrunner, Road Kill Cafe, and West Side Lilo’s, a diner. The latter is my favourite of the lot.

Red Cross is definitely concerned with having a shelter here, in the northwest corner of Yavapai County, because of its distance from the more populated areas of Prescott, Chino Valley and Williams, to the east and Kingman, to the west. There are two First Nations reservations, Hualapai and Havasupai, not far to the west of Seligman, and their residents would depend on a reliable shelter, in the event of fire or flood. To our relief, the school appears to meet the major criteria for such a purpose-with any adjustments for disabled residents fairly easy to provide.

We are coming to the collective realization that all places matter, in this shrinking world. The Delgadillo brothers put Seligman on the map and we will do our best to maintain the community’s awareness of its value.

Pushing Back On The Mud, Day Thirteen


April 14, 2023, Aptos, CA- The Australian surfer dude turned restaurateur took my order for two of his unique tacos, made of baked vegetable shells. I chose red beet shells, one filled with ahi and avocado; the other, filled with crab and avocado creme. Diced vegetables and mango topped each one. When it came time for me to pay, he was off doing something else. So I looked around the immediate arcade and nearby shops, then came back and paid. This isn’t something I particularly feel okay doing, but this is Capitola.

Before the storms of January and March, the little town was a surfer’s haven. Margaritaville has a branch here, and there is the well known Pizza My Heart. Many places are just now renovating and preparing to reopen. There is a Homeless Garden Project that is getting started as well, and when I get back to Home Base, I will order a few of their products, to help the effort along.

Today was my day off from shelter duty, and it was lovely day for a hike. So, I started out on Seacliff Beach, just south of the wrecked SS Palo Alto, which has been left in situ, as a marine animal habitat. The cement ship was used, for a time, as a recreation and entertainment site. People came from the Bay Area and Sacramento, to dine and dance on its polished wooden floors, and gaze at the stars on the northern edge of Monterey Bay. Now, it is the centerpiece of this part of Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary.

SS Palo Alto, wrecked by a storm, in 1932.
SS Palo Alto, from Seacliff Overlook

Seacliff, New Brighton and Capitola Beaches all suffered from January’s Atmospheric Rivers. March’s sequels didn’t help matters any.

Seacliff Beach, Aptos
Driftwood at the edge of a forested hill, Seacliff Beach
A lone cliffside bouquet, Seacliff Beach
Boulders moved by the surf and collapsed from the force of the January storms.
Little Koe’s Beach Bits, Capitola, CA-Home of the veggie shell taco
Capitola Village
Capitola Wharf, damaged in January, 2023 Atmospheric Rivers
Snow glories, New Brighton Beach, Capitola
Long-billed curlews, catching their meals

It was a full six-mile roundtrip, up a couple of bracing flights of stairs and along a flat, but sometimes absorbent, stretch of sand. Both Aptos and Capitola are worth a day of exploration.

The Overlooked Angst


March 30, 2023- The big news of the day seems to be the indictment of Donald J. Trump, on charges of paying off at least one paramour-albeit before he was a candidate for President. It is, of course, important to bear in mind that he is now to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, in our system of justice.

Trump is a hero to many who hold ultraconservative beliefs. Rightly or wrongly, these people regard him as the last hope for maintaining a social order to which they have become accustomed, over several generations. An examination of history, however, shows that no social order remains static, in perpetuity.

A social system and an economy that profited off enslavement existed in many nations, across the Americas and in much of western and northern Europe, for nearly 350 years. It was gradually dismantled, over several decades of the Nineteenth Century, although its residue remained-in the forms of Jim Crow laws, social and commercial segregation and barriers to suffrage, for nearly a hundred years after the emancipation of the enslaved-in several countries and most prominently in the United States. There are those who equate Civil Rights for people of colour with a decline in the standard of living for white people.

A significant percentage, and for part of our history a majority, of the American population, has adhered to one denomination or another, of the Christian Faith. The increase in the percentage of the American people who adhere to spiritual traditions other than Christianity has left many aghast.

A key underpinning of American culture has been self-reliance. People have been brought up to be neighbourly, but not to depend on others, and especially not on the government, to provide for their well-being. Greed and mistrust, resulting in tragedy and suffering, have led, over the past 120 years, to various policies of the Federal, state and local governments that are intended to safeguard the public against the excesses of the few.

Into the climate of overlooked angst, among people of traditional bearing, have stepped many demagogues, over the past 150 years. They have stoked the fears of those for whom the rapid pace of change has proved overwhelming. They have tapped into a culture of profiting off those fears and have obfuscated, deflected the nature of those changes. They have gaslit the people who have legitimate grievances and turned reasonable arguments for change and reform on their heads.

Those who sincerely honour the Ten Commandments, which are based on the Golden Rule, have nothing to fear from the rising tide of inclusivity. Conversely, those who sincerely want to bring a true sense of fairness into the national fabric have nothing to fear from those who practice the Golden Rule, in a traditional manner. What each does have to fear, besides fear itself, is the aftermath of their opposite numbers being duped into engaging in violence against them.

The only path to peace in the house is in gleaning the validity of points raised, regardless of where on the political spectrum those points originate-and proceeding from common ground. Society cannot stand on a zero-sum foundation.

Some Gave All


March 29, 2023- The roll of honor featured those killed in action in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, and those who died in the three attacks on September 11, 2001. These extensions of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, whose traveling exhibit is in Camp Verde, AZ for five days, are part of its mission to bring closure to those left behind by these more recent tragic series of events.

The day was observed, nationwide, with many state governors issuing proclamations honouring Vietnam Veterans on this day. The President apparently did not, but he had honoured an individual soldier with a belated Medal of Honor on March 3. The importance of today, to those of us who served in that conflict, will hopefully not be lost on him, in the future.

“All gave some. Some gave all.” I lost three friends from my home town, and nearly lost a fourth, in the conflict. The death of the first one, in combat, spurred me to go to the war zone and see for myself what was going on. Fortunately, I was assigned to Army Postal Units-first in Long Binh, the largest base in the Vietnam Theater and later to Cholon, a smaller compound in the midst of Saigon. Those of us in the rear echelon “gave some”, but whatever threats there were to our safety, in 1971, came more from fellow Americans. The War Zone was no safe haven from drug and human traffickers, or from the internal divisions of our own society. While I came home with less Post-Traumatic Stress than combat arms veterans, there was some.

I felt the residue of much of that stress today, as speakers in Camp Verde and in Prescott paid homage to us and some spoke of their own experiences. It was surreal, as I have long since put the war behind me, and I didn’t really feel that people showed any particular disrespect towards me, when I came back, in 1972. There were no left-wing radicals trying to spit at me or accusing me of being a baby killer, though I know of a few who had those experiences. What did surface today was my wanting to not draw any attention to myself, or to commiserate much with other Vets. I mainly wanted to observe the day in semi-private, being in the group, but not prominently.

So the day passed, and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited on three occasions. I received a swag bag from the Red Cross, indulged in a donut hole, then exercised on a stationary bike for 20 minutes and got in a 2-mile walk to/from downtown. At day’s end, the residual feelings of unworthiness have passed and I am back to a more even emotional state.

Some, though, gave all-and we are forever in their debt.

The Beleaguered Southland


March 27, 2023- I got a text, and an e-mail, from the Red Cross, early this afternoon, wanting to know if I would be available to assist in the recovery efforts following the latest wave of tornadoes in the mid-South, especially in Mississippi. I will be available starting Sunday, so we will see what RC’s response is.

The South appeared to have endured a triple whammy, these past few days. Tornadoes have come to be expected, yet those which hit rural areas at night have tended to not get as much forewarning as their diurnal counter parts and are thus deadlier.

School shootings, sadly, have come to be expected-and are dismissed as “an unfortunate trade-off for the protection of rights under the Second Amendment”. That codicil says no such thing, but has been interpreted as protecting the “rights” of the craven and the mentally ill, to the extent that it is, itself, no protection at all for those who either don’t own firearms (the vast majority of underage students, for example), or do not bring their weapons to the workplace or leisure spots , OR are outmaneuvered/ outgunned by the aggressor. Oh, for the days of a well-trained militia and firearms safety classes, as the prime missions of the National Rifle Association.

Thirdly, the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Waco Massacre should have been a day of national reflection and shame. Instead, it was turned into a political circus. Fortunately, a good many of those who went there to reflect, grieve and process their emotions did their processing and quietly left, well before the politicizing and venting had come to a close. To me, the carnage that day was every bit as reprehensible as what followed in Jonesboro, San Ysidro, Lakewood, Sandy Hook, Sutherland, North Charleston, Fort Hood, Pittsburgh, Roseburg, Arlington, Peoria, San Bernardino, Uvalde, Parkland, La Plata, Oxford and Nashville-as well as the places which escape my recall at the moment. The deaths of people, in misguided loyalty to one man are a supreme cautionary tale-and I pray the Divine that this never is repeated, for the sake of any one leader, father figure or surrogate neurotic means to power.

I’ve spent many enjoyable days in the South, as in other parts of the country and the continent, over the years. My heart hurts for those affected by each of the tragedies above-and while certainly praying, I am also willing to go and help in the recovery process, should my presence actually be welcome-as it was in Louisiana and Dallas, three years ago.

The Age of Elasticity


March 23, 2023- When I was a child and adolescent, I was consumed with the study of geography, history, paleontology and all things having to do with the world being a unified whole. I couldn’t put my finger on “why”, and to most people around me, these interests were both intriguing-and seemed rather odd, even pointless. All I kept thinking was-just wait. Fast forward to this century, and the information that was important to me, back then, is now commonplace. There are hundreds of thousands of people who know more than I do about the fields that long captured my interest. Their knowledge has come from their day-to-day work or their travels for various reasons.

I read that there has been a “momentous” cosmological shift, in that Pluto is entering the sign of Aquarius, from that of Capricorn-albeit only for several weeks, before going back again, until November, 2024, when it will go to Aquarius and stay for 20 years. This is the first such state of affairs since 1777-which, as we all know, was the low-water mark of the American Revolution, followed by this country’s successful fight for independence. There were other marked changes in the life of humanity: The Scientific Revolution; the French Revolution; the wars for independence of Latin American nations and Haiti; the European settlement of Australia and New Zealand; the rise of industry. Progress has not slowed in the 250 years since: Chattel slavery was brought to an end, after several brutal conflicts, including the American Civil War; women gained the suffrage that should have been theirs all along; Civil Rights were also granted to Indigenous peoples, in several nations and to people of African descent in the United States, Canada and Brazil-as well as the Apartheid system being brought to an end, in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia; most nations ruled by European countries, in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific Basin became independent, with those remaining attached to their colonial masters gaining a measure of dignified autonomy; science and technology have advanced, in various aspects of life, and in ways only dimly imagined by thinkers of times past. Spiritually, the Teachings of Baha’u’llah have found an increasingly receptive humanity, and enlightened ways of looking at the Teachings of Christ, Buddha, Krishna, Zarathustra, Moses, Muhammad and earlier First Nations Messengers have arisen in tandem with Baha’u’llah’s Revelation. In short, mankind is coming closer together, with all the grand experiences, both wonderful and problematic alike, that this entails.

A similarly momentous Age of Progress is foreseen by cosmologists, and other thinkers, in the years that are upon us. Most people alive today, and certainly those of my generation or older, will witness only a glimpse of the advances that are no doubt likely. The basic premises underlying all of this are two: There is, underway, a sizable increase in the individual’s taking responsibility for own learning, decision-making and acceptance of responsibility and, simultaneously, a not incongruent increase in the levels, both qualitatively and quantitatively, of communication between individuals, groups, communities and nations. Humanity is moving in a wave, but each drop in that wave is coming to know both own part and those of others, and how these can work together. That missteps in communication, errors stemming from those missteps and excesses that result from incomplete thinking and communication are being more readily called out should come as no surprise to the careful observer.

These thoughts are what come about, when one is manning a Disaster Shelter with no clients and one partner, who is busy watching a movie on his i-Pad. This is the Age of Elasticity, and my mind is quite flexible.

The Power of Farsightedness


March 19, 2023- I stood atop a small hill, this afternoon. It was the site of a settlement of the Huhugam (also spelled Hohokam) people, at what was the northern edge of their settlement. Salida Gulch is an area where one may take any one of five trails, most of which go up and down fairly steep hills. I went up and down three of them, as a cardiopulmonary exercise-but I digress.

The promontory has a clear 360-degree view, and so was very likely an outpost for sentinels, who kept watch on behalf of villagers living in the creek valleys below. If there were rivals, adversaries or even friendly visitors on the move, over Mingus Mountain to the east, the Bradshaw Mountains to the south, the Sierra Prieta and Granite Mountain to the west, or the forested valley of Granite Creek, to the north, these would easily have been spotted.

The sentries made homes here, and the excavation and retrieval of household implements, when this site was first uncovered by archaeologists, early in the Twentieth Century, indicates that their families stayed in the area as well-contrasting their security system with those more conventional to our own time, in which security patrols live apart from their loved ones, whilst on duty. Recalling that the ancient Aboriginal People had no wheeled vehicles or large draft animals, as far we presently know, the relative proximity of families to sentry sites is quite logical.

The physical farsightedness of these ancestors of the Yavapai, and other central Arizona nations, reminds me of the power that each of us, in our time, can exercise by social and spiritual foresight. Seeing looming challenges, and moving to face these, is needful of 360-degree vision, as well as the presence and support of those closest to us. These features take time, energy and attention-with the requisite maintenance of health and well-being, both physical and emotional.

The larger challenges of life on Earth are not overcome by insistence on one’s own way, by hiding from the world or by seeing oneself and those immediately tied to self as somehow separate from all others. Only through an inherent sense of unity may things like climate change, the attainment of true social justice and the rebuilding of society in such a manner that neither the extremes of wealth and poverty nor the dominance of nations by one self-appointed entity or small claque be faced and the inherent strengths and goodness of humanity be brought to the fore. All people and points of view must be heard, considered, and the most useful ideas brought into the mix.

These thoughts occurred to me, in that time of solitude, atop the small hill, above Salida Gulch.

Broken observation platform, Salida Promontory

No Aztecs, Many Aztecans


March 15, 2023, Santa Fe- The day featured what is almost typical of my visits outside Home Base, this winter: A light, cold, but not overbearing rain. So, I took my umbrella, donned my rain and shine hat (with its flap and wide circular brim, to aid in protection from the two elements) and set my phone to the QC-enabled audio guide, going around Aztec Ruins National Monument. A ranger spoke of Earl Morris, the driving force behind the excavation of the western sector of the ancient community and the original occupant of the house which now serves as the Monument’s headquarters and museum. She also noted that the name of the place came from a Spanish stereotyping of all Mesoamerican First Nations into a single ethnicity: The Aztecs. The Tewas, Tiguas, Towas, Keresans and Hopi who settled Chaco, Mesa Verde and Aztec, before dispersing to their present home areas, had their trade connections with the people of Mexico, but they were entirely separate, culturally and linguistically, from the nation that dominated much of that ancient land. Another focus of the ranger’s talk was the system of roads that traversed outward from Aztec, as well as from Chaco. With no vehicles or beasts of burden, the people likely had to carry cut wooden beams, building stones and other materials on foot, using hauling mechanisms and walking two or three abreast, for almost unimaginable distances, in order to build the communities.

Here are some scenes of this remarkable complex, the pride of modern Aztecans.

Great House, Aztec West ruins
Southernmost of three Great Kivas, Aztec West ruins
Connected apartments, Aztec West ruins
Interior, re-constructed Great Kiva. Aztec West
Central Great Kiva, Aztec West ruins
Doors connecting apartments, Aztec West ruins. These were created because of pot hunting by thieves, in the early Twentieth Century.
View of original doors connecting apartments, Aztec West ruins
Interior doors, Aztec West ruins

The ruins on the eastern and northern sectors of the complex have yet to be excavated to the point they may be safely shared with the public. The ranger also noted that there may well be sites buried under the modern town of Aztec. These could very well be uncovered at some future time, as so many sites have been, around the world.

The rain only intensified, after I left this UNESCO World Heritage Site, so postponed until a later time are Salmon Ruin and other sites in Bloomfield, southeast of Aztec-and a hike up Kitchen Mesa, at Ghost Ranch.

I am holed up for the night at King’s Court, a small, cozy place (and my favourite in this town) not far from either downtown Santa Fe or from Pantry Restaurant, where three people I love dearly provided me with a steaming bowl of Green Chili Stew-a perfect, healthful meal for this chilly evening.