Snippies

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October 20, 2021-

I had three snippies (skin tumor removals) slated for this year. The first, and largest, took place in early summer and is now a distant memory, with a faint scar. The second, which was both the smallest and the most serious, was done today. The bandage will accompany me to work, tomorrow, and I will answer questions like “How does the other guy look?” and “Are you going to get the other cheek (facial) done, the same way?” The third and last one will be done in mid-November, a week before Thanksgiving.

These events have made Manda Sunblock my friend, even if it initially gives me Ghost Face. They have also left me with scars-the first of which has mostly faded. The urban myth about scars on men being attractive to women has scarcely entered my mind, day to day. Then again, my women friends are mostly past that sort of thing. We are all pretty much into facilitating one another’s dreams and life plans.

So, the scraping, cutting, cauterizing and suturing have not been any big deal. The alternative, however, would be a VERY big deal, and I would have no one but myself to blame. Once the last one is done, dermatology will become a semiannual part of my health regimen, and life will be that much more unimpeded by snippies.

Up In Space

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October 19, 2021-

Here we are, rooted in a garden planet. The urge to see what’s beyond calls to many, nevertheless, especially to the young.

My charges today spent their time devising spacecrafts, working in teams, mostly, with a few intrepid souls working alone.

There were lunar modules, satellites, probes, landers and rovers. It all depended upon the team’s focus and level of ambition. Best of all, the projects were gender-independent. Like the great rocket scientists and astronomers who came before them, the kids offered ideas based on mind. Unlike many who preceded them, they embraced the ideas that were best for the project, without concerning themselves as to whether the notions came from boys or girls.

It’s past time for this to be, and the heirs to space will look back at Sally Ride, Christa McAuliffe, Mae Jemison, Ellen Ochoa and nearly a hundred other women, who led as much as followed, but mainly served side by side with the men pioneers.

It was a noisy, at times messy, but fruitful day of discovery.

Quotidian

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October 18, 2021-

It was more quotidian than I thought, this transfer, this purchase of an SUV. The dream of a silver warrior tooling down the TransCanada, next Spring turned out to be a fairy tale. In this realm, there are no fairy tales, and if there are any fairies, they know to make themselves scarce.

It was more quotidian than I thought, this exchange of cash, for a sound vehicle that will do its part, and sans rocket science, but plenty of regular maintenance, will see me safely from one place to another.

It was more quotidian than I thought, driving to the Motor Vehicle Department, sans license plate, with only the transferred title, to prove any validity, with regard to my presence behind the wheel. It mattered none, as in less than thirty minutes, I had accomplished what thousands of people do each year.

It was more quotidian than I thought, this putting a car legally on the road. That says more about my state of mind, than about how the world is working.

The Shift

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October 17, 2021- Jupiter moves direct, with relation to Earth, tomorrow, followed by Mercury. This means something to astrologers, yet also affects those to whom it means little. Everything in the Universe is connected, which goes double for everything in our solar system. Planetary energies can, and do, make us go back over old ground-both social and emotional, until we clear the baggage away and handle our old challenges well.

I feel a shift, more of a balance between duty to self and duty to others.

The loud klaxon that calls me to give all I have to those who will not do for themselves is growing fainter, and just maybe, that means they are beginning to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

They may not find it easy. I did not, when the temptation arose, to place the blame for my failures, anywhere but here.

It never brought satisfaction, only tears and discomfort. With suffering, though, comes strength.

I am grateful for the shift. It is the gift that invariably arrives when autumn summons fruition, followed by reward and rest-before a renewed season of greater effort and achievement.

May success come to those who are awakened! (“Woke” is a euphemism, not a real state of being.)

Remembrance Includes The Pain

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October 15, 2021- In the fall of 2020, there were protests against keeping the statue of Juan de Onate, one of the Conquistadores who re-established Spanish hegemony in what is now the American Southwest, after the Indigenous Peoples’ Revolt of 1680. The statue still stands at the southwest entrance to Old Town Albuquerque. As painful as much of Spanish rule was, for both the Puebloan and nomadic tribes that were subjugated, that collective pain and the response to it-including the retributive pain meted out by the rebels upon the Spanish settlers are cautionary tales-two among many from which mankind is learning, ever so slowly. The horrors endured cannot be wiped from memory.

All across Europe, there are reminders of the grim events that forged that continent’s present state, from the Museum of Torture, in Bruges, Belgium to the preserved concentration camps of World War II. In Africa, the dreadful remnants of Slave Castles and places like Ile Goree, remind residents and visitors alike of the widespread culpability for this most heinous sustained and codified injustice. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bear witness to the ultimate fate that awaits the worst of ultranationalists, along with the millions of innocent victims that their excesses cause to be brought down with them.

Here in North America, it is surely tempting to “correct” history, by eradicating statuary that reflect the erroneous notion of one racial subgroup, or ethnicity, being superior to others. Indeed, statues of Confederate leaders and slave holders scarcely have any place, standing in communities that abolished slavery, to the extent it ever was practiced in them, well before the onset of the American Civil War. Ditto for the Stars and Bars.

I have visited places associated with controversial, even unsavory, historical figures and events, from the Confederate Cemetery of southern Maryland to the site of the Silver Creek Massacre, in eastern Colorado-and will continue to do so, for the purposes of my own understanding. I do so, knowing that I will never subscribe to either heinous mistreatment of other human beings, or to the systems that spring from it.

Careful, measured and accurate presentation of unpleasant to horrific episodes of our history, and of the blinkered systems they produced, is however part of learning. De Onate’s role in the suppression of both indigenous peoples of New Mexico, and of the lower class settlers (including Afro-Spaniards, many of whom were enslaved) needs to be kept in mind. Seeing his likeness on horseback, upon first entering Old Town, is a suitable prompt in that regard. It also brings forth further contemplation, as to the role of the clergy, including the founders of the nearby Church of San Felipe de Neri, in the oppression of those viewed as of a lesser humanity. Again, gratuitous statuary in places not associated with a given figure of history- as in a statue of Christopher Columbus in, say, Portland, Oregon or of Robert E. Lee, in downtown St. Louis, serves no purpose other than to gratify that figure’s local admirers. In such a case, those admirers should be free to keep their memorabilia on their own private turf. For the rest of us, history presented in its true context will suffice.

Those are my thoughts, after visiting Old Town Albuquerque, before heading back to Home Base.

Stay on Game

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October 10. 2021, Gallup- Today is Double Tenth, the popular name for the National Day of Taiwan. The country is on watch, as it has been since 1949. Taiwan is staying vigilant, on game.

On a smaller scale, I, too, have to remain vigilant, on game-for a different reason. Life is getting more frenetic, I’ve noticed. More people are casting discernment to the wind, with me being one of them, for a split second too long, on September 23. The lesson was to not take eyes off my surroundings-in any situation.

After a morning that became whirlwind-a breakfast at Post 6, delayed a bit by human error (not mine), I hosted an online meeting-starting on time, but with seconds to spare. It all worked out, very nicely. A phone call to my mother, before all that, soothed any concerns I had about her well-being. She was more concerned that I was recovering from 9/23. I am, and just about completely.

Packing was fairly light, though I am ready for the vagaries of October-winter gear is mixed with near summer wear. I set out a bit after noon, noticing that there was a huge volume of traffic headed from Payson to the Phoenix area, for some reason going west to the Verde Valley, then south on I-17. I was headed in the opposite direction, but found it took seven minutes to be cleared for turning left so as to head north to Winslow.

There was no further delay in moving towards Gallup. I did stop for coffee, in the small Navajo Nation border town of Chambers, AZ. The restaurant attached to Days Inn was closed, but the convenience store had coffee. A well-meaning lady brought a stray dog into the store, pleading with the attendant to find a place for the scared puppy. Apparently, the finder was from Phoenix and had no way to care for the dog, which she said had been wandering around near the large semi-trailer trucks parked nearby. It being Sunday, and Chambers being a good hour from the animal shelter in Ganado, there wasn’t much the attendant could do, save put the dog outside and tend to her at shift’s end. Me? I am driving a rental car, have no pet carrier and would not be able to keep the animal at Home Base. I left a small group of people there to sort it out as best they could.

Once here, in western New Mexico’s regional commercial hub, I found no fewer than four motels closed for renovation. All can definitely use a world-class makeover, including the Lariat, where I stayed the last time I was here. El Capitan Motel is open for business and is definitely of recent renovation. The place is at least as good as a Motel 6, if not better. Who says Mom & Pop have nothing on the chains?

I am modifying my itinerary a bit, foregoing a drive into Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as the skinny on the roads into the park says there are very rough sections of the dirt roads, just before the park entrances, on either side. I am driving someone else’s vehicle and discernment precludes taking it on a rough route. I can drive a paved road, along the periphery of Chaco, which will suffice for now. Monday will thus be a day of familiarizing myself with the edges of the Bisti Badlands and the areas around the towns of Farmington, Bloomfield and Cuba.

My vigilance, in several instances of craziness, mostly pertaining to traffic, was much sharper today. I find that most reassuring.

Tides and Sands

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October 9, 2021– Long ago, when I was young and feckless, I briefly dated a young woman, two years my junior. It ended due to complications, involving her on-again, off-again ties to another man. We both moved on, and I lost contact with her. D was a free spirit, though, and was fresh air in my rather moribund life, at the time. I learned, a few days ago, that she passed on September 10, leaving her second husband and her child from her first marriage, plus one grandchild.

D’s passing closes the door on a chapter in my life, my twenties, when there was a lot more man-child left in me than was prudent. I began that decade extricating myself from the tar pit that our relationship had become and ended the decade easing into the personal growth marathon that was my marriage.

I thought a lot about D, this morning, in the course of sizing up some of my friendships around Prescott that have assumed a staleness. Thus, as their tide ebbs and their dunes shift, I will give a few friends the distance they seem to want. Others, especially those in my faith community, have shown themselves to not be retreating to a coolness or to offering perfunctory greetings, in place of their former warmth.

I know there are often a thousand reasons why ties get broken and iciness replaces warmth. Other than making a better effort at curbing any of my own negativity towards some third parties, I don’t see that their change in attitude has anything directly to do with me. Besides, when some doors close, others open-and people like my hiking buddy still find my presence useful and welcome.

Tides and sands are made to shift and bring change.

None Are Better Than….

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October 8, 2021- This afternoon, as a foreshortened school day was in its final half hour, I greeted two classrooms of 10-11 year-olds, several of whom were full of piss and vinegar, and all too eager to push the limits with one whom they saw as a dotty old man.

I set them straight, in short order, by giving a young man, who was posing as ringleader, some gratuitous time out of the room. He came back about three minutes later, and proceeded to follow the directions for the activity.

My parents told us that no one is inherently better than anyone else. I was never favoured over any of my siblings, and vice versa. My youngest brother was cut more slack, because he had more special needs than the rest of us. He was though, generally speaking, held to the same core expectations. The same ethic was dominant in our neighbourhood, in the schools and, as I experienced it, in my Army basic training and Advanced Individual Training units.

My experiences with artificial pecking orders came with active duty at Fort Myer, and more so, in deployment to Long Binh and Cholon, VietNam. I was dubbed one of the lower caste members, owing to my autism-and found myself feeling more empathy with the Black, Latino and Pacific Islander members of our units. The mantra in my head remained the same-“None are better than the rest.” I had a select job, handling accountable mail, and I did it to the best of my ability. That didn’t make me above it all, and when the bulk mail truck pulled up, in Long Binh, the lock went on the AM cage and my hands were emptying that truck, along with everyone else’s.

In the years since I was honorably discharged, every situation has also had its pecking order. Sometimes, the elitism was codified: Students answered to professors and professors, to Deans; Teachers answered to Principals and principals, to superintendents and Governing Boards; Volunteers answered to paid staff and paid staff, to administrators.

In other situations, the waters were muddier. It was then that the human animal’s penchant for an alpha to lead rose to the fore. Ad hoc authority figures have inserted themselves into my life, or tried to, at several junctures. American expatriates in Korea, retired military (whites and blacks) on the Navajo Nation, and authoritarian personalities, without portfolio, in several of the schools in which I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, have presented themselves as plenipotentiaries. In each case, my response has been: “I am not at your beck and call.”

So, in advising, admonishing or instructing the rising generations, my mantra is that of Mom and Dad: Regard yourselves as good as the rest, neither above nor beneath.

Redundancies

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October 7, 2021-

We tend to love our redundant language, perhaps for fear that someone, somewhere, will feel left out, confused or disrespected. A man is, by definition, an adult male human being. Why, then, should he be identified as a non-pregnant person? A woman is, by definition, an adult female human being. Why, then, should she then be identified as a pregnant person? A person whose gender is re-assigned, and who is of legal adult age, takes on all the trials and adjustments that come with that transition. Why, then, should s(he) be still identified as born male or born female? On a more benign note, the passage of a year, since an event, is the first anniversary of that event. Anniversary is the passage of one year. Why, then, do we speak of “year anniversary”? Tuna fish, childlike child, erudite genius, clear logic: In the words of a then-five-year-old, spoken in 2011: “We understood the first time!” Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt , that we can get the meaning, without unnecessary repetition.

The Beautiful Universe

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October 6, 2021- In the spiritist classic, “The Initiate In The New World”, Cyril Scott’s Master gets the novice’s attention, by putting the acolyte’s being smitten by a comely woman, who is twenty years his junior, in perspective. The learned one cautions him to remember that there are billions of beautiful scenes, throughout the Universe, millions of cases of such salubriousness on Earth alone and even in the human realm, over a billion humans (this was 1927) who reflect one sort of beauty or another. He encourages the Initiate to nurture his friendship with the younger woman, but in the context of a deep and variegated relationship.

This, of course, is emblematic of the best of marriages, of the most enduring friendships. Yet, how easily one can turn aside from even a long-term, promising, even mutually satisfying bond, over the most trifling of disappointments or disagreements. I’ve had strong bonds fade into nothingness or turn into estrangement, because one or both of us was unwilling to see the ties from a wider perspective.

For quite some time, though, I have taken to viewing a far-deeper universe-still being appreciative of comeliness, certainly, but hardly placing physicality front and center. The closest of my friends are those whose spiritual or ethereal beauty radiates in their daily lives and in all their dealings with those around them.

Thus was the little girl showing me a heart rock, she had found on the school playground, the highlight of my rather productive day. Heart rocks show that one is paying attention to one’s surroundings and is wise to a connection with nature. So, too, is paying attention to brilliant risings and settings of the sun, to rainbows, sunbows and moonbows. Thunder and lightning can be experienced as majestic.

Thus is a smile the most comforting of all expressions, and the hug the most reassuring of all interactions between two people. The pet’s unconditional affection can soothe, after the longest, hardest of days. The baby’s coo is the payback, for all that a mother has endured over the period of gestation.

Thus does beauty transcend all the transactional thought, cynicism, unilateral dependency and outright greed that drain the spirit, crush the soul and attempt to negate the essential goodness placed in all of us, by the Creator.