Niners

2

April 18, 2019-

Age nine found me whimsical,

lost ever in my own thoughts,

save when it came to lessons,

in Mrs. Kimball’s class.

Age nineteen found me lackadaisical,

flitting in and out of other people’s lives,

with no thought as to my effect on them.

Age twenty-nine found me desultory,

often lost in the bottle,

floating along Arizona’s highways,

or the backroads of the  wider West,

yet making a stab at conveying math,

to myself and my students.

Age thirty-nine found me devoted,

to my wife and toddler son.

The fragrance of Jeju,

and the progress of my English-teacher candidates,

filled out my world.

Age forty-nine found me wary,

of any and all politicians,

of a wayward shaman,

whose stated goal was

to bring about my ruin.

Age fifty-nine found me crumbling,

about to lose the most important

person in my life,

to the dis-ease that had

stalked her,

for over fifty years.

Age sixty-nine is seven months off,

yet it may well find me

in a state of flux.

Regardless,

I know my life is aimed

towards wholeness,

towards growth,

ever looking past

mere survival.

 

Reignition

5

April 13, 2019-

I cam close to making what would have been a pre-mature, and perhaps reckless, decision.  It basically would have meant leaving my Home Base, earlier than expected.  It became unnecessary.

Although, I have felt a good deal less welcome here, since the events of April 3- and yes, people in this growing town still do talk and pass judgement- there are still a few pockets in Prescott where I can go and feel safe.  I spent an hour or so at such a place, Ms. Natural’s, where the owner is relatively friendly and glad for my business-even if her helpers are a bit on the hostile side.   I also went to Farmers’ Market, where a few of the vendors remain friendly.

The Arizona Department of Education has decided to renew my substitute teaching certificate.  This at least will give me the opportunity to maintain a flexible work schedule, bounce back from the most recent assaults on my reputation and show, yet again, that I am basically a loving and competent educator.  So, the notion to retire early, leave this area and re-establish myself, somewhere else, is not something I need to pursue for the time being.  I will be safe enough, among the Baha’is and a few other friends.  Hopefully, things will even out and I can follow my game plan until December, 2020.

 

Desiderata- Part II

6

April 12, 2019-

In the last post, I looked at the first half of Max Ehrmann’s 1927 prose- poem, which attained wide popularity in the 1960’s, due to a mass, unattributed distribution of the verses, the result of the author’s having not copyrighted the work.

In this post, the second five lines are the focus.

“Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

By Max Ehrmann © 1927
Original text

I have yet to pretend to like someone, much less to love them.  I have had friendships which turned sour, because one or both of us failed to meet pre-conceived expectations.  I have learned, in very ingrained fashion, to approach friendships more carefully. Cynicism about love, though, is out of the question.  It is as perennial as the grass.

As one in late middle age, I do not act like, or pretend to act like, the youth I once projected.  I still have energy and drive, and I also get arthritic aches, if I sit for too long.  I make regular use  of essential oil supplements, hydromassage and therapeutic exercise, as those are the counsels of age.

I have, with help from skilled financial planners, shielded myself from later distress.  Strength of spirit is there, to help keep distress, and any external threats, at bay.

Being gentle with myself, and recognizing my right to life, has come hard.  I went through a long period of self-loathing, which was mitigated, but not extinguished, by my late, beloved wife.  Only standing up to critics and challengers, including the most recent bunch, has given me the sense that gentleness with self is my due.

I know, finally, that all that is happening, for short-term good or ill, will result in what’s best for the Universe and for mankind.  I have, even recently, seen sham and broken dreams.  Those who jive others, or try to fool themselves, will learn the hard truth sooner or later.

Yes, it is still a beautiful world, and I intend to experience more of it.

Desiderata- Part 1

7

April 11, 2019-

Having woken this morning, in need of reassurance, I found myself looking at a copy of Desiderata, which I first present in its full text, before relating its words to my own state of being.

“GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

By Max Ehrmann © 1927
Original text

This past week, there has been little noise and even less haste, yet I recall being often viewed as too slow and benign, when there was commotion.  There is a lot of peace in my silence, especially when that silence pertains to inside my head, as well as in my surroundings.

I have done better, these past few years, at speaking my truth in a quiet manner-and at listening, even to the most insipid nonsense, without interrupting.  It most likely has to do with being more secure in myself.

There will always be greater and lesser persons than me, and I’ve felt this for a long time. Loud and aggressive people have never like me much, nor have I liked them.  This has always seemed to end up as my undoing, as such people are frequently favoured, at least outwardly, by many in our society.

I’ve enjoyed those achievements of mine that were genuine, and I have had more of them than my critics care to admit.  If I had it to do over, I’d have stayed a counselor, and not given in to the false ambition that brought me down.

I’ve learned to be careful in business, and with my generosity-as yes, the world is full of trickery.  This learning has been, a few times, accomplished through trial and error.  I’ve seen true heroism and practiced it myself, a few times.  The world is full of virtue.

Thus are the thoughts which come to mind, in reading the first half of Max Ehrmann’s inspired verse.  I will continue, with the second five paragraphs, in the next post.

The Black Hand

4

March 30, 2019-

In the Planet Fitness where I work out, there is a large seat, shaped like a Black Hand, in each of the stations where a hydromassage bed is located.  It strikes me that this is a symbol of challenge, that there are always difficulties to be overcome, whether self-imposed or brought on by others.

I have had to do a lot of re-assessment, after a rough past few days.  What I have determined is that: 1.  I am going to make fitness a higher priority than it’s been, having shown that I can make time for a workout, even on the busiest of days.

2.  I am going to cut way back, if not eliminate, my appetite for pastries and other high sugar-based food items.  Neither having my cake nor eating it, at least for the last two months of work.

3.  Doubling down on avoiding violence, no matter how violently I might be attacked, either by one of my charges or anyone who is deranged.  My reaction, from now on, will  be to distance myself, until assistance is at hand, at least in the work setting.

4.  Being more mindful and present.  Neither Alzheimer’s nor Parkinson’s has knocked on my door, but problems have presented themselves, through a combination of fatigue and autism.  I have done better, today, and need to continue getting enough rest, so that there is no repeat of incidents on Thursday and Friday.  The same old story:  When I am challenged by an authority figure, when I’m in a fatigued state, I come out with a blather of telling the person what I think they want to hear and making myself look guilty of something that, in actuality, never happened.

5.  Tax returns are done and I have worked out a more efficient system of time management, so despite some of the above, things are on an upswing.

In The Blood

4

February 14, 2019-

It’s been a rough few days- with a dear friend falling and suffering some serious injuries, another friend diagnosed with cancer and still others with chronic illnesses, not getting any better. The weather here has been rambunctious- soaking rain, a good thing in the long run, has fallen steadily for the past thirteen hours.  More is on the way, followed by snow in the latter part of this weekend.

I have had much time to reflect on the nature of love, on this day of cards and chocolate.  I have to look at myself, as always. I don’t hold grudges; if a person who savaged me later comes to me in need, I find a way to help meet that need.  I have made terrible errors in judgement- and find it critical to make amends to the person, where possible.  I don’t always feel loved, and have to then look at what I am projecting outward.

Love shows itself in a myriad ways-the bottom line being that the beloved feels the goodness of heart.  Words alone are not one of those ways.  Neither is merely providing a place of residence: Slavemasters, after all, provided a home of sorts, for those who were frequently brutalized.  Constantly abusing another, and getting by with apologies, is NOT love.

Love is in the blood.  My parents’ love for us came naturally and never receded.  The same is true of my love for my late wife, and for our child.  Suffice it to say, any children coming from his own marriage will find three truly loving grandparents standing behind their mother and father.

Love is in the blood.  Any way I can help a suffering friend, I will.  Grand gestures, though, have to be kept to a minimum.  Those are the first things, upon which a hater or critic will seize, as evidence of one’s fecklessness.   I’ve had that thrown in my face, more than once, and sometimes rightfully.

Love is in the blood, and thus can’t be erased easily, if at all.

A Desert Sort of Sway

4

February 9, 2019, Chandler, AZ-

After my satisfying Saturday morning routine, I headed down here, to this bustling eastern suburb of Phoenix, to take in several hours of  Arizona Roots, a music and art festival that smashes the monotony of winter in the desert.  I was clued to this event by one of my friends from last Fall’s Convergence at Arcosanti.

I didn’t find her there, but I did find the sort of atmosphere that I experienced at Convergence, albeit a loving atmosphere, writ large.  Instead of dozens of gentle souls crammed into a room, there were several hundred crammed into the area in front of the Main Stage.

There were artisan ensembles, like The Clint Stevens Band, just getting together and having some laid-back fun.  Then, there was the mix of serious message and hakuna matata, from J-Boog and Rebelution, who did the Main Stage proud, while I was in its midst.

Although everyone there was a “total stranger” to me, it was easy to revert to Convergence dance form, and alternately bounce up and down, sway back and forth, and flash the Hawaiian thumb and pinky greeting at Jarell, whilst he was leading J-Boog, in a feisty 55-minute set of heartfelt reggae.

 

Here is one of their signature songs, about a lovely Hawaiian lady who makes J’s heart sing.

I felt none of the awkward “Really, old dude” self-talk that made me feel, initially, like a duck out of water, at Convergence. It helped to remember what a great time I had there, after letting that pointless crap go.  So, I enjoyed 3 1/2 hours of “anonymous camaraderie”,  that evokes what I probably missed at the great music festivals of the ’60’s and ’70’s.  I had a lovely time, without any recreationally-enhancing substances.  To be sure, these were flowing, and wafting, quite freely. I’m goofy enough on my own, and remember what a horror show I was, as a drunk and as a stoner, before 1981, and sobriety.  Here is the scene, as J-Boog worked their magic.

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As I was entering the grounds, Rebelution was in mid-set.  The mid-afternoon crowd wasn’t quite revved up, as yet.20190209_161757[1]

Next time, I know to check for Early-Bird ticket prices, in mid-November.  A scalper, in the parking lot, offered me a “two-days for one” deal, which showed desperation.  I did not have any intention of sharing my PI with him, or anyone else on the street, and I have other commitments for tomorrow, so I passed.  I hope to make it for both days, a year from now, as these sorts of gatherings are good for my soul-and this is, for good measure, the largest such event I have attended, without being spooked.  I’d say that’s a very good sign.

 

Nurturing the Basics

6

February 6, 2019-

The title pretty much sums up what I do, from day to day, on my job.  It also sums up what I have experienced, in so many areas of life, especially since 2011.  Things that are second nature, or are taken for granted, by many others, have been huge for me-as they have happened for seemingly the first time.  I will treasure my journeys, completed hiking routes, accomplished volunteer projects, and each event at which I have been warmly greeted.

Of course, there have been moments when I’ve stumbled, in Paris, in Gera and in Corpus Christi,  I learned from those relatively minor errors in judgement.  There have been times when I’ve faced hostility, and I’ve learned from those times, as well.  There have been times when I’ve looked in the face of indifference, and have realized that this is to be expected- across the range of human interactions.  Friendships often ebb and flow.

My greatest satisfaction, though, is in seeing people I love rise above their own apprehensions and overcome their setbacks.  Nurturing one’s basic skills is ever a source of comfort and strength, on which to fall back.  I will continue to work on mine, and realize things about myself that have not even occurred to me. I hope the same for my many friends and loved ones.

Those Shadows Seen and Not Seen

4

February 2, 2019, Phoenix-

So the critters back East, in Punxsutawney and Staten Island, have assured us that it’ll be an early Spring.  No shadows were in view, and after that region went through yet another polar vortex, followed by a modicum of thaw, the comfort is probably just a tad cold.

Sitting here, in a lull, during a timely and productive update session regarding the progress of our Faith in central Arizona, I think of the other unseen shadows, with which many of us deal, on a daily, or long-term, basis.

I took care of the biggest shadow, that of my nest-egg, sometime back, and the proceeds from the sale of a house, back in 2014, are in trust, for when I need them, beginning a few years hence.

The shadow of aging has its match, in daily use of essential oils, CBD and hemp products and, at least for  a month or so, Thrive products- a gift from a grateful friend. Those and regular exercise keep me healthy and moving.

Any potential family shadows are best handled with proactivity:  Research, setting time aside and regular, clear communication.  This is true for all points along the family continuum.

The shadow of intellectual cramping is best countered by free dialogue.  Closing one’s mind to opposing points of view does not make one smarter.  I don’t see how not exposing young minds to either liberal or conservative opinions is going to improve their problem-solving ability.  As a youth, I read “Mein Kampf” and “The Communist Manifesto”, being captivated by neither, but at least understanding how the authors arrived at such illogic.  Closing off college campuses to Ben Shapiro, or Markos Moulitsas, will never save even the most infantilized freshman from following the primrose path of choice.

There are greater shadows-some real and some figments of vivid imaginations:  The Social Security/Medicare fizzle, or lack thereof, in the 2030’s;  the coinciding “end-of-the-world”, right about that same time; the potential change of our nation’s form of government (some have spoken of this, since Orwell published “1984”); the generations dropping the ball of civilized behaviour ( I seem to remember how “slovenly” and “unkempt” the Depression Parents and the  GI Generation regarded us Baby Boomers).

Shadows are dispelled by light.  The lights of  faith, understanding, clear communication, discourse and above, all, consistent, firm action, will work wonders at clearing the darkness which seems to pervade so many lives, at so many levels.

Happy Groundhog Day!

Fire Sign-Part II

6

January 21, 2019-

My act of service, on this national act of service day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, was to join a determined little family, on a Red Cross project.  Sound The Alarm is a nationwide project to ensure that all homes in the United States have  access to working smoke detectors, installed free of charge, by Red Cross volunteers or team members from partner agencies, such as a local Fire Department.  I have been working with this family, for well over a year, to get this program off the ground in western Yavapai County.

Today, after manning a table for a few hours, outside a closed Boys and Girls Club, in Prescott Valley, we had generated a list of ten clients.  One of them asked that his alarms be installed today, so after the tabling activity was finished, we went to his home and installed two alarms.  This activity was a significant jump start, to a rather lengthy process.

I was born under the fire sign.  Corrective action, the fulfillment of promises and facing even severe challenges, without backing down, have been constant, in my adult life.  When I was challenged, last Fall, as to whether that was still the case, I had to recommit to it, though on my own terms, not those that were being dictated to me.

The fire is still here, and I will stand up and work through whatever challenges come, in the remaining future.