Turnarounds and Conundrums

5

January 22, 2020, Peach Springs-

A talk with my son, last night, underscored the perception, even sometimes in my own mind,  that my shelf life is getting limited.  When the changes in the social wind blow ill, as they did yesterday, I look towards a place of refuge.  Sometimes, it’s just as well that there is no refuge available, immediately.  Sometimes, the only way out is through.

Things went far better today, with my class. I took the step of streamlining the rules, which had been overly drawn up by one of the previous teachers.  I took the step of not tolerating foul language or harassment. I took the step of countering the inchoate misogyny that some of the boys have shown, already, in their very young lives.

We got quite a bit accomplished.  It is not a traditional classroom.  Many students don’t get to school until two hours after the opening bell.  I am not here to judge them, or their families, for that.  Everyone, eventually, makes it to school. Everyone does some work, and learns something.  That is part of the reality in a rural community, where many live far afield, and no buses serve the area.

I am still not sure what will happen with me, after tomorrow.  There is more of a bond with the people here-and there is a bond, and a need, with people back in Yavapai County.  It will end up being one of those measured, eleventh-hour decisions, and I have a sense that the right thing will happen, by all concerned.

When Sex Kills

4

January 21, 2020, Peach Springs-

There is no mincing words about this: In the name of freedom of speech, three generations of adults are poisoning the well of our children’s spirits-particularly in impoverished communities.  Nowhere is this more apparent, than in communities with a narrow economic base.

The phenomenon of children as young as seven, trading sexual epithets, the coarsest of profanity and actually mentioning pornographic websites, by name, is, to put it mildly, jarring to the spirit.  That they actually understand  what they are saying is even more disquieting.

This is a train of abuses, long in the running, and it is by no means limited to Native American communities.  Sexual deviance was graphically described to me by a very young neighbour, in 2002, in a Phoenix apartment complex. As far back as June, 1980, when I lived in a Flagstaff apartment complex, a band that had been hired to play at a birthday party, in a place where children were out and about, loudly screamed profanity in the course of their “presentation”.  It was viewed, by many of  those present, as “harmless”; “only words”.

I am no prude,  though I have long ago exiled the vernacular word for fornication to its proper place in the graveyard of misbegotten phrases.  I note that even the late, great George Carlin, a champion of adults’ free speech, when among other adults, drew the line at cursing in the presence of children.

Language, though, is not the most harmful aspect of the ongoing tailspin.  Sex education, still properly the purview of  parents, is increasingly becoming the province of the skeevy.  Applications like TikTok are being used by those who wish to prey upon young children.  Other social media sites, not well-monitored by responsible adults, are offering curious and precociously feisty youngsters a diet of unseemly fare that is well beyond their level of true understanding.  As one boy told me today, “it’s more exciting than what’s around here. ”  This is what we face, as communities and as a wider society.

So, the concerns that we educational professionals once had, with regard to teenagers, are now  applicable to kids in primary school.  This is one of America’s wake-up calls.

Self-Belief

7

January 19, 2020-

I set out for a trailhead,

this noon,

and didn’t find it.

I will, though,

having come back here,

and used my ruler,

to apply the scale of miles.

I was asked to return

to the school where I worked

last week.

I will be back there,

to offer at least some

continuity.

Belief in myself

has come late,

and come hard.

There are still critics,

but they barely know me.

They only know

their own frustration,

and own pain.

There are boosters,

who do know me,

and for whose

presence

I am supremely

grateful.

I think of this,

after a day

of floundering,

and of considering

the words of friend,

foe, and in-between,

alike.

I am not floundering,

now,

and look to tomorrow,

and the week ahead,

as acts of service await.

Fleeting Power

6

January 14, 2020, Peach Springs-

The Colorado River flows, past a point about ten miles from where I sit.  If I were to follow Diamond Springs Road to its terminus, I would be able to stand and witness the power of this still mighty flow.  The Colorado’s power helped to carve out the massive series of gorges that envelop it.  The Grand Canyon itself has an intense set of powers, all its own.

So, it is ironic, to the nth degree, that the people living in its midst have come to feel powerless, for much of their existence within the framework of the most powerful country of the past 1 1/4 centuries.  The Hualapai and their near neighbours, the Havasupai, know the Canyon more intimately than anyone, with the possible exception of the Dineh (Navajo).  Until about ten years ago, though, the Hualapai enjoyed very little of the economic benefits of the Grand Canyon’s drawing power.  The tribe has established a set of West Rim attractions-a Sky Walk, Eagle Point, and a rafting enterprise, as the Colorado can be accessed from a point on the Reservation.  There is also the comfortable Hualapai Lodge and a fairly well-stocked, if somewhat pricey Walapai Market.

I can tell people who feel powerless, from their language- an inordinate reliance on profanity and pejoratives as their means of projecting force.  The louder and more frequently a person curses; the more often someone is dismissive of people who are different from self, the more there is compensation for one’s own perceived irrelevance.

I’ve seen that, in many places-and I see it with several of the children with whom I’m working here.   That, alone, makes the 1 1/2 months I am likely to spend here, extremely urgent.  Not only building them up, but helping to establish a framework for long-term success, have to be primary goals.

Power derived from deception and intimidation is fleeting.  The Hualapai can no longer afford to rely on this means to power.

Authenticity

6

January 5, 2020-

In all the debate about sin, evil and the unfortunate events of life, there is a place for consideration of being real versus living in what one knows, deep down, to be a fallacy; of being authentic versus being inauthentic.

Jordan Peterson, in Twelve Rules for Life, points to the allegories of Lucifer, and of the Egyptian demon-figure, Set, as illustrations of the dangers posed by over-rationalization.  It is, in effect, the opposite of taking ownership of one’s life, responsibility for one’s actions.  Satan always comes up with an excuse for what he’s done-and it’s always someone else’s fault-even God’s fault.  This allegorical depiction of wickedness lays it out straight,though.  Only integrity, ownership of one’s behaviours-and of their outcomes, will serve to bring about a life well-lived.

I had to learn that the hard way.  Losing a spouse brings a person to account, faster than just about anything, even if-as in my case- it isn’t directly one’s fault.  I could not, however, blame anyone for Penny’s passing.  Hereditary disease would have struck her down, at some point, regardless, and all I can do is learn from the experiences of care-taking and of widowhood.  I have taken the lesson that a life of integrity may only be lived if the person living it  maintains authenticity.

Deceit erodes that integrity, first within one’s own heart, then gradually outwardly through one’s circle of friends, one’s family, one’s tribe.  A life without trust is a life of emptiness.

I am fortunate, to have reached a point where authenticity is something of which I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed.

 

Breaking The Ice

4

January 2, 2020-

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In the course of introducing Yunhee to three of Prescott’s lakes, on the last day before her husband, my son, returns to civilian life, we came upon the phenomenon of thin ice, covering the less exposed parts of Granite Basin and Watson Lakes.  In the latter location, few of the area’s signature birds were around, having made the wise choice to visit southern Mexico for a few months.  Instead, the eyes were drawn to an ice dam, which served to slow the flow of water into the Watson Woods Riparian Area, also known as “The Swamp”.

It got me to thinking about the emotional and psychological ice dams, which slow and sometimes stop our interactions.  I have learned that these are purely defense mechanisms- chill vibes, acting like one is busy, and sheer emotional absence.  When one is offended by something, trying to figure out life or is just plain overwhelmed, offering an icy reception to those around self is a sometimes rationalized pattern of behaviour. How well it serves the purpose has to be balanced with what happens next,  or down the road.  Consider that an overabundance of ice can move, glacier-like, towards the shores of a nearby community.  Likewise, so can a glacial pattern of behaviour serve to overwhelm one’s social circle and create a different sort of isolation than that which a person is trying to arrange.

I am fortunate in my Tribe, both  birth family and wider circle.  A few go through bouts of isolation, and they let me know when I’m welcome again.  Most, like anyone else, are following their life plans.  I am doing the same, and have spent the past few days ruminating, and getting messages, as to how this year will best play out.  More on that, in the next post, but essentially I see that those closest to me here, who are like younger siblings, do not need to have me hovering close by-and that they seem to prefer my following my own life plan.  To alter that, on their behalf, short of an emergency, would mean they would, in turn, be altering their life plan for my benefit.

There is more than one kind of ice dam.

The Golden Path

7

January 1, 2020-

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

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

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

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

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

And It Was….

4

December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

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

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

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

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

 It was a time of change.

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

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

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

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

It was a time of growth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010-19: How I’ve Changed

4

December 30, 2019-

It’s said that nothing in the Universe remains static for long. Even inanimate objects experience molecular change.  Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve been likened to a piece of furniture, and the blessed soul who made that comparison is himself long departed from our midst.

The decade now ending has been, in many ways, the most seismic in my life, since the 1980’s. In that decade, the changes were commensurate with full adulthood:  Finding spiritual footing, courting and marriage, solidifying of a career, loss of a parent, and  my own parenthood.

The changes that have come in the 2010s have been more in keeping with true maturity.  I’m not altogether there yet.  Few of us ever are.  The process has been in fits and starts, and suitably so, as everyone’s late middle age is unique.

So:

Losing a spouse– This was a long haul, and arguably something about which Penny warned me, several times throughout our wedlock..  It was the culmination of a lifelong, hereditary disease, that had come for a reckoning.  It made me responsible for the care of a vulnerable adult, at a time when a burgeoning adult needed us both.  There was always a balance to be struck.  The biggest lesson in this, was that never again could I indulge in the slightest amount of self-pity.  Buus Huus, the imaginary Roman patron of the woebegone, had taken his flight.

Altering my sense of community– I left Phoenix, after ten years, being alternately comforted in my sorrow and admonished about abandoning my duty to the community.  I found the latter ironic, as the West, especially in its urban and suburban contexts, has relied, to a great extent on the safety to be found in maintaining anonymity, in entering and exiting one’s residence, through the garage and inside a vehicle.

Prescott became my community, but it was, and is, more Home Base than castle.  I have dear friends here, who are never far from my mind.  Yet, the closest of them, even my best friend, know and accept that I have concern with people far afield.  Part of this is my Sagittarian being, part is boundless love.

Connecting with people– It’s become far easier for my mildly Asperger’s/autistic self to reach out to those not previously known to me, and to engage in meaningful conversation.  That has made both quotidian life and novel experiences more meaningful.  Largely gone is the concern with rejection.

Shedding long-held shackles– Subconscious  and  self-limiting views onto which I held, about women, people of colour and just about anyone different from me, have fallen away.  I’ve long known that overarching prejudice is wrong and have managed my behaviour accordingly.  In 2014, I was reproached regarding the residual bias, the microprejudices which, in retrospect, were continuing to cause difficulties in life.  Things like subtly expecting less of someone, because of gender, ethnicity or physical status constitute a forest that is hard to see for its trees-until someone comes along and blows the wake-up dog whistle.  Now, it is not possible for me to regard anyone solely on anything other than his or her merits.

Finally, self-acceptance– With all of these other changes comes a view of myself as fully worthy of taking my place in society.  There are few people, in Prescott and elsewhere, who choose to show me disrespect, and I know to disengage myself from such people, unless and until they change their attitudes.  Fall, 2018 was a litmus test of that practice, and was the first time, in many years,  that I totally blocked someone from my life.  The roof didn’t cave and life has proceeded just fine.

The changes that accompanied this decade are sure to have import for the years to come.  It’ll be fascinating to live.

Points of Pride

2

December 27, 2019-

I am in the process of looking back, at the year, and at the decade.  Some things, like saying farewells to those who left this life, and listing the Top Ten things that occurred in my small universe, are best left until the last day or so, of any given year.

Today, though, with four days left of the year, and decade, it’s fairly safe to talk about those in whom I feel the most pride.  There are, as it happens, ten such people.

In reverse order:

10.  A friend, Judy, always generous with her support of those who are struggling, emotionally, and with help for those who have a particular short-term need.  She’s not neglectful of herself, either, facing a health challenge that she’s found concerning, with consistent and carefully-planned progress.

9.  Another friend, Jenn, a born decorator and entertainer, who never tires of giving to our community, in both small and large ways. Suffice it to say, she has to do this work, even in the face of personal challenges.

8.  Cati, also a friend, who has realized the value of self-love and taking on life, with the support of strong friends and her true love.  May her strength long continue to grow.

7. Glenn, my brother, who casts a light before him, several miles long, leading us with a road map of facing what is , literally, the darkest of personal challenges:  Blindness.  He was Man of the Year, named by the Carroll Center for the Blind, a few years back.  The Carroll has served him well, but nowhere near as much as he has served himself, constantly moving forward on his own power.

6.  Friend, Monica, also dealing full-on with a severe personal health challenge, yet rarely without a smile and a kind word for friends and family.

5 and 4 .  Lexi and Austin, a young couple who have stepped forward together, and will leave an indelible mark on the world around them.

3. Friend, Melissa, who has faced every challenge in front of her, relying some on her Faith, yet not shrinking from dealing with unexpected challenges.

2 and 1-  My son and daughter-in-law, Aram and Yunhee, leaving behind a life of relative comfort, confident in their abilities, singly and together, to build a new life in a community unfamiliar to either of them.

There are many others, of whom I’m proud.  Some would never want to be publicly mentioned-and I’m sure that is a bit true of those above.  Regardless, to the extent that each of us throws ourselves into both the harshness and the solace afforded by this life, we can take a measure of self-pride.