Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part XLIII: Beyond Measure

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July 9-10, 2017, Portage, IN-

My life has not been seemingly on a higher plane, since being invited to the spiritual forum that flows, quite nicely, with the tenets and expressions of faith that emanate from the Writings of Baha’u’llah.  A lovely service honoured His Herald, al-Bab (The Gate), who was so brutally executed on July 9, 1850- as part of a religious pogrom, that continues, to this day, in Iran.

The Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, north of Chicago, blesses the entire area and brings solace to people of all spiritual traditions and inclinations.  The serenity extends to the surrounding shoreline of Lake Michigan.

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Despite the solemn nature of the service, there is still much joy that the Baha’i friends take, from being together at this beloved Temple.

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I was pleased to have met a new friend and mentor, at this gathering, as well as long-time fellows in Faith.  The energy propelled me, rather easily, through the freeway drive that could be otherwise rather draining.

I reached Indiana, in plenty of time for a Stromboli repast, in the town of Lake Station.  I did not hear back from a friend here in Portage, who has seemed a bit beleaguered, of late.  My plan to camp at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, however, did come to fruition.  There was a hint of a storm, which fortunately, did not strike the area until a bit after dawn, allowing me to break camp and head for the Dunkin Donuts.  My sad looking little tent is actually quite comfortable.

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I like that Mother Nature waited, until I had everything down, folded and in the trunk, before the downpour began.  I felt badly for my neighbour,though.  She was a Hispanic woman, with four kids in tow.  I think the boys were in a tent, and she was in the camper, so it was probably only a temporary inconvenience.

After eating a breakfast sandwich and warming up with coffee, I headed to the Dunes.  The early morning was dark, and could have been gloomy, if I’d let it be.  There is a majesty, in the stark horizon and in the interplay between shore and lake.

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There are all manner of trails, around the Dunelands- and one goes from the Illinois state line to the Michigan line.  I was content, today, just to enjoy the shoreline and life in the sand dunes.

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There are several estuaries, a testimony to the sheer size of the lakes.

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Here is a look at Portage’s harbour house and marina.

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Vegetation and flowers are always very thick, among the dunes.

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The allure of reflection is ever present.

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Michigan is not quite visible, through the haze, but it’s there, way beyond the steel mill.

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There is a fine interplay, at long last, between conservation and metallurgy, in this often buffeted area.

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The “closeness” of Chicago?  At least, the haze is not strong, to the north and west.

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The steel barons, long ago, had a lighthouse placed at the north end of the mill site. It is almost a stone’s throw, from the public walkway, west of the mill.

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Here is the beach area, of the Portage shoreline.  A few hardy souls were here, in search of at least a morning’s catch.

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Finally, this wetland area has been reclaimed, fully, from having been a Superfund waste site.  Indiana’s Congressional representatives and the steel industry managed to get this one right, and wildlife thrives, in the restored hills.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJuly 10 was a most momentous day, with two great visits, each of which will be the subject of a post.  Part XLIV (44) will feature the University of Notre Dame and Part XLV (45) looks at Elkhart, and a most unusual family farm.

 

 

 

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part XLV: The Enduring and The Fleeting

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July 6, 2017, Santa Rosa, NM-

My day began, fresh and rested, with a stop at Wilson Arch, on the south end of a tourist attraction called “Hole In The Rock”, a collection of trinket shops and oddities.  It was easy to avoid, being closed.  The Arch, though, called out for some meditation time, so I walked to a sandstone bench, where I was able to sit undisturbed, while watching a group of other visitors, clambering up to the Arch, 300 yards away.

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It was getting to be breakfast time, so I headed to the Monticello branch of Moab’s famed Peace Tree Cafe.  The small eatery features a wealth of inventive breakfast items, such as Coconut French Toast, which sustained me for nearly the whole day.

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Continuing to Bluff, a small settlement, off the hipster trail that encircles Moab, I found a functioning laundromat, which was sorely needed, and Bluff Fort- a restored Mormon settlement, and testimony to the hard work and suffering that pioneers experienced, in the late Nineteenth Century.  This story did not, thankfully, involve conflict with Native peoples.  It was all about the harsh terrain that the Mormons found, in the course of settling southeastern Utah.

Here are some scenes of the Co-op store, water wheel and  a few of the sixteen cabins that greet the visitor. The first stop, in a self-guided tour, is the Old Schoolhouse.  Note the beamed roof.

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The brick and mortar building, below, is the Co-op, a restoration of the original, which was burned to the ground by an outlaw, in 1909, after a botched robbery attempt.

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Then, it was on to the water wheel and cabins, which highlight the differences in status among the settlers.

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Despite the seeming differences, it is remarkable that the group braves the harshness of the Kaiparowits Plateau, with its nearly-impenetrable maze of sandstone formations.

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Once laundry was finished, I drove straight on down to Native American Baha’i Institute, where I left a set of crafts supplies, and headed eastward, in short order.  This was punctuated by my scrunching a desperate, nearly heat-prostrated couple into my front seat, and taking them to their utility’s office.  After the errands,  a dinner of  chicken and salad, at Gallup’s Sizzler, and a long haul, across New Mexico, brought me to the lovely Route 66 Inn, in this high desert town.  The motel is run by a wonderful family- grandparents, Mom & Dad and three happy children.

It is amazing, that the pioneers accomplished so much, by working together, in enduring camaraderie, while others seem to be just spinning their wheels, by indulging in caprice and in fleeting acquaintances.

NEXT UP:  Texas to Illinois

Tremors

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July 9, 2017, Wilmette-

To reiterate, as I am drastically revamping the earlier version of this post:  I will recap the past several, enjoyable days, July 5-8, in my next several posts.

For now:

I was somewhat relieved, and gratified, to actually meet a person who had been rather skittish, with regard to such a handshake.  Turns out, she does seem overbooked.  It is either sink or swim, for most of us, so she is swimming, furiously.

I am still frightened by people who pretend to be friends, and exhort the rest of us, with intense, challenging inspirational rhetoric.  Someone posted online, about Mother Teresa.  I remember her as a rather somber, sad woman, not so comfortable with the adulation of an unskeptical public.  I mention this, because we do tend to move in on people who look shiny, on the surface.  Europeans look at Americans, and are stunned by the glad-handing and false promises that occupy many of us, who are out to get a leg up.  So, motivational speakers and preachers get caught with their pants down, some of them literally so.  That’s the thing that frightens me most:  Not traffic, not thugs, but the duplicitous.

I feel much better, this afternoon, having had an extended conversation with my online friend- far from duplicitous, and the epitome of real.  It could not have ended, any other way.  I look forward to continually learning from her, and other correspondents.  This is about purification, and strengthening- a process that lasts a lifetime.

Some tremors are necessary in life.

 

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part XLIII: Ever in Wonder

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July 3, 2017, Carson City-

Along the path to Grama’s, I walked.

That path crossed a road,

and for crossing alone,

I felt a sting on my backside.

There are limits to what a three-year-old

can do, alone.

Along the path to the shopping center, I walked.

That path crossed several roads,

and for being alone,

I was briefly accosted,

by a couple of ruffians,

and almost struck by a wayward car,

that had jumped the curb.

There are challenges,

for a nine-year-old,

when walking, alone.

I sat in the airplane,

gazing out at the clouds,

and their patterns.

I was seeing for the first time, at their level.

The path through the skies,

held promise

and peril.

Many are the possibilities,

for an eighteen-year-old,

striking out, on his own.

Turning around,

in that crowded,

light-filled, noisy room,

I returned the gaze of one,

who had seen something in me,

that others overlooked.

My path was no longer

for me to walk in single file.

Life brings affirmations,

to a thirty-year-old,

who need not be alone.

Holding the little being

to the light,

I spoke words of welcome.

My line now continued,

for at least one more generation.

The Universe sang songs

of certitude,

to a new father,

listening, alone.

Father and son walked

from the car,

towards the hospice door,

and witnessed the wispy spiral

carrying dust and leaves skyward.

I touched her still-warm body,

and kissed her face,

with her eyes still open,

in seeming astonishment.

The path is ever-shaky,

for a sixty-year-old,

once again, alone.

Time and again, since then,

I have followed things through,

to completion,

having been roundly chastised,

by a well-meaning watchman,

for all those things,

I did not finish,

in times gone by.

The paths have been many,

and the rewards even greater:

Filbert Steps, Portlandia,

Space Needle, Stanley Park,

Wrangell, Mendenhall,

Mount Verstovia, Beuk-ai Temple,

Tuileries, Jeanne d’Arc’s Tower,

Mont St. Michel, Carnac,

Daily Gourmand, Old Bruges,

World Cup rally at the Bourse,

McAuliffe Square,

Luxembourg’s National Day,

the Dom of Frankfurt,

the Temple at Langenhain,

Waikiki, Iolani Palace.

The paths have seen me through,

to their ends:

Prescott Circle,

Black Canyon,

Granite Mountain,

and the Memorial to

its 19 Hotshots,

Bright Angel,

Spirit Tower.

The trails continue,

and the wonder,

at the limitless,

open to a sixty-six-year-old,

who  feels far from alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.C.

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June 25, 2017, Bellemont, AZ-

We’ve undergone a wealth of name-changes, relative to how people see various groups, into which we classify ourselves, and others, since the early 1960’s.  It’s almost become so that many are almost paralyzed, when it come sot referencing people who “fall into categories of ‘the other’.”

I’ve spent the past 48 hours at a Baha’i camp, 1 1/2 miles west of this small village, itself 12 miles west of Flagstaff.  Several new friends, of different ages, were made, as is always the case.  One beautiful family of seven is “racially-blended”, if we are to believe the doctrine of political correctness.  The father of this family was one of the presenters at our Summer School.  He addressed racial identity and political correctness.  He is not a fan of P.C., insofar as it allows us to dance around the subject of racial relations.

When I was growing up, my parents told us never to use racial,  ethnic, or sexual epithets.  I was taught to address people by the name which they used to introduce themselves.  It was fine to call a person of colour a Negro, until people of colour themselves preferred Black, then African-American.  Using the pejorative form of Negro would have earned me an oral cleansing, and not with candy-flavoured mouth wash.

We Baha’is believe, as one of the central tenets of our Faith, that there is, as Baha’u’llah wrote. “but one race, the human race.”  Having said that, it is NOT WRONG, to stand firm against discrimination of any kind.  This runs the gamut- from denying people their basic human rights, based on pigmentation, height, gender, change of gender, economic status, or personal creed/religion.  It is also imperative to acknowledge someone’s basic goodness, in any area of endeavour or character feature.

“One race, the human race”, does not exclude people of colour, people of intense faith, people who hail from  desert wastes or from an urban wasteland, who eat mainly fast food or who eat raw food. It safeguards the human rights of people who adhere to our Faith, to previously-revealed Faiths or to no Faith at all.

So, political correctness has its limits.  These are tantamount to over-tightening a nut, on a wheel.  The nut becomes stripped, useless.  Not being able to describe a person, in terms perfectly acceptable to that individual and her peers, is a paralysis of denial.  My new African-American friend, his European-American wife, their four creative, lovely daughters and vibrant, disabled son should never have to endure the embarrassment of having to watch as someone, who claims to be their well-wisher, is tongue-tied, when it comes to describing any of them, to someone else.

This weekend was time well-spent.

His Social Contract

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June 22, 2017, Prescott- 

Dad left us, thirty-one years ago, today.  He sometimes told others, but not me, that he couldn’t quite figure me out, but that he was sure I’d end up okay.  I heard all this, from my less-reticent father-in-law, a few years after Dad had passed.

He did teach us all about the social contract.  His tenets were succinct:

  1.  Your word is bond.  The few times I caught Hell from him were mainly centered on not doing what I had promised.  I’ve made it a priority, as an adult, to keep my promises.
  2. Individual relationships are the cornerstone of all else.  His take was,  “What good is the ‘greater good’, if it’s based on everything bad?”  This was in reaction to both the left-wing excesses of the late 1960’s, and to the conservative backlash of the Nixon years.  Dad held court, each weekday evening before supper, in the screened front porch, during late spring, summer and early fall, while switching to his recliner, in the living room, during the colder months.  One or two men, either relatives, or guys from work, would show up and kibbitz, over a can of beer.
  3.  Women “did best” by tending to home and hearth; though he saw it as  good, that  Mom earned money of her own, by styling hair, in the kitchen.  She was a top flight cosmetologist and hair dresser, so it was a marvelous arrangement.  I also got to hear very interesting commentary, on a variety of topics, from the women who came for her services, whilst doing my homework or hand-writing my little “newspaper”.  He also forbade us from making messes or asking for clothes to be washed, on weekends.  His view was that Mom worked five days a week, on housework, and that was enough.  We learned, early on, to make our own beds, put our clothes away, carry anything that was on the stairs up to the appropriate room, and fix our own breakfasts and lunches. (I never did subscribe to the idea that a woman was best off staying home, but it was the reality, in the 1950’s, for many.)
  4.  A real man could party late into the night, (he seldom did), but would dutifully get up the next day and do a full day’s work.  I took that one to heart, even in my lowest days of drunken excess.  It was, to my mind, the best cure for a hangover, anyway.  Many a Saturday morning would find me out in the yard, making myself useful, after having come home a useless wretch.  He liked the first, as much as loathed the second.
  5. Don’t spend more than you take in.  He’d have been apoplectic, had he lived to see us go over the financial edge, in the 2000’s.  Then again, he’d have seen it coming, and raised his voice, well before we bought the house, while Penny was struggling with her health issues.  It would have been, “Stay the damned course!”.  He’d be happier with me now.  Some lessons are just that way.

The Time Necessary

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June 19, 2017, Cave Creek-

This morning, I read of Juneteenth, the delayed news of southern slave emancipation, and how it took two years, minimum, to reach Texas.

Shopping for water and ice, to help with a brief trip to Superior, I encountered the daughter of a friend, whom I have not visited in some time.  She was mildly cordial, the consequence, I’d say, of my lengthy physical absence, from their lives.  I feel the need to connect with them, at least for a few hours, before heading out of the area for nearly a month.

Driving to Sun Flour Market, for a brief visit with one of my closest soul connections, I was able to communicate all that was essential, in snippets of conversation, punctuated by intuitive insight, in ninety minutes, or so, around her busy management of the restaurant.  Like me, she gets the most accomplished, in a short time, through close attention to detail, while still being able to converse a bit- and put things together.  We can understand, and care deeply for, each other and for each other’s loved ones, with minimal talk.

Driving back to the Valley, I stopped at Local Jonny’s, to visit with  some of  my young angels.  They had today off, and were nowhere to be found.  A respite is always vital, if only for a day or two.

I need little of anyone’s time, or so I tell myself.  A new friend, whose acquaintance I made today, has a wealth of insight into the realm of the spirit.  I look forward to delving into her treasury of awareness,  and its connection to my Faith,in the days and months ahead.

There is time for me to finish downsizing; time to complete a set of cotton covers for the products of Days for Girls; time to help with any fire emergencies; time, always, for spiritual growth.  How much time will I have to devote to each?  It’ll depend on how much is necessary, to fully and lovingly attend to the task.  My lilies know this.

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A SoCal Break, Day 1, Part 1: Recreation Park

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June 12, 2017, San Onofre, CA-

I am camping at this underutilized state beach, just south of a former nuclear power plant.  The plant’s presence may explain the underutilized part of the equation, but no matter.  Every time I pitch my tent, arrange comfortable bedding and have a pleasant visit, my confidence grows- something that may be hard for many to understand- but it’s been a work in progress, for several years.

My main objective, today, was a hike in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, between Long Beach and Redondo Beach, in LA County’s South Bay area.   First, though, was a visit to Long Beach, itself. I set out from Indio, where I’d spent the previous night, and where I stretched my legs, this morning, with a 2-mile walk.  It’s fairly mild, across Southern California, though that’s not expected to last.  The I-10 was fairly busy, as it always is, though once past the turn-offs to Riverside and San Diego, traffic thinned significantly.  I enjoyed a stop at one of my favourite eateries:  Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in Banning.   After lunch, and taking CA routes 57 and 22, I was in Long Beach, in less than ninety minutes.

I found myself in a pleasant, but definitely untouristed, part of town- the south side.  On Anaheim Street, there is the large, and multiple use, Recreation Park.  Several young ladies were engaged in a variety of artistic activities, on and around the band shell.  I don’t take photos of people, without their permission, as a rule, so any people seen in the next few photos are strictly incidental.  My main focus in Recreation Park was Yokkaichi Friendship Garden, a small, but heartfelt project, in concert with Yokkaichi, Japan- one of Long Beach’s sister cities.

There are three essentials of a Japanese garden that are evident here:  The open gate, arranged flowers (usually in a semi-circle) and carefully-placed rocks.  A fourth essential element, flowing water, is not present.

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Next up, Palos Verdes’ Point Vicente.

 

 

 

Only In Indio

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June 11, 2017, Indio-

Before leaving Prescott, this afternoon, I called my very inspirational youngest living brother, on the occasion of his birthday.  He’s legally blind, yet has never failed to work, steadily, over the past thirty-five years since his college graduation.  His work has always involved a high level of responsibility, and on he goes.

A nice little brunch party followed my conversation, this one in a lovely garden patio, in Prescott Valley.  The conversation there centered on the fine line between creative thought and following one’s own path, versus the “right” to be willfully disobedient to the institutions of one’s chosen Faith.  I am no one’s idea of a Yes Man, but breaking a covenant is as far from where I want to be, as the proverbial Hell  itself.  The person who conjured thoughts of having one’s own sect, gingerly retreated and hopefully will remain so.  The party continued, a pleasant, lovely affair.

I headed out, towards southern California, around 3:30 PM, successfully avoiding whatever back to LA traffic slog might have ensued.  Dinner at a fine, best-kept-secret place, Nichols West, in the tiny old mining town of Congress, certainly helped in that avoidance.  Run by an acerbic, but somewhat cordial, New Zealander, Nichols offers a variety of burgers with unusual toppings, intense salads, exquisite Mexican fare and a surprising variety of seafood.  I chose the brie & avocado burger, with a modest helping of shoestring fries.  The burger was fabulous, grass-fed beef, crispy bacon and moist, ripe avocado wedges, held together by a generous coating of melted brie.  A lovely, very pleasant team of waitresses didn’t hurt the occasion, either.

I digress, though.  I decided to stop here, at City Center Motel, given that what lies ahead of me is I-10, CA 57 & 22 to Highway 1.  At the end of that jaunt lies Palos Verdes Peninsula, where I will make the hike from a gorgeous overlook, down to the shore.  Then, it’ll be a fair drive, with stops at Long Beach’s pier, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, before securing a spot in one of the state beach campgrounds, en route to Crystal Cove.

“Only in Indio”?  That is an ubiquitous sign, along Hwy. 111, and Business 10.  It alludes to the Coachella Music Festival, held in this area every April.  Then, this area fills to the brim with alt-rock lovers from all over.  Now, however, it’s a cool night in June.  Motel rooms cost less than $ 100 per night, and I gratefully parked my carcass in a nice one.

It happens, in Indio, that one can walk, safely, along the 111, for two miles, and not find anywhere, other than an AM/PM., to get a cup of coffee.  This is, as much as anywhere else in southern California, a city designed for the automobile, while those whose fortune, or whose choice, it is to be without wheels, manage to walk along wide and well-kept sidewalks, taking the time they need to get from A to B.  Somehow, I enjoy being among them, walking the flat surface of the Colorado Desert cityscape.

Now, it’s bedtime.  I pray for a little boy who didn’t survive a beat-down, allegedly at the hands of his stepfather.  It’ll take some time before I can pray for the stepfather, and all I can do right now is resolve to be ever better at being kind and loving to those children I, myself, encounter, every day.

Knowing When

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June 8, 2017, Prescott-

My sister’s mother-in-law passed on, this morning, after putting up a good fight, for a good many years. It was just time for her to go on and re-join her husband.  She was one of those souls who walked her own path, without apology.  It was a loving path, but not one that was understood by many people.  I can identify with many elements of that road.

My son and his girlfriend have found themselves on a path, together, that has certainly brought affirmations to his life, and I am sure, to hers.  I’m glad to read of their being focused just on one another, when they are in each other’s presence. As an only child, he has struggled with loneliness, and coped by building hybrid families of peers, when we lived in Phoenix.  He has natural leadership abilities, which of course are more obvious to others, including yours truly, than to himself.  His beautiful friend sees these qualities, I’m certain.  It’s one of the things that gave her the sense of when it was right to walk by his side.

My work situation seems to have becalmed.  I have been assured of a position, come Fall. I am also closer to finishing my yard work- just two small sections remain in the back, and some maintenance work awaits, in the front.  I began gathering things , this afternoon, which can possibly be useful to the Women’s and Family Shelter, and a few things that might be useful to a day center for the homeless.  That work will continue, over the next several days.  It is obvious that it’s time to get rid of all clutter.

Knowing when is the key to a successful outcome.