Potpourri

2

October 21, 2021-

There are days when one is asked to spend small amounts of time with a fair cross section of humanity. Age levels, a wide range of personalities and interest levels are both mixed together and present, one after another, in a span of six or seven hours.

I lived and thrived on such a reality, for nearly forty years, though not always in the span of a day. A classroom rover, which is what I was today and will be again tomorrow, gets a snapshot of different-aged students, mostly focused on one task, with a few variations-like the short-term, and quickly changing, needs of Kindergartners.

Some kids asked me about the bandage I sported and accepted the real explanation, without any drama. It is something that can happen to anyone, over time, from too much of something that is healthful, in small doses. I am a survivor, and want them to be survivors, too. Needless to say, every short session was a success-and enough people had their needs met, that this format can be used on any occasion in which teachers are called to brief committee meetings, in the course of a regular school day.

I also got to notice a few things about people who have been difficult for me to understand, in times past. I saw one man’s physical pain, and how it impacts his interactions with just about everyone. There are others, who are emotionally on a knife edge, having phone interactions with those who are making their lives difficult. Not facing them in the midst of an exceptionally busy school day reveals the sources of their angst and their vulnerabilities. That alone makes someone like me more useful, than would otherwise be the case.

A potpourri of humanity, in a fairly small space, is always enlightening. That’s why I travel-and also why I work.

Up In Space

4

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.

Serene and Swaying

8

October 16, 2021- The full- on, pulsating sounds of the Latino-tinged hard rock band had five generations of people up and dancing, for close to two hours. It was the culmination of an afternoon Harvest Festival, a block party of sorts, set up by Raven Cafe and Peregrine Book Store, to benefit the Prescott Education Fund-and by extension, our public schools.

I found myself swaying to the rhythms, on the sidelines, as couples and families bounced, did the samba and even a guy doing Cat Daddy, with his lady friend and one other mutual friend of theirs. Babies in their parents’ arms were moving and grooving. Kids of all ages were jumping around, everywhere. It was just that sort of magnificent autumn evening, in a small lot that is one of Prescott’s best-kept secrets.

A couple of costumed characters briefly moved among the crowd, essentially getting the party started.

So it went, and the exercise did me good. It is ever so, that even as the twilight of the first year of my eighth decade on this earth approaches, there is still very much a relevance to my presence here. My immediate reward was a delectable creme brulee at the Raven, once the concert had wound down. The more substantial reward was an indelible viewing of Home Base for what it is: A small spot of paradise, in which my spirit can thrive and from which it may go forth, to other paradises.

Santa Fe Spirits

2

October 13, 2021, Santa Fe- The serene and beautiful teenaged girl looked as if she could save humanity, at the same time looking as vulnerable as she must have felt, in that long-ago and far away place. The depiction of Mary, mother of Jesus, by an unnamed artist, is both the most heart-rending and the most hopeful likeness, of a woman of whom no one has any real idea, as to her actual appearance.

People back then were used to solving problems that we can only dimly imagine. As I walked the grounds of the Stations of the Cross Meditation Garden, adjacent to the Garden of the Saints, where the above statue is situated, the harrowing nature of Christ’s suffering and death-and the Great Being Himself, are depicted in a way I have seldom seen. Here is not the beauteous, blond-haired superman of legend, but the embodiment of pain and sorrow. Jesus appears to literally be crying out for the collective soul of humanity.

The pain and sorrow that Christ, His family and His disciples endured, would later be mirrored by the horrific sufferings brought to bear on Indigenous peoples, in the Americas and around the world, in His very Name, by those whose blinkered understanding of His Message was clouded by their own material greed and lust for power. Clergy, even the most pure-hearted, are only humans like the rest of us, and bring all their prior life experiences into their service to God.

I drew some comfort from reading the account of St. Francis of Assisi, a personal favourite among the Catholic saints, preaching to the birds.

“My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky,” Francis said, “you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah’s Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God.”- The Little Flowers of St. Francis

https://www.learnreligions.com/saint-francis-assisi-sermon-to-birds-124321

So was capped a full-day in Santa Fe, my first visit here since 1994. The city was packed with tourists, as always, with most of them being older people like me, taking advantage of the cooler weather and relatively smaller crowds. I enjoyed French crepes and the comfort of meatloaf, as bookend meals, and added the state Capitol of New Mexico to the photo library. How simple, and understated, is this place, when placed alongside the grand, ostentatious state Capitols of various other states! Nonetheless, it serves New Mexico well.

The state and the city have made considerable progress in both real and symbolic treatment of Indigenous peoples, fully acknowledging the heinous conditions that led to the revolt, by both Puebloan and nomadic nations, against Spanish rule, in 1680. While that rebellion was eventually put down by a superior military force, the Spaniards never really regained an upper hand, but were forced by the Unseen Hand, to grow into a gradual coexistence with the peoples who surrounded them. This has created New Mexico’s unique culture-on that is indeed enchanting.

It is at once sorrowing and gratifying, that St. Kateri’s statue greets the visitor to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. She lived only to the age of 24, a victim of smallpox and of small minds. Kateri practiced self-abnegation and refused all attempts by family to wed her to a Mohawk warrior. She was devoted only to God, as she saw Him.

My heart, at the end of the day, was both humbled and gratified.

Tides and Sands

2

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….

2

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.

Release and Surrender

4

October 2, 2021, Sedona- Sometimes, home isn’t where you think it is. Other times, the path to home involves going back, very deeply, into a past that has been long buried in layers of detritus. Both points were brought to me, quite clearly, this afternoon.

I made an appointment to sit in an exploratory session with Anastasia Martynova, a licensed therapist in the Sedona area, to see what revelations might arise, with regard to the impact of my early childhood on my present state. Before that, I stopped at Synergy Cafe, a place which I had, until this afternoon, come to feel as a homelike environment.

Strangely, upon entering the cafe, with the intent of enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a meditation book, until Anastasia had returned to her professional space, I found a hostile reception. I retreated to an area in the back space of the cafe and, though I was served and allowed to remain, it was made clear that my presence was to be brief and any interaction with others limited.

Fortunately, I got a message from Ana, that she had arrived at her space early. I found the place fairly easily and my exploration began, after decompressing a bit from the earlier experience. Ana guided me through the customary process of foot-to-crown relaxation, then I found myself remembering the very process of my birth. The gist was that I was turned, almost against my initial impulse, and was able to enter this world head first. My first recalled memory after that was of wanting to comfort my mother.

There was then the recollection of a flower-filled meadow, below the home where my maternal grandmother lived, and where Mom had grown up. I recalled it as a favourite peaceful place., surrounded by forest, where we were not supposed to go alone.

As the session progressed, I was visited by Penny, my brother Brian, and my father, all offering encouragement and giving the message that they were each in a good place. It was not a seance, though, and the messages were conveyed to me while I was in a dreamlike state. I also saw a vision of a former student, who has been missing for over a year now. I found myself guiding, and at times carrying, him through a narrow canyon, eventually into a place of light, where his family members were there to welcome him.

The final vision was again of me as a child, walking hand in hand with a girl, climbing up a mountain that had stairs. No meaning of this scene came to me, other than that, during this time, we were both being watched by two angels, one masculine and one feminine.

During all the scenes, the colours of peace were gold, light yellow, light blue, pink and purple. The colours of challenge were red and green. Ana’s voice was soothing and guiding, throughout the process. The other helpful aspect of the session was that magnets were laid out, under various pressure points. This added a massage element to the session, and served to greatly relieve residual stiffness, from last week’s accident.

I left the space with a greater understanding of how I have come to focus so much of my life on nurturance and trying to be helpful to others, especially to children and youth. For those interested in Anastasia’s work, here is a link to her practice. https://portalofrebirth.com/

Why We Struggle

0

October 1, 2021- “We gathered together to ask the Lord’s blessing”, certainly, and to reflect on what was done right, as well as areas for growth, with respect to next year’s event.

The occasion was the Hope Fest appreciation dinner, held at the aptly-named Lindo Mexico Restaurant, on Prescott’s near north side.

A number of incidents and procedural anecdotes were discussed,and after a fashion, the conversation turned to the very purpose of challenges and suffering in this life. It came down to two elements: As powerful as the Creator is, for insuperable force to be brought to bear, on all given problems faced by us, would teach us nothing. The second point is that, by the sufferings of the great Spiritual Teachers, we learn that our own struggles can be both overcome and be the source of spiritual growth.

These past few weeks have certainly reminded me of this, as well as being a check on whether I was getting attached to my possessions. While they have served me well, so far the answer has been “No”.

The Power of She

2

September 29, 2021- Today is my sister’s birthday; tomorrow marks the anniversary of my late wife’s birth. Earlier this month, there occurred the birthdays of our mother and of two very powerful young women, whose full mark has yet to be made, but which will certainly be indelible.

From where does the first lesson about power derive? Boy and girl alike sense that power, in the loving embrace, soothing voice, warm smile and, quite often, the nourishment provided by mother.

The first lessons come from the mind and heart of the most dedicated teacher a child could ever want.

The first reassurance after each of life’s blows, whether they be glancing or crushing, comes from the spirit which gave life in the first place.

This love, this solid rock, stays with a child, long after adulthood has been reached. It is this which sustains throughout fire, flood and famine.

So, in all the world, as much as man or boy look to initiate, procreate and dominate, nothing of substance happens, save for the power of she.

Old Dreams, New Paths

2

September 28, 2021- Yesterday, thoughts of new bullet points, on a well-worn path, started to materialize. Today, things became clearer.

It is ever more likely that I will have a replacement for my road warrior, soon. When that vehicle arrives, it will be exclusively for work and for journeys within the Southwest and southern California. Travels further afield will be by train or bus, with car rentals taking up the slack, in visits off the beaten track. There will be an occasional airplane flight, as with this coming Thanksgiving, but mostly I will stay earthbound.

Working with children will be a part of life, as long as I am of sound mind and body. The assignments, though, are becoming more selective. No longer will I sign on for work with those whose style is controlling, manipulating or degrading. I’m not talking about students, but about adults.

The same holds for volunteer work. It requires a bit more forbearance, as people in crisis are often at their worst. Nonetheless, I will expect the communication to be clear and will not indulge anyone in games of “gotcha”. Power and control have no place in a healing environment.

The most important aspect of all this is self-care, and towards this end, maintaining my current regimen of natural supplements, as organic a diet as possible, regular exercise and rest when needed is one bullet point that will not change.

The other aspect of self-care is the use of time. I find that I am less oriented towards mandatory attendance at gatherings, lest the organizer be woefully offended, and more towards joining those gatherings at which I am moved to be present, out of genuine interest. Recently, those have included both long-planned events and those more of an impromptu, spontaneous nature.

I fully plan to make my journeys abroad, over the next four or five years, as conditions allow. Most ocean crossings will probably involve air travel, but I am open to journeying by boat or ship, as well. Again, in the spirit of the above paragraph, I make no commitments to being somewhere, out of an odd sense of obligation to online correspondents. Lord knows, COVID has disrupted that whole process, as has the occasional hyperintensity with which some have tried to get my attention.

The whole process is just becoming less frenetic and more organic.