Watchful

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September 13, 2022- “Consider what eyes of bounty gaze upon you and what glances of mercy are cast upon you.”- ‘Abdu’l-Baha

As I gaze at the page of the calendar on my wall, I see a very clear image, looking at me through the black background. I know it is a spirit guide, and there is a small beam of light above the image. Even in the midst of seemingly impenetrable darkness, there is a benevolent being who is helping keep me on the right track. I am told that much of what happens is my own doing, while those who mean me harm have to deal with this spirit, who is acting with the blessing of the Creator. In sum, looking at the spirit’s image is a source of comfort and reassurance.

The image, though, is a bonus affirmation. That it appears in the illustration for the September calendar page, showing a month which was Penny’s birth month, as well the birth month of Mom and two siblings, is a distinction not lost on me. I’ve felt the presence of spirit guides, as many of you know, for quite some time. I haven’t been let down, as long as I have paid attention to their messages.

Responsibilities are quite clear, especially for self-care and service to others. As long as I live up to those, good things happen-such as the good report I got today from my dentist and dental technician. Rewards also follow, such as the delicious quesadilla at Local Jonny’s (Cave Creek), half of which will be lunch tomorrow, at my sub assignment.

Watchfulness, like marriage, is 100/100. I do my full share and my guides do theirs.

A Cosmic Soaking

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September 10, 2022- Today was the latest, in what seems to be a series of auspicious days. This began, this past Tuesday, with the passing of one of my last four surviving paternal aunts, continued Thursday with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and today, a more cheerful celebration of my mother’s 94th birthday. I was able to sing her birthday greetings, via Face Time-and she liked my singing voice. That’s not a given. Had I sung off-key, I’d have heard about it. Mother has kept us each authentic, over the years.

It was just before starting a day of service, at the Tenth Annual Hope Fest, that this brief phone connection occurred. Hope Fest, for those not familiar, is a large in-person celebration of community service, modeled by the life of Jesus the Christ. So, my own service was basically “serving the servants”, doing whatever was requested by the organizers of the event. I am always a “floater”, going and doing tasks that range from driving back and forth to pick up items overlooked by the Event Director to stomping on excess ice (reminiscent of helping a neighbour of Greek descent stomp on his grapes, as a child). Being the volunteer not as well-known by the Director as her closer friends, I generally keep busy otherwise by finding things that need doing and getting them done.

Today’s event was similar to that of the first year-in that it was punctuated, and interrupted three times, by heavy rain. The first downpour occurred at lunch time, pre-empting the opening ceremony, which is usually a welcome by the Mayor of Prescott and a group photo. The second was in mid-afternoon,just before one of the musical guests was to perform. The third was in late afternoon, and was accompanied by thunder & lightning. The intensity of that downpour led the electronics director, and the scheduled headliner band, to cancel the evening’s performance.

I think it is a good thing that those in charge have a deeply spiritual vision, These, especially the last one, seemed to be cosmic downpours, perhaps testing the mettle of the participants and audience. They did not seem to dampen anyone’s spirits, and those arriving in anticipation of the evening concert were quite accepting of the cancellation, and grateful that the safety of the band and the sound crew were prioritized. The concert artist, who usually paints energetically, in accompaniment to the music, went about her work with only the music in her head to guide her. She is magnificent, in and of herself.

It was a warm rain, and even the young children who were momentarily caught in it were delighted. The monsoon season itself is winding down, and is expected to mostly finish by this coming Tuesday, with a chance for one last sprinkle to accompany the Autumnal Equinox. The Cosmos has been kind to the Southwest, in terms of rain, this summer. Now, we look to whatever lies ahead for Fall.

Fresh Eyes and Heart

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September 7, 2022- There is no better breakfast burrito, anywhere, than a Red from Glenn’s Bakery, on Gallup’s near west side. At least, that has been my experience. I don’t like a BB filled with potatoes-starch upon starch, so there’s that factor. Glenn’s Red Burrito has bacon, red chili and scrambled eggs-nothing more, nothing less and there is a choice of spinach or pumpkin tortilla. I chose spinach. It had not long been out of the oven.

That was the start of the home stretch, of a brief journey of stellar upliftment. The Colorado East Baha’i Summer School was not a treasure trove of scholarly talk, which so many Baha’is my age seem to expect. It was a re-connection of souls, after nearly three years of all COVID, all the time-and its attendant Zoom/Microsoft Teams “gatherings”. It had a devotional focus and considerable attention to our Nine-Year Plan, which itself already seems to dovetail with the enormous changes we have seen, these past two years. Mostly, though, it was a joyous reunion of hearts- and I was glad to be a part of it. To have followed that with an evening of equally heartfelt spiritual connection, along the West Rim of Rio Grande Gorge set my heart afresh.

Then came Taos and the return along El Camino Real, always refreshing to the eyes. I return to places out of love for those whose spirits shine-and there are more of those, with each stop along the way. It is that way in Cortez, Santa Fe, Madrid (NM), Moriarty, Albuquerque’s Old Town, Gallup-and Winslow. A little place called Sip Shoppe, across from Standing On The Corner Park, has been my go-to place in Winslow, for a few years now. I was delighted to get into town, in time for an early lunch.

There was, however, a pall on the occasion, as I received word that one of my paternal aunts, whom I had visited in Maine, a few years ago, had passed on. After lunch, I walked over to Route 66 Park, which Winslow has established along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. I wanted only peace and quiet, hoping to sit in the gazebo and pray. The spot was taken up by a disabled man, who seemed to be needing solitude of his own. After some further walking along the sidewalk that featured three or four verses of doggerel, I chose a north-facing bench, and engaged in my prayer and meditation.

Thinking further, about a friend who had done a marvelous series of posts on Winslow, a few months ago, I took a few shots of Route 66 Park, before heading back to the Sportage and driving the rest of the way to Home Base.

Classic VW Beetle, Route 66 Park, Winslow
Sculpture in honour of Indigenous peoples of the Winslow area
Ode to Hubbell Trading Post, about two hours northeast of Winslow

The towns and cities of the Southwest are particularly given to being seen with fresh eyes, each time one passes through.

Brightness, Under A Half-Moon

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September 5, 2022, Taos- About seven miles west of this town of Puebloans, hippies, cowboys and off-the-grid Libertarians, there is a bridge across Rio Grande Gorge. About a mile further west, there is West Rim Road, which takes people to old Apache campsites, new marijuana farms and a Buddhist stupa, atop a hill and past various homes built by Apaches, South Asians and the above-mentioned Libertarians. Among those who built a home, on ancestral land, is a friend, G. She and her surrogate grandson live in a comfortable solar-powered residence, about a mile off West Rim Road.

When I was leaving Colorado East Baha’i School, earlier today, I felt very strong energy, telling me to go towards Taos and G’s home, and to do whatever it took to visit them. So, after helping with the clean-up at CEBS, and bidding farewell to new friends, I headed down I-25, and arrived in Taos around 5:30 p.m. With my usual penchant for following general directions in a skewed manner, and for not checking my phone while I was driving, I missed a few last-minute updates-which came while I was on “Flag Road”, as her graded road is called. I also missed G, while going in one direction, only to turn around and see her, while driving in the opposite way. Call it lighting effect, fatigue or, as one local astrologer said, “the Taos effect”, in the end I followed G slowly up the driveway, and in short order was enjoying the delectable fresh garden vegetables, with chopped tuna and non-glutinous rice, that she had prepared in honour of my visit.

A half-moon guides us tonight, and with its energy, G filled me in on the events that have transpired since I last saw her, in Tucson, at her son’s residence. Grandson, M, proved a quiet, but congenial young man and seems like he will be an asset to G, in the months ahead. The time there was well-spent, and the house will not be hard to find, when I am next in this part of New Mexico. As the evening turned to late night, I headed back into town, and now am resting in Super 8, on Taos’ south side.

G’s brightness is always evident, no matter the phase of the Moon.

The Future of Power

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September 4, 2022, Colorado Springs- I had breakfast with a group of children, this morning. The topic of conversation (to which I was largely relegated to the role of listener) was the quality of schools and of those schools’ schedules. There was a fairly lively debate about the advantages of sacrificing an hour of sleeping-in, four days a week, for the joys of a Friday off. Siblings from a rural community, in southeast Colorado, have that reality. The rest, living in various communities along the Front Range, are attending schools with standard, M-F 8-3 regimens. Quietly, I empathize with the four-day week, though I would have to LIVE near the school that starts at 7 a.m., in order to work there-especially in winter. The children, ages 6-10, have definite expectations about what they want from their teachers-and recess is not their “favourite subject”.

Another aspect of child life these days is, as it has ever been, the angst of adults, especially of grandparents and their contemporaries, over “What will become of humanity?”, as they observe little boys fighting, throwing things from rocks to tantrums and being generally aggressive. “Where do they get that from?”, asked one grandmother, while fretting that the generation will become inherently violent in their own adulthood. The answer to the question is: We are, physically, animals, and thus have one part of ourselves that is territorial and defensive. The answer to the second fear is: It falls to us to nurture the rising generations, intervene, nonviolently, in the fracas and offer alternatives to trail by combat. It is going to take a long time to get past the genetic memory of spanking, a practice which I admit I used, albeit sparingly, in bygone days. Yes, adults who hit, with the best of intentions, sanction present and future hitting by their offspring. Thankfully, I saw only nonviolent firmness and loving care by parents, even when they thought no one was watching, these past three days. The toughest of men were as steel and velvet, and the women were, as ever, firm and gentle. The little boys will grow up, by and large, to emulate their fathers.

I am coming away from this gathering of Baha’is, and some of our friends from the wider community, with deep-seated hope. The emphasis here has been on cooperation and creativity, as well as the deepening of faith. The power invested in children, and the channeling of energy in a constructive direction, is being replicated in any number of communities, nationally and worldwide. It is this phenomenon which is actively competing with the acquiescence to the above-mentioned violence, and the use of electronic media as passive diversions, for the hearts and minds of young people. The children, based on what I heard this morning at breakfast, prefer the former.

Power thrives on encouragement and nurturing.

The Walls Continue to Shatter

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September 3, 2022, Colorado Springs- “Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch”-Baha’u’llah.

The above statement was written by our Spiritual Teacher to the entire human race, nearly 150 years ago. He asked what harm there was in recognizing the Oneness of Mankind, and never sought power, money or political influence. Those whose aims WERE rooted in such earthly concerns saw fit to attack him, both physically and socially. Their views were, and are, short-sighted, not even considering the true interests of their countrymen or even their own long-term best interests. He had every one’s prosperity and well-being in mind, throughout His Ministry and His Teachings will resonate for centuries to come, as do the essential Teachings of every Messenger of God. There is not a scintilla of difference between Them, in terms of spiritual truths.

So do those of us gathered this weekend ponder the application of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings for each of the problems facing the planet, in this Day, one hundred thirty years after His passing. From the youngest child capable of articulation to those older than me, we note that each of these issues stems from disunity, either deep-seated and “time-honoured” or based in momentary ignorance. None of us are perfect, and yet none of us need to separate ourselves from others, in either thought, word or deed. We mustn’t let others abuse or take advantage of us, nor need we build walls around ourselves.

As if to focus attention on the power of unity, nearly sixty people danced to the powerful music of a trio of drummers and singers who have moved here from Ghana, and are engaged in a vital building trade. Many of the children in attendance joined in the drumming also. It was one of the most powerful gatherings I have attended, since before COVID hit. We are indeed coming back to life as a society, as well as community.

Participants in a drum circle

The walls, both internal and external, continue to crumble.

“Manitou Likes You!”

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September 2, 2022, Colorado Springs- After edging along I-25, due to an unfortunate collision, I made a detour over to Manitou Springs, a most pleasant town west of Garden of the Gods and north of Seven Falls, as well as being a gateway to Pikes Peak. My once favoured lunch spot there, Hearts of Jerusalem, closed during the COVID period. In its place is Good Karma Coffee House and Deli, a thoroughly delightful husband and wife-operated spot, with a short, but well-conceived menu. After an “Inside-Out Grilled Cheese”, I walked on over to The Taos Maos gift shop and bought a nicely-made wind chime, which will accompany another that will get from Arcosanti, in a few weeks. Maos is as interesting as its name implies, and has small items that can enhance even the simplest home.

After that was done, I remarked to the parking lot attendants, two very agreeable and helpful ladies, how much I like Manitou. Their response was: “Manitou likes you!” Moments like that are always affirming. I got up to La Foret Conference and Retreat Center, just northeast of downtown Colorado Springs, in mid-afternoon, and checked in to Colorado East Baha’i School an hour early. We began study and discussion of meaningful social action, this evening and will continue over the next 2.5 days.

I am in a comfortable little cabin, with one roommate-a nice gentleman, and six other cabin mates, all very considerate and agreeable people. There is an abundance of children and teenagers here, also very considerate and high-functioning people. As we are preparing to get ready for sleep, thunder and lightning are all around us. Rain has come to CS to the first time in two weeks, a welcome easterly extension of the monsoon.

I bid you all good night, with a scene from Manitou Springs and one from La Foret.

Yes, Manitou is ONE of Colorado’s Christmas cities.
Inglis Hall, named for La Foret’s founders.

Radiance

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August 27, 2022- In the middle of the 1990s, a gentleman took the helm of Native American Baha’i Institute, which heretofore had been a project of local Dineh and White residents, and persuaded a good number of us to adopt a series of best practices. The focus was to remain on serving the needs of the local community, but with a wider vision-improving the educational programs, both spiritual and academic, which were beginning to be offered by the Institute. The gentleman and his wife administered the Institute for 3 years or so, then were called to do other work in the Phoenix area. Their philosophy and programs, while being put in the background by their immediate successors, never went away and have found new life, in the present administration.

Joel Orona, MBA, PhD, worked tirelessly on a variety of programs during his long career, which ended a year ago today. His soul’s work was to uplift both the view that the First Nations peoples of North America have of themselves and the view that mainstream America has of its Indigenous inhabitants. Academic standards held by Dr. Orona were very high, and so was his commitment to presenting the culture of his ancestral Apache people. He did both, and with his wife, sons and grandchildren, was a familiar face at various cultural institutions associated with Native American art, music and dance.

This morning, several people from around the planet celebrated the life of Joel Orona, his radiant spirit and long list of accomplishments, in a special First Year remembrance. He accomplished much, to the betterment of the Dineh (Navajo), the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and his own Apache (Inde) people, over four decades. None of those achievements, however, eclipsed his role as husband, father and Tata (grandfather). This was underscored by the remembrances each of his family members had of him.

Radiance remains, long after a person of substance is gone.

Why I’m Not Scared

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August 25, 2022- The robust girl raised a barely-concealed middle finger at one of her classmates. When she saw me looking at her, she lowered the dirty digit and instead put her other hand in front of her face, with the middle finger again stealthily in my direction. “I know what you’re doing, so knock it off”, was my rejoinder. She put her hands down and went back to her work. None of her classmates saw fit to challenge me, after that, and besides, they got to listen to music, with headphones or ear buds. The regular teacher arrived early from her morning training, and was pleased to see how much work had been accomplished.

It has been a long time, since I realized palpable fear. Maybe because, as one gentleman said, a few years back, I am “in the fourth quarter” of my life, and there hasn’t been much that has yet to be tossed my way. I’ve been shot at, and missed; had “the stuffin'” knocked out of me; been psychically assaulted, resulting in physical injury; and bee surrounded by thugs, who were intent on administering a beat down. (The last one was ended,without harm to yours truly, when a more prominent local ruffian walked in and told his minions to “get the hell into the back of the truck!”) Large groups of people have come and gone from my life, and not seen fit to intimidate or harass me. Mentally ill people, especially if they are unpredictable, still need to be handled carefully, but by and large, they don’t threaten me, nor I them.

Of course, I choose my battles and do seek first to understand, to listen and then be heard. Mother’s admonition to not speak, until the other person has taken a breath after even the most seemingly trivial of remarks, or the most windy of monologues, has reaped me dividends, foe many years now. That has applied even when someone has launched into a lengthy diatribe. If there is something of value in a lambasting, then I will take it. That’s even true when a troll, hiding in cyber anonymity, launches into a tirade. I can then cut someone off, and glean whatever truth has been imparted, thus perhaps improving myself.

Basically, I am not scared, because I maintain awareness of my surroundings and find that no one, inherently, is a threat-in and of self.

Ownership

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August 22, 2022- It is essential to own what’s yours.

It was an “oops” morning. I had made a wrong notation on my place of assignment, for this morning’s efforts. As far as I can figure, two assignments popped up, at the same time, and I clicked on one, while mentally registering the other. It all worked out, and I did some good work at Location B. Once done, an acknowledgement of my error was in order, and Supervisor gave me a pass-and a pat on the back, for overall excellent work. It pays to own one’s behaviour and its results.

It is essential to relinquish what is no longer yours. The title to Saturn Vue was returned to me, due to a slight gap in communication, itself stemming from momentary uncertainty from the insurance companies and body shop, as to the reparability of the vehicle. This afternoon, I returned the title, one more time, to the insurance company. This time, it will stay with them, as the law requires. Kia Sportage is now my road friend, and the settlement funds were transferred to the dealership, as agreed.

It is essential to own one’s love for humanity. I returned to the Open Feed, in which I assisted two weeks ago, letting the team know that my absence last week had nothing to do with having been threatened by a disgruntled homeless man. God knows, I ignore threats and go with what my heart says. The diners thanked me for ladling the soup, after which it was prudent to help the lone janitor by folding up chairs, so that he could focus on vacuuming the huge carpet. There is no daylight between my feelings for homeless veterans and undocumented immigrants; for people of colour and “rednecks”; for known friend and “stranger”.

It is essential to own one’s dignity and worth. Love for humanity does not mean enabling the grifter, the liar, the imposter. In fact, the opposite is true. Making such people either follow the Golden Rule, or cutting off all contact with them, is the true loving choice. I have elaborated on that, previously, but mention it here, lest trolls try to engage in false equivalency.

It is essential to own what’s yours, and relinquish what isn’t.