Lions at Leisure

0

March 1, 2021- Contrary to popular wisdom, there were no signs of this new month “coming in like a lion”, although my special assignment included treating some special needs students to a viewing of the “Live Action” (CGI) version of “The Lion King”. Faithful to the plot line of the original Disney cartoon, there was a darker element to both the wayward Uncle Scar and his frenemies, the hyena pack; but, I digress.

March, like September, is a month for either beginning a new season of life or for reaping the harvest of the growing season. It is either a time for taking stock of a season of intense action or for adjusting one’s plans for the coming season of intense action, in light of the reality emanating from the prior season of rest.

There are few lions on the public stage these days. There are those who continue to plot, to blame others for their failings and are very clever at manipulating the fears and biases of those who feel powerless. There are those who mean well, but give too much leeway to others who, under the guise of “freedom of choice”, advance a dystopian, eugenic agenda. Neither group is particularly leonine. The real lions seem to be either quietly working behind the scenes, or are at leisure.

We will see how March plays out. I continue to support the efforts of long-time friends, whilst also helping newer friends with their concerns. I will spend some time hiking in areas that had been on the agenda, earlier this year, as well as for this month, and hopefully get out to see my geographically closest relatives, during the last week of March-and will be inteersted in just how “lamb-like” things are, around then.

Styles

4

February 10, 2021-

Each of us has styles,in one or more areas of life, that are unique to us as individuals.

I spent some time, during the course of this truncated school day, quietly watching my young charge investigate his world, his way. He is a tactile learner, and so was occupied for a short while in distinguishing the difference in texture, pattern and hardness of various wood and metal surfaces. He tries out different intonations, to see how they feel in his throat and mouth. Although his language is limited, he knows that he can experiment, within bounds, and is in a place where people care.

I pondered some of my own styles- I also sometimes engage in tactile learning, but more often will act after observing my environment and considering what is best for those around me.

After finishing my dinner, at a local bakery-restaurant, I throw away my napkins and drink cup. The dishes remain on the table, so that the busser may know to sanitize it. I don’t, however, want to have the staff deal directly with anything that has touched my mouth and hands. It’s a residue of all the years of wanting to spare my young charges from unnecessary bother, while respecting their doing what is needed, in order to be successful.

In organizing my day, allowing extra time for showering, grooming and easing into my day-with the newspaper and a cup of coffee, breakfast and devotions- before setting out on the day’s events, whether work, community life or a day spent in nature, creates the air of assurance and calm that allows for dealing with even the most unanticipated of events.

Styles of learning, public communication and activity may be hard to synchronize, but there is nothing that says we cannot make the effort-which starts with observing the way others do things, and thinking of the ways in which they are similar to our own methods.

I am getting better at all of this, and of tying one day’s activities into an even flow with the next day.

A Pair of Visions

0

January 21, 2021-

It’s my wont to lie down for a mid-afternoon nap, especially after working since early morning. Just before drifting off, this afternoon, a story I had heard early this morning, on BBC World News, came into my consciousness again. A rural Texan, speaking with a BBC correspondent, had, after a bit of hubris and expression of a desire for his state to become its own nation, showed his visitor a light cannon he had on his property. Loading the cannon, he then lit the fuse and, as the small gathering in his yard looked on, dry brush in his yard and his neighbour’s yard caught fire. The blaze was extinguished with a pair of garden hoses, but left the militia man feeling it just wasn’t his week.

I had a vision, recalling that story, of a tornado sweeping the area in question, and of relief coming to the disgruntled area residents, from the very same Federal government they presently regard as illegitimate. I wish disaster on no one, yet have the knowledge that misfortune is frequently, nay almost always, the bearer of a life lesson, which the learner’s soul needs, in order to get past a block that is preventing the realization of one’s true self. Time will tell.

About an hour ago, whilst listening to a replay of Cosmic Guide Elizabeth Peru’s weekly live broadcast, I heard her mention that one of our foci, this coming week, is to contemplate “What is Your Vision?” That vision thing, again-though it is constantly calling my head into alignment with my heart. I closed my eyes, and the image I saw was my young spirit self looking out over a lush, terraced hillside-which may have been Tuscany (the first word that popped into my head), or Cape Province, South Africa; Napa County, California; northern Luzon, Philippines; the Western Ghats of India-indeed anywhere with misty mornings and a somewhat “Mediterranean” climate, or at least lush, terraced hillsides.

My tendency, as regards my Home Base, has been a bit on the complacent side, of late, and though I know the current national and global state of affairs requires this, there is also a level of comfort I feel here. The trick has been, and will be, to internalize that comfort level, to no matter where I happen to be called. I felt that, late last year, when visiting the prairie of north central Texas (albeit being with family), and even when on the overnight walkabout in a remote area east of here, earlier this month, there was a degree of comfort and surety that stayed with me. I was, somehow, among friends- cattle, coyotes, an intrepid wolf spider that was braving the cold, under a juniper tree-none of them directed anything but caution towards me.

There are some indicators of a more fluid life, come May. I was recently blessed with a backpack that will serve as a one-size-takes-all travel bag, thus eliminating two of my customary luggage items. A routine medical appointment has been scheduled for early May, rather than it usual late-month date. COVID will be the ultimate determinant, of course, yet the vision I had this evening likely counts for something.

It will be, in the meantime, a fascinating rest of winter and early spring.

My Love Letter to America

10

January 19, 2021-

Dear America,

Tomorrow, a change will take place in our governance, which a bit more than half of the voting public wanted; which nearly half hoped, against hope, would perhaps be thwarted and a few of us, including yours truly, wanted to see blended with the best of what its opposite has advocated.

Changes are a constant. In order to truly realize the cohesion that every politician, regardless of stripe, says is imperative, may we look at what you have meant to so many-and what you might better mean to all who come to your shores.

“There was a time”, Neil Sedaka once sang, “when strangers were welcome here.” Yes, and no. People could come from everywhere, and there was a crucible to be borne. Those who were established, the First Nations, welcomed Europeans, sometimes openly and as time went on, and the mindset of conquest and dominance became more apparent from the first such Europeans, the welcome became far more cautious. People were brought here, mostly from Africa, but from other places as well, against their will-to serve and promulgate the fruits of conquest and dominance. Those who came from other parts of Europe, either in search of freedom from oppression and tyranny or in search of opportunity to succeed materially, had to prove themselves to those who had been here for a century or two-or at least had been here for a few decades.

Let you now be viewed, and experienced, as a place of healing. Of course, your people must begin by healing themselves-and one another. The energy, both spiritual and medicinal, that emanates from you is immense. The ancient wisdom, much of it preserved by the First Nations, and other parts of it rooted in the land itself, can serve to generate enormous healing for those who have lost their way, in the course of nearly five centuries of material quests and forgetting Who the Creator actually is.

I have had the blessed experience of carrying ley lines, from west to east, and back; from southwest to northwest, and back; from north to south, and back-over the past ten years. Far more than merely enjoying travel, as a friend remarked a few days ago, I sense that carrying healing energy-both for myself and for others I encounter- is both your gift to me, and my gift in return, back to you.

Blessed homeland, your nurturance has helped me shed so much emotional and psychological burden, and as I recall my early days of sitting very still, by a gurgling little brook or of visiting a hill, with a view of Boston’s skyline, from a rock behind a turreted house, I feel your healing energy has always been here. Even when buried under the Shrines of Progress, or when ravaged by all that people have deemed essential to build their empires, that energy has sighed, bided its time and waited, sometimes patiently and at other times expressing urgency.

Now, more of us see what the headlong rush into material advancement, regardless of cost, has produced. Now, more of us are making a place in our lives, a place in our hearts, for the healing which, alone, can bring a balance between material stability and spiritual well-being.

I love you, my homeland. May your strength of spirit long make itself known, and endure.

The Joy of Underestimation

4

January 3, 2021, Mayer,AZ- There are two kinds of stupid: The one is, sadly, unfixable. The other is the kind that the person exhibiting it can fix, and definitely should. Today, I set out to hike a new loop segment of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail. There are three measurements given for this loop: 8.3 miles, 13.2 miles and 15 miles. As I learned, to my eternal chagrin, the last measurement is correct.

Before showing you, dear readers, the delights of this segment, (There are many), let me share my take-aways from today’s adventure: 1. Make sure your phone is COMPLETELY charged, before leaving the car. Yes, I let people know, via Facebook, as to what I was doing, from the crest of one of Copper Mountain’s many satellite ridges. Sarcastically, I referred to the experience as “camping”. More on that in the next post. 2. Make sure there are fresh batteries in your auxiliary flashlight. Just because it worked well, on the most recent night hike, does not mean that is true in perpetuity. 3. Print off a PAPER copy of the trail map. Having AllTrails.com does not amount to much, when the phone dies, as it did when I needed it, towards the end of my hike. 4. Of course, if possible, hike with a buddy. That means ADVANCE PLANNING, which I do-but my tendency is to go it alone, and not want to bother other people. Postitive results, though, also came out of this: 1. Recognizing that any winter hikes need to either be started in the MORNING, or put off until they can be started in the a.m. Fitting in a long hike (more than 5 miles round trip) does not work, when begun only after a regular Zoom call is finished. Trust me, scenery at night, even in winter, is beautiful, especially under clear skies and with the Moon to help light one’s way. Still and all: It’s cold, people who know your whereabouts get worried and as, a local resident of this town observed, not all wild animals are either friendly or shy. He was referring to javelinas- not bears or mountain lions. I have seen and heard bears and mountain lions, on shorter hikes, but they’ve kept their distance-and I report those sightings on my phone, rather quickly.

So, there is the foolishness of complacency, rent asunder by the fact that every hike is different. Now, for the good news: Copper Mountain Loop, done properly, affords some exquisite geological wonders. It is a treasure trove of volcanic debris.

Here are five examples, and Mickey Mouse puts in an appeareance.

View of scattered igneous towers, southwest corner of Copper Mountain Loop
Igneous bench, top of southwest ridge
Igneous tower, top of southwest ridge
Igneous bench and tower, southwest ridge
Igneous benches, northwest ridge
Copper-infused slate-slabs and figurine-shaped rocks, northeast ridge.
Prickly Pear Mickey

As the light that provided these scenes faded, and I lost-then re-found the trail (Thanks to the Moon and my spirit guides, including Penny, I had enough sense to plod on, rather than try and tough it out at one spot. Smidgens of sense are better than none-but for the next hikes, things will change.

The Past Prologue and The Fulfillment Ahead

4

January 1, 2021

The year just passed has given us a few gifts, as well as having taken some treasures from us. Chief among the gifts is the ability to conduct mass meetings online. This will ease active participation in Baha’i activities, regardless of where I happen to be.

It is a poorly-kept secret that, if it be the will of God (and the creek stays within its banks), I will be back on the road, and in the air, for a fair portion of the next four years. Prescott will remain Home Base, at least for this year. There is much for me to do here, and in the Southwest at large, between now and the middle of May. The stage was set, as it were, by callings I received and followed in the 2010s.

So 2021, any larger issues notwithstanding, is looking like this:

January– The agenda set by response to the pandemic will probably find me continuing to help out in the schools on a fair number of days. Involvement with a regional sustainability group will also be a priority. Then, there is a little group that meets each Wednesday at 1 p.m. (MST), and which has my heart’s attention. I will be on the trail, looking at a couple of extensions of Black Canyon Trail, northward from the original trailhead, outside Mayer; finishing Limekiln Trail, with the Sedona segments; and spending time in Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Desert Preserve. There is also the homefront downsizing: Paper-shredding and discarding of unnecessary belongings will begin this month and extend into next.

February- It’s likely that COVID-19 will factor into this month as well, in terms of being asked to help out in the schools. I already have agreed to a four-day stint, in mid-month. Hiking will take me to the Hualapai Mountains, of northwest Arizona and to Picketpost Mountain, outside Superior. Ayyam-i-Ha, the Baha’i Intercalary Days, will find me preparing hand-made gifts, for the first time since I made a bird house in Grade 8. These won’t be that elaborate, but will be done carefully, and from the heart.

March- It will have been ten years, since Penny passed on, March 5. I will invite other friends to join me at graveside, on that day. This is also the month of the Baha’i Nineteen Day Fast, and although I am no longer required ot abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, having reached the age of 70, my thoughts and actions will be in support of those who are abstaining. I will also make a road trip to Texas, in the middle of the month. Hiking will include a first visit to Phoenix’s South Mountain Park.

April- The Festival of Ridvan marks the twelve days of Baha’u’llah’s preparation for His second exile-from Baghdad to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) and His Declaration of Mission, during that twelve-day period. It also ends a Five-Year Plan we have been following, and begins a twelve-month celebration of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as November will mark the Centenary of His Ascension. Much of my activity, this month, will revolve around these events. Hiking will take in the Hermit’s Rest area of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and parts of Sycamore Canyon, which runs south of Flagstaff and east of Sedona.

May- Preparations for the summer and autumn will occupy much of this month. Hopefully, New Mexico will re-open itself to us Arizonans, and I will spend a few days at Chaco Culture Historical Park. If California is open, and safe, by then, a visit to the coast will be in order,

June- If Bellemont Baha’i School is open for in-person groups, I will devote this month to that endeavour. If not, then I will make an early drive northwest-to my soul families in Nevada and Oregon, as well as to Vancouver Island, Haida Gwai’i (The one place Penny wanted to visit together, that has not happened yet) and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast-north of the City of Vancouver.

July- The Plan B for June will fall into this month, if Bellemont is open. Otherwise, I will head east through Canada, and visit as many family members and friends, en route to and around Boston, as have time.

August– Atlantic Canada will take up part of this month, then it’s back southward and westward, again visiting family and friends along the way.

September and October– Take care of some necessary business in Arizona, spend quality time with Texas family and then off to Europe, with Iceland a first stop. This journey will also be oriented towards the ancestral home of my mother’s family, in what is now western Poland, with other stops in Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, northern Italy and France. A few stops in the British Isles are also possible.

November- This month will be devoted to specific community and regional celebrations, in Arizona, of Abdu’l-Baha’s life.

December- This will be whatever my family wants it to be.

These plans are what my meditations have told me, as of today. Recalling that last January, I was fully intending to do a cross-Canada journey in the summer, I will simply accomplish as much as reality on the ground allows.

May all have a Happier 2021!

Transformation

0

December 27, 2020-

Many in this country envision a sea change about to come, though there are sharp differences, as to the course the change will take. Some, seeing the only saving grace for the nation being a return to traditionally dominant Eurocentric rule, place their hopes on an eleventh hour series of moves, which would reverse the results of last month’s election. Others, wanting to honour last month’s recorded results, still want to hold the victors of record accountable to the nation as a whole, and not cave in to small special-interest groups. A third group is seeking to build on common ground across the perceived chasm between the first two groups. The fourth group is the special-interests, who live for the amassing of power.

For much of this afternoon, I listened to Dr. Todd Smith, a Canadian scholar, speak about “Transformational Habits of the Mind”. Essentially, he distinguished between negative habits, which prevent transformation and positive habits, which bring transformation about.

The first include: Reductionism (All must be based on physical reality, at its lowest denominator); Dichtomizing (Classifying, without purpose, and ‘othering’); Individualism, to excess (The Cult of Me); Relativism (No moral generalities; tolerance, at best, of diversity);and Dogmatism (Polarization, selective information-gathering and hyper-partisanship).

The positive, transformational habits, are listed as : Situating ourselves historically (Seeing the present as worthy of full attention, whilst also aiming that present towards the betterment of the future); Thinking to the end of a process (An extension of the first habit); Loving one another (In the fully agape sense of deeply wanting the best for each person in one’s life, and for all created things); Embracing a humble posture of learning (Starting with realizing how little one really knows, and being open to learning from everyone, and from every experience, no matter how small); Being able to embrace tribulation (Not in the masochistic sense, but in being able to see the silver lining, and to draw strength from any experience, no matter how hard it is while one is enduring it).

I pondered this lecture, for quite a while afterward, recalling four individuals who brought trial to my life, in the past two years. All are gone from my life now, though, as I’ve said before, it would not take much to bring them back-with, I have to say, as much humility on their part as on mine. Each actually left gifts, however inadvertently. From one, I learned to be more present, and to organize my possessions. From the second, I learned patience with unending repetition and looping. The third taught me to exercise more care in my written expression, lest I leave unintended impressions. The fourth showed me how to establish greater security in my electronic affairs. Each left, after indulging self in ridiculing me, or in one case, ridiculing my long-departed wife. Those acts of self-aggrandizement became their own rewards.

So, for me, Dr. Smith’s advice comes as a cautionary message. There is a clear path, of following five practices and stopping myself before following five others. This will certainly be more essential, if the pace of the coming nine years, and beyond, is as fast as my Cosmic Advisor says is likely. It is just sound advice, regardless.

Nothing Succeeds Like Success

2

December 22, 2020-

Sir Arthur Helps offered this viewpoint, in 1868. It was an ironic statement, as two years before, Sir Arthur had all but lost his shirt in the Panic of 1866. Since then, the phrase has been tossed out, several times, by snarky commentators, both in support, and in condemnation, of the amassing of personal wealth.

My own idea of success has such an amassing of pecuniary fortune somewhere down on the list of what constitutes actual wealth. I have not yet seen a fabulously wealthy person exude happiness, based solely on the ability to attract coin. There are several more realistic criteria, by which to measure stature.

Friendships are probably the most obvious of these. While in my own life, money has come and gone, (though, at present, it is giving me a modest level of security), friends since childhood are still in my circle, and new people show up all the time.

A secure set of values is even more fundamental to a feeling of success. Secure does not mean rigid, which actually undermines security, by not taking into account the changes in circumstance. Being able to live honestly, while adapting to change, and growing from it, has led to my present homeostasis. It also has enabled a positive response to crises, when they rear their heads.

Baha’u’llah has given us leave to earn financial wealth, as we see fit, and has instructed us to put such wealth to good use, in resolving the ills of humanity and of the planet. Not everyone will amass millions, or billions, yet each can do something along the lines of sharing.

Money has been called “the lifeblood of civilization”. It is love, however, that is the lifeblood of humanity. Nothing succeeds, like the success of attracting and maintaining friendships, and living a life of integrity.

Limekiln Trail, Section 3

2

December 8, 2020- At long last, I got myself on track and found the trailhead from which one may walk from the far western edge of Sedona to the northern edge of Cottonwood, a distance of five miles via Limekiln Trail. It was not a particularly chanllenging trail, though I felt the effects of being housebound and Zoom-bound, for much of the past eight months. A series of 30-minute workouts at Planet Fitness keep me in a modicum of shape, but it will take the rigours of the trail, even a fairly flat trail like the Deer Pass-Bill Grey segment, to get back into a semblance of “fighting trim”.

A rumour reached me that I was likely in the presence of a COVID-positive person, last week. It happens, though, that this individual was nowhere near the school, during the days I was working there, so once again, no worries. People are so worn down, so exaperated by the pandemic, that they will often take anything they hear, and run with it, whilst inwardly trembling. I ask one and all, to step back and breathe-We will beat this challenge, by adhering to common sense rules of hygiene, and ,more importantly, of wellness.

Now, back to the trail-

Here is the eastern end of the segment, at Deer Pass. A discerning eye might notice a human face or two, in the midst of the cairn .
In order to access the trail to the west, one must use this underpass, under Highway 89 A.

The handles to the gates, on this segment, are diagonal, and after wiggling the handle out, it is then necessary to either lift the gate up, or push it down, in order to secure it again.

Most of the trail is single track, like this, though some of the hike involved walking on US Forest Service roads.
One of the Forest Service roads that serve as connectors.
Igneous rock, deposited by volcanic eruptions, further afield, hundreds of thousands of years ago, make the long hike through the Sheepshead Mountain/Canyon sector, all the more fascinating.
This is the remnant of what was likely a miner’s camp, atop Sheepshead Mountain.
This is another marker of a miner’s camp, also long-abandoned.
Here is the top of Sheepshead Mountain’s west ridge. The summit, east of the trail, is fairly lush.
Sage brush has its own fall colours, which arrive on the scene when deciduous trees have long since turned a ghastly gray.
So, too, does Prickly Pear Cactus, especially at higher elevations, offer its fall colours.
Crossings of dry creekbeds and washes abound on this sector of the trail. There are Spring Creek, Sheepshead Creek-and Coffee Creek, which was also a favoured gathering place for miners, in the early Twentieth Century.

So, a long-standing itch in my saddle got scratched. I re-found the junction of Limekiln and Bill Grey Road, which had gotten lost in my mind, for several months.

Bill Grey Road, at its junction with Limekiln Trail.

The remaining sector of Limekiln runs from Deer Pass to Red Rock State Park, further in towards Sedona. It is a distance of seven miles, one way, so I would likely either start early in the morning or would camp overnight at Red Rock. Either way, it’s likely to wait for March or April, with a smidgen more daylight. There are a few other trails in our area that await, and which present shorter distances, out and back.

Sudden Shifts

4

December 2, 2020- As the time for my retirement (more or less) gets closer, there is still no end to the surprises and shifts that continue in the conduct of public education. I no sooner was told my scheduled assignment for today had been canceled, than I got a call for three days-thus taking me through this week.

The next surprise: Friday will most likely be my last day of work for the calendar year. This is due to the school districts going online again, beginning Monday. I am strictly an in-person educator, as far as public schools are concerned. I helped a few children when attempting online instruction, but it was tough, which is likely one reason why the previous assignment was canceled-as online instruction was part of it.

This will prompt a re-assessment of my schedule for the next two weeks, but change is a constant. There is always a lot to do. For tomorrow and Friday, my young charges are glad that I came back. They are not thrilled about going back to online learning, so I hope that streaming technology, at least, can make things vivid for them. The chances of them going back to in-person learning, in January, will depend on COVID levels at that time. I will be taking on only special assignments, in the new calendar year, in any event.

Staying personally disciplined is, and will be, the only thing that will keep me standing-regardless of the swiftness or degree of changes. So, it will remain- Rise early, keep serving and stay steadfast in both exercise and faith. That, and be discerning with regard to the claims to reality, of disparate groups.