The Long and the Short of It

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May 10, 2021- As get ready for a road trip, there are always good things that happen and challenges that interfere with what I need to do, day to day. The dental check-up I had this morning shows that regular care has stemmed the decline that had plagued my poor mouth, up until ten years ago. Tomorrow, I will get my car serviced and expect that all will be well, given the regular care the Grey Galloper has had, these past five years.

That leaves the device on which I am writing this piece. There are some issues with Windows 10, specifically the recent tendency for the screen to jump about and show a menu, starting with emojis. I will need the laptop for Zoom calls and for this blog, during the journey, so a long delayed servicing will wait until I get back. In the meantime, patience and a light touch will get us through.

My overall health is good, and I anticipate fine results from a physical exam, on the first of June. Exercise and good wellness practices have gone a long way to keeping this aging frame relatively robust.

With that, in two days’ time, I will be away from this salubrious Home Base and headed towards the home of my childhood. It will be time for a fond farewell to the house where so many memories of my youth were created.

Further Changes

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May 8, 2021- I received a supportive message from the principal of the school to which I referred yesterday. There will be some discomfort, for some people, but the children will be safe.
In a few short days, my mother’s life will become more secure. I will be on the road, towards my childhood home, and will help with whatever needs to be done, for at least a week. This was not expected-at least not this month, but life does not compromise with want-only with need.

I received word, this evening, that her next door neighbour of 66 years is dying. He is in hospice- a man’s man, reduced to lying in a single bed. I can only hope that his extended family, his cousins and closest friends, can be with him. If he is still with us, when I get to Massachusetts, I will pay a visit and thank him for being a faithful friend of our family, like his parents were.

The next few days will see preparatory activities- a Mother’s Day call, a dental check-up, a car servicing, laundry and packing. There will be time, tomorrow, for a visit to a magical place: Montezuma Well. My Home Base will be secure, while I’m gone, and there will much to be done, when I get back .

School, though, will wait until Fall, or maybe Winter, as I honour marching orders, sent from a place unseen.

The River Flows On

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May 3, 2021- Many times in our lives, there is a welcoming lull-a flow of sameness that seems like it could go on forever. Some of that sameness provides the essence from which a person’s life experiences flow. When the sameness comes to an end, or changes locus, those whose lives sprang from it must be mindful that it is merely a turning point- and it has taken nothing away from them, unless they choose to give it up.

There will, very shortly, be a change in the course of the river from which I sprang. For the foreseeable future, that river will continue to flow, even with that course being altered. I can’t be a whole lot more specific than this, right now. but the second part of May will most likely find me on an unexpected road trip, which will be carefully choreographed, so as to meet prior virtual commitments I’ve made for this month.

I will get more specific, as I become more at liberty to share the situation.

Renewal

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April 28, 2021- So often, when I think there is not much that might change in my little corner of the world, new experiences offer themselves-as a way of refreshing, renewing. There is also the continuing clean bill of health, from my chiropractor at least-and, I am anticipating, at my dental check-up, in two weeks. Sleeping more soundly is something to which I credit both the Thrive vitamins that are now part of my evening regimen and the letting go of left-over guilt, from not having met some people’s expectations.

The school year is winding down, with testing drawing to a close-and the focus being more on final class projects, at the intermediate and secondary levels. I am helping with intermediate students, working on science projects this week. Encouraging them to see the science behind everything from video games to pond scum is an exhilarating experience.

Next week, going back to primary level classes, will also provide some novel experiences, as the younger students, also, will be wrapping up some small exploratory activities. There is no end to what each of us can discover, as the world slowly opens back up, even as the technology which has sustained us through this pandemic offers new ways to maintain long distance connections.

I hope this last is not lost on many people.

Fluidity

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April 10, 2021- In the past five years or so, I have found myself establishing one after another of close friendships with women of maturity. These have been what I regard as fraternal-sororal, with no hidden agenda on either side.

That this could change, over time, is not lost on me, but the sense that I have now is that my friendships remain fluid. I am happy with the state of each friendship, and that I am doing for each person what she needs from a true friend. Male/female friendships thrive best, when there is a clear and present understanding between both, as to what each other’s needs and expectations are. That makes them no different than fraternal or sororal friendships between those of the same sex.

My life, like those of most others, is also fluid right now, with the status of many societies around the world remaining upended by COVID19 and the various degrees to which each society is responding to the disease. We’re doing better here, and several states are making progress, as well. So, as life slowly and steadily develops a post-pandemic regimen-not necessarily a return to the “good old days” (which weren’t all that great), I am keeping my face masks at the ready (still required for work and some shopping), still offering physical distance from those whose body language seems to want it, and keeping my six-month plan for the first half of 2021 mostly focused on Arizona and the Southwest-with tentative second-half plans for further afield.

Fluidity remains the best policy.

The Lamb’s Turn

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March 31, 2021- A common saying is that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I have seen years in which this month now ending has been as leonine at the end as it was at the beginning, and indeed it looks like Easter weekend will be of that ilk, in the Northeast.

Here in the American Southwest, though, it appears as though we are in for warmer weather, with only the slightest chance of rain, through April and probably May, as well. So, with the gentleness, I find I have somewhat more energy. I am at the age where it takes more effort to start the day facing cold and dark and the fullness of Spring is ever welcome.

I also know, however, that cold and dark will always be with us-and that extreme heat is far from a bargain, also. The lamb can grow into a snorting, cantankerous ram, in short order. Life is ever a process of falling down, getting up again, confronting oneself and delving deeper into what is needed, in order to grow more confident. The lessons offered by every infant who goes forth into toddlerhood, without any of the self-pity that often comes later, come to mind. A baby keeps at the work of turning over, lifting self up, scooting along and finally, walking without falling.

It is an achievement, as well, for anyone who casts aside self-pity, who rises above both depression and narcissism by doing the hard work of emotional turning over, psychological self-lifting, moving along with some support and, finally, moving through life without stumbling and falling. It takes lots of courage and true self-confidence, but at some point, it is more than doable.

Striding into April, I see a clear schedule of special assignments in schools, the Baha’i Festival of Ridvan, lots of hiking and maintaining my vigilance against the pandemic (this last, through May-and June, as needed.). I have made small changes (new pillows for my bed, additional exercises and dietary adjustments to bring my abdomen into compliance with my own health regimen) and commit to deeper exploration of this amazing world.

Godot, and Other No-Shows

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March 30, 2021– Today was spent supervising high school students in Online Learning. The students are, in the words of David Bowie, “quite aware of what they are going through”, and stuck to the tasks at hand, which have the common goal of recovering academic credit. There was just one hitch, the Internet was down, for at least part of the day, leaving most of the students in two class periods to use their cellular hotspots.

While this ingenuity played out, I was reminded of the Samuel Beckett play, “Waiting for Godot”. Those who are familiar with the play know that Godot, whoever he is, sends a messenger to announce his non-appearance, a day in advance, but never does show up himself. The main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, continue waiting for him, nonetheless.

The students in the latter three classes were able to pursue their work, without resorting to personal devices alone, as the Internet, unlike Godot, made good on its appearance. There were, most likely, a few no-shows among the student populace. There always are.

I have experienced a fair number of absentees, over the years. Usually, when I’ve been patient, the person shows up, eventually, and has a credible story to tell. Sometimes it pans out and sometimes, it doesn’t. Each time, though, my only thought has been: “Make sure you are not following their example.” My parents were always true to their word-Mom still is. The people who matter most in my life are similarly trustworthy.

While being all things to all people is a mathematical and practical impossibility, I would hope that reducing absenteeism, and broken promises, becomes a more widespread goal.

Sometimes, Word Pictures Work Best

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March 29, 2021- Usually, when I go off on a trail, my camera is with me and photos follow. Today, knowing that the terrain would be the same as that of my most recent hike on Limekiln Trail and that the features will also be visible from the next, and final, segment of that system, I went with eyes only.

There was a slight rise from the trailhead to a vantage point, from which I could see my car and another bowl-shaped ravine, just to its north. From there, a pinon and juniper scrub forest hosted the next 1/4 mile of the route, which headed down into a dry ravine and a creek bed smaller and not as alluring as Dry Creek-at least in terms of coloured stone varieties.

As I walked up and out of the ravine, a young couple walking ahead of me were a bit suspicious, so I took an alternate route, on a trail of volcanic soil, which ended up leading me around to the same road which I had followed in the previous segment. The couple were also nearby, but went about their exploration of the pinon forest, while I stopped at my last little nook and enjoyed gluten-free crackers (rather tasty, with garlic parmesan) and cool water. Though I can digest wheat and other grains, gluten-free products are a nice addition.

As this was the stopping place from last week, turnaround was in order. The cool breeze and bright sunshine made everything seem a whole lot easier today, and I could smell the juniper leaves a lot more fully than I could, even a few weeks ago. Spring will be a nicer hiking season.

The Little Truths

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March 12, 2021- In the course of becoming a better person, there is an ongoing process of uncovering, remembering small incidents and minor actions that form patterns over time. It is in the burial of those details, that growth becomes stunted, difficult- if not impossible. It is in their acknowledgement, that incremental changes can take place and growth suddenly takes off.

I have experienced both, in this fairly long life. It took a lot of introspection, and even more forgiveness, of both myself and others, to reach a relatively strong level of equilibrium, enhanced intuition and ability to recognize who is truly in my corner-and who is best cut out of my life.

Fortunately, no family members are in the last category. There are some, who I trusted- in some cases for years, who are in my rear view mirror. There are others, a few of whom are members of my Faith, who are more or less in a state of suspended animation-so as to let me have time and space to work through those parts of myself that have been triggered by their mannerisms, jabs and ability to find my weak spots.

I am reminded of this aspect of my persona, by certain events of the past week, especially last weekend. Thus, I know what I must continue to do, to strengthen myself and shed even more of those aspects of myself that bring about limitations-while keeping a distance from those who would drag me down.

Little truths can be positive, shiny and growth-enhancing. It is better to find, and promulgate them, than to wallow in their opposites.

Estrangers

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March 7, 2021- This morning, after ten years of my being a member, in good standing, of a veterans’ service organization, the matter of my Faith was raised-specifically that I am viewed by some, who I have known and with whom I’ve gotten along well for this past decade, as a “non-Christian”.

The context of this was with regard to a request that I serve again as the organization’s Chaplain, a post I held, with a good record of service and with no complaints registered, for two years, prior to embarking on several years of extensive travel. That latter stream of activity is set to resume in July of this year, and for that reason, I am declining the above request. An officer in a service organization needs to stay put-even in the days of Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

The larger issue here is that there is a shrinkage of the social circle of many people, partly a result of the political mayhem that has been afoot in this country, across the spectrum, for the past dozen years-if not longer, and partly because of a rising false narcissism, rooted in fear. Those I joined for breakfast, nearly each Sunday that I was in town, for the past ten years, have taken to talking only among themselves and shoving everyone else, including yours truly, to the sidelines. A culture of estrangement has taken root, which can only be detrimental to those who profess belief in the Paragon of Love. That embracing of parochialism has, from what I’ve seen in the past, only led to bitterness.

I cannot, and will not, turn aside from my Heavenly Father, in the name of a label. I cannot, and will not, let “estrangers” define who I am. So, with all prayer and loving regard for the members of said service organization, it’s time to move on.