July Road Notes, Day 17: Long Trails Winding

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July 21, 2021, Concord, NH- Sam sensed my solemn mood, and honoured my relative silence. It was partly due to where I had just been, and partly due to being a bit worn, by the full day I had just enjoyed. The effervescent young lady continued to make sure I was well-served, while engaging more cheerful patrons in banter and laughter. Thus went my third meal, in five days, at a Ninety-Nine Restaurant. This one was in Augusta, Maine’s capital city, where I had just visited the gravesites of a paternal aunt and uncle, along with the as yet unmarked grave of their eldest son, in Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

I left Saugus, the town of my formative years, around 8 in the morning, heading up towards Maine, via I-95. It was a smooth enough drive, near the coastal regions of New Hampshire and southern Maine. I first stopped at Stonewall Kitchen, in York, to pick up gifts for the cousins I would visit first and for friends I will see on Friday evening. Next came the drive, past Portland and its exquisite Casco Bay, to Boothbay Harbor, home to a paternal cousin and his family. I hadn’t seen Tom in nearly 35 years, but had communicated with him recently, about a matter of mutual interest.

Tom and Jamie seem to be doing well, have wonderful children and grandchildren, and a lovely home.

View of one of Boothbay Harbor’s many coves

We talked of each other’s families, for about 1 1/2 hours, over lunch and photo albums. Both of our family branches have had their share of triumphs and tragedies. Both have had wondrous people enter their lives and share all they have-and then some. Tom and Jamie are solid people, who have served children, over the years, on paths similar to those that Penny and I took.

Extended family, Boothbay Harbor, ME

I left the family to their afternoon, which included a well-crafted blanket fort, that the little boys had made, as part of their imaginative use of the living room, and headed towards Augusta, where I would pay my respects to our departed aunt, uncle and cousin. A brief stop in Boothbay Harbor’s west side was in order, for ice cream and a few photos.

Boothbay Harbor
View of Harbormaster’s House, Boothbay Harbor

The drive to Augusta was fairly short, but it took stopping at two places to get directions to the cemetery, as my GPS was pulling its “You’re offline!” tantrum. Once there, I found a well-tended expanse of lawn, with year-by-year indicators of who is laid to rest, and where. I spent about twenty minutes at the gravesites of my family members.

Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Augusta

Almost on cue, after twenty minutes, a cold wind whipped up and the dark clouds gathered. I got into the Ninety-Nine, just outside the cemetery gates, just before the rain started. Samantha, the server, kept watch on the skies, as well as on us patrons, and noted after fifteen minutes that the sun was coming back out. She seemed quite intently watching over us all, which I like in a public servant.

I spent about an hour after dinner, walking about downtown Augusta. The city has made great strides in celebrating the Kennebec River and its own heritage, since I was last here, in the late 1970s. Here are some of the scenes, therein.

Olde Federal Building, Augusta, ME
Kennebec Riverwalk, Augusta
Old Fort Western, Augusta

Old Fort Western tells the story of early Augusta and its environs. https://www.augustamaine.gov/old_fort_western/292_years_of_maine___new_england_history.php.

It was closed, and I needed to make further progress westward, so as to not overload myself tomorrow, so after a brief visit to the grounds of Maine’s State Capitol, where I took a few photos, under the watchful eyes of the Capitol Police, onward it was.

Maine State House, Augusta
West entrance, Maine State House, Augusta

Along US 202, I passed through the fields and cities of central and southwest Maine: Winthrop, Lewiston, Auburn, Gray and Sanford, before crossing into New Hampshire, at Rochester, then over to this fair place- New Hampshire’s capital city, which has two motels, cityside. Thus, I stopped into my first Holiday Inn, in over thirty-five years. (I am usually one for the Mom & Pop establishments, but in New Hampshire, those are limited to resort areas.)

After looking around Concord a bit, tomorrow, the itinerary is to cross western New Hampshire, southern Vermont and New York’s southern tier.

The Strange Process of Growth

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June 29, 2021- Getting back to Home base, for a short period that is centered on the anniversary of the Yarnell Hill/Granite Mountain Hot Shots disaster (June 30, 2013) and on Independence Day, I found myself scheduling the July road trip and reaching back, to the past. While thinking about my Carson City family, the image of me as a toddler came into focus-almost in a hypnotic manner. I saw the source of certain behaviours and mindsets that have dogged my path, for so many years now. I also saw that I could let those behaviours and mindsets go, fall away. It is sublimely liberating.

Many of you know that I have given some help to someone in another country, whose society has much to re-learn about co-operating with one another, to achieve a greater goal. The people involved have, thus far, rejected such talk of co-operative farming, out of hand. “That is not the way we do things here!” This, essentially, translates into “Fork over the bucks, white man!” You can readily understand what my response is to such rubbish. Fortunately, the primary recipient of my aid is a bit more enlightened than many of his countrymen, and is at least trying to do things on his own. It is heartening to see someone who is walking the path of personal growth.

My own growth has been a strange enough road- complicated by being on the autism spectrum. I was a fairly strong, supportive husband and am a fairly strong, nurturing father. I am better at being a son, and sibling, than I was in the past. Ditto, for being a community member. The pattern of widespread travel will eventually subside, but not for the next five or six years. In the interim periods between journeys, though, I am committed to making a difference in my adopted community and state.

Learning makes this a great life, and it will only get greater.

No Half Measures

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June 18, 2021- It is no secret that the strength and longevity of solar heat are getting more intense. This is quite possibly cyclical: The people of southern California and the Southwest endured a drought, from 950-1250 A.D. The Medieval Warm Period, as that era is known, may well have its modern counterpart. How much effect human activity has on this cycle is very much open to research and discussion, but its effect on us is very clear.

A full dermatological inspection of my neck and face showed that both ears, my left cheek and a spot just under my left eye have basal cell carcinomae. The ears and the spot under the eye have been treated and may very well not continue to represent a problem, provided I am more diligent in wearing a broad-brimmed hat, and sunscreen, when outside-a habit I let lapse, during the mandatory face mask period of last year. The cheek blotch will need more careful removal-at a point 4-6 weeks from now. In the meantime, I will continue to treat it with DDR Prime and cover it with an X39 Patch. If nothing else, this regiment will protect it and keep it from spreading.

What this does to some of the plans I made for next month is not consequential. Anything on the itinerary after July 15 can be accomplished, after the carcinoma is removed. In the meantime, my days remain full and my heart feels good about seeing this matter through, and renewing the health regimen that had kept me in good stead, for well over sixty years.

Loyalty

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June 16, 2021- Fifty-two years ago, I reported to the Reception Station, at the Massachusetts National Guard Armory, and began what would be thirty months of service in the United States Army. It was all hard for me, back then, for just as a life-toughened fellow soldier told me, ten months later- I hadn’t really had a hard day in my life, up to that point.

Basic Training, at Fort Jackson, SC, was in retrospect, not all that hard. I missed Combat Fire training, by getting stuck in a book. Sergeant First Class Santiago, when I asked to make the training up, told me, “Where you’re going, you won’t need this stuff.” I’m so glad he turned out to be right. Had circumstances been different, though, and combat come my way, I would have figured it out in a hurry. When it was time to qualify on the rifle range, someone misaligned my scope, and I missed the first four shots. Sergeant Braithwaite shook his head, took the rifle and corrected the sights. I got the remaining 16 shots, which made me a Marksman, the lowest category, but still a passing score. As with Combat Fire, grenades and bayonet, I never needed to use the M16, for anything other than training exercises. I passed the Physical Training and General 3 tests, with flying colours-and felt like it was the first time in my life that I’d done anything right. First Sergeant Elam, a bitter man, tried to cut me down, but I could see right through his jabs.

Army Postal Training, at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, followed. Then, there were postings at Fort Myer,VA; Long Binh and Cholon, VietNam and I was home by January 2, 1972, to resume my college studies. The biggest things I learned, from the Armed Forces were loyalty, perseverance, commitment and ingenuity. Those have stood me in good stead, for well over 50 years.

Loyalty does not mean subservience. I picked that up from one Corporal J. Eggebrecht, a hard-as-nails Physical Training instructor, and nobody’s fool. Eggebrecht razzed me, constantly and directly, but I could see every point he made-and it was a good part of what made boy into man; though at the time, Jim would’ve rolled on the ground laughing at the thought of me being full grown. The same was true of Mack Gray and Ted Wescott, two other drill instructors. Fifty-two years later, Paul Elam was wrong and his underlings were right on the money.

I am loyal to family, friends, community, nation and planet. I will never swear fealty to an individual, nor will I ever again ask “How high?”, when someone says “Jump”. This is something that one person on the periphery of my life, right now, is bound to learn to his chagrin. It’ll be best for him, in the long run, and for me, immediately.

Flags, etc.

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June 14, 2021- Today was Flag Day, an often overlooked commemoration of the adoption, on June 14, 1777, of the Stars and Stripes as our national pennant. The flag, to me, is something to be honoured and respected. I am proud to offer a salute, or to stand with my right hand over my heart, when it is presented at a public event. By extension, I will also stand in silent respect, if I am in another country, and ITS flag is similarly presented.

A candidate for local office has been showing a photograph that depicts his opponent waving a flag that is tattered, at a public event of a few years ago. If this is authentic, I object to that other candidate’s ignorance. If it is altered, the shame goes to the man who is showing it around. As for those who stomp on, burn or spit upon a national flag, this may be regarded by the judiciary as free speech, but it is no more worthy of respect than is a stream of profanity.

Flags may be symbols, yet symbolism has value. The most strenuous exercise, in the history of mankind, has produced a society which has slowly, often with excruciating pain, approached its stated ideals. Many of those ideals have yet to be fully realized, and there have been many times, which deserve to be acknowledged, studied and corrected, when the behaviour of the ruling class, and those underneath them, went counter to the stated guiding principles of our national experiment.

In my journey next month, Tulsa will be on the itinerary, on the way east, and Minneapolis will be on the route back west. My heart is heavy, yet hopeful, for this nation which will guide the world spiritually, in years to come, much as it has guided the world economically and politically, in times past.

The flag is a symbol-of the ideals towards which we work, perseveringly.

Breaking A Small Logjam

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June 13, 2021- Every so often, I find myself with nothing to say, at a given moment. On a quiet routine day, such as today, rest takes priority, especially with one very active, at times frenetic week gone and a slightly quieter one ahead. Indeed, a Christian friend, at breakfast this morning, extolled the virtues of not working on the Sabbath of one’s Faith. We Baha’is are, unofficially, given Friday as a day of rest, yet statutes and the present course of the wider society make that sometimes problematic. Still, when I am tired, I take the time to rest.

Nonetheless, life goes on and commentary with it. A small fire broke out today in Cornville, about an hour northeast of here. I may pull a shift, or two, this week, at any shelter that opens in consequence to that fire. There are other matters to which I must attend-some maintenance on the Elantra, a few meetings to host and to attend, and the long overdue resolution of a personal health issue. Fires, and other social emergencies are never convenient, nor are most personal matters. Somehow, action is required on each one-and so on I go, along with anyone else who can make the time.

As for an ongoing flow of conversation, as to why the Federal and state governments move so slowly, if at all, on matters of concern to Joe Citizen, I give you the fact that each person in said governments has to deal with the same logjams of overwork and scheduling rest. There is a conflict in perception, between those who ARE rested and ready for action and those who are running on fumes. Some of us are just slow moving, overly meticulous (Obsessive Compulsive) and prone to overthinking. Others, myself included, take action on matters that present themselves, in as expeditious a manner as possible-giving deferred attention to things that are synchronous to what has our attention at the moment. (For example, a barrage of Instant Messages coming at a time when I am engaged in helping feed two dozen people.)

Each of us is important. None of us is as important as we sometimes want the world to think.

A Path for Healing

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June 8, 2021, Bellemont, AZ– The events of this year have not lost their ability to surprise, though each one, both joyful and sorrowful, has had roots in what has been bound to occur, sooner rather than later.

I have lost friends and family, recently, yet all of them were suffering from chronic disease. Mom moved, of her own volition, from our family home of 66 years, but that had been in the cards for quite some time.

It was a surprise, however, when a man to whom I had been quite close, when he was a child, walked into the kitchen of the summer camp here, at which I will be director for the next few days. “A” did not recognize me at first, as we hadn’t seen one another since 1995. Life has taken him on several rides, but has not dimmed his intellect, or his drive.

Once he did remember who I was, we had a long overdue conversation regarding a mutual loss, which occurred in mid-summer, in the Eighties. He proposed to me that we undertake a hike, what will amount to a healing walk, in mid-August, in the area where the loss transpired.

Healing journeys have occurred throughout my life, and in particular, over the past ten years. This one will close a small hole in my heart, and at least begin to close the much larger hole in his. Indigenous people, the world over, know the importance of ceremonial walks, in bringing the deepest of hurts to the surface, where they can dissipate.

So it goes, that I am continuously being brought to places where the connections that are necessary are made. This is a particularly strong year of healing and correction.

Clarity Makes The Difference

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June 4, 2021- The photo appeared in my Messenger feed, this morning, showing exactly what was needed to realize a dream that its recipient had been struggling to express, for three years. I have said, and meant, for many decades now, that anyone asking for assistance, especially for financial help, must have a plan as to how that assistance will bear fruit.

The project outline, and the accompanying photo, show that my exhortations, and probably those of others in the young man’s life, have begun to sink in and he will have a genuine chance of success-much in the way that a friend of mine, much closer to Home Base, has succeeded, in her two years of agricultural entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, much of the current unrest in the country stems from either sensing that one is being deceived, or believing the deceptions that one is being fed. This goes for extremists on both ends of the spectrum-and for many who are somewhere between the fringes and the center. I notice that a few of the ringleaders of the deception are using pseudonyms. Others are just using bullhorns. Still others smile, say nice words and do the opposite of what they are telling us.

There is no substitute for clarity, in actually getting things done.

The Swiftness of An Airy Year

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June 3, 2021- Today continued the credence being given to a cosmic adviser’s assessment that this year will be dominated by the energy of the Air Sign. Changes have indeed been swift, and at no point more so than today. A long-standing effort to give some limited funding to an African entrepreneur saw its initial disbursing, early this morning. Our family home was sold. I I was able to safely communicate a change in my financial security, to concerned vendors and other recipients. A diagnosis was given on a fairly long-standing health issue, and I look forward to having treatment, very soon.

The changes have been swift, but are not overwhelming-as yet. I know others who are experiencing similar levels of change. The changes are, for the most part, refreshing and reassuring. There are the normal levels of passings, mostly among those with prior serious health issues. There are also people living, healthy and happy, into their nineties and beyond. I met a gentleman on Tuesday, who is 90-and could pass for 55. Then, there is Mom, also in her nineties and enjoying a new chapter in her life.

I, like others dealing with such issues, will naturally adjust my current schedule, as there is nothing more pressing than taking care of my one critical health issue, which will involve an outpatient procedure and likely not be followed by much downtime, if any. You will all know, when it is over-probably within the next three weeks.

Living Dreams

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May 28, 2021- In the midst of settling back in, for four weeks or so, I took the time to work on resolving the one nagging issue that has pursued me, for three years and, most recently, across the country and back: Doing something about African poverty. To his credit, my constant correspondent has become much more forthcoming about how he specifically plans to use any funds that are raised in his name. That made it much easier for me to set up a secure transfer process, for the funds which others and I raise, from now until June 21. There are two things to consider, both matters of justice: 1. Neither I, nor anyone else, am/is obligated to send money, in perpetuity, to anyone who requests it (Calling me “Dad”, or “brother”, does not help matters any, either); 2. At the same time, neither I, nor anyone else, can simply ignore the less fortunate. I have mentioned before, that I give, locally and further afield, to a reasonable extent, so that others may realize their goals-or at least survive. This current, limited and task-specific effort is an example of that. Each person is free to pursue a dream. No one is free to bleed another person dry.

My own dreams are quite simple. Most involve building and maintaining friendships, and being there for people, emotionally and physically. So, I am present, when here at Home Base, and when on the road. This summer will be another one of “those”, which make more sedentary people roll their eyes. The fourth week of June, in Carson City/Reno and Pyramid Lake; July 5, onward, to the Dallas area, New England and several points in between, then across the northern tier to Oregon and Washington, before September beckons, and I take another Home Base respite. October, in western Poland and Germany(Mom’s ancestral region), and a zip down to Croatia to visit an online friend, is still possible. Yes, I get my fill of visiting historical and natural wonders, but I do that here, too.

Dreams are affected by the wider reality, and a relatively minor medical issue may alter my plans a bit, but in the end, the dream and the goal are the bases for what one achieves in life.