Service Is Its Own Reward

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December 8, 2018, Prescott-

Service is its own reward,

It’s not hard to pay it forward.

The quarterly seed exchange

took from me two hours,

and gave dozens of families

a healthy means to power.

A dozen or so volunteers

gathered at a Red Cross party,

taking photos with Santa and his missus,

eating hearty,

and looking back on fulfilling their donors’ wishes.

Today was very well spent,

and in serving others,

I promise to not relent.

NEXT:  A Long and Peaceful Journey

 

Gratitude Week, Day 7: The Finest Fruits

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November 24, 2018, Prescott-

I have decided to end this week of gratitude, by looking back at the ten best choices I ever made.  I am grateful to the Universe for having placed these in front of me and I have a measure of self-gratitude for having made them.

10,  Serving in the Army– At 18, I had little to show for my life. There was no discipline, of which to speak and my world consisted of drooling over girls and imbibing too much alcohol, too fast.  Other-imposed discipline gave me a regimen, which I could add to the work ethic that my parents instilled in each of us and it set me on  a course of self-reliance, which I still need and use.

9.  Studying Psychology- It didn’t make me wealthy and barely got me a job, but knowing something of what makes the human mind tick has given me insight into myself and has made me more understanding of others.

8. Living on the Navajo Nation- I have a strong genetic memory of the Indigenous. I am not much, in terms of blood quantum, but my nature fairly burns with the feeling that I belong in the woodlands; that I am a gatherer and a sharer; that I am one with the Universe. Being on the same page, day to day, with Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi people reinforced that unity.

7. Blogging-   Writing is a skill that three of my four high school English teachers saw as a talent that I needed to sharpen.  They gave me the tools to keep on sharpening that talent.  College brought it up another notch.  As a caretaker, and then as a widower, far from extended family, blogging gave me an outlet, one step up from journaling  (which I also still do) and a wider appreciative audience.

6, Returning to work, full time- In 2016, having been a substitute teacher, with a couple of other jobs, whilst being Penny’s caretaker, I found a niche at Prescott High School.  My place there was, more or less, secure and I was urged to return full-time, for the years leading up to my retirement from education.  That work has been fulfilling, and will remain so until I reach 70, two years from now.

5.  Working as a counselor- As a school counselor, I was able to impact thousands of lives, over the span of eleven years, between Tuba City and Keams Canyon/Jeddito, and some of those lives were saved.  I am haunted by  a few lives that weren’t and by those I couldn’t reach.  The majority, though, learned life skills and resilience, and knew that someone had their backs.

4. Settling in Prescott- The job aside, moving here after Penny’s passing was a lifesaver.  I had the anchor of a house, for the time I needed it, and of a Faith Community with whom I was already familiar and who were not intimate with Penny’s suffering.  That last was important.  I could not have the constant reminders of all that we had endured together.  Since then, I have made many new friends and branched out in several directions-all healthy.

3. Widespread travel-Besides going back and forth from Arizona to the East Coast, for family visits, my wanderlust has taken me to western Europe, Hawai’i, the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  I took in a small swath of eastern Canada, last summer and am likely to cross our northern neighbour again, in the summer of 2020.  California, Nevada and Colorado have also seen a lot of me, these past seven years, as have the South and Midwest.  This is an essential part of who I am.

2.  Getting married- I have always been crazy about girls and women.  There isn’t much about the opposite gender that I don’t like, though I am proud to be male.    Self-dislike got in the way, though, when I found myself drawn to one young lady after another.  Penny didn’t fall for any of that, and we built a solid foundation, by which both of us were able to tame most of our demons and raise a fine young man, who has taken his full place in the world.

1. Recognizing Baha’u’llah- I received a solid spiritual foundation, having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith. As I matured, though, the rituals and practices began to feel automatic to me, and I have always known that there is a continuity to Divine Revelation, superseding any one of the faiths or denominations that are commonplace.  In 1972, I heard of Baha’u’llah, and the Baha’i Faith, for the first time.  Nine years later, I embraced Baha’i as my own.  I have found its precepts teach everything in which I already believe, and the teachings regarding health are exactly what I needed, to tame the demon of alcohol dependence.  Far beyond those, however, are the vision of planetary and human unity-dispelling the darknesses of racism, nationalism and excessive materialism.

I am sure I will have other choices to make, in the coming days, months, and years.  Perhaps a life-changer will be among them, as well.

Gratitude Week, Day 4- Those Who Serve

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November 21, 2018, Congress, AZ-

I’m enjoying dinner here, at Nichols West, a small but elegant restaurant, on the north side  of this tiny ranching and mining town, itself at the western edge of Yavapai County.  The place is the love-work of an English-South African-New Zealander couple, and has not once left me wanting for a fine meal.

I came here, after setting myself the challenge of re-training my knees to work together, whilst paying respects for a second time, to the nineteen men who perished in the Yarnell Hill fire, on June 30, 2013.

I know members of four of the families of those who gave their lives that day.  Their collective sacrifice is typical of those families who give us their finest members, each and every day, never knowing whether their child, spouse or parent is going to return home, safe and sound.

This sacrifice has been written large, in the 9/11 attacks, in the mass killings of military and first responders of less celebrated, but equally compelling, disasters, and in the wildland fires, and other natural disasters, that continue to ravage locations across the country and across the planet.

So, I walked to the circle of gabions, in a quiet valley below the boulder-racked ridges of Yarnell Hill, the southern tip of the Santa Maria Range.  There were several others, enjoying the bright blue sky and rugged trail, whilst paying their own homage to the brave.  It is always worth the trek.20181121_121343[1]

I took my time, and was nearly the last one out of the park, with fifteen minutes to spare. The day  began with me befriending a frightened woman, who is caretaker to the love of her life (Yes, we also serve, who sit and wait), and listening/counseling her to keep on loving and cherishing the man who has been everything to her for decades. It is now ending, with my knees no worse for the wear and a restorative meal, having honoured those fallen men, whose memory is indelible.

The Flow of Consciousness River

16

October 6, 2018, Prescott-

Today, and for the eight days that follow, I will be on Fall Break from my place of work.  As ever, much of this break will be spent in service (today, tomorrow and Monday), dealing with the details of life (Tuesday) and focused travel (Wednesday-next Sunday).

I woke this morning, in a focused, but rather detached state.  Going through the regular grooming routine and dealing with news of the outside (more of the same back-and-forth, between right and left; the stock market, once again, dealing with good economic news by imagining future bad stuff; the Navajo Nation dealing with yet another collapse of its western lifeline road).

Nothing earthshaking has happened in my little world, overnight, and I have much to get done in the next hour, before a long, freely-chosen, day of service activities, so I will be brief about this:  I am now in a very detached, almost surreal state of consciousness. No substances have been involved, I just woke up this way and am still in a very aware, but unusually calm, state of being.

This will work in my favour, through a Baha’i gathering, two hours hence and the Convergence at Arcosanti, where I am serving for the second year, at a gathering of various groups to ponder and discuss the direction of society.  Hopefully, there will be no disruption of a meditation session, which I hope to join. Last year’s session was obliterated by a loud and pushy group, who represented the antithesis of meditation.

I will have more to say, in snippets, over the next few days, but will be mostly offline, until Monday night.

Love to all.

Aged-Out?

19

September 24, 2018, Prescott-

I have heard, from a well-meaning person, that a man my age cannot handle intense romantic relations, of a physical kind. I guess it depends on the man.  Unless I find another woman who makes her way into a marital situation, I will not know as that applies to me. So, there is one moot point.

I do, however, manage to complete even a lengthy, and vigourous, physical job, to its completion, as I did on Saturday, whilst helping on a school garden project.  There is a major faith-based project, next Saturday, in which I will take part, and another, the following weekend, at Arcosanti’s Convergence, which dovetails with a Baha’i event and a nearby Pancake Breakfast.  I feel good, after vigourous work, so I don’t anticipate issues there.

I get the sense, from my building supervisors, that maybe I am occupying shoes meant for a younger person.  My immediate supervisor may well resist that, and I think I just need to stay the course, for as long as my stamina remains as it is now.

In a nutshell, I intend to keep on working, as I have said before, for at least two more years.  December, 2020, would be a good time to bid adieu, but there would have to be a younger person ready to finish out the academic year, at that point.

Tangential, Part 2

17

September 13, 2018, Prescott-

There are two kinds of events that impact anyone’s life.  Scheduled and anticipated occasions tend to get most of my attention. My niece’s wedding, earlier this year, was the centerpiece of my scheduling the entire road trip, with a gathering at a friend’s house, two weeks later, being the climax of the journey.  My mother’s 90th birthday, this past Monday, entailed careful gifting and a pleasant early morning call.   Another family event, of which I will speak closer to its happening, will take place in mid-November.  There are numerous faith-based and community events here, between now and December, that will take on an urgency, either in the minds of their organizers and/or in terms of their real impact on our community.

The second kind of event, of course, is the random, serendipitous happening.  Spontaneity is common to our species. So, a late night message from a friend or loved one will also take on a certain urgency.  A chance encounter with a good-hearted soul, or with an opposite number, will do likewise.  Dealing with miscreants, in Montreal, during the above-mentioned road trip, was certainly an example of this last.  Connecting with U.S. Federal and Canadian provincial authorities was an example of dealing with good-hearted souls.  Then, there was the run down to Florida, out of concern fro my mother-in-law’s fragile health, especially after the losses of her last-surviving sibling and one of her cousins, earlier this year. Here at Home Base, numerous things happen, almost daily, that are either on a whim or the results of several prior events-but somehow are not anticipated.

I deal better with the random and sudden, than I used to.  People’s individual concerns and events seem to be hyper-urgent, these days, so I feel the need to keep myself sharp.  Even across the country, as dear friends and extended family prepare for yet another “Storm of a Lifetime”, or maybe four such storms, I keep ready for whatever might be needed.

Spontaneity is becoming routine.

The 2018 Road, Day 27:The Flow of Kindred Souls

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June 21, 2018, Hemingway, SC-

I did accomplish a goal of three years’ running:  A simple dinner with a young woman who is like a daughter to me.  C and I met up at Jenna’s Cafe, Virginia Beach, after I negotiated a busy, but peaceful causeway from Williamsburg to V.B., via Norfolk.

After a couple hours of encouragement from me, it was time for her to head back home and prepare for another day’s work.  She has the wherewithal to go far in her field, and to continue doing a fine job with her children.

I found a reasonable motel in Newport News and rested well, preparing for a southward journey.   My next goal would be Louis Gregory Baha’i Institute, Hemingway.  The center is used for spiritual education and gatherings. It is named for an early African-American Baha’i, who was a prominent attorney.  He chose to move to the South, in the midst of the Jim Crow era, and whilst abiding by the laws of the time, he worked behind the scenes to gradually ease the discrimination, which hobbled oppressed and oppressor, alike.

On this summer solstice, I chose to bypass Richmond, and drove a straight shot through North Carolina, to which I will return, next week. A leisurely drive into South Carolina’s pine woods brought me to LGBI,

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES just in time to meet the caretaker, before he closed up for the night.G generously gave me accommodations for the night, for which I offered a nominal contribution, this being a place that operates on a shoestring budget. LGBI was established in 1972, to assist the large number of people in northeastern South Carolina, who had shown interest in the Baha’i Faith.

Here are some scenes from around the small campus. The first three are from the Main Hall.  The patchwork quilt was made by junior youth, ages 11-14.

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Mr. Gregory is shown below, with his English-born wife, Louisa.  Theirs was one of the first interracial marriages performed legally in the United States.

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After settling into my night’s lodging, I made a visit to downtown Hemingway, for dinner, finding the lovely and welcoming Fish Net Seafood Market.

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Across the street from LGBI is a Baha’i- affiliated radio station, named-what else: WLGI!

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I find my accommodations for the night quite refreshing, and another unfinished goal from 2007 is realized.

NEXT:  Return to Greenville

 

Janus in July

6

July 30, 2018, Prescott-

I will return to the chronicles of my summer road trip, in a few hours. First, though, I want to note this month’s activities, closer to Home Base.  The three weeks following Independence Day were mostly relaxing, yet had their share of joyful activity.  We celebrated the birthday of  a generous and humble friend, in what was supposed to be a surprise.  Our efforts came as no surprise to her, but she was nonetheless delighted.

I learned that my left knee does not take kindly to being idle for long stretches on the road, at least while my carcass is undergoing chiropractic adjustment, between now and March.  There is some connection between the two, so with Fall coming, I will need to get in at least one vigourous walk per day.  That will give my knees the workout they seem to crave.  Planet Fitness and Deep Blue ointment are also helping.

I have, at long last, taken the time to pay a few visits to Firehouse Coffee and Black Dog Coffee Shop, virtually completing “discovery” of our town’s java joints.  Both are fine purveyors of brew, but Firehouse wins the cinnamon roll contest.  Black Dog focuses on scones.  The Saturday after I got back was my son’s 30th birthday.  After wishing him a great day, long-distance, I went to Game Night at Wild Iris-enjoying Uno and a dice game, with the regulars at this event.

This past weekend, though, was a special cap on this bountiful summer.  I did three days’ Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) service at Bellemont Baha’i School, west of Flagstaff.  All three days featured “gully washers”. Saturday had the added excitement of a heavy hail shower.

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Even with a borrowed tent, and large tarpaulin, there was much to be done later, as I had to use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to siphon the small pond that had threatened to ensure no sleep that night.  As it was, I had a dry tent, by nightfall, and slept very well.

The service in question was on behalf of over 50 middle school-age children, from the Phoenix area. Many of them had not been out of the metro area, so being in the woods was a fabulous experience,  to say the least.

The camp was open for a half day, today, but I came back to Prescott, last night.  Three days of preparation and “welcome back” gatherings at Prescott High School will get another year of concerted effort at learning underway.  So, it’s ten months of joyfully getting up at 4:30, knowing that we will provide at least some stability and learning opportunities for eight young people who, rather like me at their age, cannot count on their own bodies to remain calm and focused, without assistance.

2018-19 will be a monumental academic year.

The 2018 Road, Day 7: Savouring American Routes

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June 2, 2018, Carthage, IL-

I had a decent night’s sleep, in my premium room at Budget Inn, before embarking on a morning and noon of enjoying some of the International Ragtime Festival, downtown Sedalia.

The Festival is sparked by Scott Joplin’s connection with Sedalia, but many others are celebrated by the Festival:  James Scott, James P. Johnson, Jelly Roll Morton, Gene Greene and Eubie Blake (whom I once had the pleasure of meeting and hearing, in person. Mr. Blake could still play piano and sing, at the age of 90.)

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Approaching, and inside, the main performance tent, I found a skilled ragtime pianist entertaining the crowd, with both songs and stories of James Scott and Jelly Roll Morton, as well as of john Philip Sousa, whose energetic marches influenced ragtime, as well.

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One must also eat, whilst at a festival of this sort, and eating local foods is always preferable.  This food truck offered “hand-cut, hand-breaded tenderloin” sandwiches.  I got one, with hand-squeezed fresh lemonade.  It lasted me the rest of the day.  (“Chilli” refers to Chillicothe, MO).

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Lastly, this performer was focusing his energies on the work of James P. Johnson.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

So, the day was a perfect counterpoint to last night’s confusion and disappointment.  I went on to visit a couple, now living in Columbia, who were American Legion friends in Prescott.  Then I headed riverward.

The Mississippi, from Hamilton, IL, southeast of Keokuk, IA, offered this sunset.

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I had the best of what was left me in my cooler, at the quiet Smith Memorial Roadside Park, in Missouri, just west of Keokuk.  Out of respect, I did a bit of clean-up on the property, before eating.

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Stopping in Nauvoo, the last residence of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I found that it would not have been a good idea to take twilight photos.  All the houses are occupied, and a vigilant security guard was there, to warn away evening visitors.  It is a hauntingly pretty place in early evening, though.

 

 

 

I Know (The OTHER 99%)

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May 10, 2018, Prescott-

I know that there is no one place on Earth, where the sunrises and sunsets can’t be spectacular.

I know that there is much to do, in any community, whether one is a resident or a concerned visitor.

I know that there is no time or occasion, when the flag or anthem of this country is being presented, that I will not stand and either salute or place my right hand over my heart.

I know that there is no time or occasion, if I am visiting another country, and its flag or anthem is being presented, that I will not stand in respect.

I know that if I come across anyone in distress, anywhere, I will do everything in my power to secure help and relief for that person or those persons.

I know that there is no work day that is unimportant, whether it is a regular academic day or truncated schedule.  Each day’s routine and challenges deserve to be met.

I know that there is no “day off”, where I can throw all caution to the wind, ignore those around me or pretend I am the only one who matters.

I know there is no legitimate bill for services that can be just ignored.

I know there is no honest work that deserves to be denigrated.

I know there is no sentient being that is unworthy of love, at some level.