Just So Much Skin in The Game

2

June 15, 2021- After reading my horoscope, which said not to make financial decisions today, I spent a delightful morning at Phippen Museum of Western Art, on Prescott’s north side, with my hiking buddy. Given that it was too hot for any outside activity, enjoying various paintings, sculptures and Native American handicrafts was a fine way to appreciate the Southwest. It also gave A.K. a possible outlet for creativity, during the rest of the hot weather. The Phippen offers affordable painting classes, once a week.

I have no qualms about sharing time and energy, as these imply that the other people involved will invest the same. Money, as I’ve said before, is a different matter. People often throw out- “The more you give, the more you get”, in a guilt-mongering manner. I have said, more times than I have cared to, that my fair share of coin goes to those in need. So, I set a hard and fast limit on the amount going towards a socioeconomic development project in another country. This generated a sarcastic comment, that I have such “an elevated sense of brotherhood”. I actually view that as a compliment. What I am not doing for one person, in perpetuity, is balanced by what I am doing for others. I want to see just how much the individual will pull himself together, working with others to build a communal dream. I will “beseech God to guide him”-as Baha’u’llah teaches us.

My parents gave us only so much, in the way of financial and material assistance, and I believe each of us are the better for it.

Flags, etc.

6

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.

The Flow

2

June 12, 2021- The past four days were my first attempt at administering a formal event, since 2013. Then, there was a dire emergency, a day or so after the horrific deaths of nineteen wildland firefighters with an ongoing wildfire emergency. I supervised a shelter for some 60 people, who had fled the fire zone, in the small communities of Yarnell and Peeples Valley, about 35 miles southwest of Prescott. This lasted but one night, as a national Red Cross team arrived, the next morning.

This time around, the task was to coordinate a camp for 14 teenagers, who are studying Baha’i teachings. It also involved tending to the needs of four adult tutors, five kitchen staff, two groundskeepers and a recurring visitor, whose skillsets actually came in handy a few times. Three members of the Bellemont School Committee also visited, and thankfully were helpful and anything but overbearing.

My management style, largely derived from watching my father-who was a middle manager, is to take a respectful interest in the activities of both clientele and staff, rolling up my sleeves, so to speak, in any area where needed. It was a pleasure to join the students’ devotionals, help in the kitchen when needed and keep an eye on the needs of individuals, both in terms of first aid and arranging comfortable sleeping facilities. This last is especially critical, as the nighttime temperature differential between the Phoenix area, where most of the people present live, and Bellemont is 50 degrees. Many of the visitors had no clear concept of this critical difference, despite being told in advance, by the camp organizers.

That the camp’s activities achieved a smooth flow is a tribute both to the organizers and to our group’s commitment to the success of the camp, as well as to the maturity of the teenagers. It was a resoundingly reaffirming start to a very full summer.

A Path for Healing

8

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.

Reflections on A Day Taken Off

2

June 6, 2021- Thirty-nine years ago, today, Penny and I formalized our commitment to one another-and the marriage would last, through thick and thin, for twenty-nine years. I was hoping for at least forty, but we take what we are given. Some people are married for fifty years plus, and are inwardly miserable. We were not either. Speaking of which, as an aside, an indie artist, at a gathering on Saturday night, played a clip of his, on which a local philosopher opined: “”One who claims to be miserable, and at the same time insists he is right, is stating the impossible. It can never happen.”

Processing the loss of one of my closest cousins, I received word that a fellow member of the American Legion Post to which I belong had suffered a heart attack and is in hospital, facing the now de rigeur bypass surgery. He is one of the regulars, at our Sunday morning breakfasts, holding court and waxing eloquent about everything under the sun, in the style of an English aristocrat. That he is of Sicilian descent matters not. T’s heart and soul are rooted in the Merry Old Isle.

My day was otherwise occupied with the mundane-getting laundry done, gluing the front right quarter panel of my Hyundai, with the same substance that’s kept the back left in place, for nearly three years and watching episodes of “The Underground Railroad” and “Peaky Blinders”. Five of us pondered another set of quotes from the Universal House of Justice’s (Baha’i Governing Body) compilation on Social Action. I got in another workout.

In all this, I am looking at what is going on in the wider world, and just shaking my head, keeping up with it all, yet feeling as if it’s all a dream. The most important things in my life are all revolving around family, friends and the children-always, the children.

One of the traits that my cousin, John, had was presence, centering on who was in front of him, for as long as the person needed. That has not been my strong suit, though I am getting better at it. I am still not great at the perfunctory- greetings or conversation for their own sakes, especially online or long-distance. Birthdays and anniversaries are different; they draw my attention, because they matter so much. The rest of it-well, maybe my agenda is too broad and the next thing is always on my horizon. Still, I am making progress at being present, with someone who is in front of me, at any given time.

Twenty-nine years did teach me something.

Stability

2

May 29, 2021- There have been many times in my life, when I felt the ground was caving in beneath my feet. Somehow, I have always managed to recover. Sometimes, it has been because of help from family or friends. Other times, it has been because of my own stubbornness and refusal to accept the status quo, or settle for just any set of circumstances.

Now is a time when I have achieved stability, with no clouds on the horizon. The caveats are that I must be willing to share, to a reasonable and markedly-limited degree, and to do so in a way that will not make me a ward of someone else.

I credit both my upbringing and the Baha’i Faith for this basic sense of stability, having absorbed some lessons right away, and others over a period of time. My yardstick for the strength of stability is mainly the avoidance of capricious and ill-considered decisions. I am much better, in that regard, than even seven years ago. It took bouncing back from losing Penny and recognizing that I have far more worth than any naysayers have led me to believe, at certain periods of this life.

This same message is what I impart to anyone who approaches with a tale of woe. In the long run, stability only comes from doing what one’s inner essence advises- and never kowtowing to someone else’s dictates, no matter how loud and forceful their voice.

Around Hometown: Day 5

4

May 21, 2021, Saugus- Mom gave me my marching orders. I am to do several sit-ups, every day, henceforth, eat smaller portions and get out on the trail more often. While she is still very concerned with COVID variants (she is fully vaccinated, but frets about the deniers causing havoc), she knows I am not at risk for the disease. Thus, taking care of the Septuagenarian Sag is to be one of my main focuses.

This comes with her own promise to me, to engage with her fellow residents and end her long self-imposed isolation, which came to an end with her move of last week. There are several activities she can join now, so I look forward to the resumption of her letters-which she stopped, out of annoyance at being stuck in the house, for so long.

Today is the twenty-first day of the fifth month, in the twenty-first week, of the twenty-first year, of the twenty-first century. Twenty-one is the Industrial Age’s hallmark of maturity. This, in and of itself, means little to actual maturity, which varies from person to person. When I was 21, I was in the throes of adjusting to a rapidly-changing set of circumstances, in my life, but using the methods of an adolescent. Maturity, for me, came around age 40. The century, though, has begun heading into its maturity, with the human race, likewise, being dragged kicking and screaming into its own maturity. Forces like nationalism, racism, misogyny, sectarianism, patriarchy and material jealousy are bound to fade-though not before each goes through its “wounded predator” stage.

My current visit to my hometown will come to an end, tomorrow morning, and the road southward, then westward, will occupy me-and this blog. I have my marching orders, though, and my filial sense has not faded, even as mother and son share the status of advanced age.

Farewell, childhood home, and may you become the place of memories for another family.

My childhood home
The old backyard
Our dogwood tree

Around Hometown: Day 4

2

May 20, 2021, Saugus- In anyone’s life, priorities must be made, kept and never be fodder for apology. I took stock of my charitable efforts, this afternoon. They are, by any definition, responsibly generous. I will not apologize for not taking on additional causes, no matter how persistent and vocal the appellants are. There remains one appeal on Facebook, to GROUP contributions. If no one contributes, in three weeks’ time, that will end-and I will not apologize, no matter how harshly, or how widely, I am criticized. I have told those who might benefit, that there are no guarantees. Besides, I know, and people who know me best will concur, that I do not live for my own comfort, alone.

I felt better about myself today, observing the process of refuse collection and donation retrieval at the old family house. It is just about empty now, with a few boxes to be taken to Mom’s new residence. We had a vibrant and wonderful family dinner, this evening, at Teresa’s Italian Restaurant, in the town of MIddleton, about 10.5 miles north of here. Whatever tensions or differences of opinion might have arisen in the family, over the past several days, vanished, with the awareness that we were all here for Mom.

I will spend one more day here, visiting an old friend around Noon, and going back to Mom’s place in the early evening. Then, the road back to Arizona opens up, with the knowledge that I will be back here, in midsummer, to honour Mom’s progress in this new chapter of an incredible life.

Around Hometown, Day 3

2

May 19, 2021, Saugus- Today was a bit of a break from the house clearing. I focused more on getting the car’s regular service. No problems arose there. Otherwise, today was mostly spent resting.

I made the choice to spend the last two nights here at Chisholm’s, rather than sleeping on the carpet in the old house, “for old time’s sake.” There is only so much emotional value, in spending time where ghosts actually did call on me, in my childhood. There are also the ghosts of my own inferiority sense, which I realize now was just a reflection of the inferiority that some very vocal people, in my family and close by, seemed to feel in my presence. It would have been better, had they never felt that way. Putdowns flowed pretty freely, back and forth, in the days of my youth. Much of that has been overcome, but there is the residue that I sense, after being with certain people for more than a few hours.

I know this much, though. There is no length to which I would not go, to defend and protect any of my family and townspeople from attack. Every one of us has been wrestling with demons, and for far longer than we sometimes care to acknowledge. I have urged people who want my help, in other communities and countries, to learn to work together at a local level. That admonition has sometimes been put to the test, these past few days, in my own situation. I find that a good thing; self-purification makes giving advice to others a whole lot more trustworthy.

Around Hometown: Day 2

2

May 18, 2021, Saugus- My visit with Mom, this evening, produced a lot of talk of her long life, with the joyous acknowledgement that her life is far from over. She is grateful that she has us, her children, tending to the house and making time to visit her in this first week in new quarters. None of us would have it any differently. Mother has given us so much of herself, from my own Day One, onward. Another woman in our nuclear family has taken on so much of tending to her needs- as well as initiating and maintaining the process of clearing and selling the old house. This week is the least we men can do to help out. I will likely be back, in late July or early August, to follow up with Mom’s progress in adjusting to her new home. In the meantime, she has plans to join in the Center’s activities and I know she will make new friends.

Curiously, the “don’t forget about us” calls and messages I have been getting, from elsewhere in the country and across the globe, have both made me put this current effort into perspective, and have triggered some old trauma, which has only been vaguely in my memory. I have figured a way to help another family, experiencing dislocation, even as my mother has successfully been resettled. There is someone else, in another part of the world, whose difficulties are, in large part, the result of his community’s failure to act in concert with one another. When I have encountered such dystopia, in the past, the feelings that have arisen are confusion, anxiety, then sadness, and finally, an angry outburst at those who refuse to work together. There is also a measure of self-loathing, as invariably those same people will turn and list all of what they claim are my own shortcomings and all the ways that I have failed them.

My psyche is changing, though, and I am seeing more clearly that the only way out of any impasse is for those on the ground to work together-and never for someone from outside to swoop in, throw money at the problem, and leave. That colonialist and patriarchal method has become the default for so many, in impoverished communities, both in this country and elsewhere. I am no longer going to blame myself for the refusal of others to help themselves, regardless of their own past experiences.

When I left Saugus, so many years ago, I was hobbled by fear, uncertainty of self-worth and the Rescuer Syndrome. That was not my parents’ fault, but it was my burden to cast aside. It is gone, now, and I feel it important to hold others to the same standard. All communities, especially those which are disadvantaged, need to band together and raise themselves up-confronting, as a unit, every single obstacle in their way.