Gratitude Week, Day 1: Eight Valuable Groups of Friends

2

November 18, 2018, Prescott-

I am devoting Thanksgiving week to specific reasons for gratitude. Each day will address a theme that is cause for praise and happiness. Today, I want to look at what I’ve gained, from friendships with people in ten different groups.

Senior citizens:  Those over 75 years of age (my arbitrary definition of senior citizen) have accrued the life skills and practice to address even the most anomalous of occurrences.  Those who have all their faculties intact have consistently pointed me in the right direction.

Teenagers: Having worked largely with teens, over the past forty-two years, I find their honesty and energy have been life-affirming and have kept me very much in a place of integrity. A teen’s “BS Meter” is equal to that of a senior citizen.  The current generation of youth, at least those with whom I work, seem to know that much will be expected of them, in the very near future.

Children under twelve:  Like those immediately older than they, the current generation of children has a sense of most likely needing to clean up messes made by others. They tend to have a strong sense of destiny and are the least likely to “be seen and not heard”.  I find their honesty also very refreshing, even when it is seemingly adversarial.

Happily married (both genders):  I have many friends, both male and female, who are at a good place in their marriages.  The perspective brought by a married person, with no ax to grind, actually is a blend of both their opinion and that of their spouse-thus being more grounded.  I am more likely to become friends as well, with the spouse of  a friend who is happy in wedlock.

The firm in faith:   A person who is well-grounded, but not dogmatic, in their faith is most likely to be open to the commonality of spiritual truth.  As this commonality is the basic teaching of the Baha’i Faith, to which I adhere, I find this firmness a compelling basis for my friendships with many who adhere to other faith traditions.

The happily engaged:  Whether in gainful employment or in acts of voluntarism, a person who is happy in what s(he) is doing with time, is an affirmation of my own concept of acts of service.  Happily engaged people tend to be more trustworthy and connected with others.

Lifelong learners:  Students of life, of every age group, present fresh perspectives to any given situation.  They also challenge me to keep on looking into new issues, or to look at old matters, with fresh eyes.

Special Needs people:  Whether simple in nature or full of complexity, my friends of  special need are always up front about what addresses those needs.  It takes intuition, to understand the feelings and wants of a special needs person.  Anything that hones intuition is a good experience.

Having friends in each, and sometimes several, of these categories is largely what has contributed to the richness of my life.

 

 

 

 

Dear Beloved

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November 16, 2018, Prescott-

Dear Beloved,

I know you are ecstatic, in the placeless realm. Our son is now a husband, a part of something far greater than himself.  My heart was there, earlier today, though my body was asleep as he and his own beloved, our daughter-in-law, took their vows in a simple ceremony, halfway around the world.

There will be an affirmation of those vows, in the not-too-distant future, and then I will be present, body and soul.  These two ceremonies complement and strengthen one another.  Their life together, in the meantime, will reflect all that two sets of loving parents, and two extended families, have imparted to their precious gifts from God.

I feel you continuing to do all in your power to keep him, me and now her, safe and well.  I remain a work in progress, otherwise I would not still be here.  You well know the joys, the sorrows, the achievements and the setbacks that I have met, and embraced, largely with your help.

My little “home base” reflects your presence.  We are everywhere, still, and it will remain thus.  You know of my friends, and you guide me to do right by them. You help me keep a wakeful eye, lest those who do not have my best interests at heart beguile me somehow.  You help me keep my own shortcomings in focus, and in check.

As my little family and I move forward, together and in our respective spaces, I know we can count on your loving, guiding soul.  You can also count on us.

Heartfully,

Gary

Carrying the Heart Home

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November 15, 2018, Prescott- 

As I sat in the midst of a Community Celebration of Thanks, this evening, there was plenty of time, even in the crowd that attended a full schedule of interfaith devotions, to let my heart reflect on what has continued to  make this year one of astonishment and the bestowal of divine grace.

In the past few days alone, I have received affirmations in the areas of finance, friendship and health that I sensed were coming, in the darkness of October, yet had no idea how quickly they would present themselves.

Now, to top it all off, comes the highlight of the year-as I feel, but do not physically witness, the marriage of my son, to a mature, grounded woman, three years his junior, but in every sense his partner, walking side-by-side.  I will be there, in the Spring, though, when they affirm their vows, in a spiritual setting.

I will have much more to recap 2018, upon my birthday, two weeks hence, and of course, at December’s end, when the face of Janus appears again.  The bottom line here, is the value of patience and certitude, even in the darkest of nights.

Our Best Friends, across the Universe, always seem to show up when we need them-though maybe not always upon demand.

 

Unconditional

9

November 11, 2018, Prescott-

Happy Veterans Day to all who served, in “times of peace” and in open conflict.  I regret one thing about 11:11:11/18- I was resolving a conflict over material possessions (someone else’s) at the time, so I missed the reflection which that time merits.

Basically, I have been storing items for a benighted and angry individual.  I had temporarily forgotten where they were stored, and was thus subjected to yet another tirade about how stupid and worthless I was.  Fortunately, this was all electronic, a “hit and run”, so to speak. Even more fortunately, I found the items, they will be transported to a third party, tomorrow and I will be free to ban the above-mentioned person from ever contacting me again.

I have had it with detractors and naysayers-as opposed to sincere, earnest critics, who point out errors, out of love.  The latter will always have my attention.

It has taken a  long, long time for me to value myself and to know that those who lambaste me  are not worth my time.  That time has arrived and I know, both in heart and mind, that I deserve the best that life has to offer.  Actually, we all deserve the best. The fact that some have been raised to regard themselves as worthless, is precisely why there is so much conflict-whether over THINGS,  or over ideas, or over social norms.

If each of us recognized our worth, material possessions would not be the cause of strife, money would not be the source of grief, attention to detail would not be the cause of condemnation.  We would know that all would be alright, if not immediately, then over time.

If each of us really understood the Universe, the nature of Creation, the eternity of being, then there would be no conflict of egos.  There would have been no Lucifer’s rebellion; no smug disregard, by our distant ancestors, of spiritual instruction; no ongoing conflict, often perpetrated by those who cast themselves as “enlightened”, but whose egos only project utter darkness.

I can’t claim to understand it all, but I do understand these:  There is only a place for Light in this world, in this Universe.  There is only a future for those whose hearts are open, whose goals are based on unconditional love.  All else will fail, and will fall away, in confusion and disappointment. More’s the pity.

Giving All

17

November 10, 2018, Prescott-

I woke up from a longer nap than usual, this afternoon.

Getting up this morning,

at my customary workday time of 4:30,

and going through my customary

workday morning routine,

I got going and made it

to Flagstaff,

in time to help a small crew

of firefighters and Red Cross workers,

in checking on homes,

for smoke detectors

and coaching residents

on fire safety and escape plans.

The proactivity in all this,

is not lost on the citizens

of that forested community.

We all watch our neighbour to the west,

and have friends or family,

in some cases in both north and south.

We see Paradise lost,  Malibu mangled

and the San Fernando , smoldering.

People are doing

what is necessary

to get out of harm’s way.

Teachers piled students

into their own vehicles,

and damning the torpedoes,

got their precious cargo

to safety.

This is what it looks like

to give all.

We watch, from Arizona,

and elsewhere,

and we remember.

North Carolina remembers,

the storm surge,

the rivers rising,

and people tending to one another.

Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts remember,

much the same,

and people tending to one another.

Florida remembers,

priceless communities leveled,

and people tending to one another.

We remember, here in Yavapai County,

the gaping maws,

of one fire after another,

consuming subdivisions

and forest dream houses,

and threatening to devour

the centers of thriving towns.

This has been the lot,

of man up against nature,

worldwide,

and from time immemorial.

Now, we see it in Real Time,

in places some of us have been,

and in places we can only see in our minds.

I recall visiting Malibu,

a few years back,

and standing on a ridge,

with a troubled young woman,

sobbing and smoking a cigarette,

nearby.

She put out that cigarette,

when she no longer needed solitude,

and walked, with the extinguished butt,

back to her car,

her emotional state somewhat calmed,

by a few minutes in silence,

looking out over the glorious expanse,

called Mulholland.

She barely noticed me,

but I recognized her immediately,

a public figure,

whose privacy was  honoured that day.

I hope she, and her neighbours and friends,

escaped harm, as this most recent

burst of wrath scours the land.

I visited the Martin Theater,

in Panama City, Florida,

nearly four years ago.

I see that it did not make it

through Hurricane Michael,

just as much of the community

that greeted me so warmly,

did not make it through

the Monster, unscathed.

The Martin will return, though,

and Panama City will rise again.

on more solid footing.

Malibu will rise again,

and the Mulholland wilderness

will remain a refuge

for the disconsolate and the world-weary.

Paradise will be regained.

We who love,

will give our all,

again and again,

for as long as it takes.

Today started out

as an homage to my late mother-in-law,

whose memorial service,

I was unable to attend.

It turned into a statement,

that we will stand

with our family,

with our neighbours

and with all of our children,

to keep this divine trust

called humanity,

in a sacred place,

called home.

 

 

 

 

 

Janus Speaks

6

November 8, 2018, Prescott-

Transitions, both for better and for worse, often seem to take place, just before or after my birthday, which falls towards the end of this month.  They have been big changes, and small ones.

On my 25th birthday, in 1975, I made the drive from my parents’ house, back to Northampton, MA, only to have my then-boss gleefully tell me I had been fired, from a part-time job.  I later found this move was made because a co-worker’s son needed a job.  An acquaintance put things in perspective that night, telling me her divorce had been finalized, earlier that day.  I went on, without the chump change.

In November, 1980, I began to get a very strong message that it was time for me to get involved with a woman again.  A week after my 30th birthday, I met Penny, in Zuni, NM.

In November, 2000, personnel changes took place at the school where I was working, in the aftermath of the untimely deaths of the school’s founders. I had been hired by the wife, whose replacement was not exactly fond of how I was running the school.  My tenure at the school would end, under questionable circumstances, a few months later.

In November, 2010, Penny was released from the rehabilitative hospital, in which she had been treated for seven months, due to insurance policy requirements. She would live only three more months, mostly in hospice treatment.

Late last month, Penny’s mother, the last surviving of her own parents’ children, met the end of her physical suffering.  She will see the civil marriage of her only grandson, from the other side of the Veil.  My beloved son will be wed, on American soil, in Guam, next week.  I will be there in the fullest of spirit, with the promise of attending a spiritual wedding ceremony, next March.

So, once again, autumn brings transition into my life.  There will be other changes, I’m sure, and the net will be for the better.

 

Cocoon

16

November 5, 2018, Prescott-

Yesterday was another one of those days which found me out and about, helping others in their noble efforts.  Not long ago, someone challenged me, with regard to my involvement in the community. The point that this person made was that all these activities constituted a sort of cocoon, guarding me against connecting with my inner conflicts. I was then advised to drop all activities and sequester myself, as soon as possible.

Little does that individual know, but my real cocoon, if you will, is indeed being here, in this small apartment, away from anyone.  The reality is, and has been, that part of me is terrified of being around people who don’t really want me there.  I spent yesterday afternoon seated with strangers, two of whom were openly hostile to my presence at their table.  They were quiet about it, as the effusive person seated next to me was gracious and made sure I felt welcome.   I am quite intuitive, though, and pick up on both positive and negative feelings.

Being involved with community groups is hardly a cocoon, though it can feel quite dark at times.  I do these activities because in the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, it is written: “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”  We Baha’is are to be good in groups, not cloistered in virtue or hiding “our light under a bushel”, as it were.  I have always been one who has had to struggle, mightily, to be among people. Penny helped pull me out of the shell, to the extent that, to outward seeming, I am something of a social butterfly, with lots of friends.  I do feel the warmth of many, both online and in real time, especially among my Baha’i friends.  I also feel the grudging tolerance of several people, and take that for what is worth.

My point here is that being involved with the good of the community is not a  source of comfort, nor is it a protection against any inner turmoil.  That protection comes when I commune with the Creator, in the early hour before dawn, at midday and in the evening.  Then, alone, do I summon the energy to face the world, and the ravages that go along with the joys.

The Light of Abiding Love

9

November 4, 2018, Prescott-

Friday night, I headed down to Phoenix, and spent time with several old friends, at the Baha’i Center.  The occasion was a Launch Party Tour finale for  the latest album by a talented young artist, named Colby Jeffers, a rapper with a strong spiritual message.

One of the themes he raised was the importance, the abiding bond, with his wife, M.  They have been present for one another, for several years now, and the love is only getting deeper.

I saw several examples of the light of abiding love, that night, and over the weekend.  Another young couple showed both the firmness of their bond, by holding one another, at moments when Colby’s words hit just the right tone of everlasting love, then having the strength to go about their individual tasks of the evening, knowing that each would be there for the other, when needed.

Penny and I were like that, so my heart is always warmed by a man who takes good care of his beautiful wife-and vice versa.  I feel much the same towards couples who are not quite married, but who are committed to one another.  Having so many friends who are at one point on the commitment continuum, or another, their ties generate light in the world, and I feel reassured.

This was further cemented today, when I attended an honorarium, at a lovely equestrian ranch northwest of here, and saw a couple being honoured, for their service to the Prescott community.  They have suffered unimaginable losses, these past two years, and while I am not her favourite person, by any stretch, I feel very much appreciative of both all they have done and for the depth of their suffering.  Their light shines, intensely, through all the shadows.

Marriage is an affirmation of light, when it is real.

Back to Light

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November 3, 2018, Prescott-

It’s no secret that there was a fair amount of darkness in my life, a few weeks ago.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but I had to go through having my ego tested, to see whether I deserved to have the goodness that has been increasing, over the past four months, to continue.

The dark consisted of a number of anomalous situations, involving limited communication means and quickly changing circumstances.  This is how darkness works: Obfuscate, confuse and deflect.  Gaslighting is the name of its game.

Darkness, though, is the absence of light.   Once sunshine re-enters, the confusion gets dispersed, Hopefulness, never completely gone, reclaims its share of the heart.  The commonalities, between seemingly disparate anomalous situations, appear-even to my mind, that can be so slow on the uptake.

So, now, my left knee is functioning just fine again.  A serious impediment to my finishing this academic year has been removed.  A person, who had abruptly left my circle of friends, sent me a conciliatory note and I was reassured, by a mutual friend, that a small but important matter, involving said soul, had indeed been resolved.

My schedule can still be maddening, at times, and I realize I am the one who ultimately drives that bus.  Compromises and occasionally saying “No” are arising, as things get more intense, during this holiday season.  I have also figured out how to more effectively use the time I do have available.

There are only two non-negotiables, in that respect.  I will attend my mother-in-law’s interment, sometime in the next few months, and my son’s nuptials, in the early Spring.  Everything else is a matter of timing and of urgency.  There are good reasons for synchronicity in the Universe, and we do well to not be afraid to prioritize.

There is another aspect to Light, which I am glad to be seeing more often these days:  The importance of marriage and the family.  I will discuss that further, in the next post.

Wait Just A Minute

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October 31, 2018, Prescott-

Halloween was low key, at least tonight.

Twenty people happened by my solitary, if well-lit, table on our quiet street.

It was full-blast, over the weekend, though

I went to one party, with my co-workers,

and it was the most heartfelt event.

My appreciation goes to friends in Phoenix and Scottsdale,

whose parties I missed.

See you next October, as things stand now.

That brings me to the main point of this piece.

I no longer rank order my friends.

I no longer have most favourite restaurants,

coffee shops, places to visit.

I am finding too much of merit,

in too many places,

and with too many people.

Someone asked me,

not long ago,

who my best friend was,

and why I didn’t speak to that best friend,

on a daily basis?

In truth, I have many friends

and I may speak to them,

as needed.

My friends are,

quite frankly,

both human and spirit.

Usually, it is the spirit friends

who tell me I need to be

nicer to the humans.

I take that admonition seriously.

Back to the idea of favourites.

We rank order, in this life,

for reasons particular to the person

doing the ranking.

We want to have reliable people,

on whom we might call,

in a time of need.

We enjoy a certain barrista’s latte

or a given baker’s quiche or breads,

or a pasta chef’s lovingly made spaghetti bolognese.

We love how the vegan lady downtown

makes such delectable soups.

I might miss the teasing of a cerebral friend, uptown,

or my brother’s sometimes caustic, but always on-point, admonitions.

I might just need the affirmations of a devout Christian friend,

who understands me, better than most.

I may want to connect with friends in Alberta, Alaska,

or Alsace.

None really is superior to the others.

Maybe, I am reaching a point of true unity.

It has come hard, and I am still working

on my sticky point:

That consistency of presence thing.

It even happened this evening.

Little “S”, for whom I’d give my life,

snuck up to my Halloween table,

whilst I was bidding farewell

to a 9-year-old vampire.

“Trick or treat”,

followed by the world’s most beautiful

toothy smile, brought me back

to front and center.

She wanted to visit my table,

before putting on her witch’s hat.

“S” and her mother made my evening.