Summer’s End

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September 20, 2021- This has been a strange eight days. I chalk most of it up to the change of seasons, which often finds me out of sorts and seeing darkness where none is intended. That, in turn, leads to trusted friends drawing back a bit and my being in a somewhat isolated state, for a few days. Taking the hint, this year, it’s a time to take care of a few things that have gone neglected for a while, today, and be in nature tomorrow-the day of Equinox.

It didn’t help matters any, that a planned deployment with the Red Cross fell through-only because I didn’t make a second consecutive phone call to the dispatcher-when I was expecting a confirmation call from that individual. Funny, how the protocol from last year has changed. At any rate, given my emotional state, I would not have been on game and mistakes may have happened, that would not have served well. Things, no matter how confusing, happen for the general good.

Today begins a second series of September birthdays (Mom’s and my middle brother’s being the first set, earlier this month). This one starts with the birthday of someone with whom I have had scant contact, in this life, but an inexplicable bond from some other realm of existence. It includes the birthday of my sister and ends with the commemoration of Penny’s birthday, both next week.

Summer’s end caps a season that took in a second cross-country journey, saw some friendships start to fade, others generate and renewed my bonds with good-hearted people. It included a longer work project than I had planned, but the results were fairly successful. It is now time to look towards Autumn-the season of harvest, and of my own birth. It will bring me to southern California, for a few days next week; complete Red Cross training that I feel is needed, in early October; and make a journey to places in New Mexico that have longed called out. Fall will also bring a couple more sessions with the dermatology team and hopefully see my little family come out here for Thanksgiving. I may yet also go on deployment for a couple of weeks.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Dan Wilson, “Closing Time”

Now, for another song, from a master songwriter:

Little Ado, Almost Nothing

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September 18, 2021- The call, for which I waited all day, never came. There was a flurry of phone activity on Thursday, with Red Cross dispatchers asking me, first to go to Louisiana to work as a computer operator, then deciding I might be better at supervising a shelter. Since I couldn’t go there immediately, owing to faith-based commitments, it was agreed I would go on Sunday-with documents to be handed me today.

Today has come, and is almost gone. With no word from RC, (and yes, the ball is in their court), I have concluded, from checking the weather forecast for Baton Rouge, that the need is fading. Bright sunshine lies ahead, after Monday, and good on the folks of Louisiana, who have been much put upon, again this summer.

We had a final monsoon storm here, this evening, as the major faith-based activity of the weekend was playing out. The rain was welcome, and did not interrupt our Zoom activity. Afterward, I felt the need to go across the mountain to Synergy Cafe, so off to Sedona it was. A two-hour visit with a mostly male troupe of musicians and a lengthy conversation with a spiritually-awakened lady made the evening worth the drive, as it usually is. The lady came here from Russia, as an adolescent, some twenty years ago, still retaining the more global view that many from that part of the world seem to embody.

Remembering that a meeting for tomorrow still had not been set up on my laptop, I made exit earlier than planned, but not before our little drum, guitar(electric and acoustic) and didgeridoo set of tunes had inspired the lady and her husband to dance in slow embrace. Romantic couples always make me smile.

I did learn one thing from today- don’t speak of service online, before boots are on the ground.

The Power of Standing

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September 16, 2021- Yesterday, in the halls of Congress, four undaunted women stood for a photograph, after testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The matter was the abject failure of organized gymnastics, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to either protect girls and young women from abuse by their coaches, trainers and the team physician, or to properly investigate charges of such abuse and bring the perpetrators to justice. It took reporters from The Indianapolis Star to bring matters to light, and thus empower these physically and sexually battered women to stand tall and speak.

We have, as a species, a duty to our young. We have, as a species, an obligation to do all in our power to help them find and develop theirs. Children and teens are not playthings, nor are men and women, for that matter. The bad old days when children “were to be seen and not heard” are gone-and good riddance. Had my parents told me, or my siblings, to put up and shut up, I might not be alive to write these words. I was loath to stifle our son from thinking independently and I observed my siblings raising strong, independent thinkers and doers, as well. The tradition extends to their grandchildren, and will to mine, when they come along.

I have been involved with young people for forty-five years. I made most of my mistakes and unlearned several limiting behaviours, whilst working with Generation X and Millennials. My work has been quite a bit more polished with Gen Z and the Alphas. One thing I did not do, ever, was approach a child or teen with my own gratification in mind. That has been the basis for a career that focused on safeguarding the abused and tortured.

Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman are genuine heroes, but they should never have had to be, at least not in the way they are after coming forward. These women should have been able to stand tall on the merits of their athletic prowess, not on the precipice of their survival. Yet, for all that, I am immensely proud of anyone who stands up and speaks truth to power-especially as an entry into her/his/their path of healing.

Human beings are not playthings, not now, not ever.

Life Blood

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September 15, 2021- It has taken a long time, but I think a contact in another country far from here has finally mustered the self-confidence to advocate for his children. Strong parenthood is one of the life bloods of a child who grows ready to face a life of challenges. The other key elements are strong will, a sense of humour and an inborn love for humanity.

I spent a good part of today greeting people at a Red Cross Blood Drive. 27 people donated one blood product or another-a good effort that matters in the current environment of disease, fire and flood. Blood, both actual and allegorical, is what drives human life and its various efforts.

I have had good friends tell me that money is the life blood of society. It has a key role to play, certainly, as there isn’t a whole lot of physical progress that can take place, over time, without some medium of exchange. Even a hermit farmer has to buy seeds, at least initially. I also recognize that water, which is after all the primary medium of blood, is then the “blood” of all life. Then, too, humaneness is the social life blood. No one can really thrive, unless treated humanely, over time.

Finally, though, I recognize that love is the ultimate life blood. Nothing can exist for long without it.

The Healing Garden

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September 13, 2021- With no agenda for today, other than a load of laundry and a look at the protocol for the Red Cross Blood Drive, in which I will assist on Wednesday, the morning rolled out blissfully quiet.

I revisited Crossroads Cafe, which is Prescott College’s eatery, and the place where I first connected with the Sustainability Club. The interior is still off-limits, but the patio is lovely and relaxing, so I enjoyed Breakfast Quesadilla as a few groups of students ruminated aloud, about everything from sexual identity to the stresses of just getting out of bed on a Monday morning.

Just past the patio lies a Healing and Meditation Garden, which in the future will be my favoured place to enjoy breakfast or lunch, on a Crossroads visit. Gardens have vied with the wilderness as places for me to recharge- so long as there are not loud and boisterous souls about, who don’t seem to realize what salubrious means.

Don’t get me wrong-the energy of youth, however noisome, is a major source of regeneration. Several of the most treasured, beloved young people in my life are effervescent enough to power a freight train, figuratively speaking. It is the balance of the calm and the hard-charging that has gotten me to this point in life.

The quiet, though, was much-needed, after two very intense days of service, with a cast of collaborators ranging from those who are elated at my presence to those for whom five minutes of that presence is about all they can handle. It may well be that solitude becomes ever more rare, in the coming months of Autumn and early Winter. Thus will the Healing Garden, along with Acker Park, a few select trails in Prescott National Forest and in Sedona, and the gurgling coolness of the Agua Fria, at Badger Springs, be ever more precious.

Each day and hour have their indelible places in my soul.

It Was A Beautiful, Calm Tuesday Morning….

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September 11, 2021- I went to a Fry’s Supermarket, five blocks from my home, on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had no firm plans for the day and so, just picked up some bread and milk, before Penny had to go to work and Aram, to middle school. It was 6:10 a.m. MST, and the morning disc jockey on the rock station, whose call letters I don’t even remember, announced in a voice dripping with equal parts shock and incredulity that someone had flown an airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in New York.

An inner voice immediately told me that this was an act of terrorism. Getting home, I felt and looked shaken, and when Penny asked what was wrong, I told her, the TV was switched on, CNN fumbled a bit before acknowledging that there was an incident-and shortly after my loved ones dutifully left for their daily routines, footage of the second plane hitting the South Tower and the implosions that, as intended, prevented even further devastation and loss of life began to be shown, continuously throughout the week and month ahead. Then, there was the crash into the west side of the Pentagon (real), the crash into the back 40 of the Lambert family’s property in Shanksville, PA (also real) and the reports of fires on the National Mall and attacks on Sears (now Willis) Tower (imaginary).

In the days that followed, I paid a visit to the gas station that was operated by the Singh Sodhi family and paid respects to their slain husband, brother and father, Bubrik-killed by an angry Nativist, who thought Bubrik was Muslim. I then bought lunch at a cafe operated by Palestinian Christians. There was a job interview, at which I praised Rudy Giuliani’s leadership, drawing an eye roll from the interviewer-and no job offer. There were my own eye rolls, when a French conspiracy buff publicly stated that the whole series of incidents, especially at the Pentagon, were actually a series of holograms and that we would “know soon” the whereabouts of those reported dead-and when Ward Churchill described the dead as “little Eichmanns”.

There would be other attempts at terror, later in 2001 and over the next ten years. 10 weeks after the horrific events, a plane went down just east of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and into a neighbourhood near an apartment block in Queens. It was reported then as a crash, due to pilot error, but the apartment complex was home to many of the First Responders who had been called to duty on 9/11. This did not help any, in our national recovery, regardless of the actual behaviour of the Japan Airlines crew, in the plane that had taken off in front of American Airlines Flight 587, or of the AA 587 crew themselves. Subsequently, Richard Reed tried to bring down a plane, mid-ocean, by lighting his shoe on fire and Charles Bishara (aka Bishop) attempted to crash a stolen small plane into the Bank of America Building in Tampa. Both of these became tragicomic footnotes to the horrors of this day, ten years ago.

Today, I spent 12 hours helping with various aspects of Hope Fest, a Faith-based community service event on Courthouse Square. I go there as a jack-of-all-trades, serving in whatever capacity the various coordinators need done-from hauling pushcarts of equipment and materials for the various vendors to manning a Raffle Ticket booth. Then, there was helping with the breakdown, at day’s end-folding chairs and loading the sandbags that held canopies down, onto other pushcarts. I am grateful for the good health that allows me to still do such tasks, knowing full well that such strength won’t last forever.

Managing to fit in a grocery run for my temporarily disabled hiking buddy and leaving Hope Fest a little early (to the mild annoyance of the director) so as to greet a friend from Phoenix who was staying with me overnight, did not take away from the feeling that this event was another successful one-and that my own small role in it helped maintain the group spirit that has sustained our nation, throughout all manner of attacks from without and from within.

Adversity, of any kind, will only strengthen human resolve-if that resolve is genuine.

Every Stone, A Different Shape

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September 9, 2021- The little boy, resting his head on his father’s shoulder as the family came through the door of Wildflower Bakery, looked intensely at me while I held the door for them. He grinned at me, across the room, until his family’s breakfast came-then the toddler had a very healthy appetite for scrambled eggs. It would not be presumptuous to conclude that he had a certain level of appreciation for that small act of courtesy. Small children, and infants-even fetuses, can pick up on sounds, gentle touches and, once born, facial expressions.

After my dental cleaning, the itinerary led to a visit to Penny’s grave, where I noted that a cent coin had been laid on it. Casting about, I noted that all other gravestones, at least for three rows, also had at least one penny laying on them. Some had several coins, but no matter. It was someone’s gesture of kindness.

Next was lunch at Local Jonny’s, one of my two favourites in Cave Creek-and my most likely stop for a light lunch, on the way back from a Phoenix errand. The ladies were gracious and attentive, as ever, with everyone getting prompt and considerate service. It was too hot, even for misters, on the side patio so I stayed indoors. A young woman and her daughter, who looked to be about five, took the table to my left. There was alternately a tension and camaraderie between the two, with sternness followed by happily sharing photos. Confusion is sometimes the price we pay for seeking comfort from those who want to both please their loved ones and yet exert a level of independence.

Every atom, grain of sand, snowflake, stone, oak leaf, ant, tree sloth, elephant and human being is different from every other among their kind. It has been said that a heart-shaped rock is a special act of God, as is a person who acts angelic. In reality, the Creator does no mix and match. We are, each and all, beloved at the time of our conceptions, from the onset of our existence. Each is unique, and is thus, for reasons known only to the Supreme Being.

So it was, that I encountered and drew the interest of two very different children, and a host of varied adults, in the course of what was a routine day. I see this partly as the heightening of my own awareness and partly as the intensifying energy of a planet-wide human bond. The days of being alone in a crowd are finished.

Sharing Popcorn With Chickens

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September 5, 2021- As I enjoyed fresh popcorn, whilst sitting in the small outdoor shade area, the occasional dropped kernel was swiftly scooped up by one or another of the chickens that freely roamed the area.

One of the best things about visiting Dharma Farm is that I never know what the three high functioning kids, or their infant sister, will come up with, over the course of an afternoon and evening. The Farm is on the north end of the unincorporated, but populous, community of Paulden, being one of a dozen working farms that contribute to the food supply of western Yavapai County.

I first met the Schaelling-Pena family three years ago, during Convergence at Arcosanti, a pre-COVID annual gathering of some of the region’s brightest lights. While Convergence has pretty much gone by the wayside, my friendship with Landen and Holly, along with their small group of friends, has only strengthened over these few years. There were two little girls, when I first made the acquaintance of the family. Then came a little boy, two years ago, followed by Girl #3, five months ago.

The children are being raised forthrightly, and gently, by their parents. Logical consequences are part of the regimen, but guilt is NOT a tool that is being applied. They are shown how to properly handle daily tasks and are amazingly adept at things that many children have to wait until they are at least ten, before they are allowed to attempt.

I am fortunate to be one of those to whom the children have taken well, almost immediately. Of course, they take turns being effusive and reticent, as many children do-but they each know they are loved and that their feelings will be honoured and validated. I was showered with love in return, today, and the many garden vegetables and berries that were offered underscored that bond.

The chickens, and the three-legged dog, seem to sense this connection, also. Everything, within reason, is shared here.

Hoarding

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September 4, 2021- During my weekly visit with some restaurateur friends, the husband told me that there is a rising problem of hoarding, within the food service industry. He did not specify whether the excessive purchases are being done by chains or by insecure independent restaurant owners. He did, however, make it clear that their restaurant was buying what they need, in order to provide fresh and delicious meals for the week.

I was always taught to buy only what I need, as well, as the open market is intended to provide for all, at a fair price. Hoarding, at any point in the supply chain, causes scarcity of goods, and thus, skyrocketing prices. In many countries, this has led to commodity-based riots. Here in the U.S., it is helping to contribute to discontent-as not only discretionary meals, but staples, are sure to be affected, before long-if the hoarding behaviour is not more widely discerned and called out.

There are other things that people hoard: Attention, money, and power. I could go on for a long time on any one of those, but suffice it to say that the intangibles, when hogged by a few, will also contribute to widespread social malaise. No one likes to be pestered or bullied, so the backlash is liable to be swifter than the perpetrators think. In my case, pests and bullies just get blocked and deleted. There are too many genuinely loving people in my world, who give and receive the affection and attention each of us deserves. I am sure that most other rational and genuinely caring people will do the same, for their own well-being.

Hoarders, sooner or later, face the scarcity they so fear.

Unstuck

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August 31, 2021- I was given to a bit of a rant, yesterday, none of which I regret. I still stand for the betterment of the lives of people, through networking, consistent effort, perseverance. I will never subscribe to the quick fixes of begging, unilateral solving of other peoples’ problems, exclusion of certain groups for the benefit of the relative few.

A student asked today, whether it was to be the norm for people to be expected to hate being White. It should never be, that anyone be made to hate who he or she is. I stand, foursquare, for inclusion-of everyone, regardless of their falling into any category. It is violence, deluded thinking, taking advantage of others and actively working to deprive others of their God-given rights, which I oppose. The student in question should certainly, always, love who he is.

Many around the world are, simply put, “stuck in second gear”, to quote the theme song of the old TV show, “Friends”. I have gone through periods of such a state of mind and body. The Baha’i Faith helped me get unstuck, but I had to make the consistent, persevering effort to overcome that state of mind completely. Only then could the balance between conservative and progressive, rational and emotional, decisive and contemplative be established.

Being unstuck brings greater responsibility, as well as greater reward, and I look forward to being, more and more, part of the solution, not part of the problem.