September 25, 2022- The image stays in my mind, of the effervescent couple, greeting everyone cheerfully at their lakeside restaurant, in the village of Bras d’Or, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Then, there were the hardworking Miqmaq people, across the lake, in Eskasoni, their workshops and tool sheds, so vital a part of their community life. Across the strait, in the southwest corner of Newfoundland, the people of Channel-Port aux Basques greet hundreds of visitors each day, during the summer months and send off equally as many, who are at the end of their visits. Nearby, in the village of Doyles, are the cabins along the Codroy River, providing quality accommodations, in a supremely rustic setting. At the northwestern tip of the island, the communities around L’Anse aux Meadows hold their own, in a climate that is already severe, nine months of the year. On the Burin Peninsula, in southeast Newfoundland, a well-kept series of gardens form the centerpiece of an exquisite Bed and Breakfast establishment, honouring its late founder.
These communities, as well as Prince Edward Island and much of New Brunswick, mainland Nova Scotia and eastern Quebec, suffered immense damage from Hurricane Fiona, the same storm that blasted Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands, earlier this month. I spoke with the proprietor of a motel, in an area that was spared damage this weekend. She said that much of Cape Breton and the Chignecto/Bay of Fundy region to the west of the island will be in extended recovery mode, for quite some months to come. The area has winter to keep in mind as well.
Many of us are used to thinking of tropical islands and forested lands of the north, in terms of vacations and scenery. Now, we are, more and more, coming to see the entirety of life in those communities. Every location that provides others with rest and relaxation, has its own human communities, whose members have needs, aspirations and dreams of their own. Let us stay in contact with those friends in the affected areas, and encourage their resilience as best we can.
I know that the Caribbean, Alaska and Atlantic Canada, like all places affected by disaster, will rise again.
September 24, 2022- The little girl, no more than two, came up to me while I was sitting in my “director’s chair”, at the large music festival. She tried to climb on my lap, which, as I knew neither her nor her mother, I gently declined. Her mother came over and led her back to the spot where she was preparing the child’s stroller. With mother so occupied, the girl came right back, and tried again. This time, both mother and I explained that this was not something she should be doing. There was no yelling or finger-wagging, just gentle dissuasion. Conversely, while the mother said I should have ignored her daughter, that, too, is something one doesn’t do to a person who is experiencing so much, for the first time in her life. I feel that I have a duty before the Creator to lovingly assist other people, especially children, to the best of my ability.
Earlier today, a small group of us honoured a revered community leader and beekeeper, on the first anniversary of his passing. There was a man who embodied loving assistance to all he met. Even the bank manager, who oversaw his mortgage, was given instructions on what to do with his house-upon the occasion of said passage. Hopefully, those instructions were followed and the home sold to the certain type of family who would honour its feng shui. The bees themselves were carefully dispersed to various other apiaries, prior to GK’s passing.
I went from the memorial service to VortiFest, in Sedona, particularly to meet up with a friend I had not seen in 2 1/2 years and to possibly see other friends from the Synergy/Apotheca complex. The centerpiece, for me, of the music festival, was an appearance by Camille Sledge, the scion of Sister Sledge, and her band, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. Camille, as it turned out, was off, touring with her mother and aunts, so PAO’s superbly talented instrumentalists managed a delightful and rousing 45 minutes of non-vocal ear candy, and got many of us, up and jumping around, much as they and Camille did, when I first heard them, four years ago.
That set was what brought about a brief encounter with a Sedona friend, that puzzles me, even as I write this. She greeted me, danced around for a bit, then spent the rest of the set alternately acting like she was scared to death of me and that I no longer existed. I will refrain from trying to explain that, other than I am aware of certain threats to her safety, from someone other than myself. He could have been around and have made his presence known to her. For a good part of the rest of the Festival, she was escorted by other men, including one of the security detail members, so who knows? For my part, I would not harm a hair of anyone’s head, much less a dearly loved friend of three years.
My newly re-connected friend served as a reality check on the whole matter, cautioning against personalizing the incident, in any way, shape or form. I followed her advice, knowing that forming a narrative, based on incomplete information, is worse than a fool’s errand. So, I headed homeward, ahead of the mass exodus that was sure to happen after the last set of the festival. Even having parked in a smaller lot, across the highway, I would have been stuck in the scrum of traffic, had I stayed to hear the last, excellent band.
Besides Afrobeat, there were two other fabulous bands that I did encounter: One was the festival founder’s group, simply named “Decker”. The other was a group called “G-Love”, which offered several peace-themed tunes, that were nonetheless rousing, and which had what seemed to be 2/3 of the audience standing and bouncing, in front of the stage. I chose to sit for most of that set, getting up mainly to take video of three friends who were wearing lighted costumes and were engaged in performance art. There was a third band, which performed well, but their vibe was a bit on the angry side. Turns out, they had a shortened set, due to some misunderstanding with the festival organizers. The final band, Arrested Development, a hip-hop group, also performed well, though I heard their offerings only as I walked back towards my vehicle.
So, that was Vorti-Fest, and my Saturday. This is also my 3000th post, on this platform. Goodness and ill abound in this life, and I do not hesitate to bring you both, in the right measure. My feelings right now are well-covered, if obliquely so, by Paul Simon’s “America”.
The complaint was registered: Why are people so mean? The response was offered: What makes you call them such? The retort: No one gives me what I want!
I am glad to have been raised with a work ethic and to be able to hear “We owe you nothing!” , without sulking or arguing. The same people, after all, do reward me, handsomely, for doing the job that I was hired to do.
This makes it hard for me to identify with someone who does little or nothing, and finds people mean.
September 22, 2022- Equinox always seems to coincide with heavy physical energy-especially in September. So, we see intense storms affecting an area from the Windward Islands to Newfoundland, the southern Caribbean (and onward, next week, to Florida and beyond), western Alaska to northern California, and Pakistan. Earthquakes hit Mexico (twice), Chile and Indonesia this past week, with minor quakes in several other spots , including California.
Anything that affects Earth also affects its inhabitants, so there appears to be an upswing in aggressive behaviour, as well as its opposite, passivity, with Learned Helplessness accompanying the latter. I saw plenty of both today, in my work assignment. Fortunately, the school where I worked has effective systems in place to address both extremes.
Mostly, though, I see Equinox as a celebrant of both fertility (in the southern hemisphere) and productivity (in the northern hemisphere). Whenever there is an uptick in constructive energy, it is met by converse forces that tear down that which no longer meets the needs of humanity. There is resistance to both, and when that resistance can no longer be justified by logic and the scientific method, conspiracy theories arise. Yet, because the Universe is about the generating of life, and follows several levels of order, those theories and the resistance that generated them, tend to fall by the wayside.
I believe, very strongly, that this is what will happen with the current resistance-all the authoritarianism, denial (of climate change on the Right and of fetal humanity, on the Left) and closed mindedness across the political spectrum. Chaos is not going to be the order of the day.
September 21, 2022- The call came, with about fifteen minutes left in the class. The tone was furious, and decidedly personal. It was clear that the caller felt let down and that in her mind, the rest of the day was about damage control. The students carried on, and did a fairly good job at completing the assigned task.
It was actually all about process, procedure-and will have scant effect on the learning of those particular students. I know little about the caller, so maybe other parts of her life were not going well today. It doesn’t take much to trigger a tirade, these days.
It was, all in all, a nice day. I was working with a group of children who I particularly treasure. The classes accomplished a lot, with the second and third groups following the procedure that was reiterated to me, albeit in angry tones. I choose to look past a person’s rage, because when it’s all over, we will both be standing in the same spot. So long as there is no harm to children, or other innocents, I walk away.
There will, I know, come a time, maybe as early as next Thursday, when I will face that person again. I will not be swayed, one way or the other, by anything she has to say. At this stage of my life, it’s all about the children and teens, and their progress, their well-being.
September 20, 2022- The young man remembered me, from seven years ago, and launched into the playful antics for which I remember his eight-year-old self. He livened up the web-based class, for which I was the in-person monitor, maybe a little too much-but we got through the material offered by the online teacher. He showed up twice afterward, during the day, once to hang out during lunch and correct a prank he and his buddies had played on me and once, hoping to hear that his class was my favourite of the day. It wasn’t, and the shoulders slumped-but he’ll get over it. He did allow as to having been furious, when I was abruptly dismissed from that Third Grade teaching position, in favour of a dour local resident, who needed a job. Many of the students in that class felt the same way, and I’ve encountered three of them, elsewhere, since then.
I created a mild set of problems for myself, this morning, by overlooking the time for the onset of class, arriving a bit late and thus having to navigate the ambiguities and idiosyncrasies of the online Spanish class, on the fly. Things were a bit hectic, for the first two hours, but the learning curve was mastered by the start of Third Hour. The rest of the day went smoothly.
Ambiguities have never been my strong suit, yet I am having to master them more often, these days. Thus I will arrive early for tomorrow’s assignment, so as to read the instructional fine print more carefully. Even then, there are no guarantees of immediate success, as the connotations of words are different sometimes. Sometimes, sparks have to fly, in order for the communication to be made clear. Today, the teachers and admin were patient; not all teams are.
I also sense that there is a bit of tension in the air, as the seasons change. This evening, while at the gym, I found a bottle of energy milk on the floor, and asked a woman who was nearby, working out with her ten-year-old son, if it were hers. She said it was his, so I gave it to him and advised as to a safer place to put it, which he did-and then got self-conscious. The two left the area shortly afterward, so I wondered about the ambiguous situation again being an issue. In any case, I can’t ignore anything that compromises the safety and well-being of a child.
As I headed over to the massage chairs, a man was loudly complaining about what he regarded as an affront to his dignity and threat to his personal safety. He was gently guided outside by a gym employee, who continued to hear him out. I heard the same mother who had been in the whole body exercise area, telling the front desk clerk that if the man had gotten any closer to her son, she’d have called the police. Ambiguities, again, were exacerbated by the assumptions made by two different personalities.
It was, in the end, fitting that my own horoscope told me to not make assumptions about people. So I have learned, time and again.
September 19, 2022- The world’s longest serving Head of State received a well-deserved send-off, this morning, with all but the most pompous of politicians taking their prescribed places, either in an assigned seat at the funeral service or in the background at home, patiently waiting for their own countries’ memorial services.
That is how homage is done. There is no braying, “Hey, what about me?” It is the life of the deceased that gets honour and attention. In recent days, a paternal aunt, a second cousin and a revered Baha’i elder in Phoenix have gone on to their own places in the spiritual world. Each had people, myself included, who treasured them and focused on their positive attributes. Each had lessons they imparted to anyone who was willing to listen and pay attention.
There are, however, those who subsist on outrage. Their whole being reflects back on all the mistreatment, real and imagined, that occurred in their lives-sometimes clear back in childhood. Life is not guaranteed paradise for anyone. I’ve had my share of misfortune, some of it self-imposed, but in each case, I have been able to listen to voices of reason and overcome any lapse into self-pity. Outrage at my lot is no longer an option. It is a different matter when the well-being of children is at risk.
I spent the day, as it happened, making sure that Special Needs children, in a small class, were maintaining safe practices around self and others. These students, more than others, are also inclined to live in the moment and resist correction. Only a strong dose of encouragement and patience gradually makes a difference in their demeanour. There is the occasional need to stand up for them, against adults who persist in trying to knock down their sense of worth. Thankfully, the team with whom I worked today are just as vigilant in that regard.
September 18, 2022- The line at Courthouse Plaza snaked around to the south side of the Courthouse, and for nearly 3 1/2 hours, people came to purchase a fresh ceramic bowl, and fill it with one or two kinds of soup. The Empty Bowls Project is a worldwide effort to raise money for food security, at the local level. It began in 1990, with a ceramics teacher named John Hartom and his friend Lisa Blackburn, to provide a means to food security in their community in the Detroit area. The concept quickly spread across Michigan and Ohio, then spread across North America. It is now a yearly event in several countries. https://emptybowls.com/
I joined this year’s event, the first since 2019, as part of Slow Food-Prescott’s crew. About twenty people, including several Girl Scouts, prepared and served 10 gallons of piping hot Minestrone Soup, with potatoes instead of pasta. The crowd that attended seemed smaller than in 2018, when I last joined the effort, but there were more vendors this time, so maybe the line was just moving faster. I was one of three “ladlers”, along with a local naturalist and the chef herself. It was truly a joyful event, bringing all parts of the Prescott area community together.
We finished the cleanup, at the catering kitchen where the soup had been prepared and cooked, around 3 p.m. Chef was kind enough to give me a lift home, as I’d walked downtown to the event, but the kitchen was 2.5 miles from Home Base. As we approached the neighbourhood, we saw that my street was blocked off by several police cars. I got off at a parking lot near the neighbourhood and walked down the alley across from Home Base, passing four police cruisers, with several officers searching a connecting alley.
It turned out that they were seeking a disturbed individual who had been firing a pellet gun, at one point blowing the rear window out of a neighbour’s vehicle. He had taken off to the south end of the street, and it took the officers another hour or so to locate and subdue him. Fortunately, there were no human injuries.
It was surreal, to have found peace and camaraderie downtown, only to return to my normally sleepy neighbourhood and find such commotion. As I write this, the police and the perpetrator have left, with peace returning.
September 17, 2022- O checked out every empty chair in the laundromat lounge, and decided to sit in the seat next to me. From that point, he spoke of a variety of things, from the viewpoint of a 5-year-old. He began to examine my ragged laundry basket, and was not satisfied until the torn plastic was at least tentatively reconnected. He then looked at the small flyer for Kids’ National Geographic, commenting on the snow leopards whose photo was on the front of the flyer. He proudly told me that he was now in Kindergarten.
As I was reading my National Geographic, in between his making comments and my asking him guiding questions, O went to the laundromat’s book shelf and brought a Sesame Street book, which he thumbed through and made comments. He returned the book and brought back a story about a girl and her boots, again thumbing through and making comments about the expression on the girl’s face (“She sure looks mad!”) and remarking that her pulling her socks on from the top was a good way to tear them. I agreed, saying that socks have to be put on from the bottom up, gradually and making sure that the fabric was smooth, as one went along.
He watched how I was folding some items that had finished drying, until his mother said she was ready to leave. He bid me goodbye, and while she apologized for his chattiness, I said it was okay. Children’s curiosity and observations are most often priceless, and each of us who encounters them has a chance to be encouraging. Besides, I invariably find the observations of children delightful.
Somewhat later, a young woman who had been mildly injured was lugging a bulky amplifier from the room where her friend’s band had been playing. I held the door open, as I would for anyone in that circumstance. She said “Thaaannk you”, more in frustration at not being left to handle it herself, than out of any impoliteness. That struck me-How often are children and teens disempowered, or discouraged from doing things themselves, out of a genuine desire by adults to keep them from harm? How often are things done FOR people, in ways that do not prepare them for life’s vicissitudes?
Earlier in the afternoon, I was at an event called Stand Down for Veterans. At this event, homeless veterans are provided with bedding, clothing, camping gear and toiletries to help them prepare for winter. I was at a Red Cross table, this year, handing out comfort kits, which have become a common tool among service agencies, having been first offered by the ARC in the 1990s. The thrust of Stand Down is to provide a base for men and women to get themselves back on track. Haircuts, technical and legal advice are among the services that the event offers.
Society only benefits from efforts to empower people, regardless of their ages and circumstances.
A planeload, or two, of migrants showed up, on the tight little island. A busload, or two, of refugees showed up, at the gate of an Observatory.
A pair of men, outwardly claiming to spread the pain caused by loose enforcement of law but inwardly looking to embarrass their perceived foes, arranged the journeys, telling the travelers that they would be soon living lives of prosperity and peace.
Imagine their surprise, when those hosting the unexpected guests responded with kindness, hospitality and plans for actually helping those guests move towards those lives.
Imagine the consternation of those men’s apologists, those who say “It’s high time the elite take in their share of the rough-edged and unruly”, when it is pointed out that the northern states, regardless of the dominant ideology of their residents, are a polyglot bunch, and are ready to become more so.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”- Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”
The Piscean idea, of top-down decision-making, often misses the fact that the masses themselves are taking steps to solve their own problems.
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