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:

Blitzy

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September 19, 2021-

This is a Blitz Poem, a stream-of-consciousness piece, about mood swings, among other things.

In The Mood

Mood blue can turn into mood indigo

I can be of a mood to laugh

Laugh with friends

Laugh at folly.

Folly of leaders

Folly of the masses.

Masses of paperwork

Masses of clouds.

Clouds drop rain

Clouds my judgment .

Judgment brings pain

Judgment brings lessons .

Lessons come hard

Lessons drive change.

Change is a constant

Change is a process.

Process builds systems

Process builds patience.

Patience means perseverance

Patience is a virtue.

Virtue shakes vice

Virtue brings challenge .

Challenge builds strength

Challenge begs a question.

Question authority

Question existence .

Existence is eternal

Existence is the start of life .

Life can be hard

Life means feeling.

Feeling groovy

Feeling anger .

Anger spurs action

Anger is a mood .

Mood

Swings

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.

Constitution Day

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September 17, 2021- It is fairly pleasant in Philadelphia, in the middle of September, as summer winds down and the gradual presence of autumn begins to be felt. Temperatures inside the hall, where the beginnings of a Federal state took root, also began to cool and on this date, in 1787, the United States Constitution was signed by 39 men, representing 13 states and collectively called “The Founding Fathers”. Later that year, the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania became the nucleus of what would become 50 states, and were followed by the eleven other entities, whose representatives had signed the document, and which ratified the Constitution between 1788-1790.

This constitution has been a model for both state constitutions and for those of nations which have come into being since 1790. It is a testament to the people of this country that, both attempts to subvert the Constitution, in 1861 and in January of this year, have, thus far, come to naught. That these actions were on behalf of those whose philosophies of governance and of social concourse were restrictive and reactionary perhaps made the matter more straightforward. That the second attempt mirrored the first shows, however, that elitism is a clever and persistent mind set, with the ability to appeal to people-of all ethnicities, creeds, generations and of both genders, and the capacity to oversimplify complex matters, in the course of making that appeal.

We are gradually moving away from elitism, of both the right and of the left, and as slow and painful a process as that is, our Constitution, with its amendment clause, is helping it along. Happy Constitution Day to all who honour the document and the ideas which it safeguards!

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.

Steadily, They Learn

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September 14, 2021- The group of 28 entered the classroom, one fist bump and “Good Morning” at a time. They knew their teacher was on a personal “Mommy Mission” today, and that she was only a cell phone call away, but the ambiance in the room was of people concerned with their own mission: Building the skills needed to go forward into a world that could go in any direction, and which they were determined to set in a direction that will reflect their emerging values.

I spent the day with 28 very delightful 11-year-olds, all committed to task and tolerant of my initial confusion as to what time to get things started. We made it through everything that was on the agenda, with a few slow workers still to complete a set of math problems, at day’s end. The math teacher is a patient man, more concerned with actual mastery than meeting deadlines, so the stragglers are, within reason, in a good place.

We covered equations, a few detail-oriented short essays on various topics, a short story about a Lakota Sioux child who was coming of age, and essential themes of geography, including types of maps. One of the short essays was about spiders. As it happened, the day began with a girl shrieking that a spider was about to crawl into an open backpack. I went over, found the juvenile tarantula, trapped it in a cup and released the hapless creature outside in a wooded area. It was gratifying that the kids were concerned that the animal not be killed.

This is an example of why I keep going in, for selected school assignments. There are earnest people who see what is going on around them, and are not going to be caught helpless. They need, and deserve, as many advocates as can be mustered. Besides, expanding my heart family is always a good thing.

Four Courses of Love

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September 12, 2021- A longtime friend, a few years my senior, has taken to posting photos of a newborn child, whom he has nicknamed after himself, her mother and a mutual friend of theirs, in hybrid fashion. He is clearly proud of the infant girl. My hope is that he can be there for her, through her teenage years, when the voice of a good man is as valuable to a young girl as is that of her mother. Without a parent, or parent-figure, of the opposite sex, a teenager is likely to drift emotionally. This takes nothing away from the efforts of those of the same sex as the youth, but it is an essential adjunct to those efforts.

There are several girls and young women whom I love as if they were my own daughters. I had the honour of working with two of them this evening, as Prescott Farmers’ Market put on its annual Farm-to-Table Dinner. I was a server, helped by two food runners and a busser. One of the ladies to whom I referred is the Executive Director of the Farmers’ Market, and can pretty much ask anything of me, in terms of service to the Market. The other is a tireless worker in the field of sustainability, and likewise devotes her energies to the Market’s success.

The dinner was served in four courses: Soup, salad, entree and dessert. Initially, each course was served by the designated team for two tables, with a total of seven crews. Four Chefs and a sous chef carefully and lovingly plated each course, and two complimentary courses for sponsoring VIPs. We on the serving crews brought each course to the patrons, with about twenty minutes between courses.

By the time the desserts were ready to be served, the Dinner was some minutes behind schedule. It was then that the teams combined and served all tables, allowing a half-hour for dessert, coffee, aperitifs and post-meal chitchat. It is never a good idea to jump out of one’s seat in a rush, though a few patrons did (“The dog is alone”; “I need to take my meds”; “It’s past my bedtime”). The high schoolers also had to leave. Those of us who stayed until the end continued the swarming behaviour, giving the dishwashing crew and the breakdown crew a boost, mindful that those teams of two have been stuck, in past years, when the high school age workers have had to leave, due to curfew. That is how I am used to volunteering-being one of the last to leave. No less really seems fair.

So went the second day of a most fruitful weekend. I am taking tomorrow “off”, focusing on training materials for a Blood Drive on Wednesday, but otherwise staying in a state of relaxation.

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.

Thirty-Nine, and Counting

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September 10, 2021- When I called Mom this afternoon, as it is her birthday, she asked me if I knew how old she was. Having seen a photo of the cake, on which the number 39 was placed, I answered appropriately. Her voice brightened further, and she said “Good boy! I can’t lie, though, I’m 93.”

She said her health is good, and I assured her mine is the same. She has made friends at her new residence, which I am sure accounts for her renewed good spirits, and good health. Having raised us to share, she will do the same with the yogurt-covered strawberries I sent with her flowers.

The best of parents convey life lessons, and she did plenty of that, over the years. Sharing was one of the first-and even my severely autistic youngest brother offered of his food and playthings to us siblings. Meanness was swiftly discouraged, and loving kindness instilled, in each of us. Loyalty and protection of one another has extended, over the years, to the next generations and to those around us. Responsibility has also been a binding expectation, and if one of us got self into difficulty, any money sent was to be paid back-either directly or to the next person who was in a bind.

Mom looks forward to the years ahead, and I applaud her for maintaining the same outlook on life that has gotten us where we need to be. I wish her many more.