P.C.

6

June 25, 2017, Bellemont, AZ-

We’ve undergone a wealth of name-changes, relative to how people see various groups, into which we classify ourselves, and others, since the early 1960’s.  It’s almost become so that many are almost paralyzed, when it come sot referencing people who “fall into categories of ‘the other’.”

I’ve spent the past 48 hours at a Baha’i camp, 1 1/2 miles west of this small village, itself 12 miles west of Flagstaff.  Several new friends, of different ages, were made, as is always the case.  One beautiful family of seven is “racially-blended”, if we are to believe the doctrine of political correctness.  The father of this family was one of the presenters at our Summer School.  He addressed racial identity and political correctness.  He is not a fan of P.C., insofar as it allows us to dance around the subject of racial relations.

When I was growing up, my parents told us never to use racial,  ethnic, or sexual epithets.  I was taught to address people by the name which they used to introduce themselves.  It was fine to call a person of colour a Negro, until people of colour themselves preferred Black, then African-American.  Using the pejorative form of Negro would have earned me an oral cleansing, and not with candy-flavoured mouth wash.

We Baha’is believe, as one of the central tenets of our Faith, that there is, as Baha’u’llah wrote. “but one race, the human race.”  Having said that, it is NOT WRONG, to stand firm against discrimination of any kind.  This runs the gamut- from denying people their basic human rights, based on pigmentation, height, gender, change of gender, economic status, or personal creed/religion.  It is also imperative to acknowledge someone’s basic goodness, in any area of endeavour or character feature.

“One race, the human race”, does not exclude people of colour, people of intense faith, people who hail from  desert wastes or from an urban wasteland, who eat mainly fast food or who eat raw food. It safeguards the human rights of people who adhere to our Faith, to previously-revealed Faiths or to no Faith at all.

So, political correctness has its limits.  These are tantamount to over-tightening a nut, on a wheel.  The nut becomes stripped, useless.  Not being able to describe a person, in terms perfectly acceptable to that individual and her peers, is a paralysis of denial.  My new African-American friend, his European-American wife, their four creative, lovely daughters and vibrant, disabled son should never have to endure the embarrassment of having to watch as someone, who claims to be their well-wisher, is tongue-tied, when it comes to describing any of them, to someone else.

This weekend was time well-spent.

His Social Contract

11

June 22, 2017, Prescott- 

Dad left us, thirty-one years ago, today.  He sometimes told others, but not me, that he couldn’t quite figure me out, but that he was sure I’d end up okay.  I heard all this, from my less-reticent father-in-law, a few years after Dad had passed.

He did teach us all about the social contract.  His tenets were succinct:

  1.  Your word is bond.  The few times I caught Hell from him were mainly centered on not doing what I had promised.  I’ve made it a priority, as an adult, to keep my promises.
  2. Individual relationships are the cornerstone of all else.  His take was,  “What good is the ‘greater good’, if it’s based on everything bad?”  This was in reaction to both the left-wing excesses of the late 1960’s, and to the conservative backlash of the Nixon years.  Dad held court, each weekday evening before supper, in the screened front porch, during late spring, summer and early fall, while switching to his recliner, in the living room, during the colder months.  One or two men, either relatives, or guys from work, would show up and kibbitz, over a can of beer.
  3.  Women “did best” by tending to home and hearth; though he saw it as  good, that  Mom earned money of her own, by styling hair, in the kitchen.  She was a top flight cosmetologist and hair dresser, so it was a marvelous arrangement.  I also got to hear very interesting commentary, on a variety of topics, from the women who came for her services, whilst doing my homework or hand-writing my little “newspaper”.  He also forbade us from making messes or asking for clothes to be washed, on weekends.  His view was that Mom worked five days a week, on housework, and that was enough.  We learned, early on, to make our own beds, put our clothes away, carry anything that was on the stairs up to the appropriate room, and fix our own breakfasts and lunches. (I never did subscribe to the idea that a woman was best off staying home, but it was the reality, in the 1950’s, for many.)
  4.  A real man could party late into the night, (he seldom did), but would dutifully get up the next day and do a full day’s work.  I took that one to heart, even in my lowest days of drunken excess.  It was, to my mind, the best cure for a hangover, anyway.  Many a Saturday morning would find me out in the yard, making myself useful, after having come home a useless wretch.  He liked the first, as much as loathed the second.
  5. Don’t spend more than you take in.  He’d have been apoplectic, had he lived to see us go over the financial edge, in the 2000’s.  Then again, he’d have seen it coming, and raised his voice, well before we bought the house, while Penny was struggling with her health issues.  It would have been, “Stay the damned course!”.  He’d be happier with me now.  Some lessons are just that way.

Longest, Hottest

19

June 21, 2017, Prescott-

I tend to disregard the temperature, to an extent..

When we lived in Phoenix, I did what I needed to do,

indoors or out, even in summer.

It just was done in smaller increments.

Today, the solstice, was the longest day,

north of the Equator,

and the shortest day, to its south.

What was necessary, here, got done.

Stepping Stones has more cards,

stationery, an egg beater

and a couple of old, professional-type books.

Days for Girls has several more covers

for the washable products they offer

to disadvantaged girls and women.

I have more space,

in the dining area closet,

in the tall kitchen cupboards

and atop the refrigerator.

Solstice is also a time of accounting.

We friends talked, first of what is pure

and later, of what is really sweet,

in terms of deeds,

as opposed to silver-tongued promises.

Solstice is a time for gathering.

So, the neighbours are outside,

enjoying the coolness.

Solstice is a time for reflecting,

so, after a hearty day,

I am thinking,

how fortunate I am,

to have friends in

just about every community

I’ve ever visited.

Paper Erase

4

June 20, 2017, Prescott-

My last day of Spring was spent, hydrating, of course.

There was a meeting for Hope Fest, the annual spiritual event,

that this year precedes the Bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s birth,

by a week.

My main concern, otherwise, was clearing out the dining area closets.

These were filled with lots of stationery,

extra greeting cards, loose-leaf binders, paper clips,

and a couple of board games, which were once meant

to stimulate Penny’s interest, in the last year of her life.

She loved that I tried, but it was all too much.

I will keep the games, and one box of holiday cards,

but it will likely be to the Women’s and Children’s shelter,

with the rest, tomorrow.

My clean-up goes on.

One comment was about the minimalist garden.

We will soon see a minimalist apartment.

Fatherhood

6

June 18, 2017, Prescott-

The little girl told her father that she wanted to go over to an open area, at the memorial service for one of her school mates, so that she might do flips and somersaults.  “Go ahead”, said the man, while casting a wary eye about the grounds, “I’m watching you.”

This is among the fastest moving years I can remember.  Even staying closer to Home Base, for much of June, there has been no end to full days of activity, geared towards the betterment of the world.  That’s what we are expected to do, though- leave the world a better place than we found it.

I believe I have made a step in that direction, by raising a human being to adulthood, and pointing him in the direction that seemed most sensible to me- and most importantly, to him.  He has not disappointed me, once, since taking the vow of service to his country, and moving forward as an intelligent, hard-working young man.

My Dad saw me through some tough times, never giving up.  I miss him, yet I’m glad he didn’t have to see the difficulties through which we lived, in the first ten years of this century.  On the other hand, I will do all I can to support Aram, if trials and turbulence come again his way.

As to those hard ten years, 2001-11, commitment as a father means commitment as a husband.  I stayed true to Penny and did everything possible, to make sure she was in charge of her own life, to the end, no matter what pressures were brought on us by “experts” and well-meaning people, who just wanted to “get ‘er done”.  We honed our consultation skills, which were more something I, more than she, had to develop. It’s academic, as to whether we would have been better-served by using a debt reduction service, rather than filing for bankruptcy, but we chose the latter, and it’s all in the past, now.  Good life lessons were learned, late, and not lost on our son.

I see the vast majority of fathers, at least those with whom I have some contact, being wonderful, dedicated men.  None of us walks on water, yet we are producing fairly well-grounded young people.  Some are intensely vigilant; others, like the man mentioned above, are cautious, but relaxed enough to let their sons and daughters step out on their own, according to ability.

Fatherhood, even when children mature, and seem a million miles away, is an eternal blessing.  I look forward to many more years of that blessing and, if God wills, to its logical outgrowth:  Grandfatherhood.

 

“Not Afraid of the Rain”

10

June 17, 2017, Chino Valley- 

The youth pastor, at a memorial service for a slain child, this evening, used these words, in reference to Christ facing His trials.  He chose this example, in encouraging the friends and family members of the little boy  to not be dissuaded, by the dark forces assailing us, from looking to the Higher Power for signs as to how to react to such adversity.

I have now either helped lay to rest, or to memorialize, 9 children, over the past 37 years.  Most died of disease, or were killed in accidents.  This is the first time I’ve dealt with the murder of a defenseless person, on such a personal level.  The boy was one of several, with whom I worked, while a substitute teacher, in his elementary school.  This particular school does a fine job of imparting a sense of community, and at the service, his former teachers and a recently-retired principal, each had a positive remembrance of the boy.

Earlier today, whilst driving to another service activity, I listened as the pop singer, Lorde, commented on one of her songs, her point being that she has sometimes thought her place in the lives of her loved ones might be too intense, that maybe she takes up too much space.

That resonated with me.  I limit my time with others, for the very sake of NOT taking up too much of their space and time.  Conversely, though, I don’t think anything of giving others as much of either, as they need.  I haven’t quite gotten to the origin of that dichotomy.

The memorialized child seemed to have had the same dilemma, and the youngest of the children who spoke,  remembered him as comfortable with giving, but not receiving.  I hope he has a better understanding of it all now, in the Realm of Light.

 

A SoCal Break, Day 2: Crystal Cove

8

June 13, 2017, Chiriaco Summit, CA- 

Not that much has come easy to me, over the years, largely because I grew up among impatient peers and had to do things quickly, or not at all.  Fortunately, my parents were a tad more sanguine, and gave me the space to master things at my own speed.

I mention this, because camping, while dear to my heart, has certain aspects, like putting up the tent, that have taken awhile to master.  So, it’s been a wonderful affirmation that my tent has gone up, three times in a row, without a hitch.  I know now that the whole discombobulation thing was a contrivance.  Even with the wind, at San Onofre State Beach, my tent stayed up all night, as did the others.

So, the day dawned with a fine view of the ocean, and I felt a strong sense of confidence.

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Coffee, another morning staple, has always come easier.  Billy the Barrista, at Dana Point’s Crank and Grind Coffee House, put together a superb Cranked Up Americano.  As the name suggests, it’ll get any sluggish beast firing on all cylinders.

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My next impulse was to stop and smell the roses, so up to Doris Walker Overlook, I went.  There is a commanding view of Dana Point Harbor, from this quiet redoubt, and I was able to offer my morning prayers in peace.

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A sea of flowers is complemented by a sea of boats and the Pacific, itself.

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After one further stop, at Corona del Mar public Library, to check my correspondence, it was time to head to Crystal Cove State Park, for a  lunch meeting with a long-time friend.   We have a mutual interest in the fortunes of the California coast, and the cottages of Crystal Cove are among our concerns.  Her news was that the California Coastal Commission had granted Crystal Cove’s Preservation Society permission to renovate the north side’s dilapidated structures.  In real terms, this means drawing blueprints, razing the existing structures, and building replicas.  That is certainly far better than putting up more high rises and condos, which would be a travesty here.

Here are some scenes of the north side cottages.

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After a fine lunch and lengthy catch-up conversation, at the Beachcomber, we walked a bit along the south beach, in search of sea shells.  Those we found were embedded in several rocks.

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Among the rocks which line this section of coast, here are two which are aligned perfectly.

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There were many people enjoying the beach, as one would expect, on so fine a day.  A couple had found the perfect perch, atop a rock that resembled a whale’s head.

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After a couple of hours, it was time to say farewell, and I headed south to Aliso Beach, in the southern part of Laguna Beach, and collected a Ball jar of ocean water, for a grieving friend.  Aliso, too, was packed, and as I was gingerly looking for a parking space, a beach ball sailed into the parking lot in front of me, pursued by a boy of about 10 or 11, just as I hit my brakes.  No one was any worse for the wear, but it reminded me of the TV ad, where a little girl, pursuing a soccer ball, runs pell mell in front of a car- whose brakes are shown to be of superior quality.

The drive from Oceanside, through Vista, Fallbrook, Temecula and overland to Palm Desert, was uneventful, save for a couple of crazed drivers doing 80, on a winding road that safely can support people doing 60, if that.  I always manage to pull off and let them go on their intrepid way, though seldom as quickly as they seem to want.  The second one chose to pass a tractor trailer, on a curve, against a double yellow.  I’d say his luck will run out, sooner or later.

Lastly, here is a scene at Cactus City Rest Area, uphill and east of Coachella.  There are no cacti, at Cactus City, but I had a peaceful supper break.

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Back to Arizona I go, if only for a couple of weeks, before family time ensues.

 

 

Knowing When

13

June 8, 2017, Prescott-

My sister’s mother-in-law passed on, this morning, after putting up a good fight, for a good many years. It was just time for her to go on and re-join her husband.  She was one of those souls who walked her own path, without apology.  It was a loving path, but not one that was understood by many people.  I can identify with many elements of that road.

My son and his girlfriend have found themselves on a path, together, that has certainly brought affirmations to his life, and I am sure, to hers.  I’m glad to read of their being focused just on one another, when they are in each other’s presence. As an only child, he has struggled with loneliness, and coped by building hybrid families of peers, when we lived in Phoenix.  He has natural leadership abilities, which of course are more obvious to others, including yours truly, than to himself.  His beautiful friend sees these qualities, I’m certain.  It’s one of the things that gave her the sense of when it was right to walk by his side.

My work situation seems to have becalmed.  I have been assured of a position, come Fall. I am also closer to finishing my yard work- just two small sections remain in the back, and some maintenance work awaits, in the front.  I began gathering things , this afternoon, which can possibly be useful to the Women’s and Family Shelter, and a few things that might be useful to a day center for the homeless.  That work will continue, over the next several days.  It is obvious that it’s time to get rid of all clutter.

Knowing when is the key to a successful outcome.

 

 

Peacefulness Is Back

10

June 7, 2017, Prescott-

Questions of longevity are always in the background, as I think about what one might do, over the next three to five years. I just finished reading a book, Apocalypse, by Dr, Jim Richards, a Christian writer and broadcaster, and will have more to say about said book, a post or two from now.  The thing I wish to mention, here, is Dr. Richards’ trust in God is a true thing of beauty, and I have to say, I share just about all of it.  That gives me something on which to work.

Several things happened today, all of them good.  I pretty much am down to two large and two small sections of brush, to be cleared, after a mild, cool morning served as my incentive to get more done than I had planned.  I got more supportive e-mails from the District, including one I had never expected, from my recent supervisor.  Goes to show, I need to work on my reading of people’s cues.  Anyway, the job situation looks set for the coming year.

Housing is something about which I am still pondering.  I am also getting advice, mostly unsolicited, about my supplemental finances.  The final decisions about both will be made towards the end of this month.

Having spoken at length with Aram, last night, I reiterate as to how proud I am of what he has achieved, and how he is facing continuing challenges.  He has another person to support him in his efforts now, and that, as many of us know, will make all the difference.

The car will get serviced on Friday, I will continue downsizing and yard work, the rest of this week- and the latter part of next,  and in between, run an errand of mercy in southern California, as well as visiting a friend, or three, there.

Rough patches tend not to last long, if one pushes forward with, as Muhammad Ali said, “eyes on the prize”.

Thirty-fifth

10

June 6, 2017, Prescott- 

So, on this day, thirty-five years ago, I made the wisest move I have ever made, and took the vow of matrimony.  A Baha’i marital vow is simple:  “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.”  That divine will took the two of us to great heights:  Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy Places, in Haifa and Akko’, with side visits to  Holy Places of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Galilee; various journeys of service around North America, to Guyana and to Taiwan; many years of work with children and youth, on the Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi Nations and perhaps, most consequentially, five and one-half years in Jeju, Korea, the birthplace of our son.  There were depths to be navigated, as well:  Penny’s debilitating disease, the worst effects of which were concurrent with the subprime mortgage crisis, the Madoff scandal and the “Great Recession”-each of which impacted us, directly or indirectly.  Standing by her side, until the end, was simply part and parcel of what my love called me to do.  Likewise, as I confronted my own demons, in the midst of all this, she supported me and her spirit has brought me through to the other side of the tunnel.

I am reminded of so much, this morning, after talking at length with our son, who, likewise, has stood by me, disagreeing with some family members, when they castigated what they saw as my irresponsibility and setting me straight, when he has seen the path veering off in an odd direction.  He’s been right, on both counts, showing that the one thing I have done right in this life has been to raise and guide an exemplary human being.  This morning, I looked at photos of Aram and his sweetheart, sensing that he continues to thrive and find his way along this marvelous, but often treacherous, road.

I have reached a minor crossroads, in my own life.  There is the option of staying the course, which would cause discomfort for my critics, as well as, initially, for me.  There is the option of moving to a more rustic part of Prescott, a place I visited yesterday, and find most salubrious.  There is the option of moving to a high desert community, close to the workplace of two of the most supportive souls I’ve ever known.  In each case, I know it’s time, as I’ve said repeatedly of late, to simplify, to downsize and to detach.

Thirty-five years after we took our vows, my love’s spirit urges me on.