A Pair of Visions

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January 21, 2021-

It’s my wont to lie down for a mid-afternoon nap, especially after working since early morning. Just before drifting off, this afternoon, a story I had heard early this morning, on BBC World News, came into my consciousness again. A rural Texan, speaking with a BBC correspondent, had, after a bit of hubris and expression of a desire for his state to become its own nation, showed his visitor a light cannon he had on his property. Loading the cannon, he then lit the fuse and, as the small gathering in his yard looked on, dry brush in his yard and his neighbour’s yard caught fire. The blaze was extinguished with a pair of garden hoses, but left the militia man feeling it just wasn’t his week.

I had a vision, recalling that story, of a tornado sweeping the area in question, and of relief coming to the disgruntled area residents, from the very same Federal government they presently regard as illegitimate. I wish disaster on no one, yet have the knowledge that misfortune is frequently, nay almost always, the bearer of a life lesson, which the learner’s soul needs, in order to get past a block that is preventing the realization of one’s true self. Time will tell.

About an hour ago, whilst listening to a replay of Cosmic Guide Elizabeth Peru’s weekly live broadcast, I heard her mention that one of our foci, this coming week, is to contemplate “What is Your Vision?” That vision thing, again-though it is constantly calling my head into alignment with my heart. I closed my eyes, and the image I saw was my young spirit self looking out over a lush, terraced hillside-which may have been Tuscany (the first word that popped into my head), or Cape Province, South Africa; Napa County, California; northern Luzon, Philippines; the Western Ghats of India-indeed anywhere with misty mornings and a somewhat “Mediterranean” climate, or at least lush, terraced hillsides.

My tendency, as regards my Home Base, has been a bit on the complacent side, of late, and though I know the current national and global state of affairs requires this, there is also a level of comfort I feel here. The trick has been, and will be, to internalize that comfort level, to no matter where I happen to be called. I felt that, late last year, when visiting the prairie of north central Texas (albeit being with family), and even when on the overnight walkabout in a remote area east of here, earlier this month, there was a degree of comfort and surety that stayed with me. I was, somehow, among friends- cattle, coyotes, an intrepid wolf spider that was braving the cold, under a juniper tree-none of them directed anything but caution towards me.

There are some indicators of a more fluid life, come May. I was recently blessed with a backpack that will serve as a one-size-takes-all travel bag, thus eliminating two of my customary luggage items. A routine medical appointment has been scheduled for early May, rather than it usual late-month date. COVID will be the ultimate determinant, of course, yet the vision I had this evening likely counts for something.

It will be, in the meantime, a fascinating rest of winter and early spring.

My Love Letter to America

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January 19, 2021-

Dear America,

Tomorrow, a change will take place in our governance, which a bit more than half of the voting public wanted; which nearly half hoped, against hope, would perhaps be thwarted and a few of us, including yours truly, wanted to see blended with the best of what its opposite has advocated.

Changes are a constant. In order to truly realize the cohesion that every politician, regardless of stripe, says is imperative, may we look at what you have meant to so many-and what you might better mean to all who come to your shores.

“There was a time”, Neil Sedaka once sang, “when strangers were welcome here.” Yes, and no. People could come from everywhere, and there was a crucible to be borne. Those who were established, the First Nations, welcomed Europeans, sometimes openly and as time went on, and the mindset of conquest and dominance became more apparent from the first such Europeans, the welcome became far more cautious. People were brought here, mostly from Africa, but from other places as well, against their will-to serve and promulgate the fruits of conquest and dominance. Those who came from other parts of Europe, either in search of freedom from oppression and tyranny or in search of opportunity to succeed materially, had to prove themselves to those who had been here for a century or two-or at least had been here for a few decades.

Let you now be viewed, and experienced, as a place of healing. Of course, your people must begin by healing themselves-and one another. The energy, both spiritual and medicinal, that emanates from you is immense. The ancient wisdom, much of it preserved by the First Nations, and other parts of it rooted in the land itself, can serve to generate enormous healing for those who have lost their way, in the course of nearly five centuries of material quests and forgetting Who the Creator actually is.

I have had the blessed experience of carrying ley lines, from west to east, and back; from southwest to northwest, and back; from north to south, and back-over the past ten years. Far more than merely enjoying travel, as a friend remarked a few days ago, I sense that carrying healing energy-both for myself and for others I encounter- is both your gift to me, and my gift in return, back to you.

Blessed homeland, your nurturance has helped me shed so much emotional and psychological burden, and as I recall my early days of sitting very still, by a gurgling little brook or of visiting a hill, with a view of Boston’s skyline, from a rock behind a turreted house, I feel your healing energy has always been here. Even when buried under the Shrines of Progress, or when ravaged by all that people have deemed essential to build their empires, that energy has sighed, bided its time and waited, sometimes patiently and at other times expressing urgency.

Now, more of us see what the headlong rush into material advancement, regardless of cost, has produced. Now, more of us are making a place in our lives, a place in our hearts, for the healing which, alone, can bring a balance between material stability and spiritual well-being.

I love you, my homeland. May your strength of spirit long make itself known, and endure.

Working Towards The Inside

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January 2, 2021, Sedona-

I brought my Bear Drum to Synergy, once more, this evening. This time, there were no men my age and older to complain about the noise. That’s good, because in addition to my hand drum, there were two tube didgeridoos, one coiled didgeridoo, a French horn, three shakers, two acoustic guitars and a violin. There were people playing chess, but they were not the least bit bothered by the cacophony.

I don’t go over here often enough to be widely viewed as an insider, but I am starting to think that means little. I am one of the few people over the age of forty who sits in, but that doesn’t seem to matter much, either. No one is coming here to troll for a significant other. We are just making a space to relax and engage in some meaningful conversations, every so often.

When I spoke bit about plans for later in the year, there were the expected cautions about the chance that the pandemic will still keep us locked away. There was also the caution that some countries don’t allow people my age to stay in hostels. I will need to look into that, of course, but I see that more as the travel industry trying to squeeze money out of people who are seen as well-to-do. I have not had any trouble staying in hostles or pensions, in the past ten years of being a sixty-something.

One of the young men here this evening put it best: “Don’t act like an outsider, and you won’t be treated like one.” That was one of the biggest lessons I had to learn, all the way up into my fifties. It is comforting to take a place on the inside, every so often.

The Past Prologue and The Fulfillment Ahead

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January 1, 2021

The year just passed has given us a few gifts, as well as having taken some treasures from us. Chief among the gifts is the ability to conduct mass meetings online. This will ease active participation in Baha’i activities, regardless of where I happen to be.

It is a poorly-kept secret that, if it be the will of God (and the creek stays within its banks), I will be back on the road, and in the air, for a fair portion of the next four years. Prescott will remain Home Base, at least for this year. There is much for me to do here, and in the Southwest at large, between now and the middle of May. The stage was set, as it were, by callings I received and followed in the 2010s.

So 2021, any larger issues notwithstanding, is looking like this:

January– The agenda set by response to the pandemic will probably find me continuing to help out in the schools on a fair number of days. Involvement with a regional sustainability group will also be a priority. Then, there is a little group that meets each Wednesday at 1 p.m. (MST), and which has my heart’s attention. I will be on the trail, looking at a couple of extensions of Black Canyon Trail, northward from the original trailhead, outside Mayer; finishing Limekiln Trail, with the Sedona segments; and spending time in Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Desert Preserve. There is also the homefront downsizing: Paper-shredding and discarding of unnecessary belongings will begin this month and extend into next.

February- It’s likely that COVID-19 will factor into this month as well, in terms of being asked to help out in the schools. I already have agreed to a four-day stint, in mid-month. Hiking will take me to the Hualapai Mountains, of northwest Arizona and to Picketpost Mountain, outside Superior. Ayyam-i-Ha, the Baha’i Intercalary Days, will find me preparing hand-made gifts, for the first time since I made a bird house in Grade 8. These won’t be that elaborate, but will be done carefully, and from the heart.

March- It will have been ten years, since Penny passed on, March 5. I will invite other friends to join me at graveside, on that day. This is also the month of the Baha’i Nineteen Day Fast, and although I am no longer required ot abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, having reached the age of 70, my thoughts and actions will be in support of those who are abstaining. I will also make a road trip to Texas, in the middle of the month. Hiking will include a first visit to Phoenix’s South Mountain Park.

April- The Festival of Ridvan marks the twelve days of Baha’u’llah’s preparation for His second exile-from Baghdad to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) and His Declaration of Mission, during that twelve-day period. It also ends a Five-Year Plan we have been following, and begins a twelve-month celebration of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as November will mark the Centenary of His Ascension. Much of my activity, this month, will revolve around these events. Hiking will take in the Hermit’s Rest area of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and parts of Sycamore Canyon, which runs south of Flagstaff and east of Sedona.

May- Preparations for the summer and autumn will occupy much of this month. Hopefully, New Mexico will re-open itself to us Arizonans, and I will spend a few days at Chaco Culture Historical Park. If California is open, and safe, by then, a visit to the coast will be in order,

June- If Bellemont Baha’i School is open for in-person groups, I will devote this month to that endeavour. If not, then I will make an early drive northwest-to my soul families in Nevada and Oregon, as well as to Vancouver Island, Haida Gwai’i (The one place Penny wanted to visit together, that has not happened yet) and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast-north of the City of Vancouver.

July- The Plan B for June will fall into this month, if Bellemont is open. Otherwise, I will head east through Canada, and visit as many family members and friends, en route to and around Boston, as have time.

August– Atlantic Canada will take up part of this month, then it’s back southward and westward, again visiting family and friends along the way.

September and October– Take care of some necessary business in Arizona, spend quality time with Texas family and then off to Europe, with Iceland a first stop. This journey will also be oriented towards the ancestral home of my mother’s family, in what is now western Poland, with other stops in Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, northern Italy and France. A few stops in the British Isles are also possible.

November- This month will be devoted to specific community and regional celebrations, in Arizona, of Abdu’l-Baha’s life.

December- This will be whatever my family wants it to be.

These plans are what my meditations have told me, as of today. Recalling that last January, I was fully intending to do a cross-Canada journey in the summer, I will simply accomplish as much as reality on the ground allows.

May all have a Happier 2021!

Grapevine Magic

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November 29, 2020, Plano

Seven weeks from now, Texas Home Base will shift, from this sprawling corporate headquarters town to the mid-19th Century agricultural hub of Grapevine. Of course, Arizona Home base will remain primary, but little family is here-for some holiday and milestone celebrations.

Grapevine was founded in 1844, near the site of a village of Caddo people, known as Tah-wa-Karro, after the wild grapes that grew there. Despite the name, Grapevine’s mainstays were cotton, then cantaloupes. Its produce, and place on the main route from Dallas to Fort Worth, have drawn a railroad station and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, for which Grapevine has the north entrance.

Grapevine has also marketed iself as “Texas’s Christmas City”, so on our visit yesterday, we spotted many holiday decorations and displays. Then, too, there are several parks, for outdoor activities in the short-grass pririe setting. We also spent some time at Meadowmere Park, in Grapevine and at Bob Jones Park, in nearby Southlake.

Here are some scenes of downtown Grapevine and of Bob Jones Park.

Main Street, Grapevine-with a rail station waiting room
Flying Unicorn, Main Street, Grapevine
Christmas Greetings, Main Street, Grapevine
Grapevine City Hall
Fishing Pond, Bob Jones Park, Southlake, TX
Christmas display, near restored log cabin, downtown Grapevine

The Grapevine area has many other sights and treasures, which will be part of the anchor, in the coming years.

Threading the Needle

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November 24, 2020, Plano-

I set out, early this morning, for Phoenix, then by air to Dallas and on to this home away from home, just north of the Big D. My son and daughter-in-law live here, and it is the logical place to mark my coming seventieth birthday.

The flight, and its preceding and subsequent drives, went very smoothly. Although it was a full flight, I was masked from the time I left my car in Long-term Parking at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport until the time I got in Aram’s car at DFW-and I was seated with two young boys on the plane, thus encountering minimal risk (Yes, they, too, wore masks).

This trip flies in the face of the demands of many public health officials, that everyone stay home and meet virtually, over both Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is one caveat: I will be spending most of the next five days in this apartment. Travelers, like myself, have a responsibility to thread the needle of any departure from our primary homes in a very careful manner.

Thus, I am wearing filtered face masks, sanitizing my hands and keeping the prescribed six-foot distance in public places= as I have been doing since March. Thus, I am avoiding being in a ridiculously crowded indoor space. No, the airport was not so crowded that I could not maintain physical distance.

In a few short days, as indicated above, I will enter my eighth decade on this planet. I intend to continue most, if not all, of my acts of service and, when a modicum of success in counteracting Coronavirusdisease 2019 is reached, to resume planned travels, furhter afield.

For now, I am fotunate to be with my little family.

Homol’ovi

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November 14, 2020, Flagstaff-

The day dawned, crisp and clear, with the news that our entire county was without Internet. I took that as an opportunity to set out early, from Cottonwood and towards Homol’ovi State Park, just north of Winslow. The route goes through Camp Verde, so breakfast at Verde Cafe was the first order of business. Many of the dishes there have a Mexican flair and the place is relaxed, with vivacious servers. Today’s meal did not disappoint.

It was a quiet drive up the hill to Strawberry Junction, then to Winslow, with remnants of snow all along the road, in the sun shadows. I got to Homol’ovi,a mile north of town, around 11:30, and had to ring the doorbell at the Visitor’s Center, to purchase my admission. The ranger seemed surprised, though grateful, that I was even bothering. Indeed, nobody else was stopping there, but I don’t take something for nothing.

Here is the Visitor’s Center.

There are two 13th Century ruins, and a 19th Century Mormon cemetery, preserved in the park’s grounds. I walked to Sunset Cemetery, the only remnant of the Mormon settlement of Sunset, which had been built on the floodplain of the Little Colorado River. As the Mormon party had had no experience with the monsoons of the Southwest, they felt it would not be problematic to build on the flat area. When the monsoons came, and the settlement was washed away, they left. The hilltop cemetery bears witness to their simple lifestyle.

The names of those laid to rest are on this one stone, set by the LDS Church and the State Park.

Above, is a description of Sunset, the settlement. Below, is a view of the cemetery as a whole.

The park maintains a small observatory, for Star Viewing parties, during more normal times.

Tsu’Vo, above, is a short nature trail, where there are petroglyphs scattered among the stones. I did not see any, from the trail itself. Tsu’Vo means “Place of Rattlesnakes”, in Hopi, but with the weather being cool, I didn’t see any of them, either. Below, there is much evidence of volcanic debris, which is this area’s legacy from the eruption of Sunset Crater, 60 miles to the west.

After walking around Tsu’Vo, I headed to Homol’ovi II, the larger of the two preserved ruins of the settlements built by the likely ancestors of the Hopi. Hopi spiritual leaders are regularly consulted by the park curators, with regard to preservation issues. The park has brought a halt to vandalism and theft of artifacts, which was worse here than at other parts of the area.

Below is a view of the central kiva, where religous ceremonies were held. This kiva was restored, after having been vandalized, prior to the park’s establishment.

The, as now, the San Francisco Peaks were regarded as sacred, by the Hopi, as well as Dineh and other Indigenous peoples of the region.

Removing pottery shards, or any other artifacts, is a Federal and State crime. Flat stones are set, off the trail, as a safe place where people may place any shards found on the sidewalk and view the collections.

Two herds of wild burros have made their home here, between the two main ruin sites. I spent a few minutes, silently conversing with the equines, then headed to Homol’ovi I, the first settlement uncovered by archaeologists. Below, is one of the few intact walled rooms.

The scattered remnants of Homol’ovi I’s central plaza are seen above. Plazas were, and are, the main gathering places of Pueblo dwellers, including the Hopi. Homol’ovi’s preservation, along with those of other civilized communities which pre-date European settlement, is a sincere effort at acknowledging the foundation of Man’s presence in this exquisite, harsh environment.

A Long Way From Unlucky

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November 13, 2020, Cottonwood-

Friday the Thirteenth has always had a bad rap, in my book. I can count on one hand the number of even slight misfortunes that have struck on this particular day-regardless of what month it happens.

Today was no exception-and I hope this was true for most everyone else. First thing this morning, I received notice of a generous gift from a loved one. At work, I arrived early, got plenty of help in preparing for the day and was able to accomplish all that was listed on the Substitute Plan. The children worked hard, and though they started to flake out, towards day’s end, I was pleased with the overall work day.

I came here, to the commercial hub of eastern Yavapai County, as part of a planned late evening at Synergy Cafe and a quick start to tomorrow’s jaunt to Homolovi Ruins State Park, north of Winslow. After two Zoom calls put me on the dinner hunt a bit late, I set off for Black Bear Diner, five minutes from the motel. Alas, there was no one at the host station-and not only was I being ignored by the staff, but two parties waiting to pay for their meals were also being treated as invisible. I left them with a “Good luck” vibe, and chalked it up to ONE minor irritation. Dinner came a bit late, but Cowboy Club, in Sedona, is fabulous.

Synergy was even more crowded than usual, so the late night did not transpire. I will go back there again, when I have a drum-and thus, something to offer the group. So, I am back at Verde Valley Inn and am quite comfortable for the rest of the night.

Friday the Thirteenth is also said to have feminine energy about it, which is just fine by me!

With These Blessings,….

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November 9, 2020-

I sat here at my combination laptop table/gratitude altar, during the second of three Zoom meetings, this evening, and marveled at how my week’s schedule has evolved. Four work assignments have presented themselves- today being a short three-hour session with intermediate schoolers, whose classmates in the hybrid set-up will be my charges, tomorrow.

Thursday will be an early start day, with small groups of reading enrichment students, at the primary level. Friday, I will be with a class of first graders. Earlier this season, my plan for the end of this week was to head up to Painted Desert/Petrified Forest. Then came a second wave of COVID-19 which, while not dissuading me from the journey, did create a teacher shortage. Thus, my personal time is a weekend affair. Whether I head up that way, for a shorter time, will be determined later in the week.

There are many blessings that come in the guise of trouble. For me, being with children of any age is high on that list. COVID is the trouble and they are the blessings. Being able to visit friends in Sedona on Friday evening, then go no further than Homolovi State Park on Saturday, and being back for my weekly devotional on Sunday, would be a perfect weekend alternative.

Wednesday is Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day and the auspicious 11/11. The blessings of a midweek holiday come not only in the respect shown us as military veterans or in the free or discounted meals, but in the awareness that something I did, as part of a larger effort, made a big difference.

I am feeling blessed to live among people who can see the forest for the trees, and don’t altogether get rattled. If there is illness, momentary discomfort or a bit of inconvenience, there is a roadmap to getting past those things, and more of us are aware of this, than not.

The last few weeks of being a sixty-something are shaping up to be ever more filled with bounties.

The Differences Remain

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October 17, 2020-

The differences remain, between me and most others in my life, and that’s okay. I was raised by two people who were polar opposites, in many ways, and I was, likewise, much different from Penny, in several areas.

I don’t deem it necessary to send “Good morning, have a nice day!” messages to people on social media. Some of my friends do, and I will never blow them off. Common courtesy was instilled in me, so despite my setting a plan for myself each day, random messages will be addressed, as soon as possible after they are sent me.

I don’t consider myself a follower of any living person or member of any political movement. There is truth to be gleaned, from across the spectrum, and there are ideas and policies that both sides advocate, which are not fit for our times, either because they are outmoded or because the human race is not ready for them, as yet. I support those ideas that are good for the planet and for the well-being of humanity.

I believe in a Creator. Some don’t, preferring to think that the Universe was self-creating. I don’t believe that a physical Being did the creating, but that there is an eternal Life Force behind it all. I believe there has always been a moral code-be it called Golden Rule, Ten Commandments or Eight-Fold Path. This code is accompanied by social laws, which are changed to fit the needs of the time in which people live. Thus, Progressive Revelation comes from the same Source Who sent Krishna, Zarathustra, Moses, Gautama Siddhartha, Jesus the Christ, Mohammed and al-Bab, and Who has most recently sent Baha’u’llah. The Source never sent Satan-which is in fact a personification of our own lower nature. Others believe differently. There is no harm in that. We all get to grow and move, at our own pace.

The bottom line is, I love; far from perfectly, but I love.

I have had a request for more photos of Red Mountain, so here are three more.

The Bull Elephant
A Mystery Trail
Another Fortress and More Guardians