I stayed in, all day, except to step outside, this evening and appreciate the stars and Moon. The galaxy and, in the late night, our solar system neighbours, transmit a certain energy, that does affect our moods and can impart spiritual energy, if we are open to it.
Most of us realize that there is no point in planning to travel out of the country, as long as we, collectively, represent a definite threat to the well-being of people who have largely done their due diligence, have suffered from their own homegrown cases of the pandemic virus and who have embarked on a road to recovery.
That has not stopped some of the more innocent and tender-hearted souls among my friends in other countries from contacting me over social media-asking when I am going to add a Whatsapp account (not until at least 2022, when I still hope to visit Asia and the Pacific basin); when I will get to Africa (2023) and when I can write up proposals that will help energetic, but uneducated, farmers get assistance from NGO’s. I have already begun sending one group some information about Microgreens-a labour intensive effort that will bring a highly nutritious means to food security. Actually putting together a scholarly “grant-type” proposal is not something with which I have much experience-but it’s something I can try, which will certainly be more beneficial to people in disadvantaged communities than sending them money- a simplistic and, ultimately, debilitating act.
The rest of the world does not want Americans to flood out of this country, in the midst of the pandemic. At the same time, the rest of the world is not going to let Americans just sit behind these borders and act as if the people of other nations do not exist-nor should they.
No matter how dire things get, between now and October-or even beyond, we remain one human race and only by caring for one another as for ourselves, can we truly rise from whatever rubble piles up-and shine again.
Of all things that get done in life, none exceed in value the homage paid to those who have gone before. As giving, to those in need, results in getting more of what oneself could use, so does paying respects, to those who have transitioned, bring more honour to the one paying the respects.
I was able to stay in a fine little cabin, a duplex, which I shared with a family of three, who kept to themselves. Jacob Lake Lodge has been built into a resort, of modest size, staying free from any ostentatiousness. It has a small, but quality, restaurant, where pandemic-based spacing is in effect, and of course, masks helped give a sense of health security, for both patrons and staff-when we weren’t eating or drinking, of course.
After hiking a “warm-up” trail, in search of the actual Jacob Lake, I found only an RV Park, and so returned to the resort, in time for check-out. Then, it was off to the Canyon!
There is a plan being considered, that will result in a sizable amount of trees being cut, in Kaibab National Forest, along the road to North Rim. There is a huge amount of slash and burned-out trunks, left from previous fires and intense storms. To me, it would make the most sense to clear that mess, and probably would put a fair number of people to meaningful work, this month and next. As the trees under consideration are “old growth” forest, it is especially heart-rending to consider the unnecessary damage to the ecosystems.
After arriving at North Kaibab Trailhead, where the Elantra would rest, while I hiked, it took a short bit of checking the route, to make sure I din’t end up going down the North Kaibab Trail, itself. Ken Patrick Trail, a bit to the north of the steep big kahuna, would take me to Uncle Jim Trail. With the help of a thru-hiker doing the Arizona Trail, I was on my way, in short order. You can see from the sign, below, that Ken Patrick was dedicated to service with the National Parks.
About 500 feet along the trail, a large ponderosa pine had fallen across the path, so I went up and around the mess. Three other trees would lie across the trail, at different points.
The first set of overlooks lies about 1/4 mile along the Ken Patrick Trail. This view mirrored what I saw last October, from the Bright Angel Point trail.
Nature leaves her little jokes, even at the expense of damaged trees.
Sooner than I expected, it was time to take a hard right.
The first segment of Uncle Jim Trail is four tenths of a mile. It is also the area with the most up and down inclines, and the only place where there are switchbacks, albeit mild ones. Two downed trees greeted us hikers, along this stretch, as well.
At 7/10 of a mile, along the western leg of Uncle Jim Trail’s 2.1-mile loop, I came to a series of fabulous canyon views.
Finding a heart-shaped rock, I placed it carefully against a small set of wood shavings.
This natural eroded bowl could serve as an amphitheater.
I came upon an unofficial overlook, east of the main viewpoint, and appreciated the two “guardians”, looking back towards the rim.
Looking out from this vantage, at Uncle Jim Point, I have a tripod to help me focus.
Heading out from this vantage point, I spotted a burnt ponderosa, which could serve as a memory pole, of sorts.
I spent a few minutes sitting on the landing of a restroom building, writing in my journal. As I did, a fierce gust of wind came up and blew my sunglasses off the landing. I looke for the shades, for about ten minutes, but to no avail. If that is my offering to the forces of nature, so be it. I have a feeling that the wind took them all the way to the rim, and over.
Hearing happy voices, I followed the tral to the main viewpoint. There were four women, a couple and me, taking one another’s photographs. Thus, a pyramid could be envisioned: Four at the base, two in the middle and one on top.
Here I am, courtesy of the “better half” of the couple.
With Uncle Jim Point in the background, I fulfilled a promise to myself and to his family.
With that, the two parties and I leapfrogged one another, on the way back, as each took rest breaks. We all missed the junction sign, going back on the Ken Patrick Trail by osmosis. I last saw the four women taking an extended photo shoot at the first overlook. The couple, it turns out, are from Santa Monica, and were enjoying their first venture out of town, since January.
So, my heart’s desire was fulfilled and I headed out of the Canyon, with a brief stop at North Country Market, for a well-earned salted caramel latte and a long, but smooth, drive to Flagstaff.
I have found that my throat chakra. It’s a feature that had been rather subject to timidity and over-circumspection, especially when it came time to face challenges from more strident individuals, over the years. I find myself talking back more-and with more confidence.
These are times when people are dealing with fear and pain, in some very unsettling ways. Then again, people have dealt with fear and pain in unsettling ways, forever. It just plays out more in real time.
Grand Canyon National Park has re-opened its North Rim to hiking, but not to lodging. I had a pre-COVID plan to hike a trail up there, in honour of my Uncle Jim, who passed away last year. June 3 would have been his 86th birthday. As it happens, I have an obligation here at Home Base, that evening, but June 2 is open. So, I have plans to take my hiking sticks, water, natural sanitizer, mask and gloves-and honour my uncle’s memory.
The reaction to my announcement of this has not been what I expected. I thought friends on the Left would come screaming about contagion. So far, only one mild protest has come from that direction. Most everyone, progressives and conservatives alike, have simply said “Be safe and enjoy!”
The only caveat that I have, for the driving portion of this trip, is to not stop along the way, in the Navajo Nation, unless absolutely necessary-to honour the Nation’s President’s request that outsiders drive through, without stopping.
For what it’s worth, this is the only long trip I have planned for the next several weeks, if not months, and out-of-state, for now, remains out of the question.
I have promised myself that this year, besides being my last year of full-time work, will be focused on the arts (especially music), honouring First Nations and reaching out to the rising generations as an ally.
With that in mind, some time ago, I accepted an online invitation from the singer Sheryl Crow, through her publicist, to attend a concert in this revitalized city on the eastern edge of California’s Colorado Desert. It’s been forty-eight years since I attended a performance by a musical A-Lister (1972, Harry Chapin). Since Sheryl is one whom I follow on Facebook, it was a natural choice.
Making the trip resulted in not attending more spur-of-the-moment performances by local artists, back in Prescott, but I do spontaneous events back at Home Base,, all the time. A major recording artist, or any touring musician, has to book venues and make plans, in consultation with the band and staff, well in advance.
Indio, over time, has had the good sense to nurture resort tourism, especially with the lucrative music festival in nearby Coachella becoming huge, on the concert calendar. Fantasy Springs Resort is owned and operated by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. With its golf course, casino and three-star hotel, the sparkling resort attracts top-flight entertainers.
Though the show started late, so as to give the audience’s many stragglers time to get seated, I felt I got my money’s worth, and I had a great seat-in the front and to the left of the stage. Had I been a bit less shy, I might have made a new friend of the comely lady sitting, and at one point dancing, alone on the other side of the stairway, but I was primarily there for my friend’s music. Excuses, excuses.
Sheryl and her band put on a rousing, energizing show, with her major pop hits of the past three decades and, reassuringly, her new material. She included a couple of songs on which she had collaborated with the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, known for his unique high-pitched voice, as well as his intense guitar licks. The lead guitarist emulated Joe’s command of the instrument, whilst a rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist nailed Joe’s vocal style. All of the guitarists, including Sheryl, also showed mastery of the keyboards, as they moved from one great delivery to another.
The nicest thing about bands like this is the sense of family. Sheryl is the head of the group, but is no prima donna. They are appreciative of the audience, but there is no pandering- the band took no breaks and at the end of the one hundred five- minute set, there was a heartfelt thank you extended to the audience, the band left the stage and the road crew began dismantling the equipment-no gratuitous encore. A recording of Sheryl’s past concert material filled the air, as we filed out. Ten o’clock is late enough for everyone involved in putting the show together, to get their work done, and get their deserved rest.
The one aspect of the trip that had concerned me, returning to Prescott for tomorrow’s morning events, would turn out to be quite routine. In the meantime, and always, I can say with a couple of other, very vocal, concert-goers: I love you, Sheryl!
A commenter on one of my recent posts, on another social media site, took issue with the notion that freedom has a price. Once, an explanation of that statement was offered, he had a better appreciation o fits meaning. He did, for his part, also make a valid point: We can choose not to surrender our freedom to those who would take us down and use us for their own designs. Indeed, I have made several choices, even so far this year, that have not set well with some others. In the end, though, they can also choose for themselves, as to a best course of action. The sun should not rise and set, with any other person, when it comes to making choices of one’s own.
After a three-hour visit with some long-time friends, in this bustling border city, I took in two sites that focus on the consequences of discordance and social unrest: Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park and the border wall at San Luis.
The Prison is, of course,defunct as a place of incarceration. It long ago gave way to a more “up-to-date” facility, in Florence, itself now slated for closure, after over 100 years of use. Yuma Territorial Prison was established in 1875, at the behest of the area’s representative in the Arizona Territorial Legislature: Jose Maria Redondo. It served as the Arizona Territory’s place of incarceration, from 1876-1909.
Since that time, Yuma has alternately used the facility as a temporary high school (1910-1914), a homeless shelter (1930-39) and, most recently, as the centerpiece of the city’s historical heritage preservation.
Here are a few scenes of the present State Historical Park. Below, is a view of the Colorado River’s wetlands, below the Park grounds.
Here is the railroad bridge, opposite the Park. It is still in use.
This was the Parade Ground.
This was the Guard Tower.
These are two views of the Sally Port (Puerto de Salir), or main entrance to the enclosed prison.
The present-day Museum is in the site of the Prison Mess Hall.
Men and women, Mormon polygamists and Mexican revolutionaries, white collar thieves and cutthroats-all shared this facility, at one time or another. The most famous of its prison breaks, the Gates Riot (October, 1877), saw Superintendent Thomas Gates taken hostage, one of his trusted inmates, Barney Riggs, come to his rescue and killed Gates’ attacker. The would-be escapees went to the Dark Cell, Gates suffered the ill-effects of the attack for the remaining twenty years of his life and Riggs was eventually set free.
Here is a view of the main cell block.
Next, a couple of views of the typical cell.
These were the first bunk beds.
Finally, this is a view of the Dark Cell, the holding place of the most incorrigible prisoners.
In spite of appearances, the Yuma facility was progressive for its time. It had electricity, running water and was mostly operated with a rehabilitative, rather than a punitive, mindset.
I left this city, for a forty-minute ride to San Luis, to take a brief look at the border crossing leading to the large Sonoran community of San Luis Rio Colorado. It was peak crossing time for day labourers, who were returning home. In fairness, the barrier here looks nothing like the much-photographed Bollock sections, in other areas along the frontier. I don’t much care for the fortress-like images being promoted as “necessary”, but the real barriers to human progress are in the mind. This puts the onus for social change and justice squarely on those creating the barriers-both the antisocial elements whose actions generate fear and the reactionaries who fancy that building such structures will obviate any further efforts at rectifying the imbalances present in society.
Most of us, whether “liberal” or “conservative”, actually fall somewhere in the middle on this one. I wonder how Thomas Gates, the reformer penologist, would have dealt with undocumented immigrants.
Driving down AZ 95, towards this vibrant border city, I passed the remnants-the shell- of a western Arizona mainstay: Stone Cabin. It was, I’m told, a favourite stopping place for people traveling between Las Vegas and Mexico, during the 1950’s, ’60’s and ’70’s. There was a large gas station and a bustling snack bar, with space for families to get out and stretch their legs, in an area which otherwise had no amenities for travelers.
Today, as I drove past, there was only the shell of the building, with no signage indicating what once was. I knew what it was, only because of an earlier road mileage sign, on which Stone Cabin was listed. I could sense happy ghosts, of those who had found respite there, at least during the eight months a year that Stone Cabin’s proprietors kept it open. (There was not as much traffic through the area, during the hottest months of the year: May-August.)
Many things fall apart, in anyone’s life and in the life of a community, during the course of years, decades and, with respect to the larger social entity-centuries. I have a certain amount of time left and, while not knowing-or needing to know, how much that is, I will carry on with what I sense is given me to do.
Society does much the same. Some feel it is a necessary social project, to build barriers: Walls and fences, which they hope will keep unsavory intruders from entering the American nation. I have my doubts, as no wall has thus far accomplished its stated purpose, in perpetuity. We’ll see. The project has accomplished a division of people, but across ideological lines. It won’t physically crumble until long after the generations which have reached adulthood, as of the present day, are gone. My own hope is that it will generate a meaningful and earnest conversation, between the physically-divided peoples, albeit from a spot where the most fearful people are experiencing a sense of relief. When unity is realized, the wall’s builders will have unwittingly obviated its purpose.
Relics crumble, even after they have offered a fair number of people a sense of well-being.
“We must let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”-Joseph Campbell
Over the years, I’ve learned that planning, while it offers the benefit of a loose framework, is both preferable to chaos and inferior to serendipity. In 2014, I overplanned my European journey, day by day. When the opportunity of joining an American troupe at Omaha Beach, in Normandy, presented itself-I found myself turning it down-as I had a hotel reservation in Rouen, and didn’t want to sacrifice the night’s lodging. It’s academic, as to whether this would have been a worthwhile sacrifice, as the night in Rouen was uneventful.
Of late, I’ve been going more with my deeper feelings-turning down jobs, when I sense that taking them on would not do the students any good, and accepting them, when I feel that I have something definite to offer. The same remains true of leisure pursuits. I generally roll with my gut, or with my heart, when deciding which path to follow, of a weekend or day off. There was a time, a few years back, when I was looking towards a three-year Trifecta of through-hikes: Arizona Trail, Appalachian/East Coast Recreation Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. A strong sense that I needed to stay put, during much of the year, has borne fruit, during this period-2017-19. As we’ve seen, I was on the road, anyway-just on a route that proved more beneficial to self and others-and let me serve this community, for 8-10 months.
The life that’s waiting for me, after December, is a cipher. In the meantime, there are several paths on which I may find myself-with the anchor of this Home Base, a small group of reliable friends, and several more, who are a bit more mercurial. I have confidence that Dr. Joe was right, and that accepting the life that is waiting will be just as rewarding, if not more so, than what I had planned.
While covering a class yesterday, I showed the film, “Avatar”. The point was made that, in the far future, a certain segment of Earth’s populace was bent on colonizing a planet similar to our own. It involved a colonialist mentality, based on perceived economic benefit.
I read a report, yesterday, about an American woman, missing in the Central American country of Belize. The report said she was last seen on a beach, late at night. Several commentators cast aspersions on the safety conditions in that country, as well as those in the Dominican Republic. The comments included the opinion that Americans are routinely seen as projecting a “rich and entitled” persona, by residents of those countries.
I have never been to either nation. I have been to the South American nation of Guyana, where similar charges were leveled against the local populace. I was there, with Penny, for three weeks. We walked about with humility, and did not find ourselves being menaced or accosted by anyone. We had escorts and host families, the entire time we were there. That was 1984, and yet I am certain that similar precautions would bear similar results now.
I have been a number of places, since that year. I can say that I made some boneheaded judgments, when in Europe, in 2014, but none based on hubris or egoism. I learned what not to do again. It is simply best to walk in humility and fair-mindedness, albeit while maintaining a smart sense of safety. I have plans that will take me far afield, over the next five years-and I don’t rule out any given country. Most will involve making suitable security arrangements beforehand, in any case-but not because I am “rich and entitled”. There will be many conversations on the subject, I’m certain-just as I spoke with a few disaffected people in Guyana, 36 years ago, and in Paris, six years ago.
This is perhaps as big a reason for my reaching out, as any.
I spent several hours, with my daughter-in-law, waiting for Aram’s flight to arrive from Seattle. We went to Phoenix in the evening, but not late enough to avoid a stretch of sitting around at the Airport. I need to work on my downtime skills, especially when it involves a “captive audience.”
This is obliquely related to what lies ahead, during what is likely to be an extraordinary year. Consultation needs to be consistently carried out, in matters great and small. Towards that end, my best friend recently reminded me of the importance of a yearly plan-mindful that life can upend the best laid plans, at a moment’s notice, but attracting divine support for the plan, anyway.
So, here is what 2020 looks like, as of today.
Commitments and Givens: Be mindful, yet stay creative. Work whenever possible, from January-May and September-December. Keep regular volunteer activities, during the above time frames. Stay present, and communicate regularly, with all members of my Tribe, especially those closest. Honour all life, including my own. Celebrate brother’s special birthday, as he sees fit. Celebrate my own special birthday. Retire in December.
Journeys: January– Valley of Fire State Park, east of Las Vegas; February– Indio (Concert) and Colorado River Valley, from Parker to Yuma; April– San Diego and Orange County; June, July & August– North Rim of Grand Canyon, Carson City, Portland, Olympic Peninsula, Vancouver Island, Prince Rupert, Southeast Alaska, Trans-Canada Highway, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Atlantic Canada, New England, Philadelphia,eastern Midwest and Southeast, Florida (maybe even South FL and a bit of the Bahamas), across the South to Dallas and then back to Prescott; October– Petrified Forest, Painted Desert and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
Of course, this is what I am getting from my meditations, NOW. Much is left to conditions on the ground, at the time things are about to happen. In any event, this is what I get as my plan, at the start of the year.