Mind and Spirit, 2023

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January 3, 2023– I spent three hours or so, this afternoon, watching the film, Babylon, which deals with the experiences of four main characters, who are all linked by way of the debauchery of early Hollywood and the transition from silent film to “talkies”. It has a long time span, stretching from 1926 to 1952, and by the time one of the main characters dispatches his listless wife and daughter back to their hotel, choosing to himself take in Gene Kelly’s “Singing In The Rain” in a crowded cinema, his head is spinning from the memories that one film generates-as he had had a hand in trying to promote a talkie that featured the title song, in the early Thirties.

Babylon does not skimp on details of the Bohemian culture of the Roaring Twenties, nor on the hardheaded business culture that funded the fun and games-especially the drug trade which, then as now, was the means to mindlessness. With that I was again mindful that, in every age, each human soul must choose whether to follow the promptings of the body or to center thoughts and actions on the guidance of the Spirit, a guidance based in genuine love.

A few days ago, a correspondent asked of my goals for spiritual and intellectual growth for this Gregorian year. Three main goals, in each area, come to mind.

Spiritually, I will first continue attending and facilitating study circles that focus on personal and community development, based on Baha’i principles. My second goal is to maintain and extend spiritual ties to those in my personal network. Thirdly, I will continue and expand studies of Baha’i and older Scriptural writings.

Intellectually, my first goal is to actively read each day, outside of Scriptural study. My current pile of books consists of :”The Lost World of the Old Ones”, a study of southwest anthropology by David Roberts; “Prairie Erth”, William Least Heat Moon’s lengthy study of life in Chase County, Kansas; “John Adams”, by David McCullough. As I finish each book, another is added to the pile-and immediately waiting are “EcoVillages”, by Karen Litfin; “The Four Agreements”, by Alberto Villoldo; and a re-reading of “The Fifth Sacred Thing”, by Star Hawk.

Secondly, increasing the quality of my dialogues and other conversations with those in my network is a key goal. I recall the tiredness implied in the 1980s book “What Do You Say, After You Say Hello”, and how I bought into the notion that, particularly in interactions between males and females, there is a short leash of sorts which, Eric Berne rightly pointed out, deserves to be severed and a saner appeal to wider shared interests and explorations be the modus operandi in its place. One of my greatest regrets is letting that one-dimensional outlook guide me in my teens and twenties-and re-emerge, in a sense, after Penny’s death. Thankfully, my present network of friends is way past that mentality.

Thirdly, I will focus more, in my activities both here and further afield, taking more interest in intellectual community events, in this area, and spending more time in selected places, when on the road. I am reading, in this month’s National Geographic Magazine, that increasing the quality of intellectual activity does have a positive effect on limiting, even counteracting, dementia and other cerebral impairments.

As with other aspects of my life, specifics will ensue, as the year rolls on. It’ll be a rich one, for sure.

The How and The Who

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January 2, 2023- Every year, I go through what lies ahead-the What, the Where and usually the Why. This all ends up with kudos from the devoted dozen and yawns from the masses-as is to be expected, in a world of Information Overload. The fun is always in the actual doing.

I am feeling a change in energy, both the wider Field and within myself. It may be my age catching up, or an actual effect of the particular Universal Year, that cosmologists present to us. This is a 7-Universal Year, featuring the concept of Deep Soul Reflection. I do sense more of that, than I did even a few days ago, when Feminine Energy was still in effect, for those who noted that 2022 was a 6-Universal Year, and feminine action was front and center.

This effects how I go about doing things. There is to be more doing things in groups, which happened on occasion in 2022, especially on New Year’s Eve. I will, for certain this time, use more public transportation, in going across country- late April and early to mid-May, to the Pacific Northwest, BC and Alaska and September, to the Midwest and East Coast. Here in the Southwest, getting back to the Convergence mentality is in order. The energy I still feel is a connection to those who like to celebrate life, rather than passively observe. There will, no doubt, be plenty of time for the latter, in years yet to come.

Finally, the who is involved will be totally up to them. I am done pursuing those who need privacy or are otherwise unavailable. No one is being cut out of my life, who hasn’t already been, yet we each have dignity and I am not giving up mine, in a vain attempt to placate others. Family and friends are abundant in my life, so there’s no need for me to be clingy.

The year is sure to bring spiritual and intellectual growth. A friend asked, a few days ago, about my plans in those areas. More on that, tomorrow.

And So It’s Organic…..

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January 1, 2023- Fifteen of us celebrated the exit of another year, dining in relatively simple, but fine style, at a small, well-functioning Steak House, known as Dry Gulch on the northwest side of Prescott. I have celebrated my birthday there, in times past, when Penny and family were here to join in my passage of another trip around the Sun. Tales of a fellow diner’s climbs on Denali Peak and Cerro Aconcagua-and aborted attempts to get a climbing permit for the sixth highest mountain in the world (in the Tibetan Himalaya, no less) highlighted the general banter of people who I was, except for hiking buddy, Akuura, meeting for the first time.

With the meal finished, a bit after 10 p.m., a few of us headed towards downtown-the idea being to take in at least a bit of the festivities leading up to the Boot Drop-Prescott’s paean to Times Square’s ball. I ended up being the only one who actually made it to Courthouse Plaza, and Whiskey Row- and then, only for about forty minutes, enough time to bounce a bit, on the sidelines of the outdoor mosh pit that had formed in front of the performance stage and to enjoy the customary hot chocolate that has become a NYE tradition. A friend on Instagram posted “Sag-Somehow ends up with the most kisses”; not this Sagitarrian. Age and anonymity, as well as not staying for the actual Boot Drop, had a lot to do with that, no doubt. I went back to Home Base and ended up watching the Midnight Fireworks from my front patio.

Today brought early rain, then snow, which is still falling and which convinced me to be content with having had breakfast with fellow veterans and with getting my laundry done. The movie I’d planned to watch, at the local Picture Show Cinema, this evening, will wait until Tuesday’s matinee. There is plenty to read and to watch, here in my comfy abode. There is also the matter of “What’s next in SS world?”

That is where the organic nature of 2023 comes in. I have heard that this is a year for introspection, as opposed to frenetic expenditure of energy. Alaska, as well as Sedona and Bisbee, is a place where I have been given to such introspection and I have received opaque messages that a visit there, via the Northwest, is imminent-most likely late April to mid-May. I have a teen whom I am sponsoring through a child-centered agency. Visiting with him, in his country, is a possibility for October. In that case, I would also seek to spend time in one or two nearby countries. So far, though, the pull is strongest, here in the Southwest, with time gradually being set aside for various points elsewhere in Arizona, and New Mexico, over the next four months.

In this moment, the snow is increasing in intensity, so I am gladly sitting in my front room for the rest of the evening. Life is unfolding in an organic manner.

Things I’ve Learned

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December 31, 2022– As another Gregorian calendar year heads to the history books and memory n, what is most important, for an individual, are the lessons brought forward over the twelve months now past.

So, here are twelve things I’ve learned, some cogent, others banal-but all useful.

January- The border between the United States and Mexico is neither as chaotic as politicians away the border claim it is nor as smoothly functioning as it might be. I saw many content, focused people at the station in Douglas, AZ and no evidence of hordes of people sneaking through, at Coronado National Monument, a rural station, south of Sierra Vista.

February- Human beings, regardless of how they come to identify themselves, deserve the respect of those around them-and a keen listening ear. Losing someone who has not been completely understood by some of those around her was both unsettling and cautionary. Rest in Peace, Salem Hand.

March- Most of Man’s inhumanity to Man stems from insecurity. Andersonville showed the historical proof of that, both through its physical remnants and through the exhibits on Prisoners-of-War, both within this country and around the world. A more benign case occurred, in Miami Beach, stemming from a middle-aged man, having designs upon much younger women and threatening violence when I cautioned them about one aspect of his proposal.

April- There is no foolproof means of transport. Taking a train, when the route is secure, is a marvelous way to both see the countryside and to make good friends. The system is not without flaws, though, and a fire at a remote bridge resulted in my taking a Greyhound bus, between San Antonio and Tucson.

May- It is never too late in life for people to connect. An odd proposition was made to me, by someone much younger-and was quickly, if politely, deferred. On the other hand, two people who had been alone for several years, found each other and had a lovely garden wedding, making for several years of a solid bond.

June- There are still places where even brief inattention to surroundings can lead to discomfort, even momentarily. I found one briefly “wet” situation, checking out the depth of a bog. Fortunately, it was an “oops” moment, and caused no difficulty to me or anyone else.

July- You can go home again, but family is often going to be swamped with schedules, plans made at the last minute by spouses and friends, or just the crush of dealing with one of the greatest of American holidays.

August- No matter how well a car is maintained, the aftermath of a chain-reaction accident can lead to a total loss being declared, even 1.5 months after it occurs. So it was, for the vehicle that took me across seemingly ridiculous distances, with nary a squeak. Another person’s health issues led to Saturn Vue’s demise.

September- Not all Baha’i school events need include a heavy dose of scholarly presentations. Just being with children and youth, in crafting, dancing and fellowship, is as much a tonic for the soul as any engagement with intellectuals.

October- New friends, made in the wake of a bureaucratic flub, and clear across the continent, to boot, are as fine a result of a mistake as I can imagine. Three Bears Inn will be a place where I could definitely stay for several days, especially en route to the great mountain parks of the northern Rockies. It is all the sweeter when followed by a visit with dearly beloved friends, themselves so much like family.

November- Speaking of family, it is never necessary for my biological family to expend energy on my entertainment. They do so anyway, but just reveling in their presence and celebrating their achievements, is the finest way to spend any time-especially a holiday.

December- As an Old Guard increasingly passes from the scene, among my cohort of veterans, younger people are arising, in service to those who served our nation. I am also re-learning the rewards of patience, with those around me, as we all face increasing uncertainty. They need me, as much as I need them. I also need to be patient with myself.

Possibilities

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December 21, 2022- On a lark, I spent a little time this evening, watching a show about the misadventures of a young woman in a place for which she was ill-prepared. It had a bit of an “I Love Lucy” meets “Anna and The King” air about it. She was, though, making it work, day to day, when I signed off and went on to other activities for the evening. The gist was that, though she seemed a bit flighty, there was a very strong sense of self-and a pluckiness that brought her eventual success. She was nobody’s fool.

We each face similar situations, even when we stay in place and try to adhere to a certain basic routine. I’ve heard from friends whose lives are rather cut and dried, who have recently been facing challenges they had only vaguely expected. These range from weather that is so cold, that even an Alaska-style battery-warmer would be hard put to keep a vehicle working, to health challenges facing multiple members of a family, at once, and I’m not talking about viruses.

Thus do we find ourselves exploring possibilities. In this little corner, I will be talking with a couple of educators, tomorrow, about filling in at a position for the coming semester. This would make my own routine fairly basic, for the first time in four years. On the other hand, I could keep my present plan, which would have me covering different positions, for 3-5 days each, at certain points in the coming semester. If that plays out, I would still be available for some Red Cross activities and would head to the Northwest and Alaska, in late April, for 3 weeks or so. The other option would be none of the above, a misty, foggy scenario about which I haven’t a clue as to how things would play out. (2020 was THAT sort of year, and things got rather intense-but all ended fairly well.)

Even in “retirement”, the plight of the world, and all those I care about, settles deeply into my consciousness. The possibilities for responsible action remain endless.

High Desert Chill

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December 15, 2022- Skull Rock really does look forbidding. The formations that dot Joshua Tree National Park are all pretty aptly named, though I must admit that the Hall of Horrors did not seem all that harrowing. My hikes were rather limited by the lingering chill that has decided to stick around the Southwest, for several more days-in lieu of a week of snow and rain that was forecast, as recently as a week ago.

This first visit to the crown jewel of the Mohave. After three days along the coast, a few h,ingtion to head northeast, along CA 62. Here are seven photos of the park’s main route, from the West Entrance, in the town of Joshua Tree, to Cottonwood Springs, just west of Chiriaco Summit. While the trees which some Mormon settlers thought reminded them of the Prophet Joshua, with his arms upraised in triumph, give their name to the Park, the rock formations are what bring visitors back to the area, time and again.

Keys West
Near Quail Springs
Butte, near Hemingway Campground
Quail Springs climbing area
Hall of Horrors
Skull Rock
Jumbo Rocks

The day started off with a breakfast from Zebra House, in downtown San Clemente, my first experience with ordering a meal from a computer screen, when there was a full crew standing at the counter. It does help the team streamline orders, but I felt a bit awkward doing things this way. The breakfast burrito was excellent, though, and I got to exercise more options. As with any novel experience, I would be more relaxed next time.

The drive across CA 76, 15, 79 and 74 brought me to a more familiar place, Gramma’s Country Kitchen, in Banning-as usual, taking a place at the counter. Half a tuna melt and a few steak fries later, I was headed towards Joshua Tree. It was, as said earlier, a chilly visit-weather-wise, but I encountered several friendly folks, both park rangers and visitors, especially rock climbers, who were planning each step very carefully. Most memorable were a newlywed couple, in their nuptial attire, being photographed at various landmarks. My paternal self fretted, just a bit, for the bride, in such lightweight attire. It was not surprising, about fifteen minutes later, to see the young lady wrapped in a blanket, with a forlorn look on her face. I hope the rest of their life together is more well considered.

Chiriaco Cafe’s chili added a fine finishing touch to a lightly-planned, but fascinating afternoon. It will not be my last visit to Joshua Tree, not by a long shot.

A Pastel Day

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December 14, 2022, San Clemente- I walked along Dana Point Harbor’s southern flank, whilst waiting for my friend, Janet, to arrive for our customary lunch, a signature part of any southern California visit, since 2011. Much was the same, along the boardwalk, with an addition that honours Dana Point’s recent history. Here is a tall ship that is moored among the charter boats and private yachts, at the southern edge of the harbour.

The Curlew, originally moored in Dana Point Harbor, in the 1920s.

Janet has been a corresponding friend, since my Xanga days (2008-11). Our lunches have been followed by short walks along one or another of Orange County’s beaches or botanical gardens. More recently, we have met for extended conversations at Harpoon Henry’s, with its west-facing view of the harbour. Dana Point Harbor will be undergoing a facelift, of sorts, over the next few years. Hopefully, Henry’s will be spared.

Today was a far quieter day, weather-wise, as an extended period of sunshine seems to be taking root, in the Southwest, which includes “SoCal”. It assumed a rather pastel hue, in the sky and along the beach front. After conversing with Janet for about an hour, I came back to House of Trestles, rested a bit, then visited Trestles Beach, a favourite of some surfers. I found the ocean rather calm, with a lone surfer having packed up and carrying his board and gear off the beach. Trestles is rather flat and somewhat removed from the cliffs, thus giving it a pastel feel, as well.

Trestles does share information about the sport, which I had not encountered on any other beach.
Trestles Beach, named for the adjacent railroad trestles that lie just to the east.

It was a fine, somewhat quieter day, following the roiling cloudy and stormy period earlier in the week. I found little to clean up, at Trestles Beach. It seems the surfers do a good job policing their own.

Stewarding the Beach

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December 13, 2022, San Clemente- I was briefly considering heading down to Little Italy, and dropping into Harbor Breakfast, when the call came over the loudspeaker at Samesun Ocean Beach. I had had a wondrous time playing an impromptu card game, last night, with five young hostelers, and had been getting to know some of them better, over coffee and toaster waffles. This ended when the announcement was made to be at the front desk at 10 a.m,, if interested in joining a beach clean-up. The ladies had other plans, but I am always interested in giving back to a host community. So, I got all my stuff out of the room, put it in storage and met with three other hostelers and a community member, and headed to the beach front.

The organizer, a sometime airline pilot named Joe, does these kinds of clean-ups in various locations around the world, in his free time. He has led several clean-ups of Ocean Beach, and other locations along the California coast. The community member who joined us is a barista at the coffee shop next door to Samesun and is a clothing designer, as well. We covered about a two -mile area, netting four bags of trash, a crab trap and an old half piece of luggage. Surfers and unhoused people thanked us, as did several dog owners-as one of the areas was OB’s Dog Beach.

This gives me the inspiration to spend some time tomorrow, cleaning up Trestles Beach, before or after meeting a friend in Dana Point. Stewarding our environment is something that needs doing on a regular basis, and I can certainly get back to doing this around Home Base, as well.

Joe treated us all to brunch, at OB Surf Lodge, one of the several magnificent eateries in this lovely little community. The fare was excellent, and I was able to help Joe avoid losing out on a job-thus paying back in a different way.

We steward the environment, and have each other’s back, because that is the way the world needs us to be.

Through A Winter Wonderland to A Big Rainbow House

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December 12, 2022, San Diego-

It’s always a pleasant scene, in Pine Valley, CA.

After a blissful sleep, with my spirit operating on another level, while the body enjoyed complete rest, I left the well-furnished microhotel, known as Palms Inn, took a nice breakfast at Space Age Restaurant and bid farewell to Gila Bend. Friends in Yuma were busy, so I blazed on to Pine Valley and Major’s Diner, enjoying a winter scene from Jacumba to near Alpine. The above Merry Christmas whiteness is in front of Major’s.

A scant hour later, I was at this gem of a hostel.

Samesun Hostel, Ocean Beach

Samesun(pronounced same sun) is everything implied by the name. The mostly young crowd welcomes all, honours each person’s space (as I write this paean, two groups are enjoying one another’s company, and when I am ready to rejoin them, there will be room.) Part of this is the vibe of Ocean Beach, which I last visited in November, 1980, before Penny and I met. I remembered how well people got along here, in front of one of San Diego County’s nicest surfing beaches. Having felt tension at the last hostel where I stayed, a mostly older male facility downtown, on my last visit, it was just time to seek a younger and more tolerant vibe.

Here it is: The big rainbow house, called Samesun.

San Diego’s largest peace sign, at Samesun Hostel

A new friend named Johnny, from Chicago, said he chose the hostel after seeing this icon, after arriving here from a Venice, CA weekend. Johnny and I talked of the Grateful Dead and the Doors, for a while, then I headed to the surf show-just down the street.

A lone woman surfer tries her Ocean Beach luck.
Incoming tide at Ocean Beach
Gulls gather together, for comfort.
The surf, agitated by this latest storm, Ocean Beach.
More majestic surf, bathes the rocks, at Ocean Beach.
Rear view of a breaker, Ocean Beach.
Lone male surfer, who rode five waves while I was on the pier.

Realizing that I needed to move my car from the commercial zone, I bid both of the surfers well and headed back. Once Sportage was safely in a space near a church, I came back to the hostel and saw this:

Affirmation, at Samesun Hostel.

So does Ocean Beach join Little Italy, Old Town San Diego and La Jolla, as a welcoming place in one of my favourite large cities. So does Che and Chloe’s Pizzeria, where Chloe herself welcomed me, cheerfully, this evening, join Harbor Breakfast and Filippi’s, as a staple of any San Diego sojourn. I will have much to ponder, this evening, but in a good way and in excellent company, by a warm bonfire pan-a Southern California standby.

Urban Farms Are Essential

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December 11, 2022, Gila Bend, AZ- The unruly young mare tried to nip her owner and got a slap on the nose and a sharp rebuke, from the no-nonsense mistress. There was not a bit of weakness in this woman, who has built a solid foundation for Maya’s Farm, based on what she learned up the road, at The Farm on South Mountain. I am always amused by an enterprise which begins with “The”, as if it is the only such enterprise of its kind, in a given area. Maya has done the leg work, networked with government, landowners and insurance companies, to create a second urban farm in south Phoenix. She is not done, and showed us a barren tract, nearby, which would fit nicely into her endeavour- largely backed by a Land Trust. She has little use for those who suggest cultivating a friendship with land developers, noting that all she has seen so far is fast-track housing, and nothing will change her viewpoint, anytime soon.

People go with what they experience. A child who gets a regular diet of whoop-ass is going to be either mean or skittish. A person raised to be heard, and affirmed, will grow to be confident, sassy at times, but quite solid. Maya, I think, has seen duplicity and underhandedness. Thus, she is wary of the buildings going up, just two blocks north, and of anyone who does not show “TLC” to the land.
The world needs a lot more Mayas.

Our tour, this afternoon, was called “Let’s Legume”, and featured tepary beans, Hopi Red Dye Amaranth, elephant garlic and various shade trees. The property is helped, through being bordered on the north by a grove featuring various palms. I can’t imagine living through the heat of May-October, and constantly working, but the farm crew does it. I met a few men and women who pledged their energy for the coming year. Maya does not take much time off, in terms of growing her crops, while also teaching full time, so such volunteers are a godsend.

The meal, of a grain “burger”, was one of the spiciest sandwiches I’ve had, in quite awhile, and was delectable. The fire was put out by a cup of well water, and a cookie that seemed to have nutmeg and cinnamon helped as well. Who says vegans have a bland diet?

After an hour or so at the salubrious farm, I headed west, then south, to this small farming community, at the southwest edge of Metro Phoenix. People here, where the summer temps get up to nearly 118 at times, would do well to plant shade trees and desert-hardy crops, at the level of the urban farms of south Phoenix. The Tohono O’odham, who live not far from here, are descended from people who did just that, for over a century.

Urban farms, run by serious entrepreneurs with intense energy, are essential to our survival in this period of climate change.