High and Low Alike

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March 12, 2020-

Somewhere, a president feels a fever coming.

Two hundred miles to the north,

a soybean farmer lies in bed,

isolated from all save his loving wife.

Far to the north, another country’s

First Lady is quarantined.

Her Prime Minister-husband

is in self-isolation.

A fisherman, in a village,

well to the east,

won’t be casting his net,

for at least a month.

The trader, who was hoping

to make a killing in smuggling

parrots from Brazil,

has just been told “No go”.

The area from which he was heading

is in a Red Zone.

There will be no plane flights,

until further notice.

The parrots can sing

in freedom,

for now.

Sheryl Crow

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February 22, 2020, Indio-

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!

 

Barriers Are In the Mind

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February 17, 2020, Yuma-

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.

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Here is the railroad bridge, opposite the Park.  It is still in use.

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This was the Parade Ground.

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This was the Guard Tower.

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These are two views of the Sally Port  (Puerto de Salir), or main entrance to the enclosed prison.

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The present-day Museum is in the site of the Prison Mess Hall.

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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.

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Next, a couple of views of the typical cell.

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These were the first bunk beds.

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Finally, this is a view of the Dark Cell, the holding place of the most incorrigible prisoners.

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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.

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When Relics Crumble

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February 16, 2020, Yuma-

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.

 

The Life We’ve Planned

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February 8, 2020-

“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.

Entitled?

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January 31, 2020-

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.

Plan A, 2020

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January 3, 2020-

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.

The Golden Path

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January 1, 2020-

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My daughter-in-law and I wandered up the easier of two trails leading to the saddle overlooking the rocky summit of Thumb Butte, one of Prescott’s signature landmarks.  It was about the fifteenth time, I’ve been up there, and Yunhee’s first.  As we spotted four intrepid rock climbers and a dog, in the area shown above, I thought of all I’ve faced and overcome, in the past ten years, and how much there is still ahead.  I have not wanted to walk in the area of the the summit, not because of fear, but for concern it may be damaging to the ecosystem, as no regular trail goes beyond the saddle.  Evidently, the area is safe enough, even at this time of year-with its ice and snow.  So, I could very well be up there, in the near future.

The path ahead, in this new decade, could diverge in any one of a number of ways, and as with anyone, the choice is mine as to which I take.  Those closest to me here have lives and dreams of their own, some of which might involve me, and others in which I need not be included.  That comes with the territory of a late-sixty-something, and I am just glad to have them in my life.

The converse, of course, is also true.  I feel the pull of the road, to my greater tribe, and I feel a bond with one soul, above all, here in Prescott.  My little family is a key factor, too. They will live in the Dallas area.  There will be much that will become clearer, as the winter proceeds, fades and passes.  That I am happy with whatever road, on which my spirit guides take me, has been evident from the last decade.

These next five months will be fairly serene, or so I think now.  My focus will be on generating as much work as possible, whilst working around a few volunteer commitments and personal appointments.  Travel-wise, Valley of Fire State Park, east of Las Vegas, beckons in mid-January; I will take in a concert in Indio, CA, in late February and various outings around Arizona, some on the spur of the moment, will happen during Winter and Spring.

The Golden Path led up Thumb Butte, today, and could lead just about anywhere, over the year, and decade, ahead.  May your paths be fruitful, also.

And It Was….

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December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

The decade took Penny, my wife of twenty-eight years and nine months, both her parents Norm and Ruth (“Bunny”), two of her aunts Averala and Helen (“Honey”), two of  her cousins, Tom and Jean, and a cousin-in-law, Richard.

It took my maternal uncles, Carl and James,  Carl’s two children-Keith and Carla, and our cousins Ronnie and Lorraine.

It did not spare my father’s side of the family, either, taking Uncle George, Aunt Adeline (“Sissy”) and her son Bob.

It brought several others to the Life Beyond, friends all:  Christie Serino, Drew Crotty, Larry Silipigni, Alan and Rick Belyea, from my hometown of Saugus, MA;  Alison Sipes, from Indiana; Mildred “Mildoo” Forney, who, along with her daughter, made my visits to Oley, PA an annual pleasure; my American Legion comrades Bob Wittmann, Dennis Young, John Mortimer, Sue Chambers, Al Tercero-among several;  a host of Baha’i  fellows- Ali and Violette Nakhjavani, Nancy Coker, John Cook, Firuz Khazemzadeh, Avid Navidi, Dick Sloman, Moses Nakai, Russ Garcia, Chester Kahn, Roy Dewa, Tom Smith, Keith John Manybeads.

 It was a time of change.

It saw me get out of town, leaving Phoenix, after ten years.  Prescott, once more, became Home Base.

It saw our son, Aram, follow in the footsteps of many of his forebears, on both sides of the family and enter the service of his country, serving in the United States Navy, for nine years.

It saw him enter into matrimony.  Having returned to Korea, the land of his birth, as part of his service, Aram met and married Yunhee, a superlative addition to our family.

It saw us honour two of my nieces, who preceded him down the aisle, also bringing spouses who add luster to the Boivin brood.

It was a time of growth.

It brought in fourteen new members of my Grandniece/nephew Club and some new additions to my Greater Tribe.

There were a couple of good years, working full time, at Prescott High School, and several others spent substitute teaching.

The decade brought me the joy of giving back- with the American Red Cross, Slow Food, school garden projects, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as American Legion Post 6 and the Baha’i community.  It has brought me many new friends, members of my Tribe, who consistently make this life a thing of beauty.

Then, there were those journeys- annually to see family, on the East Coast, in the South and in the Midwest, which is never “Flyover Country” to me; my first solo visit to Europe, partly on my father-in-law’s behalf and partly because  I wanted to connect with the lands of my ancestors;  I returned to Korea, to  fully embrace my son’s wedding and to recap our life in Jeju; Hawaii welcomed me, in advance of the Tiger Cruise from Honolulu to San Diego, as Aram & crew returned from a Pacific Rim deployment; I fulfilled some of the dreams I shared with Penny, and explored the Pacific Northwest, a bit of British Columbia; southeast Alaska and eastern Canada; California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado were constantly seeing my face-largely to spend time with far-flung members of my Tribe.  Shorter, but no less meaningful, jaunts around Arizona, Utah and New Mexico filled in the blanks.

Now, the sun has risen on a new decade, for much of the world and the year, which once loomed as a pinnacle in my life, has a remaining shelf life of nine hours, here in the Mountain Standard Time Zone.

This decade of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, advances and setbacks will soon give way to another, likely much more of each.  Happy 2020, one and all!

Everyone’s Big Hole

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December 23, 2019, Grand Canyon Village-

The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park is drawing to a close.  So, naturally, the combination of  time to spare and my daughter-in-law’s visit led to us going up to the South Rim, this morning, and spending the day, walking along the paved Rim Trail, from Mather Point to Maricopa Point.

We had spent last night in our respective rooms, at the comfortable America’s Best Value, in Williams.  The high point of yesterday was a visit to the Scheinlen-Pena family, in Paulden (of whom, more tomorrow).  After being warmed by thick, nutritious soup and salad, we headed to Williams, so as to not spend time going back over the same route, this morning.

The Grand Canyon seemed to strike Yunhee in a way similar to the impression it first makes on others:  It’s almost incomprehensible in its size.  Of course, photos don’t do it justice (though I’ll post a few, anyway.)  The best thing to do here is to choose a few spots where the magnitude of the place can be somewhat encapsulated.

So, here are four such interludes:

Mather Point- An introduction to the Canyon, for many, as it is near the Visitors’ Center.  Yunhee opted out of the 22-minute intro video, in favour of direct contact with the view from the Rim.

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Yavapai Point:  Here is a view of a cave that would seem to be a rock climber’s dream and probably something on which I’d pass.

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Along the Rim Trail, just shy of this village:  There is a fairly new display, all along the Rim Trail, which shows stone that is from increasingly ancient layers of rock.  This Dox Sandstone dates from one billion, one hundred thirty million years ago.

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The El Tovar Hotel:  Grand Canyon Village, being home to some, and a welcoming host to countless others, does holidays up nicely!

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Kolb Brothers Studio:  Here is a place that’s both historical and full of artistry.  The brothers were photographers here, alternately in conflict and grudging cooperation with Fred Harvey’s Lookout Studio, from 1901-1976.  Today, both the Lookout Studio and Kolb Brothers Studio are gift shops and prime places from which to view the Canyon,

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as well as the Village:

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Near Hopi Point:  Crevices always interest me, though not to the extent that I’d try to straddle one.

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Near Maricopa Point:   The Canyon is evolving, and that means there will be collapses along its many walls, as well as continued uplift.

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Next year will bring a few more visits to Everyone’s Hole:  A jaunt from Maricopa Point to Hermit’s Rest, on the west side of South Rim, in late March and a hike on the Uncle Jim Trail, North Rim, on what would have been my late Uncle Jim’s 86th birthday, June 3.