When Agreeable


March 13, 2023- A call came to me, whilst I was sipping coffee and reading the Monday newspaper-a small affair most days. Seeing the name of the caller, I figured it was an urgent call to action and I was prepared to answer the call. These two weeks have activities planned, but none that couldn’t be cleared for the sake of an emergency.

It turned out that the situation was “kinda, sorta”. I would be on stand-by, for three weeks, not two, and would thus have to cancel a few more long-standing commitments, for the sake of an iffy situation. There may yet be a call back, over the next few days, but I am moving forward with what is in front of me.

I had a weight reduction check, about an hour later. Progress is generally solid and consistent, but one area has plateaued. It’ll get going again, with a few tweaks of my own, and with due consideration of the suggestions made by the coach. I am not buying into the catalog of this company, lock, stock and barrel, nor am I going to join the regimen of outside activity scheduled by the club. I may participate, every so often, in an early morning activity, but my early a.m.s have generally been “ease into things”, with more vigourous actions from late morning onward. I am not the cookie-cutter all-American Macho Man.

That last thought set me to looking back, on just how much of a solo act I have been, activity-wise and schedule-wise, since Penny died. Hiking Buddy, when she feels up to it, has provided an exception-and there are people with whom I enjoy spending time, in other areas. Mostly, though, I have returned to marching to that drummer who set my pace, before I was married. The beat is a lot more spiritual now, and Penny’s soul, along with others, has a good deal to do with how the beat plays out, but I don’t consult all that many humans about things that impact only yours truly. Visits and joint activities, of course, are agreed upon-but my solo act, otherwise, follows those spirit guides.

That leads to the rest of the week-and a long-overdue visit with some old friends will be Stop One, tomorrow, and a few other places and people lie on the short itinerary. It’ll all happen, when agreeable.

“No Bad Things”


March 12, 2023- “There are no bad things that happen, only things that you like and things that you don’t like-but from which you have not drawn the lessons they offer.” Such was the position taken by a member of the Kaballah denomination of Judaism, in a Zoom session, this morning.

I tend to take a sunny view of many things that happen, and to soldier on through much of the rough stuff. It wasn’t always that way, and I have to own that a fair share of whining has come out of my mouth, over the years. I do draw the line at the slaughter of children, genocide and the greed of the powerful, yet Kaballah sees the Will of the Divine in those events as well.

The silver linings playbook offered by these mystics is arguably worth considering, and I have no idea about how the individual lives of Kaballists have played out-save one, who spent much of my brief encounter with her attacking my character and level of intelligence. I do not regard that individual as having been typical of the mystics.

The organizer of the discussion tends to regard my comments as rather banal, so I limit any responses to the highbrow commenters. Intellectual discourses, at a stellar level, are indeed above my own intellect, but the Kaballist grabbed my interest, with his provocative stances. Suffice it to say, that in the aftermath of a catastrophe, I tend to regard my own role as one of being full on in the cleanup crew. So, in the broader scheme, “soldiering on”, tends to be wont.

In the afternoon, after spending an hour or so with a pre-teen who showed how to do finger knitting (similar to Cat’s Cradle, for the uninitiated) and who tried his hand at origami (I’m no good at that, either), I went to Watson Woods Riparian Area, and hiked along the east bank of Granite Creek. The goal was to ascertain the water level of this creek that feeds into Watson Lake. The area walked was the southeast corner of the preserve, a segment in which I have spent little time in the past. It revealed that the creek is in good shape right now.

Across the creek lies Cottonwood Peninsula, about which more tomorrow. The trail does not distinguish between the intellectual and the raconteur.

What Eternity Is Worth


March 11, 2023- I attended a memorial service this afternoon, for a man who pretty much devoted his life to the elevation of anyone with whom he came into contact. When his time came, in December, the last photo taken of him was of a smiling man, lifting both arms up, ready for the next level of existence. He was sure he was going to meet Jesus-and my hunch is that he has.

There are those, however, in his circle of friends, who have other ideas. They snarl and sputter about their departed friend’s generosity to the less fortunate. The finite mind is trying to outmaneuver the infinite, as once again, money and power are exercising their appeal. I can’t get more specific than that, due to the matter being in legal process. If injustice seems to be getting the upper hand, however, mine will be one of the loudest voices in this community, calling out the miscreants.

It is worthwhile to ask, however, what is the power-monger’s concept of eternity? Those who occupy the highest seats in any given denomination, of many, if not most, of the world’s major sectarian entities, and a good many of those down the ranks, behave for all the world, as if the promise of eternity does not really exist-or if it does, it is more of the same, with rank having its privileges. The finite mind can never comprehend the infinite. To be fair, the same sense of entitlement is rife among the elite, and the aspiring elite, in many walks of life besides the clergy.

There is, however, good reason why Jesus the Christ cast the moneylenders out of the Temple in Jerusalem, why Mohammad did battle with the merchant class of Yathrib and why Baha’u’llah wrote that “The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice” (not power, not control, but justice). The way to a better world lies in transcendence of attachment to the material, and in seeing the things of this world as simply tools, as aids to a temporary state of existence-and not as ends in themselves.

It remains to be seen, how many of the departed gentleman’s associates recognize that fact.

The Don’t Blink Emergency


March 10, 2023- The alert came on my phone, warning of a possible need for me to go over to California, due to imminent flooding. An hour later, the Red Cross sent out an “all-clear” e-mail. This puzzled me, as there was still a weather alert for the state. Oh, well-there’s plenty to do around here-and in the north of AZ, next week and the week after. Then again, things could change, emergency-wise, on a dime.

Spring Break is coming, and with it a respite from working for wages. I did, though, get in two days this week-both among students who welcome my presence and assistance. I spoke earlier of Wednesday’s work; today’s was more upbeat, with a birthday party for one of the students, a fire drill that occurred just as I had retrieved a broom and dustpan for cleanup after a class project and the project itself-making “Leprechaun Traps”. Collaring imaginary humanoids is tricky, according to legend-but the students’ imaginations and systematic planning skills were given free rein. It will remain in the annals of the school, that “Mr. B.” walked down to the fire evacuation area, carrying a broom and dustpan.

There is also good news about the situation I mentioned in the last post. The school has hired a capable worker, who is keeping the troubled student I mentioned on track. Human ingenuity can, as a friend said in a post of her own, reduce the most severe of worst case scenarios to puffs of smoke.

So many “emergencies” tend to end up being “Don’t Blink” affairs.

Conundrums, and No Brainers


March 9, 2023- While I was ordering a small lunch, whilst waiting on my tax returns to be finished, a former colleague came to the counter, to order her own meal. In conversation about the various schools, we both agreed that the placement of a somewhat older and much bigger child with 10-12 year-olds was a travesty. It occurs to me that it is a conundrum, in that it is unfair to not want to deal with a difficult person, out of disagreement with the politically-motivated placement. On the one hand, the machinations of adults should not be the cause of failing to educate a child-even an adolescent, placed among preteens. On the other, the child has the right to an education-even if it means that both teachers and other students are at some risk of injury. The conundrum remains in place, for the next 2 1/2 months. How often I, personally, will abide the situation remains to be seen, as so far, no one has pushed me on the matter.

To me, it is a no-brainer that the child in question be placed among age mates-as that appears to be the least restrictive environment, so conveniently ignored by those who want a more comfortable working situation for themselves. There are two private institutions, designed for children such as the one mentioned above. Both have refused to take him in. It is by this means, that the present situation was contrived, as an expedient way to rid themselves of someone they did not wish to have around. The problem has not gone away, and the child, far from being stupid, has realized that there is a growing number of people who don’t understand his difficulties-and has therefore amplified his rage.

I’ve seen this before; seven years ago, in fact. A much more untenable situation, involving several children, was derived from their inappropriate placements-again, due to a desire for expediency. Two colelagues and I were told to deal with it, the best we could-and the year ground to a halt, with little to show for all our efforts.

No one promises anyone a rose garden, in this life, but if Public Schools are given few resources, and are told by Private facilities, that are designed to deal effectively with specialized situations, that they do not wish to admit difficult children, it is no surprise that the Public Schools are seen as institutions of last resort and are judged as failing.

To me, it is a no-brainer that Public Law 94-142, which requires appropriate placement of a Special Needs student, in the least restrictive environment, be vigourously enforced-as it was when Penny was teaching and when I was a counselor, with input into such placements. It is not up to special needs institutions to cherry-pick who they will and will not accept, based on personality.

Reverse is Not An Option


March 8, 2023- The forlorn young woman entered the classroom I was supervising, a bit into the sixth hour of classes and sat down on the carpet. I asked if she were simply late to class, she shook her head “No” and asked to be left alone. She was not in the class, but needed a safe space. One of her friends came in, shortly after, and sat with her until she was able to let her tears out and recuperate from what had bothered her.

Dealing effectively with teenagers, or with children, for that matter, is often a hallmark of discernment. Enforcing the letter of the law: “Get back to your scheduled class!” would have been an abysmal and tone deaf response. Going over and fawning over her plight, when it was obvious that privacy was in order, would have been equally ridiculous. She was bothering none of my students and, in fact, was going to be in the very next class, anyway.

Today is International Women’s Day. As with many movements where progress has been made, over the past two decades, there is push back from vested interests that seek to cast the advancement of women and girls in a negative light-equating giving equal rights to half the population with depriving the other half of “hard-earned” prerogatives.Yet, it is not the case that treating women fairly is the sole province of progressives. Many strong, independent women have been raised by parents of conservative polity. They may, or may not, share their parents’ views, but they are loved by those parents, regardless.

As always, we do well to remember that human rights are not a zero sum game. There is plenty of room for everyone at the table. One must choose what to do with money, time and energy. The same is not true, with respect to rights under the law. Those seeking to turn back the clock need to remember that, or choose to fail.

The young woman in question came into the seventh class of the day and cheerfully participated in the group activity, having gotten a handle on whatever was bothering her before-with neither “correction” nor pampering, from any adult.



March 7, 2023- A few weeks ago, I made reservations for a train & chartered bus combination, from Flagstaff to Sacramento, for April 26-7. This was as springboard to the Carson City/Pacific Northwest/Alaska journey that is coming up. There was one sticking point: The Baha’i Festival of Ridvan, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s Declaration of His Mission and His departure from Baghdad, en route to Constantinople (Istanbul) falls during that time. Of course, there are observances in each of the cities on my itinerary, but supporting my home Faith community matters.

For several days, I attempted to change the date of the train ticket,with no success. I had the inspiration to try again, this evening-and met with success. So, the journey will take place on May 3-4. From there, after three or four days in Carson, the route northwestward will continue. The next inkling I had was to return to Southeast Alaska and continue what I last did eight years ago, then make further stops along the south coast of British Columbia.

It struck me that there is more to postponing the journey than being present for local Ridvan observances. It may be that there is a dermatology procedure that needs to be done soon. I will probably hear about that, tomorrow or another day this week. Inklings and guidance always seem to be covering several bases at once.

Stay tuned.

Taking Ownership


March 6, 2023- One of my fellow servers, in the Monday dinner line, asked why I was not putting shredded Parmesan cheese on a small snack of meatballs and sauce that I had taken for myself. I explained about the no dairy and limited grains that are part of my weight reduction plan.

He pointed to his belly, and said, “Not me. I paid for this and I own it!” The implication was: “Come on! Let it go and enjoy life!!” For years, maybe too many, I had the same attitude. I’m tired of it, though. Being of smaller girth actually appeals to me-for the sake of my heart health, if nothing else. So, I will continue the tight regimen, for as long as is necessary-probably another month or two. After that, maintenance will require a modified discipline.

Each of us gets to own our behaviours, as well as our statements. I have, thankfully, been called to account, at first by my parents and other adults, growing up; then by various people, in the years since. Mostly, though, I have been blessed with a very active conscience-which thankfully lets me rest, once I have made any amends that have been necessary, following transgressions great and small.

Taking ownership of life means being consistent, with a fair dose of flexibility-in the sense that plans can be made, while knowing that life can, and does, get in the way. The consistency lies in intent, in a sense of fairness and in communication. Taking ownership of life is also showing the force of example.

So, I enjoyed my snack of a few meatballs, in tomato sauce, cleaned the tables after serving and went back to the apartment, joining an online ecstatic dance group, for an hour or so. No one said an owned life had to be a burden.

A Dozen Years


March 5, 2023- Last night, an extended family member took her last breath and left behind many years of suffering. Hers was a voice of truth, at times hard to hear-but a voice that needed to be heard, nonetheless. Her passing was a bookend to Penny’s transition, twelve years ago today.

I’ve taken stock, a fair number of times since, of my “solo” journey-that hasn’t actually been taken alone. It’s worth looking back, though, every so often. Since bidding her adieu, I have sold a house, on my in-law’s behalf, settled into a solid one-bedroom apartment, gone through five cars, seen the marriage of our son to a strong, confident and beautiful woman, visited forty-eight states (only Montana and North Dakota remain unvisited) and six countries, completed two long local hiking trails (albeit in sections) and volunteered with five organizations, besides my Faith Community.

Most important, though, are the friendships made-both long-lasting and fleeting. Some have also gone on to the next level of existence. A couple have been lost, through miscommunication and the interference of those who saw me as some sort of threat. A few others have turned out to be nefarious, and had to be cast aside. Most, though, will be in my circle until death separates us, albeit temporarily. They will always be in my heart.

There is no real Master Plan to any of this-three of the cars were wrecked by the actions of other people and one just wore out; the house was sold because of a double-taxation scheme, in another state; the travel is a combination of who I am as a person and urges to see people who live far from here. The hikes are also a reflection of who I am, besides being a good way to help with one of my current focuses-weight reduction.

Yet, in another sense, I do follow a Master Plan-one which all of us follow, either wittingly or unwittingly: The Major Plan of the Creator. I am in awe of all that has happened in my life, particularly over the past forty years, and especially over the past twelve. Much, I know, remains to be rolled out, and I look forward to it all, the easy and the hard alike.

Inner and Outer Lights


March 4, 2023- I found my friend, Pam, right inside the gate to M3F, by the medium-sized stage’s sound crew. She was alternating between rolling her hoops and ecstatic dancing-as usual, when at a live music festival, which she has largely made her life these days.

McDowell Mountain Music Festival is not held anywhere near the McDowell Mountains, anymore. It has found a home, the first weekend of March, at Margaret Hance Park, in downtown Phoenix. Performance Art, such as Pam offers, is as much a part of these music festivals as the bands themselves. I attend M3F, so long as life does not take me elsewhere, because its revenues are donated to charity. The city offers the space, gratis, and volunteers provide security (backed by the Phoenix Police Department) and clean-up. So, my ticket purchase is money I consider well-spent.

The day started with my usual Saturday morning routine: Worldwide Celebration of Life (online) and a visit to Farmer’s Market. Then, there was a monthly meeting of Post 6, American Legion, which strayed far longer than I had hoped it would-as a few people were exercised and long-winded, about a certain issue (which always gets some people exercised and indignant, to the point where they are not listening to one another).

I made it down to M3F, about two hours after I had said I’d get there, but no matter. Pam was having a great time; there were many of her other friends, who live in the Phoenix area, already there and various children, teens and young adults were borrowing her hoops for their own enjoyment. It was quite a mini-concert, all its own.

We went, back and forth, between the three stages-with me toting my blanket and whatever she could not carry of her own sizable load. Since I am not a hooper, I got in some dancing, at times vigourous, as a means to cardiopulmonary exercise. It was a joy just to tap into her at times manic energy and keep up my physical coordination-which has only come about in adulthood. (I was the klutz of klutzes, until about my 21st year-and even afterward, sports like volleyball eluded me.)

Given my current weight reduction plan, finding a solid meal that fits that plan took a bit of discernment, in the Food Court-a collection of food trucks. I was saved by the bowl! A paper bowl of BBQ Sundae-pulled pork, baked beans and cole slaw, took care of the dinner matter.

As the evening progressed, we found that shy young children were captivated by Pam’s antics and energy, and delighted in coming forward to hoop dance with her. Their parents were equally pleased to see the kids having a good time, as the music itself often addressed adult themes, using lyrics and banter more suitable for a bar or club, to the extent it was suitable at all.

All in all, though, M3F is a good affair. I don’t go to many music festivals, but this one is a keeper.