Twists and Turns

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January 8, 2023- The usually spirited and upbeat friend of mine seemed a bit reserved and downcast, yesterday, and though such happens to everyone, now and then, I will keep a close watch over the next several Saturdays, to make sure that it’s not something more serious. Likewise, another dear friend, facing the aftermath of a loss and an ongoing family health issue, may well need my help very soon. For these and other commitments, my meanderings will be limited, over the next few weeks.

Today was largely a day for honouring a woman who had given an enormous amount of herself to the veterans of our area, since the 1990s. Coleen “Corky” Hintz had been an irrepressibly joyful presence at our American Legion Post, since 1994, and was one of the first to welcome me there, in the Fall of 2011. She spearheaded and hosted so many activities, even after overcoming a serious health challenge, nearly eight years ago, that her passing leaves a crater-not easily filled. It was beyond fitting, that the hall was packed. The packets of Forget-Me-Not seeds that were offered to each of us are aptly named.

Northern California, and by extension SoCal and northern Nevada, remain much on my mind. There are dear friends scattered around the region, as well as the fact that, in general, the flood danger in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could easily be of Biblical proportions. Anything I do for the Red Cross out there is probably a month away, but the twists and turns of life can shred plans into so much confetti.

In sum, I’m glad to have not signed up for a dull life.

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.

Delivering, not Sniveling

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November 19, 2022- I walked carefully into the American Legion Post general meeting, about 15 minutes before it actually started. Wearing my face mask, as vestiges of my cold could put others at risk, I took my usual seat, and was surprised, though hardly discomfited, to find every other seat at the normally half-empty table well-occupied. The full hall meant that there would be a fairly intense discussion of various items, and there was. My voice being still scratchy, I spared the gathering of my opinions, agreeing with much of what others said, anyway. At the end, all were treated to a rich and flavourful home-baked enchilada pie and salad items.

Though I missed Farmers Market and Zeke’s, this week, also due to wanting to heal as completely as possible, before Tuesday’s flight and out of consideration for those in fairly crowded situations, the day was busier than I had initially planned. The ton of laundry, including the bed linens, finally was properly washed and dried. That took close to three hours. A hokey version of “Van Helsing’ palye din the background, with the vampire slayer taking on a Man-Fish (or a man in silly fish mask, with a Central Casting monster voice), and freeing the young adult daughter of a distraught couple, from Fishy Boy’s grasp (all this, despite VH’s having been skewered, at least three times, by Mr. Fish, or one of his minions).

In the early evening, I returned to Rafter Eleven, for the first time in about five weeks, to find that Dawn & crew have added lunch and dinner items to their Bill of Fare. It was a great delight to my palate, to have Chicken Pot Pie for an actual solid dinner. This brings Rafter into the “Dinner and A Show” level, and made listening to the jazz trio that much more enjoyable. I will be over there more regularly, once back from Dallas.

The First Snow

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November 3, 2022- It mostly danced in the air, before fluttering to its melting place, on the still warm dirt and asphalt. A crew is working diligently, to put in a sidewalk, along the south side of Goodwin Street, between the American Legion Post and Prescott Public Library. Snow was just a minor distraction, for them and for those of us who were going about minor business. I chose a rather salty, but bracing, bowl of chili from Olde World Bakery, for lunch. It was hot, though not spicy-and that was okay. It was a good counter to the unseasonable cold outside.

I awoke this morning to a wintry feeling inside myself, tapping into the strange energy that has been afoot since last week’s attack on the Speaker of the House’s husband. Violence should never be the butt of jokes, but then, neither should a disability, a debilitating disease or even a person’s physical attributes. Such humour only delineates the teller’s, and audience’s, lack of maturity. A while later, after getting myself together, doing devotions and checking the news, I got an e-mail asking that I serve as a Poll Chaplain, in the city of El Mirage, west of Phoenix, on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Tuesday, November 8, is also the day of a full moon and of a total lunar eclipse. Cosmic guides say that this year’s eclipses have the energy of those which took place in 2004, and thus unresolved matters from that year may arise again this year, for resolution by way of the growth one has undergone since that time. 2004 was part of the time when I was starting to see Penny decline, and starting to deal with a few personal demons. Those have been defeated and expunged, over the past eight years. I will, though, be more cognizant of any residue that needs to be removed and let flow out. The same will be true of each year going forward: Eclipses may bring out old issues from eighteen years prior, and any spiritual learning I have acquired in the interim may be put to use, in dispersing the old energy.

Tonight, the snow has ended, and more seasonal weather lies ahead-with perhaps rain on Election Day. I’ve already voted, but will be there for those, in El Mirage, who are experiencing anxiety or distress.

Sept. Ides Notes

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September 15, 2022- The counter lady from the Window Glass repair shop called me, two hours after I had dropped KIA off, and deadpanned that the car was ready for pick-up. I walked over from downtown, and she gave me the keys, with a light smile and a neutral “Thanks for choosing us.” The place used to be a fun place with which to do business. Oh, well; at least the workmanship is still good. It’s nice to have a windshield that is whole again.

It was good that I decided to have breakfast at Raven Cafe, as my friend Melissa’s two daughters happened by, to get coffee. It’s always good to see them. Besides, the pancakes are great, and coffee excellent.

I made it to the Post 6 General Meeting, which I have not attended in some time. Nothing major was decided, but talking with a fellow Legionnaire about Baha’i was an unexpected pleasure. It affirmed what I said last night, during a Baha’i gathering, about not always making grandiose plans and expecting others to follow suit. The measure of Faith is in willingness to act, and in following the Will of the Divine.

I keep reading blurbs from mass media giants that tell us “You WILL vote ________________ in the coming election, because that’s how it’s always been.” Breaking news: I will vote the way I please, because THAT’S how I’ve always been.

I saw fit to shuffle a late October weekend event (Sedona) to early November, so as to attend a late October event somewhere else (Scottsdale). That, in turn, means Monument Valley/ Aneth (UT) shifts to mid-November. Thanksgiving plans are unaffected. I know you’re impressed, but that’s life.

Lastly, the huge file of keepsakes and old card/letters has been culled, and organized into more sensible sub-folders. The most important stuff remains here; the rest went to the Maxi-Shredder.

It’s been a fine day, all in all.

Restitutions and Return Visits

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March 6, 2022- I was quite gratified this morning, to be given a complementary breakfast, in view of the two such meals which I had to speak out in order to receive, after paying in advance. Good will means a lot at the Legion, so when the servers mess up, the host steps up. After I was finished eating, one of our regular table mates who usually helps serve the other diners had just been given his own breakfast. So, I took a turn at service for a bit-and saw where some of the confusion may have arisen over the past few weeks. There is a tendency to write first names and family initials. There are four “Garys”, myself included and two of us have the last initial “B”. There are six “Steves”, five “Bobs” and three “Terris”. I called out the people’s names and got it done. The problem, thus, seems to be shy servers.

After my weekly Zoom devotional, the day looked open-ended, and the Agua Fria River was calling, so I made a return hike along the Badger Springs Trail, this time focusing on the section that passes by two frames of petroglyphs. The glyphs are visible to the naked eye, but don’t photograph well in a casual manner. Could it be that the spirits are protecting them from casual photographers? We’ll have to see, on future visits.

The river itself is not so coy. It does seem to be down a bit, but since it is largely dependent on snow melt, the level may yet rise, over the next month or so.

Return visits to local natural scenes are increasingly important, if for no other reason than rootedness. They also figure in acts of completion. A few days ago, I finished hiking the Lime Kiln Trail, which runs between Cottonwood and Sedona. The final segment is but 1 1/2 miles, from one segment of the Red Rock State Park access road, over Scheuerman (SHOY-er man) Mountain Ridge, across a forested valley and on to the entrance to the state park. It was a fitting end to a segmented hike that had been in abeyance for over a year.

So the cementing of returns dovetails with the strengthening that comes from new discoveries.

Finally, because we need it in the face of both real and imagined tyranny: A return to the most stirring song from Les Miserables (2012). Let us neither be deluded or complacent, in the weeks, months and possibly years ahead. Every nation, every people, deserve to be free of rule from without.

Smoothing Rough Edges

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February 13, 2022- The kitchen forgot my order, and was busily going about serving the rest of the patrons, when I went to the window and lodged my complaint. I don’t often do that, but there are limits. Having overdone it, timewise, last night, and facing a 10 a.m. Faith meeting, I had no other recourse, as we pay in advance at the Legion, and walking out was not seemly. My plate was brought, five minutes later, by a rather miffed server, but no matter. I thanked the server, and was told by the manager that my next breakfast would be on the house. Again, ordinarily, I would hold my tongue and wait, but not keeping other people waiting, on the other end, is still important.

As it happened, I had to wait a few extra minutes to be admitted to the meeting, for whatever reason (I doubt being two minutes late had much to do with it.) The meeting was detailed and productive, and I felt my grumpiness fading, early into the discussion. It was a good reminder that one always needs to smooth out the rough edges-even if dealing with a surly individual. The buck has to stop somewhere.

The rest of the day offered an opportunity to relax a bit, then spend an hour or so over coffee with my Hiking Buddy and her house guest from Massachusetts. They arrived a bit late, but I had recharged my well of patience and had an enjoyable visit, in a welcoming coffee house setting.

The next time I go to the jam session, I will stay overnight and tend to my meetings from my lodging. Rough edges don’t need sharpening.

Fragile Trust

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December 26, 2021, Holbrook- The words came, swiftly, and with the harshness of those who have seemingly felt misunderstood and unappreciated, for a good many years. In each case, they were heard by people of good heart, and we at least know how to respond in a fairly positive manner.

The days after Christmas are frequently a time for harshness between intimates, or even between long-time friends. It is best to not put too much stock in them, if it is just a natural reaction to having felt forced to be on one’s best behaviour for the previous few days. Such lashing out is also a result of having been under the stress of staging holiday gatherings, trying to please everyone and perhaps not getting enough rest. Then, there is the Omicron factor and all the back and forth between those who favour public restrictions and those who want to tough it out on their own-or for it just to go away (which will happen, but in Mother Nature’s time.)

It’s generally been a good day, though, with another well-prepared and well-attended breakfast at the Prescott American Legion Post, a pleasant and re-assuring phone chat with Mom and my brother, Dave, seeing pictures of the remodeled house of my youth and enjoying a smooth drive from Prescott to this high desert town, in northeastern Arizona. 66 Motel is a clean and comfortable place for the night and Mesa Italian Restaurant compares well with ristorantes in Phoenix and Prescott.

Tomorrow, I will make a brief visit to Petrified Forest National Park, then head east to Albuquerque-and Old Town, before spending a couple of days in Santa Fe and vicinity. A ticket to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is the impetus for this trip. There are, of course, other places that will emerge on the itinerary- weather-permitting.

To those who are keeping track, today is the first day of Kwanzaa, and celebrates umoja, or unity. It is also Boxing Day, a British holiday that traditionally entailed giving Christmas boxes to servants, postmen and errand runners.

The Realization Road

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December 3, 2021- The three ten-year old girls giggled and smiled at me, whispering, while going about their work, in the minutes before it was time for the class to be dismissed for lunch. This has been part and parcel of many preteens’ growing into a world where they must size up even those furthest from them in age, getting a sense of whether theirs is a safe environment or their guard needs to be raised up. I have seen it for nearly five decades now.

It was more uncertain, when I was younger-and in the years before I was married. Throughout, however, my main concern with all students has been to keep them focused on acquiring thinking skills and making sense of what they might want to do as adults. The process starts, really, when a person masters mobility, then speech. However nebulous it seems to both the little one and to those around her/him-basic interests and skills can be ascertained from the child’s play habits and choice of activities. My son was interested in motorized earth movers, even before his dinosaur phase. His 4-year-old second cousin alternates between building things and driving his Tonka truck around. Another second cousin is strictly into his drivable toy truck. The girl second cousins have a wide range of interests, from chess and the ecology of construction work (an eight-year-old) to ecofriendly farming practices (a ten-year-old).

The students with whom I worked today are well-spoken, very much into independent learning and still keep the spunkiness of preteens. They are at once capable of handling a lot more responsibility than many of us Boomers were given at their age and remain very much in need of respectfully offered adult supervision. There will always be a need for this last, no matter how empowered and enlightened a person is in middle childhood, or adolescence, for that matter.

On this fifth day of “Seventy-One and Counting”, I felt equally valued by both the kids and by the mostly contemporary adults with whom I enjoyed a pre-Christmas Dinner, at the American Legion Post. It was our first such dinner in two years, and all the stops were pulled out. The Prime Rib and fixings were well-prepared by a seasoned chef and her 22-year-old sous chef. The pianist played tunes designed for relaxation and the sometimes raucous conversation just added to the enjoyment of the evening.

I can envision a similar gathering, maybe sixty years hence, of those who sat in the classroom today, maybe not under the same auspices, but in celebration of their camaraderie and a shared joie de vivre.

May they long walk the Realization Road.

Bookends

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November 13, 2021- The day began and ended with friends named Lisa. One can never tell where even the most seemingly quotidian act can lead. After breakfast, I got a message from the first Lisa, asking me to get her some crayons, for an event in which she was a participant. Crayons being one of the items not yet hit by the current bout of inflation, this was easy enough. When I delivered them to Lisa, at the event site, she asked my help in one other errand, which was easy enough-though involving a bit of time.

Once that was done, and Lisa in good shape, it was time for my main meeting of the day-a 1 3/4 hour American Legion Post meeting, for which I stood the duration. Yes, this was a rare Post meeting which was standing room only. I began to understand how Congressional staffers might feel, as the meeting entailed a reading of a lengthy document. Verbose attendees added to the length of the session, but that comes with the territory.

Later came a run out to Rafter Eleven, and an interesting discussion of olive oil blends, with a foodie named Linda. When it was time for my own dinner, I headed back to Prescott and The Raven. The ordering line almost always results in light conversation with those around me, and this evening was no exception. A large family had gathered, with matriarch, her sons and their wives, along with several grandchildren. Another party of four was behind me, and while deciding my order, I bade them go ahead. Noting an empty table next to theirs, they set it aside for my use. The large family, including their little pug in a stroller, was directly behind my table.

Thus, I made the acquaintance of the second Lisa. She had lived for many years in Prescott, but now lived in southern California. By turns, she was chatty and withdrawn, as we all listened to a duo playing music of the 1920s and’30s. This brought to mind the dictum: Never make assumptions about a person, based on their demeanour. After forty minutes or so, Lisa turned to me and told of her husband’s recent death and that today, the family had laid him to rest. Condolences and a gentle hug ensued, I was introduced to her family and bade them a safe trip back to their homes in California.

Even the most seemingly quotidian of activities can lead to unexpected places. Sometimes, a day brings bookends.