The Cost of Anonymity

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July 19-21-

I am back in my salubrious Home Base, for three days, give or take.  No one knew I was back, until I announced my presence- such is the anonymous state of being that proceeds from apartment living, in a community that relishes independence.

I went down to one of the local coffee houses, on Friday morning.  For most of the time, I was the only patron sitting inside. The barrista, a recent graduate of our community’s high school, was bored out of her skull.  Too shy to talk to this old guy, she busied herself with grinding coffee beans, swiping her phone and otherwise staring into space.  I’ve learned to respect personal space, and so focused on my simple oatmeal breakfast.

Towards lunch, a visit to Ms. Natural’s, one of my favourite hangouts, revealed a different atmosphere.  The proprietor, C, was delighted that I was back, even if only for a few days.  One of the waitresses, C2, engaged me in a lengthy comparison of summer adventures:  Mine, on the road and hers. locally-based, but no less interesting.  After C2’s boyfriend showed up, they left and I talked with C and another waitress for a few more minutes, feeling that I belonged here.

Much of the modern West thrives on anonymity.  People don’t monitor a person’s actions, all that much.  Some of my contemporaries make it look as if they are watching what’s going on, but an old white guy staring at others, and not saying much, isn’t doing anything to deter either loneliness or miscreance.  I have chosen involvement in community activities, as an antidote to both.  It’s a fine line that needs to be trod-one can not force oneself on others, nor can one just turn a blind eye to incidents, large and small, that impact a community.

So, I went to a couple of meetings, Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and joined several comrades for breakfast at the Legion Post, Sunday morning. I was apprised of all that had gone on, drama and the rest, over the last six weeks.  There was a fair amount of planning and the scene for Autumn looks to be fulfilling.  The cost of anonymity can only be paid by breaking out of the chrysalis.

Now, I look forward to a week with my Carson City family.

Days of Heaven

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June 2, 2019, Bellemont-

The past few days have seen confirmation of my path, this summer.   The last minute invitation to an event by Global Stilt Alliance, entitled Congress: The Legislation, brought me to Arcosanti, normally a place I visit in Autumn, on Friday evening.

A performance of young stilt artists, accented by two spoken word performers, drove home the point that we need to move beyond solving our problems through separation and the building of walls.

Yesterday, I felt the sadness of some who have bonded deeply with me, when it was time to let my friends at the Farmer’s Market know I would not be back there until August 3. This gave me another perspective on the occasional objections to my wanderings, from some of my fellows in Faith.

Saturday evening, though, did accomplish the laying of a foundation for regular meetings of a group of spiritual tutors.  We had a fruitful discussion and sharing of expectations and concerns for the practice of our tutoring activities.

Today, I was greatly pleased to see a young Navy veteran join our breakfast group, at American Legion Post 6.  The perspectives and ideas of the newest generation of military veterans are long overdue for inclusion in service organizations.

This afternoon and evening, I spent the first of several days at this Baha’i retreat property, west of Flagstaff.  Clearing brush from the area took about ninety minutes.  Then came an evening of quiet reflection and meditation.  Arriving at a more present state of mind is one of the sweetest results of the relative isolation I enjoy this evening.  Thinking over a couple of minor faux pas, which occurred yesterday evening and this night, during routine dinner outings, I see things more form the perspective of those inconvenienced.  The solution lies in my own heightened awareness, even when somewhat fatigued.

Seven of the next eight days will be spent preparing for, and assisting with, a camp for middle school-aged youth.  I look forward to continuing my own reflections and meditation during this time, as well.

Acker Night

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December 7, 2018, Prescott-

Every strong community has its special day of community gathering-whether it be a Founders Day or Day of Incorporation.  Prescott has several days of community celebration, including Frontier Days, in July, and Tsunami on the Square, in September. Acker Night, in honour of local arts patron James Acker, is celebrated on the first Friday night in December, and features a variety of musicians, holding court in over 130 downtown businesses.  The aim is to raise money for arts scholarships, and the donations are usually copious.

I’ve gone down there, for 6 of the seven years I’ve lived here continuously and for both Decembers that Penny, Aram and I lived here, previously.  It’s always a incredibly joyful time, regardless of weather or temperature.  I end up taking in at least three performances, usually more.

Tonight, the American Legion post had its annual Christmas Dinner, which took up most of the time allotted to Acker Night.  I still managed to run into a trio of friends, in the heart of the Square.  A couple of visits to performances in the Shops at Hotel  St.Michael followed.  I ended up at the shop of a friend:  Ms. Natural’s and caught their guest guitarist winding up his act.  Claudia’s apple cinnamon cake and a robust coffee  topped off the evening, and I slipped out quietly, so the ladies could finish their closing activities.

On the way back to my apartment, these scenes caught my eye.

Over two thousand people, many from the Phoenix area,  as well us locals, attended this evening’s festivities.  It’s events like this which help give Prescott the moniker, “Everybody’s Hometown”.

Burning the Mask of Overactivity

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October 142018, Prescott-

No, I did not mean hyperactivity.  My day is fairly well balanced and more focused than some of my recently-made friends have perceived.  I did not mean overextended, though there are days when I have to snip the cord on one activity or another.

Overactivity (my term) means having more options to which to be committed than some feel is healthy.  One person even got an insight that my current level of social involvement amounts to a safety net, a cocoon, if you will, through which I can escape confronting my pain.

In truth, each night and for a good part of my weekends, I am indeed alone with my state of being.  There was a period of time, about three years, when travel eased my pain at losing my wife of 29 years. The first year, 2011, saw me going about with clouded judgement, for about four months.  Some family members were angry with me, for not “getting it together and moving on”.  I believe these people have come to see things differently.  Now, largely being in one community, I am building a sense of personal power.  I am glad to share my energy with groups like the American Legion, Red Cross and Slow Food Prescott-and I do not find it overwhelming, nor do I find it a means of escaping pain.

Those in pain themselves will likely call “bullshit”, but that is their individual mirror.   I have not been shy about opting out of an event or an activity, when I feel the need to rest or when someone’s personal needs arise.   I know where I am inside, emotionally- and physically.

Spiritually, I believe in Baha’u’llah, as the Manifestation of God for this Day.  I believe in the Oneness of Mankind, as do many people of various Faiths-and many of no Faith.  I  believe in the continuity of spiritual revelation.  Some even think they know where mankind is going, after the completion of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation (at least 825 more years). Maybe they are right.  I can only say, it is time now to bring about the end to needless suffering, and if you have ideas that can help in that regard, bring them to the fore!  It is not overactive, hyperactive or even being overwrought, to have a passion that belongs on the table, that needs to be shared and enkindled.

Let us keep an open hand to one another, an open mind to the ideas of others and an even temper, when dealing with each other’s foibles, weaknesses and areas in which one needs to grow.  If that is difficult for someone, let he or she point the area out-preferably in a loving way, leaving the offending party to themselves, and,as Baha’u’llah wrote, “Beseech God to guide them”.  It’s time to burn the masks which limit us.

The Fast: Day 7- Detachment

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March 8, 2018, Prescott-

One of the main features of this period of time is the occurrence of mental and emotional tests.  Many of our tests come from the emotional baggage we carry with us.  A tool that the Fast provides us, in overcoming these tests, and jettisoning that baggage, is detachment.

Physically, those between 15-70, under the circumstances I described in Part 1, face detachment from food, drink and all the activities which feature them, during the daylight hours of Fast days.  This evening, whilst attending an American Legion Post monthly meeting, I purchased a light meal, as is customary prior to such meetings, and secured it  in a to-go box, for after sundown, and the meeting’s end.

There are, of course, far more basic and  deeper-seated matters which can be and are, brought to our consciousness during the Fast.  I am facing one, right now, which I will describe later, when the time is appropriate.  I am determined that, this time, I will cast the baggage aside.  It stems from events in my life, over 50 years ago, and had been buried these many years.  Now, it’s just time to put the demons to rest.  Good people, besides me, will be the better for this.

 

Day of the Dead

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November 2, 2017, Prescott-

Hispanic families, in Mexico and elsewhere, observe this day as a way to honour their departed ancestors and strengthen the ties between this world and the hereafter.

As I looked out the window, this morning, I swear I could see Penny’s image, and that of her father, looking back at me, in a tree across the way.

Some have gone on, this past year, who had roles, large and small, in my life.

Uncle George Boivin, one of my last surviving father figures, gave me a paving stone from Boston’s old Scollay Square, which was transformed into Government Center, when I was about 12.  He was ever available, when I was in Colorado, to set me straight, in the difficult  2 1/2 years, immediately following Penny’s passing.  His mind was sharp, until the end, and those doll houses live on.

Al Tercero served our American Legion, at the post and district level, for over 30 years.  Now he is in what we call Post Everlasting.  The Honour Guard he helped establish is still the finest in Arizona.

George Marchessault, also a Past Commander and Honour Guard stalwart, stayed true to the Legion code and was ever present at our gatherings, on almost a weekly basis, until his last illness confined him to rest.

Bea Cronin, a grand-aunt’s sister-in-law, was always outside watching the Saugus High football team, from her back yard. There was an open door and welcome to the kids who knew her sons, and to us, her far extended family, when we were in the neighbourhood.

Ivaloo Mac Vicar was always in the hall, when I was passing to classes in seventh grade, admonishing us boys to WALK down the stairs, ONE step at a time.  She made it to the Century Mark, and a bit beyond, as did-

Evelyn Porter Anderson, who gave my mother a shot at success as a hairdresser and cosmetologist, in the uncertain days after World War II.  She never stopped doting on the five of us, until blindness and infirmity kept her confined to her last home.

Bernis Hanlon taught me, in fifth grade, to rely on my own wits and to start building  layers on my thin skin.  It took twenty more years for that lesson to really stick, yet less time for her next life lesson, appreciation of fine drama, to be absorbed, six years later, when she was the  High School Theater Advisor, who didn’t mind my being on the periphery of that club’s efforts.

Firuz Kazemzadeh was a high-level scholar of the Baha’i Faith, and one of our most accomplished mentors, serving in so many capacities, legal and educational.  His was always a bright and friendly face, at national and international gatherings, as well as at “our own” Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, held annually in Phoenix.

So many others have come and gone- and some day a person or two will write of my time on this Earth.  There is much to do, as yet, so let it not be too soon.

 

There Is Perfection, In A Day

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October 8, 2017, Prescott-

I am, in a manner of speaking,

taking the day off.

There was breakfast at the Legion,

this morning,

followed by laundry,

a phone conversation about

spiritual study, and

clearing this trusty laptop,

of old downloads.

It’s mid-afternoon

and the air is clear,

so I will, shortly,

head for a local trail

and indulge my legs,

my knees

and my back,

which have had

Planet Fitness,

the back yard,

the school gym and track

and little else,

to engage them,

these past few months.

Then, I will finish

my clearing the back yard

and pamper my back,

at Planet Fitness.

Be back, soon.

 

Walking in Place

3

September 23, 2017,Prescott- 

Several readers have, over the years, expressed a preference for my travel posts.  While I greatly enjoy visiting places old and new, there has been an increase in responsibilities and commitments, hereabouts, since my return from the East Coast, at the end of July.  Not the least of these is my work with autistic teens, a veritable payback to all who have guided me, over the past several decades.  There are also two major public events here in town, in October:  Hope Fest (October 14), a celebration of faith, which I will be assisting for the third consecutive year and, a week later, the Festival of Light and Unity- commemorating the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, on October 22.  As the Baha’i calendar is a lunar construct, the Birth of His Herald, al-Bab (The Gate), is observed the day prior to that of Baha’u’llah.  This year marks 198 years, since al-Bab was born and we will observe that event, as well, on October 21.

My friendships being wide-ranging these days, several events tend to converge on given days. So, today, largely devoted to Prescott Stand Down, an event dedicated to serving homeless veterans in our community, took up much of the day.  I was later able to make further progress on clearing my backyard and 3-4 more hours of concerted effort ought to get the job completed, for this year.  Tomorrow, two events at the American Legion, two Baha’i activities and an hour or two helping a good friend move, will keep me honest and productive.  This coming week, there is a gathering, of one sort or another, every night.  Looking ahead to October 14, that day will see me at two other events, in addition to Hope Fest.  Life is never dull.

With regard to travel, Fall Break will be here, in two weeks.  I am in between going to Joshua Tree and Lake Cachuma, California, or down to Superior, Globe and over to Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, for 4-5 days (in which case, the California trip gets done over an extended Presidents’ Day weekend). My spirit guides will advise me, on this matter, as with so many others.

Yes, I do get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, as well as a 30-minute power nap, most afternoons.  Stay tuned.

Rust Removal

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November 9, 2016, Prescott-  This past summer, en route to visiting my family in Massachusetts, I stopped to visit a progressive friend, in Indianapolis, on July 5.  We caught up on events of the past few years, and agreed that life was taking a turn for the better, for a good many people who had previously been living on the edge of society, though there was lots of work still to be done.

Five hours later, I stopped for dinner, in Zanesville, OH, in the foothills east of Columbus.  As I took a drive through the town, my heart was breaking.  There is much about the “Rust Belt”, from Pittsburgh and Buffalo to St. Louis and Milwaukee, that deserves this nation’s gratitude and support.  This is an area which once kept our country moving, during the years of war, and in times of past economic despair, the Midwest was where our national economy got a reboot.

Zanesville presented a picture of a crumbling, somewhat boarded-up mini-version of Detroit, or of Buffalo at the turn of this century.  Its plight is, no doubt, replicated throughout the region.  The place needs believers.

In the past few weeks, the election cycle, just ended, featured one candidate insulting a wide variety of target groups.  Another candidate used the word “deplorable” to identify a large group of other people.  Both candidates claimed to care for those left behind by the nascent economic recovery.  Now, one of them has to make good on his rhetoric.

Human beings are not deplorable.  Behaviors and attitudes can be.  One such attitude is the view that people of colour are less than fully human.  Another holds that people who live in gender confusion, or are oriented differently, in terms of sexuality, need to be converted to a more conventional sexual identity.   A third, equally unfortunate, attitude holds that it is perfectly okay to leave uneducated, conservative people of European descent, in the rubbish heap of history.

My answer is :  None of the above is okay.  We saw what happened, twice, when the first two mindsets were challenged by a vocal electorate.  Last night, we saw what happened when the third mindset got its comeuppance.  There is, simply put, one overall solution:  Re-establishing community.    The White people of small towns and farms are not, inherently, the enemies of African-Americans, LGBT people, or Latinos.  The disconnect comes from not getting to know each other, and from relying on third parties to make each other’s acquaintance, and resume the practice of active listening.

I have friends across the political spectrum, and have made a point of traveling widely in the Midwest and South, for the very reason that every community is worthy of at least acquaintance.  Ignorance of others only leads to bloodshed.  History bears this out.

Make no mistake:  I will not abide an American Kristelnacht, or Jacobin tyranny, without speaking out and acting forcefully, if nonviolently.  The American Legion, to which I belong, vows to oppose tyranny of “both the classes and the masses.”  The first is outmoded and unnecessary.  The second needs to know that all its members are important.  “The People” refers to all human beings.

It’s time to scrape the rust off our souls, as well as off the factory towns of the North.

 

Last Weekend, and This

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October 8, 2016, Chula Vista-  It was a weekend of talk about change, and talk about commitments.  On October 1, a Baha’i Unit Convention was held in Flagstaff, and a similar gathering took place the following day, at the Native American Baha’i Institute of Learning, in tiny Burntwater, AZ, about 10 miles north of Sanders, along Interstate 40.

At these gatherings, we choose a person to represent our communities at the U.S. National Convention, in the Chicago area, the following May.  This is an important function, yet what is more important is that we are addressing the spiritual condition of our communities.  It is not a bland spouting of platitudes, and there are sharp opinions voiced, during the consultation.  Yet what we are, regardless of opinions, is respectful of one another’s value.  There is no one, among the gathered friends, who is discounted or seen as lacking value.  The goal, for each of us, is to extend this valuing to the entire community, not just committed members of the Baha’i Faith.

After an intense week at work, in which these principles of unity were put to the test, and which by the grace of God, I largely maintained progress,  I headed out to my son’s place, in this southern suburb of America’s Hometown.   He’s a bit laid up, from a fracture  of one of his left foot’s metatarsals.  So, my entire function, these five days in California is to help with his needs.  My usual meanderings up the coast will need to wait until the week after Christmas.

I set out from Prescott, last night, after a particularly strenuous day and a lengthy, soothing dinner at the American Legion Post.  The route this time took me to a very restful night at an economical motel in Blythe, then a drive through the Colorado Desert, through Brawley, to El Centro and over the Laguna Mountains to the coast.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

A 20th Century cowboy, circa 1992, downtown Brawley, CA

The weekend is off to a fairly restful start, and we can tend to tasks related to Aram’s healing, on Monday and Tuesday.