Niners

2

April 18, 2019-

Age nine found me whimsical,

lost ever in my own thoughts,

save when it came to lessons,

in Mrs. Kimball’s class.

Age nineteen found me lackadaisical,

flitting in and out of other people’s lives,

with no thought as to my effect on them.

Age twenty-nine found me desultory,

often lost in the bottle,

floating along Arizona’s highways,

or the backroads of the  wider West,

yet making a stab at conveying math,

to myself and my students.

Age thirty-nine found me devoted,

to my wife and toddler son.

The fragrance of Jeju,

and the progress of my English-teacher candidates,

filled out my world.

Age forty-nine found me wary,

of any and all politicians,

of a wayward shaman,

whose stated goal was

to bring about my ruin.

Age fifty-nine found me crumbling,

about to lose the most important

person in my life,

to the dis-ease that had

stalked her,

for over fifty years.

Age sixty-nine is seven months off,

yet it may well find me

in a state of flux.

Regardless,

I know my life is aimed

towards wholeness,

towards growth,

ever looking past

mere survival.

 

Flex Schedule

4

April 6, 2019-

Insights into the wider implications of my being released from my most recent position seem to be coming to me, usually in the early morning- a time when I had been doubting my effectiveness at times, only to pull myself together-and usually do a credible job, on any given day.

There are always aspects of one’s day-to-day life that are not readily understood.  Why, for example, do crisis moments seem to happen, almost out of nowhere?  Why do some people seem to be keenly interested in one’s shortcomings, when they have no supervisory role of which to speak?  Why do processes come to an abrupt end?

I have chosen to not concern myself with any of that.  I will go back to what has sustained me, in times of trial before:  Working where I am most needed, from day to day.  There are nineteen months until I would, optimally, prefer to retire from education: November, 2020.  I would work through December,  if the need arises.

It also occurs to me that the needs of my Faith, and possibly other needs that have yet to reveal themselves, are the true reason for my newly resumed flexible schedule.  Another, younger person could do what I had been doing with my former charges, from one day to the next and do as well, if not better.  I see that there are already areas, in which having the freedom to determine my own work schedule will do more good than I’d been able to do, in those areas, over the past three years.

Everything happens for a reason, and usually for at least two or three.

Nine Tasks

2

January 19, 2019-

Many people make resolutions, the first thing, when the calendar rolls over.  I don’t indulge in that particular practice, knowing that making firm commitments to new practices takes time.

There are nine task areas, labours of love, that have defined my life, since the passing of  Penny, nearly eight years ago.  I will focus today on what these mean, relative to 2019.

1.  Family- With Aram and Yoonhee based in Busan, for at  least the rest of this year, my focuses are: To be in Korea for their sacred wedding ceremony, in March; to tend to such of their needs as can only be addressed on this side of the Pacific; to meet them in the U.S., should they visit here in the summer.

2.  Work- I remain committed to working, during the regular academic year, through at least December, 2020 and no later than May. 2021, depending on the needs of the school, preferably in the High School Autism Program.  Thus, work is a major daily focus through the fourth week of May and from August-December.

3. Faith- No day has gone by, since February 23, 1981, that I have not begun my morning in devotions and a fairly long recitation of prayer.  Service to Baha’u’llah remains  a prime expression of my inner joy and love for humanity.  This year marks the Bicentenary of the Birth of al-Bab (The Gate), Who we revere as both Baha’u’llah’s Herald and His Twin Messenger of God, as al-Bab’s spiritual Dispensation took place from 1844-1853, immediately before the beginning of Baha’u’llah’s.   Their birthdays also fall on two consecutive days, on the lunar calendar.  This year, these are October 29-30, with al-Bab’s  anniversary occurring first. (Historically, Baha’u’llah was born in 1817 and al-Bab, in 1819).  There are also regular Spiritual Feasts and other Holy Days, throughout the year and I  am participating in regular study groups and other activities.

4.  Community Life-  I take part in volunteering on community projects, with the American Red Cross and Slow Food Prescott.  The focuses are on disaster response, home safety, school gardens and,  new this year, food recovery.  These activities largely define my giving back to Prescott and Yavapai County, for having been a large part of my solace, in the Fall of 2011.  The American Legion’s Post 6 celebrates its 100th anniversary, in May, and I will have a part to play in that celebration.

5. Writing- Blogging and journaling have also been critical to my inner healing, even in the midst of my caretaking, in 2008-11.   They remain an integral part of who I am, and so Word Press, with its being extended to Facebook and Linked In, remains my primary means of self-expression, through this year and beyond.  I also maintain a pen and ink private journal.

6, Hiking-  This has been a huge lifelong pastime, pretty much since I was old enough to walk.  Since I’ve been old enough to take off on my own, without getting into trouble, many trails and paths, from my native Massachusetts to the desert Southwest, Colorado, southeast Alaska, Korea and northwestern Europe have seen my bootprints.  This year, my focuses will be on further segments of the Maricopa Trail, at least two visits to the Grand Canyon, more beach walks in southern California, Fall hikes in Utah and the Navajo Nation, and several walks with Aram and Yoonhee, whilst in Korea.

7. Travel-  This has also long been one of my passions, often dovetailing with hiking.  The Korea trip will take me to Gwangju and Jeju, as well as Busan.  Prior to that, will be a Presidents’ Day weekend visit to southern California, hopefully connecting with friends in Orange County and the San Diego area-with La Jolla, Dana Point, San Clemente and possibly Crystal Cove being on the itinerary.

June and July largely hinge on my little family’s schedule.  Carson City, in late May, is a given, with a new extended family member having been born, this past week.  A 1-2 week visit to the Northwest, Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast and southeast Alaska is likely-as is the now customary jaunt through the Midwest to New England and back through the mid-South.

October (Fall Break) will find me in Monument Valley and southeast Utah- returning to Capitol Reef and Natural Bridges, as well as the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.  Christmas, God-willing, will see a return to Massachusetts.

8. Diet and Exercise- Planet Fitness and our daily Adaptive Physical Education regimen have largely provided my continuity as a healthy physical specimen.  Stretches at home have also proven critical, as I recovered from a posterior knee strain, over the past ten weeks.  Things are 99% back to normal and I want to keep it that way- up to, and maintaining, 100%.  I am cutting back on coffee consumption, not out of any pressure, but because my body tells me that’s what it wants.  Less red meat is also finding its way onto my plate-and what there is, is certified grass-fed and organic.  A greater percentage of my diet being of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is on tap for this year, as well.  Yes, I will drink more water-that’s not an empty statement. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, including Lifelong Vitality Supplements, are a continual source of sustenance.

9. Study-  My mind is always looking to keep current with advances in health, trends in positive thought and expanding my awareness of subjects in which I have scant knowledge- as well as continual study of Baha’i texts and new correspondence. This will continue, as 2019 progresses.

This is a longer post than usual, but there you have my year’s plan.

 

 

 

Gratitude Week, Day 7: The Finest Fruits

9

November 24, 2018, Prescott-

I have decided to end this week of gratitude, by looking back at the ten best choices I ever made.  I am grateful to the Universe for having placed these in front of me and I have a measure of self-gratitude for having made them.

10,  Serving in the Army– At 18, I had little to show for my life. There was no discipline, of which to speak and my world consisted of drooling over girls and imbibing too much alcohol, too fast.  Other-imposed discipline gave me a regimen, which I could add to the work ethic that my parents instilled in each of us and it set me on  a course of self-reliance, which I still need and use.

9.  Studying Psychology- It didn’t make me wealthy and barely got me a job, but knowing something of what makes the human mind tick has given me insight into myself and has made me more understanding of others.

8. Living on the Navajo Nation- I have a strong genetic memory of the Indigenous. I am not much, in terms of blood quantum, but my nature fairly burns with the feeling that I belong in the woodlands; that I am a gatherer and a sharer; that I am one with the Universe. Being on the same page, day to day, with Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi people reinforced that unity.

7. Blogging-   Writing is a skill that three of my four high school English teachers saw as a talent that I needed to sharpen.  They gave me the tools to keep on sharpening that talent.  College brought it up another notch.  As a caretaker, and then as a widower, far from extended family, blogging gave me an outlet, one step up from journaling  (which I also still do) and a wider appreciative audience.

6, Returning to work, full time- In 2016, having been a substitute teacher, with a couple of other jobs, whilst being Penny’s caretaker, I found a niche at Prescott High School.  My place there was, more or less, secure and I was urged to return full-time, for the years leading up to my retirement from education.  That work has been fulfilling, and will remain so until I reach 70, two years from now.

5.  Working as a counselor- As a school counselor, I was able to impact thousands of lives, over the span of eleven years, between Tuba City and Keams Canyon/Jeddito, and some of those lives were saved.  I am haunted by  a few lives that weren’t and by those I couldn’t reach.  The majority, though, learned life skills and resilience, and knew that someone had their backs.

4. Settling in Prescott- The job aside, moving here after Penny’s passing was a lifesaver.  I had the anchor of a house, for the time I needed it, and of a Faith Community with whom I was already familiar and who were not intimate with Penny’s suffering.  That last was important.  I could not have the constant reminders of all that we had endured together.  Since then, I have made many new friends and branched out in several directions-all healthy.

3. Widespread travel-Besides going back and forth from Arizona to the East Coast, for family visits, my wanderlust has taken me to western Europe, Hawai’i, the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  I took in a small swath of eastern Canada, last summer and am likely to cross our northern neighbour again, in the summer of 2020.  California, Nevada and Colorado have also seen a lot of me, these past seven years, as have the South and Midwest.  This is an essential part of who I am.

2.  Getting married- I have always been crazy about girls and women.  There isn’t much about the opposite gender that I don’t like, though I am proud to be male.    Self-dislike got in the way, though, when I found myself drawn to one young lady after another.  Penny didn’t fall for any of that, and we built a solid foundation, by which both of us were able to tame most of our demons and raise a fine young man, who has taken his full place in the world.

1. Recognizing Baha’u’llah- I received a solid spiritual foundation, having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith. As I matured, though, the rituals and practices began to feel automatic to me, and I have always known that there is a continuity to Divine Revelation, superseding any one of the faiths or denominations that are commonplace.  In 1972, I heard of Baha’u’llah, and the Baha’i Faith, for the first time.  Nine years later, I embraced Baha’i as my own.  I have found its precepts teach everything in which I already believe, and the teachings regarding health are exactly what I needed, to tame the demon of alcohol dependence.  Far beyond those, however, are the vision of planetary and human unity-dispelling the darknesses of racism, nationalism and excessive materialism.

I am sure I will have other choices to make, in the coming days, months, and years.  Perhaps a life-changer will be among them, as well.

The Fast: Day 18-Continuity

8

March 19, 2018, Prescott-

Today found me back at work.  Spring Break was restful, if as fast-moving as the Academic Year itself.   No matter who a person is, how old one gets or where s(he) finds self, there are certain constants.

Mine are waking at or near dawn, careful bathing and grooming, devotions, nutrition, focused prayer, communication with friends and family and some act of daily service.  Work, in the Baha’i Faith, as in Christianity and several other religious traditions, is an act of worship, when performed in service to humanity.  This goes for manufacture, public service and parenting.  That implies a goodly amount of integrity, in all one’s acts while on the job, or while representing one’s place of work, or one’s employer.

Continuity is also a sign of cognitive awareness, when performed in a logical and mindful state.  So, as my sixties roll on, I’m glad to be at work, winding down my third-to-last physical 19-Day Fast and being in good company, wherever I happen to be.

 

Demise or Abeyance?

17

January 25, 2018, Prescott-

A poetry reading gathering, here in town, has been canceled, for the rest of this year.

I had planned on rejoining it, after an absence of five months.

Goes to show, what Shoghi Effendi, who guided the Baha’i Faith, from 1922-1957, said

about opportunities:  “Some opportunities only come once.”

Carpe Diem, indeed!

I wonder if someone may pick up the slack.

I am considering approaching a different venue,

and doing so myself.

It would only need to happen once a month.

I am availing myself of some serious business education.

The advanced level would be a bit costly, out the gate,

but I would recover that amount, in six months’ time.

Due diligence says it’s a good risk.

It would not represent yet another fiscal demise,

but rather, a state of abeyance.

My hikes and adventures have been

in a state of abeyance, as well.

That will change on Saturday,

but I don’t know where, just yet.

 

Year-End Reflections, Part 4: Transitions and Conflicts

8

December 27, 2017, Spring Hill, Florida- 

I will be here, or thereabouts, for the next five days.  This week has usually been spent either in the cold of the Northeast or in sunny southern California.  Florida, specifically, the edge of the Tampa Bay area, where Spring Hill is located, is SoCal, but with a lot more moisture.  Last night’s rain has left the scent of the tropics, in its wake.

Back to my piece’s title:  2017 has taken me further out of my comfort zone than any year since 1981, when I first became half of a couple.  It’s damned hard to get over doing everything by and for oneself, yet not so hard to go back to that frame of mind, when a relationship ends/takes a non-physical form.  I can’t, however, just live for myself, anymore.  The world is in too much a state of travail. So, I write this blog, almost daily, I volunteer for the Red Cross, when I can, work with disabled students during the academic year, and work for the wider world, through the Baha’i Faith and its propagation efforts.

Relationship-wise, I am heartened by the large number of friends (and I do see you as such) with whom I converse on social media.  It is a leap for me, to converse with people I’ve never met, in a language other than English, but I am pushing myself to do this.  It is not hard for me to turn down “friendship requests” on social media, from random young women, or people claiming to be young women (usually bots), given my age and their friend pool, if there even is one, consisting entirely of people I don’t know.  For the record, I will befriend anyone who proves legitimate, and indeed have many friends and correspondents of both genders and of all ages.

Another transition I am starting to make is that of online entrepreneur.  I am taking this one step at a time, will interrupt this post to take part in a conference call, momentarily, and, despite the somewhat uncertain attitude of my sponsor towards me, I feel like this time, my coach and I can make some headway.

Good call, and I made a leap over one gap in my comfort zone:  Credit score, which is not as bad as I thought it might be.  Another leap over my comfort zone’s fence is thus more likely in the weeks ahead.  This is partly due to three changes that I have already engaged:  Increasing my waking hours by 30-45 minutes, in the morning; taken on a full-time job; and overcoming several lingering doubts about my self-worth.

So, Having looked at life, from several sides now, in the year that is coming to a close, I am ready to be far more proactive, in several areas of my life, than in the past.  There is more to sojourning, than travel, as much fun and as mind-expanding as that is.

In-Crowds and Outliers

7

November 9, 2017, Prescott-

For most of my life, I’ve not made much distinction between groups of people:  Neighbourhoods, social classes, occupations, educational levels, generations, nationalities.  None of those have kept me from interacting, wandering about, learning what I could from, and about, each and all.

This has led to a rich set of experiences- occasionally with the loneliness that comes from not being too close to any one group.  That aloneness has been altered, somewhat, since I entered the Baha’i Faith, with Penny’s encouragement, in early 1981.  I don’t strictly adhere to socializing only with Baha’is.  That is not in keeping with our Faith’s tenet to “associate with all peoples, in fellowship and harmony”, a trait with which I was born.

It is no surprise, then, that the Universe should be bringing, to our area, the Convergence at Arcosanti.  For three days, a large number of people will gather at the cooperative community, 45 miles northeast of Prescott.  There will be symposia and smaller breakout groups, all manner of people camping, socializing and forming new bonds, across all manner of divides.  There will be, I expect, conservatives as well as liberals; craftsmen as well as scholars; Christians as well as atheists and agnostics; the clear-eyed and the wide-eyed.

I will be there, at least through tomorrow night, and again on Saturday. If it feels right, I will pitch my tent and stay the night.  As a volunteer, I will be able to get a keen sense of  how well the stated mission is being achieved, and establish new bonds of my own. Besides, when Woodstock happened, I was a bumbling Private, in Army Postal School, at Fort Harrison, IN.  This is a more sober, focused variation on the theme of transformational gatherings.  I want to do my part, to help get it right this time.

Day of the Dead

4

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.

 

Sadratu’l- Muntaha

10

September 27, 2017, Prescott-

NOTE:  The title term refers to a tree, planted at a terminus of a road, in ancient Arabia.  It could signify either an ending or a beginning.

What, exactly, is a barrier?

Which is the beginning, and which, the ending?

I recall that every walk around Saugus began at our back door.

So, too, did every journey end there.

My formal education began in September, 1956, at the Felton School.

It ended in August, 1987, when I completed my administrative credential, at Northern Arizona University.

My time as a Roman Catholic began with my baptism.

It ended with my declaration as a member of the Baha’i Faith.

Now, I live in an apartment, in Prescott, Arizona; work as a teacher aide, at Prescott High School; am a devoted adherent to the Teachings of Baha’u’llah.

Do I still consider Saugus a place in my heart?

Am I still learning?

Do I still revere Jesus the Christ?

In each case, the answer will always be “Yes”.

Will I not again travel?

Will I close my mind to new ideas?

Will I turn aside from the Creator?

In each case, “No”.

What, exactly, is a barrier?

It occurs to me, that each barrier is a self-imposed ending.