Mind and Spirit, 2023

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January 3, 2023– I spent three hours or so, this afternoon, watching the film, Babylon, which deals with the experiences of four main characters, who are all linked by way of the debauchery of early Hollywood and the transition from silent film to “talkies”. It has a long time span, stretching from 1926 to 1952, and by the time one of the main characters dispatches his listless wife and daughter back to their hotel, choosing to himself take in Gene Kelly’s “Singing In The Rain” in a crowded cinema, his head is spinning from the memories that one film generates-as he had had a hand in trying to promote a talkie that featured the title song, in the early Thirties.

Babylon does not skimp on details of the Bohemian culture of the Roaring Twenties, nor on the hardheaded business culture that funded the fun and games-especially the drug trade which, then as now, was the means to mindlessness. With that I was again mindful that, in every age, each human soul must choose whether to follow the promptings of the body or to center thoughts and actions on the guidance of the Spirit, a guidance based in genuine love.

A few days ago, a correspondent asked of my goals for spiritual and intellectual growth for this Gregorian year. Three main goals, in each area, come to mind.

Spiritually, I will first continue attending and facilitating study circles that focus on personal and community development, based on Baha’i principles. My second goal is to maintain and extend spiritual ties to those in my personal network. Thirdly, I will continue and expand studies of Baha’i and older Scriptural writings.

Intellectually, my first goal is to actively read each day, outside of Scriptural study. My current pile of books consists of :”The Lost World of the Old Ones”, a study of southwest anthropology by David Roberts; “Prairie Erth”, William Least Heat Moon’s lengthy study of life in Chase County, Kansas; “John Adams”, by David McCullough. As I finish each book, another is added to the pile-and immediately waiting are “EcoVillages”, by Karen Litfin; “The Four Agreements”, by Alberto Villoldo; and a re-reading of “The Fifth Sacred Thing”, by Star Hawk.

Secondly, increasing the quality of my dialogues and other conversations with those in my network is a key goal. I recall the tiredness implied in the 1980s book “What Do You Say, After You Say Hello”, and how I bought into the notion that, particularly in interactions between males and females, there is a short leash of sorts which, Eric Berne rightly pointed out, deserves to be severed and a saner appeal to wider shared interests and explorations be the modus operandi in its place. One of my greatest regrets is letting that one-dimensional outlook guide me in my teens and twenties-and re-emerge, in a sense, after Penny’s death. Thankfully, my present network of friends is way past that mentality.

Thirdly, I will focus more, in my activities both here and further afield, taking more interest in intellectual community events, in this area, and spending more time in selected places, when on the road. I am reading, in this month’s National Geographic Magazine, that increasing the quality of intellectual activity does have a positive effect on limiting, even counteracting, dementia and other cerebral impairments.

As with other aspects of my life, specifics will ensue, as the year rolls on. It’ll be a rich one, for sure.

72 and Change

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November 29, 2022- This morning, I woke seemingly clear-headed and well-rested, and yet a few faux pas came between the time I awoke and the time I alighted in my window seat, on the plane back to Arizona. They were nothing that apologies didn’t rectify, and the rest of the journey back to Home Base was uneventful. My seat mates, on the plane and in the shuttle from Phoenix to Prescott, were very pleasant; quiet but congenial. I enjoyed a Korean barbecued pork sandwich, with chicken noodle soup on the side. Knocking out what was left of last week’s cold was crucial-and yes, I was one of three people in the travel party who wore a mask in close-quarter situations.

It’s time to look at what the ellipse that is the tail end of 2022 and the first eleven months of ’23 might bring. Next week, I work four days and have my skin scan. There will be a heavy schedule, here in town, Friday and Saturday, with Indian Market and a few other events. Acker Night is Dec,9 and Post 6 Christmas Party, on the10th. After that, SoCal is calling, for 3-4 days, Dec. 12-15-following a Slow Food event in south Phoenix, on Dec. 11. Dec. 16-25 will be close to Home Base, with a few days afterward spent somewhere up north, barring any weather weirdness or Red Cross emergency.

That brings up January-September, 2023-and so far, I have no clear guidance from Spirit Guides as to what, if any, travel will take place during that time. Sept. 30-Oct. 1 is the likely time for Baha’i Unit Convention. After that, October-early November looks like Pacific Northwest, Alaska and some of the Asian Pacific Rim. THAT guidance is very clear. We know from last year that these signals can change with outside circumstances and shifting energy frequencies.

So- stay tuned!

A Non-Starter

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November 21, 2022- Both of us are respectful of electricity and its power, being careful to avoid mishandling the pair of battery jumper cables. Friend was glad to hand off the task of attaching the cables cables to me. I did so, easily enough, but when I started Sportage and tried the same with the problem vehicle- crickets. As a “door is ajar” warning sound continued to ding, even when all doors were closed, I suspect a short in the wiring. I gave friend a ride to a place of lodging, and he will resume dealing with the matter tomorrow morning, hopefully with help from his insurance carrier.

This was nearly the last task to occupy me today, before my flight to Dallas, early Tuesday. The day mostly consisted of accompanying a 10-year-old student from one class to another. She is soft-spoken around adults, but is very much independent and seemingly in charge of her disability, rather than the other way around. The day went well, and her teacher asked me to consider taking on the task full-time. While it might be better for a younger, female paraprofessional to do the job day-to-day, I am not ruling it out for the second semester.

The last task was to conduct a Baha’i study of social action formulae. We came close to finishing the unit, but my purpose is to generate meaningful discourse, which indeed came out of our study of three sections. leaving two to examine, next Monday evening. This will mean my birthday dinner will be an early event, which I prefer anyway.

After a bit of packing for tomorrow, it was early to bed- with joy at a productive day.

An Off-road Caravan

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November 14, 2022, Cortez, CO- As I approached the small community of Tonalea, AZ, en route to Monument Valley, a man in an orange vest held up a sign that said “Emergency ahead”. I came to a line of stopped traffic, and waited patiently for about twenty minutes, as it slowly inched forward, every so often.

Then, I noticed more and more people were taking an alternative, rough dirt route, which I figured would take us past the stalled traffic. So, once close enough to the entry to that of-road track, I joined the somewhat more steadily-moving queue. This brought back memories of visiting various traditional Dineh families, by taking similar tracks, up mesas or through sage-laden deserts.

Every so often,as the caravan inched along, a Navajo policeman or local volunteer would reassure us that we were on the right path. At one point, we encountered people coming the other way. Some of the caravaners opted to go up a somewhat steep bank of soft sand. That did not work for Sportage, so the oncoming vehicles backed up, until the five vehicles behind me, and I, had passed through.

When we got to a gravel church access road, 5 miles along and an hour later, the emergency had cleared and we were all back on the highway. Sportage was no worse for the wear, and I got to Monument Valley around 3:15, which allowed for a short, but satisfying stop near The Mittens, and other nearby formations. It was still a bit nippy, so a short visit was all that I was up for, anyway.

Here are some scenes from that stop.

Sentinel Mesa, west of The Mittens
West Mitten
East Mitten and Elephant Butte
Spearhead Mesa
The Mittens and Elephant Butte

The upshot is that I will surely return at some point in the relatively near future, to hike Navajo Trail, which goes near various of the formations.

Duty called, though, and as the saying goes “Responsibility never takes a vacation.” I delivered a box of Baha’i materials to a Dineh friend, in Aneth, about an hour east of Monument Valley, then stopped for the night at Tomahawk Inn, in this Four Corners hub, so as to have the WiFi needed to host a Zoom meeting. Life, even with challenges such as the off-road experience is very sweet.

Casa Remuda

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November 5, 2022, Sedona- About two months ago, I encountered an effusive lady from New York, who was living and working, at the time, in a relaxed and well-appointed Bed & Breakfast, close to several trails on the Near West Side of town. She told me it would be a lovely, if a bit pricey, place to stay overnight, if I wanted to hike a trail early or to stay late at Synergy Cafe, where I have sometimes joined impromptu musical sessions with my had-held drum.

I have had hot-cold relationships with the owner and manager of Synergy. Presently, things are in a cool phase, and while I spent a couple of hours there tonight, I did not stay long, once the manager showed up. That is a digression, though. Casa Remuda is an amazing place, nestled in a residential neighbourhood, near Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock. The couple who own and operate the Bed and Breakfast live on the premises and have given their all to the comfort and well-being of their guests, a swell as being kind employers. The 2 or 3 workers, two housekeepers and a maintenance man, live on the premises as well.

It was a quiet stay, bookended by two virtual Baha’i meetings, for which Walter and Vivian graciously let me use a small table, right off the kitchen, as it had the strongest WiFi. I used their massage bed, twice, which also helped me relax and sleep-the Queen-sized in the Lower Guest Room also had a heated mattress pad, even furthering the quality of the rest.

Then, there were the cats-Vivian’s joy. Cleopatra, Merlin and Phoenix are basically gentle creatures and like all cats, have the run of the house-and much of the property during the day. Coyotes and mountain lions being what they are, the trio are called in as night falls. Phoenix chose to play with me a bit, and engaged in “stalk and catch”-the feline version of “hide and seek”. In the end, Phoenix gave me permission to finish packing my bag. She is gracious in that way.

Phoenix the Cat, at Casa Remuda, Sedona

Here are some other scenes of the various scenes, both inside and out, at Casa Remuda.

A crystal throne
A ceramic “Jar Couple”
The Servant Cats
Swedish Ivy, in bloom
Soaring Eagle (Walter’s Spiritual Name)
Reflection Room and Study

Here is the perfect place for taking in and processing all the energy, both positive and negative, that comes with a Sedona visit. The former can be channeled and the latter, left at the gate. Walter and Vivian have left that gate open for me, in the future. I will be sure to take them up on that, either solo or with another friend or two, in the time to come.

I think Phoenix would agree.

The Carson Loop, Day 10: Simple Is Deep

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October 24, 2022, Carson City- I spotted a couple of servers at L.A. Bakery, in downtown Carson City, who were wearing t-shirts with the above message. It also describes how I have viewed life, so the message put me right at home. Seeing things in an uncomplicated light makes “deep dives” a lot easier, as there are fewer distractions.

Today was the birthday of a very young, but deeply spiritual, soul, who has been a good friend since she was two. I was once told, by a fearful man, that friendships between adults and children were unusual and that his own child would not be allowed to befriend adults, especially men. I can understand how things can go awry, and that too many adults, both male and female, are feckless and/or manipulative, when it comes to children.

V’s parents, and her grandmother, however, have known me very well, for well over twenty years and besides, ALL of my friendships, especially since recovery from a mild mental illness, nearly ten years ago, are above board. That said, I joined the family for birthday cake and gift opening, before going to another room for an online Baha’i study group, for which I was host.

I am here as another pillar of support for this large and wonderful family-of which the matriarch says I am a part. I’ve said several times, this is part of what makes life grand. It was poignant to bid the clan farewell, knowing that we will not see one another again for at least six months. That’s the way it is, with several such groups of friends-and with my biological family-but the spiritual bond is always present.

Simple is indeed deep.

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.

Triple Decker

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August 13, 2022, Lake Havasu City- One by one, friends of a young man whom I have known for about three years came filing through the door of the home he shares with his father, in this desert community overlooking the Colorado River. It is his thirtieth birthday. He allowed as how this was the biggest birthday bash he has ever had-and I would not have missed it for the world. He sees today as a confirmation of his change in mindset. This was bolstered by going around and asking each of us what one piece of advice we would offer him.

I admit, I don’t know what it feels like to have a birthday where no one attended the party. Even when it was just initially the three of us, others have always showed up and made the day festive. Not everyone is so fortunate-and God knows, there are those who get arrested, or even killed, on their “special day”. Thankfully, this has not happened to anyone I have known, save one person, back in the mid-90s. There are many who do, however, end up noting their birthdays nearly alone. Today’s celebrant was one of those, on several occasions, over the years.

Another aspect of this day is the marking of three decades. Often, the “Big Three-Oh” is a mark of maturity, or at least the glimmerings of such, in a person’s life. For me, back in 1980, it was the day when a woman in San Diego told me I didn’t need to try so hard, in starting a relationship. She was in a bond of her own, so was not dropping any hints-but she said I was more physically attractive and personable than I was allowing self to acknowledge. That was borne out, a week later, when I met Penny in Zuni, NM and my life changed-for the next thirty years, if not forever. My thirties, which my last landlady in Maine had told me, two years earlier, would be enjoyable, were also the period in which I shed a long-standing bugbear: Alcohol dependence; and changed the scope of my faith, from Catholic to Baha’i- more in keeping with my own belief in the essential unity of all people-and the wholeness of Creation.

I became a father, towards the end of the decade, and now our son is in his own thirties, a loving husband, a diligent student, and a man on the cusp of a senior rank in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He has a solid life plan, a tad more organized than I had at that age, and which is also flexible enough that no change in humanity’s fortunes can derail it.

So, I see my young friend also finding a viable path, one that he and his best friend here can navigate together, if they wish. I sense that his days of viewing the world though the half-empty glass, a worldview rooted simply in fear, are over and that his considerable gifts are going to bear fruit.

Life in one’s thirties is indeed a triple-decker, of knowledge, wisdom and meaningful action.

On Behaving Well in Groups

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August 5, 2022- The old friend could not, by all seeming, help himself. The rash of cuss words just flew off his tongue, for no particular reason other than that they came to mind. The women around us ignored the spate of profanity, and seemed to be in their own worlds. I kept my own diction in a socially acceptable framework, though I recognize that it may have been a good idea to gently and firmly ease him out of that pattern of speech.

It has been customary for parents to stress to their children that they must be polite at home, when visiting family, at a House of Worship, and in the neighbourhood. The best of parents have included school, eateries and stores in that regimen. The idea has been to build a good personal code of conduct. Not embarrassing one’s family has been a good deterrent for most, but not all.

In the Baha’i Teachings, and among others whose social consciousness is elevated, the idea of behaving well in groups, because it is a key feature of building a society based on the oneness of mankind, and because it helps build a listening culture, rather than a knee-jerk reacting culture.

I have come a long way, since 1980, in that regard, especially. There were lapses, between then and now, but they were made reparable by the culture of learning from one’s mistakes, by the qualified forgiveness of those I hurt and by the overarching power of said Teachings, which are to be applied personally, with minimal, if any, social pressure-yet have the force of practically reinventing a person, by stressing one’s strengths and letting weaknesses flow out and fade away.

I choose to act as a counterweight to boorish personalities, these days, while remembering all the times when I was one of them-and not wallowing in those memories.

Under A Gentle Mist

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July 26, 2022- I woke this morning, to a router/modem combo that was struggling to even fully load, and a candle pot that had somehow crashed to the floor and shattered, overnight. After cleaning up the pieces of ceramic and vacuuming the shards, I looked carefully at the device, and found its power supply was running very hot. So, the whole thing was unplugged and will remain so, until a technician from Sparklight comes over, tomorrow at some point. Thus do I write from the pleasant surroundings of Wild Iris Coffee House and will communicate with others, this evening, from Raven Cafe.

There is a misty rain in Prescott, this morning, a gentle reminder that, no matter how difficult things may seem at times, there is always a Guiding Hand that will help keep things on an even keel. Last night, as I walked from Bill’s Pizza, following a pleasant dinner served by a precious soul, I was approached by a longtime friend, who is a Youth Pastor. He asked my opinion on the political events of the past two years, then stated his disaffection with a certain defeated candidate for the presidency. My contention that any one of us can be dumb at times, but few are stupid, was reinforced by our conversation. My conservative friend has a good heart and a discerning mind.

I got a reasonable estimate from the auto body shop that I use here, so Saturn should be repaired, relatively easily, sometime in August, courtesy of the culpable party’s insurance company. In the meantime, it’s roadworthy and will get its welcome back oil & lube on Thursday.

Late August and early September will find me in Colorado and northern New Mexico, with a Baha’i school in Colorado Springs as the centerpiece. The second half of October will bring a visit to northern Nevada and eastern Idaho. I had considered a train ride to Sacramento, and renting a car from there, but the time and money required to drive up there is actually less than a train/rental car combination. So, once again, it’ll be Saturn and me going forth together. Thanksgiving will, most likely, be a Texas affair, with Christmas right here at Home Base, but more on those, later.

This is a community of very finely-tuned synchronicity. I left the coffee house, momentarily, to change parking spots, as there is a two-hour limit. Spotting an empty space in Iris’s lot, I went to the car, turned around and, lo and behold, the car in front of me got the empty space. Having been raised with a mindset of abundance, I pulled around the corner and found several spaces available. There is, most often, room for everyone in this world.