The Decorated Ones


May 29, 2023-His name was Richard Daniel Devine. He died in combat, in Kontum, VietNam, on January 10, 1968.

His name was Stanley Joseph Egan. He died in combat, in Hua Nghia, VietNam, on November 23, 1969.

When we were children, every year, just before school let out for the summer, we gathered in the yard of Felton School, and recited a poem that began “Tomorrow is Memorial Day. The soldiers will be marching, with banners waving high.” The day was officially called Decoration Day, as we honoured those who had died, after having served in the military and had been decorated for their efforts. Another meaning of the day came from the practice of decorating graves of departed loved ones with flowers and other tokens of remembrance.

In 1968, the last Monday in May was designated Memorial Day. The actual practice of this three-day weekend began in 1971, along with Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February) and Columbus Day (second Monday in October, and now mainly known as Indigenous Peoples Day). The three days have been observed as Federal holidays since then. They were joined in that status by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January),in 1986 and by Juneteenth ( June 19), the date of the last documented informing of American slaves that they had been emancipated (Texas, 1865), in 2021. Other Federal holidays of long standing, are New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

There were a myriad observances of Memorial Day, across the United States, and in some other nations which have been allied with the United States in various conflicts, today-as there will be on the traditional Decoration/Memorial/Remembrance Day, of May 30. The men mentioned at the beginning of this post, and over a million people like them, are the decorated ones, the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners and a fair number of civilian ancillaries, who gave their lives, this nation and other countries around the world, might continue to know the reality of freedom.

I knew Stan Egan, and on the day he passed on I chose to spend Thanksgiving in fasting and prayer. It just made no sense that a vibrant, athletic, engaging and confidant young man should have been blown to bits, as it were. It never has-and never will. Until the quest for dominance, for ownership of land, for subjugation of others is given up, the nonsensical will remain commonplace.

In honour of the fallen, across the globe, I give you this rendition of Il Silenzio (The Silence), by Dutch trumpeter Melissa Venema, who first played the tune at the age of 13, in Maastricht, NL. She is now 28, and regularly offers the melody in concert.

Celebration and Standing Watch


March 21, 2023- It was a well-attended party, rich in repast and with lively dancing, after the meal. Forty=three folks, from three to seveny-eight, rang in the Baha’i New Year, properly called Naw-Ruz, and began the 180th year since al-Bab declared His Mission (1844). Anyone delighting in Persian cuisine would have been in glory and there was plenty of salad varieties to go around as well. Jasmine rice, some with beef and some with vegetables, was abundant. Chicken thighs, baked in sour orange juice, were also a highlight. Then, several of us danced, led by an elegant couple and a seasoned ballroom veteran. The kids, though, were the best-just by virtue of their authenticity.

About an hour after I got back to Home Base, a call came from the Red Cross and my services were secured for at least tonight. Once again, the Verde River, and some of its tributaries, were overflowing. The hour’s drive through pouring rain wasn’t all that hard, but it took longer than I had wanted and if there is one thing that still gets me rankled, it is not being on time to relieve the previous crew. I made it in with three minutes to spare, got the lowdown from the initially stone-faced crew and managed to send them off on good terms.

The rain has stopped, as of 10 p.m., but for the people staying with us this evening, the level of water is jarring and our simple task is to make them feel re-assured and safe. That is something I can manage, even in a tired state. May tomorrow bring the sunshine and a receding water level.

Springing Forward


March 20, 2023- My weight reduction coach gave me some abdominal fitness exercises, and foresaw that I may need three more weeks of the current dietary regimen, after which he will provide maintenance instructions and send me on my merry way.

He has helped me make permanent adjustments to both diet and exercise regimen, so whether I go to his club, after mid-April, is superfluous. The last big tendencies to gorge on certain foods are gone. A dietary shake will take the place of at least one meal each day and the solid meals themselves will be smaller. The digital scale can help in that vein.

Around town, the weather did not seem to know what it wanted to do, so the clouds just hung, grey and almost in grief, over the passage of winter. I, though, am not sad to see the destructive season go-and for the sake of those in saturated areas, may there be a benign period of drying out-with any rain falling on the places that have had too much aridity these past three months.

Here in central Arizona, we anticipate a couple more days of wetness, followed by a lamb-like end of March and a dry April. This may lead to my covering a shelter, for a day or two. It could be a benign fire season, and we could very well see Pacific hurricanes that take the place of fire as a source of concern. After May’s journey, I will be closer to Home Base for the summer, so will be in the thick of whatever disaster response comes to call.

As many of you know, Arizona-outside of the Navajo Nation, does not observe Daylight Savings Time. We do, though, have to time our actions in sync with the places which do-so any calls to the east coast will be made earlier in the morning and those to LA or the Pacific Northwest-or Nevada, for that matter, will be made later in the day. This is the stretch of year where, if I do go over to Texas, figuring in a two-hour leap ahead, in any planning, is de rigueur.

As this first day of Spring draws to a close, I am off to celebrate a Baha’i Spiritual Feast, our first in-person event in several months. COVID still affects a couple of people here, but it is nowhere near the menace it was, not so long ago. As always, humanity is making its way, springing ahead-even in the Southern Hemisphere, where time has fallen back.

Mind and Spirit, 2023


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.