Connectedness

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January 7, 2020-

Having my little family here

is a perfect occasion

for cementing my own ties

and building a sense of extended family

between son and daughter-in-law

with the Baha’i friends whom he knew

as a youth,

and with other dear friends,

whom he met for the first time,

and she for the second time, today.

It reminds me, that I have

at least one indelible tie here,

regardless of where life takes me.

It reminds me, too, that  there are those

who will ever have my back,

and I, theirs,

for as long as we draw breath,

and beyond.

And It Was….

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December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

The decade took Penny, my wife of twenty-eight years and nine months, both her parents Norm and Ruth (“Bunny”), two of her aunts Averala and Helen (“Honey”), two of  her cousins, Tom and Jean, and a cousin-in-law, Richard.

It took my maternal uncles, Carl and James,  Carl’s two children-Keith and Carla, and our cousins Ronnie and Lorraine.

It did not spare my father’s side of the family, either, taking Uncle George, Aunt Adeline (“Sissy”) and her son Bob.

It brought several others to the Life Beyond, friends all:  Christie Serino, Drew Crotty, Larry Silipigni, Alan and Rick Belyea, from my hometown of Saugus, MA;  Alison Sipes, from Indiana; Mildred “Mildoo” Forney, who, along with her daughter, made my visits to Oley, PA an annual pleasure; my American Legion comrades Bob Wittmann, Dennis Young, John Mortimer, Sue Chambers, Al Tercero-among several;  a host of Baha’i  fellows- Ali and Violette Nakhjavani, Nancy Coker, John Cook, Firuz Khazemzadeh, Avid Navidi, Dick Sloman, Moses Nakai, Russ Garcia, Chester Kahn, Roy Dewa, Tom Smith, Keith John Manybeads.

 It was a time of change.

It saw me get out of town, leaving Phoenix, after ten years.  Prescott, once more, became Home Base.

It saw our son, Aram, follow in the footsteps of many of his forebears, on both sides of the family and enter the service of his country, serving in the United States Navy, for nine years.

It saw him enter into matrimony.  Having returned to Korea, the land of his birth, as part of his service, Aram met and married Yunhee, a superlative addition to our family.

It saw us honour two of my nieces, who preceded him down the aisle, also bringing spouses who add luster to the Boivin brood.

It was a time of growth.

It brought in fourteen new members of my Grandniece/nephew Club and some new additions to my Greater Tribe.

There were a couple of good years, working full time, at Prescott High School, and several others spent substitute teaching.

The decade brought me the joy of giving back- with the American Red Cross, Slow Food, school garden projects, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as American Legion Post 6 and the Baha’i community.  It has brought me many new friends, members of my Tribe, who consistently make this life a thing of beauty.

Then, there were those journeys- annually to see family, on the East Coast, in the South and in the Midwest, which is never “Flyover Country” to me; my first solo visit to Europe, partly on my father-in-law’s behalf and partly because  I wanted to connect with the lands of my ancestors;  I returned to Korea, to  fully embrace my son’s wedding and to recap our life in Jeju; Hawaii welcomed me, in advance of the Tiger Cruise from Honolulu to San Diego, as Aram & crew returned from a Pacific Rim deployment; I fulfilled some of the dreams I shared with Penny, and explored the Pacific Northwest, a bit of British Columbia; southeast Alaska and eastern Canada; California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado were constantly seeing my face-largely to spend time with far-flung members of my Tribe.  Shorter, but no less meaningful, jaunts around Arizona, Utah and New Mexico filled in the blanks.

Now, the sun has risen on a new decade, for much of the world and the year, which once loomed as a pinnacle in my life, has a remaining shelf life of nine hours, here in the Mountain Standard Time Zone.

This decade of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, advances and setbacks will soon give way to another, likely much more of each.  Happy 2020, one and all!

My Top Reads of 2019

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December 29, 2019- 

I covered a decade, yesterday, but today I will take a brief look at the books which mattered most to me, this year.  I have covered key books of years past, as I finished them.

10.  Abby Wize:  AWAY (Revision)– This Baha’i-themed book was revised to include more detail and to flesh out a previously one-dimensional character.  It is the account of a young girl who has a vision of a spiritually-advanced society of the future, after suffering a head injury.

9. Spiritwalker– This tale, similar to Abby Wize, involves communication between a Hawaiian man and one of his descendants, in the far future.  It is more dystopian than Abby Wize, so expect a description of a more seemingly primitive future environment.

8. Winter of the World– The second volume of Ken Follett’s series of novels on the Twentieth Century, this tale covers several families’ experiences in Britain, the United States, Germany and Russia, in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

7.  Swimming for Sunlight– This novel follows a newly-divorced young woman, as she overcomes her guilt stemming from her father’s tragic death and her fear of life, that results from that guilt.

6. Testaments- (Reading in progress)- This novel is a sequel to Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”, offering details into the lives of individual women during the period of the fictional Republic of Gilead.

5.  Twelve Rules for Life (Reading in progress)- This non-fiction book, by Jordan Peterson, discusses twelve ethical principles and their application to both modern life and traditional Western thought.

4. The Alchemist– Paolo Coelho’s classic tale of a young man, traveling from Spain to Egypt, across the Sahara Desert and back, and of the spiritual transformation this brings about, in his life and that of those around him.

3. Gulistan (Reading in progress)-  This is a collection of poetry and stories, fdrawn from both the life and from the observations of a doctor who has keen insights into both Indian and American cultures and mores.

2.  Reflections of A Wonderful Life– These are the memoirs of my brother, presented in the form of answers to questions posed by his three children.  They mirror my own memories, in many ways.   Both this book and Gulistan have influenced my own memoirs, in terms of the format in which they will be presented.  No promises, but I look to getting them written, by this coming Fall.

1. The Brothers Karamazov– Feodor Dostoevsky’s seminal novel on the human condition, this novel is not so much concerned with Good vs. Evil, as it is with internal versus external loci of control.  The atheist paints a nihilistic portrait of the bleak Tsarist environment, whilst his own fervently religious brother, alternately optimistic and despairing, sees only the Will of God behind all happenings, both positive and negative.  The eldest brother  is presented as a rake, who fiercely clashes with his simpleton father, over a woman.  The resulting conflict has deadly results, giving rise to the novel’s debates among the brothers on matters of free will and morality.

These are the reads which influenced me the strongest, over the past twelve months.

 

Schisms and -isms

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December 12, 2019-

A participant in a recent Baha’i Studies Conference, in Ottawa, Ontario, made the case for a movement she called “womanism”.  The gist of this movement’s philosophy is similar to to the campaign message of the American politician, Tulsi Gabbard:  Bring forward a true ethic of inclusion; the practice of not shutting anyone out, on the basis of their stated beliefs.  The premise here is inclusion, not opposition.

I favour such a movement, as I believe that everyone has a grain of truth to bring to the table.  That does not mean that someone who regards others as inferior should remain unchallenged in her/his pronouncements and certainly, actions that take away someone else’s rights or extinguish viewpoints, contrary to what one believes, are to be seen as counterproductive.  Repressed thoughts and opinions will never disappear.  They may even return, with a vengeance, in the form of counter-revolution.

It also does not sanction violence against one’s philosophical opponents, if for no other reason than to preclude their being seen as martyrs.   I much prefer to maintain appropriate dialogue, with its inherent boundaries, than to shut a person out in perpetuity.  Again, I draw the line at those who threaten violence or demand that I “toe the line.”

Many movements end their names with the suffix, “-ism”.  To wit, besides the above-mentioned womanism, we have “feminism”, “Islamism”, “supremacism” and the more conventional nationalism and sectarianism.  Such -isms, especially the last four mentioned, seem to lead to schism.  The founders of such movements may, or may not, have envisioned such divides, and thus incorporated them in their planning.    Nonetheless, any time one sets out to make a difference, if there is a pre-conceived Other, there is a potential schism.  Even a term as seemingly benign as non- (insert your identity group), is inherently creating a division in society.

It’s time to seriously work on abandoning the concept of “Other.”  Our self-concepts do not need it, in order to appreciate our uniqueness.

 

No Pause Button

4

December 1, 2019-

This holiday weekend, now drawing to a close, reminded me that even in the midst of a wonderful celebration, there may come the cry of the needy.  I tended to that, as best I could, without besmirching the kindness of one of my dearest friends and members of her family.  I was honoured, beyond measure, on Thursday afternoon and evening.  It doesn’t take much, anymore, for me to feel that.  I go forward, at age 69, with a continued sense of personal worth.  Thanksgiving, 2019 was the sixth straight year at table with this wonderful family that has found its way into my heart.

Friday was, of course, our first real bout of winter weather, one month ahead of the actual season.  Shoveling a path to the street was followed by a night manning a shelter, which no one needed.  That is beside the point, though, as shelters are, by definition, designed to be manned proactively.  I have to say, the large Arizona Republic Thanksgiving Crossword kept me  very well-occupied, nearly until morning.

Saturday, I finally answered the figurative tapping on the window, and hopefully have drawn the right attention to the issues that were raised by an online correspondent.  The rest of the day, though, was spent catching up on the sleep I forewent, whilst manning the shelter.  Being up most of Friday night, though, showed that I still have stamina.  The evening was graced by the megaton voice of one Jacqui Foreman, who showed both vocal range and mastery of two types of guitar, in a concert at The Raven Cafe. She and her two accompanists delivered a solid three hours of a range of music, from soft rock ballads to acoustic jazz; Ma Rainey, through Frank Sinatra, to The Cranberries and Metallica, all find a spot in Sister Jackson’s repertoire. Among the people who I encountered there were a veteran musical arranger, a little boy who was somehow fascinated by my presence and a young lady who waved at me, from across the room- a case of mistaken identity.  It’s always colourful at The Raven.

Today, the last month of a decade of growth launched itself.  I tidied up my driveway, which had still been laden with ice and snow.  The sun was a big helper, and now the driveway is mostly clear.  The breakfast meeting at the Legion was cancelled, so I went down to Cupper’s, for an order of skinny pancakes, with melon on the side.  Several transient men were there, warming themselves, waiting for a Salvation Army service, across the street.  They had a very sobering account of the snowstorm just passed.  At least, there was an active shelter-not the one I manned, but the regular overnight shelter that SA provides, on below-freezing nights.  The day ended with a short Baha’i meeting, and now I look forward to a fruitful December.

Work will likely still be slow, but I will be mainly concerned with my dear daughter-in-law, who arrives  next Sunday, for nearly a month.  Aram will be back, after New Year’s and his last days with the regular Navy.  It’ll give me a chance to introduce Yunhee to our fair state and to several of my dear friends.  Then, too, is everything that has to do with Christmas time in Prescott, and around the state.

My Gratitudes

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November 28, 2019-

A year ago, my shoulder was getting better and my left knee, injured by what seemed to be a psychic attack, as I walked down a short, routine set of stairs, was also well on the mend. The “woo-woo” aside, my health has been fabulous this year.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, hemp-based CBD cream, a team of physical therapists, my dental team in Phoenix, Planet Fitness and my chiropractor for helping me maintain that fabulous.

My family has been extraordinarily gracious and generous this year, as always.  Being with Aram, Yunhee and the Shin family, on the occasion of their Baha’i wedding, and the travels around southern South Korea that followed, remains the greatest of blessings.

My Baha’i community and other dear friends, around Prescott, continue to keep me grounded.  Those whose aim was to bring me down also had a role to play. Rearranging my priorities this year, has only made my life richer and more satisfying.

Prescott, and Arizona as a whole, continue to be inspiring, good hosts.  I never tire of the view of Thumb Butte, from my front window or of any of the exquisite scenes that unfold, no matter which direction I go.

My many friends and family, across the United States, and beyond, are ever present and encouraging, even if we rarely, or never, see one another in person.  I am grateful to have spent time with some, from California to Massachusetts and in-between, over the past twelve months.

Being ever expansive in my view of the world, visiting new places and making new friends is always a plus.  I found new perspectives on Albuquerque, Memphis, Charleston, Raleigh, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, West Point, Pittsburgh, Chicago/Wilmette, Kansas City and Los Angeles, over the past twelve months. Youth hostels, Airbnb and the comfort of friends’ and family homes made all the difference.

Time in nature is always huge, in my life.  The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park saw me visit both North and South Rims.  The Navajo Nation’s Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock  and Monument Valley ever warm my heart.  Being in New Mexico’s El Malpais was a comfort, after a case of food poisoning upended my Father’s Day.  There were meanders along the banks of the Mississippi and above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River; focused exploration of  Utah’s Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Lake Powell’s Wahweap area and the urban solace of Los Angeles’ Venice Canals re-affirmed who I am,at my core.

The greatest gratitudes are reserved for what is ongoing:  My mother’s continued presence in our lives, my little family returning to the United States, having three of the finest people as my siblings, my Faith in God being reaffirmed, each day, and my physical, financial and mental health remaining optimal.

Thank you, 2019, for having been, and remaining, a space of strength and comfort.

The Round and Square of It

4

October 9, 2019, Aneth, UT-

Any illusion that Native Americans are somehow all cut from the same cloth, or are otherwise a uniform group, was hopefully dispelled, some tome ago.  This is as true, with regard to various aspects of culture, including architecture, as it is to language and  physical appearance- just as it is with people of any large subgrouping.

Hovenweep, a Paiute name meaning “Deserted Valley”, is the site of a large number of mud brick structures, both atop and just below the rim of, Cahone Mesa, in southeast Utah-about 15 miles northwest of this small Dineh settlement.

I last visited this area in 1979, about a month after summer  break began.  There has been an expansion of the National Monument since that time.  For this visit, though, I focused on the Main, or Square Tower, Group of structures.  Outlying ruins will be the focus of a future visit.

The trail around the Main Group is 2 miles long.  The terrain is similar to that of Natural Bridges and other nearby canyons.  A short walk across the table of Cahone Mesa leads to a short, but rugged, canyon crossing, then around to Twin Towers and the Square Tower triad, before snaking back towards the Visitor Center.

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As you will see, the Puebloan architects variously used square corners and round construction, depending on the function of the building.  Squared structures appear to be more for dwellings and the rounded buildings either as kivas or as observation towers of some sort.

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The descent and ascent of Little Ruin Canyon is the most rugged part of the hike around Square Tower Group.  I would rate it as moderate, in difficulty.

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A small heart-shaped rock is visible, towards the rear of this small cavelet.

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Remains of several small homes, on the mesa top, precede one’s arrival at Twin Towers.

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As I approached Twin Towers, a girl of about twelve passed by me, cheerfully in her own experience of the area.  Her grandparents called her back, not so much out of fear, as to ask her to carefully pull a discarded plastic water bottle out of this crevice!  She gingerly did as asked, and had no trouble getting out of the fissure.

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Here are the remnants of Twin Towers.

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Just a few paces from the round towers is another rectangular tower, likely an early apartment dwelling.

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There were several people at Square Tower, as I approached, so care was taken to honour each one’s quiet investigation of this central area of Hovenweep.

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Checkdam is a building where the caretaker of an earthen dam spent his duty hours.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

These are the structures of Hovenweep House.

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Square Tower is in the midst of the main kivas.

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Below, is a small single family dwelling.

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This is Eroded Boulder House, an example of the effects of the climate change of that era (1200-1300 A.D.)

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There are four areas of Hovenweep National Monument that are accessible by high-clearance vehicles.  One of these days, I will get to those outliers.

Today, though, I had two other visits to make.  I headed out of Hovenweep and made it to this oil and gas-producing community, in Utah’s southeast corner.  Here, I visited for about 1 1/2 hours, with two Dineh sisters, who are caretakers of this small Baha’i Center.  Members of our Faith have lived in Aneth for about fifty years.

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After visiting with the ladies, I am headed to The Farm Bistro, in Cortez, for an early dinner,  then will likely drive back to Prescott.  It’s been a fascinating Fall Break!

Growing My Vision-Part 1

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October 5, 2019-

At our Baha’i Unit Convention, this morning, I spotted a sign on the host’s chalkboard, with the message, “Build Vision”.  One of the constant mantras of my childhood was that we each had to see ourselves in five years, ten years, etc.

Most of us have thought of this, to the extent we think of it at all, in terms of education, career, size of family, etc.  I did all that, and now, as my formal career has little more than a year to run, albeit as a part-time substitute teacher, my vision is changing tack.

It’s always been natural, even impulsive, for me to take in the world, in my planning or visualizing.  Often, I have been chastised, for being too global.  I think the point was for me to be more present, in the here and now.  My head has made great strides, in that regard-and my focus is sharper, in the past dozen years, than it was long ago.  A good part of that came with being a caretaker. There is, as is said in such challenging environments as, say, the Alaskan Bush, the fact that “Ignorance, distraction and stupidity are the three Princes of Death”.

There is much that I have left to do, so keeping my broader vision global, whilst maintaining a sharp focus on what’s close at hand, has presented itself, with a welcome intensity.  If I slip, I know there are those among my faithful readers, not to mention, real time friends and family, who won’t hesitate to blow the whistle.

That is the supreme comfort.

Days of Heaven

0

 

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.

Their New Beginning

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March 10, 2019, Guangju-

This city was once best known as place of uprising- against a second-level military regime, in the Spring of 1980.  Although the uprising was initially quashed, its target, President Chun Doo-hwan, never gained the level of power and stability he wanted, and eventually stepped down, on the last day of 1988.

Today, Guang-joo is a more peaceful place and was the scene of the consecration of the marriage of Aram Boivin and Yunhee Shin, my son and daughter-in-law.  Now they have established themselves as  a full-fledged unit.  At the nicely-appointed Sangmoo Ritz Wedding Hall, a reverent blend of Baha’i scripture and tasteful musical selections made for a lovely hour-long ceremony, cementing what was set in motion with their civil wedding, last November in Guam, which, being an American Territory, provided the U.S. marriage license that will just make things easier, when it comes time for them to return to the U.S.

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I gave a short speech, as father of the groom, but otherwise submitted to the instructions of the wedding planner, photographer and master of ceremonies,  I did get in a few photographs, prior to the ceremony.

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The above has Yunhee’s name written in Hangul (Korean script), with her family name first, then her given name.  The names of us parents are written above.

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The flower arrangements are from well-wishers. Below are random photos of Yunhee and Aram, in the lobby of the wedding hall.

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Another milestone has passed, yet with it, the duties of a father-in-law, and God willing, those of a grandparent, will fall to me. My family has now been extended across the Pacific and I have a feeling the blessings far outweigh the burdens.  We will enjoy the rest of this fine week together- tomorrow with Yunhee’s parents and the remainder of the week, divided between Busan and Jeju, the place of Aram’s birth and a well-established resort community.