These Lengthening Ties

4

March 11, 2019, Gyong-Meon, South Korea-

One of the questions I have been asked about the marriage of Aram and Yunhee is how I feel about my son marrying someone from another nation or culture.  (“Race” is left out of this, thankfully. )  My answer is very simple:  Aram has married a beautiful and highly intelligent young woman, who will bring great pride and joy to my family  We, in turn, will bring a great deal of the same to her equally distinguished family.

There was a time, even during our previous living in Korea, when language and cultural differences cast all manner of misunderstandings and suspicion upon even the strongest of work relationships and faith community affairs.  Slowly and carefully, we managed, by working together, to mitigate the worst of these.  Aram, being an infant and toddler at the time, was largely spared the relatively few insults and personal attacks that came our way-not just from more hidebound people in this society, but from equally narrow-minded people on the eastern shore of the Pacific as well.

My friendship with the Shin and Park families has been instantaneous.  There is none of the rancour or suspicion of the 1980’s and ’90’s to soil the life of the extended family.  The growing pains have eased, and we have found that there is an authentic human bond.

This is as Baha’u’llah intended, in calling for the spiritual unification of the entire planet- before other forms of unity are truly realized  This does not mean uniformity, which is the antithesis of true unity.  We families will long cherish each other, much as those who were previously set, within the bounds of American culture, have proven enduring.  It’s time for the next step forward, and the rising generations are leading the way.  I am gladly following that lead.

NEXT:  Chonju and its historical preservation

The Blessings Outweigh….

2

March 2-5, 2019-

This past weekend brought the beginning of our Nineteen-Day Fast, abstaining from food and beverages between sunrise and sunset, March 2-20 (most years), for those in good health between the ages of 15-70.  This year’s Fast is a bit complex for me, due to travel that will interrupt the practice (Baha’u’llah excuses the traveler; women who are pregnant, nursing, or in their courses;  the seriously ill and those engaged in heavy physical work).

I made good use of the weekend, participating in a seed education program, with one of the community groups in which I’m involved:  Slow Food-Prescott.  I am no expert on seeds, but I can still help with set-up and breakdown of the hall.  I also re-learned a lot about plants- seeds, as opposed to spores, and the various aspects of germination.

Sunday brought me back to Phoenix, for a large music festival:  McDowell Mountain Music Festival, ironically not held in Scottsdale, but in downtown Phoenix’s Hance Park. Two Drum Circles and time with a vibrant and highly artistic friend made the whole event worth the drive.

There was a most diverse group sitting in on the drum circles.20190303_152300

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This English band, Maribou State, was giving the last performance of its current tour.  It was their first visit to Phoenix.

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My friend was very busy with hoop dancing, and had been at it for three days straight.

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I headed back to Prescott in a prudent manner, and have had a good couple of days at work, this week.  Today marked the eighth anniversary of Penny’s passing.  I stopped at the gravesite on Sunday, prior to attending the Music Festival.  I was thus able to properly mark our connection, with a vase of white carnations, which were her favourite flower, and time in quiet reflection.  She loved drumming and had great respect for hoop dancers, so my participation in the former and encouraging Pam and some young women in the latter, was an homage as well.

Most important, though, I have continued with two of our shared passions:  Educating special needs children and advocating wellness.  I have, if all goes well, two years after this, in full time education.  Wellness, though, will be part of my life until it’s time to head beyond.  Essential oils and living a healthy lifestyle are the foundation of my thriving.

In a few short days, I head to South Korea, for the formal wedding of Aram and Yunhee, a return to Jeju and renewing my ties to one of our blessed homes together.  The blessings always outweigh any hardships.

Nineteen

6

March 2, 2019- 

I began my penultimate physical Fast today.  Once I reach the age of seventy, in November of next year,  abstinence from food and drink no longer is binding, and the Fast will bring additional spiritual duties.

For this year, though, I am following the course prescribed by Baha’u’llah:  When not traveling or engaged in arduous physical labour, I abstain from food and drink, from sunrise to sunset, from today through March 20.  Travel to and from Korea, in a few short days, will truncate the physical aspect of the Fast, with the spiritual duties remaining in place.

I have nineteen thoughts I wish to share:

  1. As stated yesterday, all life is sacred.
  2.  Those who, for whatever reason, don’t view their lives, or those of others, as sacred are to be embraced in their suffering-and not condemned, though they must be held to account for acts of violence.
  3. If someone takes me to task, even harshly, and I know that one is right, I need to be the change.
  4. No one has the individual right to strike another person, unless one is responsible for that other person’s well being, as a parent or guardian-and even then, the reason for the spanking is understood by the other and it is only used as a last resort.
  5. Even insects and arachnids should be captured and released outside, into a safe place, whenever possible.  They have their place in the scheme of things.
  6. There is no human trash. Some just need to be monitored more closely and held in firmer check.
  7. Education is a universal right.
  8. Food and beverages should be as free of contamination as is humanly possible.
  9. Fun is essential to the soul, though never had at another’s expense.
  10. Everyone’s legitimate work deserves respect.
  11. All prayers are heard by, and affect, the Universe.
  12. Time in nature is also essential to the soul.
  13. Love is the primary building block of the Universe.
  14. May I never walk away from a cry for help.
  15. A call for peace is the best sound that may escape one’s lips, first thing in the morning.
  16. The morning sun, the evening stars and moon are here to reassure us that there is always a force, greater than ourselves.
  17. When I am in a half-sleep, I communicate both with departed souls and with those who are in  my life, but who are not immediately present.
  18. Plants show an intelligence, in the way they propagate and in the way they seek what they need.
  19. God, the Divine, the Universe, the Infinite, the Eternal, reveals to us what we need and what we can comprehend, in the way of truth.  It has always been thus.

None of these are original thoughts, but they occur to me nonetheless and so I share.

 

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.

 

 

 

Feet of Clay

6

December 1, 2018, Prescott-

You say that my dear friend,

someone I love very much,

is not measuring up,

not cutting the mustard.

I know differently.

I know just how hard,

how diligently,

how effectively,

my friend has pleaded your case.

I know the high regard in which

you have been held,

in my friend’s estimation.

Frankly,

I have always had my doubts.

No human being,

myself included,

even remotely

approaches the level,

of  Jesus the Christ,

of  Gautama Siddhartha ,

of Baha’u’llah.

You have made

some very high claims.

You have not exactly SAID

you are above it all,

but by your behaviour of late,

you act as if that is the case.

I love my friend,

and will stand by her,

throughout.

You, though,

will have to

be content,

hardening your feet of clay.

 

 

Letting Go; Not Giving Up

4

November 26, 2018, Prescott-

This day is to honour  ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Who guided the Baha’i Faith, from the Ascension of Baha’u’llah, on May 29, 1892 to His own  passing, on November 28, 1921. It is called the Day of the Covenant, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha symbolized the agreement between Baha’u’llah and His followers.  He explained much of His Father’s Revelation to us.

‘Abdu’l-Baha suffered, physically, for much of His life on Earth.  He came to North America and Europe, from 1911-13, visiting many major cities, and maintained a schedule that would have been daunting for someone half His age.

He made this journey when He was between the ages of 67-69. As I will turn 68, in a few days, I have to admire His fortitude.  The example set was a strong one, and was derived from both detachment and commitment, in equal balance.

An example came when He was in San Francisco, and it was requested by some Baha’is in Los Angeles, that He visit their city. Bear in mind that this was in 1912, and there were costs involved that seemed insurmountable.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha did not impinge on anyone, in meeting His expenses.  He at first told the Los Angeles friends that He would not be able to make the journey, though it caused Him great sorrow.  A short time afterward, though, money was found. ‘Abdu’l-Baha and His entourage made the train trip south to Los Angeles and spent a day or so there, specifically visiting the grave of the first American to declare his faith in Baha’u’llah.  That man’s name was Thornton Chase.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha showed that, by letting go, a person gives the Divine, the Universe, room to muster its energy and bring things to fruition.

I have been in many situations, including this year, where it has been prudent to let go of plans and expectations, and to move with the flow of energy.  These situations have, in the long run, not hampered my well-being and have actually helped to purify my life.  There will be others, I’m certain, as this year winds down and subsequent years unfold.  I can rely on the example set by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, in pondering my reaction to the changes that are in store.

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.

Certitude

9

November 7, 2018, Prescott-

For the first time, in a good many years,

I’m in a state some would call “broke”.

I have what I need, though,

and things will take an upturn,

soon enough.

For the first time, in a good long while,

people came at me,

claiming to represent a friend,

saying they had the solution

to all that ails me.

I reported them to the authorities,

and let the real friend know,

what was happening,

in her name.

Things will take an upturn,

soon enough.

There is no such thing,

as a quick fix,

or a free lunch.

Yet, as Baha’u’llah wrote,

“The fowls of the air,

and the beasts of the field,

receive their meat each day from Thee.”

This morning,

as some cheer,

and others mourn, last night’s election,

I feel certitude,

that things will be made aright,

soon enough.

Cocoon

16

November 5, 2018, Prescott-

Yesterday was another one of those days which found me out and about, helping others in their noble efforts.  Not long ago, someone challenged me, with regard to my involvement in the community. The point that this person made was that all these activities constituted a sort of cocoon, guarding me against connecting with my inner conflicts. I was then advised to drop all activities and sequester myself, as soon as possible.

Little does that individual know, but my real cocoon, if you will, is indeed being here, in this small apartment, away from anyone.  The reality is, and has been, that part of me is terrified of being around people who don’t really want me there.  I spent yesterday afternoon seated with strangers, two of whom were openly hostile to my presence at their table.  They were quiet about it, as the effusive person seated next to me was gracious and made sure I felt welcome.   I am quite intuitive, though, and pick up on both positive and negative feelings.

Being involved with community groups is hardly a cocoon, though it can feel quite dark at times.  I do these activities because in the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, it is written: “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”  We Baha’is are to be good in groups, not cloistered in virtue or hiding “our light under a bushel”, as it were.  I have always been one who has had to struggle, mightily, to be among people. Penny helped pull me out of the shell, to the extent that, to outward seeming, I am something of a social butterfly, with lots of friends.  I do feel the warmth of many, both online and in real time, especially among my Baha’i friends.  I also feel the grudging tolerance of several people, and take that for what is worth.

My point here is that being involved with the good of the community is not a  source of comfort, nor is it a protection against any inner turmoil.  That protection comes when I commune with the Creator, in the early hour before dawn, at midday and in the evening.  Then, alone, do I summon the energy to face the world, and the ravages that go along with the joys.

Burning the Mask of Overactivity

4

October 142018, Prescott-

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

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

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

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

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

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