Fatherhood Does Not End

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July 31, 2022- The teen boy was moaning and complaining that he could not take it anymore. The “it’ in question was the pain from an injury he had sustained the previous night, and which he was trying to tough-out. That was not working, and I asked a team mate to help me find a First Aid kit, which she brought me from the kitchen at Bellemont Baha’i School. I got out the appropriate materials and handed them to the boy’s stepfather, who was standing nearby. He gladly applied the dressing to the injured area, and the boy had a much better day.

I observed this man taking his parental responsibilities seriously, with all four of his stepchildren and the daughter he himself sired, a toddler who was delightful. Seeing him play with her, and be constantly guiding her to show good manners and respect for others, was a treasure. The girl already knows to share and to say please and thank you. She will also grow up strong and forthright, under his watchful eyes.

Fathering is more than a figurehead position and, like motherhood, never ends. My son is facing a plethora of challenges right now, and my place is to offer encouragement, support and belief in his ability to rise to them. If he falters, I will at least, as my own father once said, be there to catch him-even from a physical distance. One cannot deprive another of dignity, nor make decisions for that person-even one’s own child, after a certain age. Support, however, is the due of every soul who is facing own life with honour and effort.

Parenthood never really ends.

Lots of Crackling Sunshine

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July 22, 2022- The spunky girl took the cell phone she had left sitting on a chair, in the sunshine, and for a moment, her world came crashing down. Once I told her chaperone that an hour or so in a cool building would revitalize the phone, she was back to being an effervescent twelve-year-old.

Thirty-one young people, each of them a source of brightness or of challenge, at any given time, have been front and center for the past 1 1/2 days. Anyone wondering how a person my age could be in such a situation, and not go bonkers, is missing the big picture. The energy that seems so unmanageable now is going to be the source of a good many solutions to problems that seem insurmountable, to the very people who complain about the kids. Besides, when one takes the time to listen, any person can feel validated.

The small team of adults, each an angel in their own right, brought the campers up from the Phoenix area, for a session that will last until Monday. I stayed until this evening, then came back to Home Base, due to another commitment. It would have otherwise been no problem, to have remained at Bellemont until closing. I will be back up there next weekend, for a shorter camp, with a smaller group of adolescents.

My work was somewhat in the kitchen, and somewhat around campus. Mainly, the task was just being supportive of campers, chaperones and camp staff. We tended to one another’s needs, as if family-which is how a faith community ought to be. When a cabin full of girls reported, through their dorm master, that someone was knocking at their door after lights out, every other camper, chaperone and staff person accounted for their own whereabouts and it was determined that an adult would stand watch outside the cabin, until morning. My boss volunteered himself. If he hadn’t, I would have stayed up. No one threatens or hurts “our” kids. Least of all, do they hurt one another. One of the most important life lessons is building compassion.

Every being has a purpose, and every sentient being has several. I am honoured to be able to contribute, meaningfully, to helping these wonderful souls to find theirs.

Back to the Woods

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July 21, 2022- So begins an unusual four days. I will shortly head up towards Bellemont Baha’i School, for the first of two kitchen helper sessions, (today and tomorrow), with the next being July 30-31. Getting back tomorrow night, then Saturday and part of Sunday will be spent caring for 15 pounds of lovable, if willful, white fur.

I have had an affinity for Bellemont, since I first visited in 1981. Back then, only “primitive” (tent) camping was an option. The only motels or hotels were 20 miles away, in either Flagstaff to the east or Williams to the west. The kitchen, so to speak, was an outdoor “chuckwagon” set-up. People sat around, well into the night, and engaged in deep conversations, many of them of a spiritual nature.

Nowadays, we have a state-of-the-art, enclosed kitchen. There are cabins, for male and female attendees. There is a bathhouse-with male and female facilities. The old green cabin, one of the original classrooms, has been renovated and still serves as a study center. The library, above the bathhouse, is an ancillary classroom. The main clients, these days, are adolescents, aged 11-14. I have helped out, off and on, for three years now. (2020 was a hiatus for everyone), with the camps-from the Spring cleanup to the Fall breakdown, and as many camps as my other activities allow, over the summer.

The kids are wonderful and several longtime Baha’i friends comprise the staff, so it makes for a time of vigourous, but enjoyable activity. I will be offline until tomorrow night; thus, this early post.

Glimpses of Shutdowns

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July 16, 2022- The lines of traffic on I-40, east of Gallup and again, west of Holbrook, as I went along in the opposite direction, were apocalyptic. Even my own many forays along Chicago’s I-94 seemed like a Sunday drive, in comparison. There was little information about the New Mexico tie-up, though it was likely due to an accident relative to a construction project. The Arizona snag was due to police activity. I noted several patrol cars blocking the road, and despite the inconvenience of the heat, it was no doubt for the best. There didn’t appear to have been any accident, so my guess is someone was up to no good-and got caught.

This has been a hard year, indeed, a hard decade for many. The ongoing outbreaks of COVID remind me of the three major outbreaks of bubonic plague, which occurred generations apart from one another, and were equally global in impact. It is best to keep this in mind, when expressing “being tired of restrictions”. No one is presently being “restricted”, by the government or private enterprises, but there are occasions when even those of us who have been vaccinated and boosted, but not infected, deem it prudent to put on a face mask. I did so, on several occasions during my just-concluded journey to and from Atlantic Canada. I will again, around Home Base and when going up to Bellemont Baha’i School, on a couple of occasions, during the next two weeks, as prudence dictates.

The costs of fuel and other staples are stuck at high levels, with many predicting that, with industry smelling record profits, these costs are unlikely to go down much, if at all. This places a serious burden on those who commute to work, or who depend on their vehicles in the course of their work. Other than promoting telecommuting, I don’t have any snap answers to this dilemma. My own vehicle has maximized fuel efficiency, thanks to having good mechanics available, both here and in other parts of the country. Even so, gas is sky-high in price, and diesel, for those who depend on it, is downright astronomical.

My only personal recourse, in all this, is to maintain my daily life and continue to follow those guides, visible and invisible, who provide me with a course of action, both short and long-term. Our parents and grandparents made it through equally difficult, if not worse, times. We can do the same, by sticking together.

The Flow

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June 12, 2021- The past four days were my first attempt at administering a formal event, since 2013. Then, there was a dire emergency, a day or so after the horrific deaths of nineteen wildland firefighters with an ongoing wildfire emergency. I supervised a shelter for some 60 people, who had fled the fire zone, in the small communities of Yarnell and Peeples Valley, about 35 miles southwest of Prescott. This lasted but one night, as a national Red Cross team arrived, the next morning.

This time around, the task was to coordinate a camp for 14 teenagers, who are studying Baha’i teachings. It also involved tending to the needs of four adult tutors, five kitchen staff, two groundskeepers and a recurring visitor, whose skillsets actually came in handy a few times. Three members of the Bellemont School Committee also visited, and thankfully were helpful and anything but overbearing.

My management style, largely derived from watching my father-who was a middle manager, is to take a respectful interest in the activities of both clientele and staff, rolling up my sleeves, so to speak, in any area where needed. It was a pleasure to join the students’ devotionals, help in the kitchen when needed and keep an eye on the needs of individuals, both in terms of first aid and arranging comfortable sleeping facilities. This last is especially critical, as the nighttime temperature differential between the Phoenix area, where most of the people present live, and Bellemont is 50 degrees. Many of the visitors had no clear concept of this critical difference, despite being told in advance, by the camp organizers.

That the camp’s activities achieved a smooth flow is a tribute both to the organizers and to our group’s commitment to the success of the camp, as well as to the maturity of the teenagers. It was a resoundingly reaffirming start to a very full summer.

The Past Prologue and The Fulfillment Ahead

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January 1, 2021

The year just passed has given us a few gifts, as well as having taken some treasures from us. Chief among the gifts is the ability to conduct mass meetings online. This will ease active participation in Baha’i activities, regardless of where I happen to be.

It is a poorly-kept secret that, if it be the will of God (and the creek stays within its banks), I will be back on the road, and in the air, for a fair portion of the next four years. Prescott will remain Home Base, at least for this year. There is much for me to do here, and in the Southwest at large, between now and the middle of May. The stage was set, as it were, by callings I received and followed in the 2010s.

So 2021, any larger issues notwithstanding, is looking like this:

January– The agenda set by response to the pandemic will probably find me continuing to help out in the schools on a fair number of days. Involvement with a regional sustainability group will also be a priority. Then, there is a little group that meets each Wednesday at 1 p.m. (MST), and which has my heart’s attention. I will be on the trail, looking at a couple of extensions of Black Canyon Trail, northward from the original trailhead, outside Mayer; finishing Limekiln Trail, with the Sedona segments; and spending time in Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Desert Preserve. There is also the homefront downsizing: Paper-shredding and discarding of unnecessary belongings will begin this month and extend into next.

February- It’s likely that COVID-19 will factor into this month as well, in terms of being asked to help out in the schools. I already have agreed to a four-day stint, in mid-month. Hiking will take me to the Hualapai Mountains, of northwest Arizona and to Picketpost Mountain, outside Superior. Ayyam-i-Ha, the Baha’i Intercalary Days, will find me preparing hand-made gifts, for the first time since I made a bird house in Grade 8. These won’t be that elaborate, but will be done carefully, and from the heart.

March- It will have been ten years, since Penny passed on, March 5. I will invite other friends to join me at graveside, on that day. This is also the month of the Baha’i Nineteen Day Fast, and although I am no longer required ot abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, having reached the age of 70, my thoughts and actions will be in support of those who are abstaining. I will also make a road trip to Texas, in the middle of the month. Hiking will include a first visit to Phoenix’s South Mountain Park.

April- The Festival of Ridvan marks the twelve days of Baha’u’llah’s preparation for His second exile-from Baghdad to Istanbul (then called Constantinople) and His Declaration of Mission, during that twelve-day period. It also ends a Five-Year Plan we have been following, and begins a twelve-month celebration of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, as November will mark the Centenary of His Ascension. Much of my activity, this month, will revolve around these events. Hiking will take in the Hermit’s Rest area of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and parts of Sycamore Canyon, which runs south of Flagstaff and east of Sedona.

May- Preparations for the summer and autumn will occupy much of this month. Hopefully, New Mexico will re-open itself to us Arizonans, and I will spend a few days at Chaco Culture Historical Park. If California is open, and safe, by then, a visit to the coast will be in order,

June- If Bellemont Baha’i School is open for in-person groups, I will devote this month to that endeavour. If not, then I will make an early drive northwest-to my soul families in Nevada and Oregon, as well as to Vancouver Island, Haida Gwai’i (The one place Penny wanted to visit together, that has not happened yet) and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast-north of the City of Vancouver.

July- The Plan B for June will fall into this month, if Bellemont is open. Otherwise, I will head east through Canada, and visit as many family members and friends, en route to and around Boston, as have time.

August– Atlantic Canada will take up part of this month, then it’s back southward and westward, again visiting family and friends along the way.

September and October– Take care of some necessary business in Arizona, spend quality time with Texas family and then off to Europe, with Iceland a first stop. This journey will also be oriented towards the ancestral home of my mother’s family, in what is now western Poland, with other stops in Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, northern Italy and France. A few stops in the British Isles are also possible.

November- This month will be devoted to specific community and regional celebrations, in Arizona, of Abdu’l-Baha’s life.

December- This will be whatever my family wants it to be.

These plans are what my meditations have told me, as of today. Recalling that last January, I was fully intending to do a cross-Canada journey in the summer, I will simply accomplish as much as reality on the ground allows.

May all have a Happier 2021!

Godswood

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June 10, 2019, Bellemont-

Those who faithfully watched Game of Thrones will know the title term, as being the spiritual retreat of the family Stark and their vassals.  There are several places on this property that serve as such a place of solace.

I have spent six of the past eight nights here, three of them in the company of middle-school aged youth, who are, as their predecessors were, far more of a blessing than many realize.

Their spontaneity needs monitoring, and correction at times, but does not need the check that some in my generation see as imperative.  We, the Baby Boomers, were after all the generation of free speech. I heard no more than three “f-bombs”, during the course of these three days.  The kids’ focus was primarily on elevated speech; on matters of the mind and spirit.  We, the Baby Boomers, had a thing about “free love”-though it was less widespread than the media often portrayed.  I saw no unwanted attention directed towards anyone.  The kids both see one another as people-first and foremost-and not as objects to help a person break from his/her shell.

There is, in any generation of youth, a cooperative spirit.  This spirit has been ravaged, among many who have aged, by the way we have approached the issues of everyday life.  Some will say that the rising generations will feature more of the same, as that’s how human beings just are.

By and large, I don’t concur.  Humanity is moving, slowly but inexorably, towards a cooperative, united front.  I find youth, basically, to be fairly more mature, at a younger age with each generation.  Their methods of communication may differ, as may their methods of spending time.  I do not, though, see a dark future ahead, on account of the “dissolute gamers”.  Any darkness that comes forth will be solely the result of selfishness and a provincial, “me-centered” mindset.  No generation has a corner on either, and no generation can point fingers at another.

These are things that came to me, during work, play and at meals, during these eight days in “Godswood”.

 

Janus in July

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July 30, 2018, Prescott-

I will return to the chronicles of my summer road trip, in a few hours. First, though, I want to note this month’s activities, closer to Home Base.  The three weeks following Independence Day were mostly relaxing, yet had their share of joyful activity.  We celebrated the birthday of  a generous and humble friend, in what was supposed to be a surprise.  Our efforts came as no surprise to her, but she was nonetheless delighted.

I learned that my left knee does not take kindly to being idle for long stretches on the road, at least while my carcass is undergoing chiropractic adjustment, between now and March.  There is some connection between the two, so with Fall coming, I will need to get in at least one vigourous walk per day.  That will give my knees the workout they seem to crave.  Planet Fitness and Deep Blue ointment are also helping.

I have, at long last, taken the time to pay a few visits to Firehouse Coffee and Black Dog Coffee Shop, virtually completing “discovery” of our town’s java joints.  Both are fine purveyors of brew, but Firehouse wins the cinnamon roll contest.  Black Dog focuses on scones.  The Saturday after I got back was my son’s 30th birthday.  After wishing him a great day, long-distance, I went to Game Night at Wild Iris-enjoying Uno and a dice game, with the regulars at this event.

This past weekend, though, was a special cap on this bountiful summer.  I did three days’ Thursday, Saturday and Sunday) service at Bellemont Baha’i School, west of Flagstaff.  All three days featured “gully washers”. Saturday had the added excitement of a heavy hail shower.

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Even with a borrowed tent, and large tarpaulin, there was much to be done later, as I had to use a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to siphon the small pond that had threatened to ensure no sleep that night.  As it was, I had a dry tent, by nightfall, and slept very well.

The service in question was on behalf of over 50 middle school-age children, from the Phoenix area. Many of them had not been out of the metro area, so being in the woods was a fabulous experience,  to say the least.

The camp was open for a half day, today, but I came back to Prescott, last night.  Three days of preparation and “welcome back” gatherings at Prescott High School will get another year of concerted effort at learning underway.  So, it’s ten months of joyfully getting up at 4:30, knowing that we will provide at least some stability and learning opportunities for eight young people who, rather like me at their age, cannot count on their own bodies to remain calm and focused, without assistance.

2018-19 will be a monumental academic year.