Instead Of…….


February 22, 2023, Patagonia, AZ- No matter what one does in this life, there will always be someone who thinks something else should have been done, instead.

I’ve heard suggestions, albeit gentle, that:

Instead of being in southern Arizona right now, I should be back in Prescott, preparing to set up a storm shelter.

Instead of setting up a storm shelter, I should be helping out in understaffed schools.

Instead of doing my “own thing”, I should be checking with those who could really use my assistance, back at Home Base.

I’m not being singled out, by any means. The President, no matter who he (and someday, she) is has more suggestions as to how to do the job, than just about anyone on the planet. Witness how the zero sum crowd equates the current president’s visit to Kiyyiv with unconcern for East Liverpool, or for the Mexican border. Anyone else in a leadership role has similar experiences.

There is another type of “Instead of”. That is when a planned activity is a victim to changing circumstances, and being graceful calls for other activities to take its place.

Thus, on this journey, the ferocious winds and rain that came here, this morning, nixed a hike to the border, in Coronado National Monument. Instead, I came upon San Pedro House, about eight miles north of Sierra Vista, where I spent last night. A delightful, if less taxing, hike in a loop from the small house to the San Pedro River and back, about 1.5 miles, replaced the planned activity. The winds were not as fierce as they were further south and I got to pay homage to one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southwest.

Here are a few scenes from the privately conserved area.

San Pedro House, Cochise County
San Pedro River, between Sierra Vista and Bisbee.
Willow and Cottonwood, San Pedro Interpretive Trail
San Pedro River, assuming a channel-like flow.
Green Kingfisher Pond, fed by the San Pedro.
Wind-whipped grass, San Pedro Interpretive Trail.
Wooden water bin, near San Pedro House.
Children once played in this cabin, under the live oak.
Secured utility pole, leaning from the high winds, Old Town Bisbee.

After leaving San Pedro House, I headed to Bisbee, hoping to take lunch at High Desert Market and Cafe. It was closed today, so instead I found Le Cornucopia Cafe, just across the street from this temporarily concerning scene, of a tottering utility pole which, as one onlooker put it, could have set all Old Bisbee on fire, had it toppled and set the wires to sparking. The situation was handled swiftly and well. As for Le Cornucopia, their curried lentil soup filled the simple lunch bill very nicely.

Finally, as the wind was still pretty intense and a mix of rain and snow was falling, as evening approached, I came into this old mining town, in northern Santa Cruz County-an area of Arizona that I had not visited previously. Sonoita and Patagonia are picturesque, with the latter having a charming “Old West” hotel. So, here I am at Stage Stop Inn, for the night.

Stage Stop Inn, Patagonia

It always pays to follow the heart. The Universe has yet to steer me wrong.

Every Town Matters


January 30, 2022, Douglas, AZ- The little boy, in the room next to mine, tried to open the door separating us. Of course, after a minute or so, his parents took him away from the door and there was no further attempt at a surprise visit. I would not have minded, if he had poked his head through the door, as long as Mom and Dad were close by.

I have also had a couple of “surprise visits” on the phone, from adult friends who thought they knew best how I might be spending my time. There is the usual “You’re out of town, so you must be on vacation” mindset and the “You’re in this area, so therefore you must go to….” prescription. Prescott is not a place I regard as a 24/7 work environment and while I appreciate suggestions or networking connections, when I am on the road, my schedule is basically set, most often with a good deal of forethought and inspiration.

I came to Douglas, and spent two days here, because I felt the urge to devote spiritual energy to this area and to the border. I had also wanted to connect with a Baha’i friend in Bisbee, not far away, but the person was not available. That much more time was thus spent on the former.

Douglas was founded as a railroad town, mainly as a place to load and haul copper and gold to points east and west. The rail depot is now the Police Station.

I walked from there to the border station, being careful to not enter any area that was within the actual processing district, to dissuade the few grifters and beggars who tried to make their case for “sharing” and to show kindness to those who were obviously leery of being accosted by anyone, so soon after having crossed the frontier.

Just before I got to the bench near the crossing, I spotted a white dove, resting on the branch of a tree, in Douglas’ west side park.

Douglas matters, for more than just its border crossing. A vibrant Mexican culture transcends the border here, as it does in many places, from Brownsville to San Ysidro. There is also a core group of regenerators, people who are either willing to invest in the infrastructure or are, as a small family of siblings and cousins at an innovative bakery and restaurant called Mana’, putting in serious hours to draw people TO Douglas, not to have them just pass THROUGH the town. Mana’ has an electronic menu, accessible only by phone or computer and it is one of the more extensive I’ve seen, for an establishment of its size, with over a dozen unusual omelet and Mexican scramble items. If the town can draw a music and arts scene, the way nearby Bisbee has, Douglas can again make its mark. In fact, I had three meals at Mexican restaurants here-and all were great. That can also be a draw- a culinary mecca!

Two Kinds of Walls


January 29, 2022, Douglas, AZ- The wall stands high and firm, topped by barbed wire, and keeping Douglas separate from Agua Prieta-at least in theory. In reality, all that is happening is that the flow of people back and forth is slowed down and somewhat regulated. There are rules for entering the United States and rules for entering Mexico. Some come from one country, looking for work in the other-and occasionally the converse is true. Some seek work in both countries.

I will return to visit Mexico in earnest, at some point in the intermediate future. This weekend, though, my business is north of La Frontera. My sole journey to El Vecino del Sur today was gastronomic-a dinner of Enchilada Sonorense, a flat enchilada of maza harina (corn meal), mixed with beaten egg, then fried and topped with shredded cheese (queso blanco) and chopped onions, in a mild salsa.

I was the sole customer at El Alamo Restaurant, but it should not reflect on the quality of the food. The server, who seemed to be the owner’s son, spent most of his time in the kitchen, in between taking my order and bringing out the food. No matter; for a vegetarian Sonoran-style meal, this was very filling and tasty. I have yet to have a bad Mexican meal-at a Mama & Papi establishment, and this makes one more.

The day began with a few messages back and forth between our old friend, who I visited yesterday, and me. An hour or so was then spent on Zoom, with a group of friends from various countries, who meet each Saturday morning, in a Celebration of Unity. We mostly prayed for those suffering from Cyclone Ana, which hit the western Indian Ocean Basin and southeastern Africa, over the past several days-and for those in the northeast US, who are dealing with the “Bomb Cyclone” and an extra heavy snowfall.

I left Tucson, around 11 a.m. and drove to Bisbee. Finding a friend there to be absent, a brief stop at High Desert Market Cafe showed that it has grown in popularity, since my last Bisbee visit. The food remains delectable, and the menu has grown. All the seating is outside, but the sun was gracious today and I felt much at home. My main objective here being not fulfillable, this time around, I headed on towards Douglas.

This brings me to the second kind of wall: Lack of communication. I had made room reservations at a place that called itself Extended Stay America, Douglas. After last summer’s experience with the grifters at Quaker Inn, Uxbridge, MA, I did not pay in advance. This was fortunate, as I found ESA Douglas also closed and largely under renovation. No one was onsite , with whom I could discuss the matter-so I left, and found Motel 6 had left the light on. Cancelling the first reservation, with Expedia, was easy-as was filing my complaint.

I end the day, quite content, and ready for a day of serendipity, as Coronado National Monument, my second border area stop, will occupy my Monday morning-before it’s time to head back to Prescott. Sunday will unfold as it unfolds.

The Eve’s Eve


October 31, 2020-

Some nights bring almost an altered state of consciousness, even when one has not indulged in mind-altering substances. Last night was one of those nights.

Hallowe’en (All Hallows Eve) is one of those evenings which has grown so much in popularity, that it has its own Eve-especially when it falls on a Saturday or Sunday. So, yesterday featured many people in workplaces, in costume.

After a quotidian day of paying rent and bills, it was time to head over the mountain, to Synergy, where the Friday musical gathering, these days, typically offers a more balanced energy than the testosterone fests of Saturday night. It was anything but disappointing.

The Real– At first, it was a quiet affair, with a few of us musing about the need for both social companionship and for space to recover from a dissolved relationship, as one of my young friends is experiencing now.

The venerable drummer came in first, almost as a herald. We exchanged thoughts about the general atmosphere of the community. He allowed as how he missed the presence of children, in the transitory neighbourhood, in which he lives.

The flood tide of people came in, in wavelets of 3 or 4, first sitting and engaging in several conversations, whilst sipping their drinks and nibbling artisan chocolate or cookies. The music began in the back, and I stood tapping on the door sill, for want of another instrument. When the owner of a cajon drum left it and went away for a while, I borrowed it and joined in accompaniment to two guitar players and a flautist. Upon her return, and subsequent departure with the cajon, I used a table top for a while. This let me know that I need to get a drum of my own-preferably before my next visit to Synergy.

Going into the front room, I sat in a swivel chair, and fell into a meditative state, whilst still tapping in unison with the rising crescendo of a group that had gathered in the area outside the shop. So much joyful noise, being made by loving beings, and I have not felt this level of positive energy in a large group, since the Convergence at Arcosanti, in September, 2018.

I left, around 11 p.m., as an hour’s drive homeward remained. One of these times, I will spend the night in a small motel not far from Synergy, and thus be part of the gathering until it is finished. The drive home was serene and uneventful, but for a brief stop by a police officer who was doing sobriety checks.

The Dream– Sedona, Bisbee and Boulder, Colorado mashed up, as I was sitting in my car at a curb. A man and his little daughter got in the back seat, thinking I was an Uber driver. They asked me to take them down an alley. When I stopped to wait for another vehicle that was backing up, I turned around and there was another man sitting by himself in the back seat. I asked what had happened to the other man and little girl. He said, “They got out to go to the grocery store. Could you take me to my neighbourhood?”

This was getting interesting, and did not leave me disconcerted. For some reason, though, the road was closed, after a few minutes. I got out and started walking, with the man beside me. Three pit bulls appeared, with one of them leashed, I took the leash and walked the animal, while the other two were alternately licking my hands and playfully tussling with one another. The two unleashed dogs spotted a cart, which had several caged parrots. They headed towards the cart, but I called out to them, while Passenger # 2 just stood, staring blankly into space. The leashed dog followed my command to stay away from the cart, and just before one of the others got to one of the parrots, a window opened, from a room overlooking the street. A small boy called to the parrots, startling the pit bulls. A light came on, the front door opened, and a robust man came out, speaking firmly to the dogs, in Spanish, and holding a hose, from which he shot water towards them.

I received a call from Uber, saying a small amount had been paid them electronically. I explained that I was not an Uber driver, and had no idea which of the two parties who sat in my car would have made that payment. By then, the stoner had disappeared, but along came the first man and his daughter, apologizing for their abrupt disappearance, while he asked for his $40 back. When we walked back to my car, the owner of the three pit bulls came and apologetically took his animals back. I looked in my cup holder and there was $40, along with a credit card receipt, for $14.78. The dream ended, then and there.

It must have been the chocolate beverage that I had at Synergy. Please, though, if you have pit bulls, keep them away from othe rpeople’s parrots.

Last Quarter Plans


October 11, 2020-

With October nearly half over, it’s high time for me to look at this last three months, or so, of 2020.

October 12-17– This is Fall Break week and is the first of the two weeks I gave myself off, from any out -of-state deployments with Red Cross. If a wildfire breaks out around here, of course I will be on hand to help. Otherwise, on Tuesday, I will hike the first of two peaks in northern Arizona that go by the name Red Mountain. It is in an area between Prescott Valley and Lynx Lake, a section of the Bradshaw Mountain foothills that I have not explored, up to now. Monday and Wednesday feature Zoom meetings, two of which I host, so walks downtown will suffice. Thursday through Saturday, the road will lead to other Red Mountain, north of Williams, on the road to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. If the road to Hermit’s Rest is open, on the South Rim, I will go there as well.

October 18-24- This is a Holy Week for Baha’is, with two days spent commemorating the births of al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, which did occur back-to-back, though two years apart- Baha’u’llah having been born in 1817 and His Herald, in 1819. It’ll be different, celebrating these auspicious days on Zoom.

I may also have work opportunities, with the Sub service, but we’ll see.

October 25-31– Halloween Week will also be different this year. No word has gone out, from either of the groups who have put on parties, in years past. My default will be to throw on the silly suit I wore last year, and bring treats to neighbour families who know me. It may also be either a heavy subbing week or yet another deployment, for a disaster response yet unseen.

November 1-6- Election Week will have its share of challenges, both local and further afield. I am leaving my service options open: Our normally quiet, live-and-let-live little city could need as many voices of reason as can be had-or it could stay quiet, and congenial. There could very well be those who need the services of the Red Cross, if mayhem results in mass displacement. I will have the blessing of a virtual Spiritual Retreat, each evening, from November 5-8, to provide online balance.

November 8-14- Veterans’ Week will hopefully remind everyone that Freedom isn’t Free. Any public activities on November 11 will find me there. November 12-14 will be a good time to head up to Painted Desert-Petrified Forest.

November 15-21- Mid-month will be either a full work week or a time for day trips to Sedona, finishing the long-delayed completion of a hike on Limekiln Trail and going up Cathedral Rock.

November 22-28- Thanksgiving Week, ending with my 70th Birthday, so it’ll be Texas Time. Son will use a grill in the apartment complex courtyard, so this will be another fine gathering. I will likely be quite reflective, on that Saturday, with a view towards using all for which I can be grateful to help those who have been discounted and marginalized- the mirror image of the fourth Thursday in November.

November 29-December 5- The first week of my eighth decade will begin a run-up to my retirement (always unofficial) from substitute teaching. In practical terms, what that will mean is that I will not NEED to work, in order to make ends meet, after this calendar year. I will still be amenable to going in, two or three days a week, from January through May. The major emphasis, though, will shift to volunteer work, for which I’m already getting plenty of practice.

December 6-12- This marks forty years since I first met Penny. A trip to Zuni and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve will be in order. I will also stop in Bisbee, which we never visited together, on the way back-just because it’s there.

December 13-19- There may be a smidgen of work to be done, but my emphasis this week will be culling old files out of the cabinet and putting effort into shredding.

December 20-26- Depending on family input, and the state of the pandemic, I will either make a journey to New England or devote some time to an Arizona Christmas.

December 27-January 2- Part of the time will be in Texas and part will be in Florida, with the Gulf Coast in between (weather-permitting). The first week of 2021 will be the same, in reverse.

Some things will remain constant, location notwithstanding. I will have regular Baha’i Zoom calls to maintain and continuing to pay off what is left of my bills will be achieved.

This is my vision for the last twelve weeks of a tempestuous year.