Not A Grey Week

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December 26, 2019-

It was one of the nicest Christmas gatherings I’ve attended, in many years.  The weather was spotty, with flakes flying through the air, but not sticking.  We did wake up to a smidgen of snow on the ground, but it quickly dissolved into the dry soil.  Nonetheless, it’s always the camaraderie that makes the difference, regardless of weather, and  those of us who knew each other beforehand, quickly found even more friends, yesterday evening.

Today was similar, weatherwise, but different in focus.  I took care of a couple of errands, in Scottsdale and in Phoenix, while Yunhee checked an outlet mall, north of town.  We headed back before the predicted snow got going, and made it back with no issues.  She got to enjoy another of my favourite local eateries:  Bill’s Grill, before we went back to our respective lairs.

The days after Christmas, when I was growing up, were either our time to get into the toys and games we received, and learn their rules and proper usage.  I also spent a goodly amount of time with the Connect-the-Dots and colouring books that came in my Christmas stocking.  Sometimes, life seemed to get under our parents’ skin, in the last week of the year, and I began to be concerned, especially as a teen, that maybe all this holiday business was taking on the trappings of a second full-time job, for  Mom especially, when in my opinion, she worked hard enough, during the rest of the year.  It struck me that this greyness was the cost of all the Reds and Greens, even the White.

Time has gone by,  and the greyness no longer much registers.  Instead, there is this  sense that each day, having within itself a kernel of brightness, transcends whatever dullness is outwardly covering our midst.  So, whatever the humdrum rigmarole that must be settled, in the last few business days of the year, it can carry with it a portion of the joy, that the day which immediately preceded it, has imparted to us all, even if we accept it grudgingly.  Ebenezer learned this, and so have countless others.

Solstice to Christmas

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December 22, 2019- 

Last night marked the December Solstice, and though I didn’t do anything special to mark the passing of the shortest amount of sunlight, I felt the energy.  I call this  the December Solstice, being mindful that as we in the North experience cold and darkness, our brothers and sisters in the South have heat and light in their midst.  In June, of course, we trade places.  Many of us will enjoy a White Christmas, and my hope is that those in the Antipodes will find respite from the fires which have plagued Australia, Africa and the Amazon region, for much of this year.

This evening, Hanukkah begins at sunset, marking the eight days which commemorate the re-dedication of the second Temple of Jerusalem, following its profaning at the hands of the Seleucids (a dynasty of the Persian Empire).  The Judean commander, Judah Maccabee, ordered this celebration, so that none would forget the degradation that was followed by resilience.  My late wife, our son and I would light the menorah, a candelabrum that is used to hold nine candles, a central one called shamash, or “attendant”, from which the eight other candles are lit, one each evening of the festival.  Penny would recite the blessing, in Hebrew, before we lit each candle.

Gold-wrapped candies, called gelt, are often given each night and small gifts may  be exchanged, among those celebrating the Festival.  It may be that this is the basis for the gift-giving which accompanies the celebration of Christmas, as December 25 either falls within the Hanukkah celebration, or immediately follows it.  The rest of what we, in Western civilization and its offshoots, have come to associate with Christmas, largely comes from having adapted the traditions of others, first the Yule tree and its trimmings,  along with robust feasting, from the pre-Christian cultures of northern and western Europe, then a host of others:  Communal singing, special foods from various cultures which have adopted Christianity and alms for the poor.

The basis of all these holiday traditions, underneath all  the pomp and camaraderie, remains spiritual.  It was  awe, at changes in the celestial realm, that prompted the Druids and their followers to observe Yule.  It was the resurgence of Judaism, which inspired Hanukkah.  It was the reverence which Christ’s first followers had for His birth, and for His life, which brought about the first Christmas.  That it should have taken on elements of the two other great end-of-year celebrations, as well as modern commercialism,does not negate the spiritual basis for the near-universal appeal of Christmas.  This is solely owing to the greatness and universality of the character of Jesus the Christ- His love of humanity, His fealty to the Creator and His inherent wisdom.

So, for me, for my family and for all humanity- Let this be, as Judah Maccabee decreed, in the days of resilience after the overthrow of tyranny:  A Season of Light.

 

No Pause Button

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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.

Cleaning Up Ashes

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December 26, 2018, Prescott-

There is always a reckoning,

when one fails to heed the inner voice.

Christmas, 2018 will be remembered

as much for what I lost,

as for what I received.

There will be a reckoning,

sometime this week,

in one part of my life.

Then, I will go on,

though thankfully,

not without a job.

I may have one less friend,

and one less close relative,

in my life.

I will go on, though,

because there is no other way.

On the other hand,

I have a little family,

who  bring me joy,

and will continue,

for a good many years to come.

Prescott may not be the same.

after this week,

but I have my work,

my team,

and my students.

Family may not be the same,

in terms of its extension,

but I have my son,

my daughter-in-law,

and my siblings.

I have my Faith,

my co-worshipers

and my own determination,

to just be a better soul.

His Timeless Love

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December 25, 2018, Prescott-

The conference over, it is back to Christmas City.  Two gatherings graced me with their invitations today.  A small group of friends has taken to observing special holidays, with a noon meal, sparing no celebratory detail.  On Thanksgiving, it was a full-on turkey dinner.  Today, it was ham; broccoli and kale salad, in poppy seed dressing; sweet potatoes and acorn squash.  Homemade fudge and chocolate chip cookies were the desserts. We watched a fresh performance of “The Nutcracker Suite”, on PBS.  It got Christmas off to a fine start.

In the late afternoon, I headed to another gathering of friends; family members who have been consistent friends of mine for the past five years.  We enjoyed four kinds of homemade pizza, then watched a segment of “Bolt”, followed by a Hallmark love story-much needed by some, after the intensity of the holiday.

Two things jumped out at me about the day.  First, I encountered a part of myself that needed to be let go.  Without going into detail, one of my friends let me know, very subtly, that this unattractive aspect of my personality had worn out its welcome.  I also recognize that a small leap needed to be made, in my personal growth- so here goes another small step for a man.

Second, and most importantly, the day may have had Wiccan roots, centered on the Winter Solstice and acknowledgement of nature’s rhythms, but it has long become a universal recognition of the power of Divine Love.  We can say, with some assurance, that Jesus the Christ was actually born closer to the coming of Spring, perhaps late March or early April, yet here we celebrate love and the work of peace.  Once again, it’s obvious that peace is messy, at first, and comes hard.  So, Christmas can be tortuous for those who feel unappreciated or shut-out.  I have been there, in my youth, and fortunately had family members who knew how to assuage my fears and anxieties.  I will do what I can for those who are going through that now.

I hope all have a blessed Christmas season- clear to New Year’s, and beyond.

A War On Main Street?

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December 20, 2018, Prescott-

Is there a war against Main Street?

I have read some commentaries to that effect.

The financial sector is headed towards a period of decline.

This always gets turned into “The Big Boys are out to get us,

and right in time for Christmas, yet!!”

It happened in 2008,

and many small investors lost a fair amount.

This largely was blamed on the Federal Reserve Bank,

and on fearful large investors,

who took their money and ran.

It happened in 1929,

and everyone got clobbered.

This one will likely last two or three years,

and so I will keep on working,

for two of those years,

and will largely behave,

as if I have nary a dime.

Behind the scenes,

many people,

including me,

will be working with people

smarter in these matters than I,

and safeguarding our portfolios.

Money is like water.

It seems to disappear,

but where does it actually go?

I will find out,

and get my foot in that door.

Money is like water.

It never really dissipates.

It just shifts form,

and changes locations.

This, too, shall pass.

Open your eyes,

Main Street,

and don’t worry

about the Big Dogs.

You can beat them,

at their own game.

 

 

One Heart’s Fortune

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November 30, 2018, Prescott-

This evening, with a fairly peaceful week of work behind me, and a resolution to the dilemma, that I described in the last post, having been put into motion, I attended the opening night of a play, “Hannah’s Heart”, about a 10-year-old girl in Depression-era Prescott, her family, and two benefactors.

Like many families in the 1930’s, the Meadows’ were a brood led by a swaggering father, who was, ironically, recovering from an injury, and a stoic mother, focused on what she could do to make up for the loss of her husband’s productivity.  The ebb in their fortunes led to older daughter Hannah Grace, stepping up to make tree ornaments, by the sale of which she could provide gifts for her family.

The flow that this effort provided helped reverse the family’s low fortune, at least temporarily.  She was aided in her work by two angelic figures, an elderly woman who lived alone and who was befriended by the Meadows’ and a robust man from Texas, who took on the work, around the family farm, that Mr. Meadows was unable to do.  Both of them mentored Hannah, encouraging her to follow her heart.

I enjoy this sort of down-to-earth, human interest story.  It mirrors the many tales I’ve heard over the years, from both sides of my large extended family, as well as from my departed in-laws.  The format of the play has an elderly Hannah Grace, in the present day, telling her Millennial granddaughter about the events of that long-ago Christmas.  It behooves all present-day youth to learn what they can of that time in history, from those who lived it if possible, so as to be better able to handle similar situations, which could very well arise, in their own lifetimes.

 

Peace and Love Award

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April 7, 2018, Prescott-

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Although I don’t do awards, I will thank those who award me and answer their questions, on this site.  Thanks to- https://wordpress.com/post/patrickrealstories.wordpress.com/1190, for this nomination.  I am not good at hyperlinking, but do visit Patrick’s Stories.

 

What is your earliest childhood memory ?

I was two, and my sister, then an infant, was crying in our shared crib.

What is your favorite social media site?

This one (WordPress)

Where would you spend your Christmas, if you have a million dollar offer from BILL GATES ?(funny)

Tuscany

What is your best musical instrument?

None, actually.  I am a tiny bit okay, playing a flute.

What is your favourite cartoon?(weird)

Arthur

Peter Rabbit’s House

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April 7, 2017, Prescott- 

There they were, the day before  the  first demon came,

living in beautiful anticipation

of the joy that is equal parts sacred and secular.

On the day before the first demon came,

a little boy took his father’s hand

and went to call, at Peter Rabbit’s House.

There was where they both went to dream.

On the day that the first demon came,

young friends mused, about just how

amazing that Christmas would be.

On the day the first demon came,

a grandfather started his day,

sitting in his own house of dreams,

and looked out on the school,

across the street.

Then the first demon came,

the little dreamers fell,

along with some

of their protectors.

The first demon died,

of his own hand.

Some other little dreamers

ran to the grandfather,

who took them in,

on the day the first demon came.

Other demons came,

in his wake,

threatening the grandfather,

and the families,

of the fallen little dreamers.

They always come in packs,

these demons,

even though they claim

to not know one another.

We, though, know who they are.

We, who love our little dreamers,

will stand for them,

and the packs of demons,

will fall by the wayside,

far from Peter Rabbit’s House.

( This is inspired by viewing the film, “Newtown”)

 

Oh, The Whiteness!

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December 24, 2016, Prescott- I drove down to Phoenix, early this morning, for a day at Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference. It’s so -named because of being located in the Grand Canyon State, every year, around Christmas.  As many of you know, we Baha’is do not observe Christmas, per se, so this event gives a festive air for those,especially Persian refugees, who have no Christmas traditions of their own.  Nonetheless, we do wish Christians a Merry Christmas, and greatly appreciate the joy of this season.

A memorable presentation, this morning, dealt with the common patterns which are found throughout the Universe, and within living things.  Swirls, circles, triangles, hearts and star shapes are among the more common patterns.  It’s ever-fascinating to observe both these patterns and those which remind us of common daily features (Horsehead Nebula, for example), in many parts of our world, and in the Universe-at- large.

After a couple of other sessions, in the afternoon, and an evening of thoughtful musical presentations, about the need for finding common ground, while standing firm in our values, I realized that it would be essential for me to head back up here, as the snow, while not preventing my drive home, would be a nuisance for my neighbours in the complex, who are not physically able to shovel out.

I made it back up, in about 2 1/2 hours.  There were no road delays, but when I got to my street, I found it hadn’t been plowed yet. It took some pushing from three kind men, a bit of maneuvering back and forth and a helpful policeman, standing watch for any oncoming traffic, but I got my car parked in a temporary spot on the street.  My emergency permit lasts until 10 A.M., tomorrow, so I will need to get up early and shovel like crazy.

Here’s what we face, on our first white Christmas in years.

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Merry Christmas, everyone!