The Second Half

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July 1, 2021- The first six months of this year have produced some rather significant changes in my world. Chief among them was Mother’s changing her residence-thankfully of her own accord-after 66 years in the same house. With all of us pitching in, the gargantuan task was broken into a hundred fairly manageable pieces. Now, Mom is happily ensconced in a small, comfortable apartment, with her basic security set.

The other changes are more internal. I have jettisoned a few personal demons that, while not interfering in my life very much, did cause a certain tension to arise, unnecessarily, between me and certain people in the wider community. I have already noticed how much more relaxed things are, when I am in my favourite places around town.

There were, as always, journeys during the period January-June. One was not planned-but going to Massachusetts in May was never in question. Going to Carson City was a year overdue- one of my best friends, and her blessed children and grandchildren are like family to me.

The second half of 2021 will be similar, with most of July being on the road-again largely making up for the lost contacts of the pandemic year. I’m not worried about a variant-the masks and hand sanitizer will be with me, and I have been fully vaccinated. Variants will be around for decades to come, as they are with Ebola-and influenza. Life cannot and should not stop. August and September will mostly find me here in Prescott, save for a memorial hike on the Navajo Nation, on August 16 and a four-day visit to southern California, September 17-21.

In mid-August, I will determine the prudence of going to Europe, for four weeks in October, and plan accordingly, Much depends on any lingering quarantines at that time. November and December will again be Southwest-centric, with my serving as host, around Thanksgiving, hopefully attending a resumed Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, around Christmas, and making a journey to southern New Mexico for a few days thereafter.

There will also be visits, at least once a month, to the Baha’i friends living along the Colorado River, in western Arizona, and always an eye towards getting up to Navajo and Hopi, as those areas open back up. The Red Cross is also opening its programs and services to in-person situations and meetings, starting within a few weeks, and I will remain open to helping in the schools, for special substituting activities.

Thus, the second half of this year will mirror, and expand upon, the first.

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!

Fortnight of Transition, Day 9: Glow of a Super New Moon

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September 17, 2020

If anyone had mentioned the above term to me, when I was a kid, I’d have rolled my eyes. Everyone knew that a New Moon was invisible to the naked eye, so how could it be “super”. The explanation turns out to be: If the new moon is at its closest approach to Earth, in a month, it is a Super New Moon. So it is with this New Moon, and will be with the next two.

Under this New Moon, lots of things are happening. The “pop-up” hurricane, Sally, dumped a lot of rain-several feet, on Mobile and Pensacola, and brought with it a storm surge that, among other things, washed away a replica of the Columbian ship, Pinta.

I have seen a disturbing video, purporting to show Mr. Biden inappropriately touching a little girl, while her family members were distracted. There is a voiceover, “narrating” the scene, and sounding remarkably like some of the Bots who “narrated” the stuff about Pizzagate. Uncle Joe may, or may not have, pinched the little girl, in a sensitive area. It’s hard to tell from the video, but she was uncomfortable and moved away, right after the contact. As with all such videos, while I take the comments with several grains of salt, (Any video can be doctored or altered.), I know that, with people of a certain age, patting, or slapping, a girl on the buttocks is seen as an act of endearment. I am disgusted by such behaviour, though. The whole culture of NOT seeing children, teenagers or even grown women, as full human beings is something that can’t fade away fast enough. This video was taken five years ago, but still- Mr. Biden needs to acknowledge the issue and make some serious changes to how he is perceived. At the same time, his misbehaviour can’t become a Right-Wing trope. His opponent, after all, is hardly a paragon of virtue.

The whole concept of good forest management is being raised-especially with regard to the Oregon fires. It is not enough to simply blame Climate Change-especially when arsonists are to blame, for at least three of the fires. If the First Nations could maintain good forest management practices, well before Europeans arrived on this continent, modern man can certainly do the same.

Around here, a house burned down in nearby Prescott Valley-the huge cloud of black smoke suggests that a vehicle was parked in the garage that burned.

COVID numbers are up, just a bit, in Arizona-attributable, it is suggested, to Labor Day weekend. I worked in two schools this week, and saw a good deal less than high attendance. Reportedly, a second wave of the virus has hit parts of Europe and, as expected, it’s worse than the first outbreak. August is vacation month on the Continent, so maybe that has a lot to do with this.

In the meantime, I am getting my rest while I can, and fully expect to be deployed, somewhere, with the Red Cross, either Tuesday or shortly thereafter.

The Life We’ve Planned

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February 8, 2020-

“We must let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”-Joseph Campbell

Over the years, I’ve learned that planning, while it offers the benefit of a loose framework, is both preferable to chaos and inferior to serendipity.  In 2014, I overplanned my European journey, day by day.  When the opportunity of joining an American troupe at Omaha Beach, in Normandy, presented itself-I found myself turning it down-as I had a hotel reservation in Rouen, and didn’t want to sacrifice the night’s lodging.  It’s academic, as to whether this would have been a worthwhile sacrifice, as the night in Rouen was uneventful.

Of late, I’ve been going more with my deeper feelings-turning down jobs, when I sense that taking them on would not do the students any good, and accepting them, when I feel that I have something definite to offer.  The same remains true of leisure pursuits.  I generally roll with my gut, or with my heart, when deciding which path to follow, of a weekend or day off.  There was a time, a few years back, when I was looking towards a three-year Trifecta of through-hikes:  Arizona Trail, Appalachian/East Coast Recreation Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.  A strong sense that I needed to stay put, during much of the year, has borne fruit, during this period-2017-19.  As we’ve seen, I was on the road, anyway-just on a route that proved more beneficial to self and others-and let me serve this community, for 8-10 months.

The life that’s waiting for me, after December, is a cipher.  In the meantime, there are several paths on which I may find myself-with the anchor of this Home Base, a small group of reliable friends, and  several more, who are a bit more mercurial.  I have confidence that Dr. Joe was right, and that accepting the life that is waiting will be just as rewarding, if not more so, than what I had planned.

Entitled?

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January 31, 2020-

While covering a class yesterday, I showed the film, “Avatar”.  The point was made that, in the far future, a certain segment of Earth’s populace was bent on colonizing a planet similar to our own.  It involved a colonialist mentality, based on perceived economic benefit.

I read a report, yesterday, about an American woman, missing in the Central American country of Belize.  The report said she was last seen on a beach, late at night.  Several commentators cast aspersions on the safety conditions in that country, as well as those in the Dominican Republic.  The comments included the opinion that Americans are routinely seen as projecting a “rich and entitled” persona, by residents of those countries.

I have never been to either nation.  I have been to the South American nation of Guyana, where similar charges were leveled against the local populace.  I was there, with Penny, for three weeks.  We walked about with humility, and did not find ourselves being menaced or accosted by anyone.  We had escorts and host families, the entire time we were there.  That was 1984, and yet I am certain that similar precautions would bear similar results now.

I have been a number of places, since that year.  I can say that I made some boneheaded judgments, when in Europe, in 2014, but none based on hubris or egoism.  I learned what not to do again.  It is simply best to walk in humility and fair-mindedness, albeit while maintaining a smart sense of safety.  I have plans that will take me far afield, over the next five years-and I don’t rule out any given country.  Most will involve making suitable security arrangements beforehand, in any case-but not because I am “rich and entitled”.  There will be many conversations on the subject, I’m certain-just as I spoke with a few disaffected people in Guyana, 36 years ago, and in Paris, six years ago.

This is perhaps as big a reason for my reaching out, as any.

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!

Many Left to Cross

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February 27, 2019-

I spent the evening with a hospitalized elder.  Though much of my time and energy, over the years, has been spent with children and youth, the elderly are always a tonic for the soul.  We didn’t say much, as she was pre-occupied with eating, something that many of us, who tend to wolf down our food, might find odd.  This is a woman who is not going to go down by choking, though, so she remains the master of mastication.  Her life story remains a source of inspiration to me.  She is, like my late mother-in-law, a widow and the last of her parents’ children still alive.  She has sailed the Amazon, watched giant tortoises in the Galapagos, and enjoyed the finery of the great cities of Europe- and she is the matriarch of a small, but accomplished, family.

This is a time of year when many people rush at me, in the mail or online, pitching this product, or that business course.    These folks are astonished that I am not salivating over making tons of money.  Fact is, I have positioned myself to take care of yours truly, until the Divine calls me to the next level.  That is what my family expects, and their sensibilities matter most.  I am doing well, within those parameters.

There will always be those with their hands outstretched, and there will always be those with the Next Big Thing. I see those, on either end of the Money Spectrum, who stage tantrums or write in hyperbole, about how foolish they think those who ignore them are being.  Then I think, how little trust these people have in the Universe.  How little do they understand the Law of Attraction.

There is much territory left for me to navigate- both terrestrially and psychically.  There are many rivers, and oceans, yet to cross.  The crossing will take me far, wide and deep within.  Still, I glimpse the bright shore ahead.

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LXIII: My Dream Pack

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September 18, 2017, Prescott-

A writer whom I recently began to follow has written, of late, about the concept of the Dream Pack- essentially, a way of life, place, group of close people which, collectively help each being realize the fullness of his/her particular dream.

The outpouring of love I have felt today, in person and online, brings me to reiterate what I have said on occasion, in the past.  People have come, gone and, in a few instances, returned.  I have found places, near and far, which bring me inspiration, for a time, and while some have lost their allure- others have drawn me close.  My way of life remains pretty much the same, though the accent, of late, has been on service, rather than a trail-side regimen.

My Dreampack , then, is large and varied:  My son, in Korea, is a phone call and an ocean away.  My siblings are a mere continent apart from me.  I have a nephew, in Los Angeles, who is a full schedule, or two, distant.  Mother is East Coast-bound, but will get a letter a week from me, and will respond, when she can, with reassurance that she is just fine, and inspirational comments.  My solid network of friends, in the Prescott area, and across Arizona, make it certain that, if I feel lonesome, it’s my own doing.  The same is true, all over North America.  I am never far, when in my car, from someone who at least has time for a cup of “joe”, or tea, or Jamba Juice.

There is a teen boy, who I am sponsoring, across the Pacific.  Someday, I will visit him.   My Dream Pack is large and varied, and includes kindred souls in the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Iran, Russia, Romania, Italy, Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Scotland and beloved France.  Yes, that’s a lot of turf, for one who lives on a shoestring, but since when has that been an impediment?

My Dream Pack has been a series of Chinese boxes, opening up to yet another, and a series of amazements, (yes, I just made up a word), which will continue.  The Universe is endless in its provision of many kinds of wealth.

The Road to 65, Mile 219: Sizzling

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July 5, 2015, Prescott- I have it in my mind to return to Europe, at some point, probably some time in the second half of 2020, or later, as part of a 1-2 year sojourn, just because I feel I must earn back the money I spent on the trips taken, over these past three or four years.  It’ll all boil down to what seemingly needs to be done, at the time.

That’s all pie in the sky, right now.  I think of it, mainly because the news tells us that it is hotter in Madrid than it is in Dubai, or New Delhi.  Budapest and Zurich are warmer than Istanbul.  The sizzle factor is making things seem topsy-turvy, but don’t say this too loudly, lest someone think we have gone full-on Liberal.

I have to say this, just once:  Name-calling has not, and will not, bring the temperatures back into what we regard as normal range.  If that is even an option, we need to look at everyone’s habits.  What can each of us do, and what is each of us willing to do, to bring the overall climate into a comfortable range?  The areas of focus would include:  Diet, daily cleansing and grooming, animal husbandry and crop rotation, forestry, fishing and manufacturing practices- especially production of technological products.  Ever stop and think about how your smart phone components’ manufacture might relate to the raising of the atmosphere’s temperature?  Didn’t think so.

Each of us has the role to play.  Me? I drive with the windows down, when alone.  With others in the car, AC is usually a must, but that is most often for short distances.  Showers?  Have to say, I keep them to 5 or 6 minutes, and there is no “eeeww” factor, of which I am aware.  I drink small smoothies, when possible, though I don’t really go in for the idea that smoothies use more water than hamburgers, from start to finish.

These are just things to consider, next time your town hits an uncomfortable heat level.