Coralie

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August 14, 2021- The slender young woman accepted my offer to check out my deer hide drum, and began gently beating it, while her exquisitely melodic voice sent forth a Plains Indian chant. The offering electrified the room and set several others to join in, singing in Spanish and Portuguese as well as using their own drums, several rattles, and a flute.

The day had begun with my being greeted by another young woman, across the country, whom I regard vey much like my own daughter. C told me that she had had a hard day at work, yesterday. I assured her this was quite common these days, that she could only do her best and that this should be enough for anyone. I know that she is up to whatever challenge she has to face. I love her for that, and for all that she does in this life.

The more people, especially the young, whom I meet, day by day, the more loving I feel towards them. God knows I have felt so, towards my own son, from the day he was born, and my nephews and nieces, students and those I encounter along the way. With this feeling, my main role is that of advocate and encourager.

Days like this seem to come more frequently now, and the darker it gets in the wider world, the more ferocious become my own determination to love and stand by those who will inherit this world of turmoil and hope; the stronger comes the resolve to give encouragement to all, even those who don’t quite understand me. It’s more readily accepted by women and children, though the number of men who recognize the need for sensitivity and a supportive approach to life is growing.

Coralee, an angel from France, by way of Florida, won just about everyone’s heart this evening, in Synergy Cafe, and made a particular friend of a fine young man, with whom she will attend other events during the rest of her stay here. Such turns of events warm my heart. There was a night, in December, 1980, when such happened to me, in equally unanticipated fashion.

As for Synergy itself, the owner, one of a half dozen, or so, women to whom I am particularly drawn in close friendship, stopped by a couple of times during the evening. I hadn’t seen Sierra in about eight months, so it was especially joyful to visit, just a bit, with this effervescent, irrepressible soul. She promised that the venue’s weekend hours will increase, which suits me just fine. Any time with such friends lifts my soul.

The key to all this is apparent: “O COMPANION OF MY THRONE! Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore.”- Baha’u’llah, “The Hidden Words”

I have no inkling as to when my own mortal frame will be put away, so for the time being, I will see all I meet as friends, not strangers-and be glad for my dearest friends, that they may only grow in number.

July Road Notes, Day 16: Family Never Fades

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July 20, 2021, Saugus- “It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.” This was an admonition that my mother gave to anyone whose cup was always half empty. Now that she is ensconced in an Assisted Living facility, in a comfortable apartment, with caring souls looking after her, 24 hours a day-but not overbearingly so, I came back here for a few days, to ascertain her well-being. She’s doing very well-just being herself and either staying in the apartment or going out, as she sees fit. My mother will never be anyone’s fool.

I spent a few hours, this afternoon, with a cousin and his wife, having not seen them in person, since March, 1994. I keep up with their lives, via Facebook, but it is hardly the same. Family never fades, though, even as some choose to differ in their view of society or of their concept of faith. The people with whom I spent the afternoon are of fine character, and have no insuperable animosity towards those of like character, who see the world differently.

Nonetheless, we chose to focus mainly on catching up with family stories and our memories of the generation who raised us. It is always instructive to hear different accounts about people whom you thought you knew well. In the end, it was also reassuring to hear that “the world is a better place, with you in it.” It had been a tough day or so, with regard to how some view my position, on how best to fight poverty, with disdain. Family, though, is bedrock, a foundation, which the criticism of relative strangers cannot shake.

I spent one last evening with Mom, before I head north, and then west, tomorrow- visiting briefly with a cousin who is family historian, paying respects to another, recently-departed cousin and possibly visiting an aunt. I gave Mom two bouquets of roses, and placed each bouquet in it sown vase, trimming the stems of the longer flowers. Keeping her company, while she enjoyed dinner, and covering her with a blanket, afterward, were payback for a lifetime of love. Family never fades.

Extended family, in Lynn, MA

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 Strange Process of Growth

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June 29, 2021- Getting back to Home base, for a short period that is centered on the anniversary of the Yarnell Hill/Granite Mountain Hot Shots disaster (June 30, 2013) and on Independence Day, I found myself scheduling the July road trip and reaching back, to the past. While thinking about my Carson City family, the image of me as a toddler came into focus-almost in a hypnotic manner. I saw the source of certain behaviours and mindsets that have dogged my path, for so many years now. I also saw that I could let those behaviours and mindsets go, fall away. It is sublimely liberating.

Many of you know that I have given some help to someone in another country, whose society has much to re-learn about co-operating with one another, to achieve a greater goal. The people involved have, thus far, rejected such talk of co-operative farming, out of hand. “That is not the way we do things here!” This, essentially, translates into “Fork over the bucks, white man!” You can readily understand what my response is to such rubbish. Fortunately, the primary recipient of my aid is a bit more enlightened than many of his countrymen, and is at least trying to do things on his own. It is heartening to see someone who is walking the path of personal growth.

My own growth has been a strange enough road- complicated by being on the autism spectrum. I was a fairly strong, supportive husband and am a fairly strong, nurturing father. I am better at being a son, and sibling, than I was in the past. Ditto, for being a community member. The pattern of widespread travel will eventually subside, but not for the next five or six years. In the interim periods between journeys, though, I am committed to making a difference in my adopted community and state.

Learning makes this a great life, and it will only get greater.

Connectedness

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January 7, 2020-

Having my little family here

is a perfect occasion

for cementing my own ties

and building a sense of extended family

between son and daughter-in-law

with the Baha’i friends whom he knew

as a youth,

and with other dear friends,

whom he met for the first time,

and she for the second time, today.

It reminds me, that I have

at least one indelible tie here,

regardless of where life takes me.

It reminds me, too, that  there are those

who will ever have my back,

and I, theirs,

for as long as we draw breath,

and beyond.

On Differing With Ella Winter

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July 3-7, 2019, Saugus, MA-

The fine North Carolina author, Thomas Wolfe, famously used, “You can’t go home again.”as the title of a novel, which he never lived to publish.  His associates took care of that, sometime after his death in 1938, and we have the title as one of the more memorable things with which he is associated.  The quote, though, originated with an Australian writer, Ella Winter, who gave Wolfe permission to use it in his writing.

I’ve been going back to Saugus, continuously, since I left here at age 18.  Service in the Army, college, a quixotic two years getting my bearings in Maine, and then Arizona, South Korea and back to Arizona, all have had a common denominator:  Hometown has never gone away.

There have been changes:  The population has grown, from 25,000 to about 38,000; traffic has increased accordingly; the once lily-white community has opened its doors to people of colour; Hilltop Steak House has given way to Restaurant 110; most of the neighbours have  died or moved away.

There are, though, things which endure:  My mother is still living, quite well; two boyhood friends still live in the neighbourhood-one  in his childhood home; Adams Avenue, the street of my youth, is still within walking distance of both Saugus Center and Cliftondale Square-as well as the West Side’s large shopping mall, Square One; traffic on U.S. Route One can still be daunting at times, though after dealing for so long with traffic in much larger cities, I know not to cringe.

We had the usual family gathering, this time at a niece’s large, beautiful new home, about 1 1/2 hours west of here and dropped in on a nephew and his family, in a town twenty minutes south of Saugus.   These visits are fleeting, but far better than not seeing these gracious, beloved people at all. There was a visit to the aforementioned 110, where I got my fix of fried clams, a boyhood staple.  There were the customary Hallmark movies and binge watching of old episodes of “Blue Bloods”, one of Mom’s favourites.  There was a surprise, when Mom decided to check out a couple of Marvel films, on SyFy.  She had enough, after “Iron Man”, but “Spider Man” was a hit.

I come from large families, on both sides.  There are many cousins, some I haven’t seen in years, and a few aunts and uncles still living.  The group will hopefully get together in late August.  Though I won’t be there, people have to start with what they have available.  I have been able to connect with a cousin in the Midwest, as you know,  and will hopefully make more connections, in future visits.  Gradually, the in-gathering progresses-with social media at least keeping the ties from fraying.

So, not to judge Ella Winter, for the circumstances of her life, but I CAN, and do, go home again. If nothing else, home remains in the heart.  We four, and our extended family, want Mom to keep on, so long as life offers her a measure of blessing.  May she keep the flame, until it’s time to pass the torch on.

NEXT:  Amherst and Its Halls of Learning

 

 

Getting Squared Away

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March 12, 2019, Busan-

We bid farewell to the Shin branch of my extended family, with a fine dinner last night and a heartfelt  series of bows, this morning.  After a few family photos, we were off to the Korea Boivins’ home, here in this crossroads port.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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There is always a greeter, no matter where one goes in life.  This figure is in the lobby of Aram’s and Yunhee’s apartment building.

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After a fashion, we headed for Shinsegae Department Store, where we first had an American-style dinner, at Johnny Rocket’s, then went suit shopping-for me.  The family wanted to gift me with a new suit, so they did.  It’s a Spring through Fall suit, blue as opposed to my black winter suits, which have had to suffice up to now.  A dress shirt was chosen, to accompany said suit.  With that, and a coffee, downstairs, the shopping jaunt was done.  I guess in some circles,  I’m a wet blanket.

NEXT:  Journey back to Jeju

 

 

These Lengthening Ties

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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

Tales from the 2016 Road: Christmas in July

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July 3, 2016, Avilla, MO- There was a span of 38 years, since I last saw Lisa, one of my younger cousins.  In our family, last has never been least.  Each member of the brood has an essential place.  Lisa followed in the footsteps of her mother, who served as a WAVE during World War II, by becoming a member of the Women’s Army Corps, for several years.  When that was finished, she became a teacher, like her father.   She’s still a teacher- and a farm wife, in this little slice of heaven, in southwest Missouri, between Joplin and Springfield.

I was invited to join their family’s Christmas in July celebration, with attendant fireworks.  People in the Midwest set off their own fireworks, as befits a farm culture.  There was a marvelous spread, to get things started, and as we recalled from our childhood days, such gatherings involve sitting around ad spinning yarns, as well as discussing the topics of the day, in a civil fashion.

It was a lovely day and evening, so here are a few scenes from down on the farm, in Avilla.

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The farm property at Avilla

Lisa and family were busy, setting up the festivities.

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Here are some scenes of the gang sitting around, and of the fireworks.

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Grandkids getting ready for the display.

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Solving the world’s ills

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Fire away!

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Sky lit up!

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Light show!

We then exchanged gifts, in White Elephant fashion.So went a fine re-connection with a bright and loving member of my extended family, which is now extended even further, with her husband, kids and grandkids.

In Brief

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December 21, 2015, Saugus, MA- I had a smooth and uneventful pair of flights from Phoenix to Boston, on Friday.  Mom is in good spirits, despite a few minor health issues.  I will be at her house, in which I grew up, until the 28th.

It was a great pleasure to visit my sister’s home, on Saturday.  The place was packed to the rafters, with people of four generations, animals, gifts and FOOD!  So many wonderful souls are in our extended family.  The Georgia Boivins will be here, next weekend, so it’ll be a similar scene at Ma’s, on the 27th, though most likely sans enfants.

I went hiking at Breakheart Reservation, on the north side of town, yesterday, with my younger brother.  He’s legally-blind, and one of the most amazing people, ever.  We did a two-mile loop, sticking to the pavement, of course.  The weather here is rather mild, by Northeastern standards- no snow, and in the 50’s.

The rest of the week will see a series of gatherings, and when I have the chances, I will post more on here.  Mom doesn’t have Wifi, so it’ll depend on what’s going on with her.