Tangential, Part 2

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September 13, 2018, Prescott-

There are two kinds of events that impact anyone’s life.  Scheduled and anticipated occasions tend to get most of my attention. My niece’s wedding, earlier this year, was the centerpiece of my scheduling the entire road trip, with a gathering at a friend’s house, two weeks later, being the climax of the journey.  My mother’s 90th birthday, this past Monday, entailed careful gifting and a pleasant early morning call.   Another family event, of which I will speak closer to its happening, will take place in mid-November.  There are numerous faith-based and community events here, between now and December, that will take on an urgency, either in the minds of their organizers and/or in terms of their real impact on our community.

The second kind of event, of course, is the random, serendipitous happening.  Spontaneity is common to our species. So, a late night message from a friend or loved one will also take on a certain urgency.  A chance encounter with a good-hearted soul, or with an opposite number, will do likewise.  Dealing with miscreants, in Montreal, during the above-mentioned road trip, was certainly an example of this last.  Connecting with U.S. Federal and Canadian provincial authorities was an example of dealing with good-hearted souls.  Then, there was the run down to Florida, out of concern fro my mother-in-law’s fragile health, especially after the losses of her last-surviving sibling and one of her cousins, earlier this year. Here at Home Base, numerous things happen, almost daily, that are either on a whim or the results of several prior events-but somehow are not anticipated.

I deal better with the random and sudden, than I used to.  People’s individual concerns and events seem to be hyper-urgent, these days, so I feel the need to keep myself sharp.  Even across the country, as dear friends and extended family prepare for yet another “Storm of a Lifetime”, or maybe four such storms, I keep ready for whatever might be needed.

Spontaneity is becoming routine.

The 2018 Road: Honours, Learnings and Observations- Part 1

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September 2, 2018, Prescott-

The forty-day journey, whose chronicle I have just completed, is now well-past the reflection stage.  The longest trip I have undertaken, since 2015, has passed without controversy, among those of my family and friends who have viewed my travels in the past, with some consternation.

There were mostly good things that happened, this summer that is nearly passed.  I want to first note those who have honoured me with their presence, in the deepest of ways.  Then, I shall note the learnings I picked up from the trek. Finally, some observations are in order.

Honours-

The first of these always goes to my family: Being in Christ Church, Philadelphia, for the wedding of my beloved youngest niece; having my son, Aram, and his girlfriend next to me during the service, throughout the reception and for much of Father’s Day.  I’m grateful to her, for having given him much happiness; being with all of my siblings, nieces and nephews and nearly all of my extended family.

My northern Nevada family has always been there for me, as well.  This year, over Memorial Day weekend, was no different.

My sister in spirit, Corina, drove an hour each way to visit with me a bit-once I got to Wilmette, but to no avail.  My arrival was way too late, so back she went, to spend Sunday afternoon with her beloved. I feel honoured, nevertheless.  Just being in the embrace of the Baha’i House of Worship is a singular honour, in itself.

Having dinner with friends in Mishawaka, IN, was a sublime blessing.  Thanks, Val and Sparky.

I cannot say enough, for the staff and fellow hostelers at Auberge Bishop, Montreal, for confirming my worth as a human being, in the aftermath of a serious loss.  I am also grateful to the agents at USAA, for mitigating that loss.  It was a joy to take lunch at one of  the restaurants of a friend’s establishment:  La Panthere Verte.  I would feel similarly honoured, again, at hostels in Baltimore and in Memphis.

One of the greatest honours is to connect with the spiritual energy of one’s ancestors. My maternal grandmother’s hometown, Plattsburgh, NY first welcomed me, and a few weeks later, my sister and a maternal cousin connected with some of Grama’s grandnieces and great grandnephews.

Penny’s family will always be my own, as well.  They helped me greatly, in the wake of Montreal.  A few days’ respite, in the family home, in Spring Hill, FL helped me rest before the home stretch, and reaffirmed our bond.  Paying my respects to her departed cousin, a few days before, in Maryland, was essential.

There are many, across the nation and world, who I regard as spiritual family. They are of all Faiths and of no Faith.  Connecting with a woman who is like a daughter to me, in Virginia Beach; an immigrant friend who is like a brother, in Salisbury, NC; and my Tennessee brother and sister of the heart, in Crossville, have made all the difference in healing a part of me that still grieves, somehow.

Being in Memphis, and feeling the pain that all of us who are of good heart experienced, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. died, was cathartic.  I had not cried in a good long while, and this overwhelming sadness brought out a lot.  Later in the day, walking along the banks of the Mississippi and along Beale Street, felt like a dirge was playing.  Dr. King honoured us all.

NEXT:  Learnings

 

The 2018 Road, Days 30-32: A Break from Driving

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June 24-26, 2018, Spring Hill, FL-

This is a photo-less,  nearly driving-free post.  I spent Sunday night in Ocala, a good stopping place en-route to/from the Nature Coast and points further down Florida’s mid-Gulf region.  Other than being tailgated around a church parking lot, by an older man who demanded to know what I was doing therpoe, Ocala was a friendly enough place.

I got to my in-laws’ house, in Spring Hill, around 10:30.  Fortunately, W was home and Mother was up and dressed.  These three days were largely spent watching old movies (TCM) and coddling the two dogs.

I did get a couple of dips in the salubrious pool, with Bella (younger dog) happily joining in the splashing and laps.  Her more cautious “older brother” was content to lay around and watch us.

The most momentous thing that happened was that I bought this laptop, its mouse and case. The device is lighter weight than the War Horse was, and thus easier to tote around.  Nevertheless, I found myself missing the Lenovo and hoping it is at least being used for peaceful purposes, if it is even still running.

The weather was a bit on the tortuous side, so none of us spent much time outdoors. W went to visit her horses, but unlike in December, I did not join her.  AC becomes addicting.  We took all of our meals at home.  Mother appreciated that part.

It’s been a peaceful break from the road. I will head out tomorrow again, with my goal being  the middle of South Carolina, by evening.

2018 and the Four F’s

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January 5, 2018, Prescott-

I have addressed the new year, in terms of where I might go, and such.  In terms of the Now, however, any new year is best approached by looking at the Four F’s of one’s life: Family, Friends, Faith and Finances.

So, let’s do this.

Family-  I have to be at the ready, always, for any changes that happen in my large and cherished family.  As with anyone, I need to be ready for births, deaths and any dire emergency in between.  Right now, the radar screen shows my niece’s wedding, in June. May peace reign, in the interim.  My family goal this year, though, remains more regular communication with all.  Social media takes up much of that slack, and I am already engaged in writing a traditional letter to my mother, every 1-2 weeks.  A similar letter, to my eldest brother, goes out once a month, and he follows my online postings.  The same is true of my son.

Friends- There is someone who I consider my best friend, and to whom I would devote as much time as she needs.  She is a busy soul, though, so up to now, that time has not amounted to a whole lot.  There are many others, from my fellows in Faith, my co-workers and people, from three blocks away, to Zimbabwe and Siberia, for whom I would give my life. I have two caveats:  Please do not call or message me, randomly, and get offended when I don’t have time for a social call- deferred attention is always an option. Secondly, not buying a product you have for sale or endorsing a mass message you are promoting on Facebook Messenger does not mean I don’t care about you.  Conversely, if you don’t take up my cause, I will still regard you as a friend.  Visiting goes by the same rules.  I will always call or message, in advance, when headed your way.  Right now, a visit to a friend in Orange County, CA is in the works and there may be several more, between here and Philadelphia, come school year’s end.

Faith- My day starts with meditation, prayer and recitation of a sacred verse.  Faith, though, has to be reflected in everything one does, especially with regard to other people.  So, my work, my driving, my business transactions, even my leisure activities, are approached with Baha’i principles in mind.  I am no saint, but the Golden Rule is ever present.  I will have many activities brought to my calendar, faith-wise, this year, and as with concerns with family, so do I need to be ready and flexible on my schedule, to prioritize Baha’i activities, when they directly impact the spiritual well-being of the community.  This afternoon, and this coming Sunday, are examples of short-notice gatherings, for which I am able to be ready.  I anticipate many more.

Finances-  Given my temperament, this area has long been my weak spot.  I am giving it a lot more attention, and being coached financially is one reason why I am choosing to wake earlier each day. I fully intend to grow my estate, given looming events, for which one is normally expected to have a fair amount of cash on hand.  The main thing is that I have put a scarcity mentality behind me, and will persevere in the coming months, in building more short-term security.  I tended to possible elder care needs, at Penny’s behest, while she was still alive.  I am also very well-insured.

The Four F’s being much on my mind, this should be a fabulous year.

Interdependence Day

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July 4, 2017, Carson City- 

We went, together, to a robust carnival

with Funnel Cake and kettle corn.

Little girl got her face painted,

lost and found her favourite stuffed bear,

and got to dance to a song by a local cover band.

She is guarded, carefully,

by all, whose hearts she has captured.

Group got a prime seat,

to view the fireworks,

on the high school field.

We, an eclectic family,

hang together.

Teams fought fires,

across northwest Nevada,

around Arizona,

and probably

in California, too.

Tight were those teams,

which made progress on their fights.

Families, nationwide,

had picnics and barbecues.

Some were simple;

some, elaborate.

Not much gets done,

anymore,

without prior consultation.

A friend in the Midwest

concurred with me,

that our species is evolving,

rapidly,

towards a tighter interdependence.

It is that,

which I celebrated today.

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Sixty Six, for Sixty-Six, Part XXVIII: Cornerstones

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April 28, 2017, Prescott- 

Every great edifice has a cornerstone,

from which the foundation spreads,

and the stories rise.

Every family has two cornerstones,

from whom the children emerge,

and are raised to strengthen their communities.

Every community has several cornerstones,

from whom the leaders emerge,

and rise up to keep their towns and cities strong.

Every nation has a plethora of cornerstones,

from which the generation of ideas proceeds,

and safeguards the security of the land.

Our planet has a myriad  of cornerstones,

by whom the human race can be united,

and the spiritual unification of mankind may be realized.

 

Sixty Six for Sixty-Six, Part IV: Raise the Bar

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January 16, 2017, Prescott-  I spent most of today just being here for my son and a friend of his, so that they got a good breakfast into themselves and didn’t forget any of their gear, from last night’s camp-out.  The other act of service was a visit to my surrogate uncle, Henry “Hank” Alcott, whom I’ve mentioned here before.  He told me I needed to cook for myself more, and so I have a sheet with some of his favourite New England recipes.  He also reinforced my commitment to service, by telling me, again, about his daily regimen of getting up at dawn, making his own bed and going around the VA Hospital, and visiting those who are alone.  Henry is 93, and regards everyone he knows as his family.  I can’t think of a finer way to live fully.

This leads me to the next order of business:  We hit rock bottom, during the last election cycle, in a variety of ways.  Elections often produce winners who seem to be the opposite of what a country needs.  There are eras, as with the presidency of Ronald Reagan, when the elected grows, marvelously, into the position and stands firm, in meeting the needs of the times.

Society could well stand a make-over or, at least, a cleansing.  Here are some suggestions:

  1.  Learning should not be limited to a prescribed pedagogy.  I have a personal dedication to raising the bar for my students, to see knowledge as a tool for personal success- and for myself to not rely so much on cognitive material.  People are embracing the process of learning, and its mastery, a lot more.  Let’s place more stress on analysis, synthesis and application.
  2. Family, as Uncle Hank says, is unlimited.  The possibilities of what can be achieved are limitless, when one does not constrict his/her circle of contacts and sources of ideas.  I said, yesterday, on another medium, that people can be estimable, regardless of their personal politics.  I have not restricted my “family” to the realms of close genealogy, regional neighbourship or even shared pigmentation, national origin or nationality at birth. It would be more than grand, if we were to value the lives of others, as if there were no “Other”.
  3. God is not a four-letter word.  Most of the satisfaction I have had from life has come from a belief system.  I believe each of us has to find our own spiritual center, and that, in doing so, we don’t cast aspersions on the beliefs of others.  I speak of Baha’u’llah and study His Teachings.  That does not mean I hold it against Christians, Muslims or followers of other Faiths, who wish to share their beliefs. Fullness of spiritual knowledge can only make us stronger.
  4. These are three areas, in which I believe the “bar” can be raised.

Sixty Six, for 66, Part III: People, Places and Things

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December 23, 2016, Prescott- School is out, for two weeks.  After helping to re-arrange the classroom, I took off from work, and decided to spend the afternoon and evening around town.  I will head for Phoenix, and the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, tomorrow morning, after a full night’s decompression.

Enough of that.  I wish to share 66 of my favourites- persons, places and things, in keeping with the Christmas spirit of positivity. So, in no particular order:

1. Mountain vistas

2. Posole

3.  Monty Python films

4.  The Olympic Peninsula

5.  Celtic Woman’s music

6. Fried clams

7.  The Harry Potter series (films and books)

8.  Baha’u’llah’s teachings

9.  The harbour at Vannes, Brittany

10. The presence of children

11.  Do Terra Essential Oils

12.  Honesty

13.  Pizza

14.  My biological family-wherever they are

15.  The United States Constitution

16.  Sweet potato pie

17.  Manitou Springs, Colorado

18.  Bears

19.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha

20.  Mint chip ice cream

21.  My Reno family

22. The Grand Canyon

23.  The Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

24.  Trustworthiness

25.  Equity for women and girls

26.  San Diego

27.  The Fisher King

28.  Forthrightness

29.  Jennifer Lawrence, as an actress

30.  Denzel Washington, as an actor

31.   Gatherings at Prescott’s Courthouse Square

32. Justice

33. My mother’s love

34.  Memories of my wife

35.  Sharp cheddar cheese

36.  The Field Museum, Chicago

37.  My Tampa Bay family

38.  Jeju, South Korea

39.  Les Miserables

40.  The Sonoran Desert

41.  My son’s devotion

42.  Crispy bacon

43. Dogs

44. Thumb Butte, Prescott

45.  A job well done

46. Crystal Cove Beach, CA

47.  A Path With Heart

48.  Caramel

49.  Bluegrass music

50.  The Lord of the Rings 

51.  Consistency

52.  Sedona, AZ

53.  Hopi culture

54.  Whales

55.  Persistence in faith

56.  Boulder, CO

57.  Pumpernickel bread

58.  My southwest Missouri family

59.  Lemurs

60.  The Holy Bible

61.  Gyros

62.  Heidelberg

63.  Navajo culture

64.  Reuben sandwiches

65. Hot coffee

66. Southeast Alaska

There are so many more that I love, but I sense the reader’s flagging attention. 🙂

 

 

Clearer Vision

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November 29, 2016, Prescott- Now that my backlog of stuff has cleared up, somewhat, it’s time to consider what 66 has in store for me, or I, for it.

Fitness:  I like going to Planet Fitness, as there is a place for everyone, with a feeling of community and non-judgement.  People of all ages, sizes and ability levels exercise together and support one another, either silently, or as “spotters”.  My current plan has me there, three days a week.

Hiking:  Related to fitness, and to photography, my hikes vary in length and in difficulty.  They have sustained me, in many ways, for nearly 58 years.  The next twelve months will take me to:  Prescott Hotshots Memorial State Park, in Yarnell;  the southernmost three segments of Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, in New River; Spur Cross Ranch, Cave Creek; McDowell Mountains Desert Preserve, Scottsdale; the San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff; the Grand Canyon and who knows where, in AZ and elsewhere.

Work:  I was asked to consider being lead teacher in my current classroom.  I respectfully declined, preferring to see a younger person have a shot at that opportunity- as I am not devoting more time to the courses necessary for re-certification, and  given that I plan to work full time, for 4 1/2 more years, then go on to other pursuits, at the end of May, 2021. Children, and their well-being, will always be one of my highest concerns, though, wherever I am.

Family:  This means both biological and of choice.  Thankfully, there is no one in my biological family who would not be in my family of choice.  The former consists of about 140 people, including my mother, siblings, son, maternal and paternal relatives, and in-laws.  The latter has grown to at least 300, including many who will read this, over the past twenty-five years.

Travel:  My main immediate priority is time with Aram, after Christmas and before he heads to Korea for his next Navy assignment.  Between now and the end of May, I will be mostly in the Southwest and southern California, as work and my Baha’i activities keep me close to Home Base.  Mid-March may find me in west Texas, re-connecting with old friends.  The summer’s focus leans towards the Northwest, and possibly the Great Plains, but much could change, in the interim.  My Back-East visit looks to be in December, 2017.

Spiritual:  As most of you know, I am a fervent Baha’i.  We will observe a significant anniversary, on October 22:  The bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Founder of our Faith.  A committee is planning a dignified and welcoming commemoration of the event, here in the Prescott area.  I will support and take active part in the event that is put together.

I also support the ecumenical event, known as Hope Fest, which will also occur in October, for its sixth year.  We all are living under the same blessings, coming from One Heavenly Source, in my view.

Writing:  I still very much plan to put together, and publish, a volume of mixed short prose and poetry, between January and March of the coming year.  Online, a series of posts on this site will be called 66 Days of Sixty-Six, being a random group of days that celebrate this age.

It’s going to be a great, if often challenging, year.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Guiding Spirits

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June 4-5, 2016, Burntwater, AZ-  There are, as I have indicated various times, several places in the world where I feel like family, and not just a passing acquaintance who is forgotten as soon as I leave.  Reno/Carson City is one such place, the Prescott area, where I live most of the time,  Metro San Diego (where my son lives) – and this small corner of the country’s largest Indian Nation, are among the others.  Burntwater used to have a trading post.  Now, it has the Native American Baha’i Institute of Learning.  That may sound redundant, but educating people of all ages has been the core purpose of this facility, since it was founded, in 1981.  I always feel like the Guiding Spirits are with me here.  When I arrived here, on Friday night, it was late, so I rolled out the sleeping bag and slept under the stars, as we all had, that first weekend on the property- when there were no buildings.

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Native American Baha’i Institute’s 35th Anniversary

Thus, about thirty of us gathered here, these past two days-  to recount the past thirty-five years and to plan, with a group of service-oriented youth, for its immediate and short-term future.  NABIL has come far, since 10-15 of us gathered here, in June, 1981, and sat with a group of Dine’ (Navajo) elders, asking them what they wanted to see here.  I remember the first thing on their list was reliable water.  So, a dowser came to visit, a well was dug, and the long drive to a pump, of spotty reliability, was over, within three months.  That well has been replaced, by an even more reliable water source, in the past ten years.  Local residents can get a portion of water that they all agreed upon, in council, with everyone’s opinion heard and considered, by the community. This is how Dine’, and most Native Americans across the country, are used to doing things.  A weekly community dinner is offered on Thursday evenings, and this is also a chance for residents to freely air their concerns.

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The Library is the central meeting place, for consultation and mindfulness.

Financial literacy classes, the trades and some college preparatory classes are among the services that the current staff are hoping to see offered here, in the next several years.  The Institute has come a long way.  I stayed in a comfortable lodge, for the second night I was there.

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As with any place that people gather, the dining hall is also a key place for consultation and camaraderie.

I was asked, upon getting ready to leave on Sunday morning, to remember that I must not be a stranger here.  The permanent staff have been like family to me, for a long time, so I will bear that in mind.  Driving across Hopi, also a place that is home, I found the place quiet, though I later learned that there was a social dance, which I apparently missed.  No worries, as there were two fires, along the route  back to Prescott, and I had to focus on getting back in one piece.  It looked as if the fires were under control, though.

I was back, and had my house cooled off, by 6 PM.  Now, let’s see what a week in one place will look like.