Back to the Woods


July 21, 2022- So begins an unusual four days. I will shortly head up towards Bellemont Baha’i School, for the first of two kitchen helper sessions, (today and tomorrow), with the next being July 30-31. Getting back tomorrow night, then Saturday and part of Sunday will be spent caring for 15 pounds of lovable, if willful, white fur.

I have had an affinity for Bellemont, since I first visited in 1981. Back then, only “primitive” (tent) camping was an option. The only motels or hotels were 20 miles away, in either Flagstaff to the east or Williams to the west. The kitchen, so to speak, was an outdoor “chuckwagon” set-up. People sat around, well into the night, and engaged in deep conversations, many of them of a spiritual nature.

Nowadays, we have a state-of-the-art, enclosed kitchen. There are cabins, for male and female attendees. There is a bathhouse-with male and female facilities. The old green cabin, one of the original classrooms, has been renovated and still serves as a study center. The library, above the bathhouse, is an ancillary classroom. The main clients, these days, are adolescents, aged 11-14. I have helped out, off and on, for three years now. (2020 was a hiatus for everyone), with the camps-from the Spring cleanup to the Fall breakdown, and as many camps as my other activities allow, over the summer.

The kids are wonderful and several longtime Baha’i friends comprise the staff, so it makes for a time of vigourous, but enjoyable activity. I will be offline until tomorrow night; thus, this early post.



March 10, 2022- I read this evening that a property owner in our downtown area wants to build a six-story hotel, across from the Courthouse. The lines are drawn, in the public sphere, between those who think it’s high time modern architecture takes over and those who value the sense of history. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the members of the former group are about evenly split between Prescott natives and transplants from other parts of the country. The latter group includes more transplants from urban areas, signaling that many people come here specifically for the Old West ambiance and the surrounding natural beauty. Many Prescott natives seem to take these features for granted, saying that one can’t eat or pay bills with history and nature.

Other communities, across the country, and across the globe, have taken this stance: Salem, MA has opted for high rise apartment buildings near downtown, the likes of which would be not out of place in several areas of Manhattan, or any number of European cities. Flagstaff and Tempe, in the name of “student housing”, have built large residential complexes in what had been rather charming neighbourhoods. Jeju, Korea, where we lived from 1987-1992, was virtually unrecognizable, when I revisited in 2019. It’s said that higher density is more efficient-and better for business.

I get a much more positive sense from striking a balance. History, even that which is only from the last century, is crucial to our sense of continuity, to our identity. Those who have been following this site since its inception know also that I favour well-tended natural settings. Nature teaches us the importance of balance and recognizing the interplay between serenity and dynamism. I am gratified that our City Council is oriented towards sensible growth, and has worked to protect a significant area of the Granite Dells, north of downtown. Likewise, the bulk of Prescott National Forest is being safeguarded from wildcat development.

On balance, history and nature do generate income and can co-exist with industrial and technological pursuits, given responsible use of zoning. I call this state of affair ecosynthesis.

The Peak of the Canyon- Part I


October 6, 2019, Jacob Lake, AZ-

Sitting at the counter of the restaurant, in this gateway community to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I enjoyed a sandwich of “Leftover Jalapeno Meatloaf”-(a tongue-in-cheek expression, as the dish was freshly prepared) and bantered a bit with a somewhat surly young man, who definitely wished I wasn’t there.  Once he left, the waitresses seemed to relax and there was a light-hearted rest of my visit.  The food was very good.


It had been that kind of day, a blend of dealing with surly people and those who relaxed when the angry ones left.  A screaming woman, berating the disabled manager of the motel where I had stayed in Flagstaff, last night was replaced in my view by his head housekeeper, who helped the poor soul get his bearings.

This evening, just before sunset, I was being tailgated, at ten miles over the speed limit, on the narrow road leading to Cape Royal, where I was heading to take a photo of the sunset.  Turns out, the motorist with a hair-trigger temper was also heading to the Cape, to take a professional photo or two.  Once we got there, and he realized there was still time for his shoot, all was well.

In between, there were genuine moments of peace:  A crew of high school soccer players washed my car, as part of their fundraiser.  Then, it was off towards the North Rim, via a trio of scenic wonders, majestic in their own right.

Here are a few scenes of Marble Canyon, where I walked around Navajo Bridge, a New Deal project which replaced the ferry across the Colorado River.





Above, is Navajo Bridge, now a pedestrian walkway between Marble Canyon Lodge and a Navajo Artists’ Market.  Below, is the Colorado River.


After a Thor Burger, at Marble Canyon Cafe-and  pleasant conversations with the  mostly Dineh staff, I headed up the road a bit, to Cliff Dwellers, also mainly a place for Navajo jewelry to be sold.  It does have an astonishing series of boulders and rock formations, near what once was a settlement of Fremont people, who were mainly hunter-gatherers.




Vermillion Cliffs came next.  There are an unusually high number of retired people traveling, this time of year.  The warm weather has helped, as has the political tension in the country, which leads people to seek an outlet.  We know that travel is one of the best outlets for relieving tension.  There was certainly a time in my life, when that was so.  Vermillion Cliffs is one of the most popular areas for many seniors to visit.  A Road Scholars bus had just left the area, as I pulled in.

Here are some views of the cliffs and of a canyon that has been cut by the Paria River.



This sandstone spire reminded me a bit of Spider Rock-or maybe Darth Vader.



All of this set the stage for my second-ever visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, as an homage to the national park’s centenary.  Having visited the South Rim in April, it was an equal time matter.

The aspens and oaks are turning colour, so the approach to the Rim, itself, was a treat.  The area had been populated mostly with Ponderosa pine, but a fire in 2000 created a swath, into which aspen trees have taken root.




It was now time to take a look at the highest points of the Grand Canyon.



Heavenly Flow


April 21, 2019-

Today brought me close to two faith traditions:  A musical, somewhat relaxed Evangelical Baptist service- which I attended at the invitation of a former co-worker.  I didn’t see her  there, but met up with another former colleague with the Red Cross.  After exchanging pleasantries, I took a seat in the congregation, while he took his place in the choir.  My part was to sing with the rest of those in the congregation, join in greeting those around me, and respond to an occasional call.  I only regret not raising my hand when the pastor asked who believes in the Christ. I do, certainly.  One cannot accept the Message of the Father and discard That of the Son.

At our Baha’i community’s gathering, this afternoon, I joined with about 45 fellows in Faith, to commemorate the first day of Baha’u’llah’s declaring His Mission, even as He and His companions prepared for a long journey overland, from Baghdad to what is now Istanbul.

The message is similar:  None of us is squeaky clean, and God alone can absolve us with Grace.   The sufferings of each Divine Messenger are what free us from our wrongdoings.  Only by acknowledging this, and not wanting to be distant from the Divine, does one progress spiritually.

So, that was my day of spiritual fellowship.  Connection with the Divine, though, is what has eased my path, even when I find myself alone.  In times of uncertainty, as to my course of action, I find my Spirit Guides provide a very clear framework, within which I must make informed choices.

This week, for example, will bring me to Flagstaff, then to the Desert View Tower, at the eastern end of Grand Canyon National Park- honouring the Centenary of that great national entity.  From there, it will be time to honour an old friend, who passed on, last week.  His services will be east of Tuba City, at another lovely locale:  Coal Mine Canyon.  Then, I must return here to Prescott, and look after my own health, with a lab test on Wednesday.   Matters of faith, possible acts of service with the Red Cross, another friend’s birthday party and a presentation by Slow Food-Prescott will fill out the week.

The flow of celestial energy is constant, and bears heeding.






Giving All


November 10, 2018, Prescott-

I woke up from a longer nap than usual, this afternoon.

Getting up this morning,

at my customary workday time of 4:30,

and going through my customary

workday morning routine,

I got going and made it

to Flagstaff,

in time to help a small crew

of firefighters and Red Cross workers,

in checking on homes,

for smoke detectors

and coaching residents

on fire safety and escape plans.

The proactivity in all this,

is not lost on the citizens

of that forested community.

We all watch our neighbour to the west,

and have friends or family,

in some cases in both north and south.

We see Paradise lost,  Malibu mangled

and the San Fernando , smoldering.

People are doing

what is necessary

to get out of harm’s way.

Teachers piled students

into their own vehicles,

and damning the torpedoes,

got their precious cargo

to safety.

This is what it looks like

to give all.

We watch, from Arizona,

and elsewhere,

and we remember.

North Carolina remembers,

the storm surge,

the rivers rising,

and people tending to one another.

Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts remember,

much the same,

and people tending to one another.

Florida remembers,

priceless communities leveled,

and people tending to one another.

We remember, here in Yavapai County,

the gaping maws,

of one fire after another,

consuming subdivisions

and forest dream houses,

and threatening to devour

the centers of thriving towns.

This has been the lot,

of man up against nature,


and from time immemorial.

Now, we see it in Real Time,

in places some of us have been,

and in places we can only see in our minds.

I recall visiting Malibu,

a few years back,

and standing on a ridge,

with a troubled young woman,

sobbing and smoking a cigarette,


She put out that cigarette,

when she no longer needed solitude,

and walked, with the extinguished butt,

back to her car,

her emotional state somewhat calmed,

by a few minutes in silence,

looking out over the glorious expanse,

called Mulholland.

She barely noticed me,

but I recognized her immediately,

a public figure,

whose privacy was  honoured that day.

I hope she, and her neighbours and friends,

escaped harm, as this most recent

burst of wrath scours the land.

I visited the Martin Theater,

in Panama City, Florida,

nearly four years ago.

I see that it did not make it

through Hurricane Michael,

just as much of the community

that greeted me so warmly,

did not make it through

the Monster, unscathed.

The Martin will return, though,

and Panama City will rise again.

on more solid footing.

Malibu will rise again,

and the Mulholland wilderness

will remain a refuge

for the disconsolate and the world-weary.

Paradise will be regained.

We who love,

will give our all,

again and again,

for as long as it takes.

Today started out

as an homage to my late mother-in-law,

whose memorial service,

I was unable to attend.

It turned into a statement,

that we will stand

with our family,

with our neighbours

and with all of our children,

to keep this divine trust

called humanity,

in a sacred place,

called home.






Break Time


October 6, 2017, Prescott-

It’s Fall Break, from now until October 16- when we return to our labour of love and our lead teacher has a birthday.  In between, there is a balance of rest and motion. I have a service jaunt to Flagstaff, bright and early tomorrow morning, to help install smoke detectors in several units of a large modular home development.  Sunday will be a day of rest- until it isn’t.  Monday, I head down to Superior,  reconnect with the SunFlour  people and maybe hike Picketpost Mountain.  Beyond that is time in Globe,  then across to Safford, Silver City and Gila Cliff Dwellings, before getting back here, sometime Wednesday evening.  There will then be two days of relative rest, before Saturday the Fourteenth, when everything seems to be happening at once.  More details will be in order about that, later.

Anyway, it’s good to change the channel and replenish, every so often.


No Black Thursday


November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.


The Road to 65, Mile 310: Springing Eternal


October 3, 2015, Prescott- This was a very long day- 5:30 A.M.- 1:15 A.M.  The wake-up was necessary, in order to be up in Flagstaff, in time for a Baha’i gathering- our region’s annual consultation session and election of a delegate to the National Convention, held  the following Spring.  It takes about two hours to go from Prescott to “Flag”.

Once we finished our session, I stayed behind to help with cleaning the hall.  I mention this only because what was waiting for me back here was:  Manning the Registration Table for volunteers at Hope Fest, a faith-based event at Courthouse Square, followed by breaking down the site, when a concert ended at 10 P.M.

Hope Fest was initiated by Evangelical Christians, four years ago, to help homeless families, and domestic violence victims, with access to programs that alleviate suffering and offer relief from the cold, in the months to come.  I joined the effort, because that’s what I do.  A lot of people were here today, as they were at earlier events that came to the aid of the disadvantaged:  Stand Down for Veterans and Empty Bowls, both in mid-September.  It’s what our community does.

Our clean-up crew spent three hours transforming the Court House grounds from “The Day After Mardi Gras” to a place prepared for the next day’s Oktoberfest gathering.  Trust me, all three dumpsters in the back were piled high, but the grounds were spotless, otherwise.  I left right at 1 A.M., walking the mile to my cozy apartment, my pants soaked with salad dressing leakage, to my chagrin and to the discomfort of a twenty-something neighbour, who held her nose as she walked past.  I totally understand- and can’t wait to get all the clothing I wore today, into the washer.

The fun part of the evening, actually, was watching the antics of my supervisor’s three pre-school age children.  As late as it was, they showed no sign of fatigue, leaving at 9:45. This newest generation, sometimes called GenZ, gives credence to Alexander Pope’s wry observation.  Hope is still springing eternal.

The Road to 65, Mile 29: Darkening, Below the Peaks


December 27, 2014, Phoenix-   When I was 18, and working at the General Electric Company’s Riverworks, in Lynn, MA, word came up the pipes that one of our town’s favourite police officers, Augustine J. “Gus” Belmonte, had been slain, while busting up a robbery attempt at a Saugus restaurant.  Rumours flew about that it was an execution, ordered by this or that Mob boss.  Gus was a man of the people, and enforced the law in an even-handed, humane manner.  It turned out that the killers were Irish-American thugs, but not tied to any crime family, per se.  All Saugus turned out to see Gus off to his place in Heaven.

I was a jerk-wad kid, back then, and probably struck a lot of people as being barely able to tie my own shoelaces, but I thought the world of Augustine J. Belmonte.  He was in the prime of his life, forty-four years of age, when the Lord called him home.

Fast forward, nearly forty-six years later, to Flagstaff, AZ.  Tyler Stewart, a young man from north Phoenix, serving in his first year as a police officer on the Flagstaff force, responded to a domestic violence call, in one of the mountain town’s few tough neighbourhoods.  The perp got the officer’s confidence by seeming to be polite and co-operative, then got the drop on Officer Stewart.  Tyler Stewart was 24.

Flagstaff is a university community, a ski resort and an outdoorsman’s year-round paradise.  The San Francisco Peaks, an alpine sky city, loom to the north and smaller peaks like Mount Elden, Mars Hill and Kendrick Peak beckon to hikers and runners, as well.  It is also a railroad town, as anyone seeking a good night’s sleep in any of the motels along Old U.S. 66 can attest.  Drifters and the troubled find their way here, en route to or from California or  Las Vegas, and many stay.  Robert Smith, who killed Officer Stewart before turning the gun on himself, was one of those troubled souls.  He was 28.

While this transpired, on a sunny Saturday-after-Christmas, I was in a faith-based conference in Phoenix, learning of systemic alternatives to greed, rapacity and vengeance.  It occurred to those of us who heard of this incident, over dinner, that there is, when people feel utterly trapped, and at the mercy of wolves, so to speak-they revert to savagery, however tempered by cunning that it may be.

We often worry about high-profile catastrophe: Mass murders, such as the Twin Towers, Newtown or Peshawar; missing and ill-fated airplanes, of which there have been three this year; or almost incomprehensible global phenomena, such as the Mega-Tsunami of ten years ago, Friday.  The more common tragedy is, collectively, like death by a thousand cuts.  Four police officers have been killed, in the line of duty, over the past two months. Some blame an obscure street gang, which has “declared war” on police. To date, that group has not carried out any of its threats.  The deaths which have occurred, are all random results of a torn social fabric.  The mentally ill, from unrestrained sociopaths to schiziphrenics, who are shunted aside by the hipsters and the Men of Purpose, have, in each case, been shown to be the perpetrators.

While there is no conspiracy, there is an issue that needs to be addressed.  Registration of firearms, as appealing  and, in many cases, necessary as it is, resolves only a small part of the problem.  It has not been that many years since I had to explain to my then-teenaged son how it was that a schizoid man could behead his own flesh and blood, and toss the head out of his moving truck, onto a highway full of horrified commuters.  No human being can long be made to feel that he or she is irrelevant to the very people in whom trust has been placed.  The rest of us will soon have to bear the full cost, and dollars are a very small part of that cost- as everyone who has tried to make mental health care all about the money has learned, to their chagrin.

In a couple of days, most of us will assess this departed year and gaze ahead at the broad horizon of anno novo. The sunrise and sunset will appear the same.  Perhaps somewhere, an overloaded ferry, in a far-off place, will be the first reported disaster.  The jails will be full of those who over-celebrated.  In New York City, a young widow will wake up alone, and two fatherless boys will look at the empty dining-room chair, where their father used to sit.  In the Anthem neighbourhood of Phoenix, a veteran State Police officer will look out the window, and tears will stream down his face- as he wonders “Why MY son?”. even as he knows the answer, full-well.  In the Old Town section of Flagstaff, a young woman will also wake up, without the man she thought she could trust, and hopefully not blame herself.

Life is beautiful, under the shadow of the Peaks, and it is also grim.

Trailheads and Trails, Volume 1, Issue 20: Walnut Canyon, Flagstaff


August 31, 2014, Flagstaff- I spent Sunday of Labor Day weekend, nearly a month ago, walking and re-acquainting myself with two Flagstaff-area National Monuments that pertain to the Sinagua people, who were ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and Tewa people of today.  I have been to both Walnut Canyon and Wupatki National Monuments, several times, but not since Penny passed on.  It was time to make another visit.

I went to Walnut Canyon first, as it is the more archaeologically-sensitive and needs to be shuttered and locked up, each night.  The centerpiece is the Island Trail, which takes visitors to a “sky island”, separate from the Colorado Plateau.  It is there that most of the Sinagua ruins are to be found.  The rest, in cliffs, to the east and

west of the sky island, can be easily seen from there, but are not accessible to the public.  First, is the view of the canyon, from the Visitors’ Center.


The next several shots are of the Sky Island and its ruins.  It is my practice to walk around an area clockwise.  Most people prefer to go counterclockwise, so I find myself coming across more folks coming from the other direction.




The overhangs made natural places of refuge, and many were used as open-air kitchens, hence the soot marks that are visible in some scenes.








This informational sign describes the snowberry, a medicinal plant, used by the Sinagua for treating gastrointestinal ailments.


Now for some views across the canyon, to the dwellings outside Sky Island.




Lastly, Mother Nature throws in some rock formations that just seem to have personality.


Walnut Canyon may be said to have been one of the safer spots for the Sinagua, given its relative inaccessibility in pre-Columbian days.


NEXT:  Wupatki